Five Favorite Moments: Vacationing While Growing Up

The other night, my family got to talking about family memories, specifically vacations on a frugal budget. While the stories were mostly memories about how my Grandma made vacations (and life) special on essentially one income to raise seven kids, I have to say that my Mom and Dad made some amazing memory magic of their own, too. You see, my dad is a pastor. Not sure if you know, but that’s not up there with the income of a doctor or lawyer…or most other folks. We had some amazing times, though, and I figured I’d share five of my favorite moments vacationing while growing up.

1. Disney World – Other than the fact that my dad was gifted a week at a parishoner’s timeshare in Orlando, I have no idea how we swung this trip. The four of us (plus Aunt Wink’s family) flew to Florida to enjoy not only Disney but also Kennedy Space Center. I remember that we packed our snacks and lunches, and returned to the condo to eat dinner at home. We visited all three parks (at the time, that was Disney World, MGM, and Epcot) on a hopper pass, and the parents split us all up to do the things we wanted to do. Dad and I went off to Epcot to feed my inner nerd in the “Worlds” (just look at me, if you can’t tell, I am on the left). Jack and Russ enjoyed fast rides, and Sally, always the ‘lil one getting left behind by the big kids, got to enjoy time on smaller rides. We even got “the hats”–mine was the Minnie head–and I still have it (and, as a frugal mom, plan on giving it to Arianna when we go next year).

Us in Disney ~ 1995 (I think)


2. African Safari Wildlife Park – During one (of many) conferences that my dad attended, we took a trip to Port Clinton, Ohio’s drive-thru safari. Although I don’t have a photo of this, I would be willing to bet that somewhere there’s a video of it. As a kid who loved animals, it was pretty cool to drive through an area where giraffes and zebras roamed. A bit scary, a bit crazy, but 100% fun. I look at the prices, and again, I am not sure how we did it, but we did.

3. Camping at Pymatuming Lake – My family has had lots of experiences camping, but the best has to be when my family took a weekend and (most of us) headed up to Pymatuming Lake. Uncle Matt was still alive, and he and mom spearheaded tent setup. Monica and I rode our bikes all over that park, and even taunted our (older) teenage cousin who was there with her boyfriend. Stale bread was bought, carps and ducks were fed. We rented two (what I recall rickety) plontoon boats. One was for fishers, the other for those who wanted sun. Hilarious stories were shared around the campfire. As we cleaned up the campsite, I recall lightning tearing through the park and Jack and I hitting the floor in the laundry room for fear of being struck. I vote for another family camping outing, stat. 

4. Myrtle Beach – My heart belongs in Myrtle, I tell you. Since Grandma and Pappy lived there, there was no cost for staying. For the most part, my family vacationed there in December, just after Christmas. My memories are not of going to the beach to swim or enjoying the water parks or eating at one of the many restaurants there. They are of late nights playing scrabble, waking up to the smell of coffee and danishes, reading the Sun News (perhaps including articles written by my future father-in-law), playing Bingo at the Oceanside Village clubhouse,  and peering in at Pappy watching sports. These trips pretty much just cost my parents gas and some food, if I were to guess.

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My family, last year, in Myrtle Beach

5. Christmas Cabins – When we were not traveling to Myrtle Beach, we were renting a state park cabin the week after Christmas. Again, a simple yet memorable trip. (One stands out because Jack had just fallen down the stairs and had a black eye the entire week.) We would sled ride, play Pass the Pigs, enjoy fireside chats. There is something magical about spending Christmas in a cabin, surrounded by pines and eating holiday leftovers.

These are just five of my favorite vacation memories while growing up. Now it’s your turn!  Comment below — What is your favorite childhood vacation memory? 

Dr. King’s Speech: In Dad’s Eye’s

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. As you know, our family is living that dream. Our dad (Pop Pop) was there for the March on Washington–he and his Dad rode a bus from Harlem to D.C. We asked him some questions about the day, and are so glad to be able to hear his recollection of this moment in our history. He was 24 years old at the time. 

Pops & Mom

Why did you and your dad decide to go? Were you going to listen to Dr. King, or take in the whole “March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs” experience? What prompted you and your Dad to join those who traveled to DC for this? 

Part of the reason we went was for our descendants, so to have you ask about the March makes it worth it to have gone that day [and be able to share it with you]. To be able to look back and say, “Great-Great Grandpa was there” and ask questions, to let the significance live on in our family. That’s important.

Martin Luther King wasn’t the big name, it was about equal rights. I went back and forth and back and forth on whether or not I was going to go (due to perceived threats of violence). Late in the decision, my Dad decided to go…and then we had to find a way to get there. The National Maritime Union was taking buses. We left late in the night and rode to Washington and got in around dawn.

Were you afraid of any violence? 

Not when I was there. When I was deciding to go, I hesitated, thinking “it may be a mess”. But when I was there? It was very calm, and I don’t even think there was a large police presence to alarm you.

Were there a lot of white people there with you? 

There was a good mixture of whites in the crowd, a fair number of whites in the civil rights movement. This was the day to be there, the place to be.

