These Days

These days I feel like I'm constantly running behind. I just cannot dig myself out of this hole. It's partly the beginning of the year rush, plus the whole new school factor, with some random stuff thrown in (it's curriculum night week, both girls just started tumbling classes, we're joining a new small group with a significantly longer commute, my alarm goes off at 5:30 every morning...)

And it's partly that I refuse to press pause on this crazy little thing called life just because I'm a bit over-extended. There are things I want to get out and enjoy, gosh darn it!

Toad the Wet Sprocket at Suwanee Towne Center!

With my handsome date.
I mean, when your brother pops the question to a beautiful woman who is about to become your amazing sister-in-law, you gotta drop everything to celebrate, right? A recent Saturday had two huge life events occurring for two very important people in my life - one of my oldest friends was giving birth to her first child and my brother was proposing to Virginia, and neither one of these people was giving me regular updates! Lukas was hiding somewhere in a lighthouse with a diamond ring, my friend was pushing to become a mama for the first time, and I was sitting at tumbling practice refreshing my phone every two seconds! Ah, but how sweet it was to finally hear about both beautiful new beginnings.

I'm so lucky! I mean, he's lucky too. But seriously, we're all hitting the jackpot with this one.
Back on the home front, Violet started tumbling with her pal Taylor. Since they are at different schools this year, I was so glad we could get them signed up for the same class. I spent a lot of time explaining to Annie why she could not go as well. Then lo and behold, I found out there was a 3-4 year old class happening at the exact same time! Annie's not quite three yet, but hey, she's always been big for her age... I signed her up for a trial class the next week and apparently it went well enough that she can come back! Watching her, I was actually impressed by her ability to follow directions. I was markedly less impressed by her ability to perform a somersault, so I guess I know what our homework is. Thanks Olympics, you're as inspiring as always!

The newest gymnast.
And I must admit, getting up at such an ungodly hour every morning does lend itself to quite a Godly view...

How Great Thou Art


Back to School!

We did it! We started school again. This will be my seventh year in first grade. It will be Violet's first (and hopefully only!) year in first grade.

She still wants to be a teacher. 

First Grade with Mrs. Lockett!
It has been strange starting the year at a new school. I've only taught in one place, so many things we did I just assumed were county policy. Apparently not, because things are definitely different here. Many things are just small differences, but it is enough to make me do a double-take, or wonder why. Fortunately, even though she doesn't know anyone in her class, Violet knows her teacher already, which helped to make the first day go smoothly. I remember having to pry her off of me in kindergarten. Now she marched down the hall (we are as far apart as you can get on the first grade hallway - probably a good thing). We do get recess together, though, which is a sweet little treat at the end of the day.

I've had to break up with my last school. That's how it feels, anyway. Almost like going through an actual break up, I've been mentally boxing up all our shared mementoes, avoiding places I associated with my ex-school, burning old photographs while listening to sad love songs... okay, perhaps it hasn't been quite that dramatic. We met up with the old team after Open House to catch up and it was great to see everyone. And it's hard to completely escape, considering my former teammate lives next door. But I have needed to make a mental separation in order to embrace my new school fully. I'm still getting whiplash on a daily basis as I continue to learn how things are done, but I'm happy to be there. I think greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done... and I'm thrilled to get to be a part of that.

Truth be told, after the past three weeks of getting the room ready, attending trainings, five days of pre-planning, it was a relief when the kids finally came through the door on Thursday. As much anxiety as you have before it starts, once that bell rings (or rather, doesn't ring at this school, weird) and the kids flood the halls, your teacher training kicks in, the show starts and you're rolling with it. Your muscle memory takes over and we're doing what we do.

My kids! This was the picture I sent to all the parents halfway through our first day.
By the way, shameless plug below to try and get a classroom iPad for this crew:

I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I've created a classroom project request at DonorsChoose.org, an award-winning charity. 

I'm asking for donations of any size to help my kids. For the next 4 days, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students' school year, and you'll get photos and thank yous from our class. 

Here's my classroom request: 

Explorers: Columbus had a Compass, We Need an iPad! 

One last picture, because I can't help it.


Getting Ready

The listening center by the window with the ladybug chairs in my favorite, although I love how the library turned out too.

Preplanning officially starts this Thursday, but I've been unofficially on the clock for the last two weeks. New school means new curriculum to get trained on, new room to unpack and figure out, just lots of new that I wouldn't ordinarily be encountering my seventh year in this business. So as much as it pained me to head into the building early, I know it's a special case that won't have to be repeated every year.

I've been dropping by the building for the last two weeks now. At first I would take Annie on my way home from dropping Violet off at camp, and we would only stay an hour, long enough for me to move furniture or unpack my desk, little things. Last week, I took the girls to Camp Mimi and Camp Grandma and I worked all day every day. It stinks to not get paid for all the work I've put in, but the payoff is that the room is done and I'll be ready to focus on the new school year (open house paperwork, daily schedule, all those other things) once preplanning starts.

