Archive for the ‘places’ Category

I just took the stockings down and cleared my collection of bottle brush trees from our mantle this week – the holidays were a little hard to let go of this year (as in all years, to be honest).  They were just so slow and sweet and packed with time with my favorite people.

We came home from Portland to a couple of unopened gifts under the tree, which the kids made quick work of tearing into…

And then we laid out a game plan for the rest of the week.  Isaac’s school was open, but Juliette’s was not, so we took advantage of the three-of-us time to do some cross-country skiing at Cabin Creek.

It was snowy that day and we loved gliding through the fresh powder.  This course really pushed the limits of Juliette’s and my Nordic downhill skills, but we did it!

The uphill slog:

And the downhill glide.

Proud of you, Kiddo!

Juliette has passed my shoulders and is approaching nose-height – this kid is going to be taller than her mama in no time, it seems…

On Thursday, Shane and Juliette headed out for a downhill day at Snoqualmie with a couple of Juliette’s friends.  They had a blast, zipping down the slopes.  I had a blast, binge-watching Bad Sisters back at home under a pile of blankets.  It’s rare that I have the house to myself, and I made it count!

We did pick up Isaac a bit early from daycare those days, so that he wasn’t completely left out of the fun.

And we checked a couple last things off our holiday bucket list, like a visit to the Menashe House (Juliette missed round one last month).

I had postponed my annual getaway to Cedarbrook with Nance and LaV earlier in December, but we made up for it on New Years Eve Eve.  There was shopping and movies and dinner at the hotel bar and ice cream in bed and lots of overdue catching up.  Life gets busy, but it feels good to know we can count on this tradition to stitch us back together!

And then New Years Eve!  The big bash!  Our nearest and dearest came over that evening after Isaac was in bed, and we ate tacos and drank all kinds of things and told lots of stories.

(Story time with Aunt Nance in action!)

We struggled to find a playlist that appropriately matched the vibe of the evening and so I put out a call for 90’s song requests; suddenly we were embarking on a three-hour dance party, bopping to REM and Offspring and Warren G.  Jason’s got moooooooves.

Juliette looked at us like the crowd of tragically un-hip 40-somethings that we are, but couldn’t resist getting in on the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.

Kris Kross makes you jump-jump?  Things got progressively sillier as the night went on.

There was a 10:30 pm Domino’s order and some intense debate over Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam and then we toasted at 11:15 pm as the nine year olds’ energy was waning. 

People split and the house was suddenly very quiet and then suddenly not-quiet as Isaac started crying while I was brushing my teeth.  He must have sensed that he just missed out on an epic party, so I ended up rocking my dozing boy as the clock struck officially midnight.  I think I got the best of both worlds.

New Years morning brought the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Alki Beach.  Juliette was feeling extra-bold again this year and decided to join her dad.

All smiles pre-plunge!

But then reality hit…

And then my poor girl really wasn’t happy.

Isaac was like, “What were you thinking?!”

It took a hot minute, but once Juliette was re-bundled her smile came back.  She’s much braver than her mama!

Cheers, polar bears, to a fresh new year!

We got a bonus break day as school and work were closed on January 2nd, so we decided to give Cabin Creek another go, this time with Buddy on board.

Isaac fussed a little as we were getting him strapped in, but once Shane started to cruise he fell silent and zoned out in the very best way.

The snow was icy and super-fast that day; Juliette and I both took a couple of falls and there was a moment when I wanted to chuck my skis into the woods and just walk back to the car, but we stuck with it and eventually re-found our joy.

Sweet dreams, little boy.

We spent our final afternoon together cozying down at home, having tickle fights and doing puzzles and playing piano.

One last nap together, and then it was back to business with a vengeance.  January has felt a bit nuts, work-wise, but oh, those lazy holi-daze.  They were awfully good.

Christmas 2022!  When we saw news of an ice storm moving across the PNW, we moved up our travel plans and jetted down to Portland the moment Shane wrapped up work on Thursday.  We got caught in some pretty slippery conditions two-thirds of the way there, but carefully crawled over those last 50 miles and safely arrived at Mitch’s house by 10pm.  The plan was to quietly transfer a sleeping Isaac from his car seat to his Pack N Play, but he only dozed a bit on the ride down and then was so amped up by the adventure of it all that we let him run circles in the living room for thirty minutes before tucking him in.

Friday was icy and the city was largely shut down.  We stayed close to home, venturing only as far as the neighborhood Starbucks for cocoa and coffee.

We thawed out under fluffy blankets…

And then we hunkered, with music and video games and several rounds of Christmas tree hide and seek.

