The message at church last Sunday was all about Joy.  JOY.  Seeking joy.  Sharing joy.  And pausing to fully revel in joy when you unexpectedly stumble upon it.  Be present in the spontaneous moments of mirth, “stop and snap a memory picture of them”.  This struck a particular chord with me – I pack joy into our holiday calendar in the form of tree hunts and Santa visits and Christmas light tours, but I’m seeing there’s actually so much extra goodness to be found in the in-between times, if I just step back for a hot minute and let life happen.  This past weekend was busy, with a company holiday party and a birthday party and a Santa visit and cookie decorating and a Christmas lights bonanza, but the moment that’s given me warm fuzzies all week long wasn’t a part of any Christmas programming.  It was a Saturday evening and I was feverishly cleaning the house before our neighbors came over for dessert and Shane was blaring Chicago songs on Alexa when You’re the Inspiration started playing and he grabbed me for a living room slow dance.

“You know our love was meant to beeeeee…the kind of love that lasts foreverrrr…”

I sighed at first, annoyed by the interruption (dishes to do!), but then channeled my inner romantic and leaned my head against his chest.  Juliette stood by and grinned at the sight of the two of us swaying together with our hands clasped in some kind of slow waltz, and then she did the same – put her left arm around an imaginary waist and raised her right arm to hold an imaginary hand and swayed right along with us.  She looked up at us both with twinkling eyes and then dashed to her room to grab her teddy bear to bring him back for the chorus.

“You’re the meaning in my life…You’re the inspirationnnn…”

Shane leaned down and kissed me on the cheek and then Juliette kissed her teddy bear on the cheek in just the same gentle way and I nearly burst into tears with the goofy tenderness of it all.

JOY.  I’m here for it.

By the third week of November, I’m typically easing into the holiday season with an evening listen of Charlie Brown Christmas and a pint of egg nog in the fridge…the longer we can stretch out this most wonderful time of year, the better.

This year, though, I just didn’t feel ready.  Too much other stuff going on, too many other things in my head.  In the third week of November, we’d just gotten around to tossing out our pumpkins!  But when we crossed these snowy mountains the Tuesday before Thanksgiving on our way to Idaho, I started to feel my shoulders relax.  I started to think about Christmas gifts and holiday decor and go over the words to “O Come Let Us Adore Him” with Juliette in preparation for our church’s children’s program.

And then we rolled up to my mom and dad’s house and books were brought out and I raided my mom’s stash of tea and it was official – I was ready for a late-November slow-down.

Eager to get our veg on, we spent Wednesday morning at the Spokane movie theater catching the matinee of Frozen 2.

Survey says…SOOOO GOOD, MAMA!

Santa sighting!  And I do love a good mall tree…

Back at the house, we cranked up the Christmas tunes and decked the halls. Juliette arranged the nativity scene on the mantle and baked cookies with my mom while I strung lights on the tree.

Christmas is coming, kiddo!

Thanksgiving day was wonderfully quiet – I got out for a crisp morning walk, we put the ham in the oven to warm while I made mashed sweet potatoes and my mom made biscuits, and we just…chilled.

We ate, we drank, we lounged, and then we brought out the pumpkin and apple pies.  When we sat down in the living room to take turns talking about what we’re thankful for, we found no shortage of things to put on our lists.

Shane and I took Juliette on a holiday cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene in the evening – word on the street was that this boat had the secret scoop on Santa’s whereabouts!

And sure enough, just as we were finishing our hot cocoa and buttered rum, we came upon this decked-out dock.

It was quite the production – Santa read his “nice-list” over a megaphone for all to hear (Juliette was thrilled to hear her name was on it!), there was a Jingle Bells sing-along, and then the fireworks let loose.

P.S.  IT WAS COLD.

My mom and I got out on Friday morning to hit the coffee shop and peruse the shelves at Pier 1 and then again, we just…chilled.  Juliette watched Little Women with me in front of the fireplace in the afternoon and wrapped her arms around me when I started crying about Beth and all felt right in my world.  I love sharing my favorite things with my favorite kid.

There were a few last snuggles for sweet, blind Bernie on Friday night, a round of hugs on Saturday morning, and then we were west-bound.  Those mellow few days with my nearest and dearest had been exactly what I needed.

