Botanical Gardens

My girls and the Earth Goddess. Or as my girls insist, Te Fiti from Moana.

We took advantage of a truly beautiful fall-ish day to visit one of our favorite places in Atlanta, the Botanical Gardens. We have a membership pass, but the middle of the summer is always so hot, it makes it hard to even want to go. But mid-70s on a sunny Saturday in September? Yes, please! 

Look How We've Grown


Back to School

And then the summer was over, and we all headed back to school. Somehow I ended up with a second grader! How did that happen?! The days are long, but my how the years are short! Violet once again wants to be a teacher when she grows up. (I'll keep my opinions about that intended profession to myself.) She was totally ready to go - no tears, no whining, no "please walk me to my classroom while I hang onto your leg". I was so excited to learn Ms. Post was her teacher this year - I have a thing for second-year teachers. They're still full of enthusiasm and innovation; they haven't been beaten down by the system yet, haha!

Off she goes!

Violet and Ms. Post!
Matt took a "first day" picture with Annie too, even though she officially started a week early due to my pre-planning schedule. She's in Early Pre-K this year, thanks to that September birthday. She just missed the cut-off! This is hopefully our last year of daycare - my school opened up two special needs pre-k classes, and each classroom has two "typical peer" slots for staff kids. We toyed with the idea of trying to get her in this year, but it was too last minute for me to think through properly. Plus there would be no guarantee of a slot next year, which is when she is supposed to go. So, we're with Carrington for one more year. It's not a bad thing, either. Her teacher from last year looped up, so it made for a smooth transition, and we LOVE Ms. Breanna!

The first-ish day of Pre-ish K!

Annie's class... see her self-portrait in the top right corner?
And as for me... well, the best part of starting this year was not being the new teacher anymore! It's a relief to have a year under my belt at this beautiful school. I know how things work, I know what to expect, I know what's coming up. It makes a huge difference, let me tell you. And although I was sad to see the summer end, it reaches a point where you just want the school year to start and get the waiting over with!

A beautiful day to go back to school!

First grade team!


All In the Family

Our last adventure before heading back to school this year was the annual (okay, every other year) Loughman family reunion. The location rotates every two years between five different states, and this year it happened to be the Georgia year (so convenient!) While other family members booked their plane tickets and packed their vans for multi-hour drives, we just took our usual trip to Peachtree City! Which worked out well, considering that school was just around the corner. Had the location been half a country away, I'm not sure we could have made it. As it was, I was able to enjoy a few last minutes of summer and lots of family, food, and fun.

One of the best parts of the trip was watching my girls play with their cousins. (Second cousins? First cousins twice removed? I'm not sure we ever got the exact terminology correct but that didn't seem to bother the kids!) Growing up, we lived too far away and there was too much age difference to do much bonding with my own cousins. So the fact that these kiddos not only met for the first time, but managed to become instant buddies during the weekend was so much fun to watch. There were golf cart rides, water balloon fights, diving contests at the pool... two years is too long between these visits, but hopefully they'll always just pick up right where they left off!

The hallmark of these family reunions for me isn't the activities or events planned. Given that this is my city, there wasn't a need for sightseeing, after all. But even in a different location, the main event remains the same - the stories of antics from the past, the memories, the side-splitting laughter and hilarity - all of us just sitting on the porch, sprawling in the living room, the pockets of conversation springing up in this corner or that. 

And of course, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have the Loughman family recreate this family photo on the back porch! I even made Lee Anne close her eyes for continuity!


Call Me Maybe

The firstest of all first world problems has happened to me.

I'm out of cellular data. A full nine days before Verizon will graciously refill the bucket. I just don't know what to do with myself.

My phone has just reverted itself back to its most primitive form - a phone. I can use it to call people. And that's it.

No GPS - I guess I'll have to pay attention on the road now. I totally took a wrong turn on the way home from church the other day and had to wing it. I go East on 285, yes?

No email. No pulling up coupons on my phone when I go to checkout at Target. No Amazon price comparisons. No weather. No killing time on Facebook while waiting for my kids to finish up gymnastics camp. No posting to Instagram those artfully filtered photos. I'm barely even getting text messages. (You should hear the way my phone blows up when I pull into the driveway and cross the border into our wireless circle. Nine texts, 14 posts, three alerts...)

My phone is basically worthless at this point. I use it to actually call people, what... nine percent of the time? Who actually talks on the phone anymore?

Do you remember your very first cell phone? Mine was this very flashy Nokia brick. And I thought it was so amazing. I got it my sophomore year in college. Before that, the Athens dorms had a special deal where you could call five Atlanta numbers without paying long distance charges. Can you even imagine? Living in the dark ages, we were. The Nokia was a massive step up from the pager I possessed in high school, but would quickly be replaced with the much coveted flip phone. I remember obsessively checking the phone to make sure I was still within my 300 minutes of talking time. Texts weren't even a big thing yet, although the x-amount of texting package was not far behind. I remember carrying around this phone, but not really using it. No one was relying on cell phones yet. We were still arranging our plans in advance, waiting patiently for everyone to show up at predetermined locations.