Isaac was completely stir-crazy by dinnertime, so I took him out for a slushy spin on the sled.  I mean, we packed the puffy suit – may as well use it!

The kiddos (one little kiddo in particular) were up early on Saturday, so I stretched out on the couch with them and a cup of coffee while the sun came up.

Early wake-up means early naptime.  These daily dozes with my boy were one of my favorite things about the holiday break.

Bina kept a very close eye on Isaac throughout the week – she’s accustomed to being the main recipient of family doting and seemed a little put out by having to share the love.

Lunchtime donut run to Blue Star for my favorite passionfruit cacao raised glazed…

And then more lounging.

And naptime Part II!  Captured by a little spy…

Isaac’s cousins were so good with him – I was impressed by Morgan’s patience for unending games of “roll the ball and clap”.

The annual Christmas Eve viewing of The Polar Express was cozy as ever, though we missed my mom and dad, who were delayed in arriving due to the weather.

These kids may not believe in Santa anymore, but bless their hearts for playing along with the magic of it all.

Christmas morning!  Let the games begin!

The wrapping paper flew and the kids were all delighted and delightful and it just felt so good to see them each express joy in their very own way.

Juliette is still very much impressed by the little things and I love it.

Juliette’s three big wish list items were pierced ears, a fancy coat, and high-heeled boots.

She got two out of the three and seemed plenty pleased!

Isaac became smitten with this shopping cart as we were browsing the toy aisle at Target in early December and pushed it all around the store while I finished my shopping.  He was thrilled to see it reappear under the Christmas tree.

The calm after the flurry is so wonderful.

Did I say calm?  I meant toy-induced hysteria.

You do you, Buddy.

What are you looking at, Bina?

Oh, Bina.  

BINA!

We napped mid-day and did some puzzling and then made cupcakes for that evening’s dessert.

We Facetimed with Shane’s parents after lunch and then did some gaming, both virtual and in-real-life…

My parents arrived around 2:00 and another pile of gifts appeared under the tree!

Shane and Mitch drew each other’s names for our Secret Santa exchange and ended up trading pickle balls.  It seems they have similar interests…

Juliette got me a pretty pair of earrings and then wondered aloud if maybe she could borrow them someday…

WHEW!  Officially, the gift bonanza was a wrap.

We had our traditional country ham for dinner and Mitch and Kathryn opened some extra-special wine and the cupcakes the girls served for dessert were the perfect bow on a perfect day.

Monday was open and agenda-less, though Isaac once again missed the memo on sleeping in…

Bina greeted Isaac that morning with a look that said, “You’re still here?!”

Whatever my dad is selling in this game of Sushi Go, Juliette and Morgan clearly aren’t buying…

The afternoon stir-crazies started to set in…

And so we got out, for a rainy walk at Lake Oswego.

More gaming…

And the finishing touches on one hell of a puzzle.

We played a rousing round of Code Names before dinner and though I can’t recall what was so funny, I do remember my Dad literally laughing so hard he cried, which had all of us rolling.  Isaac was sitting on my lap and yukked it up with the rest of us – he hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on, but he knew it was fun.

Tuesday was our departure day, so we snapped a few final family pics, let Isaac do another 37 loops around the house with his shopping cart, and packed it up.

Thank you again, Jarrells, for sharing your home and your wine and especially your love.

December felt full and quiet all at once – Lord knows Juliette and I lean in hard on holiday traditions, but we’ve curated our list to activities that can largely be done in our pajamas by the warmth of our fireplace.  Occasionally, though, we braved the cold for the sake of sparkly lights or fluffy pines.  We took Juliette and two of her buddies down to Alki one evening before a sleepover to sip hot chocolate and listen to the carolers sing on the Christmas Ship.  It was the perfect way to get the festive vibes flowing.

(Isaac liked it, too.)

Seattle got a dusting of snow in early December and it was fun to see Isaac’s awe over a world covered in white.  He stood by the window, excitedly pointing outside for a good portion of the morning.

It was a frosty walk to school…

The excitement was short-lived, as snow gave way to rain all too soon.

Oh, the PJ time this month!  So much PJ time, with lazy Saturdays and Sundays spent watching the World Cup.

 

Isaac really amped up his soccer spectating game.  I can’t tell if he’s overjoyed or in agony over whatever play just happened, but he’s feelin’ it!

We headed east the first weekend in December to visit Mountain Creek tree farm in search of our Tannenbaum.  This is one of my most favorite super-special holiday rituals, and Juliette accessorized accordingly.

