Big Fat Vacation Recap

When we started planning this year's vacation, Jeremy and I decided it was time for the middle-of-the-night driving to come to an end.  It worked really well when the girls were babies, but it was exhausting for the two of us.  They're big enough to tough out the six-hour car ride now, we figured.

A couple of weeks before we left, at Jeremy's parents' suggestion, we decided we would all get a hotel room Saturday night in the Montgomery area, roughly the halfway point in the trip.  The layover provided a great excuse to pull out our zoo passes and visit the Birmingham Zoo.  At the last minute, Jeremy was offered tickets to the Auburn football game--for free!  Being the awesome wife that I am (right, Jeremy?!), I encouraged him to take them and just meet us in Montgomery after the game (AU is very nearby, so they would come through there leaving the game anyway).

Zoo fun!

Jeremy and his friends left for Auburn bright and early Saturday morning, and a few hours later the girls and I set out for Birmingham.  Jeremy's parents met us for a picnic (at the girls' request) and an afternoon wandering the zoo. 

At the end of the day, we all checked into our Prattville hotel, where a tired and slightly sunburned Jeremy was waiting.  This was Addison & Mackenzie's first time staying in a regular hotel, and I was a little nervous about how they would sleep.  It wasn't too bad, just a little trouble getting them to settle down at bedtime.  They did think the lobby was for hanging out, and kept asking if we could "go down to the living room" or if we could "go to the kitchen and get a snack".  Oh, how those girls make me laugh!


After a delicious breakfast Sunday morning, we were on our way to Gulf Shores.  It was so, so nice to only have to drive three-ish hours.  We all felt pretty great when we arrived, so we just went directly to our favorite lunch spot for some fresh seafood.  We were all happy to be out of the car and in sight of the ocean.

Happy to be at the beach. First stop: Sea n Suds!

(That's Mackenzie, refusing to give me a smile)

We unloaded at the condo--conveniently just two doors down from Sea N' Suds--and after a little unpacking and digging for swimsuits, we headed straight down to the beach.  The girls were so excited, especially sweet little Addison, who kept dancing around, giggling and squealing.  When I asked if she liked it, she answered, "Yeah, that's why I'm laughing so much!" with a gigantic grin on her face.  That is absolutely a moment I feel sure I will never forget.  







And you know, that was pretty much just how the entire trip went--we hung out on the beach, we swam in the pool, we ate, we read, we napped, we shopped, and we watched lots of Netflix on the iPad--we did what we wanted, when we wanted, without agenda.  It was glorious!  It rained and stormed all day Monday, so Jeremy and I took advantage of the situation and went back to the outlets and got all of our shopping done.  (We usually stock up on fall clothes and warm-weather bargains on this visit.)  Every other day was just beautiful, perfect beach weather.

One of my absolute favorite things was watching the girls play together so well.  Even at home, I am noticing them playing together more than ever, but it was especially evident last week.  They would dig in the sand for hours, carrying on lengthy conversations about their intricate games of pretend.  And geez, do these girls have two wonderful imaginations...they absolutely blow me away sometimes.  Sitting there watching the waves, with a book in my hands, my husband by my side, and my two babies playing happily together...it's hard to imagine a more perfect moment.

Can't you just hear that sweet conversation?
There's not much else to tell...it was an uneventful trip in the best way.  The only thing I'm sad about is the fact that next year will likely be our last late September trip, since A & M will be in SCHOOL the following year.  How is that possible??

(Naturally, I have a few more pictures to share...coming soon!)


The Busy Season

It's back to business as usual for us this week, after a fabulous vacation last week.  We had a great trip this year, definitely our best yet!  Of course, that just makes it even harder to return to the daily grind, but I'm thankful to have this quiet little life to return to...even if the view isn't quite as nice as last week's was:

Busy bees! #beach #vacation

Our big vacation may be over for the year, but we have plenty going on in the next month to keep us busy.  Fall is shaping up to be quite the action-packed season around here.  Just today I realized that I will have to take an afternoon off to visit the pumpkin patch before Halloween, unless we can go on a Sunday afternoon!

Here is a look at what's on our calendar for the next month:

--An Atlanta Braves game this weekend, with one last chance to see our beloved Chipper Jones 
--A trip with Addison & Mackenzie to see the Fresh Beat Band Live tour...their first "concert" experience!
--A quick pediatrician visit for this year's flu vaccine
--Two birthday parties
--A family picture session, during which we will hopefully get this year's perfect Christmas card photo
--A wedding weekend in Mobile, AL...six hours from here, practically back down at the beach again
--The Mobile weekend will not only be A & M's first wedding experience, but they will also be the flower girls!  That should be...interesting.
--One more wedding the next weekend, a little closer to home.  Thankfully, we will just be attending that one.
--And finally, we will round out the month with a little Trick-or-Treating.  The girls already have their butterfly costumes ready and waiting!

