This summer, for obvious reasons, has been spent much closer to home than usual.  We typically fly through July and August weekends on-the-go, camping and hiking, maybe island-hopping in the San Juans or eating mussels on Whidbey.  This year, not so much.  And it’s thrown us off.  Juliette came out of her room a couple of weeks ago, dressed to the nines with a backpack full of stuffies and books.  “Where are you going?”, I asked.  “Not sure yet…”, she replied.

However, we’re finding the bright sides to being “stuck” in West Seattle…home ain’t so bad.  Our backyard makes a great campsite, with clean bathrooms just a few steps away.

While the water parks and splash pads are closed, a sprinkler and a pack of water balloons suffices just fine.

I didn’t know if berry-picking would be on the docket, so we planted a strawberry plant in a sunny patch of our front yard in hopes it would bear a little fruit.  Juliette lovingly watered it every day and finally, in mid-July, she plucked one single, perfect, juicy berry.  Savor it, kiddo.

Biking continues to be a favorite family pastime and we have discovered the perfect loop – thrilling downhill runs to Alki, mellow water-side cruising to our favorite pier, and then a heart-pumping uphill slog that ends in a coffee shop where we can hydrate with iced lattes and Italian sodas.

I can usually coax Juliette into a lunchtime walk to the Junction to drop something at the post office or grab a coffee, but only if she can push the stroller.  She’s such a little mama.

This little corner of Genesee is my favorite.

The shady trails of Schmitz Park are perfect on hot days.

And the water.  We’re so thankful that we’re close to the water, where we can paddle board and skip rocks and hunt for crabs at low tide.

Early July held the Sound’s lowest tide of the year, which transformed some of our favorite beaches into miles of muck.  The rocks were rough on the feet, but the crab-hunting was very good.

And speaking of crabs, Shane recently took up crabbing and spends his Sundays shuttling his crab pot around the Sound near Lowman Beach.  He and Juliette headed out early one morning and I met up with them an hour later – as I spotted them snuggled together on what has become our favorite log, I had one of those breath-catching moments of deep, deep gratitude for love and beauty and home.

The paddle board has proven to be the perfect crab shuttle – Shane has yet to come in empty-handed!

And so crab has become the star appetizer to our Sunday evening backyard meals.  This is summer.

Juliette was a little crest-fallen when I told her that our favorite pools are all closed until Covid is under control, but she was thrilled when our kind neighbors invited her to take a dip in their backyard.  So THIS is summer.

In other momentous close-to-home news, Juliette graduated kindergarten with flying colors in June, via Zoom, which was strange and a little anti-climactic, but we rolled with it.

We joined a number of other neighborhood kids on the sidewalk in front of the school that afternoon to watch the principal and teachers drive by in a celebratory parade.

We’ll take it!

And then we made our own mini field day in our backyard with some neighbors. The kids had a blast doing frisbee toss and water balloon relays.

Juliette and I capped off graduation day with our very favorite beverage.  Thanks for being so adaptable, kiddo.

Later that month, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we joined thousands of other West Seattleites for a march down California Avenue to chant for justice and respect.  It’s hard for a six year-old to grasp the realities of racism, but she does understand her responsibility to be kind and to raise her voice when she sees people being treated unfairly.  USE THAT VOICE, JULIETTE.

Father’s Day was quiet and uneventful, but the breakfast chilaquiles were scrumptious and the love lavished on Shane by his baby girl was extra-special.

And now, here we are:  mid-way through August with still not a whole lot on our calendar.  I suspect we’ll find a way to make the most of it.

This summer has been rife with cancelled plans – day camps for Juliette called off, a trip to Minnesota postponed due to our concerns about a pandemic plane ride, campsite reservations forfeited due to rain…  I’m all for cozying up indoors in November, but June?  July?!  It’s painful.  I’m antsy.  SO ANTSY.  We’ve been looking for ways to safely leave our bubble and were immensely grateful when my brother and his family offered to host us for a long weekend at their vacation house down at the Oregon Coast last month.  Score!  We were able to pit stop at their house in Portland for a bathroom break and then powered through the final couple of hours to Neskowin.  It’s no small victory these days when you can endure a five-hour car ride without having to use a public restroom.

Made it!  And that view!

AND that long-lost cousin!  Together again.

We ditched our bags and then quickly walked/biked down to the beach.

I was afraid that “beach” would conjure up recent visions of Maui for Juliette and she’d be a little disappointed by this version of the Pacific, but I stand corrected.  Turns our she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sand and surf.

We balanced our beach runs with couch snuggle sessions with Bina.

I joined Mitch for one of his early-morning fishing trips and watched from the water’s edge as he cast into the waves.

