Sunday, December 31, 2017

Whidbey Walking


You’ll just have to believe me on this, but that’s a bald eagle circling overhead.  But you can just admire the blue, blue December sky I got to enjoy walking down Sandy Point to do my Mama Loop. 


I love being able to leave everyone at the cabin and go for a walk with my best friend—me! (Occasionally, when Dwayne and I go together, he tells me to walk circles around him so we stay together.)


A week later, the weather wasn’t quite as nice, but here in the PNW, I can appreciate dry!


Love this island.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Letter, 2017

He ate the last rum ball

She swears at the ?#$#@$ tax overhaul.

Not one kid will flush the potty.

Yeah, we’ve all been a little bit naughty.

Dear Loved Ones,

I should not have announced my intention to start my annual letter, because almost immediately, 1) the toilet overflowed, 2) the TV stopped working, and 3) the toaster set off the smoke alarm. Daily, I question my life choices.

The kids continue to age exponentially faster than Dwayne and me. Kyla received her acceptance to Hogwarts on her 11th birthday. Thinking I was writing a letter to Santa, she advocated that she had been really good this year. I started to scoff, but realized that she was speaking truth. She works hard to love Piper and initiates compliments to everyone. She does her chores quickly so she can get back to her audiobooks, and is the estate’s head gardener. She’s prepping for middle school next year and wants to take lots of math and chemistry, and last summer, attended a living history camp to experience 1880.

Wesley is ridiculously cheerful and charming, and even when he was stung by ten yellow jackets (he wanted to make sure you knew that), he was brave and even somewhat philosophical. Contrarily, his grip on reality is a bit tenuous, as at last count, he’s had over a hundred “worst day of my life” whines, usually as he’s served something he doesn’t love for dinner. A casual observer would note that this almost-8-year-old is an inventor—of course, the casual observer is not usually getting her stuff broken. My favorite retractable hose became his personal bungee cable for daring stunts, and no rubber band, cardboard box, or even innocent coat hanger is safe from Wesley’s, ahem, creativity.

Piper is finding a niche for herself in the family through music—she’s started piano and violin this year. Not quite ten, she hasn’t fully tilted toward “human” yet, and has been caught in pouncing stance on the stairs, ready to hiss and growl at any passerby. After months of saving, she is now the proud mama of a leopard gecko and declares him “cuddly”. When that girl decides something, she’s all in. She taught herself to type this year and really took to snowboarding in a few lessons. She conquered the bunny slope, on a day that ended with me snapping, “Everyone stop crying. Get in the car and start eating cookies. Eat lots of cookies NOW.” That may have been my parenting apex.

Dwayne, who has been faithful to one phone for 6 years, managed to hilariously go through 4 phones in 2 weeks.[1] If I die first, I grin to think what would happen to women when he starts dating. His work building is being gutted and so his whole team is working in Bellevue now, adding a lot of time to his commute. Dwayne has failed National Swearing Day—the day we get our Christmas tree—for a few years now. He’s thinking he needs a new challenge, something that actually makes him swear. I’m encouraging him to try parenting more than a few hours at a time.

I work as a substitute teacher just a day or two a week—enough to justify a cleaning lady and premade dinners. Denise-ing includes PTA-ing, volunteering, and serving in a few capacities at the district level, both as part of our schools’ foundation and a special education advocate. I haven’t run Heartsease Properties into the ground yet; in fact, we may have made too much money on the cabin this year. But since I do a lousy job of bookkeeping until Dec. 31, I can’t be sure.

Our biggest excitement this year was a brand-new kitchen. In a nutshell, we went from 1975 cheap bid to 2017 mid-grade, which is practically a new universe. The kitchen was only out of commission for a little over two weeks, but I will confess that with a fridge and microwave, my family didn’t eat much differently than usual. Basically what I’m saying is that when you call me “goddess”, you shouldn’t prefix it with “domestic”. And if I didn’t make it clear, the contractor did 100% of the work, which is why it was done early and mostly on budget. Dwayne and I can’t fathom that sort of professionalism.

The star of 2017 may be the dented, filthy, crusted minivan, that took us to San Diego and back this summer to spend time with family on both sides of the tree. We did our first amusement park together as we spent a spectacular day at Lego Land, and loved playing on SoCal’s beaches with family. Besides many adventures with loved ones, our best takeaway on this vacation was the invention of “ice cream o’clock”—a summer hit no matter where we were.

Fun family news: I’ll be an auntie again when Brian and Sandi’s second daughter is born late winter. The anticipation of that birth, as well as the Christ, is hard to ignore and my children’s excitement is more contagious than their colds.

