And suddenly, we were waking up to our last full day in Paris!  I made my usual five-step walk from the bed to the balcony and bid the city Good Morning.

We laced up our sneakers and set out for a full day of city-soaking.  We started in Montmartre on Rue des Martyrs, on a mission for the neighborhood’s best croissants.  We found them at Farine & O, which was hands-down Lav’s and my favorite boulangerie of the several we visited.  Buttery and puffy and flaky and buttery.  And gosh, so buttery!

The streets of Montmartre hold such a beautiful mix of bright (or dark) murals and renegade wall art.

And then, you round a corner and find yourself on a rue lined with pristinely Parisian buildings.

Oh, to be the child that sits on the back of this bike and cruises around Paris with mom or dad.  LUCKY.

We followed the crowds to Sacre Couer and hung out for a moment on the jam-packed terrace overlooking the city.

And then made our descent, in search of lunch and a quiet place to sit.

We Metro-ed back toward Ile de la Cite, grabbed a couple of savory crepes with a couple of cups of vin chaud, and sat on a bench near Notre Dame to savor the good life.

We wandered through the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, a monument built in honor of the 200,000 French people that were deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Our feet started to feel their usual wear in mid-afternoon, so we headed back toward the apartment.  We passed this kid-filled plaza on the way and paused for minute to watch them play – I missed Juliette somethin’ fierce.

And so we stopped at Pierre Herme and loaded up on macarons for the little ones.  Mama’s coming home with treats, Jules!

We spent awhile at our sunny abode, snacking on the assortment of goodies we’d collected over the previous couple of days.  I challenge you to find a window better than this one!

This balcony was our happy place.

Lav and I split up for a bit to do some shopping in the Marais and then reconvened to head south and stroll the streets of St. Germain.

Our miles and miles of walking hit me like bag of bricks on Saturday afternoon, so we actually spent more time sitting than strolling – suddenly, I was beat.  But still, there are sights to be seen from a cafe terrace!

…or a quaint Brasserie!

We dined at Boucherie Rouliere that night, wanting to close out our trip with the French staples of onion soup and steak frites.  We came here last year as well and have declared it an official must-visit anytime we’re in Paris – the space is happy and bustling, the service is friendly, and the soup is extra-cheesy.

We took the circuitous route home, reveling in the joy of a packed terraces, bright lights, and a sidewalk quartet.

We rounded out the night with crepes from La Droguerie in the Marais.  NUTELLLLLLLA!

We happily discovered on Sunday morning that daylight savings had ended during the night, so we found ourselves with an extra hour before we had to head to the airport.  I set out with my camera before the sun had fully come up, wanting to enjoy a few quiet moments with the city.  My dear, dear city.

I thought about turning around at the Pompidou, but checked my watch and decided to just keep on trekking.

The Tuilieries was nearly deserted, leaving me free to snap endless photos of those quintessential green chairs.  I love those green chairs.

 

This was the point at which I decided I better book it back to the Marais.  Sights seen.

I met up with La Verne for one last croissant and coffee before heading back to the apartment to finish packing up.

And then it was time to squeeze back into that tiny elevator and bump our suitcases along the sidewalks to the RER.  Don’t let Lav’s friendly smile fool you – we were crying on the inside as we said goodbye to our sweet little street…

It was a long day of travel back to Seattle – we toasted to La Verne’s birthday with glasses of in-flight Prosecco somewhere over the Atlantic and watched three or four movies.  I was feeling some pretty serious post-Paris blues, but the moment Juliette’s and Shane’s faces came into view at the top of the airport escalator, all felt right again.  Paris will always be there, ready to welcome us back the next time those $500 flights show up in my inbox.  And it will be as magical as ever.

We were tempted to sleep in on on our kid-free vacation, but Paris is not a city for catching up on your Z’s.  Paris is a city for early-morning strolls to the Place des Vosges!

