The holiday roundup!  It’s been a merry few weeks and I’m fighting a pretty fierce case of the post-Christmas blues, but I’m also feeling immensely thankful for home and family and health and for the spirit of wonder that lives in both Isaac and Juliette.  I don’t take for granted this cozy cocoon we’ve woven.

The gratitude meter officially kicked into overdrive on Thanksgiving Day – we spent a lazy morning on the couch, watching the The Grinch and eating the pumpkin bread that Juliette and I baked the night before.

And then we got on with the business of meal prep – Juliette took her usual post as cranberry sauce maker and pie glazer while I chopped veggies and peeled potatoes.

Desserts complete, we took an outside break to enjoy the sunshine and kick the soccer ball around.

And then a nap break, because we believe in giving ourselves in the gift of rest on holidays.

Shane kept the kids out of the kitchen after naptime so that I could finish up the potatoes, Brussels, and salad.  It’s amazing what I can pump out when I don’t have a toddler underfoot!

A quick pre-dinner cocktail break…

And LET’S EAT.  We’ve made a tradition of picking up BBQ from Peco’s the day before Thanksgiving and warming it up as our meat main.  Easy-peasy and a bigger crowd-pleaser than turkey.

Turns out Isaac was more thankful for yogurt and applesauce than anything else this year.  More ribs and mashed potatoes for me!

I’m mostly thankful for his multitude of facial expressions.  We laughed extra-much that evening.

A post-dinner stroll, to let the food settle and to visit the neighborhood bear.

Dessert hour…

And more snuggles while the kids finished The Grinch.

Shane, Juliette and I watched Little Women after Isaac went to bed, as we do every year, and Juliette and I cried our eyes out when Beth died, as we do every year, and I felt like holiday season couldn’t have possibly gotten off to a sweeter start.  What a perfect day with my favorite people.

I’m a stickler for tradition, but sometimes I can be flexible, so when Shane asked if I’d be interested in trading our annual pilgrimage to Mountain Creek Tree Farm for a fuss-free artificial tree, I said I’d think about it.  We found a lovely prelit fake fir at Costco and Shane promised a mountain hike in lieu of the tree farm, and so it was a done deal.  We bundled up and drove out to Gold Creek Pond the day after Thanksgiving for our consolation mountain time.

No regrets.  It was frosty, but so beautiful.

Once we hit the sunny side of the lake, we stopped shivering and were able to kick back a bit to throw rocks and explore.

Not too bad, huh?

We grabbed a brewpub lunch on the way home and Shane raised a glass to the fact that he didn’t have to stress about securing a tree to the top of our car.

That afternoon we unboxed our tree and pulled out our Christmas bins.  I love watching Juliette discover our treasure trove of decorations year after year.

Isaac learned the word “snowman” and has been toting around this mask on the regular.

Eggnog toast while we tree-trim and listen to Charlie Brown Christmas!  Some traditions live on.

I’m a fan of simple white lights, but this tree comes with a color option and an option to flash from white to color every few seconds, which Isaac loved.  He stood there for several minutes yelling GO! over and over, convinced he was changing the lights on command.

Shane got to work on the rooftop while Isaac shouted “Daddy!  Get down!”.

And then Juliette and I slept by the light of our tree.  Let the Christmas vibes roll.

Morning brought reading time in our living room blanket nest…

More shouting at the tree (the remote has since been hidden)…

And Isaac’s first viewing of The Polar Express.

Evening walks are so much fun at the holidays, complete with snowman hugs and Santa high-fives.

My mom spent the first week of December with us and Isaac really loved the evening Facetime calls with Grandpa.

And the Menashee House!  Such a wonder.  Isaac could have spent a couple of hours here, counting the Santas and watching the toy train run its tracks.

What a gift this family gives to West Seattle each year.  Talk about sparking joy!

That first weekend in December brought craft time with Grandma (homemade gift tags for the win!)…

More loving gazes at the Christmas tree (I love it too, Buddy!)…

And a living room piano recital, in preparation for Juliette’s first real recital later that month.  Juliette learned a whole smattering of Christmas tunes and it made me so happy to hear the tinkle of O Christmas Tree and Deck the Halls and We Wish You A Merry Christmas during her evening practice.  Sweetest-ever soundtrack as I folded laundry or read Isaac his bedtime stories.

(What Isaac lacks in technique, he makes up for with style.)

More evening light walks…

And a few final snaps with Grandma before she headed back to Idaho.

I spent the second weekend of December with Nance and La Verne on our annual Ladies Getaway.  This year we opted to venture a little further than our usual digs at Cedarbrook in SeaTac and booked a room at Suncadia Lodge.  We almost bailed on our plans when we saw the dumping of snow in the forecast at The Pass, but we pressed on and I’m so glad we did.  Cue the Cozy!

We lunched at Basecamp Cafe in Roslyn and spent a couple of hours chatting over our soups and sandwiches while fluffy flakes fell outside.

Quick market stop for chips, canned wine, and chocolate…

And then we got settled in our room, where we lounged and laughed.  We took a short walk to see the grounds and then ate dinner at the Lodge, but my favorite memories of that weekend are the time we spent sprawled on our beds, telling stories and eating chips.

These friends…I hope this tradition lives on forever, no matter where we live or how old we are.  I believe it will.

Whew!  Made it to mid-December!  And plenty more joy (and so many photos) still to come.