The snow had stuck in North Bend, making this place more idyllic than ever.  We wandered among the trees, going through the motions of our annual Grand Fir / Doug Fir debate while Juliette introduced Isaac to a small snowman someone had left near the path.

Finally, we found it – a seven-footer that looked just right for for our living room.  Have at it, Shane!

While Shane worked on tying the tree to the top of the car, the kids and I grabbed hot cider from the gift shop and headed back out for some snow play.  Isaac didn’t love the snow, finding it a little slippery on his waddly legs, until Juliette showed him how to “throw” it by knocking it out of her hand, at which point she would yell, “Whoa!!!” and he would laugh hysterically.

This went on for awhile.

Eventually, the tree was secured and our toes were cold and so we hopped the car to get home and on with the business of decorating.

Juliette and I did our usual oohing and ahhing over our treasure trove of ornaments while sipping egg nog and listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas.  We discovered early on that any breakable ornaments must be hung on the top half of the tree.

(Brother feels left out when I get too close to Sister – see him trying to get in on the snuggles?!)

We put the rest of the house in holiday order, lining the mantle with my collection of bottle brush trees, finding a home for Stanley and Samuel, our Nutcracker brothers, and setting up Juliette’s own little bedside tree.  Isaac was into all of it (literally into, with his little hands all over whatever was in reach), so anything precious was placed high up and we let the rest be fair game.

Juliette and I did our annual sleepover by the tree on the first day of winter break…

With an early-morning visit by our favorite third wheel.

We did a part 2 the following night, because we love a twinkly slumber party that much.

We made evening visits to the menagerie of inflatable figures in our neighbor’s driveway.

And then on an evening when Juliette was with friends and Shane was out of town, Isaac and I drove down to the Menashe house to do some gawking.

Santa was strolling the sidewalks that night and I found him to be ultra-friendly, but Isaac was not so much of a fan…

Mama-Jules hot cocoa Christmas lights drive…

And buddies!  I was solo parenting for a weekend and Nance and LaV came over for a cozy breakfast while Isaac ran circles around us.

We gathered at the Rusts for our chosen-family Christmas brunch the following weekend, where Nancy’s homemade almond tart was devoured and gifts were opened and stories were shared.

I always walk away from gatherings with this crew with the fullest of hearts.

We let the kids open a couple of family gifts early, partly so that they’d have some new toys to keep them occupied while we packed for our trip to Portland, but also to stretch out this season of receiving (and also of being grateful!).

Pierced ears was at the tippy-top of Juliette’s wishlist, so I set aside her Christmas money from Grandma and Grandpa and booked her an appointment at a local jewelry shop, coordinating a rendezvous with the mom of two of her best buds, who were also begging to get pierced.  The few days leading up to the appointment were a mix of excitement and nerves for Juliette.  Each day brought a new split:  “Mama, today I’m 70% excited and 30% nervous!”  We landed at 80/20 day-of, which seemed promising, but the minute Juliette sat down on the stool, the tears started flowing.  I’m so glad her friends were there to cheer her on.

As each girl took her turn, the other two gave enthusiastic thumbs-ups and said, “You got this!”  The sweetest.

And the fanciest.  

Now let’s get this kid and her sparkly lobes to Portland!

November…

In November, we saw soccer season come to an end.  Juliette continues to make stellar progress.

While her brother could definitely use some help with his foot-eye coordination…

The season wrapped up just in time – those Saturday mornings were gettin’ cold!

In November, we bopped around the neighborhood quite a bit, with walks to Ercolini for playground time and to the Junction for chocolate croissants.

In November, we used the fireplace a lot.

In November, we took advantage of sunny Sundays to breathe in Fall’s last gasp of golds and greens and oranges.  Camp Long is so good that time of year.

(He’s gettin’ it!)

And Volunteer Park!  An autumn must-roam.

(Brother really does not like it on the rare occasion that I pick up his sister!)

Jefferson Park can’t match Volunteer Park’s foliage, but their zip lines and twirly-ma-bobbers can’t be beat.

Plus, Jefferson Park is right next to our favorite Beacon Hill haunts – Juliette and I shared a lot of morning lattes / steamers at this particular Fresh Flours table.

In November, Isaac made his first visit to the zoo!  We spent an afternoon at Point Defiance saying hello to the elephant and the tiger and the sharks, oh my…

OH MY.

In November, we spent a long, lazy Thanksgiving weekend at home, baking and lounging, venturing outdoors just for a short hike through Schmitz Park before coming back inside for mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

 

We delayed our day-after-Thanksgiving Christmas tree plans on account of rain and an important World Cup game to watch on TV.  I was a bit disappointed, but got over it real fast.

