Category Archives: my crazy family

Throwback Thursday: My nana’s basement

centipedeGrowing up, I thought my nana’s house was like a castle. From the outside, it looks huge. Or at least it did to my childish eyes. My grandparents were the only people I knew who had a formal living room that was dedicated to all of her antique dolls and furniture. All the really good antiques, the ones she didn’t want anyone to touch, were in that room. The rest of the house was also decorated with antiques, but they were the the every day common ones. Everything about her house screamed museum, which is why I found it so mesmerizing and palatial.

As an adult, I saw a very different side to the house. Yes, there were still all of the antiques, although most were more than a little worse for wear, and it still had the gigantic formal living room which even she rarely ventured into, but as a grown up, I realized how small it was. I think it might have been buying my own house, which looks small from the front, but when you walk in actually has 2000 square feet upstairs and an additional 1450 in the finished basement, that made me realize my nana’s house was kind of small.

Unlike mine, her house looks big from the outside. In fact, it looks like it is two stories. However, the second story is really just an unfinished attic that runs over 3/4 of the house (and is hot as hell AND has the most dangerous steps I’ve ever been on actually leading up to it). While the formal living room and the family room are pretty big, the rest of the rooms, including the master bedroom, are pretty small. And, there are only two bedrooms and one bathroom. It does sit on nearly an acre of land, but it’s land that is right in the middle of the small city she lives in, so suddenly the “estate” seemed pretty small.

basement stairsIn all my years visiting my nana, I knew she had a basement, which is another bit that technically makes the house seem larger than it really is. However, in all of my 43 years, I’d never actually been in it. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I went up to visit my mom and finalize some paperwork for my nana’s estate, that I ventured down there.

When my nana passed away at the end of April, my mother inherited her childhood home (my nana lived in the home for 78 of her 98 years). My mom, who lives in North Carolina, has no desire to become a landlord and definitely no desire to move back to her small hometown, so she got the house cleared out, cleaned up and put it on the market.

Even though she had professional cleaners come in and do a thorough cleaning specifically to get the house ready to go on the market, it never occurred to anyone to go down and clean up the basement. It wasn’t until the first person came to view the house and mentioned the cobwebs in the basement that the realtor asked us if we’d mind doing a little cleaning up in the basement. Wanting to help my mom, I said, “sure.”

How bad could it be?

Nana's creepy basementOH MY GOODNESS! It was a nightmare. First off, since the house had been cleared out of basically everything, we had no cleaning tools. What we had were a broom and a duster type tool. What the basement had was more layers of cobwebs than I have seen anywhere, even in professional haunted houses. How this basement didn’t have either dead bodies or psycho killer lurking in it is beyond me.

As I took hold of the broom and started to sweep away the cobwebs, I saw hundreds of insects that looked positively prehistoric hanging above my head. At first I thought they were just terrifyingly large spiders. And some of them were. But I soon realized that most of them had far too many legs to be spiders. They were centipedes. Hundreds of centipedes.

While I truly believe most of them were long dead, I forced myself not to think about it and just keep batting away at the cobwebs and hoping nothing fell on my head. While I have no direct proof anything did drop down on me, my skin was crawling the entire time. A part of me wanted to do a good job. I want this house to sell. The other part of me just wanted to throw that broom and run screaming up the stairs.

I am not usually squeamish about bugs. I trap and release spiders in my house all the time. When it rains, we get ants and I kill them, usually with my fingers, and move on. But for the rest of the night, I was positive there were bugs on me. I felt like some sort of stereotypical drug fiend on a bad trip in some horrible B movie. I just felt them crawling on me. They weren’t, of course, but that did not make my skin less itchy or my brain forget all those carcasses.

Even today I keep getting flashes of those bugs and phantom itches on my skin. I told my mom that I better be forgiven those 27 hours of labor she likes to remind me about from time to time. Just stepping into that horrid basement was a labor of love. Helping to clean it up a bit…that was above and beyond the call of daughterly duty!

