Archive for the ‘jules’ Category

March was for savoring the quietude of maternity leave, but April was for finding a new family groove as I returned to the office (can’t say we’ve quite found that groove, but we’re getting there day by day).

Goodness, I dreaded saying good-bye to my babies after seven months of full-time momming…  Juliette and I had a good cry in her bed on Sunday night as I tucked her in, which I think was therapeutic for us both; by the time I had to leave the next morning for my first day back, she was cheering me on with, “Don’t miss your bus, Mama!  And I love your shoes!”  Isaac went with the flow and loved hanging out with Nancy that first week – I think he hardly missed me, but was still awfully happy to land back in my arms at the end of the day.

Shane’s parents came out to visit and watch the kiddos during my second week back at work (the daycare waiting game is no joke!), and both kids ate up the extra attention.  Juliette played a song for them on her keyboard and Denny about fell out of his chair as he gushed over her talent.  #1 fan, no doubt.

Isaac took to Grandma and Grandpa right away – he loved sitting in Pat’s lap and pulling on Denny’s beard.

Grandma is the BEST baking buddy.

Juliette wowed Grandpa with her batting skills…

And Isaac did what he does best, which is look cute.

We missed them the minute they left – good-bye felt especially hard this time around, as we know Isaac will be so much different next time they seem him and Juliette becomes more emotionally attached to her grandparents with each visit.  “It’s just so hard that they live so far away!”, Juliette cried as they hit the road that morning.  I know, kiddo, I know!

Once Denny and Pat left and we’d dried our tears, I offered to take Juliette out for a little pick-me-up.  It was the last day of her Spring Break, so I thought we were due for an adventure – I gave her a handful of options and she chose a visit to the Space Needle.

We let Isaac tag along because Shane had to work, and because like I mentioned, HE’S CUTE.

There was an hour-long wait to go to the top of the Needle, so we passed some time at the Seattle Center playground.

Baby boy really likes the swing.

And then, it was time!

I haven’t been to the top of the Space Needle since they replaced their wire mesh fencing with these panes of floor-to-ceiling glass, and wowsers!  It’s pretty remarkable, stepping off the elevators to an obstruction-free panoramic view of the Sound on a sky-blue day.

Don’t lean back, Juliette!  That’s some thick glass, but still…makes my stomach flip.

Chilling on the glass floor…

And our final descent…  Our Spring Break mini-adventure was a total hit with both kids – such a stunner of a day.

We celebrated Easter morning at home, with bunny ears in bed and goody baskets and the church service streaming while we ate our cinnamon rolls.

Juliette grabbed these ears from the Target dollar bin and was so excited to matchy-match her brother.  He really is like the best-ever baby doll sometimes.

Isaac can’t be trusted with hard-boiled Easter eggs, or with jelly bean-filled plastic eggs for that matter, so squeakers it is!  These have been the gift that keep on giving.

We put the finishing touches on our Easter treats and then headed over to the Rusts for Sunday brunch.

Hat buddies!

Juliette really wanted to do an egg hunt and the older boys were so sweet to indulge her and join the fun.

Ok, let’s be honest – the thirteen year-old was totally into it.

The photos we’ve taken on these steps!  So many memories with this bunch.

Buddy, I promise not to make you wear this headband again (for another 11 months), but lemme tell you…it looks so, so good on you.

And Mama-Jules pics, because hey!  I wore something other than leggings on a weekend.

My mom arrived on Easter evening to watch Isaac for week 3 (and 4, 5, 6…).  Again, he was a friendly little dude and settled right into Grandma’s arms.

There were a handful of days when Isaac ran her a little ragged (he’s not a dream all the time), but she took it in stride and loved on him throughout the short naps and the bouts of fussiness.  Plus, the extra set of hands in the kitchen to cook and clean up was invaluable as I adjusted to my new work day.  Shane and I were so, so thankful for her help.

In hindsight we should have done this more often during her time here, but on one precious evening we handed all kid duties to Shane and headed out for a cocktail.  We earned it.

April also saw the start of Spring soccer, and Isaac and I have found the lawn at Alki Playfields to be a perfect place to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Juliette gives it all she has every time, zipping up and down the field with flushed cheeks and tired legs.  Girl’s got heart.

And softball season continues!  Our weekends are a myriad of sporting events, and I love it.

Isaac loves it, too.

April evenings were spent walking around the neighborhood, savoring that fleeting season when the cherry blossoms and the tulips burst with peak color.

Our neighbor, Miss Pat, has an amazing collection of tulips – much as I’d love to make it up to Skagit Valley in the Spring, this suffices.

Isaac had a doctor’s appointment recently where a nurse told me that he had a “very mature face” (like an old man, I believe she meant?), and I see it here.  Maybe it’s the pre-bedtime sleepy lines under his eyes!

Juliette bikes around the block while we walk, and we cross paths every now and then.

One of my most favorite cherry blossom trees…

And a Friday morning walk with Nancy for more blossom viewing.

April felt busy as I transitioned to a new work-life balance, but there was still plenty of home time, plenty of hanging out in the yard…

Lounging on the sofa…

Puzzle-doing…

And lazy weekends with late wake-ups (Isaac, take a memo from your sister!).

Onto May – the joy in the juggling act continues.

