We ended our California vacation with a couple of days in our old stomping grounds.  It feels good to pull up to Amanda’s house and pick up right where we last left off.  And now Juliette and Sadie are picking right up where they left off, as well!

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Amanda’s house is kind of a toddler wonderland – a roomful of toys, a trampoline, and…a spare pair of pink boots!

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Amanda and I had plans that night to go out to dinner with the ladies, and though the little ones weren’t invited, they still wanted to gussy up with us.

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We spent the evening catching up with old friends at the neighborhood bar and grill – it was like a mini high school reunion, sitting around a table with these ladies that were a part of so many of my teenage memories.  We relived the ups and downs and then caught up each other’s latest.  Although it’s been 17 years (!) since we were fellow Bulldogs, I still see so much of the girls I used to stroll the aisles of Hollywood Video with in each of these women.

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We laid pretty low on Sunday, playing Barbies and Legos and drums.

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Juliette was so at home there.  I mean, the plethora of toys is amazing, but it’s Uncle Josh and Aunt Amanda that seal the deal.

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Oh, and can we talk for a minute about this kid?!  JACK!  You’ve won my heart, you sweet little softy.

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We ventured out for a bit to the college to feed the ducks and run around the amphitheater.

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THESE GIRLS!  If only our playdates were weekly rather than annual…

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While the ladies played and lunched, Shane was catching up with his buddy Steve during a hike around Knight’s Ferry.  Shane said their morning together was a 5-hour meandering-but-seamless conversation.  Lifelong friends, these two…

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Any trip back to Turlock wouldn’t be complete without a drink with Marco and Lisa!

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We ended the day with group story time (focus, Jules!), all piled on Amanda’s bed.  My heart hurts a little when I look at this picture – next time we do this, Jack will be well out of the bottle phase and Juliette and Sadie will likely both be four.

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The girls squeezed in a little more playtime on Monday morning…

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(For the record, lest I paint too rosy a picture of our time there, this game of Candy Land ended with both kids in tears!)

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And then it was time to say our farewells.  Thanks, Amanda, for making your home one of the most welcoming places on earth.

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It was a long trek home, with a nearly 2-hour drive to the airport and a delayed flight, but Juliette was a great sport through it all.  We’re making a pretty good traveler out of this girl.

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She’s even started pulling her own weight, luggage-wise!

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That was exhausting (see Shane’s eyes?), but really, so much fun (Juliette’s smile says it all!).

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We’ve made something of a ritual of heading down to California in late winter for a Vitamin D fix.  And you know what pairs perfectly with Vitamin D?  WINE!  Jack and La Verne recommended a long weekend in Napa in lieu of repeating the Santa Monica trip we took last year and Shane and I jumped at the chance to wine-taste with our aficionado-friends.  We landed in Oakland last Wednesday after an uneventful flight and made a quick stop at In-N-Out for burgers and fries before jetting toward Napa.

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We rolled up to Artesa Winery mid-afternoon after winding our way through sun-kissed vineyards.  I forgot how beautiful this valley can be…

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would fare at these grown-up venues, but they were troopers – Juliette used her carton of milk to toast to Shane’s Chardonnay and remained (relatively) well-behaved while we tasted our way through the menu.

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Just when I thought we’d had our last round, another four glasses would appear.  MAGIC.

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Finally, after sipping the range from bubbly Brut to rich Cabernet, we’d had our fill and were ready to head out.  Run free, Jules!

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Cabernet makes you jump, jump…

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Thick as thieves…

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Dreamy, isn’t it?

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Even Shane couldn’t resist the pull of that wide-open lawn!

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(photo by La Verne)

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(photo by La Verne)

Cheers to a very promising start to this trip!

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We checked into our vacation house in Sonoma and promptly changed into our swimsuits to hit the hot tub.

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This girl loves a good long soak, apparently!

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Jack had packed a jar of homemade pesto in his suitcase because, well, he’s Jack, and he whipped up a decadent pasta dish for dinner, perfectly paired with a bottle of Chardonnay we’d picked up at Artesa.

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The kids went down with very little struggle and the grownups stayed up later than we should have, drinking and talking and settling comfortably into vacation-mode.

