Archive for the ‘jules’ Category

Last snow post of the (already-long-gone) season!  We had such a good time in Leavenworth that I couldn’t resist booking us a February weekend near Winthrop.  Our cabin was in the small town of Brewster and overlooked the snow-covered vineyards at Lone Point Cellars.  I’d love to see this view in the summertime, preferably with a crisp Sauv Blanc in hand.

We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday, but when Juliette and I wrapped ourselves in blankets to step out and take in the view from the porch, we saw blue skies in the distance.

Juliette and Shane have become a couple of downhill junkies this winter, so we agreed we’d do one ski day on the slopes and one ski day on the flats.  We spent Friday at Loup Loup, a little gem of a resort tucked into the mountains between Okanagan and Twisp.  I suited up with my rental skis and hopped on the mini-lift right behind Juliette, inspired by her confidence.

“You can do it, Mama!”

We got in a few good family runs on the lower slopes and then Shane and Juliette hopped on the big-kids lift for a looooong run down the mountain.  I was feeling good on my skis but not that good, so I stayed behind and sipped my thermos of tea.

20 minutes later, Juliette came barreling down the mountain with her arms raised in victory, Shane on her heels.  Such a little champ.

We did a few more family runs, checked out a couple of detours, and then Shane and Juliette were back on the lift while I happily unbuckled my heavy boots and called it day.

I decidedly can’t keep up with these two, but trying was awfully fun.

We ate dinner back at our cabin, played a couple of rounds of Rummy, and then piled into the king-sized bed for a movie.  We slept hard that night.

Saturday was cross-country day, so after carrot cake and cinnamon rolls from our beloved Rocking Horse bakery, we hit the Methow Community Trail for a few hours of skiing in the slow lane.

THIS PLACE.  Gets me every time.  Get ready to scroll…

The downhills on this stretch of the MCT were just right – fast enough for a minor rush, but not so steep that I crashed and burned.

We covered quite a bit of ground before trudging through knee-deep powder to take a snack break under a tree.

And, back to it!

Cross-country skiing with Juliette certainly takes more coaxing than a day at the lifts, but still, this girl’s got stamina.  Plus, I keep a pocket full of gummy worms.

Rallying for the final stretch back to the car – get it, Jules!

We made it back to the car and then Juliette asked if we could do just a little of the downhill run the other direction.  But of course!

We did ten minutes of an uphill shuffle and then turned around for the payoff.  It was a long and steady run back down, but this girl kept knees bent, head up, body in control.  Another skier watched her fly past and then said to me, “Looks like she’s a little Olympian!”

Her freckles sure shine on a bluebird day!

We had late lunch reservations at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which offered “private heated domes” on their back patio, each with their own HEPA filter.  We were intrigued.

It was a pretty sweet little setup, though I can tell you that a layer of plastic and a tiny space heater hardly keep you toasty in the midst freezing temps.  BUT, hot fries and a burger are so freaking good after a full day of skiing.

Back at the cabin, after some icicle shenanigans, we cozied in for the night with more cards and the rest of our movie.

Sunday morning was lazy as we milked our 11am checkout time…

And then put another idyllic snow-cation in the books.  Now bring on Spring!

And, before the cherry blossoms fully burst forth, more snow pics!  We spent a long weekend in Leavenworth back in January, logging some serious miles on our cross-country skis.  The Sleeping Lady Lodge is such a dreamy winter retreat…

…even if COVID forces you to eat your pizza out on the patio in 30-degree temps.

We were up and at ’em early on Saturday to hit the nordic trails at Stevens.

It was a bit of a slow start with a lot of uphill in the beginning, but we eventually found our groove.

Juliette took a couple of tumbles that momentarily shook her confidence, but she always managed to muster the will to get up and go on.

Snack break!

That early-on uphill I mentioned made for some pretty fast downhill on the way back, which Juliette and I conquered with mixed degrees of success.

She’s got the downhill form down pat.

And…she sticks the landing!

Meanwhile, as I was skidding to a stop on my butt, a well-intentioned man that was passing by said, “You know, there’s no shame in walking down some of these hills!”.  Thanks, dude.

We spent the afternoon back in our cozy room, reading and napping.

And then headed back out before dinner for some sledding.

I’m telling you, this girl’s got a serious need for speed.

We traipsed around the playground for a bit, Juliette found a snow-baby she could rock in her arms and feed with an icicle bottle, and then we called it a day.

We stayed closer to “home” on Sunday and decided to carry our skis over to the trail right near our cabin.

