All Good Things...

All good things must come to an end, and that includes this summer. I'll be honest, I was prepared for this summer to be kinda meh. I figured the pool would be tough with two kids. We didn't have our traditional beach trip with the neighbors planned. I thought battling boredom, tv obsessions and non-stop snack whining would be in the cards for sure.

But I've been pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. The summer has been great! And now it's almost over.

On Thursday I leave the kids with Matt and head to a... Bible study weekend? Spiritual retreat? Cult gathering? To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what I'm in for, other than I can't bring a cell phone. Or a watch. No technology of any kind is allowed. I'm terrified looking forward to being unplugged from it all for three days.

And when I get back, that's it. Bye bye summer. Annie starts daycare and I head back to the "office". I'm going to try to get my classroom ready in the three days before preplanning starts that Thursday. (Cue husband rolling eyes at the fact that I use unpaid time to get things ready. But the amount of meetings and things we have on the schedule before the kids show up really doesn't give much choice.)

So to make myself feel better about the end of summer, I thought I'd go through and list the accomplishments and activities we enjoyed these last eight weeks. Here goes!

Books read: 12 (I know, that seems like a lot even for me! I got in some trashy romance set in the Scottish Highlands, a couple detective novels set in a pre-astroid apocolyptic world, some John Green soon-to-be-a-movie YA, Amazon's Book of the Year, amongst others.)

Vacations taken: 2 (although with a stop at the beach and the Great Wolf Lodge, I almost want to count this one trip as two vacations).

Day camps for Violet: 2 (Definitely looking to increase this next year! Camps have been a blast!)

Sleepovers for Violet: 2

Times Annie peed on potty: 2

Vegetables harvested from garden: 3 peppers, 6 and counting cucumbers, lots 'o cherry tomatoes, basil out our ears

Baseball games attended: 0 (This one makes me sad.)

Number of school ideas pinned to Pinterest: 0 (Seriously, I try to really take time off in the summer. Plus Pinterest has started to stress me out.)

Miscellaneous accomplishments: got new glasses, finished my Invisalign braces, bought a new Kindle after mine died, converted Annie's crib (not sure this should be listed as "accomplishment"), rearranged playroom

And there you have it! Not a bad summer, if I say so myself. It's been so nice to get up in the morning without having to jump immediately into the shower and onto the day. I've actually had time to think about things and not make snap decisions, time to consider and mull things over. What a luxury! I'm trying to hold onto this feeling, soak it in while it lasts, before works takes over everything again. We have a couple last playdates, I'm sure there's at least one more trip to the pool in our future, we're goign to keep this one good to the last drop.



Girls' trip!
The last couple days, the girls and grandmas (and me) have been enjoying a stay at Callaway Gardens! Hopefully we can make this girls trip a tradition!

We arrived on Monday around lunchtime. Now, I will say this. The check-in process at Callaway leaves much to be desired. After waiting around in line, corralling two kids full of energy after the car trip down, just to be told our cabin wouldn't be ready for another four hours, if that... But it was only up from there. We had lunch in a cafe and fed the extremely excited turtles at the Discovery Center.

So. Many. Turtles!
Then we headed to the "beach" to watch the FSU circus performance. Fun fact: my high school friend Tiffani performed with the FSU circus while she was in school there! I believe her act was the Spanish Web (top of the photo collage). The only downside? It was so hot! I can't believe the acrobats didn't slip off the ropes or drop their juggling sticks! I was sitting in the shade couldn't stop sweating!

The Big Top!
I guess I should have prepped Violet more about the circus. In her mind, circus equals clowns, elephants, all that Ringling Bros jazz. She kept asking where the animals were. And she seemed more than a little nervous by the trapeze acts way up there at the top of the tent. I did capture a picture to prove she enjoyed it, however.

Pretty impressed, elephants or no.
Finally our cabin was ready. We unpacked and ordered a pizza dinner, delivered to the pool. It was a great first day!

After sleeping in, we got ready for the beach. We were one of the first families to arrive and loved having the place to ourselves. Although it never really got that crowded at all. Everyone had fun swimming and we stayed through lunch, digging in the sand, splashing in the water, having a great time.

See those four heads to the left? That's us!

Big chir!


Playing an intense game of library with Mimi.
Later that afternoon, we visited the butterfly house. It was very pretty, such a calm space, full of falling water and fluttering butterflies. There was even a big glass case where you could watch them hatching out of their cocoons. Very cool!

Butterfly House.
 After dinner (during which a woman stopped by to tell us how sweet and entertaining the girls were... this as Violet laid on the bench talking to herself and I held Annie's bowl of mac and cheese with one hand and ate my salad with the other hand while keeping all the spillables, breakables and cutting utensils out of her reach - good times!) we stopped for ice cream at the little shop right near our cabin.