What's on your agenda for these first few weeks of fall?  Are you as excited as I am about this glorious season?


The Candidate by Paul Harris

It is no secret among my friends and family that I love politics, particularly presidential politics.  I can very easily get a little too worked up and I take politics very seriously, so I often avoid the topic with people I don't know all that well or when I know there is no way to keep the conversation sensible.  Still, I love the excitement of the political season--the tension, the suspense, the drama.   

Paul Harris's The Candidate is an excellent read for anyone looking to indulge in the fun of the political world without the anxiety of real-life consequences.  The book focuses on the campaign on Jack Hodges, a political newcomer who is seeking his party's nomination for the upcoming presidential election.  Hodges is virtually unknown, trailing far behind the other potential candidates, until an assassination attempt rockets him to the forefront of the public's attention.  As Hodges and his staff seize the unexpected opportunity, a myriad of questions remain about the shooter who tried to kill the candidate.  Who is this mysterious woman?  What reason would a person have to be that angry with Jack Hodges?  The person tasked with solving that puzzle is Mike Sweeney, a campaign staffer who left his job to work for a candidate he truly believes holds the key to a brighter future for the U.S.

The Candidate is really Mike Sweeney's story, as it is told mostly from his point of view.  Mike is a realistic character, dealing with believable problems and trying to make a satisfying life for himself.  Dee Babineaux, Hodges's campaign manager is a character I would like to see again.  She is a tough-talking, no-nonsense kind of woman, and I enjoyed the few glimpses into her background and personality.  Overall, most of the other characters felt very generalized.  I don't feel that I knew enough about any of the characters to really be invested in their stories.  Although the premise of the book was a good one and it kept me on the hook to find out the ending, I think I would have liked it a lot more if I had felt any sort of connection to the characters.  That feeling particularly holds true as related to Jack Hodges, who we hardly get any idea of at all, other than the repeated mantra of the staffers and voters that he is "a good man" and someone they "can all believe in".  Give me details--why is he so fantastic?  What, other than the fact that he was nearly assassinated, makes him so special that Mike Sweeney and Dee Babineaux would work round the clock to help him win the nomination?  I totally understand why Hodges is not shown to be aligned with a specific political party or a set of policies, but I need to know a little more about him to feel invested in his campaign.

Paul Harris is intimately familiar with the American political process, as he is currently covering his third presidential campaign for British news outlets.  There are certainly some elements of previous political campaigns present here, most significantly the heated battle for the 2008 Democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  (Hodges's main opponent is a female, portrayed as having the nomination all but clinched before he comes on the scene.)  And intentional or not, I couldn't help but think of James Carville, longtime political adviser, when reading about Dee Babineaux and her Cajun roots. 

With just enough material to tie in to real life events without becoming too serious, The Candidate is an exciting, behind-the-scenes glimpse into a fictional political world that is, for many of us, much more fun to read about than our own current political culture.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more reviews and information about this title, check out the full tour post here.


Travels with Twins, Take Four

As we prepare to take our fourth major vacation as a family of four, I can't help but think about the previous beach trips we've had over the past three years.   Thank goodness I have a blog to help me relive all those memories...

First Beach Trip, October 2009

Addison & Mackenzie were six months old when we they visited the beach for the first time.  This was before the state of Alabama was completely broke and everyone in our office still got to attend a conference each year.  (I'm just a little bitter about the loss of that perk, can you tell?)  Perhaps the phrase "visited the beach" is a little misleading.  Although there was gorgeous fall weather, I think we walked down to the beach twice and stuck the girls' toes in the sand. 

I know my family thought we were crazy to be taking the trip that year.  Looking back, I think Jeremy and I were so overwhelmed with the difficulties of adjusting to the first year of life with twins that we were desperate to do something "normal" again.  We thought a nice fall getaway might give us some time to relax and enjoy spending lots of time together.


Looking back at my posts from that first trip, I see that I had an overall pretty good attitude about the trip.  But I remember that it was hard.  I remember Mackenzie having her first-ever public meltdown in a restaurant, and I remember sitting in the backseat, between the carseats, singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" over and over to keep the girls calm.  I do remember that we were glad to spend several uninterrupted days together as a family, but I also know that we weren't at all sad to pack up and head home.

Second Beach Trip, May 2010

Once again, when the opportunity for a work conference/vacation presented itself, we weren't about to pass it up.  Although we said after the first trip that we would NOT be doing it again anytime soon, we were positive the second trip would go more smoothly than the first.  After all, we had one-year-olds instead of six-month-olds, which sounds so much better, right?  (Right???)

