Archive for the ‘the fam’ Category

Wednesday’s water park adventures left us a little tired, so we took it easy on Thursday.  First things first – morning coffee at Doma!  My mom and I don’t have tons of overlapping interests, but COFFEE.  We get each other when it comes to coffee.

And then some playground time at the park across the street from my mom and dad’s house.  Juliette caught her baby at the bottom of the slide and I spent several minutes swinging with my baby on my lap and I loved how slow it all felt.  Nothin’ to do, nowhere to be – this time to linger with my kids felt extra-special.

By afternoon, though, I of course felt a little antsy, so we packed up our gear and drove over to Honeysuckle Beach in Hayden for some floating and paddling and lakeside lounging.

Isaac loved feeling the lake water lap at his feet.

I feel you, Bud – HOORAY for lake days!

Then he put a fistful of sand in his mouth.  I swear, sometimes it feels like Isaac senses us starting to chill out, let our guard down, and then he decides, “HA!  I’ll teach them not to watch me with eagle eyes!”

While Shane was on the shore swatting rocks out of Isaac’s hands before he could eat them, Juliette and I got out on the SUP.

Juliette is so good at multi-purposing our board – it’s part SUP, part kayak, part floaty.

I can’t wait to get Isaac out for a paddle, but for now, he’s plenty happy to cheer on his sister from the dock.

Lake smiles!

And an evening country walk to top it all off.

Friday was similarly pretty mellow.  Crawling and coffee, swings and snuggles, a very fancy lunch…

We spent a couple of hours at Tullamore Park – the swings were a hit, but there was some splash pad skepticism.

Is he having fun?  Who’s to say?

Juliette and I seized upon our last night in Idaho as a chance to get out for a hike at Tubbs Hill.  We listened to the Sing 2 soundtrack on the drive to Coeur d’Alene and I looked in the rear view mirror at her belting out the words to Could Have Been Me in the backseat, eyes closed and face scrunched up in so much sweet drama and goodness, eight is great.

We found the path and then lost the path and just as I wondered how we ended up so deep in the woods, we saw a mama deer with her three baby fawns not so far away.  We tip-toed toward them and they galloped away on their sweet skinny legs and then we found our way back to the trail.  We chatted and laughed and oohed and ahhed at glistening Lake Coeur d’Alene and felt the goodness of it being just us two for an evening.

Juliette found a trail of seashells that someone had left along the path and reveled in collecting these little treasures and then hiding them in new places for the next hiker to find.  

We played Kidz Bop on the drive home and hunted for the handful of license plate states we hadn’t yet crossed off our road trip list and damn, did I say eight is great?

We were gone for all of three hours, but still, she was over the moon to be back with her dad.  They spent the rest of the evening updating their license plate checklist and coloring in a map of the states we hadn’t yet spotted.  Again, slow life luxuries…

Isaac gave Bernie a few final pat-pats on Saturday morning, we took a few porch pics, and then we were homeward bound.

It was back to business on Monday, with work and daycare and summer camp, and while there’s always a piece of me that finds comfort in settling back into a routine, by noon I was missing my kids somethin’ fierce.  It was a good week.

Last year’s Fourth of July Idaho spectacle was such a hit that we decided to do a 2022 version, this time with our favorite fourth wheel.   Grandma and Grandpa, here we come!

We hit the road with one baby in a carseat and one baby in Juliette’s arms – she is very attached to her doll as of late and I love it.  There’s my little girl…

We had all kinds of wiggles to get out by the time we got to Post Falls, so there was play-grounding…

And pickle-balling…

And staying up late to watch the fireworks on Independence Day Eve.  This was just the pre-party!

The booms lasted well into the night, but eventually the neighborhood fell quiet and we got some rest.  About 20 minutes worth, at least, and then Isaac woke up ready to party.  Gosh, he slept horribly that first night – I think he was up about every hour, trying to make sense of his new digs.  But the Fourth dawned sunny and breezy and Isaac looked awfully sweet in his red, white, and blue, so after I had my morning cup of coffee, brewed lovingly by my sympathetic mom, all was forgiven.

We ventured over to Falls Park after morning nap to check out the swing situation.  Four thumbs up.