Think about how rapidly things have changed. Now we have unlimited talk, unlimited text, free long distance, so much coverage that roaming is barely a thing anymore. Remember the fear of roaming and its massive overage charges? Remember when a new phone meant getting a new phone number and having to somehow update all your friends in the pre-social media days? Good grief, how did we live? How did we come to rely so heavily on our technology? What a transformation we've made, my fellow Xennial Generation, those of us with an analog childhood and digital adulthood.

I have two more days of cellular blackout before I can once again rejoin the mobile world. It's been educational, trying to explain to Violet how we survived in the pre-wireless age. "I had to call the store and ask for directions, then write them down on a piece of paper and take it in the car with me, possibly stopping along the way at a random gas station to verify I was actually on the right road..." She doesn't get it. Kids these days.


Winding Down, Gearing Up

Summer is winding down. Insert sad face here. I can always tell when I feel the imminent end drawing near when I have a sudden compulsion to wear flip-flops and no make-up and all those other things that that will reach their end with the start of another work year. It's like my head is like I could wear a cute sundress and sandals but why waste it? So sports bras and ponytails it is, for another 12 days at least.

We couldn't let summer slip us by without a roller skating adventure! Violet randomly started begging for roller skates and I was stalling big time, knowing she'd probably never wear them, or at least never wear them without clutching my hand. So my neighbor had the brilliant idea to go rent a pair as a trial run. For her first time, Violet did great! She wiped out plenty but got right back up again. It was a nice, cool activity and Annie actually napped on my lap for the first half of adventure. Of course, once she woke up she insisted on getting her own pair of skates... I'll say this - we had fun and I think the girls would go back, but Violet hasn't asked for roller skates again! Haha!

First time on roller skates!

Annie's attempt!

Then the day I have been waiting for arrived - the day BOTH my girls could go to camp! Together! For this past week they have been loving the "Rockin' Beach Camp" at our gymnastics place. There were water slides, water balloon fights, crafts, cute "beachy" snacks; it was very well done. Annie was over the moon excited to get to go like her big sister, with a backpack and lunchbox and everything. The first day she barely stuck around long enough to give me a hug goodbye. She is so different than Violet, who I remember having to pry off of me the first time she attended this camp. They both had a blast.

Ready for gymnastics camp!

And what did mommy get to do with five kid-free hours each day this week? Well, on Monday I got a massage and stumbled upon the best kid's clothing sale at Gymboree (everything on sale and then an additional 50 percent off! I destroyed that place!) Tuesday I took myself to the outlet mall and shopped for myself - some new t-shirt dresses, a new backpack and lunchbox for V, a bunch of stuff from the Disney store (more on why that is important later), a new purse and sandals... Score! Wednesday I had a coffee date, and then I took myself back to Gymboree (seriously, it was the third trip in three days - the deals were that good and Violet loved every single thing I picked out).

Thursday I actually went up to the school. I know. I know. I've never gone in this early to set up. But I couldn't pass up kid-free distraction-free time. I got a ton of stuff done and I think I'll be good to go once pre-planning starts. I needed to get a head start since we'll be at Matt's family reunion the weekend before I go back to work, so I won't have time then. Don't feel bad, it was good to go up there. Friday I actually went back in so I could put together a new bookshelf, plus I ran a bunch of other random errands, and even wrapped things up fast enough that I bought myself an hour on the couch watching tv before I had to pick up the girls. I am so thrilled that Annie was old enough to tag along with Violet at this camp... it was great to have some time to feel productive/alone before the work craziness starts again.


Race Day!

Back in April, when I found out the race entry lottery Matt entered me had indeed yielded me a Peachtree Road Race number, I immediately wished I'd entered the Powerball lottery instead. I kid! I was excited. I haven't run a race since the last Peachtree I ran eight years ago with Matt and my dad. And after watching Matt train so diligently for his half marathon and become quite the runner in the process, I wanted a turn to lace up my own shoes and hit the pavement.

I've slowly been transforming myself into a "runner" of sorts. There was the downloading of the Nike+ Training app, the trip to Big Peach Running to get professionally fitted for the proper shoes, the purchasing of running related accessories like the ear buds and flip belt. There have been runs around the neighborhood (hilly) and runs at the Greenway (beautiful) and runs in the rain. I even managed to squeeze in runs while both girls were in the water at swim practice. I've done squats and more squats to try to fend off runner's knee injuries. I've picked up a random yoga routine here and there and marveled that I was ever able to do this three times a week - yoga is hard!

