Archive for December, 2014

We set out for Portland on Christmas Eve, our trunk loaded with presents and wine and assorted goodies.  Juliette napped about half the way and then patiently chilled in the backseat for the last eighty miles – dare I hope that we’re making a road-tripper out of this kid?

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We rolled up to Mitch’s house around 4:00, kicked off our shoes, and poured ourselves a couple of home-brewed beers from his kegerator.  Let the festivities begin!  It took Juliette about five minutes to warm up to her cousins, and then she was off to the races, following them from room to room, screeching with joy when they turned to chase her.  She settled down in her pack n play without a peep after dinner – a couple of hours of keeping up with the big kids had plumb tuckered her out.

We were up and at ’em early the next morning – the girls were thrilled to see that Santa had indeed stopped by in the night to fill stockings and leave a few extra gifts under the tree.

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The adults sipped coffee and politely exchanged a few presents while the kids delightfully tore into their loot – Juliette quickly got the hang of unwrapping and made quick work of lining up her new books and puzzles.

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Morgan and Jules were thick as thieves during our visit, hardly leaving each other’s sides.  Whenever Juliette fussed a bit, resisting a diaper change or reaching for something she couldn’t have, Morgan would come extra-close to her, murmuring “hiiiiii Juliette, it’s okaaayyy…” while gently touching her cheek.  It only had about a 25% success rate of doing any actual soothing, but damn, it was sweet.

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Once we’d opened all the presents and eaten our bacon and coffee cake, we set out for Mt. Tabor park to let the kids burn off any left over Christmas morning antsies.

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We made it home just in time for naps and then spent a quiet afternoon at the house, reading and doing puzzles and drinking hot chocolate.

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I took Juliette out for a short walk around the neighborhood after she woke up…

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And we found Santa!  Hey, if the kid doesn’t know any different, no sense in standing in that line at Nordstrom for two hours!

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We headed in when the sun started to set and Elise offered to keep Juliette entertained while the finishing touches were put on dinner.

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We shared a big Christmas meal and then all three girls piled into the tub for bathtime.  They streaked through the house when they were done, laughing hysterically as they left their towels in a pile on the floor and clamored upstairs to find their pajamas.  The sight of Juliette running behind Morgan and Elise with such glee, her dimpled bottom jiggling as she shouted and giggled – what a gift.

Friday was another day, another park – we spent the morning at Columbia Park, teeter-tottering and swinging and sliding.

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Shane and Juliette took marathon naps in the afternoon while I played Disney Frozen Bingo and Frozen Memory and Frozen Matching with the girls.  Elise got a microscope for Christmas and we spent a little while “doing experiments”.  That face!  She’s so grown up these days, but such a wonderful goofball at the same time.

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We went out for dinner at a local brewpub and then everyone grabbed a few last snuggles with Juliette before it was time for us to hit the road back to Seattle.

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I’m telling you, the 7:30 pm departure is money – Juliette fell asleep a few miles into the ride, we made record time in the absence of any traffic, and then she easily settled into her crib when we got home.  Shane and I played a couple of rounds of Mario Kart before heading to bed ourselves, thankful for a chance to veg after a busy couple of days.

I woke up a little blue on Saturday, already missing my family and feeling the funk of post-holiday letdown, so Shane suggested that we get out and do something special.  We decided to head downtown to take a whirl on the carousel in Westlake Plaza.  Juliette was a little skeptical when we first got on – she gave the pole a shake, found out the horse didn’t spring back and forth like the one at the playground, and promptly decided she wanted to get off.  But oh, the look on her face when the carousel started spinning and her horse started galloping up and down, she dug it.  She smiled like mad, exclaiming “whoooaaa, whoooaaa, whoooaaa!” over and over and over.  Add this to our list of Christmas traditions!

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From Westlake, we walked over to the Sheraton to check out the annual gingerbread house display.  I can’t believe the time (and sugar!) that must go into some of these!