We made a pit stop at our usual tree fam on the way home and did our usual spin through the Douglas and Noble firs before circling back to our tried-and-true patch of Grands.

It was chilly out there, but sunny and crystal clear.  This place never disappoints.

Shane and Juliette are usually quick to hone in on a tree, but I always insist on just one more loop.  Why rush through this place?!

We’ve got a winner!

Cider+candy cane vibes…

Back at home, the beloved Christmas bin was brought out and opening it up felt just like…Christmas.  Juliette was thrilled by each ornament and knick-knack she pulled out of the box.  I forgot about this!  Oooohhhh, I love this one!  My favorite!  My other favorite!

See?!  It seems she’s inherited my sentimentality…

Juliette insisted that we lay out each and every ornament before hanging any on the tree, and I loved seeing them all spread out on the table – we’ve amassed quite an eclectic collection over the years.

Perrrrrfect.

Ham it up, Juliette.  ‘Tis the season for being adorable and dressing up your stuffed animals and cranking up that fireplace till it’s 80 degrees inside.

Egg nog cheers!  It’s official – the holidays are here, and I’m all in.

Juliette and I have put In November by Cynthia Rylant into our recent reading rotation, flipping pages that speak to the quiet and coziness of this month.  In November, mice burrow into little barn nests and dogs curl up by fires and families share pies while sitting by crackling woodstoves. In November, in this book, all is well.

In reality, though, this month has been tough.  In November, the sun started setting well before 5 pm, which zapped me of my evening energy.  In November, my mom underwent her first round of chemo to treat her recent cancer diagnosis.  In November, I endured one of the busiest, most stressful seasons I’ve ever had at work while Shane struggled to find his footing in his new job.  In November, Juliette proudly presented me with a card she’d written out all by herself at school that said, “Dear Mommy, I wish you did not have to go to San Diego all the time.  In November, all did not feel well.

So I’m self-medicating with Vitamin D capsules and lots of water.  Some nights I’m allowing myself to fall asleep in Juliette’s bed with her at 8 pm.  And I’m getting outside.

I literally headed for the hills at the end of a particularly busy week and spent a Friday morning hiking up to Mason Lake.

The terrain was so diverse, alternating from closed-in woods to panoramic views.

I sat lakeside for a bit and savored every bite of my granola bar, recuperating from the steep 3.5-mile uphill climb.

I made it.  And it was good.

 

Even on gray days, I’ve been trying to rally and do a loop down by the water.  There’s solace in fog, like the weather is saying, “I know how you feel…”

 

The ultimate solace continues to be a walk through the leaves with Shane and Juliette – we spent a Sunday at Ravenna Park strolling and crunching.  Juliette insisted on wearing this rubber finger that someone gave her while trick-or-treating.  She’s so weird.  I love her.

(Juliette does not seem to be one for November blues.)

This grove is one of my favorite Fall spots.

 

We arrived in Idaho this afternoon for a few mellow days with my parents (my mom is doing phenomenal, by the way!), so it looks like we’ll be rounding out November with pie and fireside chatter after all.  In November…there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

It’s been a solid year and a half since we caught up with our California crew, so when a Bay Area work trip popped up for Shane earlier this month, I suggested he tack on a weekend a couple of extra plane tickets – Juliette and I were comin’ along!  We arrived at Amanda’s house on a Friday evening just before bedtime, so I figured it would take until Saturday for the girls to warm up to each other.  Clearly, I underestimated the social adeptness of six year-olds…there was a 15-minute coloring session, and then they were changing into pajamas together and snuggling up in Sadie’s bunk for bedtime books.  I heard a solid hour of chatter after we’d turned out the lights.  These girls take after their mamas!

Meanwhile, little Jack found a new best buddy in Shane, who went so far as to don an A’s hat for the sake of a smile.

Saturday was wide open, full of playtime and sun and a brewpub lunch.

Amanda is killin’ it as a mom of three now and spent most of the weekend with baby D asleep on her chest.

Shane and I took a walk together in the afternoon and strolled past my old house and my old school, memories popping up at every corner.  There was the stretch of canal bank where I ran my daily miles for cross-country practice; the park where my high school’s “Senior Assassination” water gun fight kicked off; the house that hosted my neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July party; the corner ice cream shop (now a Starbucks) where a boy I liked used to hang out after school to watch golf with the owner.  Meanwhile, Juliette played kickball in the street with Sadie and the neighbor kids.  A couple of old friends joined us at Amanda’s and by dinnertime I was feeling all kinds of small-town feels.  Turlock isn’t home anymore, but when I’m there I can’t help wondering, “What if we’d stayed?  Would life be…easier?”