It’s been awhile since we’ve wintered in Leavenworth and I forgot how beautiful the Icicle River Trail is on a bluebird day.

I could follow in the tracks of these two all day long.  Such a happy sort of zen.

We found an idyllic little spot near the river to sit on our jackets and eat our lunch.  I mean, I just don’t know how winter gets any better than this.

Fueled by beef jerky and gummy worms, we trekked back to our cabin with record speed.

We spent another lazy afternoon in our room and then went for a short hike before dinner to stretch our legs and toss some snowballs.

The Christmas lights were still up in town and were kitschy as all get-out, but worth a nighttime stroll.

And then, one more game of Rummy (we’re a bunch of card sharks now!) to close out a stellar day.

We begrudgingly checked out of our cabin on Monday morning, but decided to have one last go on our skis at Wenatchee State Park before heading west.  The three of us camped here a couple of summers ago and I was curious to see what it looked like with a blanket of snow.

We off-trailed a bit (without our skis) to get down to the lake – last time we were here, these mountains were hidden behind a veil of forest fire smoke.  I much prefer this view.

Back in the grooves…

Oh, ski bunny.  I LOVE YOU.

Our legs were feeling rubbery after a couple of miles, so we tossed our skis in the trunk and then walked over to the mondo sledding hill to get our final snow fix.

Soak it in, Juliette.  These perfect winter weekends don’t come around too often (unless Mama catches ski fever and promptly books a February trip to Winthrop – that’s up next!).

January and February are notoriously tough months in Seattle.  The holiday twinkle has waned, Spring still feels painfully far away, and it takes monumental will to muster the get-up-and-go to venture out into the gray, gray days.  Snow days have been our saving grace – we’ve packed several Q1 weekends with trips out east, for quick Sunday jaunts on our skis or full-on getaways at cozy mountain retreats.  A few weeks ago, Jason invited us to join him and his boys at Meany Lodge, a rustic ski lodge that boasts the tallest rope tow in the state and low-pressure vibes perfect for kids (and adults) to find their ski legs.  We left our house at 7am on a Sunday morning and by 8:15 were piling into the sleds or grabbing a handle on the rope to be pulled behind a snow-mobile for the three-mile trail from the parking lot to the lodge.  While the guys had fun with the water-skiing simulation, Juliette and I were more than happy to watch from the sled.

Juliette and her little buddy took to the mini-rope tow right away and were ready to upgrade to the grown-up hill after only a few runs.

I love watching this girl ski – she has mastered the perfect balance of bravery and caution.  Does me proud without making my heart jump up in my throat!

Meanwhile, I let caution prevail opted to stay on the flats with my cross-country skis…

Lunch was served just up the hill, a short sled ride away…

And then Juliette squeezed in a handful of afternoon runs.

Calling it a day and piling in for the return trip to the car…

We had such a good time that we decided to go back a couple of weeks later, this time with more friends in tow.

Thumbs-up!

And…tuckered.

I traded in my cross-country skis for downhills and managed to end the day with all bones intact.

Heading back…

And…tuckered.  Part two.

A week after our trip to Meany Lodge, the snow actually came to us!  After several days of watching the forecast with much anticipation, flakes started falling on a Friday night and had blanketed our neighborhood by Saturday morning.  Snow day!

There was biking and sledding and snow angels, oh my.

Truly, there’s nothing like the novelty of a Seattle snow day.  Neighbors you haven’t seen for months emerge from their homes with sleds or cross-country skis and turn the middle of the street into a giant playground.

Post-sledding, I headed indoors for hot tea and dry socks, but these kids were insatiable.

And then an evening stroll…

Sunday brought even more flakes, so we headed back outside after our morning pancakes.

Thankful for West Seattle topography!

Seriously, the streets were a complete sledding free-for-all.  I’m so glad no one tries to drive anywhere when it snows in Seattle.

Sophie the snow lady came together quickly…

As did the perfect snowball-launching fort:

I took a walk through Schmitz Park in the afternoon to soak in the snow-covered silence, as I knew it would be short lived.  Indeed, rain started falling that night and by Monday poor Sophie was headless.  What a weekend, though.

It was a slow advent, but a fast January.  Work mayhem and national mayhem and maybe a lack of vitamin D have tuckered me out this month.  But I’m resetting work boundaries and taking my supplements and am back with a boatload of Christmas pics to share!

The lead-up to Christmas was quiet but fun – Juliette opened a few of her many gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Schnell over Zoom on the 23rd.  It was a very meager substitute for the gift-opening we had hoped to do together at Thanksgiving, but it was something.