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Juliette was mildly impressed by the gingerbread village – she was more excited about being allowed to run free in the lobby after just four short blocks in her stroller.  There’s no stopping this kid.

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We walked by the Fairmont Olympic Hotel on our way back to the car and decided to pop into their cozy lobby to say hi to Santa and check out the tree.

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Cheers to a holiday filled with very little naughty and SO MUCH NICE.

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Although I’d pay good money for a day of 80-degree temps, it really does feel like the most wonderful time of the year around here.  December has been packed of merry-making as we’ve filled our weekends with our favorite Christmastime traditions.

The annual trek out to Mountain Creek tree farm in North Bend has become our family’s marker that Christmas is a-comin’, and this year was pretty perfect as tree hunts go.  The sun was shining, the snow was glistening, and Juliette had a grand time traipsing among the trees, some of which were just her size.

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We settled on a 6-foot Grand Fir without too much ado, Shane did the honors, and we were off!

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Ok, we weren’t really off just yet, as it takes us four times as long to securely rope the tree to the roof of our Civic as it does to actually cut it down.  Luckily, Jules was there to supervise, as she guzzled warm apple cider from the sidelines.

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And then we were off!

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After one more picture.

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We strung lights and hung ornaments on the tree that afternoon while A Charlie Brown Christmas piped through the speakers.  I love, love, love the warm glow of a well-lit tree.  Makes me want to pot an indoor tree and string lights on it to keep that glow going year-round (Shane said no).

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Juliette was pretty taken with the tree at first, pulling off any ornaments that were within arm’s reach, giving the lights a nerve-racking tug now and then.

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I let her hold my little plastic angel, thinking she couldn’t harm it.  She proceeded to bite the wings right off the poor guy.  Thus, there are no longer any ornaments on the bottom third of the tree…

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A couple of weeks ago we gathered with the gang for our annual fondue party.  But first, the annual pre-fondue 5k at Seward Park, as a preemptive calorie burn!

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As Shane and I are two of the few lucky owners of a fondue set, we’re tasked each year with doing one of the cheese pots.  The first year was not so good, as we rushed the melting process ended up with one giant cheese blob.  But now, after several years of practice, we speak Gruyere.  Shane’s a certified cheese whiz.

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It was a wild night, as nearly 20 adults and 10 kids ate and laughed and chased each other through Jack and La Verne’s house.  This fondue party, with the cheese and the chocolate and Ronda’s homemade marshmallows, is another one of our very crucial Christmastime happenings – the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it.  Juliette’s fully on board.

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Shane and I snuck out one Friday night for a kid-free evening with my coworkers for our annual holiday party.  Good cocktails, good conversation, and this hottie in an elf hat.  Nice.

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The next day I set out with Nance and La Verne for a solid 22 hours of kid-freeness for Ladies Weekend 2014.  The three of us started this tradition of getting away for some R and R in 2011 but had to skip it last year, as La Verne’s and my babes were still so little (and needy).  But when I asked La Verne last month if she was ready for a night away, she responded with a resounding YES.  The dads were cool with hanging at home with the little ones, so we booked a room at Cedarbrook Lodge in nearby SeaTac, scheduled our spa treatments, and packed our bags!  We spent the afternoon shopping at the Supermall and then made it to the hotel just in time to check in for our massages and facials.  We ate a leisurely dinner (oh, the luxury of a leisurely meal!), raided the hotel lounge’s supply of free ice cream and malt balls, and then settled into our room for a night of Haagen Dasz and chick flicks.  Dirty Dancing was playing on Bravo, so we spent two hours giggling like schoolgirls over Patrick Swayze’s bulging muscles and gyrating hips.  It felt like a high school sleepover, which was kind of awesome – there aren’t many instances these days when I feel younger than I actually am.  Sleeping in until 8:00 the next morning and waking to a quiet, foggy bit of wonderland was also amazing (I know, “wonderland” in SeaTac?  It’s true!).