The guys headed out early on Thursday for a run while La Verne and I stayed back to feed the munchkins.

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After breakfast, we sent the kids out to the backyard to burn off a little energy before heading out for our grand tour de wine.

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It was a longer-than expected drive out to El Molino due to an accident and a re-route, but nearly two hours after we set out, we arrived!

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We were all eager to stretch our legs.

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This little gem of a winery is run by a couple that does it all and the owner/winemaker/grape-stomper, Jon, spent a couple of hours graciously showing us around.

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Juliette carefully arranged pinecones while the rest of us intently listened to Jon about his process (i.e., schemed about how to run our own winery someday).

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While Jon poured us a tasting, the kids got friendly with the chickens.  Seriously, this place was a dream.

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As was the Chardonnay!

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With a bottle of Chardonnay under one arm and a bottle Pinot under the other, Jack left there a happy man.

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We grabbed sandwiches to-go from a deli in St. Helena and blazed onward.

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We landed at Pride Mountain mid-afternoon and opted to skip the hour-long cave tour due to the dubious looks cast Juliette’s way by the host.  We settled on a patio tasting and a romp through the vineyards.

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When we booked this trip, there was a part of me that wondered if it was fair to ask Juliette to come along on a wine-tasting excursion.  Looking back at these photos, I’d hardly say she suffered.

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Sufficiently wined, we headed out, making a quick stop at the Napa outlets and then settling in at the house for crafts, hot tubbing, a very active round of Simon Says, and takeout burritos.

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We awoke Friday to the sound of raindrops – a storm had moved in and the forecast called for a soaking-wet day.  We grabbed a bite at Bouchon Bakery and then took our seats at the tasting table at Sullivan Vineyards.

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Juliette was stoked that this place actually served something she could consume – she pounded about eight of these breadsticks!

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(photo by Jack)

We leisurely sipped our way through the menu while the kids got their daily dose of screen time.

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And then we all spent awhile looking longingly out the window while the skies gushed – this definitely wasn’t vineyard-strolling weather!

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(photo by La Verne)

We lunched on burgers at Gott’s and then treated Juliette to ice cream at the Oxbow Market.

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The upside to a pouring wet California afternoon?  No shame in holing up indoors for a good long nap!

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The house was pretty quiet all afternoon – most of us dozed and then La Verne and I did a little living room Barre3.  Jack and La Verne prepared another mighty-fine meal and we were joined by Jack’s mom and sister for dinner.

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I almost went to bed with Juliette at 8:00 but rallied – as this was our last night there, we had wine and snacks to polish off (Cabernet and Cool Ranch Doritos for the win!).

The skies had cleared on Saturday morning, so Juliette and I took the hot tub for one last spin.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been, she quickly replied, “The cave!” (at El Molino).  But a moment later, after glancing around the yard, she changed her mind and said the vacation house was her favorite.  I wasn’t too eager to leave, either…

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A rousing game of Ring Around the Rosie…

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And then we said farewell to the Chens as they headed to the airport.

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Shane and I were sticking around California for a couple more days to visit our friends in Turlock.  Before heading to the Central Valley, though, one last winery…  We popped into Ravenswood for a 10:30 am tasting (!).

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This girl…I’m so proud of her for hanging with us while we imbibed.  You’re a good sport, Jules.

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And on that note, we said good-bye to Napa’s rolling green hills.  Next stop, T-Town!

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We stayed close to home last month, keeping true to our annual commitment to a frugal January – no eating out, no shopping for non-essentials, no spending money on entertainment.  Shane made it the entire month without a single drop of alcohol.  On February 2nd, we patted ourselves on the back for our incredible restraint and then counteracted said restraint with a three-day getaway to Sleeping Lady Lodge in Leavenworth.  On Thursday morning we loaded up the car, swung by REI to pick up my rented skis and a pack of hand-warmers, and jetted toward the mountains.  We rolled into town around lunchtime and chowed down on pizza and beer.  No doubt, Leavenworth has a very faux vibe about it, but there’s no arguing the natural beauty of that backdrop!