The unicorn robe was a hit.

And then it was Christmas Eve!  Samuel, our countdown Santa, marked ONE day till Christmas, which was our cue to hit the road to Portland.

I know Juliette loves Shane and me, but it was clear from the moment we walked through Mitch’s front door that she’d been awfully desperate for some new playmates.

The girls hung a Do Not Enter sign on the bathroom door in the afternoon and spent a very secretive hour in there, only to emerge at dinnertime with glittery eyelids and freshly-brushed tresses.  Juliette and I were talking last week about how different siblings and family members can be from one another, at which point she reminded me that her and Morgan are a lot alike, because Morgan also likes to be fancy.

Dresses were swapped for cozy pajamas for the annual viewing of The Polar Express.  One of my favorite traditions.

Meanwhile, things got a little rowdy in the kitchen with a deck of cards and a bottle of Grand Marnier.

Milk and cookies for Santa, carrots for his reindeer, and then it was off to bed for these little elves!

Santa’s sleigh must have been extra-heavy this year, what with a new bike for Juliette and a kayak for Morgan and Elise.

I love the late hours of Christmas Eve, when all the shopping and wrapping and prepping is done and I’m able to sit back for a moment and quietly anticipate the joy and holiness of Christmas Day.

Morgan and Juliette were up bright and early, and HOLY CHRISTMAS!  Such a fun surprise.

Once Elise was roused from her pre-teen slumber, the wrapping paper started to fly.

Juliette very modestly asked Santa for a stuffy and a coloring book and he came through on both fronts.

Juliette was asking for weeks what was in the big big box under the Christmas tree…

A Baby Yoda for my Mando fan!  This “little guy” turned out to be MUCH larger than the online description led me to believe.

He’s been well-loved, even if he does often end up squeezed off the bed and onto the floor in the middle of the night.

Cheers, Shane.

Whew!  Damage done.

Gifts opened and breakfast eaten, the afternoon was a haze of snacking and game-playing.  Morgan gathered everyone in the living room for a game of Bean-Boozled, which she DJ’d on Juliette’s new microphone. (By the way, THANKS for the microphone, Auntie Tiff!  Juliette just discovered it has a robot-voice setting.  And the volume seems to be non-adjustable).

Juliette went first as we all sat by to see if her white jelly bean was flavored like coconut or spoiled milk.  This face says it all.

And this is the look of a man that just ate a jelly bean flavored like canned dog food.

I’m always surprised by how incredibly amusing it is to watch someone eat candy that’s flavored like rotten eggs.

Onto a safer bet…

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Parcheesi marathon!

It’s become tradition that my dad orders a country ham for Christmas dinner every year – one bite takes me back to my childhood days when Nannie and Grandaddy Jarrell would come visit us with one of these salty, delicious hunks of pork in their suitcase.  Almost as good as Nannie’s homemade fudge.

We kept the lazy vibes going the day after Christmas…

But did rally for some tennis practice.

We all parted ways on the 27th and spent the next couple of days back in Seattle getting Juliette comfortable on her sweet new wheels.

There was one last slumber party by the Christmas tree…

(Seriously, guys – this thing is HUGE!)

A quick post-boba stop at Occidental Square…

Some requisite family pics by the tree…

And then we were calling it quits on 2020!  We partied hard on New Years Eve with sparkling cider and two games of Clue.  I missed having our crew with us that night for our annual fiesta, but going to bed at 10pm felt pretty good.

Finally, finally we found ourselves turning the calendar page and ushering in a bright and shiny new year.  We’ve made a tradition of visiting Lincoln Park on New Years Day and zipped over there to bike and skip rocks during a short break in the rain.

This place always brings out the thankful vibes in me…partly because it’s so lovely, but also because it draws forth so many happy memories of our family’s simple joys.  Rocks and water.  All we need.

Happiest of New Years, friends (29 days late!).

Welp, we’ve added the downtown Christmas carousel, my ladies weekend getaway, and the Nutcracker to the list of things we didn’t do in 2020.  Bah. Humbug.  I’m a sucker for the holiday fanfare and have missed the glitzy lights, the merriment of evenings spent with our closest friends.  BUT (COVID is all about finding the “but”) this December has still been full of wonder, in a quieter, simpler sort of way.  Our wide-open calendar has given us space to pause and drive straighter to the core of advent in meditating upon Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Juliette made an advent wreath at the beginning of the month and we created a nightly ritual of lighting the advent candles at dinner each night, starting with Hope and making our way closer to Love with each passing week.