November!  I know the seasons officially change today, but November very much felt like the closing of Fall and the beginning of Winter.  We started the month with our annual Harry Potter Night, complete with friends and treats and sorting hat cupcakes.

Pink frosting means…House Gryffindor!  Perfect for our little Hermione…  My cupcake, on the other hand, was filled with green.  Yikes.

And to keep the good times rolling, the Chens invited Juliette and I on a walk-through of the Harry Potter Experience a couple of weeks later – we convened in Bellevue and chased our kids past Platform 9 3/4 into the Potions classroom and then onto the Quidditch pitch.  The magic lives on.

November brought the end of soccer season, and Juliette went out with a bang.  We spent our open Sundays kicking the ball around at Hiawatha…

And then watched the practice pay off on Saturday game days.  Juliette had three killer games in a row, scoring three (then four, then FIVE!) goals in each game.  She’s a beast.

Rightfully proud of herself.

Isaac is chomping at the bit to join the team.

But in the meantime, he’s an awfully good cheerleader!

Another parent captured these action shots on the girls’ last game, and these pics say it all…

Congrats on a stellar season, Fuchsia Fighters!

Fall park days!  Get the leaf-peeping in while it’s good!  We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at Volunteer Park, basking in Capitol Hill’s golds and oranges.

THIS KID HAS SO MUCH LOVE TO GIVE.

And then more traipsing through the leaves near Hiawatha while Shane and Juliette did soccer drills out on the fields.

Requisite November Lincoln Park pics:

And a crisp Saturday afternoon on the West Seattle water taxi.  Shane dropped us off at the West Seattle dock, we sailed to downtown, then strolled through Pike Place Market where Uber-Dad picked us up.  Thankful for a guy that chauffeurs our mini-adventures.

(Hat hair, don’t care!)

And some backyard fun to round out our playtime…

Finally, November meant the official onset of Cozy Time.  Lots of hibernating done last month.

(Isaac’s snuggles are sweet, but often devolve into a wrestling match.)

MATCHING JAMMIE SEASON!  We’re ready for ya, Holidays.

Again, what starts out sweet…

Later, Fall.  Winter is so definitely here.

I have come to accept that our boy is growing faster than I can blog, but it still feels worth jotting down a handful of Isaac-isms every few months.  Some of toddlerhood is too sweet not to capture for posterity; it feels good to know I can come back to these words and photos when he’s up and grown.  Also, though, some of toddlerhood is so hard that it’s good to take some notes should I ever get too too sad about these years slipping by.

Sweet stuff first!  Give me all the Buddy snuggles!  Isaac is affectionate beyond measure and is delightfully generous with his hugs and kisses.  He doesn’t have a stuffed animal he consistently favors these days, but he does insist on resting his hand on my cheek when we’re reading a book or he’s drinking a bottle.  I’m his own traveling security blanket.  Thrilled to have the job.

We really like our Sunday afternoon naps together.  But now I can forget about sneaking away while he’s dozing.

And the nighttime crib sleeping – what progress!  Rarely a midnight wakeup these days, and often a 7am rise and shine.  I miss a lot of things about his younger days, but our 5am mornings together aren’t one of them.

This past quarter has brought an explosion in Isaac’s vocab.  He picks up a few new words every week, about half of which are intelligible.  We play a lot of “guess what Buddy’s saying”, which isn’t the most fun game for any of us – Isaac ran through the house yesterday, carrying his shoes and yelling “patos!  patos!  PATOS!” while we all struggled to understand what he was telling us.  Potty?  Papa?  It took a good ten minutes of us all growing increasingly frustrated until I cracked it – ZAPATOS!  Isaac was saying shoes in Spanish and he couldn’t understand why we weren’t helping him slip into his sneakers.  The beauty and burden of a bilingual preschool…

He’s learning his letters via Juliette’s old Leapfrog ‘computer’ and pushes ‘V’ over and over and over and so that we’re all well aware that V is for Vulture! Vulture! Vulture!  When Isaac sees the letter ‘V’ on street signs or in books, he yells Vulture! on repeat.  Smart boy!

Smoothies are “meenkies”, octopus is “oppatus”, and food not to his liking, no matter how bland, is rejected with a claim of “SPICY!”

Other recent phrases are “C’mon duuuude”, said to no one in particular for no particular reason, but he’s discovered it makes us laugh.  Also, lots of “MINE”, of course, which drives Juliette extra-crazy when stated as “MINE Mama” as he wraps his arms around my neck.  She’s been exceedingly gracious in letting go of her role as only child, but I’m still at least half hers.  When Isaac is a little mad at me, but not so mad as to lose his mind, he furrows his brows and grumbles, “No tank you, Mama!”  Ok, Dear.

He’s often surprising me with his height and strength – when did he get tall enough to open the fridge and start rummaging for snacks?  Nothing is safe these days.  Our light switches get a lot of action.

Which brings me to food and mealtime, which is one of our biggest sources of angst.  If we can get him to the dinner table before he’s hangry, he’ll gobble down his hamburger and we’re golden.  But that means eating at 4:30 pm, which is hardly practical, so we’re often faced with the choice between pumping him full of snacks (then eating with an un-hungry, distracted boy at our own dinnertime), or trying to hold him off, which puts him in such a fragile state of mind that he will become hysterical when his blueberries roll away under the pressure of his fork.  Gosh, though…give him a well-timed bowl of applesauce and he can be pretty damn funny.

He loves the sound of the coffee grinder and flaps his arms like a crazed bird every time it’s running.