My brother is so zen.

Hey, I know that guy!

We did some exploring near Depoe Bay and took in the views from above Devil’s Punch Bowl…

Then made our way down to the beach for some adventuring.

Miniature crabs and baby anemones for days…

Seriously, these girls were like little marine biologists-in-training.

Then, more snuggles!  Elise is 100% pre-teen now and seems to have little in common with Juliette, but these two are still so sweetly fond of each other.

I loved misty morning walks down to the neighborhood market for coffee followed by a beach stroll.

And then…you guessed it.

We struck out one afternoon to conquer the sand dune at Pacific City.  Kathryn had warned me it was quite a climb, but I had no idea.

NO IDEA.  This would have been tough climbing on solid ground.  But on silky-soft sand that sinks your feet with each step?  Grueling.

Worth it for the views, though.

Gosh, it felt so good to be out, exploring someplace new, taking pictures and seeing all the shades of blue, green, and brown.

The downhill climb was much more fun than the uphill one.

We were all warm from our hike and Shane jokingly offered to toss Juliette into the ocean to cool off.  She squealed and then agreed to just put her toes in.

JUST her toes.

Ok, and her ankles.

And…what the hell, kiddo.  Just go for it.

 

I know, this is entirely too many pictures of Juliette and Morgan playing in the water, but it gave me all the warm fuzzies to see them frolicking and fancy-free.

The grown-ups set up their own game of see-saw.

I love this picture of Mitch and Elise so much, but Shane, buddy…what’s goin’ on?

This is the look of a water-lover that wore leggings to the beach…

We stayed close to the house our last full day there, venturing down to the beach in the morning and evening, but taking a break mid-day for lunch and a patio painting session.

Shorts!  So much more sensible.

(But even these got wet!)

This little window seat was my favorite spot in the house and is where Juliette and I did our evening reading.

My little buddy and I packed in one final beach stroll on our last morning there, snapped a few photos, and then called it a wrap.

Travel itch scratched.  For now.

After months (years?) of feeling far too short on Jules-time, I can finally affirm that I’m getting my fill.  And I’ve mostly loved it, loved finding out that Juliette is even funnier, more thoughtful, and brighter than I realized.  I had to go to the dentist last week and when I told Juliette that I’d be gone for a couple of hours, she wrapped her arms around me and sighed “But I’ll miss you so much, Mommy!”.  We are eating all this togetherness up.

Mostly.

There’s been a day or two when we’ve driven each other straight-up crazy, when her high energy and extreme extroversion wear me out and I’d give anything to ship her off to her Kindergarten teacher for a few hours.  But always, without fail, when I sneak into her room around 11 pm to give her one last kiss before I head to bed, all is forgiven.  Ahhhh, there you are, baby girl…

I mean…cool kid?

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, back to early February when eating lunch in a steamy ski lodge packed with a hundred strangers still seemed perfectly normal…  We took Juliette up to Snoqualmie for a romp on the slopes one Saturday and rode the Magic Carpet with her a dozen times and left that day feeling very affirmed – this kid was ready for ski lessons.  Sans parents!

I dropped her off at ski school the following Saturday with her best buddy and though she was a little reluctant to say good-bye to me, she dug deep in her courage reserves and scooted right into line behind her teacher.  You can do this, Jules!

And when I picked her up, she was soaking wet but smiling – she said the day felt long and kind of boring, but she was clearly proud of herself for making it through.  Someone buy this girl a grande hot chocolate!

And then…week two.  Week two drop-off was rough.  There was crying and pleading and pleeeease don’t leave me’s and fear in her face like I haven’t seen in awhile.  I looked at Shane and mouthed “do we really have to do this?”, but he was resolute, certain that she just needed a push in the right direction.  Preferably down a nice, gentle, powdery hill.  I reluctantly agreed, gave her a half-assed pep talk (I was crying too at this point!) and sent her off toward the chair lift.  The chair lift!  My. Heart.

But dang it if we didn’t come back four hours later to find this kid bubbling over with excitement.  “I rode the chair lift, Mommy!  And skied down all by myself!  That was so fun!” Wonders never cease.

Let’s also go back to a time when real school was still in session, back when we celebrated Juliette’s 100th day of Kindergarten and she dressed up like she was 100 years old, with baby-powdered hair and a toothless grin to round out the look.  I volunteered in her classroom for a party, where each kid counted out 100 pieces of cereal from a common bowl and then ate them.  Together.  While licking their fingers.  Shudder…

Still, it was sweet.