I saw something on Instagram at Thanksgiving about using M&M’s and a cue card to play a game of gratitude and we did something similar during the week of Hope, each of us picking an M&M from a bowl after dinner and using this card to share some of our deepest (or lightest!) hopes.

Juliette and I jotted down a note before bed each night and hung it on our Advent Tree – she went big with her first hope:  I hope we have a good Christmas and COVID gets better and we have a good new year.

There’s been plenty of Christmas fluff, too – this is the year I found the time to play Elf on the Shelf, hiding this guy around the house each night to be sought out by Juliette each morning.

And so much Christmas crafting!  Dried orange garlands and sugar cookies and our best-ever gingerbread house.

We worked hard on our mantle game.

And Juliette wrote a very polite letter to Santa with some modest requests.

I’ve been getting up early to sneak in a walk before work and feel a happy buzz when I walk by a house that has left its lights on through the wee hours of the morning.

As winter approached and the sun rose later my walks got darker, but there were a couple of days when the full moon lit my path.

…and then dawn broke.  So good.

I see you, Rainier, and I love you!

We’ve fought the urge to hole up entirely and have done plenty of traipsing through Schmitz Park.

And, bonus:  a wide open lawn at the end of the trail!

There she goes.

We did a short hike at Twin Falls on a chilly Sunday.

And then there are some traditions I fought to keep alive, like the trip out to our beloved tree farm at Mountain Creek.  I snagged one of the last early-December weekend reservations, we made the drive, and then masked up to hunt for the best Grand Fir we could find.

Found it!

No hot cider this year, but the mountains were as lovely as ever and they still doled out candy canes as we left.

And then…tree trimming!  Crank up the Charlie Brown Christmas, Shane.

Opening up our ornament collection and spreading a lifetime’s worth of memories out on the living room floor is one of my most cherished traditions.

Juliette and I have sister bunny ornaments who have taken on personalities of their own through our goofy role-plays – Phoebe and Monica have very strong southern accents and love to go dancing downtown late at night.

SO COZY.

We brought some extra twinkle to Juliette’s room and though I think these lights are entirely too bright to leave on while sleeping, she insists.

The ginormous downtown light show at CenturyLink Field was cancelled this year, but we made do with a nighttime stroll through our neighborhood with the Rusts.  Our neighbor’s collection of inflatables grows with each passing year.

And this sweet house!  Shane runs by this place nearly every day and watched this woman spend two weeks stretching lights across her lawn and house.

And finally, COVID can’t stop the annual Mama-Jules slumber party by the tree to celebrate the onset of Christmas break.

We actually spent most of last weekend laying on the living room floor, reading and playing cards and snoozing there Friday and Saturday night.

We climbed out of our blanket nest on Sunday morning to eat our doughnuts from 9th and Hennepin and Juliette declared the Pannetone raised glazed a favorite, because the whipped cream on the side “had a texture that’s very soothing”.  A budding food critic, this kid…

I suppose the holidays at home ain’t so bad – it suits my introverted side and the extra time to reflect has mostly done me good.  But come Christmas 2021, you better believe we’ll be shouting Hope, Peace, Joy and Love from the rooftops like a flock of pink-coated Santas atop a herd of rainbow unicorns.

November can be tough.  Cold and gray and often more winter-like than autumn-like as branches go bare and daylight wanes.  This past November bore the extra burden of election anxiety as we watched the Presidential race unfold – that first week was a haze of watching maps go red and blue while 270 hung in the balance.  Though I largely tried to put the election coverage away when Juliette was in the room, we did use last month to teach her the value of our vote – she sat with me while I filled out my ballot and we walked to our local ballot box at lunchtime while talking about what makes a person a good leader.

After a handful of restless nights and far too many hours of watching John King wave at his magic map, we awoke on Saturday morning to the news of Biden’s victory.  Juliette ran to the computer to drag Pennsylvania’s electoral votes into the NY Times interactive blue bubble, just to be sure, and then called it for herself.

Biden / Harris 2020!

I know this election didn’t go the way that several people close to me wanted it to and so I’ll try not to gush, but I will say that the renewed sense of hope in our household and our city was palpable.  We cracked open a bottle of Veuve and a fancy Kombucha on Saturday night and cozied up in front of the TV to watch Joe and Kamala take the stage.  I told Juliette it was a big night, so she dressed the part.

It was a moment I won’t forget, watching my daughter watch a woman take the stage as Vice President Elect.  It’s about stinking time.

November graced us with a handful of sunny days, which we seized upon as chances to do more wandering through Lincoln Park.

