Oops, January is over

Snow day!

So when I said my word of the year was going to be "intentional" that clearly didn't apply to keeping this place updated regularly, since I've posted all of one time in January and we're already into February. Oh well. Fail. Thing is, I don't actually feel that guilty about it. I guess I'm just not feeling the writing juice these days. But since I had to hope on the laptop to finish something for school before the work week kicks off again, I figured I'd mosey on over to this little space and show you what happened earlier this month.

We had a snow day.

Hahahahaha! The picture above looks fairly legit, but if I zoom out, you quickly see the "snow" is rather paltry. All the promise of the Blizzard of 2017 quickly turned into a rain-freeze scenario that left a crunchy layer of ice over the grass, rather than the fluffy whiteout the entire state was hoping for. Oh well. It was a day to stay home and snuggle in our pajamas.

Just kidding. It's not really snow.

Of course, we don't actually get snow days anymore. Anytime our county closes due to weather, we have an online learning day. We teachers post lessons, the kids have assignments, I even have to hold "office hours" where parents can get in touch with me. We've had an online learning day or two every year since we adopted this new policy, and it gets smoother every time. I had a grand total of one parent email me.
Gus helps out with online learning day.
Other January highlights include... Our country getting a new president and the general sense of unease that has pervaded ever since, me getting to the point of probably needing to get off social media for a while and deciding I should probably only get my news from the BBC from now on, and the sense of disbelief and just about every headline I read these days.

Oh, and I turned 36. And Violet had her first grade school concert, featuring songs about the ocean. That little noodle (top row, third from left) was so cute during rehearsals, but then completely clammed up in front of a cafeteria's worth of parents watching. Sweet thing.

First Grade Concert!
Now we're just waiting for the Superbowl to start, ready to cheer on our Atlanta Falcons! 


Happy New Year!

Hello 2017! 
We had a pretty tame New Year's Eve around here, which given the way 2016 has rapidly gone downhill (barring a significant upturn in December brought on by the holidays and my brother's wedding), seemed just fine with me. We drove in from said wedding around 5:30 on NYE, unpacked the car and our bags and headed over to our neighbor's house for a low-key hang out until midnight. Keeping it simple! Both girls, after being cooped up in the car for six-plus hours, were ready to run around and have some fun but quickly crashed. Violet made it to midnight, barely, and Annie found herself a nice spot on the couch and called it a night.

Traditional family photo.

I was talking with these lovely ladies about the new year. I've decided one of my resolutions will be to start wearing lipstick. Not changing the world over here by any means, but since I've graduated to washing my face everyday and wearing real makeup, I might as well add lipstick as the final touch. I just need to find an expert who can tell me what type/shade/brand of lipstick I need. And how to apply it. And when to wear it. But I can do hard things!

We were also talking about our words for the year. Last year I picked "abide." I wanted to make sure I was abiding in, living in, God's will for my life. I wanted to make sure I was where He wanted me. I wanted to be saturated with His will, His plan. Lo and behold, I followed the call straight over to a new school, a bigger commitment at church, I even agreed to be Violet's Daisy troop co-leader! I can't say I feel saturated, but I certainly feel like I've waded up past my knees.

This year, I'm going with "intentional". I want to be very intentional about how I spend my time, my money, what words I use, my attitude. What is important? What actually needs my "yes"? Intentional, present, aware, all those things. I haven't quite figured out what tools I'm going to need to help me on this journey. Is there a good book out there? Do I need an alarm on my phone to beep my head out of the clouds and back onto the moment at hand? Do you have a word of the year? (The above ladies picked "peace" and "simplify"...)

Let's get this year started!

Sweet girl couldn't make it to midnight, and this mama wasn't far behind her!


The Wedding! Part 2

The bridal par-tay! 
Then it was wedding time! We took so. many. pictures. before the ceremony. (Note to all brides, please take your pictures ahead of time. You can have a romantic "first look" and all that, but for the love of your bridal party, guests, and anyone under the age of six, get those pictures out of the way!) Virginia asked all her bridesmaid to choose a black dress that made them feel beautiful to wear in the wedding, and the boys all wore silly socks under those austere suits of theirs. The pictures will be beautiful but man, was it chilly! The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight, into the low 50s. We would huddle in our hoodies, then throw everything off to smile for the cameras. Matt surprised me with a cup of coffee when we all reunited at the photo site - it's true love, people. We finally wrapped things up and boarded the trolley back to the church for more pictures, followed by a very special blessing from both fathers, before the guests finally arrived and it was showtime!