Isaac’s eyelids grew heavy during our evening walk and had very little fight in him when bedtime rolled around.

Which was perfect, because the rest of us had some fireworks to watch!

Everywhere we turned, the sky bloomed with sparkles.

We went inside around 10:30, but I peeked out the window every few minutes when the booms sounded particularly dramatic.  What a show.

We spent Tuesday morning in Coeur d’Alene, playing and picnicking at McEuen Park.

This was Isaac’s first splash pad and he was a little perplexed by it all, but had a good time waving his trusty plastic spoon through the streams of water.

Not so much a fan of being sprayed in the face, though…

My favorite part of the spray park is the post-drying-off diaper time.  Sun’s out, belly’s out!

Isaac, you’re such a wonderful little goober.

And Juliette, you’re so beautiful.

We swung by the lakefront to say hello to Mudgy the Moose and to snap a few pictures, popped over to the the bakery for an iced coffee, and then were back in Post Falls for afternoon nap.  I felt our gears clicking into vacation mode, and it felt good.

We shared the biggest pizza ever for dinner that night, which was great, because we were carbo-loading for the next day’s adventure!

On Wednesday morning we kissed Isaac good-bye and took Juliette to Silverwood for a day of water slides and roller coasters.  We came here last summer and she declared it one of the best days ever, so I was excited to bring her back without a baby in my belly – bring on the whirls and twirls.

We arrived at the park before the gates opened and found ourselves with enough time to grab a hot chocolate at the kitschy Victorian cafe and plan out the day’s route.  So much thought went into which slides to hit first as we evaluated hourly temperatures, likely wait times, and fun factor.  I love a kid with a plan.

We moved through the lines quickly that morning as it seemed most people had opted to begin the day at the amusement park; Avalanche Mountain was a family favorite, though Ricochet Rapids also had us squealing with glee.

There were many, many laps around the lazy river…

And then a couple of rounds down the Riptide Racer.

We headed over to Roller Coaster Alley after lunch which was decidedly not a hit as Juliette sobbed through most of our time on the Timber Terror, so we recalibrated (and possibly over-corrected) with a very mellow spin on the flying elephants.

By early afternoon we were back to the lazy river, wondering why we’d ever left.

Whew!  So much fun, the three of us living large and following our every whim.

So tiring, though.  Sun, water, fun, done.

Back at home, Isaac had the best day with Grandma and Grandpa – seems he hardly noticed we were gone!  We missed you, Buddy.  Kind of.

Up next:  more water, more swings, more happy kids.

May: Glorious bouts of sunshine, weekends at the softball and soccer fields, and more quality time with Grandma and Grandpa!  My dad joined my mom in Seattle at the beginning of the month to pitch in on the childcare front as Isaac transitioned into daycare.  It was such a treat to have my parents with us for an extended amount of time and see them fold into our day-in and day-out.

Grocery shopping with an extra set of hands is so helpful – one cart for the baby, one cart for the food.  And speaking of helpful, Isaac feeds himself now!

My mom and I made quite a ritual out of our morning coffee and spent our few weeks together perfecting our grounds-to-water ratio in the French Press and the Chemex.

We also zeroed in on our favorite wine varietals for evening Happy Hour…

My mom held Isaac extra-close on her last evening here – she fell pretty hard for him, with his generous smiles and sweet baby nuzzles.

I mean, how could you not?

(For the record, Juliette got plenty of love, too!)

Mother’s Day was a mostly-chill Sunday, though Shane was thoughtful in layering on a couple of thoughtful touches.  The signet rings he ordered me with the kids’ initials were late in arriving, so he and Juliette dashed out for a backup gift.  Isaac helped me tear into it, and the look on his face says it all.  You got Mom a…?

Leaf blower?  Indeed!  And I LOVE IT.

Juliette made me a card and “Isaac” made me this funny bouquet at daycare.

I always request French toast when homemade brunch is offered.

We got out for a short post-brunch family bike ride and discovered Isaac loves the feel of the wind in his hair.  Er…helmet.

My crew…I’m the luckiest mama.

May saw the end of softball season and dang it, I’ll miss watching these Dragons round the bases!