I’m excited too, Buddy.

The faces of Isaac…so easily shocked and awed.  Whether it’s a distant train whistle or a dog barking outside or the sound of the garage door opening, he wears this same expression of “HOLY COW – DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?”

He doesn’t spend much time rolling his cars across the coffee table these days, but he does love to pack them in Juliette’s old suitcase and tote them around the house.

Bon voyage, Sweetheart!

Also, BOOKS.  Lots of books.  I’ve loved revisiting Juliette’s old faves with Isaac and we read Amos McGee and Lenny and Lucy on the regular.

We go on lots of walks.  These pics are from sunnier days, but whether it’s sweatshirt weather or full-on puffy coat weather, we get out.

There’s a house a few blocks from ours where the owner has installed a series of animal wood carvings in the adjacent Schmitz Park entry.  After dinner (when it was still light out after dinner!) I would ask Isaac “bear bear?” and he’d run for his shoes, knowing exactly where we were headed.

As a bonus, we found a house nearby with a U-Pick sign on their apple tree.  Top night.

The older Isaac gets, the more he hones his talent for annoying his sister, but she’s rarely able to stay mad at him for more than 20 minutes at a time.  They’re buddies through and through.

Bath snaps, just because.

And I’ll end with life as we currently know it… Toys, shoes, and a dripping, open water bottle strewn on the floor.  Pants nowhere to be found.  We were probably supposed to have left the house five minutes ago.  That smile, though.

October!  Paris was of course the major highlight, but Shane and Isaac deserve some airtime, too.  We kicked off October with a quick weekend trip up to Bellingham to finish up Isaac’s passport/Nexus pass application at the Blaine Custom’s Office.  Plus…pumpkins!

Apples were actually the main attraction at Bellweather Farms, so we bought a bag to fill and boarded the tractor trailer for a ride out to the orchards.

His little hand on her leg…

So, about U-pick with a toddler…works much better with raspberries than apples!  He filled our 9-pound bag in about two and a half minutes, wonderfully proud of himself and also confused when we told him he was doing too good a job.  Make it last, Bud!

Since our apples were picked in under five minutes and we had a couple more hours until our passport appointment, we took our time saying hello to the cows.

And then ran same extra laps in the Gala aisles.

Boy down!

Sampling the merch…

Juliette said it was the best apple she’d ever had.  I agreed it was perfectly juicy and crisp, but also, the whole of experience may have added some extra flavor.

Still T minus 90 minutes to appointment time…corn maze it is!

Isaac passed his global entry interview with flying colors, we grabbed a quick bite, and then settled into our hotel for swimming and movies.  Mission accomplished.

We breakfasted early the next morning at Old Town Cafe, where the pancakes, mimosas, and toy-packed play area were all a hit.  Something for everyone!

We drove over to the waterfront after breakfast to throw rocks and have a go at the playground.

The previous day’s tank top weather was already a distant memory…we jumped back in the car and then Isaac fell asleep as I was giving Shane directions to a coffee shop where we could warm up, so we decided to quit while we were ahead and hightail it back to Seattle.  Quick trip.  Easy-ish trip.  Good trip.

October brought more soccer, and more time on the sidelines with my favorite fan.

It’s great when Grandma comes and can take a turn on toddler-duty so that I can focus on sister.  Juliette snagged the ball with just a few minutes to go and ran it down the whole field for a goal.  Isaac did 47 laps on this log / balance beam situation.  They’re both winners.

Lately Saturdays are for soccer games, and Sundays are for kicking the ball around with Shane and Isaac at Hiawatha.  Juliette’s got soccer fever and I think her brother is catching it.

My parents spent some time with us in October between a couple of east coast trips – it’s nice to live near an Alaska Airlines hub.  Isaac taught my dad a few things on the art of accessorizing.

And both kids lapped up the time with extra playmates.

Shane had a birthday and we got out to Fonda la Catrina for tacos and laughter with our crew.

We saw the Taylor Swift Eras movie and all loved it in equal measure.  Or maybe Shane loved it the most?  Anyway, it was fun.

And we did our usual park circuit.  Lincoln in October is such a gem.

I spent the last weekend of the month in Florida with my parents attending my grandma’s memorial service.  She passed away in August and I’m so thankful I had to the chance to spend time in the presence of people that loved her so dearly.  I met some distant family members for the very first time and connected with cousins that I haven’t seen in decades.  Nothing but the kindest things were said about Grandma that weekend and it was all true.  She was resilient and kind-hearted and open-homed.  She was entrepreneurial and courageous and hopeful in the face of challenge.  She WAS the goodest and faithfullest servant.  She loved seashells and flowers and even when dementia robbed her of her memories, her kind-hearted nature prevailed.  Love is her legacy.

I have fond childhood memories of my Florida beach visits.  I took a long solo walk one afternoon at Indian Rocks and felt sad and thankful all at once.  Rest well, Grandma.

The end of October also brought Halloween season, complete with giant spiders on the neighbor’s fences and trees…

(Isaac wasn’t a fan at first, but when he felt how soft this one was, he tried to pull it down to give it a hug.)

We picked up a couple of pumpkins from the corner market after one of Juliette’s soccer games and then got down to the business of carving.

Isaac was given a marker and a packet of stickers rather than a blade and told to make his pumpkin pretty, but he wasn’t buying it.  What Juliette was doing looked way more fun.

Or did it?