The next morning we had time for another quick trip to the pool before we had to pack up and head back home. I bet Matt missed us! (Hahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa!)

Let's do it again next year!


Conquering the Slide!

All summer long, I have been waiting for Violet to be brave enough to tackle our pool slide by herself. And today was the day! So proud of this girl!

Also proud of this girl for finally succumbing to a nap poolside. I actually got to lay in a beach chair and read a book at the pool! Will wonders never cease?! Clearly it's a sign that summer is almost over and it's time to go back to work!

Going Organic

Along with my new beauty routine, another change slowly taking place this summer has been at the grocery. More and more of my grocery picks are of the organic variety.

You're probably rolling your eyes right now. Either because you practically have stock in Whole Foods and have been buying organic, cage-free, nitrate-free, grass-fed, locally-sourced, minimally-processed whole-grain super foods for the past decade, or because you refuse to buy into the over-priced hype that is "organic," whatever that label means.

Just a few months ago, I fell firmly into the latter category. I mean, no one can really argue that food with fewer pesticides and hormone injections is worse for you. But is it really better for you? And it certainly isn't better for your wallet. I basically lived by the rule of "when I win the lottery, sure I'll buy organic".

But then my neighbor Kim had to do a persuasive speech as part of a class assignment and I was invited to be part of the audience. (Yep, she had to do the speech for an audience, and film us to prove we were there listening attentively. Side note - I totally wanted to punk her professor and show up in costume or something. Oddly, Kim refused to let us...) As part of the assignment, she had to pick a side: organic or not worth it. And as often happens, in the course of her researching and writing and persuading, she actually convinced herself. Not only that organic is better (no one really argues there), but that it's also worth the increased cost. To put her money where her mouth was, she decided to buy all organic for a month. And as her neighbor, I benefited once a week from this shopping decision. I then proceeded to get brainwashed by her enthusiasm.

Now that organic products are relatively easy to find, and sloooowly coming down in price, I've started making a few switches. Now we buy organic milk. (Gulp. I get SO mad when the girls waste it. Talk about crying over spilt milk. I haven't been this sensitive about milk consumption since I was nursing/pumping. If breastmilk is liquid gold, organic milk is liquid silver.)

I bought organic chicken the other day. My eggs are cage-free. The girls have organic mac and cheese, animal crackers, apple sauce and juice boxes. We haven't made a complete switch yet, though. I can't seem to bring myself to buy organic cheese. And it's hard to buy organic fruit when the in-season produce is finally so cheap. Organic pasta, is it really necessary?

So, baby steps. I can't say I've noticed any radical differences, other than feeling more smug and superior when I roll through the aisles of Publix. But as Kim oh so persuasively pointed out, the more we (the universal we) buy organic, the greater the demand, the lower prices will drop, you get the economic picture.

But until then, you can find me crying into my (organic) milk.


One of Those Women

This summer, I've picked up some new habits. A few things, I never thought I'd be doing. A few, I should have been doing long ago.

For starters, I've finally become a grown up and started washing my face every night. With actual facial products. Anti-aging products. Products that cost more than my weekly grocery list (don't worry, I get a sweet discount through a lovely contact).

But surely you've been taking care of your skin all along, you say in horror! You're in your mid-thirties, for crying out loud! You're doing 55 down a one-way highway to Wrinkletown! Well, I'd like to say yes. But there have been many a nights I've reached for a baby wipe and made a half-hearted swipe at my face before passing out in bed. There have been many more nights where I've fallen asleep, make-up still smeared about, giving me a Walking Dead fright when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror the next morning. Washing my face every night is right up there with flossing: I know I should do it, I believe I should do it, I just can't seem to make myself religiously follow through with my good intentions. Until now.

So what has changed, you ask? Well, I finally invested in some good products, thanks to a generous friend. When she heard about my beauty "routine," she practically dragged me to her car and foisted a bag of samples on me, making me promise to ditch the baby wipes. I agreed, abashed. Hey, if it didn't work out, I'd have a drawer of freebies to gather dust, no sweat off my (wrinkled) brow.

To my amazement, however, taking care of my skin has become my new thing. Forcing myself to wash my face, slather on my moisturizer, dab on my eye cream, it's given me a self-imposed ten minutes of "me time" (hahaha, me time! Remember that?!) Do I see a difference? Well, I do! Although whether it's from the formula (words like longevity, rejuvenation potential and vitality can't hurt) or the fact that anything would be an improvement over my last skin care regimen, is still out for debate. But I'm afraid I've gotten myself thoroughly hooked. I've started making sure I wash my face right after putting the girls to sleep, ensuring I don't end up too exhausted to drag myself to the sink after binge-watching the latest season of Veep. But it hasn't been hard to start this new habit. I find I so look forward to the mini-face massage of cleansing and rich, buttery night moisturizer (yep, I have a night moisturizer and a day moisturizer. I'm one of those women now) that making time for it hasn't been a problem. What used to seem like such a huge chore is now easy.