This isn’t the worst way to pass a morning!

In November, the kids’ matching pajamas arrived in the mail and I did laundry every day for four days just so they could keep wearing them.

And in November, we got that first sweet taste of Christmas magic.  Hellooooooo, December.

For years now, every time we pass Centralia on our way to Portland, Juliette sees the hotel just east of I-5 with waterslide tubes swooping out the side of it and asks…”What IS that?!”  Welp, it’s the Great Wolf Lodge, Baby, and we’re going.

Shane booked us a couple of nights there on a bit of a whim, when an online deal popped up just as he was feeling particularly grateful for how Juliette has rolled with the ways life has changed since Isaac entered the scene.  We wouldn’t call the baby a party pooper, per se, but he definitely keeps us closer to home.  Time for Sister to have an adventure!

If you haven’t been to Great Wolf, imagine Vegas for kids.  An arcade and a candy shop and an indoor water park and a lobby that’s meant to pass as a winter wonderland.  All the things.  Juliette was in her swimsuit within minutes of us checking into our room and we all followed her lead and geared up, minus the sunscreen, to make our way down to the water park.  Slides and a wave pool and a ropes course and a high-up bucket the size of a small hot tub that would fill with water that came splashing down every 15 minutes.  All the things.

Shane and Juliette hit the slides while Isaac tried to make sense of the wave pool.

Shane booked this trip so that Juliette could do the big-kid things, but really, she was just as thrilled to splash around in 12 inches of water with her brother.  That’s how she rolls.

We traded in our swimsuits for cozy clothes late afternoon and settled in to watch some soccer and lounge in our king-sized bed.  These were actually some of my most favorite weekend moments.

We ate pizza in our room and wandered around the hotel in the evening, a little dazed by the flurry of activity around each corner.  It felt good to turn in early that night.

Isaac broke the curse of horrible hotel sleep on this trip (sensory overload will do that to you!) and both kids snoozed like champs.  Still though, we were up early enough to beat the 8am Starbucks rush.

Morning soccer…

And mid-morning story hour in the lobby.

Story time was a little goofy, but when soap bubble snow started to fall from the ceiling as Christmas tunes blared over the speakers, I gave in.  Give me all the kitsch!

Back to the room…

But then, back to the pool!

Isaac had a little more fun in the water the second time around, though he was also content to just sit in my lap and watch all the commotion.  Looks like kind of a surfer dude, doesn’t he?

Play hard, rest hard.

And wake up happy.

Juliette couldn’t resist the lure of the wand shop and bought her own wand so that she could take part in MagiQuest, a magic-themed scavenger hunt that had kids running all over the hotel, opening treasure chests and activating crystals so that they could become Master Magi.  It sounds very confusing, I know, but Juliette got very into it and we all got our steps in, zipping from floor to floor as we followed her on her quests.

We ended the day with lobby lawn games and cake pops.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been so tired after a day with zero time outdoors.

Monday was checkout day, and we took our time getting going.  We agreed not to try to squeeze in any more waterslide runs, so we sipped coffee and read books instead.  Seemed like a decent trade!

Remember what I said earlier about kitsch?  Juliette’s bed was in a “tree house”!

Juliette gained her Master Magi status just as Shane finished packing the car.  Well done, kiddo.

Whew, the things you do for your kids!  Honestly, though, it was a sweet little getaway and filled our adventure-bucket as we headed home for a very low-key Thanksgiving.  Play hard, rest hard.

A little more October in November!  Gosh, I took a lot of photos in October, of pumpkins and costumes and autumn strolls.  Ok, photos of the kids, really, but the backdrops were awfully nice, too.

We tried out a new pumpkin patch this year and found it to be packed with activities (and photo ops…).  Knutson Farms for the win!  Isaac fell asleep in the car on the way there and kept snoozing for a good hour after we parked, so Juliette and I got the lay of the land while Shane sat with him.

Tether balls and corn mazes and rubber duck races and newborn piglets, OH MY.

The corn maze proved to be trickier than anticipated…

Finally, Isaac roused and joined us on our search for the perfect pumpkin.

Look hard, Buddy!

And lift with your legs!

Honestly, this place was just a series of perfect stages for the kids to perch and look adorable.

Once we’d picked our pumpkin, we joined the line for the train ride.  Goodness, to see Isaac hardly walking just a few weeks ago.  Time flies.

The train ride was cheesy and a total hit with both kids.

Isaac wasn’t sure what to make of his cow car until we really got rolling, and then he was all in.  The faster we went, the bigger he smiled.