Such drama!  Get in there, girl!

She pawned off the dirty work on her little brother.  And he loved  it.

Seriously.  I couldn’t get his arm out of there!

At some point Isaac started putting the guts back into the pumpkin so he could pull them out again, and I let that go on for awhile, but eventually we needed to get down to business.

Mission accomplished!

When it came to Halloween costumes, Juliette rejected all of my cute woodland-animal ideas, but her eyes lit up when on a whim I suggested Cruella Deville.  I think it was the promise of red lipstick that had her hooked.  Isaac was a Dalmatian and of course was adorable, but somehow, so was his evil villain of a sister!

We did the neighborhood with Isaac and it took all of one stop for him to get the gist of the gig.

TRICK OR TREAT!  MORE PLEASE!

My dad wasn’t intending to trick or treat himself, but when a neighbor offered him an IPA, he wasn’t about to turn it down.

The porch with the cackling witch statue was not so much a hit.  Isaac still points to that house out our front window every couple of days and says, “keery!!!” (scary).  I assure him that the witch has left and then he brightens up with, “all done keery!”.

Again, we quit while we were ahead.  Isaac was trying to eat his candy as quickly as it was being dropped into his bucket, so we called it after just a few houses.

Juliette, though, was just getting started.

She met up with her buds and the moms and I spent an hour or two drinking tea from our travel mugs while our girls ran from door to door.

Happy end of October!

…and happy December?!  How did that happen?!

This was it – our last full day!  It’s hard to believe that just six weeks ago we were waking up to a sunny morning in Paris – that view and that weather and those 10 am sleep-ins feel almost like a dream now…  That said, RISE AND SHINE, KIDDO!  Time to carpe diem.

We actually had very little on our set agenda for the day – we’d done our major sight-seeing and were looking forward to a day of wandering, park-sitting, and Coke-drinking.  First though, breakfast!

We ordered up a spread at Au Rocher de Cancale on Rue Montorgueil.  Croissants and an an omelet and orange juice and a cappuccino and tea and a side of baguette with jam, because it’s Paris.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we walked through Eglise Saint-Eustache – this is one of those cathedrals that seemed to perpetually be under construction during my previous times in Paris, so I’m not sure I’d ever been in before.

It was worth the pop-in.

We picked up some market fare and then Metro’d over to Jardin de Luxembourg for a picnic lunch.

This girl…the Metro was completely overwhelming to her on our first couple of days in the city.  She had a faulty ticket upon our arrival and had trouble with the turnstiles; it made her skittish about navigating transit.  But a few days in and she was breezing through the Metro tunnels, telling me when the next train would arrive and acting like she owned that platform.  Urban life ain’t got nothing on Juliette.

We parked ourselves at a couple of green chairs at the Jardin de Luxembourg and pulled out our sunglasses and books.

I’m going to refrain from calling this park “my favorite” because I have a tendency to over-use the words “my favorite” when speaking of all things Paris, but…IT’S THE BEST.

And…let’s eat!

We polished off our lunch and snapped a few photos in the gardens before setting off in search of gifts to take home to the family.

We picked up a handful of goodies for Shane and for my parents, who would be in Seattle when we arrived home, took a spin through Saint Sulpice, and then decided it was Happy Hour.

Cafe time!  I soaked it up.  Juliette told a friend of ours at dinner tonight about how much she liked just hanging out at the cafes in Paris and the friend remarked, “Wow!  Sounds so grown-up!”.  And it really was.  But also, it wasn’t?  We played cards and told silly stories and it still felt very sweet in a mother-kiddo kind of way.

We ambled back toward the Marais, opting to hang by the Seine for a bit on the way to watch the boats go by.  I can’t emphasize enough how luxurious it was to just stop and sit whenever we felt like it.

Pastel hour…

And then back to our tried-and-true Pizza Sant Antonio, for pasta and one last Spritz.  I know, we coulda shoulda woulda ventured out and tried something new, but there was something special about already feeling like we had “our place” after just a few days in the neighborhood.

I awoke with mixed emotions on Saturday.  Leaving this place always hurts, but we were both missing our guys something fierce and felt more than satisfied with the gifts Paris had lavished upon us.  We had time for one last walk through the Place des Vosges…

One last croissant…

And one last cafe visit, this time on Ile Saint Louis.

Properly carbed and caffeinated, we headed back to the apartment, me freeze-framing every last memory along the way.

And then..au revoir Paris!  And maybe a bientot?  I don’t know…the jury is out on if and when Juliette and I will go back.  Right now I’m just eternally grateful for that dream of a week in my favorite place with my favorite girl.

And extra-super-duper-eternally grateful for the guy that made it all happen.  For Shane, who pushed us out the door when I wavered, who never spoke of the hard moments he had with Isaac that week, though I’m sure they existed.  Watching Juliette fly into his arms at SeaTac, my heart fluttered a bit.  He loves us both so damn much.

And Buddy!  Mama’s home.  I’ve got something to show you, in about eight years…

Wednesday was art day – Juliette and I decided that we’d visit just one big museum on our trip and when she asked me pick one, I quickly decided on the Pompidou, as I knew she’d like the modern vibe.  Plus, ok, it’s my fave.  First, though, breakfast!

Ah, the climb to the galleries through the glass-tubed escalators.  Such anticipation!

We wandered among the paintings and sculptures, pausing at whatever piqued Juliette’s interest.

And then at my old friends Dubuffet and Miro.

