Archive for September, 2018

I just finished Juliette’s birthday video, and, phew.  The feels.  ALL THE FEELS.  Gratitude and joy and a little bit of melancholy.  Four-year-old Jules really was some kind of wonderful, huh?

It’s official: as of Friday, Juliette is FIVE.  And my head is still spinning.  Not just because I can’t figure out how the past half-decade has flown by so quickly, but also because we partied hard for two straight days and I’m still exhausted.

I awoke Friday morning to the tap-tap of Juliette’s finger on my arm and the whisper of her voice:  Is it my birthday now?  Can I open my presents?  I asked her to give me a few minutes to get things ready and then called her out to our balloon-strewn, gift-laden living room.  She got right to business.

I asked Juliette several times what she wanted for her birthday, and it was always “fancy clothes”.  So I went with it – frilly skirts and sparkly headbands and a gold donut purse.

And, though we’ve resisted the princess craze to-date, I gave in and bought her the Elena dress she’s been drooling over since the Halloween costumes hit Costco last month.  Juliette pulled it out of the box and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I wanted!!!”  Shane raised his eyebrows, clearly wondering “Are we really doing this?”, but I reminded him that this is just a phase.  We’ll indulge her, maybe removing some of the allure, and then she’ll get over it.

Shane took the morning off, so after gifts were opened we grabbed breakfast together at Admiral Bird.  I was able to wrangle Juliette out of the princess dress, but the tiara stayed firmly ON.

After waffles, Shane headed into the office and Juliette and I headed out for a surprise adventure: we were Fair-bound!

The Washington State Fair comes to Puyallup every summer and a piece of me has always wanted to go, mostly out of curiosity.  Is it as fun as the commercials make it look?  Or is it a sad, run-down relic of the olden days, when Fairs were really a thing?

Turns out, mostly the former.  At least for a five year old!  Merry-go-rounds and saltwater taffy and tractors, oh my!

We spent a long, long time with the animals, looking at horses and petting goats and sitting down for a dog show when our feet needed a rest.

Juliette begged to go on a pony ride, and while I tried to convince her to hold out for a more legit horseback experience at one of the riding trails near Seattle, she could not be swayed.  So I ponied up ten bucks for the birthday girl.

She was ecstatic afterwards.  Did you see me, Mama?  Can we get a horse?

I had a handful of ride tickets left, so we hit the roller coaster, which was probably as thrilling for me as it was for Juliette.  This kid wears me out, but gosh, in so many ways she makes me feel so exuberantly young.

And then I let her hop on the flying elephant, because, FIVE.

We breezed past the llamas, grabbed a swirl cone, and then called it day.  We were both dragging our feet by the time we reached the car.

But really, the birthday festivities were only beginning!  We dined that night at Chez Rust and raised our glasses to Miss Jules…

And then headed out for a night at the theater.  A kind friend had offered us tickets to the Seattle Children’s Theater’s production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I couldn’t turn them down.  We’ve been reading Eric Carle books to Juliette since she was just a few weeks old and I was eager to see the animals come to life.  The entire thing was magical – I got a little teary-eyed over their enactment of 10 Little Rubber Ducks – I’ve probably read that book to Juliette a hundred times, and the puppets and music were just so achingly beautiful.  They didn’t allow pictures during the play, which is just as well – I want to seal away in my memory the rapt look on Juliette’s face, the way she whisper-gasped, “It’s so, so beautiful, Mama!” when the butterfly emerged from the cocoon.

Saturday was party-day, and we went…big.  Bounce house big.

Turns out a 15′ x 15′ castle fits quite nicely in our backyard!

Since Juliette is so into dressing up these days, I told her buddies to come a little fancy, in a favorite hat or an old Halloween costume or whatever their little hearts desired.

I had extra super-hero masks and plenty of rhinestone stickers on-hand, in case anyone left their accessories at home.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl…

Juliette scarfed down her cupcake in about 15 seconds flat, because…

The bounce house beckoned!

She jumped for hours.  Literally.  It took a candy-filled unicorn piñata to lure her back out.

It was pretty cute, watching the younger kids take their swats.

But I called on the Rust boys when we were ready to crack that puppy open.

Get it, Gryff!


The guests trickled out after lunch and then Juliette called for a quick wardrobe change.  She posed for a few pics with her best bud…

And then gave him a very Prom Queen-ish wave good-bye.

After all the kids had left we found ourselves with two hours left on our bounce house rental, so we kept the party going.

I tried cleaning up inside, but kept finding myself drawn out back by the sound of Juliette’s hysterical laughter.

I mean, I just couldn’t resist.

Though Juliette was quite disappointed to see the bounce house guy show up to deflate her magic castle, Shane and I were overwhelmingly relieved.  This girl’s energy is absolutely boundless (ours is not!).

Juliette opened her party gifts on Sunday, and…it’s possible that she might not grow out of this princess phase as soon I imagined.

New rule: Let It Go may be played in the Schnell household once. per. day.

But giggle it up all you want, Jules.  Your laughter is my favorite sound in all the earth.

The past few days have been full of, Look what I can do now that I’m five!  Do I look taller since I’m five?  Do you think I’m reading so good now because I’m five? 

Yes, baby girl, all of it, yes.  You are so wonderfully grown-up and lovely and smart.  Let’s rock FIVE.