We snuggled up in the evening with Kelly C. for movies and popcorn and then tucked three very tired kiddos into bed.

Juliette and I were up before anyone else on Sunday morning and walked over to Starbucks (I liked it better as an ice cream shop!) for a steamer and a latte.

The kids hit the local trampoline gymnasium…

And then I hugged my girls good-bye.  It was such a brief catch up, but was also an affirmation that we can always pick up right where we left off.

We drove over to Palo Alto on Sunday afternoon to spend one night there with Shane before his training started on Monday.  We walked among the trees at Rancho San Antonio Preserve to Deer Hollow Farm Park, said hello to the chickens and the goats, and then soaked in the golden sunlight for a bit before heading out for dinner and a dip in the hotel pool.

Seriously, golden.

Juliette and I hugged Shane good-bye on Monday morning and then headed for the airport.  She was such a stellar little travel buddy and took great pride in lugging around my suitcase and her booster seat.  So helpful!  I should start bringing her on my work trips.

I was feeling a bit blue on the flight home, bummed about leaving Turlock’s quiet streets for the hustle and bustle of the work week ahead, but as we began our descent and I caught sight of West Seattle with the Sound in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the distance, I was reminded:  we belong here.  Yes, houses are expensive and our jobs can be stressful and no one in this city can reminisce with me about Friday nights at the THS football games, but good God, it’s beautiful and it’s diverse and it’s home to people and a church and a landscape that all encourage us to be our best selves.  I love a good walk down memory lane (maybe too much?), but we’re building our history here now.  Feels good to be home.

Good golly, October was full.  Birthdays and skydives and a trip to Paris (someday I’ll get those pics up on the blog!), leaves galore, and some hardcore Halloween-ing.

Our morning walk (or bike) to school has been chilly as of late, but I’m loving that crunchy sound of leaves under foot (or tire).

I headed to the Arboretum on a drizzly Friday for some me-time and wandered among the golds and browns and reds – this place is an October staple in my Fall folio.

The Japanese garden across the street was nearly empty due to the rain, so I pulled up the hood of my rain jacket and took advantage of the quiet.  I haven’t been here for years, as the parking lot is chock-full on sunny Fall weekends.

These. Colors.

It was clear from this tree that I missed “peak” foliage, but no matter.  If only it were sunny…

And the next day it was!  Shane, Juliette and I found ourselves with an open Saturday afternoon and headed right back out to the Arboretum for more leaf-peeping.

“Autumn Jules”:  I love her.

Jack and La Verne treated Shane and I to a very special meal at Archipelago in Columbia City for our birthdays at the end of the month.  We filled half the seats in this 8-person restaurant and relished every course, each of which came with a heartfelt origin story from the chef.

Ah, and Halloween!  So good this year!  Juliette loved pumpkin-carving…

And decorating the mantle with the few glittery owls and spiders that we picked up from the dollar store.

A guy down the street spent the entire week before Halloween carving pumpkins and we walked by there nearly every day to check on his progress.  107 pumpkins all-in!

Juliette found a bumble bee headband, wings and skirt at the dollar store back in September when we were buying supplies for her birthday party and asked if she could please be a bee for Halloween.  Cheers to the cheapest, easiest costume EVER!  She got all decked out for her school’s annual Monster Mash on a Friday night and had a blast fluttering down the halls and around the gym with her buddies.

And the main event!  The October 31st festivities kicked off with Juliette playing a little ditty for a small crowd of kids at the community center where she takes piano lessons.

We darted home to eat a quick bite, do a little face paint, and then snap the obligatory porch pics.

Shane busted out his Matt Cain jersey and dressed up as Giant.  In jeans.

And no shoes.  Thanks for trying, though, hon.

Juliette buzzed outside the moment she saw neighbor kids emerging from their houses, eager to get her trick-or-treat on.

Let’s do this!

Our neighborhood felt so friendly and festive, with decorations on most porches and everyone stopping to compliment each other’s costumes.

Ok, this house hardly screamed “friendly”, but hey, they had candy!