Rooftop views of Rue St. Martin…

And the descent.  Lunchtime!

We lunched in style at the Hotel du Louvre, lingering extra-long over our cold drinks to rest our museum-worn feet.

And since we were in the neighborhood…a quick pop over to the courtyard of the Palais Royale.

Though our morning at the Pompidou had nearly art-ed us out, Juliette couldn’t say no when I asked if she wanted to visit the Galerie Dior to see the designer’s massive fashion exhibit.  I had her at the word “dresses”.

We walked from one display to the next, choosing our favorite gown from each grouping.  Juliette often chose the flowiest, most decorative pieces.  My girl’s got a flair for the fancy.

I was suddenly feeling a little schlumpy in my jeans and sneakers…

Whew…staircase of her dreams.

We were legitimately beat after Dior – the long hours on our feet and the visual overload of art-viewing had zapped us.  But we energy-boosted with pizza, Coke, and a Spritz.  Every time we stopped at a sidewalk cafe for a beverage break, I could feel our tanks refilling, heart icons lining up before my eyes like they do on video games when the hero wins extra lives.

And to top it off, hot chocolate from Carrette, which came with an obscene tower of freshly whipped cream.  This stuff was RICH.

But so, so yummy.

Seconds, Jules?  “Don’t mind if I do!”, she said.

It was a short walk to Place du Trocadero from Carrette and we found an open spot to sit and watch the sun go down on the Tour Eiffel.

Wait for it…

It’s happening…

There she is!  All lit up and looking fine.  We walked down to the river, snapped a few photos, and then crossed the bridge for a closer-up view.

We stayed long enough to watch the sparkle show that occurs on the hour, which made Juliette gasp, and then high-tailed it back to our apartment where we once again slept like babies.

Thursday we were up early, out the door at 10:00 sharp (early is relative in Paris!) to catch a train out to Versailles.  Quality coffee to-go is becoming more and more of a thing in Paris and I was glad I’d reserved us enough time to pop into White for a latte and a chai.

We made it to Versaille’s front doors right on schedule, thankful that we’d bought advance tickets and could skip the line that snaked through the courtyard.  We spent the first 30 minutes in the less-crowded wing of the palace, getting a feel for it all.  And it was all unlike anything Juliette had ever seen before.

Eventually we joined the mass of tourists making their way through the Hall of Mirrors.  Such grandeur!

After the 87th gold-leafed, crystal-chandaliered room, we felt like we’d maxed out on opulence and decided to head out to the gardens.

Sitting felt good.

I was surprised to see so many flowers still in bloom.  This was a different kind of decadence and it felt refreshing!

We wandered through a couple of gardens and then let our stomachs lead us back toward town for a market lunch.

We spent much of the afternoon back at the apartment, napping (me) and vegging (Juliette), feeling like we’d most certainly earned our rest.  We rallied before dinner and headed back out to do a little shopping in the Marais.  I took Juliette to Mushkane, my favorite little felted-good shop, where we picked out a couple of trinkets for home.

Then we popped into Matieres a Reflexion to admire their latest jewelry offerings.  Mama got a brand-new necklace!  Happy Birthday to me, one more time.

Shopping buzz…

And then a sugar buzz, from the salted caramel bird’s nest at Maison Aleph.

Ok, and then a Coke buzz at Little Cafe.

Every evening I thought, maybe I’ll pass on the Spritz tonight.  And every evening I remembered that it was summer in October IN PARIS.  Cheers!

We dined in Saint Germain on steak frites at L’Atelier Rouliere, one of mine and LaV’s tried-and-true favorites.  Juliette isn’t the hugest fan of steak, but she admitted that as far as beef goes, it was pretty good.  But the fries…she declared the fries were to die for, so the caliber of our meal wasn’t lost on her!  It was a glittery walk across the Seine back to our apartment.

Bonne nuit, Paris!  Only one more full day to go…

Tuesday!  Tuesday ended up being our big pack-it-in day – we hit a number of sights on our must-see list, knowing that we wanted to leave some open time at the end of the week to see where the wind blew us.  First up:  Montmartre.  Plus croissants.

Croissants with a soundtrack, no less!

I’ve been to this neighborhood several times but always end up getting a little lost, which I love, as there’s always a new discovery.  We wandered into the courtyard of le mur que je t’aime (the wall of I love you) and spent awhile hunting for the English “I Love You” among the 250 languages represented.  Never did find it!  But we felt the love, nonetheless.

Montmartre has the cute cafe scene down pat.

Reading break!  What a luxury to just stop and sit whenever we felt like it.

(Let’s be honest…Juliette sat, I took pics.)

I see PINK.  La Maison Rose is one of my orienting landmarks – I knew we were getting close to the hilltop.

We spent a few minutes wandering among the artist stalls at Place du Tertre, admiring the in-progress portraits.

And then, there she was…

Sacre Coeur is stunning and the view is beautiful, but holy crowds.  The plaza and stairs were packed to the gills, so Juliette and I decided not to linger and instead wandered down a lovely, quiet staircase.

Much better.

How many pictures do I really need of Juliette descending the stairs, you might ask?

A lot.

We did it!  We’d earned a beverage.

We grabbed a sidewalk table at 9eme Sauvage and ordered an Orangina and a cafe creme.  Both went nicely with the passion fruit tart we split.