Tonight as she was getting ready for bed Juliette turned to me and said, “Mama!  Can you even believe I’m going to be five in three days?  Are you soooooo excited?!”  And I exclaimed, “Yes!  Five is going to be amazing!”  But in my head, the voices were shouting, “Stop stop stop stop STOP growing so fast, baby girl.”

Four has just been so stinking good – I’m not ready for it to be over.  Juliette eased my woes a bit when she put her arms around me and reminded me, “But I’ll still be your baby when I’m fifty-five, Mama.”  She’s got a valid point.  So let’s close out Four with a few sweet snapshots and then All Hail FIVE!

Juliette’s current favorite pastime is to raid her dress-up drawer and sashay around the house in tutus and sunglasses.  We’ll be hanging out in the living room or the backyard, then inspiration will suddenly strike and she’ll say she has to go get something, really quick.  Minutes later she’ll emerge in full get-up and ask Alexa to play I Won’t Say I’m In Love from Hercules. I LOVE HER.

When her tried-and-true accessories get old, we make our own.

OR, she rummages around in Daddy’s closet, as a healthy counter-balance to her recent princess infatuation.


Four hasn’t been all tiaras and dance parties, though. There are days when this girl seems absolutely un-pleasable, when requests for screen time or sweets are incessant and followed by unbearable bouts of whining or pouting.  “But Moooooommy!  You never let me watch shows [false!] or have candy [lie!]!”  Shane and I have learned that one of the best ways to pull Juliette out of a funk is to tap into her inner helper and ask her to come alongside us in a project.  She’s a super little side-kick, whether it’s “checking my drawings” as I work at the dining room table…

Or “fixing the ladder” while Dad works in the garage (safety glasses required, but pants are optional).

We recently started letting her earn money for chores, like unloading the dishwasher or sweeping the back porch, and after several weeks of careful saving, I took her to Target so that she could pick out something to buy with the whopping ten bucks in her wallet.  We wandered the toy aisles for a very (very) long time and then Juliette settled on the sparkliest piece of plastic she could find – a JoJo microphone that lights up and plays Boomerang.  On repeat.  Not my first choice (I was willing to chip in a few bucks for a cool puzzle or a Lego set!), but it was in fact her money to spend.  And she’s most definitely gotten her ten bucks’ worth.


After a stint of being easily frustrated and prone to quitting, Super-Girl is showing new levels of perseverance and determination.  She decided a few weeks ago to take on the monkey bars and worked those things at every playground we visited, slipping off rung after rung but always getting back up for another go.  She spent her recess time at school hanging and swinging, coming home at the end of the day with blisters on her hands.  But finally, she got it!  She made it across a full set without dropping.  And she was stoked.


We’ve been loving home-time more than ever but still itch to get out and about on our Fridays and weekends. I decided on a whim to see if Juliette still fits in her running stroller, and…hey!  Turns out her legs still fold up into this thing quite nicely!  We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past few weeks, walking to the library and the ice cream shop and the waterfront and the Farmer’s Market.

Juliette reads her Star Wars comic books or tells me stories while we walk.

The stroll down to the water on this particular day was lovely, but the trek uphill was so tough that Juliette had to climb out of the stroller and help me push!

I love dahlias, too, Jules!


Finally, a few pics from Labor Day, because they capture the joys of this current age and season so perfectly – walks down to the beach, goofy giggles, heart-shaped sunglasses…summer with a four-year-old has been magic.


When I told Juliette back in July that Morgan and Elise would be coming to visit in mid-August, she excitedly said, “You mean they’re coming tomorrow?!”  I told her that their visit was still a month away, to which she replied, “You mean in two days?!”  And thus the torturous wait began.  We made a countdown calendar, but the boxes just couldn’t be checked fast enough – when Mitch and the girls finally rolled up last month, Juliette flew across the room to greet them.  Her cousin-love runs deep.

Kathryn was away on a work trip and Mitch was flying solo with his girls, so I figured I’d take Juliette to school on Thursday since I had to be in the office.  But when Uncle Mitch asked Juliette if she wanted to spend the day with him and her cousins instead of going to school, she about keeled over with joy.  They hit four playgrounds, the beach, and a coffee shop that day.  And he still had energy for a post-dinner round of Candyland.  My brother’s the bomb.

I was thrilled to join in on the fun on Friday.  Also thrilled to roll out of bed much later than usual and find these three quietly reading in Juliette’s room.

Also thrilled to be entertained by a super-fly dance trio during my morning coffee.

Mitch and Kathryn had just bought a new paddle board and the girls were eager to try it out, so we spent Friday afternoon bobbing around Lake Sammamish.  The new SUP was great, though for some reason Mitch had a tough time building any momentum.

These three are water-babies through and through.

Lake life 4-ever.

Before we left, I insisted that all three girls get back out on the mermaid one more time, as I had spent longer blowing it up than they’d spent using it.  All that effort couldn’t be for naught!

Juliette and Elise took my request very seriously and spent a good 45 minutes drifting around while Morgan took a nap on the beach blanket.

I’d say I got my breath’s worth.

We dined that night at home on Mitch’s famous burgers…

And then took our dessert down to the water for a sunset fix.

Heart: FULL.

Kathryn joined us late Friday night and then the Jarrell clan set out for Whistler on Saturday morning.  First, though, one more walk along the waterfront, so they could stretch their legs before the journey ahead.

Juliette, as expected, cried when they left.  I, as expected, pulled out my calendar and started planning our next trip down to Portland.  Cousins, we’re coming for ya.