Texas trip

Catie recently had her 3-week spring break, so we decided to do like we did last year, and go to Texas to visit my sister and brother-in-law.

The flying part of this trip felt like a big deal, because it was the first time I’d flown with my kids without bringing along a stroller. I was a little worried that Lucy might pull a “my legs are tired!” meltdown and force me to carry her plus our carry-ons, but I talked it up about how she’s a big girl now, and created a little reward chart, and both girls were great. (I wasn’t worried about Catie – for all of her tendencies to freak out at new situations, that kid is the easiest traveling buddy ever. She’s a champ. But I can’t promise a reward to one kid and not the other, because they are all about equity at this age, so Catie and Lucy were both on the reward chart.)

Survived the first half of our journey. Now we're boarded on our flight to Austin!

Before our trip, my sister had emailed me a link to the Exotic Resort Zoo, asking if I thought the kids might like it. It looked fun, so we decided to check it out.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is in Johnson City, which is a little over an hour from Austin. And it was amazing. You ride in a covered trailer through the park, and all of the animals come up to the trailer so you can feed and pet them. (You buy a bucket of feed before the tour, you can’t just give them regular food.) They had llamas, zebras, buffalo, camels, ostriches, emus, rams, elk, antelope, gazelles, and a dozen other things I’m forgetting. It was so fun.

Highly recommend the Exotic Safari Zoo in Johnson City, TX. We got to feed and pet llamas, zebras, camels, deer, elk, buffalo and a dozen other animals. SO COOL.

Catie spent the entire tour halfway leaning out of the trailer trying to pet every animal that came near us. Lucy is a little more unsure about animals, so she spent most of the time picking up big handfuls of feed from the bucket and throwing it out of the trailer for the animals to catch.

We also took another trip to downtown Austin to try to see the bats when they fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk.

Catie, Lucy & Tracy waiting for bats

And look, BATS!


(As I kept reassuring Lucy, these are not scary bats. These are bats who eat all the mosquitoes. These bats are our friends. In fact, I’m wishing I could set up a bat colony in my backyard.)

We did a lot of other fun stuff: had dinner with my aunt and uncle, and the girls got to play with their cousin Jackson who they hadn’t seen since Tracy’s wedding. We got to try out some fun local restaurants. We went to Mt. Playmore twice, and I’m still so jealous that we don’t have a place like that here, because it’s so much fun.

And on our last day, on our way to the airport, we found longhorns! (Lucy was tired & wouldn’t get out of the car for a picture. And you kinda have to zoom in a LOT to see the longhorns behind Catie. But they were there!)

We found longhorns!

The flight home was pretty uneventful, the kids did really well again. Chris picked us up at the airport and brought us home. And even though Chris took good care of the pets while we were gone, Roxie was so happy to see us that she did literal back flips when we got home. She stood on her hind legs to do her little happy dance, but her tail was wagging so hard that she kept falling over backward.

(This is what we call the Roxie Happy Dance.)

Catie’s back in school now, but it was a fun trip and I’m really glad we were able to go.

and we didn’t even see a single shark

I had been thinking about taking the girls to the beach back in July, when Catie was on her summer break, but there were all kinds of stories in the news about people getting bitten by sharks, and it kind of freaked me out. I fully realize that it’s statistically far more likely that we’d get hurt in a car accident or a million other ways before anything involving a shark. But I already have a weird phobia about open bodies of water – I’m fine in swimming pools, but I hate boats, and at the beach I don’t go in the water past my knees. So just the idea of sharks was enough to keep me away.

Then last week, I realized it was August, it’s been weeks since there have been any shark incidents on the news, and I really hated the idea of skipping out on something that’s become an annual tradition for our family. So, on Saturday, we loaded up the car and went to Wrightsville Beach for the day.

It’s about a 2-hour drive to the coast, which isn’t that bad, although it’s long enough for the girls to really get on each other’s nerves and start fighting. At some point I felt like the cliche of every parent on earth when I yelled, “I will turn this car around and we will go back home if you do not leave each other alone FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” (My mom would probably find that hilarious, since it’s pretty much verbatim what she said to us on countless road trips when I was a kid.)