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We popped into the candy store after lunch and told Juliette she could pick out a treat – she was over-the-moon thrilled with her single piece of cherry saltwater taffy.  I’m so thankful for the way this kid finds joy in the smallest of things!

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We made our way to the lodge, not entirely sure what to expect (traveler reviews ranged from “bare-bones rustic” to “wonderfully luxurious”).  But from the moment we stepped out of the car and saw the sunlight streaming through the trees onto snow-capped cabins, I was certain we were someplace special.

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Free cider in the lobby?  Juliette’s day just kept getting better and better.

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We had some time to kill before our room was ready, so we headed over to the “Play Barn” to shoot pool and spin foosball.

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Once we had our keys, we settled in for some quiet time – Juliette claimed this little sleeping alcove as her own cozy play space.

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Quiet time was short-lived, as Shane was itching to try out the ski attachment he’d scored on Craigslist for the bike trailer.  We bundled up and hit the nearby Nordic trail.

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I wasn’t sure how Jules would fare in the cold, but with a couple of blankets, a hand warmer, and another cup of hot cider, she was more than happy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

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I know, I’ve said it before, but this man is a STUD.

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We ate dinner Thursday night at the lodge’s bar and all fell into bed satisfyingly exhausted.  Juliette was out like a light by 7:45 and I think I followed suit around 7:50.  Who says a pre-8:00 bedtime is just for kids?

Snow started to fall sometime during the night and we awoke Friday morning to a freshly powdered winter wonderland.

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“Breakfast buffet in the dining hall” usually isn’t a promising phrase in terms of flavor or ambiance, but wowsers, this place does breakfast right.  And those windows!

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After breakfast we strapped our skis to the top of the Forester and drove over to Leavenworth Ski hill for a romp in the freshy-freshy pow-pow.

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Good God, it was gorgeous out there.  And blissfully quiet, the only sounds being the swish of our skis and Juliette’s voice as she belted out “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart“.

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These downhill stretches made me awfully nervous, but Shane stuck ’em all. (I didn’t.)

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Seriously, guys – I think I discovered peace on earth.

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Our zen was momentarily interrupted when we got a little off course, tried to ski through some bushes, and all ended up face-first in the snow, but we quickly dusted ourselves off and found our bearings.  I like to think we’re making the quite the adventurer out of Juliette…

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We ate lunch in town and then settled in for an afternoon of Candyland and books.

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The snow started dumping again late afternoon and wielded its magnetic powers on Shane, so we all headed out for sledding and snow angels.

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This icicle just about blew her mind!

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We ate dinner at the lodge again, too tuckered out to venture any farther.  Juliette was asleep before I’d even finished her bedtime song, but I rallied and opened up a bottle of wine while Shane queued up a show on Netflix.  We ate popcorn and drank wine and watched The People v. O.J. Simpson until the wee hour of 10 pm, at which point we joined Juliette in her deep, deep slumber.  VACATION.  SO GOOD.

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Shane got up early Saturday morning for a solo ski.  Juliette got up early to play Candyland for the 87th time.

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Our morning stroll to the breakfast buffet…

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We soaked up every last minute at Sleeping Lady, doing puzzles in our cozy nook until the clock struck checkout time.

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Even after we’d turned in our keys and loaded up the car, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, so we played in the snow outside our front door for a half hour.

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Magic, I tell you.

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And one last family photo at our little sliver of heaven on earth:

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Still not ready to head back to Seattle, we headed back to the Leavenworth Ski Hill to do some tubing.

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I was a little alarmed when we were told that Juliette would have to go on her own tube rather than sit in Shane’s lap, but once she saw people zipping down the hill, there was no turning back.  She was adamant that she was a big kid and could do it all by herself.  I had a minor panic attack watching that rope tow her away from me…

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Sure enough, she held on and landed safely at the bottom of the hill, slightly stunned (that course was fast!) but quite proud of herself.

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Tubing was fun, but sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate with my arm securely around Juliette felt much better.

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We polished off our hot chocolate and debated whether to head back to Seattle or to make one more snow stop.  Snow for the win!  We drove over to Enchantment Park to play on some slightly smaller hills.