My beautiful mother and I, waiting backstage.

Funny story. In the room where we were waiting for go time, we had thoughtfully been provided with a basket of snacks. Annie picked a bag of popcorn and wandered around the room, munching. At this point it was about quarter to five on a no-nap day where she had spent the majority of her time being told to alternately get in the picture and smile or get out of the way. The other flower girl had a total meltdown and I was worried it would set my girls off but neither of them seemed to notice. Annie just kept munching that popcorn. Well, it was finally time to line up for the processional, and still Annie has that darned bag of popcorn! I tried taking it from her, only to have my fingers nearly bitten off. I tried getting her to eat faster. I tried asking if I could eat some for her. Even Virginia tried her best, to no avail. Well, the music started and as I took my turn to march into the church, I had to leave it all in Grandma's hands.

I reached the front of the sanctuary and turned just as the maid and matron of honor are also taking their places. The previously crying flower girl made her way with no tears in sight. Now all that was left was my girls, carrying their signs that read "Uncle Lukas..." and "here comes your bride!" From the foyer I hear a loud and insistent "No! MY popcorn!" I see Lee Anne throw her hands up and send them on their way, Annie clutching her sign in one hand and that bag of popcorn in the other! (Hey, at least the black and white bag color-coordinated!)

The ceremony proceeded without a hitch until there was just one last thing to do. After the pronouncement of husband and wife, the girls were supposed to flip around their signs to now read "Mr. Fortunato" and "Mrs. Fortunato" and follow the bride and groom out of the church. As the final blessing is being given, I glance to the pew where they have been parked with Grandma and Grandpa and Matt's dad points at Annie... totally and completely asleep, Minnie Mouse underwear flashing the world, practically snoring in her exhaustion! But not to fear, Grandpa also motions to Violet, who grins and holds up both signs, one in each hand. Perfectly on cue, she hopped into the aisle just when she was supposed to. We walked out of the church, straight onto the trolley, and hightailed it to the reception. (I did have Matt text his parents to confirm that they would bring Sleeping Beauty to the reception since she missed her trolley ride!) Then we just partied the night away!

Look who I bumped into in the lighthouse!

What a great place for a party!

The view from the top (and the spot of the proposal).

She finally woke up!

Wedding selfie!

You know it's a party when the Chick-fil-a cow shows up!

The Wedding!

My brother got married! Honestly there could be 27 more exclamation points after that sentence and it still wouldn't feel like enough. Lukas and Virginia tied the knot on December 30 on St. Simons Island, her hometown. It was beautiful. It was incredibly well-planned and executed (there was a 15-page master schedule that covered the week, broken into 15-minute increments... these people were serious). There was so much smiling and laughing and praying. And I am more than thrilled to call Virginia my new sister.
The dawning of the Big Day.

We wrapped up Christmas in Peachtree City and booked it for St. Simons on Thursday morning, followed closely by Matt's parents, who were also invited to the wedding and would be acting as our stand-by babysitters (having both Matt and I in the wedding was going to make it difficult to wrangle our little flower girls so I was thrilled to have the grandparents along!) It monsooned on us basically the entire way to the island. We rolled in just in time to check into the hotel, change, and head to the rehearsal, or what I called the "listening and following directions" time. Given the circumstances, the girls did an awesome job. Violet asked me to run through her instructions over and over as we were in the church, making sure she knew exactly what to do the next day. Typical Annie just ran around and charmed everyone. We were given lovely gifts of matching black hoodies with our monograms on them - adorable! The girls loved them immediately - their first monograms! We headed to the rehearsal dinner and listened to stories from the bridal couple's nearest and dearest. Annie was escorted home by grandma and grandpa while Violet made fast friends with the other flower girl and hammed it up in the photo booth.

Look at these beautiful girls! (Every time I want to chop off Annie's hair, I see a picture like this and be still my soul and scissors...)

Quick, while she's actually looking at the camera!

The wedding kiddos!

Love it when Stephanie makes it out from CA!

