Archive for June, 2013

We are 5 weeks into our 8-week childbirth class, slowly preparing ourselves for our baby’s entry into the world. Our instructor is incredible, as she paints the very real picture that labor and delivery can be hard, hard work, but then empowers us with loads of affirmation and advice. Turns out that the scene played on movie after movie where the woman rushes into the delivery room, pushes for a minute, screams and slaps her husband with the threat that he will never touch her again, then pushes just one more time before a fresh, chubby-cheeked baby appears isn’t super-realistic. We’re watching movies of a whole new variety since we’ve started this class – videos of actual births where pregnant women don’t have perfect hair and makeup, where labor lasts more than 10 minutes, where newborns are wrinkled and covered in goo. It’s intense, but exciting – that will be us in September. I’m going to go into labor, I’m going endure a myriad of contractions, I’m going to push like hell, and then we’re going to have a baby. It’s gettin’ real. The eager anticipation was fun and full of joy. Until it got too real.

We watched our third lesson’s video at home last week. I settled into the couch next to Shane, computer on my lap and hand on my belly, ready for that feeling of yearning and empowerment I had felt when I’d put myself in the shoes of the other video-taped mamas. But this particular montage of several different women coping with early labor, with advanced labor, and with pushing and delivery threw me for a major loop. It elicited neither joy nor excitement. I felt the pin-pricks of oncoming tears as the final scene faded and I closed my eyes in hopes of composing myself. Shane reached for me, curious and concerned, and asked what was on my mind. I took a deep breath, but quickly gave up on any attempts at holding myself together. “I’m scared!” I blubbered, fat tears rolling down my cheeks. He asked me to elaborate on what in particular I found so frightening, and my inarticulate response was, “All of it.” There was a woman in the video who coped with each contraction by rhythmically chanting “I. Can. Do. It. I. Can. Do. It.”. The cadence of her voice rang in my head, but the words in my mantra were less optimistic: “I’m. Not. Read-y. I’m. Not. Read-y.” A host of unfamiliar anxieties bubbled to the surface and bowled me over. I’m nervous about being physically exposed in front of a room of people. I’m afraid of the pain. I’m anxious about the mess, the blood and fluids and Lord-knows-what-else that will come out of my body. I know, I know – all of this stuff will lead us to the point where we meet our beautiful baby, and that moment of holding him or her in my arms for the very first time will rock my world, but in a way, that’s the scariest part of all. Because vulnerability of the body is one thing; but vulnerability of the heart? That’s even messier. I will be opening myself in brand new ways to this little person, feeling unfathomable love, but on some days also feeling mind-bending tiredness, or frustration, or worry, because I have to/need to/want to do everything in my power to make sure that our child feels cared for and safe and treasured. And as Nance reminded me today, I can’t run away when the going gets tough. This is an all-in, heart-on-my-sleeve, life-long deal.

Shane dried my tears that night and we both chuckled when I wondered aloud what in the world we had gotten ourselves into. Because deep (sometimes very deep) down, despite these Kelly-esque freak-outs, we know we’re ready, and we know how desperately we want to meet our child. This baby was not conceived out of short-sighted, fickle desire; he or she is the miraculous answer to years of prayerful longing.  Yes, I’m glad that I have a couple more months to prepare my mind/body/home, but damn, I really can’t wait to take this rocker for a late-night test drive.

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Sighing a little letdown sigh tonight, as we said good-bye to my mom and dad this morning after a glorious summer weekend together.  Lots of home-cooked meals shared at the dining room table, lots of baseball games watched as we lounged on the couch, and oh, that sunshine on Saturday!

I’ve been plowing through berries and watermelon and mangos by the bowlful lately, so I suggested we head out to do some strawberry picking on Saturday morning.  We grabbed our crates at Remlinger Farms in Carnation and got right to work, plucking red, juicy berries by the handful.  It was a bit harder than I anticipated, squatting between the rows with my achy knees and big belly, but we pushed onward and walked away with 14 pounds of loot after an hour’s work.  Not too shabby.