Lav and I knew we’d only have time for one museum during our visit, so we settled on the Pompidou for our art fix.  We grabbed a couple of croissants and coffees on Rue Montorguiel and then hopped in line to beat the crowds.

This place!  I had an annual pass to the Pompidou during my year abroad and would pop in every couple of weeks to visit Dubuffet and Matisse and Kandinsky.  This place is where I learned to love art.

GIACOMETTI.  I missed him.

Our energy waned a couple of hours into our visit, so we took a rest under a web of earbuds.   Quite serene, actually!

We grabbed lunch back in the Marais, and my warm Chevre-topped salad and glass of white wine left me ready to jam again.  Off we went to the Promenade Plantee!

This elevated walking path near Bastille offers up-high views of Parisian streets and then dips down to a series of tunnels and woods.  Much of the trail was new to me – it was fun to turn over a new French stone.

We hung out at the apartment for a bit before dinner and then struck back out for dinner at Le Rigmarole.  First though, a quick stop at Carette for salted caramel macarons.

And a quick stop at this little shop for earrings.  Being able to pop into any little store on any little whim felt like such a luxury.

We reveled in our two-hour, eight-course meal and then caught the Metro to Trocadero.  And…there she is!

Not a bad place to end the day.  Not bad at all.

It felt a bit extravagant to book another trip to Paris just one year after Lav’s and my 2017 romp through the City of Lights, but… Those killer IcelandAir deals!  That lovely Marais apartment!  Those two sweet dads that gladly offered to hang back with the kids!  I mean, we could hardly afford not to go.  And so off we went.  After a brief moment of flight-change / missed-flight panic, we were PARIS-BOUND!  With complimentary wine to boot!

It was a long but luxuriously quiet flight, with a short stop at London-Heathrow for a cup of coffee and a good stretch.  We landed in France on a Wednesday evening, bumped our suitcases the two blocks from the St. Paul Metro to our building on Rue du Trésor, squeezed into the tiniest elevator ever, and then opened our sixth-floor door to a charming one-bedroom with a balcony that dreams are made of.

We freshened up a bit and then jetted right back out for dinner and drinks at my old fave Les Philosophes, which was just a few doors down from our apartment.

I’d read about a light show happening that evening at Notre Dame, so we wandered that way and found ourselves a little perch on a stretch of bridge to take in the action.  This old Dame really rolled out the welcome wagon for us!

We strolled back toward the Marais once the church went dark, stopping to gaze upon the glittery Seine…

and then grabbed a gelato and wandered a bit more, warding off our jet lag with that irresistible Paris buzz.

It felt so, so, so good to be back.

We were up at a respectably early hour on Thursday, ready to tick off the sights on our clipboard of fun.  The city was beckoning!

First, though, coffee and croissants.

We hopped on the Metro and headed toward Rue Monge, stopping briefly at a beautifully well-curated kids store for gifts for the littles.

We grabbed a couple of sandwiches and tarts from a sidewalk vendor and trekked toward Jardin du Luxembourg.

We walked by Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont on the way and popped in.  On a whim.  PARIS.  So much magic around every corner.

We eventually landed at Luxembourg, staked our claim at a couple of green chairs, and settled in to watch the kids with their sailboats while we happily carbo-loaded.

Fall seemed to be breathing one of its last, glorious gasps while we were there.

We wanted to catch the afternoon tour at the top of the Pantheon, so we walked back that way after lunch, again doing a quick church loop on our way.  Saint-Sulpice was such a dark and lovely contrast to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont.

 

And then, the Pantheon.  I had been inside this place several times but had never made my way to the top – bring on the stairs!

The first upstairs vantage point overlooked the patterned floor below…

And then we climbed some more, finally arriving at the outdoor balcony.  Hello, Eiffel!

I love Paris from up high – the city’s rooftops are just so distinctly…Parisian.

We made our descent and then did another quick-and-lovely driveby, this time at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve across the street.  Can you imagine doing your homework in here?