And then…March.  In March we started living our new reality.  Is anyone else marking time by P.C. (Pre-Covid) and I.C. (In-Covid)?  Juliette has been putting some serious miles on her bike these past couple of months, and our lunchtime rides through the neighborhood or to the grocery store for a cold drink are often the highlight of my day.  On one of our first rides, as we cruised past cherry blossoms and sang silly songs, she exclaimed, “This is so fun!  I wish we could do this every day, Mommy!”.  And then I put a recurring “Out of Office” block on my calendar at 12:30 pm.  It’s a date, kiddo.

We ride uphill, we ride downhill, we ride with one hand (her favorite new trick!), we ride with neighborhood kids, we ride like the wind.

Sometimes, on Friday mornings, we ride to the bakery.

(One-handed.)

And then refuel at home with a cream-filled donut.

She’s taken a handful of spills and has the banged-up knees to prove it, but she’s never down and out for more than a few minutes.  I call her my rough and tumble girl.

We’ve had a handful of weekends that have almost felt like summer, when we’ve turned on the sprinklers and pulled out the paddle board.  Juliette’s spirit shines so bright on sunny days.

Piano lessons were cancelled in early March, but Shane has carried the torch and spends nearly an hour every morning helping Juliette learn new songs (with the assistance of the iPad).  A couple of weeks ago, we set up the keyboard in the living room and she put on a recital for Shane’s parents.  Shane liked the technical challenge of streaming the highest-quality video.  Juliette liked the extra attention.

One day, when she couldn’t find a human audience, she collected a ladybug from the yard, put it in a jar at the end of her keyboard, and spent the morning serenading it.  This kid will take companionship wherever she can find it!

Maybe it’s just a thirst for something to celebrate, but Juliette was pumped about Mothers Day and couldn’t wait to present me with a new pair of slippers and a new water bottle holder for my bike.

Plus, the loveliest backyard brunch with mimosas and french toast topped with fresh berries.  This girl and her dad really know how to come through in a clutch.

On days when we’re cooped up indoors and we’ve already put together all the Lego sets and done all the baking and exhausted our screen time allowance, Juliette asks if we can “get fancy” and paint our nails and do our hair.  Oh, girly…are you six?  Or sixteen?

Finally, a very (very) belated sixth birthday video, because there’s no time like quarantine to rifle through photos of us being out and about.  Look at those tiny little front teeth!  That curly hair!  How you’ve already changed…  But even in these pandemic times, your spirit is as vibrant as ever, Juliette Grace.

It’s been hard to sit down and put words to my feelings about this new Covid-19 way of life.  Partly because my feelings are all over the map.  But also because the news is changing so quickly (and somehow also not at all?).  Five weeks ago we were wondering how in the world we’d weather a two-week school closure and I was conceding to Shane, “Ok, we’ll skip dinner at our the Rusts’ house just this week, until this whole thing blows over”.  And now school is closed for the rest of the year and I feel like I may never hug Nancy or La Verne again!  I’m in an emotional tailspin, feeling ups, downs, and every-which-ways every 15 minutes.  I’m loving the extra time at home after a season of being away so much, but am increasingly desperate to be out and about.  I’m thankful we’ve stayed healthy and absolutely believe that we can get through this, but I’m frustrated and bitter about all the missing-out, about the cancellation of the kindergarten musical and the Easter service at church.  One moment I’m listless, unable to extract myself from the couch, and then I’m suddenly swept up in a frantic bout of doing, cleaning the house with a vigor that’s almost manic.  I’m tired.  A little worried.  And lately pretty lonely.  The drama of it all overwhelmed me last Sunday as we joined our Easter church service from our couch and Matt sang Waymaker and I saw La Verne in a little square on the upper left corner of our TV playing her cello from her music room.  I missed our church and being in the physical presence of people so much that I couldn’t help the tears from spilling over.  This quiet retreat into the cozy enclave of our home was nice for a couple of weeks, but I think I’m done now.  Over it.

Juliette’s done, too – she came home from playing with the neighbor kids outside later that day and when I asked her about the chip crumb on her mouth (we’ve had so many talks about not sharing snacks right now), she started to sob, wracked with a wave of guilt.  “I’m so sorry!  It’s just hard, Mommy!  I want it to be like it was!  I’m sorry!  I won’t play with anyone else until the virus goes away, I promise…I’m sorry!”  She then stormed down the hallway, slammed her bedroom door, flung herself onto her bed, and yelled “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE!” when I knocked gently on her door.  This damn virus has turned my little girl into a brooding teenager!  She eventually let me in and I held her close and then Shane entered a few minutes later to find us both weeping.  Happy Easter, folks!

