HELLO
Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.

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First Day of Kindergarten

Within three days we went from celebrating 10 years of being married, to the first day of kindergarten. Talk about a cause for celebration (and a lot of preparation getting ready for Iris’ big day).

On Thursday, Iris stayed with my mom while Todd and I went to the parent kindergarten orientation. Realizing this was the only time we would have together to celebrate our decade of marriage, we stopped randomly at Herman’s near our house. Treating ourselves to a rack of ribs, drinks, and actual adult conversation, we were stunned to find out that a kind person paid our full bill! The waitress wouldn’t tell us who it was, but whoever bought our meal had no idea that we were celebrating our anniversary and the fact that now, ten years later, we have a little kindergarten. Pretty crazy how the universe works sometimes.

This morning we dropped Iris off on her first day, my eyes periodically filling with tears while hers were as wide as can be, taking it all in. She was all smiles as she waved goodbye, which was her polite way of shooing us out of the classroom. We made our way to the school cafeteria, where the PTO hosted a “Boo Hoo Breakfast” for all the kindergarten parents. After drowning my emotions in a cinnamon roll and orange juice, we made our way to the car and off to work.

All day I kept wondering what she was doing. At 10:45 on the dot, I knew she must be heading to the cafeteria for (a very early) lunch. At 10:51 I logged in and noted that her lunch account had its first purchase, making me relieved that she figured out the lunch system on her first day. I took off a little early from work so that I could pick her up shortly after dismissal. I wasn’t sure what kind of girl I would get, but assumed that she would either be very ready for me to be there or mad that I came so early. I am happy to report that I got the latter (I made it up to her with a trip to CVS). I told her she was in luck because every day after this on, I’ll be getting her at our normal time.

I tried not to ask a million questions when we got home, but I was able to piece together the following facts about her first day: her class followed clues from Pete the Cat to tour the school, she only ate a little bit of spaghetti but loved the cheese sticks, was amazed that she gets CHOCOLATE milk at lunch, made a few new friends but can’t remember their names, and has proclaimed her teacher to be the BEST teacher ever. She can’t wait for day two of kindergarten and I can’t wait for a few new details about her day.

TEN YEARS

Ten years ago today, Todd and I were married in the hot August heat. With a $100 wedding dress and a rented margarita machine, we celebrated with our best friends and family in the backyard of the Clinton House Museum. I was blogging even way back then, so you can see those posts here and here. Who would have thought that a guy asking a girl in a coffee shop to borrow a Justin Timberlake CD would lead to where we are now? Looking back over the years, I think what stands out the most is that we support each other every step of the way, even when the ideas we have are crazy. That has led to a pretty wonderful life for our little family and I am just so grateful.

Anticipating this big 10-year mark, I wanted to plan some sort of anniversary trip, but when you select wedding dates you typically don’t think about things that may be happening years from then. Tonight we’re celebrating by taking Iris to meet her Kindergarten teacher and to see her classroom for the first time. When we realized that would mean we wouldn’t be going anywhere for our anniversary, Todd’s response was perfect: We will instead celebrate with the fact we’ve created an awesome human being together. I’ll cheers to that… but I still want to go on that trip. :)

I’m Speaking at Megaphone!

Guess what you’re doing next weekend?! Coming to see me (and tons of other awesome folks) speak at Megaphone Influencer Conference! I was honored to be asked to talk about blogging and workin’ it as a social influencer. It’s pretty cool that we have a a conference like this in Fayetteville, so take advantage if you’re in the area and come say ‘hi!’

My presentation is around 11 am on Saturday at the Fayetteville Town Center downtown, but visit the Megaphone website to learn more about the speakers and schedule. See ya soon!

Loving to Learn at Home

For me, having a dedicated, inviting workspace is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. So as Iris grows, I’m realizing the same is true for her. As most curious kids are, she is a knowledge seeker – always asking questions, always wanting to learn the meaning of things she doesn’t understand, and always wanting to practice her math (she did not inherit that one from me). This is her last summer before Kindergarten, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect to partner with Arkansas Connections Academy to create the perfect learning spaces in our home.

Instead of having just one designated workspace, we tailored several areas to fit her interests. Iris loves to read, so having a welcoming and comfortable space to curl up with a book was a no-brainer. Just by adding a couple pillows and a rug, we turned her play tent (which she no longer ever played with) into a cozy little reading nook. She’s reading better and better with each day, so keeping a rotating stack of books inside helps keep her interested in sitting down and staying a while.

Iris considers herself an artist and, I must admit, I do too! Having a work table where it’s okay to get a little messy lets her not worry about anything so that she can just let her imagination fly. For the longest time we kept Iris’ art supplies in a big box. While my intent was to stay organized, I realized it was always a bit of an ordeal to get everything out for her. To make her art supplies more accessible, I unpacked her box into an old book cubby. Now she sees her art station everyday, which hopefully will inspire her to create even more masterpieces.