Once we got to the beach, the girls had a blast, and you’d never know from the pictures I got that they were at each other’s throats in the car just mere moments prior.

See? Total angels. Ha. Haaaaaa.

Catie has been taking swim lessons this summer, so she’s gotten a lot braver in the water, but she’s still very careful in the ocean. She found some other kids around her age and hung out with them, building sand castles and jumping waves.

Catie in the ocean

Lucy is a little more unsure about the ocean, but she had fun lying on the sand and waiting for the waves to roll up over her. She also had me carry her out to jump waves, which was fine, since we stayed in the very shallow water.

Lucy kept lying on the sand, waiting for the waves to roll up over her

After about 4 hours, when they’d completely worn themselves out, we loaded everything back into the car, grabbed some dinner, and headed home. Both girls slept most of the way, and I hated to wake them up when we got home, but they both needed showers after playing in the sand for so long. They got to bed way later than normal, but since it was a Saturday night, no big deal.

That night, around 2:30 a.m., Lucy came into my room and said, “Mama, I throwed up in my bed.” Chris stripped the sheets off her bed while I cleaned her up. She spent the rest of the night and most of Sunday feverish, puking, and miserable. Poor little goose.

Fortunately, it was just a 24-hour bug, because by Monday morning, she was completely fine. I kept her home on Monday anyway, because daycare wants them to be fever-free for 24 hours before they go back to school, and I wanted to keep an eye on her. Kids bounce back so quickly, though, she really was completely fine all day. And she was excited that she got to come with me up the street to meet Catie at the bus stop, since she’s normally at daycare and doesn’t get to do that.

A series of "waiting for Catie's school bus" selfies.
A series of “waiting for Catie’s school bus” selfies.

Unrelated to anything: I’ve decided I’m tired of the girls having bangs, because their hair grows so fast and their bangs constantly need to be trimmed. So we’ve started growing them out. (Hence why Lucy’s hair is pinned back in those above pics.) It’s an annoying process, always trying to find hair clips in the morning, and convincing Lucy not to pull hers out halfway through the day, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run. I know I’m biased and all, but I happen to really like seeing their entire faces.

road trip weekend

I think one of the keys of a successful relationship is accepting the fact that your significant other has interests that you find totally boring. I’m not sure what mine are that bore Chris (celebrity gossip and social media stuff, probably), but his is playing Magic the Gathering. If you’re not familiar, it’s a card game with wizards and spells and whatnot. Sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, but even geekier (if that’s possible).

And in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse. At least he doesn’t ask me to watch any type of sporting events on TV. (I have a lot of women friends who love sports, but I am not that girl. I would rather watch paint dry than watch a football or baseball game.) And when he plays, he has to go to a game store where they play in groups, so it’s a more social hobby than most.

This past weekend there was a big Magic tournament in Charlotte. Chris wanted to go, and I had the girls for the weekend and no big plans, so I thought it would be fun to tag along with him. My brother and his girlfriend recently moved to a new apartment in Charlotte, and they have a new puppy and kitten, so I knew we’d have fun visiting with them while Chris played in his tournament.

(Side note: there were something like 4,000 people in this tournament. Chris and I joked that if a bomb went off in that convention center, IT helpdesks across the Southeast would be virtually wiped out, because that’s the type of person who plays Magic the Gathering.)

Friday afternoon, Chris and I packed up the car, picked up the kids from daycare, and set off for Charlotte.

Picked up these messy-haired ragamuffin children, & we're road-tripping to Charlotte for the weekend. They're kinda excited.
They were pretty excited.

We stopped for dinner along the way, so we ended up not getting to Charlotte until about 9:30, well after the girls’ bedtime. They were so wound up from the trip, they ended up not falling asleep until after midnight.

Catie is totally in love.
Catie is totally in love with my brother’s puppy, Annabelle.

My brother’s girlfriend Mandy was trying to tell Catie how to get Annabelle to obey commands, and Catie obviously doesn’t spend much time around dogs, because she said, “Ok, Annabelle, if you want a treat, can you sit?” I tried to explain that dogs understand one-word commands better than full sentences, but it was very sweet that she tried to phrase it so politely.

Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, is pretty enamored with my brother's puppy.
Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, came around and played with Annabelle for a while.