Isaac is also a fan.

Shane has often commended Juliette’s hustle, and it’s true – this kid leaves nothing on the field.

Saturdays were for softball and Sundays are for soccer.

It’s a pretty ideal way to pass a sunny afternoon, on a blanket with my boy while his sister dashes back and forth in front of us.

BAHHHHH!

May also brought several school festivities and after two years of hardly getting to interact with Juliette’s teacher or classmates, it was nice to spend an evening at the 2nd grade Spring Fling.

And the annual Move-A-Thon!  Issac and I walked over to the school parking lot on a sunny Friday to see how many laps Juliette could run in the space of 20 minutes.

Answer:  A LOT.

Playground weather is upon us and we’ve been heading down to Ercolini a couple times a week, first for the swings, but also for the plethora of riding toys.

See what I said earlier about the wind in his hair?!

Sister snaps:

And finally, cozy-time at home, because May certainly isn’t all sunshine and parks.  Chair snugs…

Couch snugs..

And floor snugs.  We’re a lovey-dovey bunch.

Juliette and I took a stroll during West Seattle’s big Garage Sale Saturday and she came home with this getup – we’re covered for Halloween 2022!

Or maybe just for a typical Friday night, knowing how this girl likes to roll…

Juliette also picked up this puzzle from a yard sale, which I thought was a terrible idea, but she loves a challenge!

Shane and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary with homemade Manhattans, fancy takeout, and a living room viewing of Top Gun while Isaac slept and Juliette spent the night at friend’s house.

I slept like a baby after that Manhattan, but Juliette got hardly any shut-eye during her slumber party.  She came home a bit of a mess and I asked her if she wanted to lay down with me, like old times, and voila…I still got it.

And now it’s June and it’s been awfully rainy, but I’m sure we’ll make it back outside for some backyard brunching before the month is over.  I think the best is yet to come.

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.

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…

We’re in full-blown Fall and barreling toward winter as the days get remarkably shorter and the aisles of Target fill with Christmas decor.  It’s been a sweet season, these past few weeks of finding our new groove as a family of four and slowly emerging from our newborn cocoon to spend more time with family and friends.

Our parade of visitors began at the end of September when my parents trekked to Seattle to meet their one and only grandson.  My mom said she couldn’t remember the last time she had held a baby, but it seems her soothing skills came flooding back to her as she rocked and sang Isaac to sleep within hours of their arrival.

Motown, hymns, country…Grandma sings it al!

My dad also got some quality cuddle time…

…though I especially loved bearing witness to his playtime with Juliette.

We didn’t get out a whole lot that week, but it was nice to fold my parents into our quiet routine and to have some company as I picked up Juliette from school or spent an afternoon on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest.

My brother and his family joined us for a weekend in October – there was driveway basketball and a walk at Lincoln Park and several rounds of pass-the-baby.

Bina the dog is used to being the baby in the room and displayed a little envy early-on, but once she’d sniffed out Isaac and determined he wasn’t going to hop right into anyone’s lap, she decided he was alright.

I turned forty that Saturday and it was nice to have family around to toast to a new decade.

Plus, Mitch makes some mean spaghetti and meatballs.  He and Shane spent much of the afternoon planning and shopping and cooking and I MUCH appreciated it.

Cheers!

And to bookend grandparent season, the Schnells landed in Seattle a couple of weeks ago along with our niece, Shanay.

While Grandma and Grandpa doted on Isaac, Shanay was an amazing buddy for Juliette.  There aren’t too many 22 year-olds that will jump at the chance to do Play-dough, but she was so incredibly generous with her time and attention (plus, she can french braid, which essentially gives her Queen status with Juliette).

Lazy mornings…

Lazy afternoons…

Again, we didn’t get out much.  But we were plenty content to cozy up inside with the baby.  Denny wore his grandpa-heart on his sleeve and spent long stretches of time just gazing at Isaac’s little face and saying, “Grandpa loves you…you’re such a gift, buddy…”.

It was a tearful goodbye (not just for Isaac!), but those few days together were precious.

In other news, we inducted Isaac into the Giants fan club and cheered on our team during their too-short playoff season.