And now our pumpkins have gone squishy and been thrown in the compost bin.  Juliette’s trick-or-treating loot is gone (sweet kid donated all but 10 pieces of it to her school’s candy drive for the troops).  The owls and spiders are tucked into storage.  Happy November.  16th.  !!!

I sat down to write this post on Father’s Day, but then we went camping, and then we went camping again, and then school started and Juliette turned six and I went to Paris and now my Father’s Day Ode is a Happy Birthday Dedication to my favorite guy, who turned 40 two weeks ago.  The reality is that I thank my ever-lovin’ lucky stars for Shane daily, but it feel like he’s due for a mondo helping of gratitude.  So I’m gonna try to lay this on extra-thick.

We took Juliette to a Mariners game over the summer and as we were leaving the ballpark I saw a mom grasping the arm of her toddler as he melted into a full-on tantrum: spaghetti legs and ear-piercing wails and tears that shot out of his eyes in wide, gushing arcs.  My heart-strings tugged as she struggled to get him back on his feet and just as I was about to offer her that empathetic “hang in there, Mama” half-smile, the kid’s dad swooped in from behind, flipping the boy over his shoulders and eliciting shrieks of laughter as he twirled him in the air.  I saw the mom’s shoulders relax as she fell into step behind them.  That moment felt so akin to the dance that Shane and I have come do over the past few years of parenting Juliette.  Granted, we’ve exited the melt-down phase, but Shane’s still swooping in, holding down the fort at home when I have to travel for work, signing up for after-school programs the minute they open because I’m not so good at keeping track of those kinds of things, pulling out the Legos and calling to Juliette when I’m trying to get dinner ready and she’s rapid-firing questions at me.  He’s the Batman to my Robin, the peanut butter to my jelly, the co-parent I’d go batshit crazy without.  It feels like we’re in the midst of a particularly full season of life right now, but he makes it work.  Ok, we make it work, but there’s no we without he!

Of course, it’s not just the logistical relief and mad calendaring skills he brings to our family.  He’s exceedingly engaged, patient beyond reason. When Juliette started showing interest in sounding out words, he bought “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons” and spent a couple of evenings a week on the couch with her, plodding through each page and offering her just the right amount of guidance when she got frustrated and wanted to give up. When Juliette said she wanted to play music, Shane spent hours looking for a West Seattle piano teacher and signed her up for lessons, sitting through each lesson himself so that he could help her along. He’s intent on giving her every opportunity he can offer, often with a deep investment of his own time. I’m guessing he’d like to watch his beloved basketball games with a little peace and quiet, but instead he invites Juliette to head downstairs with him after dinner and then answers her endless questions about who has the ball and why isn’t Kevin Durant playing and where’s Lebron and why does Pops look so mad?  Juliette bawled her eyes out when the NBA season ended in June, not because she was disappointed with the outcome (girl loves Kawhi!), but because she wanted to watch more basketball with Daddy.

He’s so present, physically and emotionally, and on the rare occasion that he can’t be around, like when he had to leave for a business trip on the first day of Kindergarten, Juliette still knows he’s thinking of her:

He brings a lightness to our house with his incessant air guitar, a sweetness to our lives with his gifts of affection and affirmation, a sanity to our days with his insistence on an 8:00 bedtime for Juliette.  He’s IT.  So when a milestone birthday rolled around, I started dreaming of ways to honor my guy.  Rent a party-pad in the mountains for the weekend and invite all our friends?  Cater a fancy dinner at our house?  Go on a bender with the gang and end up a karaoke bar?  I was ready to go big, but Shane would have none of it.  He wanted a mellow morning at home, a taco dinner with our nearest and dearest, and creme brulee for dessert.  Your wish is my command, Shane Schnell:

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by Shane’s birthday celebration request.  Dude hates karaoke.  However, I about fell out of my chair when he said that for his gift he wanted to go sky diving.  Shane, who prefers the gentle swish of cross country skis to the zip of downhill slopes, wanted to jump out of an airplane?!  He asked Jason and Jack to join him and once they recovered from their similar shock, they said they were game.  We convened in Snohomish last Sunday for the big event.  Let’s do this!  (And by “let’s”, I mean…”you”.)

The guys completed their training, suited up, channeled their inner Mavericks, and then were AIR-BORNE!