Ah, March…March was full of long walks and longer naps as I soaked up my final few weeks of maternity leave.  That period of work-free life was made even more luxurious by the fact that Shane had a couple of weeks off between jobs, so we brunched with Isaac and played a little pickle ball and took more walks.  I ticked off a good chunk of to-do’s and then frantically relaxed, if that’s a thing, knowing how precious that time off of work was.

On the weekends Juliette joined us on our shenanigans.  Harry’s Beach House brunch is still our all-time fave.

March also brought on the onset of Juliette’s first softball season; she’s got team practice once a week, but requests bonus catching and batting time on evenings and weekends.

s

This patch of dirt at Hiwatha is where we spend our Saturday afternoons now!

And then, the long-anticipated first game!  The dugout was buzzing with excitement as girls pulled out their bats and helmets and checked the line-up.  Gosh, I love watching kids sports – what they lack in skill, they make up for in enthusiasm.

Gooooooo Dragons!

Juliette was a champ; she got a couple of hits, fielded a couple of grounders, and gleefully cheered on each of her teammates when they stepped up to the plate.

Isaac wins the award for Sweetest Spectator.

Game two was even more fun to watch, as the girls fell into the swing of things.

When we’re not soft-balling, we’re play-grounding.

This boy loves the feel of grass between his fingers – every time we set him down on a nice juicy lawn, he looks at me like, “why have you been keeping me inside all these months?!”.

Shane’s pickleball infatuation continues and has taken root in a good few of our friends.  I’m happy to hang with Isaac while the crew plays, but have hopped in for the occasional match.  I see the draw – a good volley is so satisfying.

March wasn’t all sunshine and playgrounds – there were plenty of rainy days that kept us indoors for tickle fights and snuggle fests.

And crafting!  Juliette had a few friends over one morning for a couple of hours of cutting and gluing and listening to Taylor Swift.

Isaac was the belle of the ball.  Little ham!

And finally, March brought Spring blooms.  Every year I find myself stunned by how good our neighborhood looks in the springtime.

Juliette gives cherry blossoms two thumbs up.

Misty mornings, sunny afternoons…either way, these tunnels of blooms are some kinda magic.

Walks with my boy…I love them so much.

It’s in the 60’s as I type this and I’m hoping we’ve put our beanies away for the season, but last month they got plenty of use.

I looked so happy carrying Isaac in the Ergo that Juliette decided to strap her favorite puppy to her chest.  She dressed him in one of Isaac’s old onesies and grabbed one of Isaac’s hats.  Such a little mama, this girl.

We strolled down this cherry blossom row, just a block from our house, every chance we got.

And then on April 4th I returned to the office and we all got to work finding our new groove.  It’s been easier and harder and better and worse than I expected, depending on the day.  I’m so thankful for those several months I had to focus just on holding my babes close.  Best job ever.

One last batch of island photos.  Need I even narrate?  More of the same old, same old.  That glorious Maui same old, same old…

We scored the perfect pool chairs on Tuesday morning and camped out there for several hours.  Isaac took his first and second naps poolside while Juliette popped out of the water only for her hourly sunscreen application.

I swam for awhile with Juliette while Isaac dozed in his dad’s arms.  I always went down the slides first, partly so that I could be at the bottom when Juliette landed, but also because I loved to look back at her as I slid out of view, her beaming at me and yelling, “Go Mommy!!!”.  Eight is great – she’s so much fun to pal around with these days.

And…he’s up again!  Time for lunch.

We drove up to Paia and chowed down on pizza from the Paia Flatbread Company – their Mopsy pizza with Kalua pork and pineapple and mange bbq sauce was outstanding.

Isaac and Juliette are achingly sweet together most of the time, but this picture is also quintessential – him unknowingly digging his nails into her arm or pulling her hair and her looking at him like, “Why would you do that?!”.

We popped over to Ho’okipa Beach after lunch to enjoy the crystal clear water and watch the kite surfers, but the wind kept us from lingering too long.  Take us back to our quiet little beach at Wailea!

Late afternoon pool play…

And then sunset at Makena Cove, which was just a few minutes south of our resort but a totally different beach landscape.

My attempts to get Isaac to nap that afternoon had been unsuccessful and I knew we were risking a sunset meltdown, but once Shane tucked him into the Bjorn, he fell into a silent daze.

Too…tired…to…fight…it.

Photog-in-training:

I had asked Juliette if she wanted to wear her swimsuit to the beach, but she said she didn’t want to get wet.  The call of the ocean never fails!  We both left with wet hems on our shorts.

Shane headed out for a cocktail with Jack after dark.  Isaac fell asleep without much fuss, Juliette started watching Hamilton for the umpteenth time, and then BANG!  We were all startled by an extensive fireworks display, which was a mostly-nice surprise, minus the baby wakeup.

Wednesday!  You know the drill.

We opted for beachfront chairs that morning and La Verne rented a couple of boogie boards for the kids.  Juliette mostly loved it, until a wave took her under and forced saltwater up her nose.

Who you lookin’ at with that mean mug, baby?!

I put Isaac in the Bjorn and waded out in the water with him, where the gentle waves could lap at his legs.