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Chocolate Monday: Baker’s Square pie

baker's square.jpgPeople grieve in many different ways. Recently, my nana, who was 98, passed away. I’m not sure I can quite explain how her death has impacted me. It’s been such a strange roller coaster of emotions for me. Nana was a difficult grandmother to have. She was the master of the back handed compliment and her passive aggressive comments about my weight over the course of my life did quite a number on my psyche.

One of my strongest memories of her was after taking me on a shopping trip (which she did every summer when I’d go and stay with her), she turned to me and said, “You know, you’d be so pretty if you just lost weight.” I tried so hard to hear the part where she thought I was at least remotely pretty, but all I could hear was the “fatty” part of it.

Comments like this probably make her seem like a horrible grandmother, especially since that while I was a bit overweight as a child/teen, I have never been actually obese. But comments like these are only one side of my nana (if a very, very vocal side). On the other hand, Nana played Uno for hours with me. She bought me rye toast (which I loved) and made it for me every morning for breakfast. She let me play with the antique dolls. She got me dance lessons when I wanted them. She bought me Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth perfume and a pair of LA Gear high tops. She cried every time I had to go back home.

One thing she never let me do, however, was eat sweets. Dessert was never an option at Nana’s house. Not for me, and not for my mom when she was growing up. Like me, my mom has some major food issues and they all point directly back to Nana. Unlike me, however, my mom and my nana were never close and had a very antagonistic relationship. I could forgive my nana a lot because I only had to see her once a year when I was a kid and half a dozen as a grown up (and always on my terms). My mom was not so lucky and has a lot more baggage.

When my nana got sick, my mom flew in from North Carolina to stay with her, so when my nana passed away, Mom was staying at her house. I came up the day before the funeral to help my mom out. I had to stay the night, but Nana’s house only has two bedrooms and there was no way I was sleeping in her bed. I told my mom I was getting a hotel. She loved the idea and offered to pay for us to have a night away from everything. I think we both needed it.

On our way to the hotel, my mom spied a Baker’s Square. Neither of us had eaten at one for years, but as we neared it, my mom quietly asked if we could stop and get pie. I looked at her kind of oddly and said, “of course we can get pie.” She looked at me very seriously and said, “oh my God, we can get pie. We can get all the pie we want and we don’t have to hide it or pretend we don’t eat it or get scolded for it.” In that moment, I realized my mom was having a rather profound grown up moment. After over 60 years, she was finally 100% free to live life on her terms.

I swung into that parking lot and boldly announced: WE CAN HAVE ALL THE PIE!

And we did.

We struggled a bit with the pie menu because it is rather enormous. On any given day they have over 2 dozen pies to pick from. That is a LOT of pressure for your first true taste of freedom. We were both a little overwhelmed. I pointed out a few that sounded tempting and my mom ordered them. Then she kept ordering. Since we both wanted to try the French Silk and the Caramel Pecan Silk, I thought we might be sharing them. But no, my mom was so giddy with her new found freedom, that she ordered us both pieces. We also each got a slice of lemon pie. Mine was Lemon Supreme and hers was Lemon Meringue (I hate meringue).

We may have gotten more than a little tipsy that evening as we talked through years of pent up feelings and emotional scars. And then we started in on the pie. I placed all three of my pies in front of me and began to nibble, taking a few bites of each before switching over to the next one.

The Lemon Supreme was fantastically tart. Without all that nasty meringue to muck it up, it was pretty great. It’s basically a light cheesecakey bottom with a layer of tart lemony gel on top. Add a few dollops of whipped cream and it’s a light (it taste and texture, not calories) treat perfect for summer.

