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!



It's one of our favorite traditions that every summer, we take the girls to "Camp Grandma" and "Camp Mimi". The kids get to spend several days bouncing from location to location, spending the night in one place, going to the pool at the other place, meeting up for joint playdates and meals, then splitting off again for one-on-one time with the each set of grandparents. It's fantastic and they look forward to it every year.

As do we.

For while the kids are away, the adults can play. Sometimes we have various house projects we work on, like the time we transformed Violet's room from guest room to "big girl" room to make way for Annie's nursery. Or the time we painted our bedroom. Or was it the dining room? But this summer, without any big projects on the must-do list, we just took the time out to relax.

Sushi. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
First up, we went out to sushi. Why waste it on kids who won't appreciate it, right? Although Violet shows signs of being a sushi-lover. There is a delicious sushi place called Mori House not far from where we live and we basically just tell the sushi chefs to hit us with their best shot. We sat at the bar this time and as they crafted this masterpiece I was silently jealous of whoever lucky customer ordered it, until they handed over and I realized that lucky customer was me. The attention to detail, the plating... it tasted as good as it looked.

The next day, we headed up to Chateau Elon, the Georgia winery and resort. We were meeting another couple here for a overnight date-night night-golf event. While the rain ended up cancelling our night golf plans, I wasn't overly broken-hearted about it. We enjoyed the pool, headed over to the winery for a wine tasting, indulged at the buffet dinner, and took a morning nature hike.


My hot date.

Thanks for inviting us, Joyce!

We had some generous pours during this wine tasting.

Scenes from our nature walk the next morning! A beautiful day!

The next day, the plan was to go on a 2.5 hour canoeing adventure with the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Alas, the event got cancelled due to poor water quality (again with the cancelled events! Mother Nature was not playing nicely!) But we rebounded quickly with a trip to the "quiet pool" in our neighborhood. We have lived here eight years and I had never once been to this adults-only saltwater pool. See those trees? Just beyond them lies the family pool, full of yelling, splashing kids. But here, do you see that? Just peace and tranquility. We followed this up with a trip to the movie theater to see Baby Driver. Dumb name, great movie! Go see it! So fun!

Ah, the quiet pool.

Shh. I'm at the quiet pool.
The next day we cooked ourselves a breakfast scramble that featured tomatoes, peppers and basil sourced from our own garden (Mother Nature and I were back on speaking terms) and then headed to the race expo to pick up our Peachtree Road Race numbers. We finished our day with a last dip in the quiet pool and then dinner next door with good friends, before turning in early to get ready for The Race! Ah, adulting. It's so nice.


Last Swim Meet

A beautiful day for a swim!

Violet wrapped up her first swim team season in spectacular fashion. I could not be more proud of this girl. At our last regular season swim meet, she posted her fastest times yet in both freestyle and backstroke. I volunteered to be the "shepherd" for her age group, so I had the opportunity to be front and center for all her events as I got the girls lined up on the blocks. With a season of meets under her belt, Violet is a pro. She was even telling me how to do my job! It's nice that she has enjoyed swim so much - I never have to drag her to practice or bribe her through the meets. She's happy to hop of on the block, wait for the whistle and take off for the other end. Even if she gets sloppy in practice and bobs the last few feet to the wall, she turns it on in competition.

So proud of this girl!
After we wrapped up our last meet, we had a pizza party to celebrate all our swimmers and say goodbye to our fabulous head coach Blaire. All the kids won a "paper plate" award, with everything from "Most Likely to Be a Princess" to "Best Attitude" and more. Annie got "best attitude" but I wasn't sure if they meant "best" as in having a good attitude, or having, you know, attitude. Haha! And then Violet... she got Rookie of the Year! I had to explain the term rookie to her, and I don't think it meant much in her mind, but Matt and I were thrilled for her! She did make the comment that at her very first practice, the coaches had to help her reach the other side of the pool, but now she doesn't need any help at all (understatement!)

Rookie of the Year!
But before we could officially retire her swim cap for the summer, there was one last thing we had to do. Violet decided (okay well, Matt and I decided) that she would compete at the county-wide swim meet down at Georgia Tech. She was scheduled for four events, two relays and the backstroke and freestyle. In my head, I knew it would be a little intimidating, but it was still a bit of a shock when we walked in. The place was huge! There were so many swimmers! (We're talking something like eight heats of 7-8 year old girls 25 meter freestyle alone!) I could tell Violet was feeling a little overwhelmed, but she gamely jumped in the pool for warm-ups. When she came out, she was very concerned about the fact that the pool was so deep and she couldn't touch the bottom. She said she didn't like looking down at it. Still, all seemed okay. Until the parent volunteer texted me to say that Violet was on her way up to the stands, where she completely freaked out and started crying, insisting we go home immediately. I think the whole day, waking up at 6 a.m., being too nervous for breakfast, everything just crashed down on her. Poor thing. I basically told her she had to swim the relays because her team depended on her. Her sweet coach came to escort her down and promised to jump into the pool fully dressed if need be, which made Violet crack up and calm down. Watching from the stands, I could tell she was nervous on the block but she didn't hesitate when it was her turn to swim the relay. And that first race seemed to get her over her fear, as the parent volunteer reported that she was all smiles after that. She didn't post her best times at the meet, but it was a great experience and I am just so proud of the fact that she got in the water at all, given her initial fear. Hopefully she'll want to come back again next year!

Getting ready for the county meet!

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