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How many times did she pile snow onto the slide and then launch into it?  Fifteen, easy.

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By this point, I was cold and damp and had my fill, but it was near impossible to tear Jules away.  She most certainly had found her happy place.

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We headed back to the car and peeled off our wet coats and snow pants and mittens, satisfied that we had made the most of our snowy getaway.  Still, it was a little hard for me to wave goodbye to these mountains.  I didn’t know when I booked the trip back in December that we’d be so desperate to unplug and find serenity, but it turned out that this place was exactly what we needed when we needed it.

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Adios, Leavenworth.  Muchas gracias.

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Ohhhhh, January.  January.  JANUARY!!!  What a friggin’ month it was.  Cold and dark and fraught with political turmoil the likes of which I’ve never seen.  Looking back at my photo log, I see it held a few bright spots, though…

We spent a Friday out at the summit watching Juliette get her ski on.  This kid is a natural!

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Before long, she’ll be zipping down mountains like these!

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The chant of the morning was, “Faster, Daddy!  I wanna go faster!”

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I was so proud of her unshakable spirit – even after a tumble, she squealed with laughter and popped right back up.

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The staff member at the top of the magic carpet became Juliette’s new best friend, as she exuberantly high-fived her at each dismount.

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This place we live in really is somethin’ else…

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There were a handful of lovely (though freezing) sunsets last month – Juliette and I enjoyed this one from the grass at Jose Rizal Park in Beacon Hill.

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A buddy turned four on the 14th and we partied hard.

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On the 21st, we gathered with our crew and 130,000 other Seattleites to take to the streets for the post-inaugural Women’s March.  It was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and incredible kindness.

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This girl refuses to despair.

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And oh, the dinners!  So many warm, restorative, good-for-the-soul meals shared with friends (these two make a mean cornbread).

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Today marks the beginning of a new month.  The world outside is still feeling awfully shaky and dark.  But as I was taking my lunchtime walk today and listening to the latest report on immigration reform, I heard a voice: TURN IT OFF.  I paused my podcast and queued up Oceans by Hillsong.

I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

The waves are indeed huge.  The future is so uncertain.  And yet, God offers rest to the weary.  I sensed Him urging me to unplug for a couple of days as I head into the mountains tomorrow for a snowy getaway with Shane and Jules.  I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to stay informed, concerned that I can’t properly empathize or advocate if I’m not up to speed on all the latest coming out of D.C., but I need a detox.  I need to let God pull my head above water.

And once I’ve rested?  I will march on, this verse ringing in my ears:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I sat back and breathed a small sigh of relief after I published my last post.  No resolutions.  No obligations.  No pressure.  I was officially off the hook.  Only…if ever there was a time when I should feel compelled toward self-education and action, it seems THIS.  IS.  IT.

Donald Trump has been president for one week.  Each cabinet appointment he announces, each executive order he signs affirms my fears that he cares little for the poor, for the environment, for the public education system or the people suffering abroad.  I mean, I knew he and I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on most things, but wowsers, my head is spinning.  And then, Wednesday night, as I was reading the latest headlines about his notorious border wall and falling deeper into despair, something inside of me awoke.  I don’t have to sit idly by.  I can do something.  I have to do something.

Yesterday I left voicemails for several senators, urging them to vote against Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.  Today Juliette and I shopped for diapers and wipes and dropped them off at the Refugee Womens Alliance, a non-profit down the street which serves refugee and immigrant families in our community.  I’m organizing a group of co-workers to spend an evening serving dinner to homeless men at the Union Gospel Mission.  Shane and I have a date this weekend to sit down and re-evaluate our charitable giving as we seek to support organizations that fight for human rights.

And finally, I’m opening my eyes and ears wider than they’ve ever been before.  Reading, researching, seeking, listening.  I’m turning off The Daily Show and getting my news from less-partisan news sources (if you have a non-partisan news source, let me know!).  I’m asking my gay friends how I can support them.  I’m looking for was to uplift and learn from the immigrant community that’s so vibrant at Juliette’s school.  I’m reaching out to conservative friends and family members in an effort to understand their frustrations with the previous administration and their hopes for the current one.  I’m rooting myself in truthful reporting, not just of the goings-on in D.C., but of the lives and stories of my nearest and dearest, as we’re all walking into the new political era from very different places.

