Our 2,371-mile Summer Vacation

It’s snowing and almost Christmas so, basically, the perfect time to post about our summer vacation, no?

When we learned that Andy’s cousin, Julie, had gotten engaged, Andy and I talked about flying out, just the two of us, to attend her wedding. But then she sweetly asked Sophie to be a flower girl, and the boys to be ring bearers. (To illustrate how excited Sophie was with this request, let me just say that she practiced daily—and for months we had loose silk flowers all over our house.)

The rest is my fault.

I Google Mapped the drive from Fort Thomas to Dallas (where the wedding took place) and then decided I wanted to spend a day or two at the ocean (which is not at all on the way). And then I thought about how long it had been since we visited Andy’s sister, Liz, in Atlanta. So I tacked that on. I tried to add on a few days in New Orleans and Memphis, but Andy cut me off.

I’m pretty sure I packed all the kids’ clothes.

All of them.

First stop—Atlanta. We met Liz and Eric for pizza at Mellow Mushroom.

We had ice cream after. We let the kids share one bowl, picking whatever they wanted—which resulted in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone with orange ice cream topped with gummy bears. I said I was full.

The kids were thrilled with the hotel room. Considering most nights we have at least one-if-not-two kids in our queen-size bed with us we thought it would be no big deal to all pile in a king-size bed.

We were wrong.

Hotel cuteness.

After breakfast with Liz and Eric, we headed onto Pensacola, Florida. We stopped here for boiled peanuts. Turns out, I don’t like boiled peanuts. I do wish, though, I could capture everything about the man who sold them to us—he has been selling them on the side of the road for sixty-plus years, I think (June was a long time ago now). He and his stories were worth the stop.

Next stop: the ocean!

Turns out, Owen isn’t a fan of the beach. He is a fan of sitting in his beach chair eating fruit snacks all afternoon, however.

Later that day we discovered Quietwater Beach—which was basically a knee-deep, bathwater-temperature haven for the kids.

We wore them out that day.

And then promptly woke them up for a stop at Joe Patti‘s for fresh shrimp.

Andy made the most delicious shrimp scampi that night.

We spent the next day back at Quietwater Beach, this time walking the boardwalk and venturing out farther, which meant life vests.

We stopped for some homemade popsicles at a cute little place and then did one last walk on the beach.

Owen wasn’t a fan of the noise of the waves.

I loved that last walk.

This was our cute little cottage, which I found online.

There were two bedrooms—we packed bed rails, and this was how the kids slept.

Next we had two days of driving, first to Shreveport, Louisiana and then on to Dallas for the rehearsal dinner. We stopped at a high school for a picnic lunch.

We made it to Texas. I’m skipping so much. Details about how we didn’t eat any fast food, choosing instead picnic lunches or roadside diners (with some successes—who knew roadside Thai could be so delicious in Texas?—and some failures). Of will-they-ever-go-to-sleep-in-this-one-room-hotel bedtimes mishmashed with the late-night, slap-happy, all-five-of-us giggling I so very well remember from one-room-hotel vacations as a child. Of colossal van meltdowns. Of the most fantastic family bonding that only happens on trips like this. Of a thousand games of “I Spy.”

But I digress. The wedding was at The Cotton Mill in McKinney, Texas.

It was hot. And beautiful.

Here are the boys practicing pulling their wagon, which held the third ring bearer. I have to admit: When Julie told me her vision (that the boys would be pulling a wagon together, without an adult, down the aisle and that another living being would be in the wagon) I pretty much envisioned disaster. Turns out, I wasted a lot of time worrying. They were great.

Here’s Julie, the bride-to-be, showing the flower girls where to be.

Emmy and Sophie


waterfall watching

my groom

That night was Fourth of July. So after the lovely rehearsal dinner at The Pantry Restaurant, we surprised the kids with sparklers outside our motel room. This went splendidly—until Owen burned his thumb (great parenting, no?).

The next day was wedding day. Aunt Susan made all the bridesmaids and flower girls cute towel wraps to wear while getting ready. And Jill made necklaces for Julie and the entire wedding party.

There was a lot of waiting.

Check out Sophie’s hair—one of the bridesmaids did it! I struggle with putting her hair into a ponytail so I thought this was just amazing.

Julie gifted the flowers girls with pink shimmer dusting powder, which, as you can imagine, was a huge hit.

Here’s Andy fixing the bow ties on our two handsome little boys.

I took a quick picture of the empty reception hall.


pink bow-tied brothers (love)

a few more pictures of the grounds and decoration

This is Blair, Emmy’s mom—she made both of the flower girl dresses. Not only can I not do hair, but I also can’t sew. So again—I was in awe.

Sophie, who loves all poof, couldn’t have been happier.

And here she is putting on more shimmer dusting powder—on her feet.

the beautiful bride and her beautiful mom

Aunt Fran (the bride’s grandma) and Jill (Sophie’s grandma)

the boys, waiting

Ross, the groom, built the cross.

I was in charge of moving the wagon and getting the boys back to their seat after their walk down the aisle, so I don’t have any pictures of it (Andy was in line with Sophie). I’m pretty sure I had more butterflies than they did over this simple walk but again, they were great!

the ceremony

Sophie and so-chic Grandma

Next up—pictures! I didn’t realize they had intended for me to be in a huge extended family picture and I missed it. I’d like to say it was for good reason but honestly it was a combination of 90°+ temperatures and Spanx …

fancy dress, glass of wine and a diaper bag

first dance

Of course we had trains at the wedding.

The kids loved loved loved dancing. Blair found lacy rompers for the flower girls to wear under their dresses, which both Sophie and Emmy stripped down to as soon as the reception started.