We felt like we still had quite a few steps left in us, so we Metroed over to Pere Lachaise for a cemetery stroll.  Juliette asked, “A cemetery?  Are you sure?”  But once we got there, she understood the appeal.

I’ve walked these cobblestoned streets so many times – Pere Lachaise is in my Paris Top 5, particularly on an autumn day.  Juliette made a math game of calculating the ages on the gravestones, which in hindsight is a bit morbid, but it kept her walking!

Bench break.

Last look…our feet were gettin’ tired.

We popped into a market to grab cold drinks and apples and then opted to rest our feet on a boat!  We bought afternoon tickets for a Seine cruise and let the sights come to us.

This is such a good way to see the city, particularly when it’s hot and your feet hurt.

From the Bateaux Mouches dock, we walked toward the Champs Elysees, pausing every block or two to window shop for outrageously priced clothes and bags.

We wanted to catch at least one bird’s eye view of the city and I opted for the top of the Arc de Triomphe, since it had been almost 20 years since I climbed those stairs with Shane.

We climbed all 284 steps to the top, Juliette urging me on as I started to pant, and then…the payoff.

Paris rooftops at golden hour are so damn good.

 

 

Alright…pictures snapped.  Let’s eat!

We took the metro back to the Marais, did a little shopping at BHV (found some shorts!), and then scored a perfect table on the patio at Pizza Sant Antonio.  I’ve eaten a lot of slices here…

Top night.  Top moment, clinking my Aperol Spritz with her Sprite, remembering all the drinks I shared there with friends during my year abroad.  To be there again with my very best buddy!

When it’s 80 degrees at 9pm, you stop for gelato on the way back to the apartment.

Goodness, I knew my girl had a down-for-anything kind of sprit, but Tuesday it was apparent that she can HANG.  Should have bought her a double-scoop.

I’ve been smitten with all things Parisian since I first stepped out of the Metro station at Place de la Republique in 2003 and zig-zagged toward the tiny studio apartment that would be my study-abroad home that year.  Juliette has inherited my Francophile-ness by osmosis; she took up French lessons on DuoLingo of her own accord and has decorated her room with miniature Eiffel towers.  Shane and I said that we would take her there someday and show her the real thing.  Someday.  Once her brother could hang through the trans-Atlantic flight and sit calmly at a restaurant table for more than 45 seconds.  It would be a few years.

Unless…

Shane all but pushed the two of us out the door, booking flights only for Juliette and me, assuring me that he was more than happy to stay home with Buddy.  I didn’t fight it and Juliette and I spent all summer looking forward to our big adventure.  Go-time arrived in October and we said our tearful goodbyes to Shane and Isaac, Juliette in particular having a real curbside sob – that girl loves her papa.  Once we stepped through the doors of the airport, though, we both flipped into travel mode, navigating passport check and security with determination.  We missed our guys already, but we were going to PARIS!

That determination waxed and waned over our 16-hour journey.  There were times when the inability to sleep comfortably on the plane was almost too much to bear and we whined with fatigue.  And then there were moments we sang the tagline to Taylor Swift’s “Cause we were in Paris”, then squealed with excitement.  There was a brief 30 minutes near Iceland when Juliette finally slept soundly and I stroked her hair, realizing how infrequent it is that she gets my undivided care anymore. 

We landed in Paris around noon and endured our hour-long RER ride into the city (standing, no less) and I about kissed the filthy floor of the Bastille Metro station, having completed our grand tour de transit.  Ah, that first climb out of the Metro tunnel – it’s a MOMENT.

We headed to the market where our apartment key was supposedly stored in a key locker, only to find the market closed, but our AirBnB host was responsive by text and met us at the front door to our building 10 minutes later.  Our apartment was tiny and sweet with fresh macarons and a bottle of rose on the table.  NOW we could relax!

We took a little cat nap, not allowing ourselves more than a 30-minute doze in an effort to save bedtime till 9pm, splashed a little cold water on our faces, and then headed out.  Our apartment was just a couple of blocks from Place des Vosges, one of my favorite squares in the city, so we joined the hundreds of other people catching those late-day October rays and stretched out on the grass for a bit.

She settled in quite nicely.

A short wander through the Marais landed us at the terrace of Les Philosophes, another old fave, and we promptly ordered a white wine and a Coke.

Welcome to cafe life, Kiddo!  It’s the best.

Recharged and raring to go, we paid our bill and set off toward the river in search of ice cream and sunset vibes.

Berthillon for the win!

We picked up a deck of cards from a tourist shop across from Notre Dame and spent the rest of our daylight minutes playing Rummy next to the Seine.  I’m not sure we even kept score – there’s no losing with this view.

Dusk…we’d done it!  We had earned a proper night’s sleep.  Time to head back.

We crashed hard Sunday night but our internal clocks roused us before dawn and we spent the wee hours of the morning tossing and turning while we sucked on melatonin gummies.  We both fell back into a deep sleep at sunrise and leaned into the luxury of a sleep-in (Mama missed you, Isaac!).  By 10am, though, we were ready to seize the day.  Time for breakfast!

We polished off our pancakes at Cafe de la Poste and then took the Metro over to Galeries Lafayette to enjoy the rooftop view and get the lay of the land.  Here in Seattle, Juliette and I do ninety percent of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and Target, so it was fun to be in a bona fide department store for a bit.

From the rooftop, we spotted the Opera and the Eiffel tower and plenty of bustle on the street down below.