Seriously, November sun in Seattle brings out the giddiness in all of us.

I realized on this walk that there’s actually a good chunk of Lincoln Park I haven’t yet explored.  This place is such a gem.

These two…making their own fun wherever they go.

Alki Beach is also beautiful on a sunny late November afternoon if you can bear the wind and the the cold.

Juliette and I spent a half hour drawing in the sand and playing tag before admitting to each other that our fingers and toes were freezing and we couldn’t take it much longer.

(Schnell family portrait!)

We’re loving electric scooter rides along the waterfront on Sunday afternoons.

But again, freezing.

Thanks to the kind folks at Starbucks for warming us up.

We’ve been extra-careful about our interactions these past few weeks as COVID case counts have climbed and so have had to get creative when it comes to socializing in the dark and the cold.  This worked!

Also, park dates with friends have been good.  We spend a Saturday wandering the trails of Camp Long with the Rusts.

This place is full of places to climb – Juliette got very good at scaling this wall very fast.

Jason lamented a couple of weeks ago that they didn’t have any recent family photos, so I pulled out my camera and grabbed a snapshot of the four of them.

Plus this:

Jason returned the favor.

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this little grove till now!  It’s an 8-minute drive from our house and stunning on a sunny fall day.

And…the wide-open lawn.  Juliette’s favorite.

A few random snaps from my phone…

West Seattle goodness:

Whipped cream goodness:

Harry Potter board game goodness (we’re obsessed):

Virtual play date goodness (watching girls play Barbies over FaceTime is highly entertaining):

Schmitz Park goodness:

And lazy mornings in bed with books!  So, so good:

Now, on to the business of Thanksgiving, which was not at all like we’d planned it to be, but was still full of reasons to be thankful.  We had to cancel our long-anticipated trip to Minnesota, so I bought cranberries and potatoes and ham and we settled in at home yet again.

Juliette was on cranberry sauce duty and totally nailed it, orange zest and all.

Also, this girl’s apple pie egg wash is A+.

I set the table with fancy lunchtime snacks and we Zoomed with our dearly missed Schnell and Jarrell fams.

The finishing touches were put on dessert (this cranberry tart was so pretty!) and then there was nothing left to do but pull the ham out of the oven.

Stuffing and mashed potatoes to feed a small army, ham, Brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry sauce, a little bubbly…LET’S EAT!

We ate and ate and talked about what we’re thankful for and I declared these mashed potatoes the best I’ve ever made.

As Juliette gets older we find we linger at the table longer and longer, sharing stories and jokes.  She’s got so much to say these days (ok, she’s always had a lot to say, but the things she’s saying now are next-level!).  Sometimes it’s seven year-old quandaries, like who is Princess Leia’s mom?!, but sometimes it’s her showing genuine interest in what’s going on with Shane at work or how Great Grandma Alice is doing in Florida.  I love watching her fold into our family in new and grown-up ways.

There’s been plenty to lament in 2020, but in moments like this gratitude comes easy.

We took a short after-dinner walk to make some room in our bellies for dessert and then gathered in the basement for a family viewing of Home Alone.  Juliette laughed through the whole thing and I winced in pain as Marv stepped on a nail and then got hit in the face with a paint can.  Maybe I’m getting too old for that brand of Three Stooges humor.  But no matter, I’ll watch Kevin’s antics a hundred times over just to have my giggling girl close.  Happy Thanksgiving, ya filthy animals.

October was…quiet.  Surprise, surprise.  We were mostly close to home, mostly in our home, mostly living this pandemic life of one Groundhog Day after another.  Thankfully, Juliette and the neighborhood kids have become very adept at finding new ways to spice things up.

And while the total lack of separation between work and home continues to be a challenge, I love my office mate a  whole awful lot.

Jules would give anything to be back in the classroom, but still, seeing her teacher and friends on-screen each morning is enough to make her face light up like a Christmas tree.  The teacher lets all the kids shout out their good morning’s to each other for a couple of minutes of un-muted mayhem before class starts and Juliette lets anyone and everyone know that she’s so happy to see them.

I could start a whole series of “reading with Jules” photos – always lounging in a different position, always accessorized, always so stinking sweet.

We try to break out of the confines of our home at least once every weekend to ride our bikes or tramp through a park.  Seahurst was a lovely place to skip rocks in early October…

And Lincoln Park is our new family favorite.  Partly because it’s only a 5-minute drive from our house, but also because the late afternoon sunlight there is pretty magical.