Samson, my brother's kitten, wisely kept his distance from my loud children all weekend.
This is Samson, the kitten, who kept his distance most of the weekend. Most cats tend to be a little skittish around loud children, so I don’t blame him.

Saturday, Chris got up early and went to the convention center for his tournament. The kids and I goofed around for a while, then my cousin Renee (the cousin whose wedding we went to last October) came over and we all went out for lunch together. It was great to see her and catch up.

It was so hot over the weekend (in the mid-90s) that doing anything outside like a playground was just impossible. So after lunch, my brother dropped the girls and I off at a nearby kids’ museum so they could run around and burn off some energy indoors where it’s air-conditioned.

Flying an airplane at the kids' museum.
They had fun.

At the kids’ museum, they have a big stage in the middle of the main room, and every hour they have some type of presentation. One was a science experiment (which was pretty cool), and they also had a puppet show. We were sitting on the floor to watch it, and the emcee was trying to get the kids all excited. She said that the puppet show was going to be about the circus. She asked the audience, “What types of animals are in the circus?”

Catie leaned over to me and whispered, “Tortured ones.”

Which I mean… ok, I laughed. It was kind of a snarky and rude answer, but she knew that, so she just whispered it to me rather than saying it out loud. And it’s not like she’s wrong.

(As for how she knows about Ringling Brothers’ animal abuse: she once asked if we could go to the circus, and I said no, because they mistreat their animals, so I won’t give them any of my money. She obviously remembered that.)

Chris played in his tournament until pretty late that night (he got back after 10 p.m.), so in the meantime, the kids and I went out for dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.

In hindsight, I should’ve known that going out to dinner was a bad idea. (Foreshadowing!) Lucy hadn’t slept nearly enough the night before, and she’d skipped her nap that day, and she was starting to get kind of whiny. We walked to the restaurant (it was about 4 blocks from their apartment), and even though they live in a really pretty area, the walk was pretty unpleasant in the heat. Then we got to the restaurant and the hostess said it would take 30 minutes to get a table. Red flags everywhere that we were headed for Meltdown City, and I missed them all. Lucy is normally so easygoing, I just wasn’t expecting it.

We finally got a table (it was more like 45 minutes than 30), the waiter came over for our drink orders, and I ordered an apple juice for Lucy. The waiter said they didn’t have apple juice. And Lucy just completely freaking lost her mind. She was wailing, “Aaaaaapple juuuuuuuuice!!” over and over, and this was not fake tantrum crying, she was completely distraught, real tears and snot everywhere. I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be able to calm her down because she was too far past the point of exhaustion. I told my brother what to order for me, and told him to have it boxed up to go. I left Catie with him and Mandy, and I carried Lucy outside.

And I carried Lucy – all 40 pounds of her – the four blocks back to my brother’s apartment. (In case you’re wondering, yes, my back still hurts from that.) She stopped crying once we were outside and lay her head on my shoulder, and I thought she might fall asleep while I was carrying her, but she didn’t. Near my brother’s apartment, there’s a Starbucks, and we stopped so I could buy her an apple juice. That seemed to help perk her up a little.

Once we got back, I got her bathed and in her PJs, and she fell asleep on the couch watching cartoons on Netflix. I moved her to the air mattress that she and Catie were sharing, and she kind of half-woke up when I moved her. She said, “I’m going to watch TV for a while, but when I go to sleep, I’ll stay in my bed all night. And if I have something to tell you, I’ll just tell you in the morning.” I stroked her hair and said, “Ok, baby girl,” and her eyes closed and she was asleep again within seconds. She didn’t make a peep until 7:30 the next morning.

I really hope that when the kids are older and I look back on these little trips we took, that I remember the fun stuff like watching them laugh running around together in a kids’ museum, or singing along with silly pop songs on the radio, and not the parts like Lucy losing it in a crowded restaurant.

Nice one, Lucy.
More of the good stuff like this, not the meltdown stuff.

And credit where it’s due: I always think of Catie as being my high-strung, more anxious kid, but she is an excellent traveling companion. The last several times we’ve taken trips, she’s been so easy, she doesn’t whine, she’s extra-patient with Lucy, and she’s just been great. She still gets stressed if her routine at home is thrown off, but I guess when we travel, she accepts that we’re going to be off routine anyway, so she adapts and it’s totally fine. I look forward to doing this type of thing when Lucy is a little older (past the “needing a nap” stage, anyway), because I think it’ll be even more fun.