But like we sang that earlier that morning,

You made a way
When our backs were against the wall
And it looked as if it was over
You made a way

There’s a way through this.  I don’t know what that looks like or when full relief will come, but God will make a way.  Maybe God’s making a way right now, even as we’re in the thick of it?  Maybe this is the way, piecing together a slap-dash homeschool schedule and savoring the beauty of our own backyard and scheduling Zoom calls with our family and friends?

We winged the first two days of homeschool, but after being interrupted by Juliette every seven minutes because she was bored or couldn’t find her colored pencils or wanted to show us the spider outside her window, we found we needed more structure.  Shane laid it all out in half-hour increments.  Piano, writing, snack, art, science, lunch, math, reading, RECESS.  On the best days we hit five out of six subjects.  On the worst days, which are usually the days when Shane and I are busiest with work, Juliette ping-pongs between us until we finally send her outside to see if she can rustle up some outdoor playtime with the neighbors.  It’s hard.  But the moments when I’m able to work with her quietly working alongside me?  Those are the best.

Science scrounge: basement constellations.

Juliette misses her teachers and her classmates fiercely and has taken to writing letters to them each day.  I loved this note for her teacher…”Luckily I am just a few blocks away.  Feel free to drop a letter off…”  She’s so subtle.

Juliette’s school holds an online “assembly” every day for all the kids and the principal reads a book or the art teacher leads an activity or the school counselor takes a poll on how everyone is feeling.  I do enjoy peeking over her shoulder, getting to see her school’s leaders in action.

Juliette had her first call with her class last week and her teacher asked everyone to wear a hat for show and tell.  This kid took the challenge all the way!

The utmost kudos to Shane for truly channeling his inner teacher.  I knew he was good, but he’s good.  He leads Juliette through piano lessons each morning and sets aside time with her each afternoon to work on projects for the coding class she’s taking.

Meanwhile, I bake with her.  Measuring flour counts for math, I guess?

I think, I hope, we’re finding our rhythm.  I can see Juliette becoming ever-so-slightly more independent, able to enjoy time on her own for 20 or 30-minute stretches.  Last week I came into her room and found that she’d converted her bed into a boat and was ready to cruise the world, with a plastic plate for a ship’s wheel and an Easter basket full of snacks.

And at the end of the day, even after it feels like I’ve told her 47 times that I don’t have time to play with her, she still likes me!  Sweet, forgiving child.  At bedtime, after I tuck her in, she begs me to stay and cuddle, because “she’ll miss me so much!”  I’m more than ready for a god-dang break by 8pm, but Juliette, I appreciate the sentiment.

Finally, on Fridays, we toast with white wine and ginger ale, celebrating the fact that we made it another week.

Like much of the world, we’re leaning on technology to connect us with our nearest and dearest.  Church online, virtual happy hours and breakfasts with the gang, Zoom calls with the family…while it’s no substitute for spending time together in the flesh, it’s something.

Thankfully, thankfully the weather has been good enough to be outdoors and we’ve done lots of exploring in our neighborhood.  We scaled a large hill near Me Kwa Mooks with our neighbors last month and came across a couple of surprise rope swings.

And the blooms.  The blooms!  I lamented the fact that we missed the UW cherry blossoms this year, but West Seattle is full of pink and white.

Our backyard hit peak magic last week, color-wise, and has been the perfect place to eat lunch al fresco, or to send Juliette outside to burn off some wiggles.

This is the view from where I work – while these girls are sitting a little too close together, still, I’m thankful for neighborhood playmates.

I’ve been impressed with how good the kids are at finding things to do outdoors.  For example, the burial and memorial tribute to the bird that crashed into our window and died took up a good couple of hours while I was tied up on a work call.

We dusted off our fire pit a couple of weeks ago and have loved ending the day with sunset s’mores.

Plus, our back porch is perfect for P.E.!

…and…snow angels?

I mentioned the big emotions Easter Sunday brought, but in between the crying there was a very sweet egg hunt and some cherished family time.  Plus, Juliette loved having an excuse to put on a dress and tights and raid her dress-up drawer for her bunny ears.

 

 

 

I wonder what my lasting memories of this virus will be.  Probably people in masks.  Playgrounds strung with caution tape.  Working nights to make up for days full of distractions.  But also, this.  Family togetherness like we’ve never known before and likely won’t ever experience again.  Inconvenient, patience-testing, love-filled, restorative togetherness.  I’m here for it.

It’s been tough finding time to dive into vacation photos as my evenings are often spent catching up on the work I didn’t quite finish during the day (#homeschooling!), but I just poured myself a glass of red, put on some Jack Johnson, and am feeling the island vibes as I look back on our few days in Maui.  Such simpler times, way back in February…

Oh, to start each day with a breakfast of fresh, tangy fruits…

And then hop right into the pool!  After our grand tour du Hana on Thursday, we committed to laying waaaay low on Friday, claiming a couple of poolside chaises first thing in the morning and then just chillin’.