By far the most complex Ikea undertaking so far.
It was also great to have a week without the distraction of the girls. After their Ikea dresser got recalled, we decided to take the opportunity of a full refund to go ahead and upgrade them to something they could both share. They seem fairly committed to sharing the same room, so it's probably time to migrate Annie's clothes in there as well. Even though our house is pretty much 80 percent Ikea, it was still daunting when all the pieces spilled out. We had to take a break halfway through to nourish ourselves (we decided to only eat at places we would never want to take the girls) with some excellent sushi. But all's well that ends well. We also went to the movies, a nice Italian restaurant, shopped at Avalon, met a friend for drinks... you know, all those adult-y things we never do anymore. It was nice to have the one-on-one time with Matt to reconnect, since once school starts we won't see much of each other. Seriously, with a 7 a.m. start time, I'll be lucky if I see 9 p.m. anymore.

I made all the drawers.

On a Boat!

As one of our fun farewell to summer (sniff sniff) activities, we were invited by some lovely friends to come out on their boat! After Annie's last experience on a boat (see Maine events) I was crossing my fingers that the waters would be calm, and she did great. Both girls immediately took to jumping into the water and paddling around.

Made for the water.

After lunch on the boat and several swim breaks, we headed back to camp where everyone relaxed, let a little rain blow over, and then cooked out for dinner. It was such a break from routine, something so new for the girls to try, and a great way to cap off the summer. I know summer's not quite over yet (although it will be on Thursday) but already things are getting busy and it was fun to give the girls a new experience. 

Our view for dinner.

This beautiful rainbow followed us home.


Maine Lobstah!

Don't let go!

Friday was our last full day in Maine. It was too cold to "beach" but we still walked down and decided to try our hand at kite flying. Lauren had a bright blue octopus kite with eight waving tentacles that the girls had fun holding on to. The tenacity of Mainers (or perhaps it was the dumb tourists, who knows!) was astonishing. There were kids in bathing suits, families with beach gear, and look how we are dressed! Pants, jackets, layers... I guess if this is your yearly beach vacation, or this is your (short) summer season, you make the most of it regardless of weather! I remember having a picnic in Sweden one summer under very similar circumstances. Hey, if it's summer, you take advantage.

Our flying octopus!
After naptime we decided to take the kids to a mini golf place we had spotted earlier. It was your typical vacation town putt putt place, complete with giant waterfall in the middle of it. Violet had only played once before, but she was too young to recall. And Annie was a novice. Of course, beginners luck meant that on the second hole, Matt showed Violet how to line up, then she took over and got a hole in one! Annie quickly figured out the best spot to start her shot was about an inch from the hole, allowing her to make her own hole in one (or hole in nine, whatever). It was actually pretty fun. The nice thing about family places like this is that they are, well, full of families. Families who totally get it if your kid wanders onto their green or cheats their way through the course or has more fun playing with the waterfall than playing putt putt. That put us at ease and everyone had a really great time.

Getting ready to play.

Attempting some instruction.

Our last Maine event was dinner with a view. We headed back to York for dinner at a restaurant definitely nicer than somewhere I would normally take my kids. The staff was great through, and still very family friendly. I mean, when Fluffernutter sandwiches are on the kids menu, you know everyone will survive the night.

Spotted on the cliff walk before dinner.
The girls ordered spaghetti. When we eat pasta at home, I always make Annie take her shirt off. Things are bound to get messy, after all, and why make more laundry for myself? Well, no sooner had we placed our order than Annie starts trying to strip her clothes off! "But I eat spaghetti!" she kept insisting, unable to figure out why tonight should be any different! I died. Fortunately, giant lobster bibs were procured in short order, saving the day.

One big, happy, messy family!
Matt ordered the whole lobstah! It was totally intimidating but apparently amazing. I spent my dinner tag-teaming with Grandma and Grandpa, getting the kids out of the dining room and letting them run around in the courtyard overlooking the sea. Then we headed back home to get ready for our return journey the next morning. The flights home were easy, the kids did great even though we weren't back in our own beds until 11 p.m. Thank goodness for airports with play areas (or moving sidewalks that might as well be play areas). It was an awesome trip! Cross one off the bucket list!

When in Maine...

So Maine-y Things to See

Meanwhile, in Maine... things were heating up finally. We headed back to the beach and this time things were glorious. I mean, the water was still so cold your ankles would freeze in about five minutes, but the rest of your sunkissed skin would be roasting. I swear the sun seemed brighter in Maine, perhaps because it was often absent. We beached, came home for an early dinner, then walked back into town for ice cream in the evening. A full day.

Now THIS is a beach day!

Good thing Annie could keep her feet without my help because I was not that brave!

