O Christmas Tree

Well, the tree is up, the lights are lit, the elves have returned and are busy running amok every night (just kidding, our elves are fairly tame... clearly they are getting old and lazy). We picked out a tree at Pike's Nursery again - I'm always taken in by their set up... it's like walking through a forest, complete with snow-covered branches. Plus the people are always friendly, they'll hoist it onto your car for you, it's the way to go. And one of these years we might just have a splurge for a white flocked tree. They are magical!

Deck the Halls!
The girls were so funny putting up ornaments. They were far more interested in playing with their ornaments than hanging them on the tree. In fact, when we went to Target to pick out this year's ornament, they both opted for a fuzzy little white owl that they could not stop petting! I'm still not sure if those owls actually made it onto a branch or if they're upstairs in the girls' room somewhere.

In sad news, a quarter strand of light on the garland on my stairs is out. And it's the top part, which means I am not nearly motivated enough to take the whole thing down and restring it the way I say I'm going to do every year. I'm too excited about decorating to want to do it at the beginning of the season, and too over everything by the end to even care. I should probably buy a fresh string and just pack it in the garland box so at least everything will be ready to go next year. Oh well.

O Christmas Tree!


Let Me Get This Straight

Straight hair, don't care.

So I got a hair cut, my once-annual chopping of the locks. I'm just so lazy low maintenance when it comes to my hair. The good news is, curly hair can handle it. After all, every day it curls in a different way. My lovely stylist Jennifer feels my pain - she also has curly hair. But like so many curly haired girls I know, Jennifer always straightens her hair. And as a special treat for me, she insisted on straightening it at my appointment.

It's like I'm a completely different person with straight hair. I keep catching sight of myself in the mirror and marveling at the shape of my head... normally all you see is a mass of hair. Now there is actual a form under there. I keep thinking my face seems longer, or my hair somehow looks more brown without the distraction of the curly frizz that normally takes over. I like it for a change, but heaven help me, it took longer to straighten than it did to cut and I just don't have that kind of time in my life. Short of Jennifer coming over at 5 a.m. each day and doing it for me, this look will last until I finally break down and take a shower. Still, it's fun for a change. Although I rather think I would (gasp!) miss my curls if this were a permanent thing.

I've also been wearing my glasses for the last few days (I know, who AM I?!) I woke up with what seemed like a touch of pink eye, so I dug some eyedrops out of the cabinet and started self-medicating. It's been an adjustment, though. Every time I walk in a store, my instinctively go to take off my sunglasses, only to remember I'm not wearing any. And without sunglasses, the world has been a much brighter place, literally. Today I'm finally back to contacts and sunglasses, but I found myself riding around without the shades... it turns out that the fall colors are so much more vibrant when you're not hiding from the glare. I guess sometimes it is worth it to face reality as God made it, even if it makes your eyes water. (Insert deep metaphor about the current state of affairs here.)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

The girls have been at the grandmas since Saturday, which means Matt and I have gotten to run around reliving life as a young married couple, doing spontaneous things like couples date night (you haven't lived until you've had sparkling sake... you're welcome) and dinner/movie. I got a massage one day and popped into approximately 27 different stores on the hunt for various event-related items (bridal shower luncheon Christmas ornament gift - how specific is that?, lingerie shower gift, room mom gifts, teacher gifts, pre-Black Friday anxiety shopping). I cannot even imagine how horrible those errands would have been with two children in tow. I even busted out the Christmas decorations, minus the tree stuff. We'll wait until we have the girls back before we put up the tree - we're not total Scrooges. But it was nice to get some things out without their "help". I'm super excited about our advent calendar this year - various crafts, events, and stories for each day, handmade from our church. Isn't it beautiful?! We are really going to commit to following it through this year. With Lukas and Virginia's wedding closing out December, it's already guaranteed to be an extra-busy season, so I think it's important to make the time for this one.

Advent is coming!
Finally, I'll close this one down with a picture that's been 25 years in the making. We got together with some of Matt's closest high school/college friends. These guys have been through it all together... their friendship circle expanded to include girlfriends who then became wives and now we all have kids. We took over and pretty much shut down the local pizza joint with this crazy crew. Thankful for these friendships.

Party of 23!