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We dined on deluxe burgers at 8 Oz Burger Bar for lunch, then made a run to West Elm to pick up the glider for the nursery.  Shane and my dad worked on getting the chair moved in and assembling our just-arrived crib while my mom and I sunned ourselves on the back porch – again, not too shabby!

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The evening’s wispy clouds held major stellar-sunset potential, so we drove over to Lincoln Park after dinner to walk along the water and watch the sky go from blue to gold to pink.  These are the moments when the Pacific Northwest is at its absolute finest.

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The tides turned on Sunday as the rain started to fall, but that didn’t get me down – it was a perfect day for Thai curry, for afternoon dozing, and for a little mall madness with my mom.  I stashed a few pounds of berries in the freezer and took my first stab at jam-making (success!), worked on the nursery a little, and called it a day after the Mad Men series finale.  It had been a very full weekend, in a very good way.

Mom and Dad hit the road back to Oregon this morning and we’re already missing their company – dinner tonight was decidedly less hearty (scrambled eggs and toast vs. pork chops and veggies…) and conversation at the table was a bit less lively.  But I’m so looking forward to seeing Grandma and Grandpa come September…

Seattle has been good to us since we’ve been back, gracing us with lots of sunshine to soothe those post-vacation blues.  With temps approaching 80 degrees this weekend, I hardly missed the Hyatt’s pool.  Errrr…that’s a lie.  But it was a pretty great couple of days, shave ice cravings notwithstanding.  We celebrated the end of the work week on Friday evening with the Giants game and a sunset walk around Seward Park.  Shane’s been on a running kick lately and keeps knocking seconds off his regular routes.  I, on the other hand, am getting progressively slower and can’t handle much more than a (semi) brisk gait these days.  Thanks, hon, for resisting that urge to break into a dead sprint and instead sticking with me in my pregnant pace…

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We gathered with the gang at Jason and Nance’s on Saturday morning to mark the end of another c-group year with mimosas and waffles.  We’ll continue to see these people for the usual summer fiestas, but it’s still feels like a big shift when our regular rhythm of Tuesday night gatherings comes to a close.  It will be interesting to see what the new “normal” is for us come September, when we resume meeting with all the new babies in the mix.  It might be mayhem.  It might be a lot of sleep-deprived, glassy-eyed parents struggling to make sense of Jason’s deep theological questions.  Whatever it is, we’ll make it work.

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Nance and I indulged in a little treat yo-self action on Saturday afternoon with mani’s, pedi’s, and iced coffee.  We were due for a long chat and covered a lot of ground in those 90 minutes at the salon as we dished about husbands, about babies, about awkward massage experiences – “girl talk” takes so many forms for the two of us.  And now my cherry-red toenails are fully ready for sandal weather.  Super-score.

We spent Sunday afternoon at Jack and La Verne’s raising our glasses to the old-timer (Jason – your boys are beyond lucky to have such a fun-loving, all-in dad), to the newbie (Jack, the tenderness and joy I see in your face when you hold Nico makes me want to cry, laugh, and give you a high-five) and to my beloved daddy-to-be.  Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen.

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After lunch, the guys cruised Lake Washington Boulevard on their bikes while La Verne rested with Nico and Nance and I chilled in the sun.  The boys returned from their ride (relatively) unscathed and we ended the afternoon stretched out on the lawn, watching G and Z run through the sprinklers and soaking in that quintessential summer vibe.

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Shane and I had our own little Dad’s Day “celebration” at home that evening, complete with pizza and basketball and watermelon margaritas.  If this guy looks this good holding a cocktail, I can only imagine the flip-flops my heart will do when I see him with a baby in his arms.  Yowsers.

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I ended the weekend much like it began – another sunset walk, this time at Jefferson Park, with a heart full of gratitude that summer has arrived in Seattle.  Let the good times roll.

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My first thought upon waking on Monday was, “Nooooo!  We can’t be leaving tomorrow!”  But I resisted the urge to pout and committed to seizing the day – 24 hours and counting to work on my golden glow!  After coffee and coconut pastries, we headed east to check out Wailua Falls, which were rip-roaring and gorgeous.  We regretted the fact that access doesn’t exist to the bottom of the falls.  Someday, I’ll swim under a Hawaiian waterfall.  Someday.