By this point we’d logged six or seven miles on our Nikes.  I needed a cold beer.

And an espresso.

Once we’d recharged, we walked toward the Seine, stopping at Shakespeare and Co., the flower market, and Pont Notre Dame along the way.

We kicked back at the apartment for awhile before dinner, munching on the perfect little honey-laced birds’ nests we’d picked up at Maison Aleph.  When La Verne asked the man at the counter what the nests were made of, he replied in all seriousness, “the hair of angels”.  I don’t doubt it.

We weren’t able to snag a table at the little cafe we’d been eyeing for dinner, so instead we settled on the best fallafel ever from L’As du Fallafel.  I ate a lot of these sandwiches during my year in Paris.  They are just as good as I remember them.

We ate at the plaza at Hotel de Ville, harissa running down our fingers, and then wiped our hands and walked west to the Louvre.  I know I use the word “magic” a lot in these Paris posts, but I mean…TA-DAAAA!

Lav and I both ranked this evening as one of the biggest highlights of our trip.  We were two of only a handful of people in the courtyard that night – the quiet air and the glowing moon and the brilliant lights were all so…enchanting (thanks, thesaurus!).

We closed out our eleven-mile walking tour with a drink at a neighborhood bar, leaning into that very happy, very tired feeling that comes with a day of sightseeing and a glass of Cotes du Rhone.  Bonne nuit, mes amis.

Back-tracking a bit here, but work has trumped blog these past few weeks and I’m just now getting back to this space I’ve missed so much.  And so, Idaho!  In mid-October!  Did I mention my parents moved to Idaho?  They visited Couer d’Alene in May and were so smitten with it that they decided to bid La Pine farewell and embark on a new adventure.  And while I relished our time in Central Oregon, I gotta say, North Idaho shows definite promise.

We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the playground at Falls Park, as Juliette was gunning to go after several hours in the car.  She bee-lined to the jungle gym while I checked out the rugged views of the Spokane River.

So happy together…

We grabbed a beer while the sun set over the water and then headed back to my mom and dad’s place for homemade meatballs.  Three hours into our visit, I was already seeing the appeal…

On Thursday morning we headed into Couer d’Alene to check out spot #2 on our grand circuit du playgrounds.  City Park was beautiful though swarming with aphids, which infest the city’s ash trees for two weeks every year.  We took a quick spin on the monkey bars and then moved on.

Oh, and AUTUMN!  So good here.

We popped over to McEuen Park next, which was decidedly less buggy.  We ate our picnic lunch, Juliette playgrounded with a new friend, and then we took a short walk around Tubbs Hill, which fronts Lake Couer d’Alene.

Can’t wait to get our paddle board out onto this water next summer!

Shane and I sent Juliette home with my parents and then set out to do a little exploring on our own.  We landed on the trail at Mineral Ridge, a three-mile hike with a lovely lake lookout.

Day dates are my favorite.

My mom and dad took Shane and I out for dinner that night to celebrate our October birthdays.  (Juliette free-loaded.)

On Friday we headed into the nearby farmland (of which there was plenty!) to scout some pumpkins and hot cider.  We started at Hidden Acres Orchards, which offered apple trees and a pet pig and a (dinky) corn maze and a two-dollar hayride.

Juliette ate it all up.

We crossed the street to another little patch and settled in at a picnic table to eat our lunch.  First though, one more pumpkin.  I couldn’t stop!

(This one’s for you, Uncle Doug!)

Juliette and I had just enough energy left after our pumpkin bonanza to get out for a jog/bikeride.  We found a perfect stretch of flat, carless trail and she rode like the wind while I huffed behind her.

My parents offered to watch Juliette that evening while Shane and I slipped away for the first grown-up movie we’ve seen in the theater in years.  Such luxury!

Saturday was our last full day in Idaho, so I got an early start and headed back out to Tubbs Hill for a walk with my mom.

Idaho, I’m falling for you!

