You Are Our Sunshine

On one of the gloomiest, wettest days this fall, we threw our Little Sunshine a birthday party, and it was as bright and beautiful as I had hoped for!

The decorations from my baby shower keep getting reused - first as nursery decor, now for a birthday party!
First, let me just say how much birthday parties stress me out. I have an irrational fear that no one will come. Of course, I know I can always count on our families and neighbors, but this year I took a leap and invited some of Annie's friends from school. Violet had two little school friends at her second birthday party, and those girls continue to be good friends today. But I haven't bonded with any of the moms from Annie's class the same way, so I honestly wasn't even sure who to give an invitation to. Then I only got one RSVP. Awkward! Fortunately, by the big day, I'd heard from a few more people and was actually relieved I had ordered 24 cupcakes... we ate them all!

No tears during the birthday song this time!
And speaking of cupcakes, my friend Shannon is dabbling in the "baker on the side" business. Her desserts are legendary in our teacher break room and at book club. So when I texted her to see if she had any ideas for a "you are my sunshine" theme, she had tons of great (and delicious) ideas. It's nice to delegate some things to the experts!

Annie was so excited to see her friends and so many people in the house for her party. She rocked it! There were no tears this time around when we sang to her, and she tore into her cupcake like she knew Shannon baked it for her! (Smart girl, this one.) All in all, it was a lovely, exhausting day. (Remind me not to schedule a party at two in the afternoon again... it's too hard to keep the house clean that long! Parties should begin as soon as your children are up and dressed - all the more time for naps when it's all over!)

Some friends from school came to play...


Light in the Garden

The Frog and the Handsome Prince

Fall Break wasn't just fun for the girls. We dropped them off at Grandma's house for a sleepover so Matt and I could have our own date night. We decided on the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Bruce Munro light exhibition - so fun! We got there right at 6 p.m. on an overcast evening. Fortunately, the rain held off for us, and the gloomy weather just added to the ambiance. 

An orchid of light.
The Gardens are beautiful anyway, but add in the colorful light exhibitions popping up randomly throughout the scenery and it made for an enchanting combination. We had enough daylight to tour the place, and then got to watch the effect of the gathering darkness on the mysterious lights as they strengthened in intensity.

Forest of Light
By far the most amazing part was the Forest of Light. 30,000 glass "flowers" were planted throughout the darkest part of the gardens, accessed only by the fairy-like sky bridge. As you walked above, a see of lights appeared below, like you were walking straight into Tolkien's Lothlorien. Indeed, had Galadriel herself appeared, I wouldn't have been surprised. The lights slowly flickered through a changing sea of colors, and in some places the "roots" had been left exposed, revealing the network of glowing wires that connected the flowers to each other. The darker it got, the more amazing the scene became. The artist called it a "symbol for the good things in life" and I have to agree, it was magical.


Made with 2,730 bottles.

The Water-Towers.
The Water-Towers was another amazing display of shifting light and sound, this one set to a soothing pulse of music and drew you in and lulled you into a hypnotic state of watching as the lights slowly ebbed and flowed into each other. Seeing the reflection in the water and glimpsing the Atlanta skyline in the distance just added to the effect. It was one of those moments that I kept taking pictures, knowing as I did so that they would never do justice to the act of standing in the moment. Still, you can't blame me for trying to capture it!

We ended our date night with dinner at Empire State South. May I recommend the Farm Egg and Seafood Stew? Seriously though, the Farm Egg... I've never put anything quite like it in my mouth... imagine deep fried rice, all crunchy and snappy, with a soft-boiled egg on top. At the table, you gently break the egg yolk and stir it into the rice... yeah, you'll just have to take my word for it. So. Good. We went to bed full and happy that night!

Fall Break

For the very first time, our county planned a Fall Break in our calendar. To say we were ready for a break is an understatement! Sure I'm heading back to the toughest three weeks (assessments! report cards! parent-teacher conferences!) and our first field trip, but having a week off has been nice.

So while the rest of the county opted to go to Disney World (seriously, I know so many people who went there), Annie is just too young to want to take on that challenge. Next year, definitely. But this year we opted to stick around town. Here are a few of the ways we spent our time.

On Wednesday we headed into Atlanta to visit Legoland. My children are probably not the target audience here, especially since Annie was too little to be allowed onto the rides or play structure. They were done after about an hour. Still, Annie got to hear a story and build some farm animals during the toddler hour, and they enjoyed the 4D movie. Annie especially got a kick out of the earthquake tables (build a lego structure, hit a button, see if the earthquake motion can knock it over). She cracked up whenever the pieces went tumbling. Plus it got us out of the house for the morning. But I think they enjoyed our stop at Ikea afterwards just as much if not more.