Reading break after another gnarly fight with a wave…

And more of this…  I remember feeling some baby fatigue that morning, wishing I could just put Isaac down and walk away for a couple of hours, but then a mom in a nearby chair saw me holding him and said with such sincerity, “Oh, I miss those days so much it makes my heart hurt!” and I recalibrated.  This phase is hard, but it’s also fleeting and so full of goodness when I lean into it.

The plus-side of holding a baby – nobody asks me if they can bury me in the sand!

Morning, Bud…

Juliette can’t ever resist the urge to try again.  I love that about her.

The sun felt particularly strong that day and we’d blown through most of our sunscreen, so we decided there was no shame in just enjoying an afternoon in our hotel room.

Juliette snuggled up with little bro…

And then I snuggled up with Shane, at which point Juliette exclaimed, “You two are so romantic!” and asked if she could snap a picture.  “Romantic” is one of her favorite words these days – I’m glad we make the cut.

Evening pool sesh…

And then over to the Chens’ beachfront cabana for pina coladas and one last sunset.

And…there it goes!  The kids clapped extra-loud for the sunset that night as whales flipped their fins and spouted water in the foreground.  

Tuckered.

We had an afternoon flight on Thursday, so we were able to squeeze in a couple of hours of beach play before heading the airport.

We don’t see nearly enough of these folks in Seattle – so fun to be neighbors for a few days.

And…the pool is on the way to the room, so why not?

Isaac and I headed back to the room to finish packing while Juliette and Shane did one last loop (or three) on the waterslides.  Oh, baby…you are not the easy-going-est of travel partners just yet, but I sure do like having you around.

Juliette tossed coins into the fountain as we were checking out – I asked her what her wish was and initially she said it was “to have kids some day”, but after realizing how high those stakes were and how hard it was to land a shot, she wisely adjusted course.  “I hope I have fun with my grandparents when they come to visit!”

Stuck it!

And with that, we were Seattle-bound.  I know, so many photos (kudos to Grandma Schnell for letting me know she’s looked at all of them!) but so many memories.  I want to remember forever how blonde Isaac’s hair looked in the sun, how it would get just the slightest bit curly after taking a warm nap in my arms.  I want to remember Juliette’s utter glee as she came down the waterslide, how her head would disappear underwater for just a moment and then she would emerge gulping and laughing.  Those sunrise walks with baby boy were the stuff of dreams.  Shane and Juliette’s matching Husky hats and the way those two play together as the very best of buds.  Acai bowls and fresh poke and a frosty pina colada, sipped with one of my favorite ladies.  We haven’t gotten out much these past couple of years, but ooff…what a way to re-emerge.

By Sunday we’d already fallen into a sweet little routine – I was up early with Isaac for coffee and a stroll, Shane and Juliette dozed for an extra hour or two, and then we rendezvoused at the beach to claim our chairs and soak up those morning not-too-hot hours of sun.  I came to love my sunrise walks with the baby, when the beach paths were quiet and the ocean was calm.  Traveling with a human alarm clock isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Now, onto the business of playing!  Let’s get to it!

Juliette and Nico bobbed in the waves and built sand castles and lounged on the beach chairs until the ocean called them back in again.

Freckle weather!  My favorite.

Ta-da!!!  A sand village, where all are welcome.

Meanwhile, Isaac intently watched it all go down.  He wasn’t quite ready to sit up in the sand on his own and spent all of his beach time in my or Shane’s arms.  My back was a little worse for the wear by the end of the week, but when I remembered how Juliette would dart straight into the ocean as a toddler when we visited Santa Monica, I relished the ability to keep Isaac close.

Isaac’s face here…  “Watch out for those waves, Mom!”

We found ourselves needing a sun-break by 11am and headed back to our room.  But since the pools are on the way, Juliette took a quick dip.  Swim life 4-ever.

We made the short drive up to Kihei for lunch at Kihei Cafe and then hopped over to Ululani’s for shave ice, which hits the spot like nothing else on a hot afternoon.

I’ll give you one guess as to how we spent our afternoon…

We found that our pools started to clear out around 4pm and so we took advantage of the mellow vibe and lingered until dinnertime.

While Isaac didn’t love the pool like his sister did, he’d tolerate bobbing around in Shane’s or my arms.  We’ll make a fish out of you yet, Buddy.

I recall this evening as one of our favorites – good moods all around, no plans to speak of, plenty of just soaking in the joy of the moment.

Sunset from our room…

And the sweetest silhouette.

Jazz hands for another stellar day.

We mixed it up on Monday morning – Shane got out for some pickle ball while Juliette and Nico took a ukulele lesson at the hotel.  First, though, ACAI!

While the kids worked on chords, I walked with Isaac.  I must have gone up and down this beach path a dozen times in our few days there, but it never got old.

I thought maybe we would leave the resort that day, but…nah.

The waterslides stopped running at 4pm, so Juliette and I darted to the topmost slide at 3:50 and managed to hit 9 out of 10 slides in 10 minutes.  We were quite proud of ourselves.

5pm beach rendezvous…

And a picnic dinner from Island Market at our favorite spot.

Something about a good sunset just makes you want to put your arms around the people you love.