Juliette’s resort look #1:

And #2:

And #3, my personal favorite:

We played and swam and waded and reveled in the feeling of having nowhere to go.

Live your best life, kiddo.

Juliette is at such a great pool age – brave enough that she wants to do the slides and cannon-balls, but cautious enough that she still loves to just hold onto my shoulders and take a spin around the pool with Mama.  I haven’t played so much, so hard with this girl in months.  We both ate it up.

We left the hotel on an afternoon mission for Hawaiian shave ice and found fluffy, fruity treats at Ululani’s.

…and then it was back to the beach for more sand and surf.

Saturday was much like Friday – sunny, mellow, and carefree.

Shane rented some snorkel gear and waded out with Juliette early in the morning.  She wasn’t super-keen on keeping her face in the water, but Shane got out for some good fish-finding and turtle-watching.

A couple of kids handed off their boogie board and floatie as they were leaving the resort and we spent much of the day just bobbing around on our new toys…

Then, we hit the slides.

Again, and again, and again.

We drove into Lahaina in the afternoon for pina coladas with an ocean view.

And then, a magical sunset on a quiet little stretch of beach at Makena Cove.

I could watch this girl play in the sand forever.

Whales!

Sayonara, sun.

Sunday was also much like Friday, easy-going and blissful.  I thought that by Sunday I’d be itching for another adventure, but after a morning walk along the beach, I was feeling just fine about settling into my pool chaise for the foreseeable future.

Nice height, Jules!

We did venture out in the afternoon for a “hike” (a 10-minute walk along a paved trail) at Iao State Park.

We climbed the 133 steps to the lookout (Juliette counted every one!) and then enjoyed the pay-off.  I love these rugged Hawaiian landscapes.

A quick stop for ice cream, because…just because.

And then right back into the pool.  Juliette was insatiable, swimming stronger and further day by day.  And the slides!  The slides…  Not pictured here is the Lava Tube, a twisty-turny slide that spits you out so fast you can’t help but get water up your nose.  Juliette loved it.

We headed to the beach for one last Maui sunset and Shane caught some mini-waves on the boogie board.

Maui, we heart you.  So much.

Monday.  Monday…  Monday was go-day, we just. weren’t. ready.  We ate one last plate of fresh fruit, went for one last dip in the pool, grabbed a few last rays of sunshine.

Juliette tossed a coin into the fountain out front as we were leaving, wishing that we could come back the very next day.

What a trip!  What a restorative, luxurious (well-timed!) respite in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  This past month has been hard, to say the least, but I’m so thankful for those few days of zen before the storm.  Someday, when this madness is over, those aqua waters will call us back.

It feels impossible that a month ago we were in Hawaii, footloose and fancy-free.  COVID-19 was hardly on our radar.  And now, as of today, we are officially, fully, per-the-Governor’s-orders homebound.  How quickly the tides have turned.  But more on that later…I’m still wrapping my head around our new normal.

So…Hawaii!  In February!  How we anticipated this trip, saving up Hilton points and shopping for swimsuits and snorkeling across the basement rug in anticipation of a much-needed mid-winter break.

We stepped over the threshold of the Grand Wailea on a Wednesday afternoon, were adorned with a matching set of leis, and skipped giddily down to the pool while we waited for our room to be ready.

Ah, the pool!  That aqua, sparkling, glorious pool.  Pools, actually.  We found that one waterslide took us to another which took us to another.

(That dangling front tooth popped out two minutes after I snapped this picture.  Thank goodness.)

From the pool it was a short hop down to the beach for wave-jumping and tide-chasing.

We checked into our room late in the afternoon, traded our wet swimsuits for dry ones, and then chowed down on poké and pizza at the pool bar while whales splashed in the distance.  I kid you not.

We ended the day with sunset wave play…

And a dip in the hot tub.  And it felt. so. good.

We woke up Thursday eager to take on the island.  Good moooooorning, Maui!

Though our primary Hawaiian intention was to sit back and sun-soak, we figured we owed it to ourselves to spend at least one day touring the island’s sights, so Hana it was!  The long, slow, winding, epic Road to Hana.  Capital R.  Bring it on.

We hit play on our audio tour, telling ourselves that we couldn’t stop at everything, but dang it!  How do you drive past this without stopping?

While parts of our guided tour were a bit cheesy, kudos to the host for excellent direction-giving.  Up ahead on the left, you’ll see three parking spaces by the side of the road.  Pull into one of them, look back across the street, and climb through the dark hole you see in the rock face.  Uhhhh…ok?