And Juliette!  Bless your heart for still loving the little things.

Someone was very disappointed when the ride ended.

Would some goats cheer you up, Bud?

Juliette challenged Shane to a race through the pumpkin maze and I hated to let her our of our sight, but we found each other again, eventually.

Ok, this is the last photo of Isaac perched near a truck.

I promise.

For reals!

Juliette and I have a soft spot for ugly pumpkins, so we grabbed a couple of those on our way out.

Whew!  What a journey.

I love a good pumpkin patch, but our (2nd) annual Harry Potter Night is perhaps my favorite October tradition.  Juliette decided to be Hermione Granger for Halloween this year, so she was thrilled to get some extra mileage out of her costume.

We decided that Isaac makes a good Draco Malfoy, with his fair hair and mischievous demeanor.

I was without a witch’s costume, so I showed up as Professor McGonagall in cat form.

Sherbet polyjuice potion and chocolate golden snitches and pretzel wands…wizard treats are fun.

The Rusts showed up in full garb with the evilest of scowls, as Bellatrix and Draco and Crabb and Goyle.

I bought some remote control candles and Shane hid the remote in his pocket, turning the lights on every time Juliette waved her wand and shouted “Lumos!”.  We had the whole party fooled for most the night.  Magic, baby!

The raucous sorting hat ceremony…

And movie time!  Get cozy, friends.

It’s a friendship made in heaven, these two.

October is also good for a simple walk in the woods, away from the Halloween fuss.  We spent a quiet Sunday at Ravenna Park, another one of those places that feels infinitely more accessible now that the West Seattle Bridge is open.

Saturdays were for soccer…

And sometimes Sundays were for coffee shops.  Juliette and I have a new favorite spot and snuck away here a couple of times while our guys were napping.

Soccer and coffee shops are fun, but couch snuggles trump all!

Sometimes snuggles were just because, but sometimes snuggles were because Isaac was sick again.  He’d tote around his thermometer all day and just move from one lap to another.  It was the worst.  But also the sweetest.

But also the tiring-est.  I found this photo on my phone and didn’t even know Shane snapped it – Mama was wiped!

We carved pumpkins on a gray afternoon; Juliette was grossed-out by the guts as always, which only piqued Isaac’s interest.  He was dying to get in there!

And finally, Halloween.  Halloween was good this year.  And also somehow four days long, with festivities Friday through Monday?  There is in fact too much of a good thing, and I think we toed the line!  We started with some small business trick-or-treating at the Admiral Junction, where Juliette donned her witch’s get-up while Isaac tagged along as Crookshanks, Hermione’s fluffy brown cat.

Isaac was a bit confused by it all and stopped every few steps to look up at us with inquiring eyes.

If he knew about the sugar rush that existed inside the paper wrapper, I imagine he would have been much more pumped.

Still, though.  Cutest kitty-cub ever.

We met up with some friends on Saturday evening for a small carnival at a neighborhood church.

Roar, Buddy, ROAR!

We walked over to Juliette’s school one evening for the annual Monster Mash.

It was wonderful to see the tradition revived after a Covid hiatus, to watch the kids run wild together.  But it was also overwhelming – even Juliette, my social butterfly, tugged on my sleeve and asked to head home after an hour.

We reveled in the quiet walk home and then settled in for our annual viewing of E.T.  

Finally, Halloween evening, which felt like a long time coming at this point!  I rushed home from work to get the kids into their costumes and then we headed out to snap a few porch pics and let Isaac ring the doorbell of a few favorite neighbors.

This sweet woman scooped chocolate into the kids’ buckets until they were half-full.

I think Isaac was getting the hang of it?

Finally, his bucket was plenty full and he was ready to call it a night.

Juliette was just getting started, though – she met up with some school friends and we gallivanted around the neighborhood with them until our fingers were freezing and we wanted nothing more than some cozy time on the couch with fuzzy blankets and hot tea.  And some mini Snickers.  Halloween was a smashing success.

And that, friends, was October.  Traditions lived large, with a decent amount of hunker-down time in between.  November, though?  Give me all the hunkering!

October!  Much of October felt more summer than Fall this year.  It’s dark by 4:30 pm these days, so it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we were taking post-dinner sunset strolls, Isaac barefoot in his beloved plastic wagon.  But I’ve got the photos to prove it…

As we emerged from our September fog of fevers and coughs, we reveled in spending our weekends at playgrounds and parks.  Lincoln Park is always a hit on a sunny Saturday.