I took Isaac back to the room while the rest of the gang went out for ice cream and while it was hard to bid farewell to our friends at 6:30, I can’t imagine a sweeter place to nurse a sun-kissed baby to sleep.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the last time our family boarded a plane was in February 2020 when we went to Maui for a glorious week of swimming and beaching and sight-seeing.  We’ve often harked back to that trip over the past couple of years – at the time, we were so blissfully unaware of how drastically life as we knew it was about to change.  Shane and I started making plans for Maui 2021 before we’d even landed back in Seattle!  Last year’s trip clearly didn’t happen, but we were bound and determined to spend this year’s mid-winter break someplace warm and sunny.  Since the Covid-related news is largely encouraging right now, and since we had the hotel points to luxe it up at the Grand Wailea, we decided to go for it – let’s bookend this pandemic (knock on wood) in Hawaii!

We were up at 4 am to catch our early flight and while the shlepping of the car seat and the extra baby stuff and the baby himself left Shane and me a bit sweaty by the time we got to the gate, we boarded without a hitch.  Let’s goooooo!

Juliette gave Isaac an ‘A’ for his in-flight behavior.  I knocked him down to an ‘A-‘ only because he pooped mid-way and changing a poopy diaper in an airplane bathroom is damn near impossible, but really, he did great.  Took a couple of naps, ate some snacks, squawked just a little, and loved looking out the window.

Big sis sent him mellow vibes when he started to get antsy.

He looked out at the other planes as we taxied on the runway in Maui and then looked over at me like, “Why don’t you ever let me sit in your lap on car rides?!”

We landed around lunchtime; I had a shoulder caked in spit up and the tiniest bit of baby poop on my shirt, but we made it!  A woman who had been sitting a couple of rows behind us stopped me in the Maui airport restroom to let me know I had such a sweet babe with such an attentive big sister.  Nailed it, kids.  It was another shlep to collect our bags and get our rental car, but we managed without any crises and started to see the light at the end of the travel tunnel as we pulled away from Avis and set our GPS to Wailea.  Juliette was starry-eyed even on the relatively unremarkable drive to the hotel, saying “anytime I see palm trees I know I’m someplace special”.  I was swept up in the excitement as we pulled up to our grand hotel entrance, replete with flowers and waterfalls and fountains.  Talk about special!

Our room wasn’t quite ready, but we grabbed our swimsuits from our bags and headed right to the changing rooms – Juliette was itching to get in the water.  We found a couple of empty chairs near the kids lagoon and got down to business!

We played in the water and ate poolside burgers and then got settled into our room.  I put Isaac down for nap while Shane and Juliette sat out on the patio, but…

Buddy was far too pumped to sleep.

We changed gears and Shane took Isaac for a walk to eke out a stroller nap while Juliette and I set out on the scavenger hunt the hotel put together for kids.  We found all the landmarks and then walked down to the next-door resort to grab drinks and dinner with the Chens, who had landed just a couple of hours after us. 

Cheers, friends!  I slurped down my Mai Tai, munched on some poke, and then took the kids to the outdoor lobby to let them get the rest of their post-flight wiggles out.

Dessert to-go, served with a side of sunset…

Ahhhh…the first night of vacation.  Such a blissful, so-much-to-look-forward-to kind of feeling.

Isaac was pooped by this point, so I took him back to the room and we watched the skies turn dark from our patio while the rest of the crew hung down by the water.

It’s like Juliette was offering Maui an arms-wide hug…this place is so very easy to love.

Falling asleep was hard for Isaac, but waking up was easy!  He started rustling at 5:30 on Saturday morning, so I threw on some clothes and took him out for a walk to allow Juliette to catch some much-needed extra Z’s.  I was bleary-eyed, but Isaac was quick to remind me that hey, it was actually 7:30 Seattle time.  Thank goodness the hotel coffee shop was open.

Being up before the sun isn’t high on my list of vacation to-do’s, but gosh – this moonlit walk really eased the pain.

Literally up with the roosters…

Isaac was napping before the sun even rose, but by this point I was high on beach endorphins.  Wearing a tank top at 7am?  Felt so good.

I met up with Shane and Juliette for breakfast and chowed down on the loveliest acai bowl.

Pool time!  We snagged chairs at our favorite spot, inflated Isaac’s little raft, and spent the whole morning swimming.

And napping.

And bein’ cute.

And swimming.

Jack and La Verne had scored an extra wrist band to allow Juliette to swim at their hotel pools, so we bopped over there around lunchtime.  These kids have been buddies since birth and it thrills me to see how much they still enjoy each other.  Plus, their shared love of water is insatiable.  A perfect vacation pair.

Baby in a sun hat!  [Insert ALL the heart emojis.]

We found ourselves in need of a sunbreak by early afternoon and spent a couple of hours relaxing in our room, but Juliette was itching to do the pool circuit again before dinner.  Sunscreen, swim, rest, repeat.

We ate dinner at our hotel and then headed to the beach for another stunner of a sunset.

The kids literally waved goodbye and then clapped for the sun as it made its final dip below the horizon, as if offering a big giant THANK YOU for all it did for them that day.

Kids playing wave tag is my most very favorite thing to bear witness to.

Goodnight, Maui!  More to come.

Winter was made bearable this year with our January getaway to Winthrop and a blissful February week in Maui (more on that later) – snow-breaks and sun-breaks do much to ease the gray-sky doldrums.  And in-between, when we don’t have the luxury of skipping town, we still do our best to get out of the house and catch a breath of fresh air.  Contrary to popular belief, there are actually breaks in the rain around here – I’ve got photos to prove it!