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From Wailua, we hit the road to the North Shore, stopping briefly at ‘Opaeka’a Falls.

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And then I was ready to hit the water!  I had read that Queen’s Bath, near Princeville, is a beautiful natural pool and major swimming destination.  I was picturing a quiet little cove, maybe with a sandy spot for us to spread out our beach towels and catch some rays.  So I was surprised when our 10-minute downhill trek landed us at a field of black rock.

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And gushing, foamy water.

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But dang, it was pretty.  And that water was so blue!  As long as you weren’t trying to climb into the pool as waves were crashing over its rocky edges, it seemed to be safe(ish).  And there were other swimmers there (Shane managed to crop them all out of his shots), so we went for it.  I found a rock to perch on and watched the fish swim around my feet while the tide gently pulled and pushed at us.  In retrospect, after hearing that afternoon from a gentleman at the hotel that people frequently die at Queen’s Bath, perhaps we should have skipped this place and opted for one of the nearby sandy beaches.  Perhaps.

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Having unknowingly cheated death, we dried off, grabbed our things and headed back toward Poipou , detouring for pineapple frosties at Banana Joe’s and a quick gander at the Kilauea Lighthouse.

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And then we were “home” again, settling into our lounge chairs for one last laze-fest at the pool.  We hit the water slide a couple more times, bobbed around the saltwater lagoon, and put the finishing touches on our tropical tans.  As much I loved our daily adventures to the far reaches of the island, these care-free afternoons at the pool were the highlight of our trip.

One final evening meant one final sunset – we drove over to Salt Pond Beach Park and stretched out in the sand just in time for the golden hour.  It was no Polihale, to be sure, but it was still pretty great to lay my head on Shane’s shoulder and be fully present to enjoy such warmth and beauty.  “In-the-moment” living doesn’t come easily to me, as I’m usually caught up in thinking about the next place to go or task to be done.  And yet, for those few days, that sense of constant distraction completely melted away.

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We had our best meal of the week that evening on the terrace of Plantation Gardens.  Super-fresh fish, passion fruit cheesecake, and real-deal margaritas (yes, I only got a sip or two of Shane’s margarita, but he only got a bite or two of my dessert, so it all evened out).  We had set out that morning to seize the day and patted ourselves on the back that night for job well done.

We got up early on Tuesday for a walk to the Maha’ulepu Cliffs – these sandstone cliffs were just beyond our hotel’s beach and I’d been meaning to check them out all week (but had always gotten sucked into pool before I could make it any further).

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It’s like this island was constantly standing by to surprise us with something amazing around every corner.  And I like the idea that baby Schnell was along for the ride – even though he or she doesn’t know a Hawaiian beach from our own backyard at this point, I want to believe that we’re already bequeathing a spirit of adventure to our child.  Get ready, little one – we’ve got some pretty incredible stuff to show you when you get older.

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We walked back to our room and packed up our things, sniffling a little as we said good-bye to the ocean, to our beloved pool, to that sexy car…

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Mahalo, Kauai!  This trip was all we’d hoped it would be, plus so much more.  I would have been thrilled with simple shave ice, but then that delicious scoop of macadamia nut ice cream appeared at the bottom of my cup and I was left reeling from the splendor of it all.  We’ll be embarking on a brand new journey this Fall where pot-holed roads and helicopter rides will be struck from the itinerary, but I think I’m ok with that – this island gave us one heck of a send-off.

Oh, Sunday, Sunday, SUNday!  Since Saturday’s beach-hopping hadn’t left us any time for poolside lounging, we staked out a couple of chairs under an umbrella first thing Sunday morning and spent most of the day doing this:

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And a little bit of this:

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Gosh, I adored that pool (and that slide!).  We set up shop there at 8:30 am, and as we peeled ourselves from our lounge chairs at 3 pm to head back to the room, I sighed a sigh of sheer contentment.  I always believed that I was the kind of person that wanted vacation to be primarily about seeing/doing/eating new things, but I’m rethinking my go-go-go mentality.  Life in the slow lane is pretty dang great.