Isaac is less and less content to sit on the swings as he becomes more and more mobile.  Kiddo is everywhere.  Luckily, Juliette keeps up with him well after I’ve lost steam.

The Hiawatha playground is on the way home from Isaac’s daycare, so on a sunny afternoon when I manage to pick him up a little early, why not?

Juliette had a random Friday off from school and so we ventured out of West Seattle to spend a morning romping around Volunteer Park.  This playground was always one of Juliette’s favorites (still is, apparently!) and her brother is following suit.

And the trees!  The kids favor the playground, but the tree-lined path is my Fall happy place.

A quick pop over to Volunteer Park cafe for fizzy drinks and avocado toast…

And then to the tower!

Juliette and I have climbed these stairs many times over, but this was the first time I did it with a baby strapped to my chest.  Wait for me, Jules!

Enjoy the feel of fresh grass between those wee little toes, Isaac – socks and shoes season is coming…

The downside to 2022’s endless summer was the October wildfire smoke – our trip out to Luther Burbank was cut short by scratchy throats and watery eyes.

Bleh – that haze!  Makes me thankful for the rain that drenched Seattle today.

We celebrated my birthday last month with fancy donuts and a tall latte and cozy-time with my munchkins.  I suggested a simple bike ride after Isaac’s morning nap and Shane one-upped my request by loading all our wheels into the Subaru for a drive out to Redmond so that we could bike the Sammamish River Trail to Chateau Ste. Michelle for a picnic lunch.

Made it!

MADE IT!  Mama’s happy.

We spread out on the lawn and ate steak frites and sipped Sauv Blanc while Juliette collected hazelnut husks and Isaac attempted to eat a tangerine with the peel still on.

Tangerine, schmangerine…Isaac was all about the lemon tart once dessert was unveiled – I kept telling him, “last biiiiite…”, but that face!  I’m a sucker.

Oh goodness, Buddy…your joie de vivre…

It was a slow cruise back to the car, with full bellies and a sleeping baby.

We stopped at Westside Park on the way home to check out the playground and the pickleball court.

I laid down on the grass and enjoyed the feeling of the day’s final rays on my face – Isaac crawled over to me and climbed right onto my chest, stretching his little body out on top of mine.  He never stays there for long, but oh, that sweet few seconds when he really nuzzles into me…  A woman passing by said, “Oh, look at how that baby loves his mama!  You’re so lucky!”  You don’t know the half of it, lady.  Happy birthday to me.

And we haven’t even made it to the pumpkin patch yet.

A bit of catching up to do around here, as Fall flies by and winter barrels toward us at lightning speed.  With any luck, I’ll have our Halloween pics up before Christmas!

Juliette is thriving in Third Grade and Shane and I have jumped at the chance to participate in a couple of onsite school activities after over two years of the building being closed to visitors.  Juliette was an all-star tour guide at back-to-school night – we saw her classroom and the library and the gym and the music room and every poster in between.

She’s thrilled on the days Shane picks her up from school on the Rad Wagon, and her friends are thrilled on the days Isaac is there to say hello.

September brought soccer season and so Isaac and I now spend our Saturday mornings cheering on Sister from the sidelines.  The girls named the team Poison Ivy and have grown so much since they started playing together a year ago.  They’re finally doing some legitimate passing and are hustling their hearts out.  These games are often the highlight of my week.

They call Isaac their team mascot and dote on him during halftime.  He eats it up.

More Sunday rides to the library for books and to Good Society for beer…

The West Seattle Bridge reopened in mid-September and suddenly we feel like our world has expanded by 8X.  We can now pop over to SoDo on a whim for Saturday morning coffee and croissants!

Although we keep coming back to our hometown favorites when we want sun+water…

And then there were the days (upon days) at home.  I don’t think a week went by in September when one of us wasn’t sick – the nights were often rough (Isaac has the hair to prove it!) and the days were often spent just trying to muddle through.

Some days, though, we stayed home just because that’s where we’re happiest.

We hung out at Lowman beach on the last day of September and it felt like a fitting way to bid farewell to summer (though let’s be real – it was hot as heck for the first half of October!).

Bring on the pumpkins.

I took the morning shift on Sunday and popped Isaac in the car for a drive into town – Mama needed coffee.

We walked along Walker’s mini Main Street and then went down to the waterfront.

Isaac likes lake life as much as I do!

Back at the cabin, the kids cozied up while Shane and I pulled our things together for a day out on the boat.

Sometimes, when you’re trying to get things done, you just gotta put the baby in a basket.

We eventually pulled ourselves together, stopped by the lodge where Aunt Tiff treated Juliette to a sweet new hat, and got settled on the pontoon.  Make yourselves at home, girls!