Uncle Chris & Mandy's house has a big couch with a big TV. They've wasted no time making themselves at home.

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff, and said our goodbyes to my brother, Mandy, and the puppy and kitten (that was the hard part for the kids). We made one quick stop by the convention center downtown so Chris could get a couple of his cards signed by the artists who designed them. (It’s kind of a “thing,” and it supposedly increases their value. Like getting baseball trading cards autographed, I guess.) After that, we headed home. The kids slept in the backseat for a large portion of the drive, so it was a pretty easy trip.

Overall, it was a fun weekend, Chris enjoyed his tournament, the girls had a blast, and I’m glad we all went together. That said, it sure was nice to get back home last night.


Our trip to Austin was SO fun, now excuse me while I inundate you with pictures and a recap.

The secret for getting super-cheap flights? You end up on the flights that leave at God-awful times that nobody else wants. Our flight to Austin left Raleigh at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. That meant that I had to wake the kids up a little after 4 a.m., to make sure we could get to the airport by 5.

As much as the timing sucked, both girls were great.

On the plane. Everybody say "Texas!"
This picture was taken at 5:30 a.m., right after we boarded. I don’t know why they both look so happy.

There are no direct flights from Raleigh to Austin, so we had a connection in Atlanta. The flight from Raleigh to Atlanta is short, less than an hour. Then we had a pretty long layover, about an hour and a half, but it worked out perfectly. We had time to get breakfast and walk around a little, no rushing from one plane to the next. It was nice.

The flight from Atlanta to Austin is a little longer, around 2 hours. I was really hoping Lucy would take a nice long nap on the plane. Instead, she waited until about 15 minutes before landing to fall asleep.

Lucy did this approximately 15 minutes before landing in Austin. Two hour flight. She waited until the end to fall asleep.
Awesome timing.

I borrowed a stroller from Trish for this trip, which was a life-saver because I knew Lucy was going to get tired and not be able to walk the whole time. (My old stroller that I’ve had since Catie was a baby is broken. A spring snapped, so you can’t fold it closed. It currently lives in my parents’ garage, because my dad will still take Lucy for walks in it sometimes, but the child is nearly 4 years old, I’m not going to buy a new stroller at this point.)

When Lucy woke up after the plane landed, she was weepy because she was still tired from not getting a long enough nap. I needed to get us off the plane quickly, because she was just falling apart. The kids each had a backpack with their toys, books, and iPads in it; I had a backpack carry-on, plus my purse. When it was our turn to de-board, Catie put on her backpack and I told her to start walking, then I put on my backpack, grabbed Lucy’s backpack with one hand, my purse with the other, told Lucy to stand up on the seat and grab me around the neck, and I carried her plus all our crap off the plane.

And it’s weird, because I know I’ve gotten stronger with all the working out I’ve been doing over the past couple of years, but it was amazing to me that I was able to do that and not even get terribly winded. I mean, I didn’t do it for long, I just had to get us to the jetway, where the stroller was waiting for us (since I had gate checked it). But I honestly don’t think my arms and shoulders would’ve been strong enough to do that two years ago.

Tracy met us at baggage claim, and we went out to lunch before heading back to her house. She and Everett bought a house last year, so this was our first time seeing it, and it’s really beautiful. My sister’s house is the type that makes me feel like I’m still living like a college kid with random piecemeal furniture sort of thrown together. Her house feels like a grown-up house, everything is put together tastefully, and there’s no clutter, everything has its own little home. I’m kind of jealous, I don’t think I’ll have anything like that until the kids are grown and move out.

Trying to keep the girls quiet while my sister is on conference calls this morning. iPads & headphones are pretty much the best thing ever.
The kids wasted no time making themselves right at home, either.

We didn’t have a ton of plans while we were there. On our way to Tracy’s house, I saw a sign for a place called Mt. Playmore, and I asked Tracy what it was. She had no idea (stuff for kids isn’t typically on her radar), so I googled it and found out that it was an indoor playground. So on Thursday, we took the kids there, and it was AMAZING.