We picked up the guys (and kid) and then drove out to Spirit Lake for a quiet lunch on the patio.

Again with the paddle-boarding possibilities..

The town of Spirit Lake is tiny, but boasts a quintessentially cute Main Street with an ice cream shop and a pottery store where you just slip your payment through a mail slot, so as not to disturb the potter while he’s at work.

We swung by Falls Park before dinner for one last playground romp with Grandpa, master twirler.  My dad ended up with a large flock of children around him and he pushed them all on the merry-go-round, trying to tag them at each spin while they giggled and squealed.  He’s the funnest.

There were lots of snuggles with Bernie on Sunday morning as we packed our things.

And Grandma!  She’s pretty snuggly, too.

I’m going to miss the Bend brew scene and Central Oregon lake life but…Idaho seems realllll nice.  We’re going to tear that state up next summer.

I am up to my ears in photos of the past month, with a trips to Idaho and PARIS on the books, but I’ll start with a couple of closer-to-home happenings.

Halloween came and went with much fanfare – there was a Fall Fest and a school party and a trick-or-treating bonanza.  Juliette rocked her Wonder Woman costume in true hero form.

After September’s post-birthday Princess kick, it was nice to see her in something a little less…poofy.

Shane pulls out his old Kevin Durant jersey every year and dresses up as a…basketball player?  In jeans?  I’m not really sure what’s going on here.

But dang, they are so stinking cute.

And…we’re off!

We hooked up with some neighbors and zig-zagged our way around the ‘hood.  Jules was thrilled to be out with such experienced trick-or-treaters – these kids knew exactly which houses doled out the full-size candy bars.

This guy buys 52 pumpkins every Halloween Eve and spends the next day carving each and every one of them.  I told Shane that we have GOT to step up our porch game next year.

We hurried home when it started to rain, Juliette’s bucket brimming with treats.  I have since pilfered all the Snickers bars and Shane has eaten every last Reese’s.  Happy Halloween!

This past week has felt decidedly more Wintry than Autumnal, so we’re squeezing in a couple of final golden strolls before the trees shed their leaves completely.  Juliette and I popped over to Kubota Gardens before her swim lesson one Friday afternoon for a brisk romp.  This place never disappoints.

I know, this headband is a little ridiculous, but it’s her new favorite.  Last night she slept with it on!

We’ve got our route through this place down pat now.  Up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge, under the tree tunnel, to the fish bond, and over the other bridge.

My little mushroom forager…

FRIDAYS!!!

 

And finally, a quick international jaunt with the Chens, lest the dads and the kids felt left out after Lav’s and my week in Paris.  We rolled into Canada on a very rainy Saturday, and after a dim sum fix in Richmond bought tickets at the Vancouver Aquarium for an afternoon of indoor sightseeing.

This is Juliette’s attempt at a fish face:

Jack leveraged his hotel points to snag us all a luxurious suite at the Fairmount, and after settling into our swanky space, we hit the pool.  In the rain!

We all dined on assorted meat skewers at Zakushi for dinner that night.  Juliette was in meatball heaven, and my rich, runny quail egg was to die for.

Back at the hotel, the kids fell asleep in seven seconds flat:

And the fellas picked us up a round of champagne to-go from the hotel bar.

We were determined to savor every last minute of our digs until our noon check-out time on Sunday, so the guys and kids spent the morning at the pool while LaV and I made use of our complimentary spa access.

I’d come back to this place for the mini-robes alone!

We slurped down a ramen lunch and then strolled through Stanley Park before heading south.

Sunday’s sunshine more than made up for Saturday’s downpour.

It was a long ride back to Seattle, even with the Nexus passes that allowed us to zip through the border crossing, but we made it.  We’re HOME for the foreseeable future.  And it feels so good.