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We had breakfast at the hotel and spent a long time talking about family and faith and priorities and contentedness (Nance was channeling her inner Oprah!), and then it was time to grab a few malt balls for the road and get back to Seattle.

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Juliette was quick to run into my arms when I walked in the door, which made my break all the sweeter.  She and Shane had fared pretty well – the dads and kids had eaten dinner together the evening before, Juliette had slept through the night, she was dressed and happy when I got home.  The weekend was such a success, in fact, that there’s talk of this becoming a quarterly rather than annual tradition…

We spent one clear evening checking out the lights at Gene Coulon Park in Renton.  Juliette roamed up and down the path, excited by the big glowing candy canes and the opportunity to run free after dark.

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I had high hopes for church and brunch and maybe a Santa Scouting this past Sunday, but Juliette woke up with copious amounts of snot flowing from her nose, so we decided instead to declare it a huddle day, to make pancakes and enjoy our tree before the needles start dropping like flies.

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We let Juliette open a couple of gifts in the afternoon, since she has more than enough to tear into on Christmas morning.  She’s been using this box as a bench for the past two weeks and was amazed to find that there was actually something inside of it!

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Looking forward to trying out these paint brushes and paint cups with her on our next rainy afternoon at home together.

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Shane got a Nintendo for Christmas (from…himself?), and while Juliette isn’t quite ready for Mario Kart, she was pretty taken with the controller – we didn’t even have the TV on, but she pushed those buttons and jiggled that joystick for a good 15 minutes.

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I spent this evening baking a few goodies and making sure every last gift is wrapped and tagged – tomorrow we head to Portland for a few days with family.  Happy, happy holidays, friends!

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I’m a little late with this post, as I’ve had a tough time putting my finger on the past month’s developments – changes seem to be coming more gradually these days, or at least more subtly since those thrilling first steps.  I know there’s a lot going on in that wild-haired head of hers and I’m sure she’s dying to be able to put words to her thoughts and wants, but Juliette and I aren’t speaking the same language just yet.  She spends a lot of time right now wandering around the house, pointing up at countertops and tabletops and cupboards, saying “Eh?  Eh?  Eh?  EEEEHHHHH???!!!”.  I offer her everything she could possibly be asking for, with the exception of my phone or my hot cup of coffee (which of course, are the items she’s after), so we compromise and I hand her an apple from the fruit bowl, which she happily grabs, takes one bite of, and then throws on the floor.  Toddlerhood is fun.

Honestly though, communication breakdowns aside, I do love hanging out with that kid.  And her increasing independence has its perks, like she hardly needs my help at mealtime anymore.  Check out her mad spoon skills!

Cleanup takes a little effort, but her aim improves day by day, and that avocado facial keeps her skin oh-so-soft.

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Thankfully, she still loves the tub and is amenable to being hosed down after meals.  She’s definitely a water-baby – I can’t wait to get her back in the pool for her January swim lessons.

She’s full of silly little quirks and gestures, like the way she grabs anything rectangular and holds it up to her ear like a phone – a tupperware lid, the TV remote, whatever cards she swipes from my wallet when I’m not looking.  Shane and I aren’t sure where she picked this up, since we rarely use our phones to actually talk, but there are times when she babbles so intently that it’s like she really believes there’s someone on the other end of whatever she’s holding.

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She’s go-go-going as much as ever – I can usually coax her into the stroller if she’s set up with a snack and a sippy cup of warm milk, but for the most part, she wants to be out and about.  Shane took her to the bakery last weekend and she insisted on getting out of the stroller and walking the mile back home (which took about 45 minutes, bless Shane’s heart…).  She loves the little tricycle our neighbors gave to us – her feet don’t quite reach both pedals, so she holds on tight while I give her a push around the driveway.

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We desperately miss our summer park adventures and often talk about exploring new coffeeshops and restaurants, but always return to our tried-and-true favorites, passing many a morning at the Columbia City Bakery…

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And then stopping to say hello to the Nutcracker next door.