The Caramel Pecan Silk was also pretty tasty, however, it had a bit much going on with it to be truly spectacular. It looked a bit like pecan pie on the bottom layer, but didn’t have quite the taste or consistency of it. Next was a layer of what they call “supreme filling,” which is a bit cheesecake-like. It’s lighter than a full on cheesecake, but similar enough in both taste and texture to immediately remind me of one. Then there is a French Silk layer. Separately I am a huge fan of all three of these, but together they were a bit too much of a hybrid for me. Not that I didn’t eat it all eventually.

To no surprise, my absolute favorite was the French Silk. I have always been a French Silk girl. There is little I love more in life than any sort of chocolate pie, but a chocolate silk pie???? That is just heaven on a plate. And this one was really good. It was light, it was airy, it was the perfect blend of chocolate and cream. It was simply amazing. It was the only piece I actually finished that night. The other two got partially eaten and stuck in the mini fridge. Don’t worry, I made sure to eat them for breakfast.

I have to say that although I really did like the pie, my judgement may be a bit biased on this one. Those were so much more than simple slices of pie for my mom and me. They were much needed bonding and a healthy does of freedom. Turns out that freedom tastes pretty darn good.

Overall:

Taste: 8/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 8/10

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Travel Thursday: NYC Firefighters

firefighters memorial.jpgI am the daughter of an amazing fire fighter. Or at least my dad was an amazing fire fighter. He had to retire about 8 years ago due to his cancer diagnosis. Although he still very much wanted to keep right on working while he battled, during his second surgery to remove the cancer, they had to take his adrenal glands and he basically lost his fight or flight response. Even though when he retired he was a fire chief and his days of running in to burning buildings were already behind him, after the surgery he no longer trusted himself to make those split second emergency decisions that could send his brothers into danger.

Even after he retired, he still did volunteer work for the local fire department from time to time. He used his extra time to build up his backyard railroad, which was rather impressive. Not only did the HO scale trains run all around the entire yard (including running through a “tunnel” he cut in the shed), but he built amazingly intricate town buildings. The most fantastic was the town’s fire department, complete with model fire trucks and ambulances. Both of my children were in complete awe of it. It may have gone to my son’s head that Pop Pop even named the town after him.

My dad’s model fire station was the last in a series of model fire trucks and ambulances he started building even before I was born. To say my dad was obsessed with all things firefighting is like saying Einstein was interested in math or that Walt Disney had a decent imagination. Growing up, our house was basically a firefighting museum. If it had to do with firefighting, my dad collected it.

One of his most extensive collections was his patch collection. Anytime my dad went anywhere, he took along fire patches from whichever department he was on (he was always on at least two–one professional and one volunteer). When we were on vacation, he would seek out fire stations, stop in, chit chat with the guys on shift and then trade patches with them. Once, when we were in Wisconsin visiting the Dells, there was an accident on the water near the cabins we were staying in. My dad stopped to see what was going on and found out they were waiting for their divers to show up to help. Despite the fact that we were on vacation, he had all of his gear with him, so he pulled out his diving gear and joined in the rescue effort. He’d already spent a few hours with the guys on the department earlier in the week and they welcomed his help. That was my dad.

Firefighting has been such a part of my life, that even though I have lived on my own for 24 years now, I still find myself almost compelled to stop into fire stations or buy fire engine knickknacks, even though my dad passed away nearly 6 years ago. I stop myself, of course, but I when I see these things, I can’t help but stop and think about how much my dad would love them.

FDNY stationWhich is why I found myself standing in front of Ladder Co. 10/Engine Co 10 across the street from the World Trade Center in NYC, just staring at the building. All I could think about was how much my dad would have loved seeing this place. I remember how devastated he was after 9/11. He actually designed a fire engine for his department (which they had made and then purchased in 2003) that honored his fellow firefighters who were killed during the attacks. He was immensely proud of that truck and I know he would have been even more in awe of this building than I was. Although I knew he would never see the photo I took of the building, I felt compelled to take the photo. He would have wanted me to. In a small way, it felt like a tribute to him.