We’re in the midst of an autumnal whirlwind – we just returned from a few days visiting my parents in lovely North Idaho and tomorrow I head out for a Parisian romp with La Verne.  And HO-LY cow, Seattle is gorgeous right now, which means we’re jetting out for jaunts among pumpkins and fall leaves whenever we have a free moment.

Juliette and I spent our last Mama-Jules Friday at Volunteer Park, as it’s near the top of October’s must-see list.  The trees are beautiful, with trunks big enough to crouch behind while we play our game of hide-and-go-seek.

Lately, when I ask Juliette to smile, I get either this crazy-eyed grin:

Or this bashful over-bite:

But whatever.  She’s still adorable.

Ready or not, here I come!

FOUND YOU!

We always end our Volunteer Park tour with a climb up to the top of the observation tower – Juliette darts up the 100+ steps while I huff and puff behind her.

Nothing better.

 

The next day we made our annual Pumpkin Patch Pilgrimage, out to Bob’s in Snohomish.  The patch turned out to be insanely busy, but we managed to snag a parking spot and a wheelbarrow before heading into the fields.

Juliette was quick to settle on this little white pumpkin as her pick.

I wanted this one, until I saw its price tag!

Hey, look who showed up!

Shane scored this one:

And then I traipsed around with the kiddos, searching for a perfect little orange one for N.

Oh Bob’s…such a hassle to get to.  But so good.

 

And finally, a Sunday stroll through the Arboretum, which has never looked better.

Juliette is very much into tree-climbing these days, and these branches proved to be a magical perch.

I mean, COME ON!

 

And now, let’s see what the Jardin du Luxembourg has to offer.  EEP!

No doubt, Fall is in full swing in Seattle, but I have one very last batch of tank-topped photos to share, from a late September visit at the Point Defiance Zoo on a Mama-Jules Friday.

The stingrays were our very first stop and we perched here for awhile, Juliette poised with her hand down in the water waiting for them to swim by.

No hands allowed in this guy’s tank!

And then, because Juliette was disappointed she couldn’t pet the tiger or the polar bear, we rounded out our day with the goats, who were all too eager for a little love (and a little snack).

 

And now, onto the business of autumn!  Just a few days after our sunny day at the zoo we were donning long sleeves for a visit to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.

The suspension bridge was canopied in greens on the cusp of gold and we traversed back and forth across this thing several times, seeing how much we could make it creak and bounce.

Golly, these flowers!

 

We popped over to Lincoln Park a couple of weeks ago to play in the leaves and visit my favorite Fall tree.

It’s pretty magical under this roof of glowing greens and yellows.  I expect it won’t be many years before Juliette is scampering up these branches.

This girl’s got a thousand different faces.  And I love them all.

Next up:  the pumpkin patch and another boatload of kid+tree photos.  The autumn vibes are strong up in here!

I’ve got one last batch of sun-shiny September photos to share, and then I suppose it’s time to crank up the fireplace plant my feet firmly in Fall (well, hello, October!).

August went by without a single Schnell family campout, but I was bound and determined to set up our tent one last time before summer came to a close.  We found ourselves with wide-open schedules a couple of days after Labor Day and decided to try our luck at one of the first-come, first-serve campgrounds near Lake Wenatchee, where temps were running about 10 degrees warmer than Seattle.  We sped down Highway 2 on a Thursday morning and then bumped along a dirt road for a few miles before landing at Glacier View campground, fingers crossed that there would be a site or two available.  Turns out, every site but one was available – we nearly had the whole place to ourselves!

We took our time selecting a primo site right on the water and then got to work setting up camp.

The minute the tent was pitched, Juliette started rummaging around in her bag for her swimsuit and put me to work on inflating her mermaid friend.

The rest of the day was a lazy, hazy haze of bobbing and paddling.

I set out on the SUP and thought I would try to paddle to the other end of Lake Wenatchee.  Turns out, Lake Wenatchee is huge, so I turned around after 20 minutes and found Shane and Juliette tucked cozily into the hammock.