Gosh, it hurt to lose to the Dodgers.  Also hurt to hear that Buster Posey is retiring!  Juliette shed a few tears when the news broke…

Other October happenings included our first annual Harry Potter night.  Juliette and I spent the afternoon making Hogwarts-themed treats and then invited the Rusts over for snacks and a movie.

Sorting hats were chosen at random and the color of the jelly beans inside told you which house you belonged in.

Slytherin for J!  I knew he had a dark side…

But Slytherin for Nance, too?  I expected better.

I tend to overuse the word “cozy” in my Fall and Winter blog posts, but…it really was the coziest of October evenings.

Cozy vibes aside, sometimes we’ve just gotta get out, and Juliette’s Saturday soccer games have proven to be an excellent reason to leave the house.  This is her first year on the team and she is killing it!  I am so, so proud of her – she’s a force out there, scoring goals at every game, passing to her friends like a true team player, and shaking off the occasional bump or bruise.

Isaac doesn’t quite follow the action, but at least he keeps my lap warm!

On really muddy days, the girls line up during half-time and stick their feet out so that the coaches can scrape their cleats clean.  These dads get gold stars.

Morning walks are another good reason to leave the house, partly because I need the exercise, but also because Isaac needs the nap.

Bonus points if I can work my route to include a coffee stop.

Double-bonus if I’m joined by a friend!

Saving the Halloween pics for another day, and then it’s onto the business of November-ing!

It seems I always find myself in mid-September with a pile of summer photos to go through, and this year is no different…therefore, ringing in Fall with Fourth of July fireworks!  We spent a few days in Idaho in early July, summering our hearts out.

We rolled up to my mom and dad’s house on the afternoon of the Fourth, as they advised us that their neighborhood goes big for the holiday and the festivities were not to be missed.

Indeed, these folks don’t hold back!

While sky-high fireworks exploded around us in every direction, we opted to stick to fountains and sparklers, which are still pure magic for a seven year-old.

Our own grand finale:

While the show on the other side of the park was just getting started!

We were all up past our bedtimes on the Fourth and got a slower start the next morning – Juliette and Grandpa played games while I had a second cup of coffee.

And then Shane, Jules and I piled back into the car and headed to Sand Point for a day of lake play.  These freckles!  I love them so much.

Pend Oreille is a lake-lover’s dream, with sandy shores, crystal waters and plenty of space to float to your heart’s content.

This girl is such a water-bug and could have spent all day in the lake.  Actually, she did spend all day in the lake.  Shane and I each needed frequent shade-breaks, but Juliette always opted for another layer of sunscreen and another cool dip.

Ah, that belly…I love having Isaac in my arms, but he was much easier to tote around a couple of months ago.

We took a brief lake-break to grab burgers and non-alcoholic beers from MickDuff’s.

And then, after dinner, back at it…

Juliette asked me to jump off the dock with her, but there was no way I was hoisting myself up onto that thing at seven months pregnant, so she summoned the courage to make the leap by herself.

And then found a few friends to jump with her.  Several times.

Several, several times.

The very best kinds of days are rounded out with ice cream and a lakefront stroll.  Mission accomplished.

We stayed in Sand Point that night and then were up early to take a 7:00 am dip in the hotel pool (she’s insatiable!) before heading to Silverwood for a day at Coeur d’Alene’s famous water park (seriously insatiable).  Juliette had a hard time containing her excitement as we waited for the gates to open.

We dropped our towels on a couple of beach chairs and were floating down the Lazy River within seconds of the park’s opening.  This is THE LIFE, huh, Jules?

I wasn’t able to go on any of the big waterslides, but was just as content to hang out at the bottom so that I could see Juliette’s giddy face as she and Shane landed with a splash.

The Riptide Racer tested the limits of Juliette’s bravery, but she rocked it.

The Lazy River was very much my jam – I must have done 20 laps around it over the course of the day.

We ventured over to the next-door amusement park in the afternoon to take a train ride in search of the Bigfoot that’s rumored to live in the park.

(Found him!)

But the trains and roller coasters were no match for the water park.  Back to business…

Shane ended the day on the park’s fastest slide, where riders clock in at over 50 miles per hour – Juliette thought this was a terrible idea, but he lived to give it two thumbs up.