A friend marched with a sign last Saturday that read, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Humbly, step by step, I’m trying.

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I’m a little late this year checking in on my 2016 resolutions and making new ones for 2017 because, well…screw it all.  I’m not going write about whether I did or didn’t yell at Juliette last year (you can venture a guess, though), and I’m not going to commit to learning Spanish or sketching weekly or volunteering with a neighborhood organization.  I’m not going to make excuses for goals unachieved or add anything else to my list of shoulda-coulda-woulda’s.  I don’t know if it’s the “self-care” workshop I took with some mama friends a couple of weeks ago or the fragile state of my spirit in these politically tumultuous times, but I’m inclined to cut myself some slack.  Take a hiatus from ambition and just live into my status quo, which is actually quite remarkable when I think about it:  Quality time with Shane and Jules.  Dinners shared with close friends.  Challenging, meaningful work projects.  Photography, Barre3, and good books.  If I manage to get Juliette to eat something green, or if I find an afternoon to work on an art project, that’s just gravy.

So here’s to a year of grace…

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According to Goodreads, I finished 22 books in 2016 and ran the usual gamut from non-fiction to fiction, though I was lighter on “fem-moirs” than in years past.  The round-up:

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Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer by Tracy Kidder

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner

Parenting Without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman

Stoner by John Williams

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of  Modern Believer by Christian Wiman

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

 

Best books of 2016:  PEACE LIKE A RIVER!  Sweet Jesus, this was good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen for a character like I did for Reuben.  And his sister, Swede.  And his dad, Jeremiah.  And his wayward brother, Davy.  Ok, I loved all the family.  All the imagery.  All the things about this book!

Also dug Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, because, wowsers, that woman has a way with words that’s amazingly simple but profound.  Honorable mention to Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See for weaving such an intricate, beautiful story, and to Lindy West’s Shrill for her sheer bad-assery.  Oh, and to Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, for touching me to the point that I did the full-on ugly sob while reading the final chapter in bed one night.  It was a good reading year.

On the docket for 2017:  I’m about 150 pages into Atlas Shrugged, and if my Kindle is accurate, it will only take me about 47 hours to finish that one out (oooofffff…).  I’ll be reading a little outside my comfort zone with Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and Dark Money.  Will be jumping very much back into my comfort zone with Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro.  IF I ever finish Atlas Shrugged, that is…

A lot of people were closing the door on 2016 before the clock had even struck midnight on New Years Eve, eager to bid farewell to a year of loss and division, injustice and tragedy.  I get it.  But dammit if I can’t get closure on the year without hitting publish my annual recaps!  So bear with me.  I’ll keep it light.

 

Favorite movie:

I went to the movie theater once last year, for Finding Dory (we have got to get out more!), but we saw quite a few flicks at home.  Best film award goes to Brooklyn.  Shane and I watched this on our low-key-but-luxurious anniversary, when we took the day off to do the things we can’t normally do with a toddler in tow (like watch a movie in the middle of the day!).  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a romantic movie that’s not cheesy or over-sexed, but this one nailed it.

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Favorite TV show:

I’m a little behind-the-times on this, but after much ranting and raving, Shane convinced me to sit down and give Leftovers a go.  I’d seen bits of it as he watched Seasons 1 and 2 when they first came out, but gosh, I felt like someone was either wailing with despair or writhing in pain every time I walked by the TV.  I was more interested in Season 5 of Girls and powering through the guilty pleasure that is Gilmore Girls.  Finally, though, I got on board the dark-and-twisty train, and dang, this show is good.  Superb acting, heart-wrenching characters, a complex weaving of relationships and time.  Can’t wait for Season 3.

(Honorable mentions to This is Us, Better Things, and O.J.: Made in America.)