Isaac has been getting well-acquainted with each and every West Seattle playground over these past couple of months.  Though he’s not able to do much more than lean back in the baby swing, Juliette is eager to show him the ropes and will always offer him a lap-ride on the slide if he’s up for it.  Delridge Park has become a new favorite, mainly because there are pickle ball courts there and Shane gets his own form of play-time while we hit the swings.

 

Seahurst Park down in Burien was stunning on a sunny Sunday.

I’m so glad that Juliette still loves the swings.

Isaac is…still getting the hang of it.

Her face when she looks at him is everything.

 

Alki forever!  Juliette and I headed down to the beach for a scooter/walk one afternoon while Isaac was napping, then treated ourselves to boba.

We went back a few days later with brother in tow and hit up Whale Tail playground.

And…more beach boba.  Isaac was feeling very left-out, so I sat in the sand, leaned back on a piece of driftwood, and nursed him while I savored my jasmine milk tea.  Something for everyone.

 

Lincoln Park on a sunny day can’t really be beat.

Also, Lincoln Park’s baseball diamonds are the perfect place for Juliette to field some grounders in preparation for her Spring softball kick-off.

 

Hiwatha is great for the variety of playground equipment.  And the proximity to coffee / hot chocolate at Met Market.  Juliette and I have our priorities!

Her big grin and his little tongue.

…and Hiwatha today, while Shane and Juliette watched a Little League game at the ball field.

 

Westcrest is a playground we’d forgotten about until I started aimlessly scrolling the map of West Seattle looking for green spaces.  We met the Rusts there on a Saturday afternoon and climbed, zip-lined, swung, and played catch.

How many photos do I have of her pushing him in a swing?  Probably two hundred.

And counting.

 

We went to the Walt Hundley Playfield in Highpoint yesterday, again lured by Shane’s pickle ball obsession.  A group of little girls invited Juliette to play with them and they did a few rounds of hide and seek together, but in the end, she just wanted to push Isaac on the swing.

 

Shane and Juliette ventured to the mountains a few weeks ago for a bluebird day at Snoqualmie.  I stayed home with Isaac (and took him to the playground!) but loved getting pics of these two living their best ski life.

 

We’re still settling into Isaac’s nap schedule and often find that he needs a short doze around 5pm to get him through to bedtime.  I often need to get out of the house around 5pm to make up for a day of sitting in the rocking chair with little buddy.  Cue the evening stroller nap!

(I can see the days getting longer – hallelujah!)

 

Though we’re making a solid effort to embrace the outdoors, we still spend most of our time cozied up inside, watching pickle ball tournaments (I’ve stopped fighting it), reading books, and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat (we’re about seven years late to the game, but Juliette and I are obsessed).

Juliette and I look for little ways to make the long days special, like chocolate-covered strawberries and the sweetest table scape on Valentines.  On Friday nights we do face masks and watch a movie or an episode of Queer Eye.  Yesterday she dressed to the nines to go get a haircut.  She’s so great at making her own magic.

Cheers to being over the winter hump!  We’ll be seeing cherry blossoms in no time.

Since Isaac entered the scene, life has been a delicate dance of getting out just-enough but not-too-much.  While the weather and the pandemic and the baby’s four naps per day give us ample reason to just hole up and stay home, we want to make sure Juliette gets out and about – she’s a girl that loves to be on the move.  Shoot – I love to be on the move and have been teetering on the brink of stir-craziness for the past several weeks. And so we decided we’d roll the dice and plough ahead with our annual ski trip to Winthrop, extra baggage in tow.  Shane found an infant insert for our ski trailer, I bought the puffiest little snow suit I could find, and we were off!

We wisely broke up the drive there between two days and spent Thursday night in Wenatchee.  It was a modest room at a Garden Inn, but Juliette still oohed and ahhed over every detail (the beside reading lamps were a hit) and immediately asked if we could see if the TV played American Ninja Warrior.  Our home’s charm has definitely worn off a bit these past two years, so anything new and novel blows her mind.  Isaac was also vibing on the change of scenery.

We slept great, Isaac tucked into bed with me and Juliette over with Shane, and then we grabbed our caffeine and carbs from the nearby market early Friday before hitting the road to Sun Mountain Lodge.

All-star car snoozer!

It was a quick two hours to Winthrop, and then I got that familiar giddy feeling I get every time we start our final ascent up the mountain. Juliette and I wondered aloud how Floyd, the resident stuffed bison, was doing and we started planning which hot tub we’d dip into first and which ski trails we’d do which days.

We settled into our room in the Gardner cabins, which only took about 14 trips to and from the car, and then Isaac got comfy and extra-cute while Shane and Juliette headed to the lodge to rent her skis.

We bundled up and made the short drive to the Chickadee trailhead to ski the Beaver Pond loop.  This is such a zen, easy-going trail.  It was foggy that afternoon and while I missed the sun, the woods felt mystical and extra serene.

Isaac neither loved nor hated the ski trailer.  He just kind of zoned out, with a look on his face like, “Welp, I guess Mom is going to make me wear this ridiculous marshmallow suit after all…”.