Juliette pondered life’s big questions and worked on her super-hero poses while I got dinner ready.

After spaghetti and camp stove s’mores (burn ban…), we made our way to the water to take in the last of the day’s rays.

Shane and Juliette worked tirelessly on their rock-skipping games; Jules was over the moon when her first stone did a little hop on the lake.

Goodnight, lake..

We awoke on Friday to much clearer skies, as much of the smoke had blown through overnight.  Now I see why the campground is called Glacier View!

I sat by the lake with my thermos of coffee while Juliette scoured the shore for more perfect skipping stones.

We packed a picnic lunch around noon and then made the short trek up to Hidden Lake for a mid-day dip.

We ate our sandwiches on a shady log, ditched our shoes and socks, and then waded into the water for some minnow-hunting.  Shane’s patience and cunning (and bread crumbs) paid off in the form of a tiny, squiggly little fish.  Juliette was thrilled by it all.

It might be time to get this kid a pet.

Juliette’s legs gave out when we were about five minutes away from camp, so Shane lugged her along for the last quarter mile.  She always looks back at me with such sly satisfaction when Dad agrees to carry her…

Friday afternoon looked much like Thursday afternoon.  Paddle, float, repeat.

I went out for a long solo paddle and wound my way into a serene little channel at the northern tip of the lake.

By the time I paddled out of the protected little channel, the winds had picked up and the skies had turned gray.  It was a choppy ride back to shore – I was glad to land on solid ground, collapse in my camp chair, and watch Juliette play a rousing game of “toss the rock into the tree stump”.  Only child games…

We turned in extra-early that night, zipping ourselves into our tent before 7 pm when we felt a few raindrops start to fall.

I figured Juliette would easily crash after a long day of playing, but she showed surprising stamina with the books and headlamp!

We decided to head back to Seattle on Saturday – our camping itch had been scratched and we were ready to enjoy the comforts of home.  First, though, an hour-long coffee and hot chocolate session in our camp chairs.

Juliette spent much of the morning “cooking” while Shane and I packed up.  She was a busy little bee, mixing water and black pepper and salt together to make the best soup she’s ever tasted.

Cheers, Lake Wenatchee!

We stopped in Leavenworth on the way home for taffy, bratwursts, and Christmas ornaments (the Bavarian essentials, really).

And with that, Schnell Camp Season 2018 is a wrap!  We really pushed the limits of the PNW’s camping window this year, heading out the first weekend of June and the second weekend of September (with three other trips in between!).  Quite possibly my favorite summer ever…

I just finished Juliette’s birthday video, and, phew.  The feels.  ALL THE FEELS.  Gratitude and joy and a little bit of melancholy.  Four-year-old Jules really was some kind of wonderful, huh?

It’s official: as of Friday, Juliette is FIVE.  And my head is still spinning.  Not just because I can’t figure out how the past half-decade has flown by so quickly, but also because we partied hard for two straight days and I’m still exhausted.

I awoke Friday morning to the tap-tap of Juliette’s finger on my arm and the whisper of her voice:  Is it my birthday now?  Can I open my presents?  I asked her to give me a few minutes to get things ready and then called her out to our balloon-strewn, gift-laden living room.  She got right to business.

I asked Juliette several times what she wanted for her birthday, and it was always “fancy clothes”.  So I went with it – frilly skirts and sparkly headbands and a gold donut purse.

And, though we’ve resisted the princess craze to-date, I gave in and bought her the Elena dress she’s been drooling over since the Halloween costumes hit Costco last month.  Juliette pulled it out of the box and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I wanted!!!”  Shane raised his eyebrows, clearly wondering “Are we really doing this?”, but I reminded him that this is just a phase.  We’ll indulge her, maybe removing some of the allure, and then she’ll get over it.

Shane took the morning off, so after gifts were opened we grabbed breakfast together at Admiral Bird.  I was able to wrangle Juliette out of the princess dress, but the tiara stayed firmly ON.