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We head over to Tutta Bella and have pizza for dinner more often than any responsible adult should.  Jules loves their meatballs, and I love their happy hour glasses of champagne.

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We usually spend Friday mornings with our little buddies, braving the cold for the sake of being able to run around and get some fresh air.

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I’ve mentioned recently that there are days when Juliette makes me batty with frustration and impatience, but there are also days like today, when she couldn’t possibly be any sweeter.  She laid it on thick today, wrapping her arms around me several times and laying her head on my shoulder for a good warm snuggle, bringing her socks and shoes to me when it was time to go out and then sitting still while I put them on (you have no idea what a treat this is), even coming up behind me and patting my back as I kneeled on the floor to wipe up some spilt milk.  She must have heard me complaining to Shane last night after she and I had battled over dinner and bath and toothbrushing and pajamas, “I do everything for her, and she gives me nothing!”  I take it back, baby.  You give me such abundant joy, such deep-seated fulfillment as I feel the weight of you in my lap and run my fingers through those soft, wispy pigtails.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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I’m finding that motherhood brings out both the best and the worst in me.  There are days when I surprise myself with my selflessness or my gentleness or my super-human strength as I lug a wriggling toddler and two bags of groceries across a parking lot because I forgot to park the car near the shopping cart drop-off (rookie mistake).  There are days when I run wild with Juliette on the playground, following her up the steps and down the slide and back again, and again, and again, playing through the monotony because to her, the up-downs never get old.  Then we head home and I read her the same book eight times over, because that silly bear in I Want My Hat Back is her favorite and storytime is one of the few chances I get to hold my busy girl extra-close.   There are days when she devours her broccoli quiche and her sweet potatoes and her homemade coconut-almond bars, politely signing “more” and “please” after each course, and I pat myself on my back for raising such a healthy, well-mannered little girl.

And then…there are those other kinds of days.  Days when she tosses her steamed vegetables and roasted chicken on the floor, so I throw up my hands and let her have a banana for dinner.  Days when I lay all the blankets and pillows on the living room floor with the pretense of wanting to snuggle, but in reality just praying that if I give her a big enough cup of Cheerios, she’ll leave me alone and let me doze for a precious few minutes.  Days when I altogether lose my shit.  Like the day we went to the zoo and it rained and rained, so I called it quits and we headed to the car where she whined and kicked as I wrestled her into her carseat.  Buckles finally secure, stroller folded into the trunk, my back completely soaked, I handed her a pouch of her favorite pear-pea puree for the ride home, expecting a little gratitude, but instead watching her grabby hands squeeze two-thirds of the green goo down the front of her shirt.  Horns sprouted from my head as I angrily yelled, “BABY, NO!!!  STOP!!!  NO, NO, NO!”.  She was momentarily startled into silence, her lip quivering and her eyes wide with fear.  Then she burst into one of the saddest wails I’ve ever heard.  I think I cried most of the way home, too, embarrassed and ashamed that I had lost my cool and become that crazy, shouting mom I’ve seen (and admittedly judged) so many times before.  And yesterday…ooofff.  Bad weather and a lack of motivation on my part kept us housebound, and after the sixth ransacking of the kitchen cupboards and the third meltdown over not being allowed to play in the fridge, I’d had enough.  “JULIETTE GRACE!  QUIT YOUR CRYING!”  I was done, sick of the messes and the whining and the complete lack of personal space.  I put her down for her afternoon nap at 9 am, partly because she seemed tired, but partly because I just couldn’t stand to be around her anymore.  Which sounds so awful, especially when I had just spent three days at work looking forward to Mama-Jules Thursday.  But did she not read the memo about snuggling together under piles of blankets, contentedly playing Legos while I took a shower?  Or was I suffering from my usual delusions of quiet grandeur and coming up short on patience when reality set in?  Yeah, patience…not my forte.  But apparently kind of essential if I’m going to make it through toddlerhood without turning into the Wicked Witch of the Pacific Northwest.  Craaaaaap.

The upside? At least she doesn’t hold grudges.

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