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Favorite podcast:

Weather-permitting, I try to push away from my desk at lunchtime a couple of times a week and get out for a long walk down by the waterfront.  I’ll lace up my running shoes, put on my headphones, and queue up a podcast, fully reveling in an hour of distraction-free listening.  I’m still a devoted Reply All listener and think This American Life pretty consistently knocks it out of the park (check out Will I Know Anyone At This Party? if you have an hour), but Heavyweight stands out a new favorite.  Listen to Episode 4 for some especially sublime story-telling.

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Favorite song:

I came across Vance Joy’s Fire and the Flood when I was looking for a soundtrack to Juliette’s third birthday video and have had it at the top of my playlist ever since.  It’s got that whole slow-acoustic to happy-dance crescendo thing happening that I’m such a sucker for.  And in the oldie-but-goodie category, Juliette and I love belting out The Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks when we’re bopping around town together.

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Favorite app:

I went on a week-long word game Letterpress binge, and I spend way more time than I should scrolling through Instagram, but I keep circling back to Wunderlist as my most-loved app.  I know, I already sang this app’s praises in my 2015 favorites, but seriously, having one place to store shopping lists and work to-do’s and house chores and meal plans has kinda changed my life.

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Favorite professional moment:

I was immensely thankful for the gracious way my office hosted Juliette on Take Your Kid to Work Day, but the real stand-out moment came right before Christmas when, with my team members huddled around my desk, I clicked Send on the final construction drawings for UW Medicine Phase 3.2.  I started working on this campus 11 years ago when I was just an intern that hardly knew AutoCAD and over a decade later, I’m leading the charge on this most recent phase of UW Medicine’s development in South Lake Union.  That single mouse click felt like the culmination of so, so much learning and collaboration.  It’s also the culmination of a fair amount of stress and far too many mind-numbing meetings with city officials and lawyers, but in 2018, when I walk through this courtyard, I don’t doubt it will all have been worth it.

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Favorite personal project:

I read a lot last year, got back into knitting once the cooler weather set in, and organized the heck out of our closets.  But far and away, the most satisfying “me-time” I spent was at a four-week summer print-making workshop at Pratt.  I hadn’t been in the studio since Juliette was born, and it just felt…right to be back there again.

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Favorite family pastime:

I cherish my personal time somethin’ fierce, but the reality is that I would usually sometimes prefer a day with Jules and Shane to a day alone.  2016 was chock-full of quality family time, but our camping trips stand out as my favorite adventures.  I had such high hopes when we set out for that trip to Owhi campground back in June, fervently praying that Juliette would sleep well and love the campfire and walk away without any severe injuries.  And although that weekend was rainy, we rocked it.  Our trip to the North Cascades was incredible.  Tinkham was a blast.  Looking forward to busting out our mondo tent again at the first sign of summer!

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And, favorite days…

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2016 was good to our family.

We closed out 2016 with our favorite kind of party – a low-key evening in our pajamas with wine and some of our closest friends.  These two were pretty pumped to be having a sleepover:

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While the kids ran circles around the house, the grown-ups sipped champagne and ate caviar-topped galettes.  Jack Chen for the win, once again!

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Finally, at 11 pm, all was quiet in the kids’ rooms.  We laid out a chocolate smorgasboard, poured ourselves one last round of Veuve, and toasted to 2017.  Bring it!

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We bemoaned the little ones’ refusal to sleep in on Sunday morning, but perked up when Jack laid out a spread of his famous chilaquiles for breakfast.  It was cold that morning and we reveled in the coziness of sipping hot coffee in a warm house while looking out on the nearby frosty rooftops.  It was a perfect day for hunkering down inside.  Or…was it a perfect day for a swim?  The latter, apparently.  We all convened at the shores of Alki after breakfast and these crazies stripped down just in time to take the Polar Bear Plunge with the dozens of other adrenaline junkies that had gathered at the beach for the event.

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Juliette watched with equal parts amusement and confusion – I can’t tell if that’s a smile or a grimace!

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Shane shot out of that water like a bat out of hell, wrapping himself in a bunch of towels while the other three enjoyed a celebratory embrace.

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Y’all are NUTS.

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I much prefer Alki in July, but hey, winter beach days can be fun, too.