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After fish tacos at Island Taco in Waimea and shave ice round 2 at Jo Jo’s, we embarked on that day’s grand adventure.  The last couple of sunset skies we’d seen were gorgeous, but we had yet to actually see the sun descend over the horizon line – this is tricky on Kauai, as much of the island’s west coast is inaccessible by car. Shane had done some sleuthing and read that Polihale Beach is the place to go for an unobstructed view of the west, but there was a rub: accessing this beach requires driving for a few miles on a super-rough, poorly maintained dirt road.  Was our Mustang up to the task?  We’d find out!  The first mile wasn’t bad.  The second mile got a bit bumpy, but we held tight as sturdy SUVs and big pick-ups and zipped past us, leaving us in their dust.  By mile 5, I felt like a bobble-head, my head wobbling on my rubbery neck while the rest of my body gripped my seat, tensely trying to stay still in the midst of such mayhem.  But eventually we made it, and as I set my feet upon smooth solid ground (praise the Lord!), I immediately saw that the trip had been worth it.  Sandy beach reached on forever to the south, and to the north, the start of those gorgeous Na Pali mountains.

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To the west, wide open waters as far as the eye could see!  I stretched out in the warm sand while Shane played in the waves – this Minnesota boy feels amazingly at home in the ocean.

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And to sweet baby Schnell – I’m so sorry to have put you through all that jiggling, buddy…  But look where we took you!

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Shane dried off and joined me on the beach towel for what we had come to call the “Golden Hour” – that period right before sunset when everything is bathed in the warmest, richest light imaginable.

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I definitely got my wish – complete visual access to the sun setting over the horizon, waves crashing in the foreground, my feet buried in soft, warm sand.  Awesome.

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Going, going, gone…  We sat there until that little pinprick of light dropped completely out of sight, soaking in the beauty of what we’d just witnessed.  I like to think this is one of those evenings we’ll recount on our 50th wedding anniversary, it was that good.  Apparently it’s true in Hawaii, as it is in life, that the bumpiest roads lead to some of the very best rewards.

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Saturday brought more glorious sunshine and more island adventure.  After fueling ourselves with pancakes the size of vinyl records at Kountry Kitchen, we grabbed some gear from Snorkel Bob’s and headed to the North Shore to check out Kauai’s aquatic life.  Our first stop was Tunnels Beach, and wowsers!  Such smooth, yellow sand, such rugged, green mountains in the distance, and the fish!  Purple and yellow and polka dots and stripes.  It was like floating through one giant, coral-bottomed aquarium.

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We left the beach when we felt our backs starting to burn and grabbed sandwiches and iced tea on the patio of a cute little cafe in Hanalei.  But we still weren’t ready to part with our snorkel gear, so we drove over to Anini Beach after lunch to see what its reef had to offer.  The water there was super-shallow and a little murky, so I was ready to call it quits after 30 minutes.  But thank God Shane is more patient than I am – just as I was heading for shore, he popped his head up and waved me over.  He had discovered a sea turtle just five feet away, lazily snacking on goodies from the ocean floor, then flipping up to the surface every so often to take a breath.  Seriously, swimming with turtles…how dreamy is that?  Our little friend eventually swam away, and we ditched our masks to just sit in the water for awhile, chatting and squishing the sand between our toes.

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All our ocean time had tuckered us out, so we headed back to our hotel from Anini.  But first, one very important stop: shave ice from Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa! Upon that first ultra-fluffy bite, we believed this place had Jo Jo’s beat, but the ice melted too quickly and left us with a cup of syrupy water in the end.  So the jury’s still out…

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Once we had washed the sand from our bodies and lounged for awhile in the hotel’s plush bathrobes, we headed back out to catch the sunset at Sprouting Horn Beach.  Between the fish and the shave ice syrup and the pink, golden skies, I don’t know that I’d ever spent a day rich with so much color.

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Tacos for dinner and ahhhhhhh, another lovely day had come to a close.  I was officially head over heels for Hawaii.