Juliette is as fast as I am now on her skis, zipping across the flats and living for any little downhill slopes.

(Are we having fun yet, Buddy?!)

We ate dinner back in our room and then Juliette and I darted through the snow to the hot tub while Shane hung back with Isaac.

Books, baby snugs, bedtime…  Being in one room together meant that quiet time started at 7pm, but I didn’t mind.  I got so much reading done that weekend!

We did our best to stick to our typical nighttime routine, but letting a baby cry it out is hard to do when you’re sharing walls with strangers.  And the crib provided by the lodge was extra-deep and hard to get him in and out of, so I freed him from baby jail when he woke up to eat and he spent the rest of the night(s) in bed with Shane and me.  Sleep training, schmeep training…I knew we’d pay later (we did!), but I loved having him close those few nights, his chubby fist wrapped around my finger.

Shane was up and out the door early on Saturday to do some solo skiing.  We made plans to meet up in a couple of hours for a family ski; in the meantime, the kids and I did some wandering around the grounds to enjoy the morning sun on the mountains.

We found Shane down by the MCT and did a couple of hours of skiing along the river and through the open fields.  Isaac dozed for a bit, Juliette perfected her shuffle, shuffle, glide, and I started planning our early retirement (one can dream!).

Fog had settled in the valley again and there were stretches of the trail that felt almost spooky.

Another great ski in the books!

We reserved a dome on the back patio at Schoolhouse Brewery for lunch and cozied up inside with burgers and beer (and kombucha) apres-ski.  CHEERS!

We relaxed back in the room for awhile after lunch and then bundled up again for our 3 pm sleigh ride.

We did this ride at our first trip to Sun Mountain three years ago and were thrilled to see Daisy and Gregory still at the helm.

So nice to be above the fog!

We were the only ones on the sleigh that afternoon and so Juliette got to spend extra time loving on the horses while Red, our host, made us hot chocolate in the tent.

It was a fast dip back down the mountain and Juliette loved picking up the extra speed.  Isaac was pretty chill about the whole thing and mostly just wanted to chomp on Shane’s finger (this was the weekend before his teeth broke through).

Juliette and I wrapped up the day with a little ski practice on the slope in front of our cabin (she wanted to give me a few pointers), then we soaked our tired legs in the hot tub.

This place is such a dream…

We didn’t have anything officially on the books for Sunday, so we took our time drinking our coffee and hot chocolate, played a little pool in the game room, and then treaded through the fog (more fog!) over to the sledding hill.

Isaac crashed hard for his mid-day nap and needed a little coaxing for our afternoon adventure.  Time to ski, kiddo!

The fog was doing a reverse trick that day, as it was thick up on the mountain, but bright and clear down in the valley at Mazama.  This was a new stretch of trail for us and we loved it.  Plenty of mountain views, quiet wooded stretches, and peeks at the river.

We hopped out of our skis at Jack’s Pizza Hut, grabbed an early dinner, and headed back up the mountain.

Isaac got his second wind right around bedtime, of course.

He eventually settled, though, and Juliette and I snuck away for one last hot tub run.  I don’t get a lot of one-on-one time with my best little bud anymore, so these soaks together felt extra special.

Monday was go-day and super-frosty.  We grabbed our morning beverages and decided to cap off the trip with a couple more sled runs.

Oh, Isaac – you’re such a good sport.

Sled runs done and selfies snapped, we deflated the inner tube and did the reverse 14 trips to load up the car.  What a gorgeous, fun-filled, completely exhausting few days….  Snow-cationing with a baby is no joke – as I wandered the empty halls of the lodge with him at 6am one morning, wanting to save Juliette from her squawking brother so she could get another hour of rest, I thought about the days when the three of us would sleep in, without our human alarm clock in tow.  When we could ski for hours without fear of a baby meltdown.  There was one year that we stayed up past 10 pm to head outside and gaze at the super moon.  Things felt…free and easy.  Now they feel…full and hard?  But I hope, hope, hope we’re planting seeds of mountain wonder in Isaac’s little heart, showing him early that there’s so much beauty and joy to be found in the PNW.  I’m convinced it’s worth the effort.  And to my crew, in case they need the pep talk: Isaac, this place worth the five hours in your car seat!  Shane, it’s worth the endless schlepping of stuff (I appreciate your schlepping skills SO VERY MUCH).  Juliette, it’s worth having to share a room with your restless, squawky brother.  It’s all worth it.  See you next year, Floyd.

I’ve found it!  The antidote to the post-Christmas blues!  It’s a fresh dumping of fluffy white snow.  We were thrilled to roll into our driveway after our Portland trip to find our neighborhood blanketed in a couple of inches of powder – kids were out with their inner tubes and sleds, the occasional cross-country skier was passing by on the sidewalk, and the air was thick with that particular brand of PNW snow-day giddiness.  We unloaded the car in record time and then Juliette was back out the door to tube with the neighbors.

Christmas lights and freshly fallen snow are two of my favorite things.

We spent one afternoon at the Rusts’ neighborhood, sledding down the somewhat treacherous hill near their house and then cozying up inside for card games and snacks.

I trekked with the kids to Starbucks one morning while Shane ran some errands.  This was some hard-earned hot chocolate!

I picked up some discounted Christmas decor from the art store during our outing and ended up with my hands fuller than expected, but I managed the mile-walk home.