In some ways it was a much more fun trip; at other times, not so much.  We drove at night again, and I remember the trip down being fairly smooth, except for an exhausted mama and daddy.  Since it was May, the weather was much more beach/pool friendly.  We schlepped over to the beach once (we were across the road at an amazing resort), where Addison slept the entire time and Mackenzie cried when she touched the sand.  After that, we spent a lot of time at the pool.  (Not in the super-awesome lazy river, which I didn't get to enjoy even once...not that I'm bitter!)

The upside to this trip was my sister and her friends staying with us for most of the week.  Having a few extra hands around to baby-wrangle was nice, and Jeremy and I were able to go out to dinner alone several nights after A & M were in bed.  That was definitely a high point for us. 

A few days into the trip, the girls seemed to grow tired of being in an unfamiliar place and started to get cranky and have trouble going to sleep.  Rather than fight it too much, we gave in and headed home an entire day early.  We left at bedtime on Thursday night, leaving the condo to my sister for the last two nights.  I know I was very, very glad to see my bed around 2 a.m. that night!

Third Beach Trip, September 2011

Because Jeremy and I went on a cruise in May of last year, we didn't really plan to take another vacation.  But come late summer, we were itching for another getaway.  Luckily, his parents were up for a short trip as well, and we made it happen in late September. 

Finally, we had the laidback, fun, relaxing family vacation we'd been dreaming of since our first attempt in 2009.  Addison & Mackenzie were not just well-behaved...they were sweet and happy and just pure awesome.  We didn't have to pack up half the house with us for this trip.  We didn't even have to take those dreaded pack n' plays...the girls shared the bottom bunk in their own room and they have seriously talked about it ever since.  It was the highlight of their year, I believe.

We had such a good time last year that we wished we could stay a couple more days.  This time, we have almost an entire week to enjoy together, and I am ever so hopeful that it will be our best vacation yet!


A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=9c34c6a11d&view=att&th=1398aee025ace766&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=f_h6n7xrwq0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P8QhFvzmuuruAYnqj69khMO&sadet=1347321208352&sads=GHcVLhMuAnwbk0KVqRpS2zAU6Nk&sadssc=1In February 1970, Colette, Kimberely, and Kristen MacDonald were brutally murdered in their North Carolina home.  Jeffrey MacDonald, surgeon, father and husband, not only survived but soon became the sole suspect in the case.  Nine years later, MacDonald was tried and convicted for the murders of his wife and daughters.  He is currently serving three life sentences in prison, where he has been for more than three decades.

Jeffrey MacDonald, labeled the Green Beret Killer by the media, has steadfastly maintained his innocence, as many convicted criminals are bound to do.  In his new book, A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, Errol Morris raises the question: What if MacDonald really is innocent? 

Morris, who previously helped free a Texas man wrongfully convicted of murder, methodically examines every questionable aspect of the case, from the amateur initial investigation to MacDonald's multiple appeals, all of which have been denied.  Though the book is lengthy, at just over 500 pages, Morris does not waste words, relying heavily on transcribed conversations with key players in the case or snippets of court records to tell the story. 

There is a wealth of information contained in this book, as it covers a four-decade time span.  At the front of the book are six pages indexing the people associated with the MacDonald case, which looks daunting at first, but proves to be a valuable reference.  Morris's arguments could easily get lost amongst the details--there are a lot of fine details important to the case--but thanks to his superb writing and storytelling skills, the arguments stand out and the inconsistencies of the case are brought to the forefront time and again.  I particularly liked the division of the narrative into seven separate "Books" and 65 short chapters.  This organization kept it from feeling too overwhelming at any one time, and made it a much more enjoyable read.

I was impressed with the amount of time and research Morris has put into this undertaking.  It is obvious that the plight of Jeffrey MacDonald has weighed heavily on him for many years.  The case is a fascinating one to begin with, and Morris publicizes many startling facts that have long been suppressed or disregarded by the courts, the media, and the public.  I read many parts aloud to my husband (we both work in the law enforcement/prosecution fields), alternately shocked and disgusted at the multiple missteps in the investigations, the alleged suppression of evidence by both prosecutors and judges, and the mishandling of potential key witnesses. 

Do I think Jeffrey MacDonald is guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and children in February 1970?  Maybe; maybe not.  There are some very legitimate questions about his account of the events of that night.  But I kept coming back to the lack of any sort of legitimate motive.  I just can't buy that this Green Beret doctor, a surgeon who would have been specially trained to exert control over any type of situation, would lose control to any extent that would cause him to lash out at his family in such a brutal way. 

Still, the bigger question remains:  Do I think Jeffrey MacDonald got a fair trial?  Not in the least.  He didn't even get a fair investigation, as alternate potential leads were brushed off and dismissed and evidence was admittedly disturbed and corrupted.

Morris sums it up nicely in the closing passages of the book:
Whether MacDonald is innocent or guilty, the case is a terrible miscarriage of justice....