Aloha!  Shane and I landed back in Seattle last night after a few days in Kauai, and oh em geeeeeee…  It was nothing short of paradise.  I had hoped to “live blog” while we were there, but I was too drunk with sunshine and Hawaiian shave ice at the end of each day to even consider opening the laptop.  So, a flashback:

We arrived in Kauai Thursday afternoon, and from the moment we stepped into the lobby of our hotel, with its tropical gardens and glistening ocean view, I knew we were in for something special.

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We were in our bathing suits and down at the pool within minutes of checking into our room – we would log some serious hours here over the next few days.  I loved the long,meandering swimming pool, with it’s mini waterfalls and multiple seating niches.

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Shane favored the huge man-made saltwater “lagoon”, with it’s sandy bottom and shallow spots, perfect for lazily bobbing around.

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The small beach just beyond the lagoon was beautiful as well, but not so ideal for a couple of bobbers like ourselves – those waves were rough, and the ocean floor was fairly rocky.  Shane has the bruised shin to prove it!

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After successfully rinsing ourselves of any travel fatigue, we got dressed and drove over to Keiko’s Paradise for a dinner of fresh fish and (virgin) mango margaritas. We dined outside, reveling in the feeling of being in tank tops at 9 pm.  We were coming off a fairly cold week in Seattle, and I was determined to soak up every last bit of island warmth.  Everything else was just icing on the cake.

Our first big adventure came early Friday, when we boarded a helicopter for a tour of the island.  We had opted for the “doors-off” package, so the sides of the helicopter were totally open to the outside – gotta have a lot of faith in that seat belt to hold you in place!  My stomach fluttered with butterflies when we first took off, but any nervousness quickly faded away as the beauty of Kauai rolled out below us.  There are not words to describe how incredible this hour was.  Shoot – photos don’t even do it justice.  Easily one of the most memorable travel moments of my life…

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The flight over the Waimea Canyon took my breath away:

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And just as I started to catch that breath, we took a turn toward the Na Pali Coast, and I was again left gasping:

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From there, we swooped along the North Shore, checking out its blue waters and sandy beaches:

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And then we headed inland again, for more of those verdant, green-carpeted mountains.  I couldn’t get over how lush it all was, every surface covered in dense layers of dark green and light green and bright, glowing chartreuse.  I suppose I can’t begrudge those rain clouds for blocking my shots – they’ve made for some pretty rich landscapes:

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Eventually it was time to make our way back to Lihue.  Too soon, too soon!  I could have floated up in that sky all day.

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Post-flight, giddy with adrenaline, we drove over to the nearby K-Mart for breakfast.  Yup, read that right – there’s a woman with a little booth out front, where she makes and serves fresh malasadas.  These fluffy, fried, sugared dough balls were so, so good. So bad, but still, sooooo good.  We scarfed down our breakfast and then cruised back to the hotel for another afternoon at the pool, again bouncing from pool to lagoon to lounge chair, repeating the rotation when the sun got too hot.  Pretty grand.

I was determined to find the best shave ice on the island during our stay, so we headed over to Waimea that evening to visit Jo Jo’s.  And dang, it puts sno-cones to shame.  Fluffy ice, fruity-but-not-too-sweet syrup, and a scoop of macadamia nut ice at the bottom for an extra treat.  Shane gave me a Hawaiian ice machine for Mother’s Day, and now I have something to aspire to!

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Refreshed by our icy snack, we drove up Waimea Canyon Road to check out the views.  We had upgraded our economy rental car for the first time ever and splurged on a Mustang convertible, and let me tell you, there are few things more fun than cruising through the Hawaiian mountains with the wind in your hair and the guy you love at your side while Macklemore and Jack Johnson and Taylor Swift pipe through the stereo (we have very eclectic taste).

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We took the windy road to the very end and arrived at Pu’u o Kila lookout, taking in the stunning view of the Na Pali Coast and the great Pacific. It was so quiet up there – just us, a few stray chickens (they’re all over the island), and the Big Guy that put this all in place.  Praise be to God.

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The sun was setting as we made our way back down the mountain, and we pulled over so I could snap a quick pic of the gorgeous sky – thus began our 4-night stint of sunset-chasing (more on that later).

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We ended the day with a simple cafe meal and fell into bed sleepy and slightly sunburned.  But also so, so excited to see what else Kauai had in store for us.