Isaac, though, was exhausted by my efforts…

And…more sledding!  So much sledding.  Shane was off work that full week after Christmas and so we had beaucoup playtime.  We didn’t throw Isaac down any big hills, but he liked sitting in Juliette’s lap for a gentle skid along the sidewalk.

This girl, though, has a need for speed.

We spent one morning with Juliette’s best school buddies, cruising down the street in front of their house.

And then a cocoa elf appeared with a tray full of drinks for the kids (and me!).

I walked home with Isaac while Shane hung back per Juliette’s request to please do just a few more runs.  Teddy bear was tuckered, again.

Our neighbors passed off this baby sled when they were cleaning out their garage over the summer and we discovered that with a thick enough snow suit, Isaac could be wedged in there to stay fairly upright.

More snow toys emerged from the garage as the week went on…

More sledding fun was had…

There were snow angels…

And family walks…

And then a whole lot of lounging by the fireplace.

I don’t know that we’ve ever rested so well as a family – it became difficult to figure out what day of the week it was.  And it was amazing.

We ended 2021 in the same way we ended 2020, with a quiet evening at home.  We played some games, watched the ball drop, and toasted our glasses of sparkling cider.

One last sleepover…

And then we awoke on Saturday to a fresh new year!  Shane’s all about starting the year with a shock to the senses, so he was all in for the annual Alki Polar Plunge.  Juliette heard that a couple of her friends would be doing it with their mom and decided that she wanted to join in the fun, too.  I thought there was about a 55 percent chance that she would bail once she got to the beach and felt how cold it was, but she was quickly swept up in the adrenaline of the crowd and peeled off her coat with the rest of them once the countdown began.  No turning back now, baby girl!

Dunk, Jules, dunk!

And done!  I was so stinking proud of her.

“I can’t believe I just did that!”

Polar Bears:  The Next Generation…

Jason and Jordan also plunged and we found them down the beach afterward.

The gang convened at our house for hot chocolate and coffee cake.

And then there was an intense snowball battle in the backyard, during which Jason grabbed a shovel and just started pitching scoops of snow toward the opposing team.

We said our good-byes and cozied back up at our respective houses.

The snow turned to rain on Sunday morning and so Juliette took advantage of the super-sticky conditions to build a quick snow-lady with a neighbor friend.

They named her Angel and she lived a sweet-but-very-short life.

By Monday morning most of the snow had melted, Shane was back at work, and school was (almost) back in session.  Juliette and I took down the Christmas tree and we shelved our holiday music and movie playlists.  BAM.  The holidays were decidedly over and it was back to business as usual.  Which for me, for at least a few more weeks, means rocking chair naps with my boy, Project Runway afternoons with my girl, and regular family dinners (those I’m not giving up, ever).  January, I’m here for you.

We had such a sweet, festive December that Christmas itself kind of felt like icing on the cake. Twinkly lights and meals with friends and living room sleepovers and a trip to Portland to see the family?!  How lucky were we?  The anticipation was just so, so good this year.

We drove down to my brother’s house on Thursday, stopping once so that I could nurse Isaac in a Safeway parking lot while Shane and Juliette darted into a Starbucks for coffee and lemon loaf – gone are the days of “powering through” without a pitstop, at least for now. We were greeted by the cousins and my parents, who all remarked over how much Isaac had grown since they had seen him in the fall.  Juliette was eager to get her hands on Bina, Grandma was eager to get her hands on the baby.

Christmas Eve was lazy – games and cookie decorating and plenty of lounging.  Morgan and Juliette convinced my dad to play Mario Kart and then delivered him a solid whooping.  C’mon girls – have a little Christmas mercy!

The kids each got to open a Christmas Eve present…

There was the traditional viewing of the Polar Express…

And then cookies and an apple (we were out of carrots!) were left out for Santa and his reindeer by these two little elves.

By the time I came upstairs on Christmas morning, gifts had been sorted into neat little piles for each person – Morgan and Juliette were vibrating with anticipation and eagerly counting down to our 8:30 rendez-vous time (Elise likes to sleep in!).  Finally, the clock struck half-past, the family was gathered, and the wrapping paper started to fly.

(Isaac wanted to trade the cloth avocado I put in his stocking for the Skittles Juliette had in hers.  Fat chance.)

Juliette asked Santa for shoes this Christmas, and he came through with a pair of riding boots.

Juliette is so sweet and enjoys watching people open presents as much as she enjoys opening gifts herself.  She gives a friendly little clap after each unwrapping, like, “Wow! You’re so lucky you got that!”

Could it really be…?

A Hogwarts sweatshirt for our little Harry Potter fan!

Whew!  The calm after the gift-opening hurricane.

Being spoiled is tiring, huh, kid?

We got out for a short walk before lunch but the cold sent us back inside before long.  Morgan was desperate for a white Christmas and was thrilled to see a few flakes start to fall, though they quickly petered out.

Isaac threw the fit to end all fits that afternoon but eventually conked out in my arms.  I guess the excitement of it all was just too much.

Juliette played with Shane’s new Oculus…

Was wowed by Elise’s Illustration skills…

Played a very rambunctious game of hallway dodgeball with her uncle…

And this kid kept sleeping.