Now flossing, that's still an insurmountable bedtime obstacle.


We spent our Fourth of July in the same way we have for the past several years, hanging out with our neighbors and their family, enjoying a patriotic potluck and watching fireworks from the golf course.

Turns out, I have two girls who share a strong dislike for fireworks. Every year Violet bravely makes an attempt to watch them, and every year the first few pops have her scrambling for the safety of the house. Not even the back porch is far enough from the noise; she has to be behind closed doors, preferably with her entire family gathered with her.

Walking up to the golf course, I tried to explain to Annie what was about to occur. "Fireworks!" I said. "Yash!" she replied. "I will be loud," I said. "Yash!" she replied. "Big boom," I said. "Boom!" she replied. She watched the first burst with wide eyes. But before the second pop, she turned to me and firmly stated, "Too loud! Too loud! Back inside!" So back inside we went, to Violet's relief. We did venture back outside one more time, when the crew lit the lanterns and sent them floating up into the sky. It was just like the scene from Tangled; they are so pretty! Probably illegal, but beautiful.

All in all, it was a very happy Independence Day, and I hope yours was too!


Sweet and Sassy

Violet had a Ice Cream Swirl Spa Day with her friend Taylor. It was Violet's first time getting all the treatments at our local little girl salon and spa, although she's gotten her hair cut there plenty. They got manicures, pedicures, a blueberry facial, toe rings, cotton candy-scented hair spray and so. much. glitter. Afterwards they danced and posed on the runway at the spa and finally convinced their mamas to put a sleepover date on the calendar.

Pretty much the best day ever.

Getting nails done!

There is glitter everywhere.

So excited!

Posing on the stage.

Impromptu dance party!

Glamour girls!

So silly.

Am I Ready?

Some strange things have been happening in the Loughman household this summer. Our baby girl has decided she is ready to grow up, and this mama is not prepared.

To start with, Annie speaks in complete sentences now. It's the funniest, most disconcerting thing. It's so odd to be able to communicate with her now, and I'm still surprised every time a fully formed thought pops out of her mouth.

Annie is also obsessed with the potty (although as of press time, this interest seems to be waning a bit). I got so tired of lifting her on and off the toilet that I went a dug up Violet's old potty. She spent a good hour sitting down, standing up, looking inside, closing and opening the lid, and announcing to everyone in earshot that it was "Annie potty!" Then at one point she sat down and... she peed!

And as exciting as it was, I am not ready to potty train this summer. I don't want to dedicate the time, or laundry, that it takes, not in these remaining few weeks of freedom. Plus I'm not convinced she's actually ready. And while she did pee again the next day, already her interest appears to be fading and I'm honestly relieved. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

Who's ready to potty?!

Then Matt decided to take the plunge and convert Annie's crib into a toddler bed. I have no idea how old Violet was when we took this step, and I'm fairly certain it was way past Annie's current 21 months. But nevertheless, the crib is gone. I was off for a girls night out when we went to the toddler bed, so Matt was in charge of bedtime. He's so much better at getting Annie to bed anyway. Plus it was a no-nap day, so I figured it wouldn't be too hard. There were plenty of incredulous comments from my fellow toddler mamas once I posted our intentions, and I had my own doubts, but I also had a karaoke night to go to, so I peaced out.

Plotting her midnight escape route....
Sure enough, he sent me a picture proving his bedtime prowess while I returned my hearty congratulations and officially tendered my bedtime resignation. Matt can rule as King of Bedtime as long as he wants.

Snug in her bed... for now!
Ah, but what did my mama ears hear at 4 a.m.? The sounds of a little toddler, out of her bed and calling from the top of the stairs. I poked the King of Bedtime in the back and once more, peaced out. He got her back to bed and we were good to go until the following morning.

The jury is still out on whether this new bed will work. I'm thinking of paying Violet to intercept Annie when she wakes up, or just teaching Annie to wander into Violet's room if she's feeling lonely in the wee hours of the night. Or I'm gonna slap the side of the crib back on until she's four years old, who knows.

All I know is, I'm happy for the King of Bedtime to take over whenever he wants!

Girls Night Out!


Building a sleepover fort!

Violet has been begging for a sleep-over. When she turned four, we had her friend from school Emma spend the night because she couldn't make the party, but that's been it. During our roadtrip, the sisters got to sleep in the same bed, which was fun. And she's been promised a spend-the-night with her friend Taylor that just hasn't been scheduled.