OK!  So cool.

 

This kid is down for anything.  I love it.

Once we emerged from the lava tube, we high-tailed it to Nahiku for roadside stand banana bread and windy wave-watching.

Viewpoint alert!

Ice cream alert!

We grabbed a quick lunch and then allowed ourselves one final stop at Waiʻānapanapa State Park before buckling in and pressing on to our final destination.  This place was worth the detour!  Black sand and aqua ocean.  Such a good color combo.

 

At this point we put the pedal to the metal (which on the Road to Hana means soaring at about 30 miles per hour) and pressed on toward the Pools at O’heo.  We were determined.  And when we got there, they were closed.  The high winds made for unsafe swimming, but no matter – we figured we’d see what the nearby Pipiwai Trail had to offer.  And it had LOTS.  Rushing waterfalls and a gigantic banyan tree and a magical bamboo forest…is this real life?

Juliette was a trooper.  As was Shane, who spent the entire hike recounting a very detailed version of The Lord of the Rings (again!) to keep her excited and engaged.

Bamboo isn’t native to Maui, but if ever there were a testament to the invasiveness of this plant, this is it!  When the wind gusted, the hollow trunks would click against one another to create the most zen percussion sound I’ve ever heard.

Waimoku Falls!  Made it!

We camped out on a rock for a few minutes to have a snack and rest our feet, then turned right back around…daylight would be fading soon!

The final leg of the loop back to our hotel at Wailea was through Kaupo, which was one of the bumpiest roads I’ve ever been on, but once we were over the hump, we were rewarded with silky-smooth asphalt winding through wind-blown landscapes.

Shane pulled over at the side of the road to check out the view from this bluff and was nearly blown away.  Like, literally blown away.  That wind was insane.

We dashed back to the car, closed out our audio tour, and then Juliette drifted off to sleep in the back seat while the sun turned the sky pale pink.

Good night, Maui.  GOOD NIGHT.

I love love LOVE a snowy weekend in the woods, so I seized on the MLK holiday as a chance to recreate last year’s magic at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop.  We headed out on Friday after school, made it over the pass before the incoming snowstorm could close the roads, and spent the first night in Wenatchee, eating bad takeout and swimming at the sad hotel pool.  But Saturday!  Saturday was a new day, complete with a waffle bar breakfast and a fresh dumping of snow.  We frolicked for a bit at the park across the street, grabbed coffee from the Wenatchee indoor market, and then set out toward Winthrop.

Oh, Winthrop, you charmer, you.  Kitschy as all get-out, but I eat it up.  We lunched at the Schoolhouse Brewery, tossed a few snowballs, and then trekked up the mountain to the Lodge.

We were greeted by Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, and got busy with checking out the snow conditions.  Conditions were: deep!  And good.

We sledded, hit the hot tub, played pool and foos ball and ping pong, and then cozied in for the night.

Sunday was ski day!  First though, the requisite scraping of the windshield with a credit card (teach ‘em young!) and carrot cake from Rocking Horse Bakery.

 

 

Juliette and I drove down to the bakery, but Shane skied the 8-mile trail from the Lodge to town – this is the magic of Winthrop.

We brought our ski trailer for Juliette, figuring she’d poop out on her own skis after only a few minutes, but that girl went, and went, and went.  She’s such a sweet little trooper.

Finally, though, she called it!

We soaked our tired legs in the hot tub and then Juliette and I did some ski drills in the field outside our room, practicing our “shuffle, shuffle, slide” while Shane cheered us on.  We closed out the day with a romp on the playground and pizza at 22 East.

Monday came far too fast – Shane got out for one final trail run while Juliette and I got out for one final game of tag near the playground.  The snow was soft and powdery, but Juliette found one chunk of intact snow on the slide and declared it her snow-baby, which she carefully cradled in her arms for the next half hour.  

I braced myself for the drama that would ensue when we would have to leave beloved snow-baby behind, but we ran into a couple of neighbors as we were heading to the car, at which point Juliette tossed baby on the ground so she could throw her arms around her buddy.  All’s well that ends well!

We made a pit stop in Leavenworth to stretch our legs and bust out the sled one final time, and then we were back in Seattle, where all was covered in a blanket of…rain.  Give me all the white back!

We’ve made a tradition of writing down our New Years resolutions and tucking them into our Christmas stockings, to be pulled out at the end of the year for a check-in.  By the time December rolls around we have only a faint memory of what goals we actually set, which means there’s an element of surprise when we unfold the lists we made 12 months earlier.  There are usually a couple of resolutions kept, a couple of shrugs over resolutions forgotten and unachieved.  And I’m ok with it this way – Schnell resolution-ing comes with a heaping load of grace.  We’ve accepted that it’s only the things we really want to do and really have time for that will bubble to the surface.

