Howlin' Good Time

Our Summer 2015 Family Road Trip didn't end with our beach visit. We had one more stop - Williamsburg, Virginia. We had timed our trip right to coincide with our niece Brooke's bat mitzvah. And lucky for us, the celebration was planned at the Great Wolf Lodge. Ever been to a Great Wolf Lodge? Heard of it at least? It's a huge themed hotel and indoor waterpark. And I'm not kidding about the theme. This place was like a mini Disneyworld - giant fireplace in the lobby, lots of tree trunks and wood beams and fake acorns the size of a Mini Cooper. The price per night is up there with Disneyworld too, so we had only booked Saturday night, the night of the bat mitzvah. But there was a scheduling conflict. The website said we couldn't check in until 4 p.m. and our event started at 4 p.m. In fact, we were supposed to be showered and dressed for pictures by 2 p.m. A) how were we going to enjoy the waterpark, and B) if we couldn't do the waterpark, how could we get into the hotel without our children knowing of said waterpark's existence?

We made a recon mission to the resort on Friday night. I talked with the manager and came up with a plan. If we showed up at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, they would put us on the "first available room" list and send us a text when our place was ready, leaving us free to enjoy the waterpark while we waited. And as it turned out, the timing was perfect. Saturday morning our room was good to go when we showed up. Which is a good thing, because Violet spotted the waterpark!

The bathroom wallpaper. Commit to the theme!

Giant jacuzzi tub next to king-sized bed? Weird, but okay!

Sporting wolf ears in front of our room's working fireplace!

Our wristbands were also the room keys - convenient!
 So there are no pictures of the waterpark. Sorry, but I didn't think walking around with my phone surrounded by water was a good idea. But rest assured (or check out their website) the place was pretty cool. There was a giant play structure in the middle with a couple slides and a huge bucket that periodically dumped water. There was a wave pool, a surf pool, water basketball courts, a lazy river, a five-story water slide or two, and a great toddler area with three slides of its own that Annie ruled. We didn't even make it to the outdoor pool area. I admit, my expectations for this place were low. It would reek of chlorine, Violet would want someone with her 24/7, there would be nothing for Annie to safely do... Instead Violet ditched us at first glance and took over the slides herself, Annie was totally entertained by her own mini slides, insisting on climbing the little stairs all by herself, Matt even got to ride the "big kid" stuff. Sure, the place was packed with families and shrieking kids. Yeah, the lobby was super cheesy. Okay, so Annie broke out in an allergic reaction from all the chlorine (nothing a little benadryl couldn't solve). But overall, it was pretty cool. Granted, we were only there for 24 hours, and most of that time was spent in the resort's ballroom for the bat mitzvah, but both Matt and I agreed that we could envision going back one day. When we win the lottery. And bring a nanny. And attend a bar mitzvah with an open bar at the end of the day.
She thought the room was so cool!

 Bathtime made easy.


Kure Beach

Well, hello there! We're back after a little family jaunt to the beach! And I must say, I am pleasantly surprised at what a great trip it was! We left Tuesday around 10 for the six hour drive to Kure Beach in North Carolina. Apparently this is the same time every year we hit the road, because my timehop app has been showing me pictures from previous road trips for the past week. This one was rather chilling:
The caption read: 9 hours down, 3 hours to go. Haha!
 I was hoping this year's trip would look more like this:

Smiling faces! This time they'll both face front!
And except for Annie's habit of taking off her headphones and then instantly regretting it, the trip to the beach was awesome! Matt had the great idea of stopping for lunch at a place with a playground, letting the kids play while we ate, then letting the girls have their food in the car. This meant they could run out the wiggles, we kept the stop short, and they had a vested interest in getting back into the car. Win, win, win!

So excited about unlimited movie time!
Clearly not as impressed.
After a fairly smooth drive, we arrived at our beautiful condo right across the street from the beach. We were shacking up with the grandparents, some cousins, some aunts and uncles, so there were plenty of people around to play with the girls. Within 30 minutes of arriving, they had their bathing suits on and we were hitting the beach! Annie took an immediate dislike to the idea of sand touching her hands and feet. I think she was mostly perplexed as to why it wouldn't come off. And of course, as soon as the water washed it away, more sand stuck on! (She got over it rather quickly the next day, whew!)

Hitting the beach for the first time!

Such a pretty view from the balcony!

My beach baby!
The next morning, we were up early hitting the sand. The luxury of living across the road from the beach... it was so easy! Just wake up, put on your suit, grab a towel and go! When you get hungry, just head back home. It was definitely nice not feeling like we had to bring a ton of gear and commit to an entire day.

Hanging out on the pier.

Fun in the sand.

Camp Loughman!
Breakfast with Uncle Phil.
Along with hanging at the beach, it was a great trip because of the family time we had. Every two years this particular gang gets together, always rotating the hosting hometown. I've been to Colorado, Montana and now North Carolina with this group, and a good time is always had by all. There are plenty of late night card games, lots of laughing, and this time it was especially sweet to watch my girls spending time with everyone. There was always an available lap and a willing story reader to keep them entertained, which certainly helped me relax and enjoy myself all the more.