The weather has been pretty dreary all week. I think there has been a grand total of 7 hours of sunshine the entire break. So our proposed Thursday trip to the zoo was looking pretty dicey. On the way downtown, I decided to google the High Museum as an indoor back-up plan. It ended up being an awesome move.

They have a Mo Willems exhibit, of "Don't Let Pigeon Drive the Bus!" fame. The art was hung at kiddie eye level, and Violet got really into the scavenger hunt and drawing lessons. Her pigeon and Knuffle Bunny were pretty spot on!

Don't let Annie drive the bus!

After seeing the exhibit, we headed to toddle story time and then a DIY art class where the kids were invited to make stick art. Violet created a dog, Matt made a Christmas tree, I made a piece I affectionately named "Flower in Winter" and Annie made... well, a mess! I was surprised at how seriously Violet took it all. She's really gotten into drawing and following directions and answering questions... I credit kindergarten. This is a girl who really knows how to do school, and seems to be thriving!

Let's make some art!

The outdoor art installation - finally art the kids were allowed to touch!
Other fall break fun included a playdate with Mimi and a sleepover at Grandma's house. We offered to take the girls to the aquarium, but given the choice between that and staying at Grandma's house to play... well, they chose playtime!

The last big event of the break will be Annie's birthday party on Satursday! Girlfriend is finally getting her official celebration, complete with friends and family and of course, cupcakes! She is so excited. Every time I remind her that she's going to have a party, she responds with a Keanu Reeves worthy "whoa!" and then proceeds to sing "Happy Birthday" to herself. Little nut!


The Voice

It happens every year, sometime in September. I come home one day from school and I'll notice that my throat is a little sore. I'll brush it off, soldier on, but the next day it's worse. I'm forced to acknowledge that yes, my throat hurts. I up my water intake, pop a cough drop or two. Two days of knives in my throat whenever I swallow and suddenly, it doesn't hurt so much. Which would be wonderful, except now the symptoms have moved to my nose. Suddenly my nose is running so much I just shove a tissue up there and hope for the best. Or on the flip side, my nose is stuffed up worse than the Downtown Connecter on a Friday afternoon in the rain while the President's motorcade is in town. Forget breathing. I start wishing the sore throat would come back, remembered the good old days when oxygen flowed freely through my nostrils. Hey, I'd even take 50 percent nostril capacity. I start downing Mucinex, the elixir of the sinus gods, like I'm singlehandedly responsible for keeping the company in business. (The pharmacists are required to take your driver's license information when you buy the good stuff behind the counter, but between Matt and I, we keep the medicine cabinet stocked. When it doubt, buy the biggest box they have!) The Mucinex does its job, but there is a price to pay. Yes, I can breath. But now things in the chest are breaking up, moving. The cough, its low, gravely rumble, its wet hack, begins. Better out than in, I always say, but what is coming up and out is disgusting.

But the worst part is, somewhere between the knives in throat and the Mucinex habit, my voice has disappeared. First its a scratch, some throat-clearing as I try to explain the day's activities. Then there's the break in the voice, causing the students to laugh with a concerned look on their faces - something isn't right. Adults joke about the "sexy bedroom voice" and I joke back about my two-pack-a-day habit. But by the end of the day, the voice is a whisper. Speaking is agony. Forcing sound through my throat is a monumental, painful effort with little to no payoff. And it's only Tuesday. I have to survive through the end of the week. I'm now buying stock in fresh lemons, locally-sourced honey and hot tea. I resolve not to speak unless absolutely necessary. (For the record, when you teach first grade, absolutely necessary talking points account for about 87 percent of your day.)

And, you guys, this happens every year. At least once.

Not being able to speak is so isolating. Conversations happens around me, as it normally does, but I'm not engaged because I can't contribute back. Since I can't share my own two cents, I just let the words wash around me, like I'm the boulder in the middle of the rushing stream. There is some nodding, shrugging, smiling. But I feel invisible. It's hard to have an opinion, knowing I won't be able to proclaim it. It's almost easier just to be alone, where my silence is expected. No wonder people take vows of silence when they need to disconnect from the world. When you can't vocally weigh in on the latest gossip, you tend to not form an opinion.