How did it feel to be one man among many standing there along the pool, waiting to listen to the speech? This is Dr. King’s speech, but our story. How did you feel when Dr. King spoke those historical words, “I have a dream”? 

Dad said he was about a third of the way back on the left side of the Pool as you looked toward the Lincoln monument, so he was able to hear and see the events. 

As I recall, it was kind of humbling. You couldn’t claim to be special–there were a quarter million people as I remember. It was quite a crowd, and so it was sort of humbling to be one of the people. The talks before Dr. King were interesting, but they tended to be what we’d heard before, by and large. When Dr. King started speaking (he was a fantastic speaker), the feeling grew that this was special. As the speech built, I could feel with certainty that this was a special speech. There were high points, like:

“little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls”

and of course, the “I have a dream” theme was very dramatic. It was rousing, it really moved the crowd. It made the hot day worth it as we stood along the reflecting pool with no trees and no shade. The importance of so many people coming to Washington and saying silently (other than the speakers) that they wanted equal rights was exciting. It made it seem entirely feasible, and it was a great crowd. It achieved its purpose and negated the naysayers who were fear mongers, saying there would be rioting in the streets. It was a great day.

What else should we, your children & grandchildren, know about your experience? 

There’s a historic context to that day and to that experience that it’s important for my descendants to know that I was there. It draws their attention to where it was and why they were there…a great day in our country. It’s important that some of us remember it, what it was about, the aim, the goal.

Following our questions, Greg and Dad talked about the impact of the March on our lives today, on having the first Black President. This March made strides to get us to where we are today. Thank you, Dad, for sharing your story, this legacy, with us. 

MaritimeUnionShirt March on Washington
Dad’s only souvenir from the March on Washington–a shirt from the Union he rode with on the bus to D.C.

Four Years

Last night Greg and I celebrated a joyous four years of togetherness (let’s forget that one night he said he wanted to “just be friends and let’s slow down” followed by my not talking to him for 3 days, ahem). The hallowed BBQ night followed by a week of realizing I was moving away and these feelings were real.

Four years later, we are so glad we took that chance on each other and look forward to many more beautiful years together. Time sure does fly when you are in love.

(If you’re wondering where we celebrated, we took the kids to Subway…the place we first ate together as a couple. Corny, but oh so sweet.)

The last photo of us as (just) friends

Bittersweet Rememories

Today is a bitter day for me personally, so I am sending some fun memories of the past week out into the interwebs for your enjoyment. These things make me smile, something I need on a bad memory day like today.

Holding Hands.
‘lil Man acted all shy when first approached by Michelle taking his “two” photos. By mid-shoot, he was demanding, “hand, hold my hand” as he led her through the Aviary, showing her his favorite place in Pittsburgh.

Cuddle Buggin’.
When both kids were little, the best way for them to fall asleep was on Mama’s chest cuddled up. ‘lil Man and I haven’t been feeling great the past few days, so it was no surprise when he asked to sleep like this in the middle of the night last night. So precious.

Every time we pass a Wendy’s, the kids demand nuggets. Imagine the pain when they had to pass two Wendy’s twice last night with no stopping for nuggets. After 8 times (at dinner time, nonetheless) Greg gave in and got them nuggets following a chant passing a McDonald’s today. You can’t win ‘em all—their love for spinach, tomatoes, beets, and mangoes make up for this.

Grammie rubs my arm.
When I was relaxing on the couch, telling the kids I didn’t feel well, Arianna laid down besideme,rubbed my arm and told me to feel better “because that’swhat Grammie does”. That mademe feel a million timesbetter,atleast in that moment.

Fire Alarms.
We were mid-way through the Aviarywhen thefirealarmswent offand thebuilding began to evacuate. It was the calmest exit I have ever seen from a building, feeling very much like a school fire drill. In the days since, it’s all Arianna can talk about—we escaped the fire at the Aviary! (Note, there really wasn’t a fire, as far as we know.)

How 2012 Rocked

As we settle down from all the holiday rushing around, I thought it would be fun to list the “best of” and “worst of” in 2012. Overall, this was a great year, but as any family would, it has had UPS and DOWNS!

Let’s get the “Worst Of” going!

  • Getting stuck in Kansas City Airport on July Fourth with little to no idea of when we’d leave, and eventually missing out on our evening plans and fireworks.
  • Customer Service from Toys R Us while trying to get a working toy. Bottom line, defective products should not be on the shelves. All I needed was three batteries, but instead, I lost my mind and drove across the city to find the same toy with the same defect on the shelf and talked to an agent who really could care less if I never shopped there again. Well, guess what. Hrm. Worse yet? He could care less about the freaking lantern. 
  • The HTC Rezound. Admittedly, I LOVED this phone. It really was one of my favorite things, but I was paying for 4G and only able to be on 3G in order to get work e-mail. Then, when Hurricane Sandy hit, it decided it would no longer sync to corporate email except on wifi. Two handsets and lots of visits to Verizon later, I got a new phone that works just fine.
  • Driving through West Virginia in August (construction season) and not arriving in Conway. Traffic pushed our time back about 3 hours longer than I wanted to be driving and 2 hours short of our destination, so we pulled off the highway and searched for a hotel that did not exist. When we found it, I was in line with a hooker behind me at the walk up night window. Marvelous.
  • Our hotel in Kansas City with dirty sheets and no AC on some of the hottest days of the summer. Customer service from the hotel and booking site were not all the great, either, unfortunately.
  • My sprained knee/MCL and pulled hamstring. This put a damper on summer and exercise.
  • Getting stung by a jellyfish—never fun!
  • The Steelers. The Pirates. The (lack of) Penguins. Me finishing last in the RPL against Greg taking 3rd. Sports were just sore subjects this year.