I quickly lost sight of the plane, but several minutes after take-off I saw their parachutes dot the sky.

Shane’s partner had a camera on his arm and the footage is pretty unreal.  The scenery from up there!  And Shane’s grin through it all!

I was fairly calm through the whole thing, but still felt my shoulders relax when I saw Shane’s feet touch ground again.

The guys were silly-giddy afterward, sky-high on adrenaline for the rest of the afternoon.  Total bro-fest.  I was so happy for Shane, so thankful for friends and sunshine and this guy that’s still manages to surprise me 20 years after our first date.

Happy Father’s Day, Happy Birthday, Happy Ever After to my one and only.

Fall has fallen and it suddenly feels like we’re on the cusp of winter, with cold weather and bare limbs on many of the neighborhood trees.  This season feels more fleeting than ever – seems we may not be able to make our annual pilgrimage to Kubota before all the leaves have fallen.  I mean, I haven’t even made pumpkin bread and already Target’s aisles are lined with Christmas decorations!

We’ve seized what brief autumn moments we could, like when we headed over to Lincoln Park last Friday afternoon to see our favorite tree and go a few rounds on the zip line.

This is as golden as it gets…

Juliette has transitioned into her “fall look” – her hair seems darker these days and already her summer freckles have faded.

I don’t have a lot to say here other than…good God, I love you, Seattle.

Shane kindly requested that we skip the pumpkin patch after suffering through the traffic and crowds at Bob’s last year, but I was pretty resolute that we find someplace other than Trader Joe’s to pick out our pumpkins.  We settled on Jubilee Farm out in Carnation last Saturday, which was a bit of a trek, but was wonderfully mellow, with plenty of parking and no wait times for hayrides.

We rolled up just in time to witness the daily launch, where they catapult a giant pumpkin out into an open field so that the kids can watch it explode.  It was weird, but amusing.

Out to the patch!

And then…the search.

Juliette was really into the mini-gourds this year and had an impossible time picking just one or two favorites.  We bought seven.

We were just about to call it a day when we discovered a whole other field on the other side of these sunflowers!

 

 

 

 

 

She was pretty excited about this pomegranate look-alike.

Mission accomplished!

We wrapped up our visit with a cup of hot cider and a quick spin through the hay maze.  Ok, two spins.  Maybe three.  It was free and Juliette couldn’t get enough.

Juliette’s been cuddling with this silly little gourd all week, laying it right on her pillow so that it’s the last thing she sees as she drifts off to sleep.  Way to feel that October spirit, Jules…soak it up while it lasts.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for Juliette, with the start of Kindergarten and the onset of SIX.  This growing-up thing continues to happen way too fast, but I’m hanging on for dear life and reminding myself to enjoy the ride.

The first day of elementary school arrived with much fanfare, in the form of a new pink backpack and front porch pictures and SO MANY HUGS before we said good bye and left her in the hands of her sweet new teacher.

Three cheers for walking to school!  After the 20-minute schlep it took to get to preschool, this is such a treat.

Juliette bravely rocked her first week of school, though all three of us were exceedingly happy when Friday rolled around.  And since Friday was her Birthday Eve, there was extra cause for celebration!  Her teacher made her a birthday crown and invited me in to read a story to the class at the end of day; Juliette showed me to my chair up front and then proudly introduced me to each and every one of her classmates – nineteen names learned in just five days!

To Market, To Market got lots of giggles from the class, which Juliette quickly shushed so that I could carry on with the story.

I spent Friday night decking out the living room and wrapping gifts; after the busy week we’d had, I was going for a birthday vibe of “quiet-but-festive”, so we spent Saturday morning opening gifts and eating pancakes and sipping hot chocolate.

Juliette asked for “fancy things” for her birthday and was thrilled with these ridiculous sparkly dress-up shoes, which she spent the rest of the morning clomping around in.  Pink cowgirl boots, a couple of twirly dresses, and a hot pink glittery headband rounded out her new wardrobe perfectly.

Plus…

I just couldn’t help myself.  We saw Aladdin over the summer and Juliette’s had Jasmine-fever ever since.

Juliette had some birthday money from Grandma and Grandpa that was already burning a hole in her pocket, so we went over to our new neighborhood bookstore after breakfast to check out their shelves.  I anticipate spending a lot of time in this cozy reading corner in the chilly months to come.