Two Wheels

Last Christmas, Santa brought Violet this new bike, complete with training wheels. It was good times. But one of my summer goals was getting Violet to learn to ride it as a two-wheeler. (The other goal was potty-training Annie. Hey, one out of two ain't bad.)

Violet just wasn't interested in taking those training wheels off. We tried a time or two, but a few wobbles was all it took for her to lose all desire. Well, enter Annie's birthday balance bike. While it was way too small for Violet to be riding, she would still get on and zoom around the house. She got so good at it, Matt finally convinced her to try her real bike again, promising it was the exact same idea.

Lo and behold, within minutes she had mastered her two wheeler! Awesome! Even though Annie still won't touch the balance bike, it certainly proved its worth. Best way to get a kid to learn to bike, in my (now) opinion. After all, it's not the idea of pedaling that proves tricky, it's the staying upright on two wheels. And a little balance bike will quickly accomplish that part. 



Ah, Halloween! Not my favorite holiday of the year, but I'll go along with it. This year we headed back to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (thanks to the annual pass Matt got for his birthday) to celebrate at Goblins in the Garden. It was a rough start - the parking deck was full, leaving us to look for street parking in the neighborhoods across the street and then endure a half-mile trek just to get to the entrance... and again, the heat. Stupid fall. But we persevered (and perspired) and eventually gained entrance. It was super crowded but we had fun decorating pumpkins, building in the Home Depot kids workshop area, and just generally running around.

Decorating pumpkins at Goblins in the Garden

Not-so-scary black cat
And can you say yay to the easiest Halloween costumes ever?! The girls decided early on to be black cats, and surprisingly never wavered from their decision. A trip to Party City for ears and tails, then another stop at Target for black shirts, pants, and skirts, and boom. The least stressful Halloween costumes were complete. And they can actually wear these things again.

I love how Annie always checks to see what her big sister is doing when it comes to posing for pictures.

Halloween was on Monday this year (oh the horror). I hosted our usual neighborhood meal share, everyone jumped into their costumes, we gathered the rest of the troops, and set off to get our loot. Usually the boys opt for gross, creepy costumes, but this year was fairly tame (baseball player, pink unicorn, etc). I don't think the fake blood even made an appearance! Matt surprised us all by participating in his work costume party and nailed his look as Men in Black/Secret Service agent. I wore my token witch hat and called it a day.

Our Halloween crew!

Happy Halloween!
Wondering how this Halloween compares?
Halloween 2015
Halloween 2014
Halloween 2013
Halloween 2012
Halloween 2011
Halloween 2010


Pumpkin Patch!

We made our annual trek to a pumpkin patch. We headed back to Kinsey Family Farm this year. It's a little more low-key - no corn shooters or mazes. There was a lovely tractor ride, however, and so many pumpkins to pick from. It has been the warmed fall I remember in a long time... we wore long sleeves more for the effect than anything else. (It's just wrong to wear shorts to an October pumpkin patch, but that's Georgia for you.) Happy fall, y'all!

Hay ride!



And then it was October. And October is the worst. October is the time of final assessments and report cards and conference reports and Parent-Teacher Conferences, a week of 20-minute back-to-back nonstop talking meetings. Some parents I know. Some parents I'm having the first real conversation with. Some conferences are easy, some not so much. It's just a tough, stressful time. We came back from fall break and immediately jumped into two weeks of this overwhelming stuff.

But then it was done, everyone could take a big sigh of relief and enjoy the respite for the last couple weeks. Here is the happier side of October:

My Uncle Hans and cousin Amanda came for a visit from Sweden! Amanda is studying to be a teacher and needed to do a research project. Seems like quite a distance to go for a little research, but hey! They came up our way for fika one afternoon and we spent a delightful time making fun of American Gevalia coffee ads, discussing the horror that is American politics, and eating Swedish candy. (Actually, Matt and I hoarded the candy. Even though my relatives brought the girls their own little bags of candy, we replaced it with fake Swedish candy from Ikea and kept the good stuff for ourselves!)

And everyone was smiling at the camera on the first take! Miracle!

Building a Home Depot birdhouse.