The next day, after a quick run on the beach (with strict instructions NOT to go into the water!), the ladies of the wedding party arrived at the Belt residence for hair, makeup, hoodies, pictures, the works. This was the start of the hurry up and wait portion of the events. I was worried about my kiddos... waiting is not always the easiest. But they entertained themselves well. For what could have been a stressful time, everyone was remarkably calm. Videographers roamed around, the photographers flitted in and out, everyone just did what they needed to do, I attempted to be helpful and stay out of everyone's way.

Virginia and her girls!

Getting her hair done like a big girl!

Annie, continuing her trend of not looking at the camera.

The countdown to making Aunt Virginia our real AUNT Virginia!
Finally it was time to board the trolley (Violet made me google a picture so she could understand exactly what a "trolley" was) to take us to the St. Simons lighthouse, scene of the wedding reception and pre-wedding pictures. Overnight the temperature had dropped 20 degrees, meaning we were looking at outdoor photos by the ocean in low-50 degree weather. But the sun was shining and we were counting on adrenaline and love to keep us warm!


Gimme a Break!

First Grade ready to board the Polar Express!

We did it! We made it to Christmas Break! The school calendar is a weird one this year, forcing us to teach the Monday and Tuesday of Christmas week. Fortunately, all we had planned was our holiday party (snowman style!) and Polar Express, so we survived.

I love my snowman party. This is the third year I've done it, and it is always a hit. The kids wrapped each other (and their parents) up in toilet paper to "dress like a snowman", we had melted snowman ice cream sundaes, complete with pretzel "sticks" for arms and candy corn "carrot" noses. They also used my indoor snowball fight set to go snowman bowling in the hallway and made a snowman ornament using their handprint.

On the last day, I had everyone clean out their desks (no weird surprises this year!) and passed out brand new supplies... there's nothing like a fresh box of crayons to start the new year! Then we settled in to watch the Polar Express in our pajamas, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream, and generally just tried to survive until dismissal. I busted my butt to get report cards done, papers filed, things ready for January, and I was ready to blow outta there 10 minutes after the bell rang! It's time to get this holiday started!

Nope, not a hair cut.

And let me tell you, I need a break. These last two weeks have done me in. Our kitchen sink started leaking. Matt thought he fixed it, but it started leaking again. We ordered a new mattress but then needed a different box spring, leaving us with a bedroom full of mattresses stacked around but nothing to sleep on. Then there was the Lice Incident. Which, after an immediate do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200-dollars visit to the Lice Ladies and eight straight hours of vacuuming and laundry, has resulted in me just feeling paranoid. But things are turning around. We got a new disposal courtesy of a very nice plumber. The old mattress was hauled away by a creepy hope-he's-not-a-serial-killer guy and the new box spring arrived, leaving me with a lovely new bed. Ninety percent of the presents are purchased, fifty percent are wrapped. Book club party, small group party, neighbor dinner have all been crossed off the to-do list. I got my pedicure for the wedding. It's going to be a whirlwind holiday, but we're going to make it. And it's going to be awesome!

Book club has become a family affair!




We went to see the Nutcracker! It was so fun. I remember one year in high school, a bunch of my friends felt so grown up when we dressed up fancy and went to the Fox to see the Atlanta Ballet perform the classic. But it's the only time I've ever seen this particular show. So when Violet's friend Taylor invited us to join for a mother-daughter date, I jumped at the chance. For Violet's first foray into ballet watching, we went to a local production, rather than trek all the way downtown. I wasn't about to tackle the Fox without knowing if Violet would even be able to make it through the entire performance without demanding to know why no one was talking or deciding that this ballet thing is for the birds. And considering she had exactly zero background on what was about to take place, I thought she did awesome!

Before the show.
Our seats were fantastic. The theater was intimate enough that we scored seats in the front row of the balcony and it was perfect. We had a wonderful view (although when Violet got a little squirmy halfway through the second act, I freaked out a bit that the audience behind us was getting too good of a view of her feet propped up on the railing). After the show the dancers gathered in the lobby adn our girls got a few pictures. Violet declared Arabian her favorite (isn't it always) and I was very impressed by the professionalism of the cast, especially given that these are not professionals. Overall I think Violet enjoyed it. I certainly did! I hope we'll be back!

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