Mount Playmore in Austin is pretty amazing.

It’s basically three stories of climbing structures, everything is made of netting so it’s super soft, and it’s big enough that grown-ups can climb up in it too. Tracy and I climbed up with the kids a couple of times, and it was SO FUN. I found a tire swing thing that I could have stayed on for hours.

Thursday evening, Greis drove over from Houston to meet up with us for dinner. I haven’t seen her since Tracy’s wedding, and I was so glad she was able to come hang out with us for a little while.

You know you have a good friend when she drives hours out of her way to see you. @amazinggreis

After dinner, we took the girls to this famous bridge in Austin, that hundreds of thousands (millions?) of bats live underneath. Every night at sunset, they all fly out, and it’s supposed to be incredible to see.

About to go see some bats.

While we were waiting for the bats, Lucy needed to use the bathroom, so I left Catie with Tracy and Everett, and Greis and I walked Lucy over to this super-fancy Hyatt hotel across the street. I know hotel restrooms aren’t really open to the public, but let me tell you, when you walk in with a 3 year-old and ask for directions to the ladies’ room? No concierge in the world is going to risk an accident in their nice lobby. They will happily point you where you need to go. Just, you know, FYI for you parents of toddlers out there.

I didn’t think the girls would be that excited about seeing a whole bunch of bats, but when they all fly out in swarms, it’s pretty impressive. It’s dark enough that you almost can’t even tell that they’re bats, they could be just small birds, except for the squeaking sound they make. And they aren’t creepy bats that’ll bite you, these are the good ones that eat mosquitoes, so YAY BATS.

Greis came back to the house and hung out with Tracy and me for a while after I got the girls to bed, then she headed back to Houston.

Friday, I had made plans to have lunch with some of my co-workers who are based in the Austin office. These are guys I’ve worked with for nearly 5 years and never met in person, I’ve only talked to them on teleconferences. So it was kind of fun to meet them and put names with faces.

The office is near a big mall, so Tracy had dropped me off, and said she’d take the girls to the mall while I was at lunch. After lunch, my co-workers dropped me off at the mall, and I texted Tracy to ask where they were. She texted back they were at Build-a-Bear and I mumbled out loud, “Oh God,” because that’s a store I’ve intentionally avoided as long as I’ve had kids. I didn’t know much about it other than it’s crazy expensive.

And it is crazy expensive, but I guess that’s what fun aunties are for.

Solidifying her status as the Fun Aunt forever, my sister took the girls to Build-A-Bear while I had lunch with some co-workers. Catie got Toothless in a Jedi costume, Lucy got an Elsa bear.

Catie got Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon,” in a Jedi costume. (He’s in his little carrying backpack in the picture, you can’t get the full impact of the Jedi-ness.) We’ve been joking he’s a Jedi (K)Night Fury. Lucy – surprise! – got an Elsa bear. They were both so happy, they wouldn’t set them down for the rest of the day.

That afternoon, Tracy and I took the kids to a children’s museum called The Thinkery, where a friend of Tracy’s is the executive director. It was a lot of fun, kind of like the Marbles children’s museum we have here in Raleigh, but a little more science focused. The kids had fun.

Story time at The Thinkery.

Friday night, we cooked dinner at Tracy and Everett’s house, and my aunt and uncle (who live in Austin) came over for dinner. That was fun, it’s always nice to catch up with them.

Saturday, we were scheduled to fly back, but our plane didn’t leave until after 4 p.m., so we took the kids to Mt. Playmore one last time to burn some energy before we had to get on the plane to go home.

Took the kids to Mt Playmore one more time before we had to get on the plane to go home.

Tracy and Everett then dropped us off at the airport, and we said our goodbyes.

We had so much fun in Austin with my sister & brother-in-law! Now on the plane heading back to NC.

The flights back were ok. The layover in Atlanta was way too long (2 1/2 hours), and it was late at night, and the kids were exhausted, but they were troopers.

Even when our second plane was delayed and the A/C wasn’t working and we were all sweaty, they didn’t really whine or fight with each other (much). They were just so great.