Storytime with Aunt Cindy.

Hanging with Grandma.

Family shot!
Happy girls!
At the end of our beach stay, we reluctantly left our lovely condo and hopped back in the car. Destination: Williamsburg, Virginia!


Pony Rides and Rock Stars

Putting up my emergency third row: as close to a mini-van as I ever want to get.
Last week Violet and her pre-k pal Taylor went to Wild Wild West week at Gymnastics World of Georgia. It was awesome. I can't say enough about this gym or their programs. Violet took two seasons of actual gymnastics here, and while she's not that great at it, she certainly enjoyed it. When I found out about their summer camps (from 9:30 to 2:30 all week... hello!), I jumped on it. Every week has a different theme - Wild Wild West week included pony rides (!!!), fort building, trail-mix making, t-shirt tie-dying... so fun. I think Violet's favorite part was getting to pack a lunch box every day. It was a little taste of what kindergarten will be like in the fall, assuming she wants to bring her lunch. Although Matt took her on a candy-buying trip for gymnastics camp... definitely will not be the norm come the school year!

Violet and Taylor on the last day of camp!

Tie-dyed perfection!
In other news, the grown-up Loughman's are also having a good summer. Check out Matt singing and playing at church on Sunday! I joked that he got promoted to the front of the stage (he normally has his guitar set up towards the back). And see that bald head behind the drums? That's my brother Lukas, in town for a few weeks on business!

Rocking out at CCB.
After church, Mimi came up to babysit and Matt and I headed back to Atlanta for date night. We enjoyed a child-free dinner and then took in a concert. Ever heard of Richard Thompson? Yeah, I didn't think so. But he's apparently super popular. We rolled up before the doors opened and found a huge line of people waiting to get in. Good thing we scored a parking spot directly across from the venue. And considering the majority of the audience was probably 30 years older than we are, we were still able to beat them to the good seats. Ha!

We were definitely the youngest people there...


Wet and Wild

Birthday pool party with pre-k pals!

So the theme of this year is definitely going to be water. My two girls are absolutely obsessed with the pool. From pool parties to splash pad playdates, we're getting in the water daily. Two things are making this potentially stressful event much easier on this mama, and that is 1) Violet is taking a refresher swim lesson course this week and rocking it, and 2) Annie has been sporting her puddle jumper floatie and it keeps her bobbing happily above water.

Hot stuff!

Inappropriate use of water table.
Even before she started swim lessons, Violet's boldness in the water has been increasing with every trip to the pool. Considering she wouldn't even get in without a parent beside her, she's made huge strides. She now swims underwater, jumps into the deep end and swims to the side, and could care less where I am - she just wants in the pool! The only thing she's still too timid for is a solo trip down the water slide. We'll see if she works up to it by the end of summer. She's also very sweet to Annie, helping when bobs too far from the steps. This last trip to the pool, I actually just sat on the side with my feet in, watching the girls as they played. Score one for the mama!

Annie, on the other hand, was recently introduced to our pool's water slide. I have a feeling that's all she's going to want to do from now on. Too bad I have a no-slide policy - she'll have to drag her daddy into it! (He started it, after all!) Annie is definitely more of a dare-devil than Violet has ever been. Whether it's because she sees her older sister doing all this fun stuff and she wants in, or she just has the personality, she's not afraid to try something.

She'll turn into a mermaid one of these days.

Annie's first trip down the slide. She was instantly obsessed.
When the girls haven't dragged me to the pool, I've probably cajoled them to our nearby rec center splash pad. It's just a couple miles up the road and it only costs two bucks per kid to get in. Adults are free and you can bring your own snacks in and stay all day. It is perfect. It's small and contained enough that I feel free to sit in the shade while they run around like maniacs.

The first time we were there, one of the buckets that fills up and periodically tips over totally dumped right on top of Annie's head, knocking her on her tush. Girlfriend wasn't fazed at all! She just jumped up and kept going. I love it! Violet prefers the pool but it's definitely easier and more relaxing for adults at the splash pad. I don't even need to put a bathing suit on, making it perfect for impromptu trips. Since Violet was already in her swim suit, we picked up a picnic lunch from Chick-fil-a today and took it straight there from swim lessons... Annie is still napping after that adventure!

Splash Pad! Best four dollars I've ever spent.

This ground is hooooooooooot!


No Thank You

Don't let this innocent look fool you. Ever since summer has officially started, Annie has decided to celebrate by refusing to sleep through the night. Every night, she wakes up, stands up and starts screaming. I have no idea what time this happens, because I steadfastly refuse to look at the clock before I stumble up the stairs. And no quick pat on the back will satisfy this friend. She points to the rocking chair. "Rock! Rock!" Which is a whole lot better than what she says some nights: "Downstairs!" she insists. If you don't comply, she lets loose with some bloodcurdling screams. One night I was so tired, I kept falling asleep with her on my shoulder, both of us threatening to tumble out of the chair. I don't think that's happened since those 4 a.m. nursing sessions when the girls were infants. Another night, I was so desperate to lay back down, I actually let her sleep in our bed. (No kids in our bed is the only thing we said we'd never do pre-kids that we've actually stuck to.)