It wasn’t until the next evening when I was on my way to O’Hara’s to have dinner with a group of colleagues that I stumbled on the FDNY Memorial Wall right around the corner from the actual station. I told everyone else they could go on ahead if they wanted to, but I had to take the time to read it and take pictures. Once again, I knew my dad would want me to. It was touching and sad. It was my greatest childhood fear realized for so many families. I had to wipe away a few tears.

O'Haras wallThankfully O’Hara’s itself was so noisy and crowded that it was hard to be sad inside it, otherwise I might have started blubbering, despite eating dinner with three near strangers. All along every surface were patches. They were a mix of firefighter, ambulance and police patches, but they were right there where I could run my hands over them and suddenly I was thrust back to my dad’s own fire station where he housed the majority of his patch collection once it got too large for our house. My dad would have been in absolutely heaven here. This wasn’t some showy tourist place, but an actually kind of divey place that actual firefighters and cops hang out at. It reminded me of the kinds of places my dad used to frequent with his buddies. The food was mediocre, but there were a bunch of different burgers and plenty of beer and the prices were very reasonable (especially for NYC). I closed my eyes and had a vision of my dad sitting at a table eating a cheeseburger and drinking an O’Doul’s while half watching a football game as one of his buddies went on about something.

I may not have been thrilled with the food, but it reminded me so much of my dad that I didn’t mind. I even had a beer in his honor. Well, ok, it was a cider, but it was as close to beer as I get, so I think it counts.

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: Sushi Go!

sushi go cardsLast year when I took my kids to Athens, Georgia to visit my best friend, we spent a rainy afternoon at the always delightful Rook & Pawn. Not only did we have some super tasty food (I highly suggest the grilled cheese–Rook & Pawn style), but we also played about half a dozen board and card games.

I LOVE board and card games. For as long as I can remember, I have adored gathering around a table with friends and family to play just about any kind of board, card or charade-like game out there. I like ones that require me to come up with complex strategies and be completely cut throat. I like ones that allow me to play cooperative to achieve a common goal. I like those that allow me to make a complete fool of myself with my terrible pantomime or drawing skills. I even loves those games like solitaire that I can play all by myself. Board and card games are my jam.

While we were at the Rook & Pawn, we discovered an adorable new card game called Sushi Go! None of us had ever played it before, but since it is one of the few games that was nearly age appropriate for my daughter (who was 7 at the time) and still looked like something the rest of us wanted to play, we grabbed the deck, laid out the rules and shuffled the cards.

The game is pretty easy to actually play. Depending on the number of players, each player gets dealt a certain number of cards (in the three player game we played tonight, we each got 9). Everyone looks at their hand, picks one card they want to use and sets it down, face down. Once everyone has their card placed face down, everyone reveals this card and then passes their hand clockwise.

Sounds simple enough, right?

There is strategy involved though as different card combinations earn players different points. For example, the sashimi cards pay off big: 10 points–but only if you get three of them. And, when you keep rotating hands, there is a very real chance you won’t be able to collect three. Especially if other players are also trying to collect them.

As a parent, I think this is a great game because it is simple and goes quickly, which gives kids little time to get bored. There are multiple rounds, so even if my kids don’t win the first (or second) round, since their points add up, they hold out hope to win in the end. I also love the cards themselves. And so does my daughter. The adorable anthropomorphic pieces of sushi are not only cute to look at, but they actually make my daughter care less about her score. She doesn’t quite get all the strategy to the game (it is for ages 8+ and she just turned 8 last month), but she thinks the sushi pieces are “so cute,” that she doesn’t even mind losing. And believe me, any game that doesn’t make one of my kids want to toss the board/cards (they might get that competitive streak very honestly from me–I’ve never actually tossed a board though), is pure gold.