On the plane. God bless technology. (And Cheez-its. That bag of Cheez-its broke up a pretty big sibling fight. Truce through snack foods.)

They ended up not getting in bed until after 1 a.m. on Saturday night, but we had all day Sunday to recover, so it was ok.

A little over 3 years ago, when Dave and I had just split up, and I was alone with a baby and a four year-old, and I had no idea what my life was going to look like, I would sometimes daydream about fun things I could do when the kids were older. One of those was the idea of taking vacations together, just the three of us. Me and my girls, on our own, doing our own thing. So this trip kind of fulfilled that for me. And I know it’ll be easier as they get older – Lucy is still pretty high-maintenance when she gets off her routine, while Catie is old enough to roll with it (for the most part). This trip was great because I know we’ll be able to do this kind of thing again in the future.

Still, when Chris met us at the airport on Saturday night to pick us up, I was pretty damn happy to see him. Going to do stuff on my own with the girls is great, but I also really like having him around.

#whole30 week 1, done

I’m up to day 9 on Whole30, and I haven’t killed anyone yet. Sometime around Thursday (day 4), the “carb flu” kicked in and I started feeling awful. It really does feel kind of flu-ish, your head hurts and you feel achy all over and it’s just miserable.

Friday night (day 5), I went to Drag Queen Bingo with some friends, which should’ve been a blast. (It’s an outing with other grown women! I almost never get to do those! I got to dress up! And it’s bingo! And drag queens are hilarious and fun!) And instead, I just felt… tired and sad. When your friends are all sitting around with beer and snacks, and you just have a bottle of water? That’s pretty lame.

At some point, there were cupcakes. I TURNED DOWN A CUPCAKE. That may have been the hardest “no thank you” of my life.

The kids were with Dave over the weekend, so they didn’t have to deal with me being so horribly irritable. Only Chris had to put up with me, bless his heart. But I only snapped at him a couple of times, and I apologized afterward, so I think he’ll be ok. Saturday and Sunday (days 6 and 7) really were the worst – I expected to crave foods that I wasn’t supposed to eat, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad and depressed. It’s weird how much all of this has affected my state of mind.

But I’ve been feeling better since Monday/day 8, and hopefully it’ll continue to stay this way.

One of the things they say in the book is that when it seems hard, just repeat to yourself, “it’s only 30 days.” The problem is, that doesn’t really help, because it feels like FOREVER when you’re in the middle of it. The best analogy I can think of is when you have a newborn and you never get to sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. Obviously that stage of babyhood is finite and eventually ends, but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Tomorrow, the girls and I are flying to Austin to see my sister and brother-in-law. I don’t know if (or how) I’ll be able to stick to the Whole30 plan while we’re traveling. I have a bunch of nuts and dried fruit in my carry-on for the flight, and I figure I’ll just do my best. If I go off the plan, I’ll pick it back up when we get home. I’m trying not to obsess too much about it, because I really want to be able to relax and enjoy this trip.

Hot-lanta wedding

This past weekend, Chris and I drove to Atlanta for my cousin Cici’s wedding.

After the last two weddings we’ve gone to – my sister’s and my cousin Renee’s – I had decided that as much as I love my kids and enjoy hanging out with them, I really didn’t want to bring them to another family wedding unless I had to. I felt like I never got to have a real conversation with anyone because I always had one eye on the lookout for the girls, making sure they weren’t getting into any trouble. Either that, or Catie was whining she was hungry, Lucy needed someone to take her to the bathroom, that kind of thing. And we always had to leave early because the kids had to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

This time, I managed to trade off weekends with Dave, so he kept the girls with him for the weekend. I don’t think Chris and I have ever taken a road trip together, just the two of us, and it was really nice. We enjoy each other’s company a lot, so it was nice to just drive down on our own timeline, no major rush, and no worrying about nap schedules or potty breaks or anything. We got to Atlanta Friday night, checked into the hotel, and met up with some of my family. (My aunt and uncle hosted an informal get-together in their suite.) My family is made up of crazy loud talkers, but this time we had our first noise complaint from the hotel management by 9 p.m., which may be a record even for us.