Annie rocked her first trip to the dentist!
 The other highlight of  my October was hosting my dear, dear bookclub friends. While we no longer bother pretending we actually read/discuss books, we still cherish our time together. There are two new members of our club now, and the babies were so well behaved, we have decided our next "meeting" will be a Family Book Club. We'll even invite the husbands! Oh, how I love these ladies. They have been a part of my life for the last 20 years, and you just can't manufacture bonds like that.

The triumphant return of book club!


Fall Break (or just a break)

So.... long time, no see. This is by far the longest blogging drought I've experienced since I started this little online diary. Sorry. I don't really have a good excuse. I got busy, I got behind, then I got so far behind it felt like I would never dig out and it just seemed easier to ignore the whole thing. And truth be told, I haven't felt much desire to come on here and write anyway. The only reason I've been pulled back at all is just the need to establish some type of record that these events happened at all. More for my benefit than for anyone else's (although my mom did ask the other day if I was going to update).

Anyway, let's see what happens. I'll try to throw the big life events up here that have happened in the last couple months, although I'm going to back date them so I don't feel so bad about myself... Wouldn't that be a lovely life feature. Hindsight is 20/20, but now you can actually backdate your events so your life doesn't look like quite a mess... Someone figure out how to do that.

But  back to the show. (I'm a little rusty, obviously.) Fall Break. This year we spent fall break at a lovely condo right on the beach in Ft. Walton, Florida. The place came highly recommended from Matt's  mom, who stays in this very unit each year on her annual girl's trip. We invited both sets of grandparents to join us because, the more the merrier! And honestly, the trip was perfect.

The lovely thing about our location was the easy beach access. I've never stayed quite so close to the beach before, but now I'm spoiled. We only had to climb one flight of steps to get to our unit, and the beach was reached by simply walking downstairs, past the pools, over the boardwalk, and onto the sand. The condo came with two free beach chairs and umbrella, set up for us each day. And being that close to our place meant we didn't even need to drag that much stuff down with us. Hungry? Run inside and get a snack! Tired of the beach? Walk over the pool for a bit! Forgot something inside? Have someone toss it off the balcony to you! Perfect.

The view from our boardwalk.

The girls insisted on hitting the beach the moment we arrived.

Beach babies.

Frame it.
Fall break happened to coincide with Annie's birthday, so we just hauled all the decorations, presents and cupcakes down to Florida with us. Girlfriend turned three in grand style, with her requested Minnie Mouse cupcakes. She got some kitchen stuff, a balance bike (that she promptly refused to ride so Violet happily commandeered) and other goodies. What a sweet girl.


Ready to cook!
The great thing about having so many people at the beach was that there was always someone willing to do what I wanted to do, and always plenty of people to hang back and do something else. I highly recommend traveling with a large contingency of babysitters and amusement-makers. No one ever felt like they were stuck watching the kids, and conversely, no one ever felt like they were forced to always entertain the kids. Every morning I crept downstairs to watch the sunrise with my mug of coffee and whoever felt like coming with me, and every evening there was someone to take a stroll with. One afternoon Violet and I watched a wind surfer, witnessed a wedding, and took in the sunset.

My brown-eyed girl.

The crew!
About halfway through our stay, I happened to notice a picture on instagram from my neighbor, who happened to be staying only 20 minutes away! We quickly made plans to meet up at the local mini golf place to let the kids play and have dinner after. You'd think we see enough of each other at home, but now that Amy and I teach at different schools, we see far less of each other than we're used to, so it was a lovely little "reunion". And of course, my girls adore those boys.

Ready for putt putt!

Family time!

After my morning yoga session on the balcony.
 Our last night in town, we drove over to Harbor Walk. The girls rode the little train around the plaza and we had dinner overlooking a magnificent sunset. It's funny how quickly life at the beach becomes normal. I had to keep reminding myself that we don't get sunsets like this back home.

All aboard!

Dinner with a view.
Last sunrise.

Goodbye, Fields of Gold

My parents had to head home a day early, but on our last morning we finally remembered to take a family picture by accosting some poor soul who was trying to enjoy his morning coffee on the beach and talking him into snapping a few for us. It was such a great, relaxing trip. And of course, now I'm totally spoiled and will be insisting on spending every fall break this way. Hope the grandparents are up for it!

Best Vacation Ever.

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