Isaac “opened” a couple more gifts once he got his second wind.

There we go, buddy!  Look alive!

Shane and Mitch took the girls to the school in the afternoon to test out Morgan’s new basketball and Elise’s new volleyball (sport-playing is Shane’s love language).

Then Juliette unwound in the hot tub.

And I unwound on the couch with my favorite guy and glass of Cabernet.

We had our traditional country ham for dinner and I felt exceedingly thankful for the people around the table but intensely missed the family not there.  Minnesota clan, you were held near and dear in our hearts!

We ended the night with more games, more togetherness.  Juliette and Morgan made up a game called “Tickle Doctor” and convinced my brother to play – it bordered on torture, but I watched from a safe distance and laughed till I cried.

We woke up Sunday morning to a day-after white Christmas – Juliette and Morgan frolicked in the front yard for a bit and I bundled up Isaac for his first romp in the snow.

My parents had hit the road early that morning, but the cousins got a couple of hours of chill time while Shane loaded our circus of stuff into the car.

And then we were homeward-bound.  I hopped into the backseat near Tacoma to soothe an antsy baby, which came with the added bonus of cozying up next to Juliette.

Almost there, Buddy!

And…made it.

The kids opened the last of their presents at home and while Isaac had no clue that half that stuff was for him, sister was awfully stoked on his behalf.

Gah!  The things this girl will show and teach you, Isaac.

Juliette made use of her fashion plates from Auntie Tiff…

Isaac modeled his new pajamas from Grandma Schnell…

The last 2021 ornament was hung on the tree…

And then it was onto New Years.  And SNOW.  The fun continues…

December. This month is never quite long enough for me. I could always go for about nine more days of twinkly lights and holiday movies and that magic, joyous advent anticipation. Being home every day did afford me some extra quality time with the Christmas tree, but still, the month passed in a flash. Are we really chucking the 2021 calendar tomorrow?!

Despite December’s apparent brevity, we were able to make good on most of our holiday traditions. This year I jotted down our favorite activities on slips of paper and tucked them into Juliette’s Christmas countdown garland so as not to lose track.

We made sugar cookies and dried orange garland…

(Juliette got creative with the leftover bits of dough…)

We visited the neighborhood’s beloved Menashee house, with all its Christmas kitsch.

And then Juliette and I took our own drive around West Seattle one night after Isaac was in bed, zig-zagging up and down the blocks in search of our very favorite lights and pit-stopping at 7-11 for hot cocoa.

(I had to bring Isaac back to this sweet little house on 48th during one of our evening walks.)

The rascally elf ran all over the house during the day and then played hide and seek with Juliette when she came home from school.

We shared a holiday meal with our chosen family, in the form of Saturday brunch at the Rusts.

Isaac was very comfortable in Nancy’s lap and eventually dozed off while the grown-ups yukked it up.

Isaac’s first Christmas present!

(He says thanks.)

We rounded out the morning with a game of hide and seek.  Jason…I SEE YOU.

Juliette has decided this year that the jig is up and she doesn’t in fact believe Santa is real, but she still jumped at the chance to visit him at a nearby real estate office on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Shane’s office mailed him a gingerbread kit and so I passed the construction baton to him this year, with Juliette running point on decorations.

And Juliette’s favorite tradition, our annual sleepover by the Christmas tree on the first night of winter break.

My body loves this tradition less and less as I get older, but my heart loves it more and more.

Isaac was not invited to the slumber party, but was welcome to join us early the next morning.

We added a few new things to our 25 days of Christmas, like a hot chocolate bar, with a specific request from Juliette to make it “extra-fancy”.

We’ve added peppermint meringues to our baking repertoire (followed by “take a treat a neighbor”).

And several days of super-simple to-do’s, like “take a picture of Isaac in a Santa hat” and “tell a family member what you’re thankful for” (I’m thankful for those chubby thighs!!!).

“Read a Christmas book.”

And “light a bunch of candles and relax by the fire”, which was done on the evening we were hit with an unexpected power outage.

In other December happenings, I snuck away for a night of kid-freeness with Nancy and La Verne while Shane held down the fort at home.  Long live Cedarbrook!  We hot-tubbed and soul-shared and watched Crazy Rich Asians and You’ve Got Mail while eating ice cream in bed.

No ladies weekend is complete without an outlet mall bonanza.

I bought the kids matching Christmas pajamas and sheesh, my heart.  They might be wearing these till February.  Or June, if Isaac stops growing like a weed.

It snowed for all of eight minutes right before Christmas and Juliette excitedly darted outside to catch a few flakes on her tongue.  She had no idea that we were in for several inches a few days later!

She was thrilled by watching Isaac experience his first snowfall.  He was…not as thrilled.  But he tolerated it.

Juliette dressed to the nines for her school’s Wacky Tacky Day to celebrate the last day before Christmas break.  Girl’s got style!  And an extreme fondness for the color pink.

She put on her Santa hat a week before Christmas and donned it everywhere, even wearing it to bed most nights.

And finally, these two have been so heart-achingly adorable over the past month.  Isaac hasn’t the foggiest idea what Christmas means, but Juliette’s excitement over sharing this season with him is so stinking sweet.  She’s my ultimate partner in magic-making.

Cookies baked, cocoa drank, garland strung…now onto the main event!