Thank goodness it's summer, and I can afford to lose some sleep in the middle of the night. Still, it totally sucks, seeing as this was never a problem before. I ran into one of Annie's daycare teachers the other day and told her I was sending Annie back. It's like she has just now figured out that mommy exists 24 hours a day, and therefore she needs me 24 hours a day. I know it's just a phase, but I really hope it's a short one!

When she's not waking up in the middle of the night, Annie can be pretty awesome. Her vocabulary is growing by the day and she's starting to string together sentences. She recently started saying "no thank you". Annie, would you like some milk? "No tan too." Annie, it's nap time. "No tan too."

One of her favorite foods right now is hummus. She calls it "sup" because she's trying to say "dip". Although half the time, she uses her fingers more than the crackers I provide! 

In fact, we're reaching that frustrating stage where Annie is trying to communicate far more than we can actually understand. She knows what she wants, she tells us emphatically, and we just don't get it. Sorry, kid. Keep trying to make us understand. We'll end up on the same page one of these days!


Summer Life

Lettuce tell you about the garden! 
Pick a peck...
Here's a quick look at how this year's garden is faring. The cauliflower is probably going to be a dud... lots of big leaves, but something is eating them. Currently there are two ripe cherry tomatoes, hopefully just the start of a long and happy harvest. The lettuce has been awesome, however. Lots of homegrown salad has been enjoyed. This year Violet has taken over the watering responsibilities. She asked for a list of chores (and didn't seem to realize she could also ask for compensation), so that's been going on for a week. We'll see how long it lasts! Other chores include setting the table, cleaning up her room and the playroom and getting the mail.

Safety Town!
Our first official week of summer break, Violet had Safety Town every morning from 9 a.m. to noon. It was put on by our rec department and it was fantastic. She was in a group with her friend Taylor. Every day had a different safety focus, from poison safety to stranger danger to fire drills. They practiced riding in a school bus, evacuating during a fire, and more. Then they got to get on little bikes and ride around the Safety Village, practicing stopping at stop signs and staying in their lanes. How cute!

Violet and Taylor, proud Safety Town graduates!
The first day at Safety Town, I showed up in my cute little white shorts and blousy top and nice sandals, thinking this is what summer moms wear. Oh no. Apparently there is a stay-at-home-mom uniform consisting of sports bras, tank tops and tennis skirts. I had no idea. I'm not even sure these moms were intending to go work out. I mean, how could they be, seeing as they were toting around their gaggles of children. I think they just dress that way because it's convenient and comfortable. Hey, I'm all for anything that lets me leave the house with the least amount of closet coordinating required. So I went and got myself a few things for my summer mom wardrobe. Now I can fit in with the best of them. With my tanks and tennis skirts, you'd think I'm a full time SAHM myself! And I have to admit, it is awfully comfortable, and certainly convenient. So there.

Pool time!
We also finally made it to the pool! I've been wanting to go, and Violet's been begging, but the pool by myself with two kids is not a relaxing experience. Violet has swim lessons scheduled for next week, but until then, I'm still not super comfortable with her in the water without me. And Annie needs constant vigilance. It's hard when I can't take my eyes off the little one, but the big one is yelling "look at me, look at me!" Probably the best time for everyone is the snack break! But they both love it so.


School's Out for Summer!

Signed, sealed, delivered.
The last week of school was a whirlwind of class parties, pre-k graduation, end-of-year classroom camping... it seemed like every day there was something major happening and I won't lie, my brain was verging on too full to process it all. But we came, saw, and conquered. Amidst it all, I signed my contract for another year (thank goodness I have a few weeks off before I have to process that!) and packed up my classroom.

See ya in July! (I know, JULY. Gahhh!)

Oh yeah, and these two crazy kids celebrated 10 years of wedding bliss!
After a relaxing Memorial Day weekend spent cooking out with family and friends, we teachers headed back for two days of post-planning. I kept the girls in school the whole week, which meant after post-planning, I had two days all to myself. Naturally I took advantage of all this free time by booking an eye exam, dentist appointment and hair cut. Taking care of my to-do list before summer even starts!

Short hair don't care!
 The only downside to the start of summer is that it has been raining buckets. We have yet to get to the pool, although my garden is quite happy. Matt and I took advantage of the weather to clean out our bonus room. In one of the boxes, I discovered all my old high school AP class exams, including the below from my AP Calculus class. Obviously I'm a huge nerd to have saved all that stuff. While most of it bit the dust during this clean-out, I just couldn't part with it all. It turns out, I really loved high school, especially all my advanced classes. Looking back over some of my essays, I can see the beginnings of my love for words and writing. I can hear my voice starting to develop. And I can see how much my teachers really cared. I don't think I appreciated it at the time, all the comments scrawled in the margins, the gentle suggestions and honest feedback. But knowing how much time that takes, the effort, the hours spent behind a desk or on a couch late at night with a stack of papers... I treasure each line they wrote. Thank you, Mrs. Mook, Mrs. Snyder, Coach Pattiz... Thanks for everything you invested in me.

Clearly these were life skills I was learning here.
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