That said, even if we’re ultimately just gonna do what we’re gonna do, I still like this practice of taking stock and intention-setting.  I like having this record of evolving dreams and priorities.  I especially love hearing what comes to mind when I ask Juliette what she wants to do in the year ahead (“Go swimming a lot!  Snuggle with Mommy more!  Play cards!”).  Here’s my 2020 hopeful look-ahead:

Re-strike the work/life balance.  I’ve mentioned a few times how all-consuming my job has been lately and I’m ready to pump the brakes.  I’ll keep my laser-focus during office hours, I’ll work the occasional evening when duty calls, but I’m Trying (capital T!) to do away with work being the last thing I think about as I drift off to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning.  Most of that late night pondering/worrying is completely unproductive, anyway – I have yet to experience a midnight epiphany that solves a budget crisis or gets a much-needed building permit.  So I’m going to limit the off-hours email-checking, bite the bullet and officially work Fridays again (I’d rather work on Friday while Juliette’s at school than work every evening after bedtime), and leave work at work.  Just think of the time and energy this will free up for me!  So I can…

Make art.  Sometimes with Juliette.  I’ve largely been on an art-making hiatus since Juliette was born – most of my creative energy (when I have it) and time (when I have it) has gone toward taking photos and keeping this blog current.  But I miss my sketchbook.  I miss the print-making studio.  I miss using my hands to MAKE.  I’m still putting together the framework for this one, but have a book of drawing prompts that Juliette and I have pulled out a couple of times on quiet evenings at home and the hour we spent doodling different bumblebees was incredibly satisfying.

Bang out at least five home improvement projects.  When we bought our 1950’s house a year and a half ago, we immediately put together a list of 30 projects we wanted to complete over the next few years.  I hopped to it and rolled A LOT of white paint onto our walls when we first moved in.  We fixed a leaky faucet, replaced our upstairs windows, got new gutters, cleaned up the yard, and then we…fizzled.  Transitioned into maintenance mode.  But I’m getting my second wind, ready to bid farewell to our pink toilets.  Eager to give our basement some love.  Eyeing a couple of unsightly shrubs that have gotta go.  Just typing out this list makes me giddy – home makeover round 2 starts NOW.

Play more board games.  Shane and I went out for a date-night/game-night during the holidays at a local game shop and I as I looked around at the small groups of people huddled around us, I was struck by how engaged they all were.  No one was checking their phones or sitting on the fringes.  People were laughing over their Cards Against Humanity or agonizing over their next move in Settlers of Catan and I thought, we should all do this more often.  Playing games forces a focused interaction that I feel like I’m lacking – with Shane, with Juliette, with friends…I hereby deem 2020 the Year of Qwirkle.

And I always include at least one warm-and-fuzzy self-care resolution that tends to fall by the wayside by mid-February, so in that tradition I’m committing to move with intention for at least 10 minutes EVERY DAY.  Take a moment before bed to breathe and to stretch.  Bring back the lunchtime walks.  Do Barre again.  On the very best of days, cross-country ski!

Cheers to a year of aspiration.  And so much grace.

 

(a 2020 Mama-Jules collaboration…)

The 2019 highlight reel!  These are a few of my favorite things…

Favorite book:

As per usual, I fell short of my annual reading goal, but finished 17 books and liked most of them.

Favorite fiction was Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.  I grabbed this one from the library on a whim while I was waiting for Juliette to pick out her books and it surprised me the very best way.  Woodson has a way of bringing you up close and personal with her characters in so few words.

Favorite non-fiction was Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber, because it challenged ideas of mine that I didn’t even know were up for debate.

And favorite of favorites, in a category all its own, was Devotions by Mary Oliver, because…Mary.  I lugged this book around on nearly all of our camping trips and have the fondest of memories of reading about nature and beauty and solitude while the waters of Priest Lake shimmered in the distance.

 

Favorite movie:

I was a year late on watching this one, but I caught Bohemian Rhapsody on one of my flights to San Diego and YOWSERS.  Totally brilliant.  I never really loved Queen, but suddenly found myself with a profound appreciation for Freddy Mercury’s creativity and talent.  Five stars.

 

Favorite TV show:

Again, I’m late to the party, but helloooooo Stranger Things!  I initially passed on the first couple of seasons, put off by the sounds of shrieking girls and screeching creatures as Shane binge-watched this show downstairs, but he finally convinced me to sit down and give the show an honest shot before Season 3 dropped this summer.  So we watched Season 1.  And 2.  And then 3.  And it was good.  So ridiculously, outlandishly good.

