The Wedding! Part 2

The bridal par-tay! 
Then it was wedding time! We took so. many. pictures. before the ceremony. (Note to all brides, please take your pictures ahead of time. You can have a romantic "first look" and all that, but for the love of your bridal party, guests, and anyone under the age of six, get those pictures out of the way!) Virginia asked all her bridesmaid to choose a black dress that made them feel beautiful to wear in the wedding, and the boys all wore silly socks under those austere suits of theirs. The pictures will be beautiful but man, was it chilly! The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight, into the low 50s. We would huddle in our hoodies, then throw everything off to smile for the cameras. Matt surprised me with a cup of coffee when we all reunited at the photo site - it's true love, people. We finally wrapped things up and boarded the trolley back to the church for more pictures, followed by a very special blessing from both fathers, before the guests finally arrived and it was showtime!

My beautiful mother and I, waiting backstage.

Funny story. In the room where we were waiting for go time, we had thoughtfully been provided with a basket of snacks. Annie picked a bag of popcorn and wandered around the room, munching. At this point it was about quarter to five on a no-nap day where she had spent the majority of her time being told to alternately get in the picture and smile or get out of the way. The other flower girl had a total meltdown and I was worried it would set my girls off but neither of them seemed to notice. Annie just kept munching that popcorn. Well, it was finally time to line up for the processional, and still Annie has that darned bag of popcorn! I tried taking it from her, only to have my fingers nearly bitten off. I tried getting her to eat faster. I tried asking if I could eat some for her. Even Virginia tried her best, to no avail. Well, the music started and as I took my turn to march into the church, I had to leave it all in Grandma's hands.

I reached the front of the sanctuary and turned just as the maid and matron of honor are also taking their places. The previously crying flower girl made her way with no tears in sight. Now all that was left was my girls, carrying their signs that read "Uncle Lukas..." and "here comes your bride!" From the foyer I hear a loud and insistent "No! MY popcorn!" I see Lee Anne throw her hands up and send them on their way, Annie clutching her sign in one hand and that bag of popcorn in the other! (Hey, at least the black and white bag color-coordinated!)

The ceremony proceeded without a hitch until there was just one last thing to do. After the pronouncement of husband and wife, the girls were supposed to flip around their signs to now read "Mr. Fortunato" and "Mrs. Fortunato" and follow the bride and groom out of the church. As the final blessing is being given, I glance to the pew where they have been parked with Grandma and Grandpa and Matt's dad points at Annie... totally and completely asleep, Minnie Mouse underwear flashing the world, practically snoring in her exhaustion! But not to fear, Grandpa also motions to Violet, who grins and holds up both signs, one in each hand. Perfectly on cue, she hopped into the aisle just when she was supposed to. We walked out of the church, straight onto the trolley, and hightailed it to the reception. (I did have Matt text his parents to confirm that they would bring Sleeping Beauty to the reception since she missed her trolley ride!) Then we just partied the night away!

Look who I bumped into in the lighthouse!

What a great place for a party!

The view from the top (and the spot of the proposal).

She finally woke up!

Wedding selfie!

You know it's a party when the Chick-fil-a cow shows up!

The Wedding!

My brother got married! Honestly there could be 27 more exclamation points after that sentence and it still wouldn't feel like enough. Lukas and Virginia tied the knot on December 30 on St. Simons Island, her hometown. It was beautiful. It was incredibly well-planned and executed (there was a 15-page master schedule that covered the week, broken into 15-minute increments... these people were serious). There was so much smiling and laughing and praying. And I am more than thrilled to call Virginia my new sister.
The dawning of the Big Day.

We wrapped up Christmas in Peachtree City and booked it for St. Simons on Thursday morning, followed closely by Matt's parents, who were also invited to the wedding and would be acting as our stand-by babysitters (having both Matt and I in the wedding was going to make it difficult to wrangle our little flower girls so I was thrilled to have the grandparents along!) It monsooned on us basically the entire way to the island. We rolled in just in time to check into the hotel, change, and head to the rehearsal, or what I called the "listening and following directions" time. Given the circumstances, the girls did an awesome job. Violet asked me to run through her instructions over and over as we were in the church, making sure she knew exactly what to do the next day. Typical Annie just ran around and charmed everyone. We were given lovely gifts of matching black hoodies with our monograms on them - adorable! The girls loved them immediately - their first monograms! We headed to the rehearsal dinner and listened to stories from the bridal couple's nearest and dearest. Annie was escorted home by grandma and grandpa while Violet made fast friends with the other flower girl and hammed it up in the photo booth.

Look at these beautiful girls! (Every time I want to chop off Annie's hair, I see a picture like this and be still my soul and scissors...)

Quick, while she's actually looking at the camera!

The wedding kiddos!

Love it when Stephanie makes it out from CA!