My family is also large enough that we took up pretty much the entire floor of the hotel. Chris and I later joked that we couldn’t leave our room without bumping into one of my relatives – I went to the hotel gym on Saturday to work out, and I saw my sister and brother-in-law on the way there, and saw my cousin Renee on the way back. When Chris went to the hotel gym about an hour later, he ran into my dad.

Pre-wedding selfie (we clean up good).
Obligatory pre-wedding selfie.

The wedding was on Saturday evening at an old plantation home in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. It was an unusually chilly day for late March in Georgia (high in the low 50s), but the ceremony was outside in the sunshine, and it was just perfect. My aunt Michele was the officiant, and they kept the ceremony short and sweet.

Cici’s younger sister, my cousin Teresa, died about 10 years ago of cystic fibrosis. She was 19 years old when she passed away. Teresa was the baby of the family, the youngest of all us cousins, and it was emotional and hard on all of us when she passed away, but nowhere near what it was like for Cici to lose her baby sister. During the ceremony, besides the traditional vows, Cici and her husband Chuck exchanged vows in the style of Doctor Seuss (“I will love you in a house, I will love you with a mouse, I will love you here and there, I will love you everywhere,” etc.) as a tribute to Teresa.

And you know, I never cry at weddings. But there was something about that, that was so sweet and touching, it really got to me. I know I was not the only one there who teared up.

The reception was inside the plantation home, and it was really beautiful.

Mr. & Mrs. McCourt

We danced, we ate, and I actually got to have conversations with people in my family, where I could focus on them and not worry about where my kids were at that particular moment. It was lovely.

After the reception was over, Cici and Chuck had planned to have people meet up at a restaurant across the street from the hotel where all of us were staying. Chris and I went, and I had way too much to drink (which isn’t actually a lot, I just don’t have much of a tolerance level since I almost never drink anymore). It was kind of odd to be drunk in front of my aunts and uncles, and realize that I’m now old enough that I don’t have to pretend to be sober in front of them. I’m not a teenager sneaking wine at a family reunion, they don’t really care how many vodka & cranberry juices I’ve had.

At some point that night, Chris took this picture of me with Cici and my cousin Ryan.

My beautiful cousin Cici got married yesterday & I have no idea what is happening in this picture, but it seems about right.

I don’t even know what exactly is going on there (note the groom in the giant cowboy hat in the background), but I think this sums up my family pretty well. Buncha goofballs, all of us.

Every time we have some event that gets all of my family together, I’m reminded how lucky I am to be related to these great people who I really enjoy, and I wish we all lived closer so we could see each other more often. This was another one of those occasions.

And I’m just so happy for Cici. Even though she totally threw me under the bus 15 years ago and told her dad that it was my idea for her to get a tattoo when she was 19. (Long story, but it WAS NOT my idea!) Even still, she deserves all the happiness in the world, and I’m so glad we got to be there for her.

Queen City wedding

This past weekend, we drove to Charlotte for my cousin Renee’s wedding. We set off on Friday, with my parents in one car, and me, Chris, and the girls following in my car.

Charlotte is only about 150 miles from here, but we let my dad be in charge of the GPS, which in hindsight was the worst idea ever. He found the shortest route, and as most people know (but my dad didn’t), shortest does not always equal fastest. So, a trip that should have taken 2.5 hours (give or take) ended up taking well over 4 hours, because he had us go down some random back highway with a speed limit of 45, and frequent stop signs. (“It’s 30 miles less if we go this way!” Well, yeah, but the alternate route lets us go 70 mph with no stops, so…)

And really, the kids were SO GOOD the whole time — they didn’t fight, they played quietly, they didn’t whine — but it stressed me out to be in the middle of nowhere, doing the toddler potty math of “oh god, how long do I have before Lucy says she needs to pee and there is NOWHERE out here to stop?!” (Parents of 3 year-olds, you know what I’m talking about.)


Eventually we got there, and we saw the house that my brother and his girlfriend moved into a few months ago, which was lovely. My parents stayed with my brother & his girlfriend at their place. I booked a hotel for me, Chris, and the girls, since that seemed like a lot to unload on my brother. It would’ve been even more fun if we could have brought Chris’s kids along too, but unfortunately it didn’t work out with their custody schedule.

After visiting with my brother for a while, we headed over to our hotel, checked in, and met up with our extended family who was in town for the wedding.