(Honorable mention to Succession!)

 

Favorite podcast:

I’m still faithful to my tried-and-true trifecta of The Daily, Reply All and Heavyweight (Heavyweight!  Listen to #27 Scott and try not to cry).  But I’ve got a new favorite, and it’s got very little substance, but WHATEVER.  I’m loving Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend when I want…a friend!  So light, so funny, so easy to imagine you’re in the room with Conan and his assistant Sona.  Best episodes include his chats with Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

 

Favorite song:

Oh boy.  This one is hard.  Especially now, when it feels like we’re stuck in an endless loop of Frozen 2 tracks.  We listened to a lot of Taylor Swift this year.  Hopped on the Billie Eilish bandwagon.  Juliette and I instated a Dixie Chicks revival.  But the song that probably got the most play is Some Type of Love by Charlie Puth – it’s poppy and sweet and perfect for belting out when Jules and I are cruising in the Subaru.

 

Favorite purchase:

We have a concrete pad in our backyard that’s been screaming for a fire pit since we moved in.  After searching high and low for something not-too-big and not-too-ugly, we landed on the Solo Stove and it’s been great!  Compact, burns crazy-hot, and the perfect reason for the kids to gather on the backyard on a summer evening.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

Totally stumped on this one, as I feel like 2019 was the year of “painfully minimal personal time”.  Work kind of sucked me dry last year.  But.  BUT!  The work travel that zapped me was also dotted with some pretty incredible beachfront evening strolls.  How lucky am I that my project site is a mile from here?!

 

Favorite family pastime:

Juliette has recently graduated from mind-numbingly simple games like Candy Land to board games that I actually want to play.  Ticket to Ride!  Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle!  Quirkle!  We’re in such a good game groove right now – I’m loving winter weekend mornings when we can crank up the fire place, pour a couple of mugs of hot chocolate, and open up the game cupboard.  (Again, though, as I say every year, camping ultimately for the win.)

 

And, favorite moments…

 

Show me whatcha got, 2020.

We eased into 2020 nice and slow – I love those few days after Christmas when the holiday bustle has subsided and we can be 100% on break.  Juliette and I hit the library and our favorite coffee shop and perfected Deck the Halls on her keyboard.

(That book!  She’s really rubbing in it with this whole growing-up-fast thing.)

Champagne and Sprite at our favorite Pioneer Square oyster bar…

Followed by a stroll through Occidental Square, which has never looked lovelier.

Juliette and the neighbor kids schemed up a sleepover one night and before I could even ask about the details, they were loading up their wagon with Juliette’s blanket, pillow, and toothbrush.  See ya later, I guess…?

Once all the kids had properly lined up their sleeping bags in the playroom, they spent the afternoon rehearsing a sing-along to Frozen 2’s greatest hits and then hopped back to our house in the evening for a special performance.  The parents were all politely asked to sit quietly and refrain from taking any videos – this was exclusive stuff.  (Photos permitted.)

Juliette’s solo was so sweet.

But the full quartet’s rendition of Lost in the Woods was my fave.

Once everyone traipsed back across the street for bedtime, Shane and I looked at each other in our quiet, empty house and wondered, “What should we do?”  So we went out!  We got super-crazy and ended up playing Quirkle and drinking beer at the neighborhood game store.

We invited the crew over for our annual New Years Eve bash, where we played charades and ate and drank and watched the ball drop in New York City before sending the six year-olds off to bed.

We busted out the Veuve and my grandparents’ antique wine glasses for the midnight toast.  Special champagne in special glassware for the most special of friends.

HAPPY 2020!

We rolled out of bed reluctantly on Wednesday morning, but rallied with the promise of Jack’s homemade bubble waffles.  Juliette put on her princess dress and grabbed a noise-maker and did her damnedest to keep the party going.

And then, as a grand finale to our holiday traditions, the Polar Plunge!  I love this event.  Such community, such euphoria.

One clarification:  I love being a spectator at this event.

Juliette thought about joining the guys this year, but only went so far as to take her shoes off.  I don’t blame her!

I took to heart that old adage about the first day of the year setting the tone for the rest of the year, so I made time to get out for a long walk and to hit the playground with my girl and to cozy up by the fireplace with tea and a book.

We took a family walk at Lincoln Park that evening to catch what will be first of many magic 2020 sunsets.

And then, on that final weekend before heading back to work and school, there was nothing left to do but CHILL.  Juliette and I got a head start on our new years resolutions and crafted and cuddled and spent one last night reading by the light of the Christmas tree.

What a break.  What a gloriously slow, restorative way to end one year and begin a new one.