The slow, uphill climb towards health begins. The voice strengthens, gets pushed too far, falters again, then regains momentum. The Mucinex usage slows. I'm no longer needing 42 tissues an hour. And this year, the gift of Fall Break was awaiting me at the end of my trial. I'm hopeful that a week off will leave me fully recovered. And ready to share my opinion on the latest celebrity scandal. Oh wait... nope, still don't care.

Happy Birthday Annie!

Watch out, world! I'm 2 and ready to party!
This girl. Annie is two! She can count to ten (with one-to-one correspondence, no less!), knows her colors, asks for apps on the iPad by name ("I pay doodabuddy!") and insists on sleeping in Violet's bed. She is a total chatterbox at home, but the silent type at school. Her favorite things to do = anything Violet is currently doing. She likes to vacuum and sweep anytime she sees me get started and so badly wants to sit on potty (we'll get there, kiddo). She falls asleep holding her seahorse every night. Regardless of what chaos has ensued during the day, Matt and I generally reflect that she's a pretty good kid, pouty face and terrible two tantrums and all. "Yah you" sweet Annie!

The real party is still to come, but Annie's actual birthday was on Wednesday. Matt was out of town, I had laryngitis, there were no decorations or presents, but I couldn't let her actual birthday go by without at least a cupcake and candles. Poor thing, the minute we started singing, she burst into tears. She even refused to take a cupcake (until I picked one for myself... that one she deemed okay to steal!)

She cheered up enough to eat her cupcake.
When it started raining this weekend, we just couldn't keep her presents from her any longer. Forget the wrapping paper; we just forked them over, and she is absolutely in love with her new ladybug rain boots and matching umbrella!


Catching Up

I'm catching my first cold of the school year. I've seen it coming for a few days now. Nothing like a student wiping their nose with their hands and then asking if you will hold their hand on the way to bus dismissal. Those sweet, germy kids of mine.

Still, it didn't stop us from having a jam-packed weekend. Friday night was our school movie night, followed Saturday morning by an 8:30 soccer game. Violet got to play goalie for a while and she said it was her favorite part of the game. We ran errands that afternoon, hit up the grocery store for the week, I graded papers, did laundry, all so we could watch the Bulldogs play their butts off that evening over with some friends. I was volunteering in Annie's Sunday school class this morning, then we had the afternoon to get things put in order before another work week starts. All with this lovely head cold brewing. Such is life. It never stops. And while I didn't take many pictures of this weekend, here are a few that continue to tell the story of our lives.

Green Lightning takes the field!
The jury is still out on whether soccer will be in Violet's future. I'm definitely seeing improvement after every practice and game. After the first game she complained that she wanted a new position, the "running and kicking" position. (She's been on offense and well, our team hasn't had much opportunity for offense this season.) But she seemed to like goalie this past Saturday, so hopefully the coach will continue to let her explore some different positions. I don't think she will ever be super aggressive on the field, but I'm proud of her for getting out there, following directions and generally trying her best.

Truth: this picture looks so sweet, doesn't it. Don't worry. 4.7 seconds after I took it, they were both in tears. Violet decided to pull rank and not let Annie stay in the play tent, Annie pitched a fit for not being allowed to do every exact thing she sees her big sister do. Just thought you all should know the truth behind this blissful moment.

When Violet grows up, she wants to be a teacher. Don't worry, I've got time to talk her out of it.

If looks could kill...
Annie has developed quite the pouty face. She whips it out at the blink of an eye if you cross her. In this particular case, she had just dumped out an entire water bottle in her lap on purpose. So I did what any normal mom would do -  I took the water bottle away. I was rewarded by this death glare. This little stinker also got out of bed eight times last night. At one point I found her laying down at the top of the stairs; I think she was trying to hide from me but still see what was going on downstairs without her! Her new trick is to get out of bed in the middle of the night and go into Violet's room. Generally Violet is completely dead to the world asleep (thank goodness!) and Matt or I have to go fetch Annie and walk her back to her bed. She's a mess! Also, she will be two on Wednesday! Crazy!


Screen on the Green

Annie, Emma and Violet waiting for the movie to start.

One of my favorite events that our PTA puts on is Family Movie Night. They set up a huge screen on a nearby lawn, invite food trucks, and we all just hang out for an evening. This year we invited Violet's BFF Emma along, and the girls had so much fun running around, eating a well-rounded dinner of Kona Ice, Skittles and popcorn, and watching (most) of the movie.

Kindergarten pals!

Pretty proud of her treat.

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