After waffles, Shane headed into the office and Juliette and I headed out for a surprise adventure: we were Fair-bound!

The Washington State Fair comes to Puyallup every summer and a piece of me has always wanted to go, mostly out of curiosity.  Is it as fun as the commercials make it look?  Or is it a sad, run-down relic of the olden days, when Fairs were really a thing?

Turns out, mostly the former.  At least for a five year old!  Merry-go-rounds and saltwater taffy and tractors, oh my!

We spent a long, long time with the animals, looking at horses and petting goats and sitting down for a dog show when our feet needed a rest.

Juliette begged to go on a pony ride, and while I tried to convince her to hold out for a more legit horseback experience at one of the riding trails near Seattle, she could not be swayed.  So I ponied up ten bucks for the birthday girl.

She was ecstatic afterwards.  Did you see me, Mama?  Can we get a horse?

I had a handful of ride tickets left, so we hit the roller coaster, which was probably as thrilling for me as it was for Juliette.  This kid wears me out, but gosh, in so many ways she makes me feel so exuberantly young.

And then I let her hop on the flying elephant, because, FIVE.

We breezed past the llamas, grabbed a swirl cone, and then called it day.  We were both dragging our feet by the time we reached the car.

But really, the birthday festivities were only beginning!  We dined that night at Chez Rust and raised our glasses to Miss Jules…

And then headed out for a night at the theater.  A kind friend had offered us tickets to the Seattle Children’s Theater’s production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I couldn’t turn them down.  We’ve been reading Eric Carle books to Juliette since she was just a few weeks old and I was eager to see the animals come to life.  The entire thing was magical – I got a little teary-eyed over their enactment of 10 Little Rubber Ducks – I’ve probably read that book to Juliette a hundred times, and the puppets and music were just so achingly beautiful.  They didn’t allow pictures during the play, which is just as well – I want to seal away in my memory the rapt look on Juliette’s face, the way she whisper-gasped, “It’s so, so beautiful, Mama!” when the butterfly emerged from the cocoon.

Saturday was party-day, and we went…big.  Bounce house big.

Turns out a 15′ x 15′ castle fits quite nicely in our backyard!

Since Juliette is so into dressing up these days, I told her buddies to come a little fancy, in a favorite hat or an old Halloween costume or whatever their little hearts desired.

I had extra super-hero masks and plenty of rhinestone stickers on-hand, in case anyone left their accessories at home.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl…

Juliette scarfed down her cupcake in about 15 seconds flat, because…

The bounce house beckoned!

She jumped for hours.  Literally.  It took a candy-filled unicorn piñata to lure her back out.

It was pretty cute, watching the younger kids take their swats.

But I called on the Rust boys when we were ready to crack that puppy open.

Get it, Gryff!

And…mayhem.

The guests trickled out after lunch and then Juliette called for a quick wardrobe change.  She posed for a few pics with her best bud…

And then gave him a very Prom Queen-ish wave good-bye.

After all the kids had left we found ourselves with two hours left on our bounce house rental, so we kept the party going.

I tried cleaning up inside, but kept finding myself drawn out back by the sound of Juliette’s hysterical laughter.

I mean, I just couldn’t resist.

Though Juliette was quite disappointed to see the bounce house guy show up to deflate her magic castle, Shane and I were overwhelmingly relieved.  This girl’s energy is absolutely boundless (ours is not!).

Juliette opened her party gifts on Sunday, and…it’s possible that she might not grow out of this princess phase as soon I imagined.

New rule: Let It Go may be played in the Schnell household once. per. day.

But giggle it up all you want, Jules.  Your laughter is my favorite sound in all the earth.

The past few days have been full of, Look what I can do now that I’m five!  Do I look taller since I’m five?  Do you think I’m reading so good now because I’m five? 

Yes, baby girl, all of it, yes.  You are so wonderfully grown-up and lovely and smart.  Let’s rock FIVE.