Even though I can already tell that Iris is a creative type, she does not shy away from science or math. As she grows, I hope her interest in these subjects do too. To help it along, we have a desk set up so that she can concentrate on her work, as well as a separate desk with a computer. Keeping the computer in a different space helps cut down on distractions, as well as lets me keep an eye on her computer usage.

As Iris grows, I know that these workspaces will evolve. Keeping things simple and utilizing items that I already had around the house, will allow me to change as she moves from grade to grade. And as we eagerly anticipate the start of Iris’ educational career, I’m doing some educating myself. Thanks to my collaboration with Arkansas Connections Academy, I got the chance to learn all about their virtual program. As someone who took courses from home my last two years of high school, I’m loving that there’s a quality option here in Arkansas.

So what exactly is Arkansas Connections Academy? It’s a tuition-free K–10 online public school that students attend virtually. While it goes up to 10th grade currently, the program will be adding one grade per year, so all grades will be offered soon. The school gives students the flexibility to learn from anywhere (can you say ROAD TRIP?!) with an innovative curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards.

This is a great education option for kids who are ahead or behind in the classroom, or just need a more flexible schedule. Connections Academy students not only explore and master required core subjects, but they have access to a broad range of electives, customized learning plans and courses for the gifted and talented. The part that really stands out to me is that students still get interaction with state-certified teachers, who are available via phone, email or in-person meetings. And that overall, it’s an individualized program based on each child’s needs and interests.

Still curious on how it all work? I was too! Feel free to read more on their website or connect on Facebook.

This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

TRAVEL LOVE: Hotel Vandivort in Springfield, MO

Whenever we have a rare, free weekend Todd and I try to get out and explore cities nearby. One place that I’ve driven through, but not actually stopped to explore is Springfield, Missouri. Just a little over two hours away from Fayetteville, it made for a perfectly easy one-night getaway.

Hotel Vandidvort played host to our stay and was the highlight of our trip. I thought this would be a post more about our overall trip to Springfield, but I was really surprised at how much I fell in love with this hotel! A four-diamond boutique hotel, the property is situated right downtown so once we arrived, we parked (for free!) and didn’t need our car again until it was time to go home.

If you’ve followed my travel adventures, you’ve probably heard me say this, but I’m a self-admitted hotel snob. In a previous position at my company I was the Meeting Planner, so one of my jobs was to tour and stay at various hotels we were considering for our conventions. Tough job, right? Well, that experience, mixed with my recent travel blogging, has led me to some pretty amazing properties. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hotel Vandivort is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I love a boutique hotel, but I really appreciate attention to detail, which Hotel Vandivort really focuses on. From the local chocolates given at check-in, to the assortment of “do not disturb” signs, and the local selection of booze in the room honor bar, they thought of everything. Nickelodeon was even set to come on when we entered the room (along with the lights and glowing artwork) – all of which pretty much blew Iris’ mind.

The combo of the historic building, with modern but comfortable features made the experience feel luxurious, yet unique. I was so impressed with the hotel that on the way home I Googled the history. Opening just a couple years ago in 2015, it was already already named Boutique Hotel of the Year in 2016.

While I could go on and on about the hotel (oh and I will later on), we also explored downtown Springfield, so let’s get on to that! After we got out all of our “oohs and ahhs” at the hotel, we walked down the street to grab some lunch.

From there, we walked around the cute little city square. While Iris made wishes in the fountain, I snuck away to The Golden Girl Rum Club for a huge, fancy drink, watching her from the patio. You guys might recognize this spot, as one of the owners is from A Beautiful Mess blog.

After that, it was Todd’s turn for a drink so we walked over to Mother’s Brewing Company where they were having sort of a backyard Fourth of July party. We sat in the shade with a beer, heard some live music, and watched the locals do their thing. Getting closer to dinner dinner time, we made our way back to the hotel.

Before we ventured to dinner, we stopped to have a drink at the bar in the hotel where Iris had the fanciest Shirley Temple I’ve ever seen. Realizing we were still pretty full from lunch, we decided to plan ahead and walk the short distance over to Hurt’s Donuts so that we’d have dessert for later. Freshening up back at our hotel (and maybe sneaking a little bit of donut), we decided we loved the hotel so much that we wanted to try their restaurant too. Our meal at The Order was not only delicious, but beautifully presented. Before we headed back up to our room (and donuts) we of course had to stop by the bathrooms on the bottom floor to take a famous #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I saw the tagged images on Instagram!

The next day we slept in (!!!), taking full advantage of the noon check-out time. If you are near the area, I would highly recommend taking an overnight trip just to stay at the hotel – but of course explore the area as well! I want to go back just to stay in one of their suites, which are actually pretty reasonably priced. How cozy would this one be in the winter with the indoor/outdoor fireplace? So… Who’s coming with?!

Byyyyeee Springfield! See ya soon!