Oh, Isaac.  While sister contentedly stretched out in the sun, Isaac crawled circles around us all.  We should have brought that laundry basket…

Shane and I did our best to manage his mayhem, but that kid is just uncontainable sometimes.  Snack, Ergo, drive the boat, snack, Ergo…

…and SLEEP!  Finally.

We pulled into the Marina to hop out for a bit and grab some goodies at the general store.

Juliette picked up a book of Mad Libs which made for some afternoon silliness…

So easily entertained – I love her!

And now look who’s awake…

We docked again at a small stretch of beach so the kids (kid, really) could swim.  Get it, Jules!

Isaac seemed undecided about getting in the water, but eventually I stripped him down and let him just go for it.

Water?  Two thumbs up.  Sandy hands?  Not a fan.

Once Juliette got her swim fix, we all hopped back in the boat and motored over to another beach to do some exploring.

I know, Isaac, I KNOW!  Lake life, right?!

By the time we pulled ashore, Buddy was ready for another doze.  I put him in the Ergo and quietly sang You Are My Sunshine about 80 times while the water lapped at my feet.  Naps are hard-fought sometimes, but the effort involved isn’t always so bad.

While I worked on naptime, Shane worked on frog-catching.  When he was kid, he and a friend caught 100 frogs in a single afternoon, put them in a bucket, and put up a sign on the street corner hoping to sell them to passing fishermen.  100 frogs!  A sympathetic old soul stopped by and gave them five bucks for the lot.  Juliette and I have heard this story several times and figured Shane could easily snag a critter for Juliette to hold.  It took a few minutes, but finally he delivered, in the form of a little brown toad.

Juliette wasn’t so sure she wanted to hold it after all, but since Shane went to all that effort…  Check out the play-by-play!

A little green frog, though?  He somehow seemed much less icky.

The frog was set free and we decided we’d had our fill of water and sun and would head back to the cabin.  But…wait!  One more dip.  These girls can’t stop, won’t stop!

We did make it back eventually, Isaac still snoozing as we disembarked.  Don’t mind if I grab a few Z’s of my own…

We gathered that evening at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a late first birthday celebration for Isaac and an early ninth for Juliette.

Hayden was heading back home that evening and we hated to see her go!  Such a fun couple of days with this girl.

Know what goes well with birthday cake?  MARGARITAS.

Isaac loved the ice cream cake so much that he bit a tine off his plastic fork!  Making a mental note to use real silverware next time this kid gets dessert.

Juliette got over her toad aversion…

And then Shanay taught her the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.  All in a day’s work!

There were some Funky Chicken lessons…

And gifts for the luckiest kids in all the land.  What a perfect Minnesotan day…

We laid pretty low on Monday.  Shane went out in the side-by-side with his dad while the kids and I bopped around camp.  Isaac had been eying the small playground and sandbox on our walks to and from Denny and Pat’s and finally I caved – get dirty, kid!

Meanwhile, my clean kid…

Can I still hold her on my hip?  Why, yes I can!

We went to dinner in Dorset that evening, making a quick pitstop in Akeley to say hello to Paul Bunyan.  If this isn’t midwestern, I don’t know what is!

We said goodbye to Tiff and Shanay after dinner, as they needed to get home for work.  Tiff had taken such good care of us that week, stocking our cabin with groceries and cooking us breakfast each morning and goodness, the way she and Shanay loved on our kids…  We missed them the moment they pulled away.

Back at camp, we settled back into the porch and tried to snag a family pic.  Look this way, Isaac!

Or…don’t.

Denny offered to take Juliette and me out for a sunset fishing session that evening and we jumped at the chance.  It seemed a perfect way to round out a week on the lake.

Juliette quickly got the hang of watching her bobber and reeling in any slack on her line.

Success!  One sweet little perch.  He was tiny, but I hooted and hollered like she’d just snagged a 10-pound bass.

And then a second one to boot.  It was thrilling, really.

We motored back to camp as the sun dipped below the horizon, Juliette’s hair whipping in the wind, Denny smiling ear to ear with his favorite first mate at his side.

The best dockside welcome wagon!

I took Isaac in for bed while Juliette drove her Grandpa back to his camper.  Peas in a pod, these two.

Tuesday was go-day, which meant one last round of grandparent snaps and then some drawn-out, tearful good-byes.

Oh, good-byes are hard.  Like, really hard.

And the long trek home…again, Isaac reveled in the thrill of take-off, turning back to Shane with a grin like, “Can you even believe this, Dad?”  But the thrill quickly wore off and we did a lot of baby-juggling the rest of the flight.