I had planned on a walk through Montmartre after this, but I hit a wall as we were leaving the Galeries and asked Juliette if we could head back toward the apartment for a bit – I was fatigued and a bit nauseous and eager just to crawl back into bed.  She sweetly obliged, hopping back onto the Metro and giving me the only free seat on the train.  I collapsed on the bed and woke a couple of hours later to find her eating macarons and reading quietly in the window seat.

When she poured herself some water in a wine glass, I wondered…am I sure this kid is ten?  Did I miss a couple of years somewhere along the line?!

My nap did me a ton of good and I was ready to hit the streets again by mid-afternoon.  Call it jet-lag, I guess.  We hopped into our building’s teeny-tiny elevator and set back out.

I love that we walked through Place des Vosges on our way to so many of our destinations.  You know, no big deal…just passing through!

We walked the streets of Ile Saint Louis and I pulled Juliette through a wooden door in a non-descript facade.  She oohed and ahhed when the dark vestibule gave way to the bright interior of Eglise Saint Louis en Ile.  I love this church.

Back to the streets!

We walked to the Jardin des Plantes, surprised by how much was still blooming in October.

Bench break.  Prior to this trip, I told Juliette that we’d be walking a ton, but we’d never be far from a perfect place to sit and rest.

From there, we walked the couple of blocks to the Grande Mosquee de Paris and drank iced and tea and lemonade in their brightly tiled courtyard while munching on Moroccan treats.

We popped into L’Epee de Bois on our way to the Metro and each picked out a toy car for Isaac.  We really did miss that boy.

Though we’d just walked several miles, Juliette wasn’t too tired to surf the Metro on our way back to the Marais.  “No hands, Mama!”

Back on Rue de Rivoli we did a little shopping (given the 80-degree temps, Juliette wanted a pair of shorts!) and then we grabbed a terrace meal at La Cooperative.  These 5pm Cokes were clutch in seeing us through to bedtime.

These terrace chats were far and away the favorite part of my week.

Seeing the Louvre lit up at night was high on our list of must-sees, so we walked over there after dinner and whiled away the dusk hours with a stroll to the Tuileries and a game of cards.

The street lamps bloomed bright – it was happening!

THIS PLACE AT NIGHT.

We lingered till it was good and dark, satisfied that we’d soaked in the full effect.

We Metro’d back toward our apartment, strolling through the buzzy Marais and deciding we had enough left in us for just one more stop…

We grabbed dessert at Creperie Suzette and I treated myself to a Cote de Provence night cap – I mean, it was my birthday after all!

There’s no one I would have rather shared that tiny table with.  Juliette and I recapped the highlights of our day and I apologized that my little episode had derailed our morning and foiled our Montmartre agenda.  She wisely reminded me that there are no wrong plans in Paris – it had still been a very very good day.  Cheers to that, Kiddo.  And Bon Anniversaire to me!

I almost skipped this September recap, but then I saw Isaac in these sunglasses and decided I want these photos in our family journal…

Coleman Pool!  We made it happen this year, on the last day of pool season – they shuttered this place for Fall the very next day.

So glad we seized the 85-degree day – if this isn’t Seattle summer bliss in a snapshot, I don’t know what is.

It was hard to coax Isaac out of the water, but his teeth began to chatter and I wanted to get a dry towel wrapped around him.  Glad I packed the special snacks.

Isaac and I spent a little time with the new Lincoln Park mascot while Juliette and Shane finished this swim.  This troll installation is beautiful – I’m looking forward to watching her age with the forest.

Feel that summer breeze running through your fingers, kiddos.  Fall is (was) coming; I recall that temps dropped 20 degrees the next day.

Case in point:  sweatshirt weather at Alki Beach on Labor Day!

The world really is this boy’s oyster – he’s climbing and digging and exploring a bit more freely, also falling and getting scraped up more freely, but bruised knees are a part of summer.

Sweatshirt beach days…we make it work.

This feels like entirely old news at this point, but Juliette started fourth grade last month and is loving it.  She’s in a fourth/fifth split and has one of her closest buddies in her class.  She does after-school jump rope club on Wednesdays and after-school coding club on Thursdays and her favorite recess activity is “taking long walk around the playground and talking with her friend, S”.  She currently wants to be a second-grade teacher when she grows up.  Requisite first day pics:

Some random hammock snaps:

And a Sunday trip to the Puyallup Fair!  Juliette and I are fair-fans but have missed it the past three years – we felt like it was time to inaugurate Isaac.  And Shane, for that matter – he’d never been (places with large crowds of people are not so much his thing).

Fly like the wind, Shane and Juliette!

Shane and Juliette loved their twirly swing ride and Isaac was still dozing in the stroller, so Juliette and I bought another pack of tickets and took a spin on the single swings.  Get ready, Girl!

We’re getting hiiiiiigher…

Pure joy.

And pure peace.

Once Isaac was awake, we wandered over to the animals to pet the newborn piglets and the pygmy goats.

These little guys were less than a day old!  Mama looks tired.

This was the highlight of Isaac’s day.

HI, COWS.

This plastic cow-milking simulation was entirely weird, but funny to watch.

The faux egg-collecting game was a hit.

A couple of ice cream cones, a quick zip through the hot tub display, and we called it.  I think we checked all the fair boxes, minus the corn dogs, which Juliette just couldn’t get on board with.

And finally, September brings soccer season.  It’s great to be back on the sidelines with my fellow cheerleader.