5 out of 7 (my mom's siblings)

I was trying to explain to my kids how Mimi (my mom) is one of 7 kids, so she has 2 sisters, and 4 brothers. (This pic is 5 of the 7 – it’s missing my mom & my uncle Brian.) Catie took a minute to process this, then said, “We aren’t going to have 5 more babies, are we?”

Which, HAHAHAHAAAAA NOPE. No, sweetie, we most definitely are not. I think I’m good with just the two.


There was a little dessert reception thing at the hotel for out-of-town guests – not exactly a rehearsal dinner, but sort of a pre-wedding get together. That was a lot of fun, and the kids spent most of the time playing with their cousins, doing cartwheels in the hallway outside of the banquet hall.

It took the girls a while to get settled at our hotel room that night and crash.

It's way past bedtime, but we're out of town, & they've both been so good all day. I don't have the heart to make them stop when they're playing quietly next to each other.


The next day, we got up, saw my sister for a few minutes (she got in late Friday night and the girls were dying to see her), then had breakfast with my cousin Cat (not the bride, a different cousin) & her family. Then we went to my brother’s house to gather up our people and head to the wedding.

I realized after the wedding was over that I had one picture of both of my girls all dressed up for the wedding, in their dresses that my mom made. (Having a Mimi who’s a retired seamstress has its perks.)

Realized I have exactly 1 picture of my girls dressed up for my cousin's wedding yesterday. Catie was mad about having her picture taken, and Lucy was... being Lucy.

Catie was mad that I was trying to take her picture. Lucy was… well, being Lucy. That picture cracks me up to the point where I’m thinking about framing it, because it sums them up perfectly.

waiting for the wedding to start with Mimi & Pop-Pop
Waiting for the wedding to start.

Catie wanted to sit with her cousin Elizabeth, and I wish it wasn’t disrespectful to take pictures in church, because the way they either sweetly held hands or had their arms around each other was completely adorable. They locked their fingers together during the prayer. It was amazing.


The reception was at a museum in downtown Charlotte, and it was gorgeous. So was the bride, for that matter.

So my cousin is pretty much the most beautiful bride ever. And i love seeing her so happy.

It really makes me so happy to see Renee so happy.

We goofed around at the beginning of the reception. We ate yummy food, and Catie took this picture of me and Chris that I love.

My cousin's wedding reception, Catie took this pic & I love it.

Then the band started, and we danced like crazy people.

Lucy & Mimi dancing at the reception

I feel bad for not taking more pictures than I did. Like, I didn’t get any of my siblings, or most of my relatives who were there. But I was just… there. And sometimes I think it’s a good thing to put down my phone and go enjoy the moment, rather than worry about documenting every single second with a photo.

And I mean, I danced so much that by the time we got back to the hotel room, my legs were more sore than they feel after a 5 mile run. So I’d say I enjoyed the hell out of that moment.

At the risk of sounding corny, I feel like I’m just so incredibly fortunate to have the family that I have. They’re a group of people who I genuinely enjoy being around, and I always have so much fun with them. We don’t see each other as much as I wish we could, because we’ve spread out all over the U.S., but weddings & other reunions are always so much fun.

And lucky me, I have another cousin who’s getting married next spring, so I have that to look forward to, in just a few months. I already can’t wait.


We drove back on Sunday, and got back later than planned, but it turned out ok. Catie really wanted to see Dave, and we’re trying to make sure she gets one-on-one time with each of us when we can swing it. So I dropped her off with him, and Lucy and I hung out for the evening. Even though three year-olds are difficult, having only one kid feels so easy compared to juggling them both.

We went for a walk, just the two of us, and she insisted she needed to bring her baby (and her baby’s diaper bag) along.

taking her baby for a walk

Then she discovered that crunching leaves is pretty much the most fun thing ever.

leaf crunching

And you know, there are times that I worry that I’m a terrible parent and I’m going to ruin my kids somehow. Nothing in particular makes me think that, it’s just that constant self-doubt that I think most parents probably have from time to time. But then, I’ll have a moment where I see them completely carefree and happy, and I think… yeah, we’re probably going to be ok.

After all, I have a whole family full of amazing role models to use as a point of reference.