Juliette picked out a Pigeon book and then we hopped next door to Youngstown for a muffin, where the nicest barista ever made Juliette a free hot chocolate with rainbow sprinkles when she heard it was this kid’s birthday.

We spent the afternoon cycling through Juliette’s new clothes and playing balloon volleyball in the living room.  We had decided to save the party for the following day and I was exceedingly grateful for these mellow moments with my favorite kid.

Oh, Jules – how I love and loathe to watch you grow older…

Sunday was party day, and again we kept it lower-key – after last year’s bounce house bonanza, I felt like we were due for a smaller gathering just with Juliette’s best buddies.  The theme was “campout” and we had planned on a backyard tent and outdoor games, but rain drove us indoors where I laid the table with a trail mix bar and a campfire cake.

And a blanket on the living room floor for our “hot dog picnic”…

The kids were told they’d have to go on a scavenger hunt to find the hidden s’mores supplies, so they made their own headlamps and set off on the trail of clues.

Treasure discovered under the sleeping bags in the bedroom tent!

We gathered round to sing Happy Birthday to Juliette, which she loved (little lady has zero qualms about being the center of attention), then we gave the kiddos the choice of chocolate cake or backyard s’mores (Juliette picked both).

Three plus three makes SIX.

We wrapped up festivities with an impromptu living room dance party, where Juliette twirled to her heart’s content.

We tucked Juliette into her bedroom tent that night and then I happily obliged her request that I lay next to her for awhile.  She fell asleep in about 15 seconds flat and then I was left to wallow a bit in those post-birthday blues, where I begrudged the passage of time and felt all those future birthdays barreling toward us like a freight train.  I know I’ve gotta let go of this irrational resistance to the future, got to embrace all this growing and changing, because dang if this girl doesn’t get more fun, more joyful, more interesting with each passing year.  Juliette Grace, don’t let your weepy ol’ mama hold you back – keep leaning into these new phases and experiences, keep twirling at the speed of light, keep being YOU.  At six years old, you are lovelier than ever.

Welp, I guess that’s a wrap, huh?  School has started, the skies are gray, and I wore a turtleneck sweater yesterday – summer is O-V-E-R and I’m memorializing it with one last photo mash-up…gosh, I’ll miss these lazy lake days!

Juliette and the neighbor kids asked me one morning last month if they could have a campout in our backyard – I said, “Sure, we can do that sometime!”  The words had hardly left my mouth before Rees was rolling up the sidewalk in the ol’ Arctic Cat, backseat loaded with pillows and sleeping bags and flashlights.  I guess we were doing this!

Shane set up the tent and the kids played in it for the better part of the day, coming out for hot dogs and s’mores before tucking themselves in for the night.

Sweet, sweet summer dreams, kiddos…

We spent a lot of time in the yard this summer, trimming and weeding and mowing, but also jumping through sprinklers and grilling with friends.

Gratuitous freckle shot!

Juliette and I spent a glorious wide-open Friday at Coleman Pool – I thought we’d ditch the arm floaties and test her swim skills, but she had a such a good time floating freely back and forth across the pool that I didn’t push it.

That same evening, we traded a damp swimsuit for a dry one and biked down to Alki Beach for a birthday party.  From Pool to Sound…summer livin’ in West Seattle is so, so good.

We ventured a little farther from home on a Saturday to swim at Anderson Pool in Bothel – this place is great, though swimming inside felt like a waste of sunshine!  You can find us back here in November.

There was a quick trip to Portland to pick up Juliette after her few days in Idaho with my parents – I didn’t take many pictures, but these couple with Morgan and my parents deserve a spot on the blog:

Summer ain’t summer without a visit to the ball field, so we headed to a Mariner’s game on a Sunday afternoon to cheer on the hometown heroes and run the bases.

And…the fair!  After our visit last year, this has officially become a Mama-Jules annual tradition.  Farm animals and ice cream and roller coasters, OH MY.

The ferris wheel was fun, though a bit tame for my speed-loving kiddo.

So we strapped ourselves into the mini roller coaster, which made Juliette wild with joy.

The kiddie-coaster was so much fun that we decided to level up and try out the Wild Cat.  Juliette cleared the height requirement by a half-inch, so ready or not…

Truth be told, she vacillated between laughter and near-tears with each terrifying dip, but we lived to tell about it!  This was our last real Friday off together before settling into our new school schedule, and we most certainly made it count.