The next day, after a quick run on the beach (with strict instructions NOT to go into the water!), the ladies of the wedding party arrived at the Belt residence for hair, makeup, hoodies, pictures, the works. This was the start of the hurry up and wait portion of the events. I was worried about my kiddos... waiting is not always the easiest. But they entertained themselves well. For what could have been a stressful time, everyone was remarkably calm. Videographers roamed around, the photographers flitted in and out, everyone just did what they needed to do, I attempted to be helpful and stay out of everyone's way.

Virginia and her girls!

Getting her hair done like a big girl!

Annie, continuing her trend of not looking at the camera.

The countdown to making Aunt Virginia our real AUNT Virginia!
Finally it was time to board the trolley (Violet made me google a picture so she could understand exactly what a "trolley" was) to take us to the St. Simons lighthouse, scene of the wedding reception and pre-wedding pictures. Overnight the temperature had dropped 20 degrees, meaning we were looking at outdoor photos by the ocean in low-50 degree weather. But the sun was shining and we were counting on adrenaline and love to keep us warm!


Gimme a Break!

First Grade ready to board the Polar Express!

We did it! We made it to Christmas Break! The school calendar is a weird one this year, forcing us to teach the Monday and Tuesday of Christmas week. Fortunately, all we had planned was our holiday party (snowman style!) and Polar Express, so we survived.

I love my snowman party. This is the third year I've done it, and it is always a hit. The kids wrapped each other (and their parents) up in toilet paper to "dress like a snowman", we had melted snowman ice cream sundaes, complete with pretzel "sticks" for arms and candy corn "carrot" noses. They also used my indoor snowball fight set to go snowman bowling in the hallway and made a snowman ornament using their handprint.

On the last day, I had everyone clean out their desks (no weird surprises this year!) and passed out brand new supplies... there's nothing like a fresh box of crayons to start the new year! Then we settled in to watch the Polar Express in our pajamas, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream, and generally just tried to survive until dismissal. I busted my butt to get report cards done, papers filed, things ready for January, and I was ready to blow outta there 10 minutes after the bell rang! It's time to get this holiday started!

Nope, not a hair cut.

And let me tell you, I need a break. These last two weeks have done me in. Our kitchen sink started leaking. Matt thought he fixed it, but it started leaking again. We ordered a new mattress but then needed a different box spring, leaving us with a bedroom full of mattresses stacked around but nothing to sleep on. Then there was the Lice Incident. Which, after an immediate do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200-dollars visit to the Lice Ladies and eight straight hours of vacuuming and laundry, has resulted in me just feeling paranoid. But things are turning around. We got a new disposal courtesy of a very nice plumber. The old mattress was hauled away by a creepy hope-he's-not-a-serial-killer guy and the new box spring arrived, leaving me with a lovely new bed. Ninety percent of the presents are purchased, fifty percent are wrapped. Book club party, small group party, neighbor dinner have all been crossed off the to-do list. I got my pedicure for the wedding. It's going to be a whirlwind holiday, but we're going to make it. And it's going to be awesome!

Book club has become a family affair!




We went to see the Nutcracker! It was so fun. I remember one year in high school, a bunch of my friends felt so grown up when we dressed up fancy and went to the Fox to see the Atlanta Ballet perform the classic. But it's the only time I've ever seen this particular show. So when Violet's friend Taylor invited us to join for a mother-daughter date, I jumped at the chance. For Violet's first foray into ballet watching, we went to a local production, rather than trek all the way downtown. I wasn't about to tackle the Fox without knowing if Violet would even be able to make it through the entire performance without demanding to know why no one was talking or deciding that this ballet thing is for the birds. And considering she had exactly zero background on what was about to take place, I thought she did awesome!

Before the show.
Our seats were fantastic. The theater was intimate enough that we scored seats in the front row of the balcony and it was perfect. We had a wonderful view (although when Violet got a little squirmy halfway through the second act, I freaked out a bit that the audience behind us was getting too good of a view of her feet propped up on the railing). After the show the dancers gathered in the lobby adn our girls got a few pictures. Violet declared Arabian her favorite (isn't it always) and I was very impressed by the professionalism of the cast, especially given that these are not professionals. Overall I think Violet enjoyed it. I certainly did! I hope we'll be back!


Breakfast with Santa

Breakfast with Santa... and the principal! 

A couple weekends ago, we engaged in the age-old tradition of having breakfast with Santa. I don't know who came up with such an idea, but it's always a favorite event at our school. Last year Annie refused to sit on Santa's lap, so I have a beautiful picture of just Violet. But this year things went perfectly and both girls hopped up there. Violet panicked a bit afterwards and informed me she only had time to tell Santa one thing she wanted (a watch) and Annie apparently told Santa she wants a "cupcake maker" (translation: Easy Bake Oven... I think). Here's hoping the Big Guy remembers!


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!

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