We celebrated Shane’s Birthday on the 19th without much fanfare, but with a whole lotta love.  We breakfasted on donuts from 9th and Hennepin, the new (to us) neighborhood shop that bakes seasonal goodies like quince fritters and butternut squash cake.

And then ate dinner at…home!  But there was fried chicken and cheesecake with candles and a rousing mother-daughter rendition of Happy Birthday to You.

WE LOVE YOU, SHANE.

We’ve had a handful of spectacular sunsets, like this one that put my dinner prep on pause so that Juliette and I could dart down to the water and take it all in.

Bellevue Botanical Gardens is a fall fave and while there was still more green than gold there when we visited, it was a welcome change of scenery.

Juliette likes a walk in the woods, but loves a game of tag on a wide-open lawn.

We spent a Sunday dusting off Shane’s and Jason’s discs for a round of frisbee golf down in SeaTac.

And Schmitz!  Another West Seattle gem…  Shane runs through this park several times a week and one day found his path blocked by a giant tree that had fallen during the previous weekend’s wind storm.  Seattle Parks had cleared the trail by the time Juliette and I made it down there to check out the damage, but the trunk still made for an excellent climbing feature.  Shane attempted to count the tree’s rings but lost count somewhere near 150.

We met up with La Verne and Nico one morning for a spectacular walk through the arboretum, and it was PEAK.

Juliette is completely smitten with Astro the pup and Shane is suddenly wondering aloud if maybe we should get a dog?

Kids in the time of COVID…

A lawn!  She’s off!

And then…Halloween!  I wasn’t sure what to make of Halloween this year – we skipped the pumpkin patch and didn’t know what trick-or-treating would look like, but we grabbed a few pumpkins from the grocery store and ordered a costume from Amazon just in case we were feeling festive.  Turns out, except for Juliette’s extreme aversion to the feel of pumpkin guts between her fingers, we were feeling very festive.

The gross work behind her, look how happy she is, spit-shining that thing clean!  She’s my kid, through and through.

Juliette’s teacher told the kids they were welcome to wear costumes to school on the Friday before Halloween, so at 8 am I was painting on a fox nose and fluffing fox ears.

My office held a virtual Halloween party at noon and at 11:30 I decided I should really make an effort to be part of the fun.  I popped the lenses out of a pair of sunglasses, dug a scrap of lace out of my fabric stash, and payed tribute to the Notorious RGB, God rest her soul.

Juliette eventually commandeered my RGB glasses and spent the rest of the afternoon wearing them.  This girl looks so good in specs!

Juliette rocked her costume the whole day, wanting to leave it on even for a backyard game of catch with Dad.

The Rusts came over that evening for pumpkin-carving and hot cider.

Well-done, Juliette…

And then, on Saturday, the main event!  We’d heard that several neighbors were finding ways to offer safe, socially-distanced trick-or-treating, so Juliette popped her fox ears back on and we set out to see what kind of loot she could find.

This guy sent candy down to the kids from his upstairs balcony via a bucket on a zip line…

I loved this!  So simple, so creative.

A lot of people left bowls of candy on their front porches and waved from their windows as the kids helped themselves.

Rice Krispie Treat garlands!

I saw so much effort, so much creativity and generosity on display in our neighborhood that evening.  Corona can’t keep us down.

We set up our own help-yourself station before heading out to hit just a few more houses.

We called it a night once Juliette’s bucket was full and headed home for candy-sorting and a family viewing of E.T.  October ended with the three of us packed together on the sofa, pounding mini-Snickers while tensely hoping that E.T. would somehow find a way to phone home.  This October was different than any other, a little too quiet at times, but in scrolling back through these photos I’m comforted by the beauty found close to home and Juliette’s ever-generous joy.  We’re keepin’ on.

We rolled out of bed late on Saturday, picked up coffee and one massive cinnamon roll, and then…lazed.

Our house sat right on the edge of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and we spent the latter hours of the morning exploring the woods outside our front door.

The trails were marked with colored flags and Juliette made a game of darting from one ribbon to the next.

Check out that autumnal glory!

The trails were dotted with a series of fun landmarks, like this fort…

…and this deer stand, which Shane couldn’t resist scaling a tree for.

We lucked out so hard on the weather and the foliage, as the forecast had predicted rain all day, every day.

Furry mushrooms!

Our host left us a map with a note that said to follow the ridge to the teepee…found it!

We stood here for awhile, taking in the view and catching our breath, and then it was a dash down the hill through fields of red and gold.

Rain, schmain!