Juliette’s team is the Fuchsia Fighters and they’ve got as much (more?) spunk than ever.   Juliette scored a heck of a goal at her last game and I was that mom jumping up and down from the sidelines, waving my arms with glee.  It’s my own form of cardio these days.

Onto Autumn!

One more summer trip to log on the blog, before we get to a humdinger of an October (humdinger in THE VERY BEST WAY)…

We had such a fun family reunion with our buddies at Hood River last summer that we declared it an annual event.  We reconvened on the Oregon/Washington border this past August for another long weekend of eating, drinking, and playing; this time we stayed on the Washington side and booked a bundle of rooms at Skamania Lodge.  Isaac was like an un-penned animal after four hours in the car and immediately set out to explore every inch of the wide open grounds.

Meanwhile, Shane and I explored the bar menu.

This place was going to do juuuuuust fine.

Our friends trickled in throughout the course of the evening and the gaggle of children grew and grew.

Isaac wanted so badly to be counted among the big kids.

His sister did a pretty good job of including him.  Along with that blonde red-shirted boy, who had no affiliation with our group but made himself right at home!

Speaking of big kids…it still blows my mind we’ve got teenagers in the group.  I mean, this guy’s not drinking age, but he’s old enough to pour for the grownups!

Wine and pizza and crispy Brussels sprouts were passed around…

And before I knew it we were talking under the stars.  We never run out of things to say to one another.

I’ll give you one guess as to who the earliest riser of the bunch was on Friday morning!

I forgive you though, Isaac, for getting me up with sun.  This golden light at 6:30am was pretty magical.

We strolled down the hill and toward town in search of breakfast, stopping every so often to take in the view.

We found yogurt and fresh mango slices at the supermarket and then took our fare down to the riverfront to eat.

This kid’s playground radar started beeping and suddenly we stumbled upon these couple of random slides.

And then we found Sister!  (She and her Uber-Dad offered us a ride back to the hotel.)

We took over the hotel lobby late morning…

Played a little disc golf…

And then hit the pool, to Juliette’s utter delight.

Isaac’s delight, too!  He’s loving the water more and more.

Strike a pose, ladies!

While the big kids perfected their cannon balls, I was happy to walk laps in the shallow end with Isaac in my arms.

Lucky kids.

I felt like I’d lived a full day by noon, but we were only getting started…  We walked back into town after swimming to find lunch, then convened at a park to bat the volleyball around and play various lawn games.

At some point the fathers disappeared.  I found them at the whiskey-tasting room next to the park and asked Shane if there was room in their circle for one more guy.

Isaac fit right in.

At some point we strolled up the street for ice cream, again completely overtaking the place – traveling in a pack of 24 is no joke!

There were plenty of times during the weekend when Shane and I had to divide and conquer, one of us hanging back on Isaac-duty while the rest of the group partied, but there were also plenty of times when Isaac folded right into the mix, thrilled by the presence of so many adoring playmates.

Tech break.

And then to the local fair!  It was a quick little trip, but enough time to get our fill of tractors and farm animals.

We spread out at the picnic tables at Walking Man Brewing for dinner.  The grownups drank beer and the kids played corn hole and all was right with the world.

How ’bout them Friday Night Lights?

Saturday!  Morning!  Sunrise!

Isaac and I spent more mother-son bonding time down by the river, this time finding a little dock to lounge on.

I filled my empty coffee cup with rocks from the shore and he tossed each stone in, one at a time, until the cup was empty and he asked, More?  More?  More?

We were here for awhile.  I didn’t mind.

Finally, though, I coaxed him off the dock and into the stroller in search of breakfast.

We found a train on the way, which was very exciting.

We found smoothies and cinnamon rolls and espresso at The Cabin Drive Thru.

And we found this late riser!  Glad you could join us, Jules.

The gang headed out on a hike late morning (sans Isaac and Shane) to Wahclella Falls.

Here comes the party bus!

The hike to the falls was a mild climb, but the kids hardly complained and the payoff was real.

Paparazzi children…so weird to be on the other side of all those lenses!

The more adventurous of the fellas couldn’t resist taking a dip.  I wish I had audio of their high-pitched shrieks as they collectively dunked.

These two got along so swimmingly all weekend, despite the fact that they only spend 2-3 days together each year.  Some friendships just work.

That’s how I feel about all these folks, actually.  We just work.

(Back at camp, Shane and Isaac were partaking in their own form of bonding.)

Juliette, luckily, had plenty of fun uncles on the trail to fill in for Shane.

We cooled our dusty heels that afternoon at a little swimming basin in Hood River.  VIVA LAKE LIFE!

This game made for some laughs and some very good action shots.

Give yourself a couple of years, Isaac…

We floated and jumped and lazed around for a couple of hours, collectively keeping an eye on each other’s kids.

Isaac wasn’t feeling great that afternoon, but the paddleboard did pique his interest.

We migrated a quarter-mile down the road to convene on yet another lawn for a picnic dinner.

Juliette and S were very into their cartwheel practice and suddenly the grownups were challenging each other to headstand competitions (Nance for the win).

And then there was much cajoling and cheering as the adults showed off their own cartwheel skills.  Some people stuck the landing.  Some really didn’t.  In either case, we laughed a lot.

16 years of friendship and counting…

We high-tailed it back to Seattle on Sunday morning, as Isaac’s fever had spiked in the night and we were eager to return to the comforts of home.  But man OH MAN, we left with boatloads of good memories.  Cheers to Year 17.