And now, the best:

  • Being able to eat at fast food chains and still lose weight. Subway, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell were admittedly staples in my diet. It is good to know I can still eat with the family and make progress. Beyond that, all three have great customer service and social media response, especially Subway. (I was selected as one of their biggest fans!)
  • Arianna being able to start eating/drinking small amounts of REAL MILK. She seems to be growing out of her dairy allergy, and now the tough part that remains is letting her know that “milk in it” is not always a bad thing. Oh, and moderation. We let the kid loose on ice cream and you would’ve thought it was her first time to eat anything. ‘lil piggy!
  • Customer service from Sears, Southwest, and Verizon when we had hiccups. All three did a stellar job of responding (and I have to thank Twitter for that).
  • Greg’s donations to the Food Banks and Animal Shelters. He’s really been able to do A LOT with couponing and saved us (and others) a whole lot of money in the process. It’s awesome to see.
  • ‘lil Man starting to potty train per his own demands.
  • Filling the back of the Durango with toys for Stuff a Bus, several of which were from Arianna’s birthday party. I cannot wait to see what we haul in 2013.
  • Blogging. We’ve tested out a lot of really great things and met a lot of great people because of this. Thank you for those of you who steady read these ‘lil thoughts here.
  • Pirates Voyage and Blue Green’s Harbour Lights – two great parts of our fall vacation with my parents.
  • Getting to meet Greg’s family in Kansas (and the kids still will not stop talking about Uncle Byron, Aunt Carol, Duke, and Sassy!).
  • Digging a hole in the beach with Aunt Rin and Aunt Li Li.


Share your favorite moments below! 🙂

Cherishing Moments

Earlier this evening, I posted about a book on finding happiness. I really don’t want to write about yesterday’s tragedy, but there are so many people in grief, shock, and pain over the horrible events in Newton, CT. There are so many people who I am sure are trying to find happiness this weekend. Last night, I fell asleep with tears in my eyes, happy that I was blessed with one more day with my precious family.

Today, we cherished moments together (more to come on that soon), but as I was blogging, the kids were putting on a Christmas carol show with their “school”. My heavy heart was immediately lifted as the kids sang “Jingle Bells” over and over with their snowman friends (just one of my Christmas reminders that some of those who leave us really do live on). Perhaps this moment will warm your heart, too. Enjoy.



A Month Ago

In the last month, ‘lil Miss A has…

* Gained almost 2 pounds, every ounce of it in height. 3T pants are loose on the waist but as short on her ankles as petite pants are on me. Hello, 4T and belts.

* Been in need of a haircut, but I held off due to her 4 pics. Now, her hair is a good 2 inches longer. Our baldy has turned into a rapunzel. She apparently prefers her side bangs, I need to convince her a trim is ok.

* Learned that A closes on top and isn’t the same as H. She’s also mastered the ABC tracing app and learned how to write ‘lil Man’s name and either stole a friend’s paper or learned how to write his name. I talked to get about lying, stealing, and how that conflicts what Jesus would do, she said “He knows the truff”, k?

* She’s struggled with being an old three and not being in the class with her old friends, but is learning to make do.

* Taught ‘lil Man how to say “God is good” before chowing down.

* Fallen in love with the Pirates, even if their season us pretty much a bust. Tonight she asked for one more game before the season is over, but that’s a no…Mama isn’t giving up the games with Daddy!

* Grown so much since this picture, taken exactly one month ago.


Pieces of the Past

Tonight, I stepped inside a place I haven’t been for almost 18 years. Not too much has changed with the exception of the people and the food. And the couch. The couch where Mr. Rogers or Mr. McFeeley and I would sit and swap stories is gone. And the smell of sticky buns no longer fills the air.


Tonight, I joined my new work team for a planning meeting at a place where many memories of my childhood were made. Running through the orchard, finding wild mushrooms, being pulled in a wagon, throwing toys in the huge kettle, pretending to make butter in the churn, staring at porcelain dolls. But most importantly, bonding with my family and making memories with my Great Grandma.

Tonight, I hope I made her proud with how far I’ve come.


Tonight I dined at Emilia’s Garden which used to be the Friendship Garden Tea Room, my Great Grandmother’s restaurant. Things haven’t changed too much, but the fare is a bit different–it is now Italian food. Everything looked amazing, and everything I tasted (chicken pepperoni soup then tortellini) was 8 steps beyond amazing. I suggest this one goes in your “date night” idea book. Yum!