We ate lunch at the house and Juliette played outside with the neighbor kid she’d befriended the day before while I did some reading – this is how a mother/daughter introvert/extrovert spend an ideal hour.  We hopped in the car mid-afternoon in search of a little adventure and found ourselves at a rocky little pull-out along Icicle Creek.

I was a nervous Nellie with Juliette up on these rocks…”Step away from the edge!  Hold her back, Shane!  Hold her back!”

This kid’s got girl-power through and through.

I can’t remember what Shane was talking about here, but it looks riveting.

We made our way down to the water and spent almost an hour throwing sticks and watching the current carry them away.

More lessons from Ranger Shane.

We headed up the rocks when we felt the first sprinkles and were in a full-on downpour by the time we made it to the car.  That was worth the wet hair, though.

Back at the house we put a pizza in the oven, cracked open a bottle of Veuve (and a bottle of Squirt for the kid), cranked up some music, and cozied in.  We took turns doing our best fake-outs of walking down the stairs (on a flat floor) while standing behind kitchen island, heads bobbing down with each step, and then laughed till our sides hurt when we attempted to take the escalator.  We snuggled up on the couch to watch the first Harry Potter movie, which just about blew Juliette’s mind, and I dozed with my feet in Shane’s lap and Juliette’s head on my shoulder.  It’s been a shit-storm of a year, but in that moment, all was right.

We decided on Sunday that we wouldn’t leave a minute before our 11am check-out and spent the morning wandering the couple of trails we’d missed the day before.

(This was where we veered very much off-trail and landed in someone’s driveway, which was unfortunate as it was a major schlep to get up there.)

Back down we go…

Eventually we got back on course and stuck close to the red flags from thereon out – Juliette made a show of touching each one with her walking stick, “for an extra power boost”.

Find those flags, Jules!

I know it looks like she’s just posing for a photo, but seriously, she held her hand up to her brow like this for a good half-mile.

At some point I found Juliette’s lens-less glasses in my inside coat pocket, which helped her to search all the better.

Once we saw the pink flags we knew we were approaching our house and the proverbial end of the trail.  WAHHHH!

Thanks, Shane and Jules, for the perfect birthday weekend.  My soul needed it.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Requisite silly face.)

An October trip to Paris wasn’t in the cards this year, but I’ve been feeling all kinds of antsy and asked Shane if we could please get out of town for my birthday.  He hemmed and hawed about the driving and the COVID logistics and so I let it drop.  He then spent the rest of the evening looking at AirBnB’s on the sly and told me the next morning he’d found the perfect place and would be whisking me away for a weekend surprise!  He let Juliette in on the secret and she reveled in knowing something Mama didn’t, hardly able to contain her excitement.  October 9th couldn’t come soon enough.

I packed per Shane’s vague instructions (bring slippers and a coat) and we set out on a Friday morning.  Juliette took great joy in the big reveal as we departed West Seattle:  “We’re headed to Leavenworth!  The house looks SO nice.  It has a coffee table and everything!”.  A coffee table?!  NO WAY.

Ah, the Cascades.  They catch me snapping photos through the windshield every time.

Friday’s main agenda item was a seven-mile hike at Lake Valhalla.  I admit I raised my eyebrows when Shane told me the distance, wondering if Juliette could really hang, but we hit the trail with a backpack full of snacks and our hopes held high.  We could do this!

The trail was a gorgeous mix of greens and golds and our little mountain goat handled the elevation like a champ.

The lake trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail for a bit and I felt an extra bump of satisfaction in knowing we were hiking even a short stretch of the legendary PCT.  Shane has dreams of our family backpacking a much bigger chunk of this someday.

Our legs began to get heavy about three miles in, but these colors kept us going.

And finally, a lake view!

The descent down to the water was particularly stunning.

We reached the lake as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and happily settled ourselves on a group of large rocks.  Lunchtime!

Juliette loves when I ask her to snap a pic of her dad and me, but the price we pay is the obligatory silly face photo she always requests.  And the silly photo is somehow always more in-focus than the normal one.  Go figure.

Alright, gang – let’s do this return trek!

Wowee!

Shane urged me to peel off and take the short trail up to the very top of the mountain while he and Jules took their time heading down.  It was a steep climb but worth the sweaty jaunt.

Pay-off!

Pay-off!

PAAAAYYYY-OFFFFFFF!!!

I was on my lonesome for a bit as I headed back down to catch up with Shane and Juliette and while the quiet was nice, I much prefer hiking with a buddy.

Found these two patiently waiting for me on a log while eating gummy worms, and then we joined forces with three miles to go.