Although we love the game and have played it on each subsequent visit to Rook & Pawn, we don’t actually own it. It wasn’t until Monday, while I was desperately looking for a gift to bring home for my kids after a trip to NYC that I saw the game in a cute mall-like kiosk and had to have it. My daughter chortled with absolute glee when she saw it on the dining room table this morning. And sure enough, as soon as we got home from school, she asked if we could play it. I made them wait until after dinner, but then we gathered together, dealt out the cards and had a lot of un.

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: Nana in the hospital

My grandmother, whom I call Nana, is in the hospital. This isn’t entirely a shock as she is 98 years old. But, when I last saw her three weeks ago (she lives about 2.5 hours away), while she seemed quieter and was clearly having trouble hearing, she seemed otherwise ok.

We still aren’t sure what changed. The doctors are running tests, but this weekend she was seeing and talking to people who weren’t actually in her living room. Thankfully she has home health care aids who were concerned enough to contact my great uncle (her younger brother by about 8 years), who then contacted my mom (who lives about 12 hours away), who then contacted me.

After a bit of deliberation and some major coaxing, my Nana allowed them to call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Several hours later she was out of the ER and in her own room where doctors began tests.

Turns out that not only was my Nana hearing and seeing people who weren’t there, she was also not really eating or drinking much. And, in the course of a few weeks, she’d gotten so weak that not only could she not walk on her own anymore, but she wasn’t even able to stand or help her home health care aid get her in and out of bed or to the bathroom. Another aid had to be called in to assist for any movements.

So now we wait to find out our next move. My Nana does not really understand why she’s in the hospital. She doesn’t understand anything the doctor’s are telling her. Luckily, my mom and I are in contact with the nurses and we have several family friends who can stop in and check on her. My poor Nana told one of my mom’s friends that she was in the hospital because she had an eye infection. She misunderstood the doctor when he said she no doubt had a UTI. Her hearing and comprehension are so bad that she only heard the “eye” part of the statement.

My Nana does not want to go to a nursing home, in large part because she has a dog, Rosie, who has been her only daily companion for over a decade now. She completely adores that dog…treats her like an absolute baby. She is the fattest “toy” poodle I have ever met. It’s hysterical to hear my Nana rail about how the dog was only supposed to be 6 pounds. She has no idea how she’s gotten to a very bloated 20 something pounds–she doesn’t think the pastrami or hot dogs she feeds the poor beast could be part of the issue. Still, the dog has kept my Nana going for quite some time now, so I understand her not wanting to leave Rosie.

At this point though, it doesn’t seem like going home is an option. At least not right now. Our hope is that they can get her into a rehab facility and maybe, just maybe she can get some of her mobility back. If she can, that might be enough to let her go home to her pooch.

It’s been a rough couple of days so far and I have a feeling this has been the easy period for us.

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Throwback Thursday: Selling Girl Scout cookies

Girl Scout Cookies

When I was a kid, I loved being a Girl Scout. I can’t remember a single moment I wasn’t having a great time hanging out with my troop. I loved meetings. I loved earning badges. I loved playing games. I loved the Girl Scout Olympics. I loved camping.

Yes, that’s right, I loved camping…and even running…as long as it was through Girl Scouts.

I remember time spent at international food festivals where each troop member would research other countries and cultures, prepare food to share with each other and spend the evening pigging out. My mom and I picked France and she helped me make gateau au chocolat…or chocolate cake for those of you not in the know. It was fun and delicious.

I remember camporees where we would make “swaps” to, well, swap with girls from other troops. Each swap would be some tiny crafty thing that somehow tied into the theme of the camporee and had our troop number on it. The goal was to collect as many different swaps as possible, all while getting to know girls from the surrounding areas.

I remember learning how to lash (I have completely forgotten how), how to make hobo stew (I could totally still make this) and how to make those strange plastic lanyards and keychains every kid whoever goes to camp ends up making.

Girl Scouts was amazing.

I also remember Girl Scout cookie time. Aw…the joy of being surrounded by all the delicious different varieties of cookies.