The reception was great fun and it was so nice to catch up with and meet extended family and friends.

This is pretty much how we all felt once it was over.

The next day we went to Tracy and Jeff’s house (Julie’s parents) for a cookout and swimming before the happy couple left for their honeymoon.

It was a fun, exhausting, beautiful, hard, memorable, completely worth it trip. Thank you, Julie and Ross, for inviting our kids to be in your wedding—it’s something they still talk about, to this day.

I’m already beginning to talk about our 2014 summer vacation. Andy just keeps changing the subject.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” —Helen Keller

FL Trip: Best Airport Idea Ever


“It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an airport’ appear.” —Douglas Adams

FL Trip: Disney World

We didn’t tell the kids about our day trip to Disney World until the night before we went. Sophie was excited in a I’m-not-quite-sure-what-you’re-talking-about-but-I-like-Disney-movies-castles-princesses-and-Kings-Island-so-it-sounds-fun way.

We rode the carousel,

and waited a very long time in a very hot line so Sophie could meet Rapunzel. (She told Rapunzel she’s growing her hair just as long.)

There was nap time.

And 3-D glasses time.

And lots of rain. Lots and lots of rain. $56 spent on ponchos worth of rain.

So we took lots of breaks inside restaurants,

and riding indoor rides, such as It’s a Small World (which James loved—he kept screaming “Look, Daddy, look!” the entire time).

All the kids loved the castle. And still, anytime Owen sees a building that’s the least bit fancy now, he yells, “castle!”.

We had one meltdown, while waiting for dinner. It involved me taking both boys out of the restaurant and then standing their helplessly while they flung themselves on the ground, crying (it didn’t last long). So I thought we were done. But while leaving the park, I noticed a perfect spot, empty on the otherwise crowded main street, perfect for watching the evening parade. I debated. I knew the kids would love it, but I also worried I was asking for another meltdown. But then I thought about the fact that we were at Disney and that I don’t know if we’ll ever be at Disney again. So I bought light-up toys. And Mickey Mouse-shaped Goldfish crackers. And little cars for Owen to play with on the street. We stayed.

They loved it. All of it. Despite the heat, long lines and rain. (Thank you, Grandma and Paw Paw, for a most wonderful trip.)

“Laughter is America’s most important export.” —Walt Disney

FL Trip: Date Night

We had dinner at Don CeSar and then took a long walk on the beach.

The rain gave way to a beautiful sunset, a beautiful night.

The next night we went out after the kids went to bed, to Mahuffer, the most fantastic dive bar I’ve ever seen.

There, we met up with an old friend from high school, Tom, and his girlfriend. It was so nice to catch up.

And thank you, Grandma, Paw Paw and Aunt Fran—it was so nice to have some kid-free time, too.

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” —e.e. cummings

FL Trip: Fort De Soto Park

“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.” —Robert Henri

FL Trip: Around the House

Grandma’s homemade strawberry cake

the pool

full moon on the dock



Owen, Sophie, James

more fun on the dock

Aunt Fran cooking dinner

more fun in the pool


pillow fight with Uncle Jim

Owen, asleep in the pool (we were, of course, with him at all times)

Uncle Jim and Andy

Max and Uncle Chris

Aunt Lynn

Uncle Jim and Jared


“A beach house isn’t just real estate. It’s a state of mind.” —Douglas Adams

FL Trip: First Day At the Beach

Sophie insisted on being held when near the water.

Owen wanted nothing to do with the beach, and instead was content sitting on the beach blanket Nini made, eating Goldfish crackers and drinking water.

Sophie and Paw Paw

Andy and James

Aunt Fran

Andy and James

Sophie, loving the playground

more playground fun

Aunt Fran, Jill and Marty


“The waves of the sea
Help me get back to me.” —Jill Davis

Three Kids Under 4 On a Plane

Early June Andy’s parents gifted us a wonderful vacation with them in St. Petersburg, Fla. The trip included five plane tickets, which I was both very grateful for (it’s a long drive) and terrified of (the boys have never flown). Confession: Worst case, though, I thought whatever happened would make a good blog post.

Fortunately, unfortunately, I have nothing super exciting to post here.

I prepared. Sophie has a backpack. I bought the boys backpacks. And filled them with things they don’t normally get—fruit strips, fruit snacks, Teddy Grahams, cheese crackers, these fantastic activity books, diapers for the boys, an extra pair of panties for Sophie, wipes for everyone, sunglasses for everyone, flash cards and empty Thermos drink containers.

Now you would think such excess would have kept them occupied for a flight to Paris. But after putting all the stickers all over themselves …

and eating all their treats much too quickly …

and going through the flash cards 10 times …

we resorted to letting them turn the overhead lights on and off, on and off. Thankfully, the flight was packed with kids (as it was going from Cincinnati to Tampa in the summer) and everyone seemed to agree that a flickering overhead light was better than a crying child.

It went well. Really well. Andy’s parents flew with us on the way out, helping us when needed. Owen kept saying “airplane” over and over. Sophie was beside herself with the idea of fruit snacks in the morning.


“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” —Al Gore

Sunrise Shell Hunting
























“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach; one can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sophie’s Trip with Nini and Pop Pop to Buy Shrimp














Summer 2011 including Ocean Isle 190

Each family made dinner for everyone one night of the trip. While my sister and I simply went to the grocery, my parents managed to find a place where they could buy fresh shrimp for their meal, directly from the men who caught it. I didn’t go with them to purchase the shrimp, but Sophie did, and these are my parents’ pictures from the outing.

“No life is so happy and so pleasant as the life of the well-govern’d angler.” —Izaak Walton