We blitzed the trail back to the car and high-fived Juliette for finishing her longest hike yet.  SEVEN miles and some change.  We told her we’ll take her on a hike each year where the number of miles matches her age – she’s set for another 11 months.

It was a short drive to our cozy AirBnB in Plain, which did in fact have a coffee table, but also had a sweet little deck tucked in among the foliage.  Shane and Juliette hunted for birds while I popped open a bottle of wine and tore into a bag of chips.  Happy Hour!

Shane cooked us a pasta dinner that night and we wolfed down our carbs with total delight.  We’d earned them!

We closed out the evening with game 5 of the NBA finals and while I felt no particular affinity for the Lakers or the Heat, I did really love watching Juliette yell at the iPad when Anthony Davis missed a shot and whoop it up when LeBron sunk a three.  Our family has spent A LOT of time together in 2020, but snuggling up with these two for the night still felt like the best gift ever.

Boatloads more mountain photos coming your way in part II…

A few snaps from life in August and September, before we get on with the business of October…

While summer in Seattle typically feels far too fleeting, there were times over the past couple of months when it seemed unbearably long.  What to do with a social six year-old all day when Mom and Dad have to work?  Set her up with a pile of puzzles, a set of headphones, and an iPad full of podcasts, apparently!  This kept Juliette occupied for hours, days on end.  I know – stunned me, too.

Over 20 puzzles totaling over 8,000 pieces…signed, sealed, delivered.

I knew we were bordering on mania when Juliette decided one day that she wanted to try doing a puzzle with the pieces upside-down, “for a bigger challenge”.  It was then that I suggested that she take a break.

Thankfully, THANKFULLY, our neighborhood is full of playmates that have proven to be a good counter-point to this season’s dramatic increase in alone time.  Our small bubble of West Seattle buddies has been such a blessing. As has the neighbors’ pool.

There were times when summer felt almost “normal”, like when the ice cream truck rolled by and kids up and down the street joyfully emerged from their houses, parents trailing behind them with pockets full of dollar bills.

There was football, there was baseball, there was frisbee and ladder ball and water balloons and so, so many backyard snack sessions.

And most recently, jump roping.  Juliette’s record currently sits at 47 jumps in a row.  We found that the hat and cowgirl boots are actually not ideal jumping accessories (surprise), but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

And sometimes the heart wants to wear the jump rope like a harness all afternoon.  You do you, Jules.

We shared several backyard meals with the neighbors across the street from us in either direction.  These folks have been our pandemic sanity-savers.

Our neighbor Yuiry found a pile of old fireworks in his garage and the kids were ecstatic to see that the sparklers still had some sparkle in them.

The pandemic seems to have brought on puppy-fever for several of our friends and neighbors, and these pics of Juliette with the Chens’ newest family member are too sweet not to share.

That ear!

Most notably, in what was surely the most anti-climatic first day of school ever, this girl started first grade!  Even though she wasn’t going any farther than our living room, I still made her pose on the front porch with her backpack.  Shoes optional.

Juliette was thrilled to find that her buddy M from across the street is in her class again this year.

And then, with a couple of clicks and zero hugs good-bye from Mom and Dad, class was in session.  The first few days were pretty rough – teachers constantly reminding kids to mute themselves, mass confusion over which Teams link to click for which activity, kids raising their virtual hands every 30 seconds to report that they can’t see the picture the teacher is sharing or they have to go the bathroom or “Do you know my cousin speaks Spanish?”  Juliette’s teacher is incredibly gracious and patient (though with a firmer hand week by week), but GAH!  I could hardly bear to listen.

Pretty quickly though, it seems that kids have fallen into line and Juliette is really rocking at-home school.  She certainly needs some oversight and encouragement, but she loves her online time with her teacher and is usually motivated to finish her independent work.  Plus, I super-duper love having an office buddy.

(Ok, full disclosure – she was my office buddy for about a week, and now she sits downstairs next to Shane’s desk, because my frequent conference calls were killing her concentration vibe.  But I still get visits and hugs on the hour!)

And now it suddenly seems we have gone from this…

To this:

Waterfront sunsets in tank tops and shorts are a thing of the past.  We get hot chocolate instead of ice cream when we want to go out for a treat.  Summer is Done with capital “D” and our family is working to strike that Fall balance of structure and fancy-free.  I think we’re still a little light on structure – Shane wears pajama pants 24 hours a day and I’m often handing Juliette her breakfast three minutes before her first class starts.  But if ever there were a year for me to give myself a little grace, 2020 is it.  Maybe we’ll find our Fall groove by winter.  Spring at the latest.