We left the park in the evening totally exhausted but grinning from ear-to-ear.  Juliette declared it one of the most-fun days ever.

The next couple of days in Post Falls were on the quieter side, but still so good for our souls.

This little stretch of the Spokane River at Corbin Park is a must-visit every time we’re in town.  Perfect for lounging and rock-skipping.

Plus, you can squeeze in a few holes of disc golf when you’re done at the river.

Black Bay park is another go-to for waterside chilling.  The bay is perfect for floating on an inner tube, or a paddle board, or, in Juliette’s case, just a life jacket.

We spent our final hours in Post Falls squeezing in a few more Bernie snuggles and piecing together one last puzzle.

And next time we visit Idaho, we’ll have Isaac in tow!  Let’s hope that kid inherits his sister’s love of water – we’ve got some things to show him.

The past two months of summer have been a blur of remodel chaos, but the date stamp on these photos tells me that we enjoyed a few mellow days down at the Oregon Coast right after school let out.  Juliette had been counting down the days till this trip for weeks and begged could we please stop in Portland and pick up Morgan for the rest of the rest of the drive to Neskowin?

Thank goodness for backseat buddies.

Our car was the first to arrive at my brother’s beach house and we wasted no time making our way down to the ocean.

I’m so happy these girls haven’t outgrown the thrill of playing at the water’s edge.

SO HAPPY.

Juliette’s stamina for beach runs is unmatched, so Shane took a shift when Morgan pooped out.

Sunday was Father’s Day and Mitch gifted himself some solo fishing time down at the beach in the morning.  Shane and I walked down to the corner store to grab some coffee and then popped by to see if he’d caught anything (he hadn’t, but he sure looked content in his element!).

Morning snuggles, cards, and gifts…

Shane asked for this 1900-piece Lego set for Father’s Day, not so much for the space shuttle, but for the promise of more quality time with his little buddy.  Because he truly is one of the most devoted dads on the face of the planet.

We spent the afternoon back down at the beach.

I know this is a silly amount of pictures of Juliette, but I can’t help it – this kid’s joy over being with family is too good to not share.

Uncle Mitch might very well be the funniest man alive.

Sealing this afternoon of simple, silly family time away in the memory bank…

Mitch had packed a crowbar and some work gloves in the beach bag and their use became clear when the tide receded enough to expose a treasure trove of mussels locked to the base of Proposal Rock.

We dined on pasta with steamed mussels for dinner on Sunday and got a slow start on Monday.  I sipped coffee while the girls giggled over who-knows-what.

Shane and Kathryn both worked on Monday, so Mitch and I took Juliette and Morgan for a late-morning hike while Elise slept in.

The woods were packed with mosquitos that morning, so we quickly changed course and opted for the wide-open beach.

A mama, a daughter, and a newfound pet ladybug…

Though I suspect Juliette would take a chihuahua over a ladybug any day.

Shane has recently taken up pickle ball and Kathryn is a certified pickle ball champion, so we spent Monday evening down at the courts getting a few pointers.

Get it, Jules!

…but I think you may be holding your paddle wrong?

When the kids tired of the courts, I took them down the street to the arcade, which was a total blast from the past.

The Jarrells all headed back to Portland early Tuesday and Shane holed up in the guest room for another day of work, so that left Juliette and I free to find our own adventures.  Or not…

I could have read books and drank tea all day, but the call of the Coast is strong, so we left the house before lunch for a hike at Cape Lookout.

Pals.

Cape Lookout is a fitting name, huh?

And…back to the car!  I don’t have Shane’s talent for a detailed retelling of Lord of the Rings, so instead Juliette spent the hike back telling me everything (every. thing.) about the characters on Miraculous, her latest favorite Netflix series.

We lazed in the afternoon and then headed back toward Pacific City once Shane was done with work, making good on our ritual of climbing the giant sand dune every time we’re in the neighborhood.

It never gets easier…

And Juliette never fails to be first to the top.

But also, the views never disappoint…

Juliette ran most the way down the hill, then climbed back up to do it again, just for fun.  Lord, I wish I could bottle that pizazz and take a shot of it each morning.