I remember the first slumber party I went to. I was in first grade and I went to a classmate's house. Her name was Mandy. We ate pizza and Mandy was slightly appalled that I ate the crust. (I didn't know it was a culinary taboo... in fact, I went through a phase where I only ate the pizza crust. I believe I wisely kept this information to myself that night.) I don't remember much else from that night, and I don't recall a flood of slumber parties as a result. Most of my spend-the-nights were a direct result of my parents going out of town and needing a place to put me. Eventually in high school, once I was old enough to drive, the overnights took off in earnest. But enough about me...

So the neighborhood boys sleep over all. the. time. And why shouldn't they? They're the same age, they live next door and can conveniently walk over, their parents are lovely, trustworthy people who are just fine getting rid of a kid or two for the night. And poor Violet has to watch all this. The bed-headed boys trudging home, pillow under the arm, sleepy grins on faces, whispered plans of their next great night already in the works. Violet's been asking a lot, but it finally reached a fever pitch one night at dinner. I knew Matt and I needed to be on the same page about co-ed sleepovers, but more importantly, the entire tribe needed to be on the same page.

Now I'm no helicopter parent. And I'm not a free-range parent either. I fall fairly in the middle. Perhaps a common-sense parent? A do-your-best parent? We decided that a sleepover with the boys, in the playroom, would be okay. And I know it's not the decision every parent would make. But you take the information you have and make the best decision you can. The kids are young enough (for now), I know their families and values, we're practically co-parenting together, and honestly I like the fact that the boys were willing to accept Violet into their little crew.

Happy crew!

They ate popcorn, watched a movie, played with flashlights, giggled a lot, and finally fell asleep at 10:30. They were up early (stupid garbage truck and your 7 a.m. pick-up), but happy.

Funny side note. Annie had fun crawling around the fort and sleeping bags before I finally took her to bed. Once we were in her room, she put her blanket on the floor and announced "Annie bed." And she insisted on sleeping on the floor next to her bed! I had to send Matt up later to transfer her to the crib! Sweet girl, she wants to be just like the big kids!


Then and Now

Three Years Ago

These friends. What a fun ride it is, watching this crew grow up together. Every day, this brood makes us mamas laugh, cry, grit our teeth, roll our eyes, lean in together, pray for strength, wisdom, patience... I'm so proud of the little people they are becoming, each one with their own personality and gifts. May we always see them as the blessings they are, not the heathens they act like after too little sleep and too much screen time.


Mazel Tov!

Mozel tov, Brooke!
My lovely niece Brooke had her bat mitzvah this past weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, and we were there to help celebrate! I missed my nephew Will's bar mitzvah because Annie was just three weeks old, so I was excited to experience this one, my first.

Initial impressions: bat mitzvahs are just like weddings, minus the groom. We received a fancy invitation six weeks ago. We had to RSVP with our dinner preferences (steak, chicken or fish). On the big day, the family was asked to be dressed and ready for professional pictures ahead of the event. The ballroom was rented and decorated according to the chosen theme (pink and princess). After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour (open bar for the adults, pink punch bar for the kids) and tray-passed hors d'oeuvres.

The seated dinner featured a kids buffet of hamburgers and hot dogs in addition to the adult plates. The DJ brought glow sticks and sunglasses for everyone. A father-daughter dance took place. Seeing as the show centered around a 13-year-old and her friends, the dance floor was hopping! There was even the official cutting of the (birthday) cake moment.

Seriously, it was fancier than my own wedding.

Pretty in pink!

The ceremony itself was quite moving. Brooke led what is essentially the religious service, complete with reading the Hebrew Torah. Special family members stood up with her at various times to offer blessings, she gave a little speech explaining what she had learned through the process of studying the scripture and how she could apply it to her own life. She thanked her grandfather for helping her practice the Hebrew reading and her parents gave sweet little tributes to her.

The girls were exhausted from our time at the waterpark, and Annie was itching like crazy from the chlorine, even after the benadryl we gave her. She slept on my lap for most of the service and I think even Violet dozed off. Which was good, because it meant they were ready to par-tay!

The reception was so fun. Everyone hit the dance floor, wolf ears and all! Even Matt, who I'm pretty sure didn't even dance at our wedding, had no problem taking the girls out for a spin. Overall, the entire event exceeded my expectations. Not that I wasn't expecting the bat mitzvah to be great, but I figured my girls would be difficult, I'd spend half the event in our hotel room trying to get one of them to fall asleep, etc. But I got to enjoy it just as much as anyone else, so win!

Sippin' some punch from the kids' bar.

Apparently these two little girls can inspire Matt to hit the floor!

That's right, people. Table 1!

Don't mind Greg. He's just hungry like a wolf.

Party's getting started!

We Loughmans know how to get down!

Their first slumber party!

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