And outside of all this boppin’ around, there was the simple sweetness of a PNW summer.  Family bike rides down to the water…

Neighborhood bike rides with the West Seattle biker gang (Juliette’s knees have never been so scraped up!)…

Basement dance parties when it’s just too hot outside to ride yet another loop around the block…

Shady walks through Schmitz Park…

Evenings next to our new fire pit…

And watching Juliette live her very best life, literally playing from sun-up to sun-down on some days and falling into bed at night with pink cheeks and tired legs.

Now pardon me while I fire up the indoor fire place and drown my post-summer blues with a spicy Chai and a slice of pumpkin bread…bring on Fall.

A Spokane contractor I worked with on a project once described Priest Lake to me as “heaven on earth”, so when I saw that there was a lakefront site available there for two nights during our week in Idaho, I snagged it and asked Mitch to pack his tent and sleeping bags before leaving Portland.  It’s a bit of a trek up to Lionhead Campground at the north end of the lake, but we arrived mid-day with plenty of hours left for swimming and sunning.  Except…RAIN.  RAIN!  Big, fat drops started falling just as we unrolled our tents, so Shane and Mitch made very quick work of getting the rainflies up, and then we all huddled in our tents, crossed our fingers and toes, and waited for the gray clouds overhead to pass.  And pass, they did!  The storm blew over after a couple of hours and we dashed into the lake even before peeling off our rain jackets.  The shore was sandy, the water was clear, and the beer was cold.  This. Is. Camping.

The evening was a haze of hot dogs and paddle boards.

The water was super-calm, perfect for paddlers-in-training.

Even little Bina went for a ride!

The girls grudgingly changed out of their swimsuits once the sun set and then joined Mitch at the lakefront for fly fishing lessons.

Seriously you guys – this was the view from my camp chair!  Heaven on earth, indeed.

We woke up to a misty lake on Thursday morning, demolished a pan full of breakfast sausages, and then were right back out on the SUPs.

 

It was toasty that day and by mid-morning I think everyone had taken a dip.

Show off!

My mom and dad joined us for the day and settled into the camp scene quite nicely.

Lake life 4-eva.

I had planned on a hike, maybe a ride to the general store, but we only made it as far as the campground ranger station for ice cream bars before heading right back to our little stretch of paradise.

We closed out the day with a sunset paddle to a little cove around the bend, where Morgan and Juliette hopped off the boards to grab a couple of special stones to bring back with them.  I’m sealing that evening away in the memory bank: sitting back on the board while Juliette paddled us, Mitch and Morgan to my left and the mountains to my right, the water shimmering and golden all around us…it was somethin’ special.

…And then, bedtime.  I took one last peek out our tent at the velvet blue sky before zipping it up and calling it a day.

Friday was go-day, but we squeezed in one last paddle, this time over to Upper Priest Lake, which was as quiet as quiet can be.  Shane and I aren’t shopping for retirement homes just yet, but the quaint lakeside cabins that dot the shore there sure are tempting.

Ahhhh, sayonara site 133…  This place was a dream!

The next couple of days were spent back in Post Falls at my mom and dad’s house, playing catch…

Visiting the biggest wagon EVER…

And checking out Farragut State Park, which was gorgeous but quite windy.

Juliette and I set out on the SUP, but turned around once I realized I was rowing in place.

The girls served up imaginary cherry Cokes for my dad at the playground, and he proved to be a very difficult customer…

But Elise got even.

We busted out the Bean-Boozled jelly beans on Saturday evening and shared a good laugh when Shane thought he was getting Peach, but actually ate Barf (and seriously, it tastes like barf).

My mom wondered aloud why we’d subject ourselves to such horror, but her face says it all.  There’s just so much delight in watching your son ingest a Spoiled Milk jelly bean.

Once we’d dried our tears and cleansed our palettes, we took a walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the evening’s stellar sunset.

And then, all too soon on Sunday morning, it was time for Shane and I to hit the road and leave Juliette with Grandma and Grandpa for a few more days of Idaho fun.  While I was the feeling the need to get back to Seattle and back to work, I certainly wouldn’t have minded another week of puzzle-doing and paddling.

Until next time, I guess!