We may never know all the details of the night of February 17, 1970, a 544 Castle Drive.  Perhaps it was once but it is no longer possible to know.  Forty years of wandering in a wilderness of error.  Not a wilderness created by some metaphysical obstacle to knowledge, but a wilderness created by ourselves.
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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for review.  All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  For more reviews and information about this title, check out the full tour post here.


State of Affairs, August Edition

Apparently late summer/early fall is our busy season this year.  We tend to hibernate in the heat of summer, but now we are starting to come alive again.  Hello, world!

In early August, Jeremy and I chaperoned a youth trip to Six Flags.  I am not a fan of most amusement park rides and I'm adamantly anti-roller coaster.  Thankfully, my sweet sister tagged along and hung out with me all day.  Jeremy got to ride with all the teenagers, and he was happy as could be.

We also had a fantastic spur-of-the-moment trip to Chattanooga, which I wrote about here.

Jeremy and I somehow managed to venture out for a couple of casual dates this month.  We saw not one, but two movies IN THE THEATER last month.  Who are we?? 

Books read:  5
Fourth Comings--(Jessica Darling series)  I definitely think the best of this series were the first two books, but I liked number four better than the third.

Perfect Fifths--I was surprisingly satisfied with the way the Jessica Darling series wrapped up.  I'm glad to finally finish the series I started many years ago

The Fault in Our Stars--My first John Green book; I loved it.  I have heard so many good things about his writing, and judging by this book at least, they were all true.  I will definitely be reading more from him in the future.

Gone Girl--This book has been everywhere this summer.  I liked it pretty well as a whole, though I didn't L-O-V-E it like some others did.  The first half was just a little too slow for me and I very much disliked the characters.  I still disliked them at the end, in fact, but at least it all made sense at that point.  Despite a slow start, I recommend it.

Beautiful Disaster--I had seen this one around, so when I saw it available on NetGalley, I snatched it up.  I liked it a bit more than I thought I would.  It's not your typical sweet love story; in fact, it's a little trashy...but who doesn't need a good trashy romance every once in awhile?

They have discovered how to navigate Netflix on the iPad

We saw both "The Campaign" and "Hit and Run" last month, and I thought both were pretty funny.  Actually, "The Campaign" was hilarious, and "Hit and Run" was alternately funny/exciting/strange.  Sitting in a dark theater with a bag of popcorn, watching a movie without interruption?  Always a win!

In other news, my children are addicted to the song "This Little Light of Mine".  Seriously, it has been on repeat in my car for a week now.  I love to hear them sing it and all, but this mama's just about ready for a new theme song.

Skirts, a shirt, and a new front door hanger...not a bad month.  I can't wait to get the Alabama and Auburn shirts finished to match the skirts.  I hope to make time for that this weekend, so my little football fans can support their teams.

A long time ago, when I was in about the first grade, I learned the sign for "I love you" at school.  My mom, sister, and I have used it ever since--as a silent signal, in waving goodbye, across the football stadium in high school, etc.  A couple of weeks ago, I started showing Addison & Mackenzie how to make the sign, eager to pass on the tradition.  Of course it took a few days to learn to manipulate their fingers the right way, but they tried so hard.  Mackenzie picked it up pretty quickly, but Addison had a little more difficulty and therefore spent the next week inadvertently flipping me the bird every time she tried to sign "I love you"!!  Jeremy and I laughed so, so hard...but quietly and behind our hands, of course, so she wouldn't pick up on it.  : )  They have both figured out the sign now, and I love seeing those little hands waving to me in the mornings as I pull out of the driveway to go to work.

A & M started back to preschool last month, and so far they seem to be really enjoying the three-year-old class.  Judging by the amount of sand in their shoes every evening, I'd say the playground is their favorite part of the day.

August was a pretty great month, but I have to say, I think we are all super pumped about September....because it's less than two weeks until our VACATION.  The girls are talking about the beach every day, and Jeremy and I feel about the same way.  Bring it, September!



Saturday Snapshot: {Team} Colors

Here in the South, we have been waiting for this day for approximately eight months.  The trash talk is flying and all across the region, team colors are making their fall debut.  It's college football time, friends!

Jeremy and I are traveling to Atlanta to watch his team today, and though I can't bring myself to cheer very loudly in support of the enemy, it's impossible not to relish the excitement in the air.  And yes, this does make the second game I have attended with him in 2012 (we went to the Chick-Fil-A bowl in January)...meaning it is most definitely my turn next!

Just this morning, I finished the skirt part of the girls' football outfits for this year.  I still have to do the shirts to match, but I can't wait to see my little fans in their team colors.



And because it's not ALL about football, I've been working on another project for our favorite little man.  It was my first attempt at doing small letters to fit a whole name on a shirt, and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.  I love the way the stripes stand out against the blue shirt:


I'm linking up with Marcia and Mandy for Saturday Snapshots today.  Be sure to check out the other posts and watch for more themes on Saturdays during the month of September!