May your traditions, family, and friends bring you both joy and peace this season!

With heaps of love,

Denise for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, & Wesley


[1] Wesley pipes up that after all that, Wes himself got Daddy’s original phone to work again.

Monday, December 25, 2017

White Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It slowed down sometime during the night, but we woke up to this on Christmas morning. 

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After breakfast clean up, the kids went out to play, and Dwayne and I took ourselves for a walk.

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Have I mentioned how much I like decorating the outside for the holidays?  To be truthful, it’s more how much I enjoy having it decorated.  And, honestly, once it goes up, it doesn’t come down until 1) it’s warm enough, and 2) my to-do list is otherwise short. So I’ll get to enjoy my ducklings for quite a while yet.

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Oh, I think for next year, Mama Duck needs a Santa hat.

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And maybe she’s not the only one.

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Thanks, Snow, for finishing the decorating for me.  I love it!

Our Christmas Elves

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We got to sleep until well past 7am, when Kyla poked her head and asked about the gifts at the end of her bed—since Wesley is always snuggled up next to her by the morning, Santa left both her wrapped books and his at the foot of her bed.  But then the kids tiptoed quietly to prepare the annual kitchen cafĂ©.

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I’ll give them full credit for their willingness—they even want to serve us off the special menu before presents.  We talked them into gifts, but I was really proud of how they wanted to give us something special first. 


Since not one of them believes in Santa, they go to great lengths to pretend they do.  The same lengths Dwayne and I go to as we play along.

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Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Another ‘elfie, over bacon, cinnamon bread, and satsumas.

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Here’s our living room after Santa came….


…and then once the sun was up.


The kids work hard to give fun presents to everyone.

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And while I assist Santa on every gift, Dwayne out-Santas Santa as he showers me with fun, fun presents.

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I love our Christmas morning together, just the five of us.  The kids were super-wonderful all day.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Best Christmas Eve Ever

I think our Christmas Eve tradition is to do something different each year (it drives Kyla batty).  But this year was more low-key that usual, so we make plans to go to the Brazilian churrascaria (sha skah DEE uh, at least that’s as close as my English tongue can get) in Bellevue.  We had an early 3pm reservation so we could go to the 5pm candlelight service.  Since my parents were with us, we managed to even show up a little early!

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This had been on our list for a while—our new thing to celebrate Dad’s birthday is to try a “unique dining” experience.  Last year, it was the medieval Bors Hede Inn, and this year, we decided to treat him to a traditional Brazilian Steakhouse….two months late (Need-time). 

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If you haven’t been to one before, it really must be experienced, so with that, I let myself off the hook of giving more details.  However, I will admit that Fogo de Chao is the nicest churrascaria we’ve ever been.  It was the perfect meat, I mean meal, for everyone!

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But what turned greatness into pure magic was the snow that began to fall halfway through the meal, making the afternoon even more perfect for 6/7ths of us.  Sorry, Mom. 

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Honey, take an ‘elfie!

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My parents karma ran into Need carelessness and, of course, we were 10 minutes late to service.  And coming out, the world was white and wonderful.

A white Christmas is coming!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Adventure in Seattle!

We’re off on an adventure, starting the day with smiles.

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We met Rochelle, Mabel and Ruby to carpool downtown.  The first stop?  Convention Center for easy parking.  (Because you are either going to take the first parking spot you find and pay $25 for it, or you drive around looking for a cheap spot, and you park farther away, and still pay $25. That’s my experience, anyway.)

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And then we quickly found the Gingerbread Houses!  Mama love.

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The octopus is made of Swedish fish.

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It made me hungry for candy and I don't even like non-chocolate.

Then off to the carousal!

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All that makes us hungry (again), so the monorail brought us to the food court and Seattle Center with the Winterfest Train. 

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Everything looked great until I got a closer look at hotballooner. 

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Then we’re off to the much anticipated ice-skating…with real ice this time!  Badly groomed, but the kids were thrilled with the upgrade from last week. 

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We let them get the rest of their energy out at the playground before taking the Monorail back to downtown.


Nearing the end of the day, we made a quick stop at the Fairmount Hotel to see the life-size Gingerbread House (and what kid doesn’t want to lick the walls?).

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Then even a quicker turnaround, as we see the line into the Teddy Bear Suite, and decide that no teddy bear is worth a queue on the Friday afternoon. 

But even with a dead car battery, and ahem, bags of candy, we still ended the day with smiles, too. As Wesley chirped: This is the best day ever!