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We got a text from Jack and La Verne as we were driving home, asking us if we wanted to frolic in the fresh dusting of snow at Jefferson Park.  We swung by the house to grab our sled and a thermos of hot cider, then headed back out to play.

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After a couple of sled runs, Jules and Nico got to work on their snowcastle.

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Shane and Jack got to work on the biggest snowball ever.

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Juliette spent much of the morning carrying a chunk of snow around, asking if I wanted to pet her puppy.  “He’s so soft, Mama!”

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Nicely done, gentlemen.

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Between snowman-building and dragging Jules and me around in the sled, Shane got quite a workout that morning.

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When he got tired, Juliette offered to pull me.  I think she moved me about a half-inch before telling me to get up and walk.

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The hill beckoned…

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And we answered.

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What do you do when you start to feel a bit chilly?  Nuzzle into a good friend.

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Oh, Jules

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There’s a special kind of magic in the air on a Seattle snow day – you feel like you’re playing hooky, even if you already have the day off.

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Cold and tired, we left one last set of tracks in the park and then tucked ourselves into the car for hot cider.

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Juliette took a long, late nap and woke up roaring to go again.  I had one last holiday tradition up my sleeve, as we hadn’t yet visited Gene Coulon park for their annual Clam Lights display.  It was on its last night, and, well, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

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It was awfully chilly that night, and I was pretty beat, but I’m so glad I rallied for this.

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Happy New Years, friends!  2017 is off to a lovely start.

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After our busy pre-Christmas week, it felt good to pull up to Mitch and Kathyrn’s house on Christmas Eve and settle in for a few days of laying low with family.  I missed these kids!

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THIS.  This is what I needed.

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My dad helped with some last-minute light-stringing in the front yard…

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And then it was time to eat!  Salmon, chicken wings, roasted veggies, a couple of bottles of good wine – these Jarrells do tasty+healthy right.

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The girls got to open their new Christmas pajamas from my mom that evening…

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And then, there wasn’t anything left to do but hunker down and wait for Santa to come down that chimney.

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We heard the pitter-patter of excited feet running circles around the house early Christmas morning and sleepily made our way upstairs to see if Santa had indeed made a stop at Chez Jarrell.  HE DID!

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Watching Juliette unwrap this stuffed puppy was the highlight of my morning.

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Unwrapping my new boots was highlight #2!

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Elise, the budding scientist, was over the moon about her new electricity kit.

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My mom, meanwhile, was thrilled with her jars of duck fat and clarified butter (to each his own!).

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That blessed moment of post-gift peace, when everyone sits back for a minute to admire their new wares…

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We rode that post-gift wave for most of the morning, as the girls set up shop in the dining room to play with their new art supplies and magnets.

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Eventually, though, we were all ready to get out, so we hopped in the car and drove over to Westmoreland Park to bike and run and climb.  Poor Shane came down with a stomach bug the night before, so he stayed back at the house to sleep it off.

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Morgan was eager to try our her new running shoes.  It looks like Mitch has just realized he can no longer outpace his daughter!

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There was some more quiet afternoon play…

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And then I settled into the couch with the girls for our traditional viewing of The Polar Express.

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Turns out, this movie is a bit more intense than I realized!  Juliette nearly jumped out of her seat as the train skidded across the ice.

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We ate a hearty Christmas dinner and then it was back to the chessboard.

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And, a Christmas dance party!  Courtesy of Juliette and Morgan.  What a day.

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The day after Christmas was quiet – we slept in a bit and then walked over to the neighborhood Starbucks with the kids for muffins and hot chocolate.

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My mom and dad left later that morning, pausing on their way out the door for a few family pics.

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The rest of the day was a bit hazy…more chess, I think.  Mitch and I got out for a long walk while Juliette napped.  I drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of ginger cookies.  The girls were thick as thieves.

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Tuesday, sadly, was go-day.  Elise read Juliette’s new books to her for the umpteenth time while Shane and I loaded up the car.

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We grabbed coffee and a scone on Division Street…

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Played a round of hide and go seek in the yard…

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And then, fare thee well, Jarrells!  ‘Twas a very merry Christmas.

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