Wednesday was go-day, but Juliette and I had a couple of hours in the morning to play in the sun while Shane worked.  Hot chocolate and bare feet for the win.

And…leisure tank filled!

Welp, there’s no time like the end of May to blog about March!  Getting caught up this week and culling through photos of cherry blossoms that have long since dropped and been swept away…

Actually, early blooms aside, I have very few pictures from March, which tells me we didn’t do or see a whole lot.  Weekends were devoted to home projects, like endless weeding sessions and the laying of new sod in the front yard…

“Look, Mama!  A dirt heart!”  This girl finds the magic in everything.

And weekdays were the same ol’ work-from-home, school-from-home rigamarole.  Juliette and I made a habit of seizing on our flexible schedules as opportunities to sneak away for 10am coffee dates.

…and then back to it!  We have tried out Juliette’s desk in just about every room in the house and finally decided just to give her reign of our dining room table from 8:00-3:00 – she likes the room to spread out and can pop over to her bedroom desk if we have simultaneous Zooms.

And finally…this.  March was so much of this:

April brought sunnier days and northwest-style beach dates (with jackets and rocky shores):

And Easter!  Juliette loves an excuse to dress up and was donning her bunny ears and her Spring dress before I’d even gotten out of bed.

It was a quiet Sunday, like all Sundays, with virtual church and an indoor/outdoor egg hunt.

After Juliette cracked open her plastic eggs, I rolled out her second basket, stuffed with all things pink.

This book of riddles was her favorite – she loves to stump her dad and me.

We pulled out the candles and the champagne flutes for a fancy dinner and, as has been typical over the past 14 months, missed our friends and family dearly while being buoyed by the warmth of our little three-person bubble.

Also, this Springtime view makes hunkering down not so bad.

Our quarantine bubble has slowly started to expand though, as evidenced by Juliette’s return to in-person school!  I was going to miss having this kid stop by my desk for random hugs throughout the day, but it was time.  We were ready.

She was ready.

Also, who am I kidding?  She’s only gone for three hours a day, four days a week.  We’re still swimming in Mama-Jules time.  And our walks home from school have become such a lovely part of our day.

Also, Juliette doesn’t go to school till 11:30, which means we still squeeze in the occasional weekday coffee/hot chocolate.  We recently discovered that Met Market puts the whipped cream on top of the cup lid.  Brilliant.

Warmer weather brings out Shane’s sporty vibes and he is quick to ask Juliette to toss the football around or shoot some hoops across the street as soon as he wraps up work for the day.

Meanwhile, Juliette’s been feeling so sporty herself that she rarely takes off Shane’s baseball cap.  Cutest thing…

We had our first visitors of the year last month when my parents came out for a long weekend.  We brunched at our favorite Alki spot…

Played a lot of cards…

And cozied up for Sudoku sessions.

We also got out for a stroll through Schmitz Park, which was growing greener by the minute.

So good to have visitors!

And speaking of visitors, Grandma and Grandpa Schnell rolled into Seattle just a couple of weeks later!  More card-playing…

Some baking…

And lots of sunshine.

Juliette’s grandpa could not love her more – these two really ate up the together time.

Until it was time to say goodbye…that hug Denny gave Juliette on her way out to school was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

One more…

And finally, the last of our April guests was this mama bird that roosted in our porch planter.

…with four little eggs in a cozy little nest!

Checking on the eggs became a daily ritual, until one day Shane peered in there and excitedly announced that they had hatched!  Four odd-looking little nestlings, with bulbous eyes and wide-open mouths.

Checking on the birdies became a new daily ritual and in less than a week, all four had left the nest to hobble around our porch.  None of them looked near-ready for flight, but by the next morning, they were gone…  I was a little sad to see them go and felt some literal empty-nester vibes each time I opened the front door and spied that vacant planter.

Such is life, though…  Birds fly away, blossoms fall to the ground, and I have to continually remind myself to just be thankful for the fleeting beauty of the present.

Thankfully, Juliette is a stunning example of living in the bliss of the moment (also, check out that grass!  Shane’s new pride and joy…).

Spring is so full of reasons to smile.

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!).