When I was a kid, Trefoils still had sugar crystals on them, one of my favorite cookies was called the Chocolate Chunk,* and they were only $2 a box. Every year I busted my butt to sell as many cookies as possible. My mom was a stay at home mom, so she had no work friends she could sell cookies too. My step-dad worked in a place that did not allow people to bring in any kind of fundraising materials, so he couldn’t sell them either. Unlike most of my fellow scouts, my cookie sales were all on me. Thankfully the majority of my extended family bought TONS of cookies and not only paid for the cookies, but then paid to have my mom ship the cookies to them, all the way from California. While I was never a top seller, I was able to fall solidly in the middle.

This year I got to experience Girl Scout cookie time like never before: as the mother of a Brownie. Yes, that’s right, my second grader is one of those fairly cherubic looking little girls who no doubt bombarded you as you walked out of the grocery store, or hardware store or craft store, or super hippy breakfast place in that really trendy section of town, and asked if you want to buy a box of these delicious and addictive treats.

I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I haven’t had a box or two of cookies stashed in my pantry or fridge. For the past 6 years, I’ve bought them from one (or both) of my nieces. Before that I bought them either from a host of colleagues whose daughters were selling them or in few rare cases, from students who’d stuck with scouting into high school. Those years were wonderful. I’d buy four or five boxes, they’d last for a few months and I’d be satiated for a few months more. Then, around January, fresh out of Christmas goodies, I’d start wondering when cookie time was going to roll around again.

But this year, everything changed.

This year cookie season started off not with a call from one of my nieces asking me to buy a box, but at a cookie rally on a Friday night over winter break. My daughter and I joined her troop members in one of the most crowded meeting rooms I’d ever been in, trying desperately not to get overwhelmed by the three ring circus that was the rally. Not only were there six craft tables with girls packed so tightly they could hardly move, but there were adults circulating around the room with trays of cookies for everyone to try. On top of this, there was someone constantly making announcements and drawing numbers for a raffle.

My daughter, who has some major sensory issues managed exactly two craft tables before she couldn’t take it anymore. Even the prospect of more cookies (she’s already managed to sneak 6 and we generally allow one cookie for dessert) and raffle prizes couldn’t make her endure a few more minutes of the chaos. We were out after 20 minutes.

Then came the selling of the cookies. My daughter will proudly tell you she sold over 300 boxes of cookies, which was enough to get the turtle music speaker she really wanted. This is not true. My husband and I sold most of those cookies. Sure, she sold about 70 of those boxes, but that was mostly because she worked a cookie booth at a local Kroger on the day of the Superbowl. In two hours, the three girls sold 165 boxes.

What all this meant was a TON of cookies piled in my den. I don’t remember exactly how many cases we had once all was said and done (we had to go back for five additional smaller orders), but at one point I know we had 16 cases in there. It was nuts!

All of this did mean I got to try every single variety of cookie this year. Although they were all the same as last year, I tend to be a creature of habit, so I usually only get Samoas for myself and Do Si Dos for my husband. This year, though, I let my kids each pick a box of cookies (Thin Mints for my daughter and Toffee Tastics for my son). We had to try the S’Mores cookies since they were pretty new as well. Plus, I couldn’t remember if my husband liked the peanut butter sandwich or chocolate peanut butter, so I got some Tagalongs too. At the cookie rally I grabbed a Savannah Smile and a Trefoil to round out my collection.

Although I found I really enjoy the S’Mores (not as good as the real thing, but pretty tasty nonetheless), in nearly 35 years of eating Girl Scout cookies, my favorite cookie has not changed.

My heart forever belongs to Samoas.

*For a trip down Girl Scout cookie memory lane, check out these old favorites too.