And all this effort, the work, the knee pain... it was all leading to July 4 and the famed Peachtree Road Race 10k. My knees had been bothering me (I sound like such an old lady) so I hadn't been on anything long than a one mile jaunt around the 'hood for the last two weeks, and I'd only managed two or three of those as it was. The longest distance I'd ever hit was four miles, and every big distance had always led to protesting joints. Hit 5k, take two weeks off to heal. Hit four miles, end up on the coach for ten days, etc. While I knew I could go the distance, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it without crying into my kneecaps. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I watched the days tick down on the calendar.

On Marta, heading to the expo for our numbers. Game faces on.
We decided to take Marta to the expo as our dry run. We bought our tickets for the next day as well, which proved to be a wise decision when we saw the lines trying to navigate the ticket machines the next day. The expo was crowded, with offerings from running clothes to "energy" jelly beans. Matt picked up his number in the Wave A booth. It had a few fast, fit looking people lined up. I picked up my number in the Wave W booth. The people in line with me, lets just say they didn't look like the people waiting with Matt. Although I figured they would be good company for me and my knees. We took our numbers, signed the wall and headed home.

The road would prove to be as crowded as the signatures on the wall.

Staking my claim.

It pays to be prepared the night before.
Matt set the alarm for 4:45. That would give us enough time to get up, have our coffee and breakfast (half an English muffin with almond butter, in case you're wondering what an elite athlete like myself eats on race day), get dressed and get to Marta. It was shocking how different the station looked than it had the day before. It was clogged with runners of every shape and size. Families, couples, random dudes, it was packed. Everyone had their race bib on, so it was easy to spot the top runners (seeded, yellow bib, no wave) from my fellow W's. Everyone seemed awake and excited, despite the early hour. We stuffed ourselves into the first train that showed up, packed almost as tightly as we would be in the race later, and took off.

Waiting for the train.

Going up!
Once we spilled out into the sunshine, Matt pretty quickly had to ditch me. His wave was called in one direction, the rest of us were herded in another. We took a picture and then he was off. He would be done running before I even got started! I waited for my friend Sheri, who had graciously agreed to run with me once she found out that I was in need of a friend at the race.

Good luck, Matt!
Things back in Wave W were decidedly less serious than I'm sure they were in Wave A. Back here there were plenty of costumes, tutus, crazy headbands with streamers. It was definitely more of a party atmosphere. Which was good! It helped me relax and realize that ultimately my goal was just to get to the end and no one really cared overly much about technique and form from where we were. Sheri decked me out in shades and beads, which turned out to be so helpful as we ran - the beads kept clicking together and made it easier to keep track of each other. I could always hear Sheri next to me!

My running partner and bling bringer!
We were still hanging out in our staging area when I got the text from Matt that he was already done and hanging out in the Atlanta Track Club members-only tent with his free beer. Jealous! At this point what had dawned as a fairly pleasant morning was rapidly becoming a typical Atlanta summer scorcher. But as we finally starting walking towards the starting line, I got excited that this show was finally on the road.

Passing under the giant flag at the starting line.

Let's get this party started!
The actual running part was part jogging, part dodging the professional walkers all around us, looking for holes in the masses to quick-step through... I probably logged an extra mile just trying to get around people. I one point I turned to Sheri and pointed out that we were pretty much the only people running - everyone else was walking! But that also served to make me feel super accomplished - look at how many people we're passing! While I had warned Sheri that my training had been mainly intervals (run three minutes, walk one), we ended up running three miles straight before taking a potty break. As we told Matt later, the two hours we had to wait before starting meant nature came a'calling in the middle of the race. Had we started when he did, we would have made it to the end without a problem. But we ended up stopping at the perfect time. By the time we made it through the line and were back on the road, we were rested enough to tackle Cardiac Hill. We did make sure to grab water at every opportunity and walk while we drank it so as not to waste a precious drop.

For all my worries that I wouldn't be able to make it, I feel rather proud of myself. I managed to run basically the whole race, minus our water walks. There was enough going on around us, from the guys dressed as space men and the random dude that offered us beer from the rolling cooler he was running with, to the cheering spectators and encouragement along the way, that it carried me along. I texted Matt as we rounded the corner onto 10th Street and knew that the finish line was coming up. We finished strong and headed through the masses to pick up our shirts, snacks, and finally reunited with Matt. I was tired, but more from the 5 a.m. wake-up call than the actual race. The race kind of kills your holiday, but I would definitely do it again. I better get a higher wave though!

The finishers!
Many thanks go out to Matt, for getting me my race number and encouraging me to go out for a job while he watched the girls. Thanks to Sheri for running with me on the big day. Thanks to Virginia and my mom for texting me these last three months to check in on my training progress and my knees. Thanks to Nike+ for all those squats. Thanks to the amazingly organized race and its countless volunteers who run the show. Thanks to America for being born. Thanks everyone!
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