Meanwhile, Juliette had a window seat in the row behind us and lived her best life, with unlimited iPad time and double Sprites.  You deserve it, Kiddo.

It felt awfully good to walk in our front door, but it wasn’t without a tinge of those post-vaycay blues.  We’re holding close a boatload of special family memories in that Minnesotan wonderland.

Our early-September trip to Minnesota already feels like a distant memory, but I’ve still got the warm family fuzzies from our few days there.  The Schnell love is strong!  Totally worth the four-plus hours on the plane and the four hours in the car.

Isaac did alright with the travel, though not without plenty of effort from Shane and I to keep him entertained.  He was thrilled by the sound and speed of take-off and quickly settled in for an hour-long nap, but at wake-up we were left with at least half the flight to fill.

Bring on the snacks.  And more snacks.  Sit in Dad’s lap.  Sit in Sister’s lap.  Play with the ice left over from my ginger ale.  Play with the thermometer I tucked into the diaper bag.  JUST BE STILL!

Juliette, on the other hand, was an A+ seat buddy.

When the flight attendant asked us to prepare for landing, I thought, “what do you think I’ve been doing for the last two hours?!”.

This year we opted to stay in a cabin at the lakefront resort where Shane’s parents and sister have campers rather than staying at their house in Alexandria.  Shane’s dad was at the main road waiting for us to arrive and Juliette was opening her car door to get to him before we’d even rolled to a stop.  See what I said about the Schnell love?!

We settled into our cabin that afternoon and spent the evening hanging out on Denny and Pat’s porch drinking hard-earned beer while Isaac pushed trucks around underfoot.

I walked Isaac back to our cabin around sunset, enjoying the warm evening and the pastel sky.

This was going to do just fine.

Isaac was up early and Friday (and also half the night on Thursday, little rascal…), so Shane took him out for a long morning run while Juliette and I grabbed extra Z’s.  BUDDY.  You can be something of a monster in the night, but in the light of day, you’re so forgivable.

We quickly settled into the week’s routine, convening at Tiff’s porch for hot coffee and home-cooked breakfast.

Isaac did some very sweet lap-sitting, but more often than not, he was diving out of our arms so that he could go play on the stairs or tip over chairs or make other sorts of mischief.  Never a dull moment.

Juliette became a Skipbo Queen…

While Pat introduced Isaac to all the sweet old neighbor ladies.

By noon on our second day there, Juliette had taken over the driver’s seat in Grandpa’s golf cart.  She wasn’t quite ready for the gas pedal, but her steering game was strong.

Afternoon swimming…

And a pre-dinner Corn Hole tournament.

There was so much room to roam – Isaac covered a lot of ground on this wide-open lawn!

Beverage break.

And back at it.  Gosh, this boy loves to climb.

Denny fried several pounds of fresh-caught Walleye for dinner and some neighbors sauntered over to partake.  There was a quick trip out on Grandpa’s boat, a moonrise stroll with Buddy, a little time around the campfire, and we were spent.  I wish I could say we slept like logs that night, but ISAAAAAC!!!

We were up and at it early again on Saturday.  There was a bottle in bed, another father-son morning walk, and a few quiet minutes out on the dock to enjoy the glassy water.

Time for breakfast at Auntie Tiff’s!

Things Juliette is thankful for:  1) Uncles that run to the neighborhood store to buy her a jump rope so that she can show off her new tricks.  2) Cousins that can braid!

After breakfast, Juliette and I joined Denny and some of his buddies for a trail ride.  I’d never been in a side-by-side, but when in Minnesota!

We climbed through birch groves and a grouse skittered across the path in front of us.  Grandpa reached out the window and picked wild violets for Juliette.  We bumped slowly through mud puddles and Juliette thought it was thrilling when we went through a puddle so deep that mud covered the side-by-side’s floor.

We rolled back into the resort and were greeted by the friendliest little welcome wagon.  Next year, Isaac, your turn!

You know what’s perfect after a dusty morning in the woods?  POOL TIME!

We joined most the neighborhood that night for a potluck at the main shelter.  Jello salads of every color in the rainbow!  It was sweet, the feeling of community among the crowded rows of picnic tables.

My word, these cousins.

That evening brought more Corn Hole (played one-handed as I struggled to keep Isaac from nose-diving off the stairs…),

More Skipbo…

And some Hayden-Jules shenanigans as they dropped acorns near where Denny sat down at the firepit.  He didn’t notice a thing.

S’mores!

And a sunset to boot.

Nighty-night…