Thursday dawned dark and gloomy. We had booked tickets on a lobster boat, thinking an hour and half to see lobsters was probably safer that five hours to see whales for my novice sailers. As it turned out, the trip was still about an hour too long for Annie. The ride took us out to Kennebunkport, home of the President Bush summer compound. It was pretty chilly and choppy, but we were all weathering it just fine until... well, let's just say we learned my youngest child gets seasick. Poor thing. After she announced "I have a tummy ache" in the most pitiful wail and promptly threw up her breakfast, she fell mercifully asleep for the rest of the ride.

Lobster traps. Apparently the lobsters are really good at climbing out of them.

The Bush property. During his presidency, this was a no-sail zone.

Seasick Annie.
We survived our boat trip and even got to pet a few lobsters and spot some seals. Next up, the Maine affair of fresh lobstah rolls, eaten as only they should be, on a picnic table next to the water off paper plates. Yum yum. We strolled around the city, had ice cream, Annie perked up immediately after hitting dry land again. The sun even started peaking through the clouds again, warming things up.

First lobstah of the trip!

Exploring Kennebunkport.
Before going back to the house, we decided to take a stroll on the Marginal Way, a walking trail along the water boasting beautiful views of the sea and crashing waves. Annie's refusal to sit in the stroller and Violet's desire to explore made it a bit nerve-wracking. But the sights are just breathtaking. Maine reminds me a lot of Sweden, both in scenery and climate. And it was even sunny enough for sunglasses. Oh Maine, make up your mind with this weather.

Our little family.

It never gets old.
Want to know if we got another beach day? If anyone ever ordered a legit lobstah? If we finally decided to come home? Find out here!

The Maine Event

Airport fun! Thanks Southwest for a patriotic send-off!

Every summer we try to get together with Matt's family. For years we would gather at the ancestral home in Peachtree City, which was terribly convenient for our little branch. But over time, we've become more bold. We've met up in Ohio to visit extended relatives, taken in Boston, gathered in Williamsburg, and this year we decided to venture even further afield, all the way to Maine. The last time Annie flew was before she could crawl, so this would be a big experience for both girls. We booked flights on July 4th, being the patriots that we are, and it was exciting to see all the families decked out in their red, white and blue. (Matt scoffed at my request that we all wear one of those colors but did allow me to pick out a blue shirt for him to put on. I thought we looked lovely!)

Hooray for the red, white and blue!
Annie had been asking every morning if we were going to Maine today, so it was a relief to finally be able to say yes! And thanks to Southwest, we all had snacks at the airport and wifi on the plane, so the girls did great on the plane. We had a brief connection in Baltimore, finally landed in New Hampshire, hopped in our rental car and drove through scenery that Violet insisted looked just like Georgia, until we finally pulled into Ogunquit. Just stepping out of the car, you could smell the salty air. It was still warm, but the temperature would fluctuate wildly over the week were were there. You could change your outfit three times a day and still not be dressed appropriately the next hour.

Finally taking a nap.
We landed, settled into our rental house, had dinner and headed to the beach, just a short walk down the street, to watch fireworks over the ocean. Ah, the perfect distance from the noise to finally cure my kids of their fear of fireworks! The girls were dying to get their feet wet in the freezing surf, then it was to bed with everyone.

Princess in the garden.
The next day was determined to be a beach day. The girls stayed busy in the morning, running around the lush garden yard that came with our house. The grass was so thick and green, the flowers so beautiful. I did some outdoor yoga on the porch before we headed out - my first time doing yoga outside. It felt wonderful, although my balance was so off without a fixed point to look at... the clouds would drift by overhead and my body would slowly drift with them, ha!

Looks pretty, doesn't it? It was so. cold.
We suited up and walked to the beach. Oh, the wind was so cold. The water was ice. Even in the sun, it was hardly bearable without a clothes or a blanket. We braved it for a couple hours and the kids didn't seem to notice, but it was a relief to head home. Of course, once a couple blocks out of the sea breeze, the sun made things nice enough to run in the sprinklers, a perfect compromise.

Not quite the beach, but no complaints.
After a rest, we headed out to the nearby town of York to see the Cape Neddick Lighthouse. The surrounding area is all giant rocks that the kids had fun clambering over (while I tried not to freak out too much). It was a beautiful Maine view, all white and red roofed and blue skied. At the visitors center, there was an adorable little old man who painted pictures of the lighthouse, and you could buy prints where he would write your name on the little sailboat in the foreground. Such a sweet little souvenir!

The Nubble Light

Greg and Lauren and the view.
You would think all that excitement - outdoor yoga, beach day, sprinklers, the lighthouse, rock walk - would be enough. But this family wanted more. We stopped for dinner on the harbor at Barnacle Billy's, landing a prime table on the outdoor patio with a perfect view of the boats, the bridge that opened and closed for passing sailboats, and one uninvited guest. A rather bold seagull took one look at our table and decided we were the suckers who were going to leave him dinner. The girls thought it was hilarious and worked to perfect their seagull call. For all its chilly start, the day ended beautifully.

Meanwhile, in Ogunquit...

The diners.

And the seagull.
Did the beach ever warm up? And what about lobster? Isn't Maine all about lobster? Find out here.
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