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Throwback Thursday: Disneyworld

DSCN0661For as long as I can remember, I have been a Disney kid. We moved to Southern California when I was 6 and lived less than an hour from Disneyland until I was 14. In fact, for several of those years we lived in Anaheim and were year round pass holders. My sister wasn’t in school yet, so my mom would pick me up after school and take us to Disneyland for an hour or two before my step-dad got off work. We’d get to ride a few rides and be home in time for her to make dinner. It was magical.

When I was 14, I moved in with my dad in Indiana, which although removed from Mickey and his gang, did not stop my love for them. I was still had all the movies to watch any time I wanted. Yes, even as a teenager I watched Alice in Wonderland, Pete’s Dragon and The Little Mermaid repeatedly. When I got my first car, I also got The Little Mermaid cassette and it played repeatedly when I was in my car. My best friend was also a Disney fiend, so we’d sing “Kiss the Girl,” at the top of our lungs on the way to school. I worked at the movie theater when The Lion King came out and not only did I see it for free multiple times, I heard that soundtrack every single time I worked (on a constant loop) for an entire summer.

Since I lived so far from California, my Disney fix had to be filled by heading to the other coast: Disney World. I’d been a few times as a child, but my favorite Disney World memories came as an adult. One year my dad and step-mom took my boyfriend and I to visit my great aunt who lived in St. Augustine and then we headed down to Disney World to spend three magical days in the Magic Kingdom. Well, one day there, one day at Epcot and one at Hollywood Studios (there was no Animal Kingdom then). I still remember how my boyfriend FREAKED on The Great Movie Ride* when an alien from the Alien portion of the ride came at us from above. He was so busy looking at the one on the side of us that he completely missed the one above us and just about wet himself. It was fantastic!

Another year my step-mom, aunt and cousin went together as part of a celebration of my cousin’s high school graduation. Once again we visited my great aunt. This time we had to paint her deck before we could reward ourselves with a trip to Disney. We were not prepared for painting a second story deck in 90+ heat using rickety ladders. It was truly horrific, but it made for some great family bonding and it made any hot weather or tired feet at the parks seem like a wonderful reprieve.

My aunt and I made a solo trip a little later and it was fantastic! It was on this trip that I discovered the wonder of Waffle House waffles. After a VERY long drive to get to Florida, we found a Waffle House near our hotel and dug into pecan waffles. They were delicious! We did everything at a leisurely pace and aside from a speeding ticket I got on the way home, it was a great trip.

My aunt also took my husband (who was just my boyfriend at the time), my uncle and I to Disney World not long after we started dating. My uncle drove 17 straight hours to get us there, stopping at every single rest stop to stretch and have a cigarette. The car was pretty small and when we finally reached our destination (once again we went to St. Augustine first), it was glorious. Sadly, my aunt got pretty bad vertigo on day two at Epcot (Mission Space was brand new at the time) and she had to bow out of the rest of the day, so my husband and I roamed the rest of the day while they went back to the hotel.

Although my husband is not obsessed with Disney the way I am, he gives in to my whims and so far we’ve taken one amazing family vacation to Disney World with our own kids. We only went to three of the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios). It was seriously the best family vacation we’ve ever been on. I cannot even describe how wonderful it all was.

DSCN0668Our second trip was not quite as awesome. We were there as Hurricane Matthew approached and not only did we get soaked through pretty much every single day, we actually left one day early because the hurricane was getting ready to hit and we knew Disney was going to be closed for the fourth time ever. We lit out as early as we could Thursday morning and ended up at my best friend’s house in Athens, Georgia, so even though we were sad to cut our trip short, we had a great time with my best friend.

That leads us to our latest trip, which is actually coming a year earlier than planned. Initially my husband agreed to every three years for a Disney trip. But we just went back in 2016, so at this point, I should just be wistfully thinking of our trip next year, not writing this blog with a hotel room and tickets already booked and paid for.

What makes this year so special? My aunt and her two kids are coming with us. My aunt is pretty much the biggest Disney fan I’ve ever met, but because of her vertigo, she can’t drive long distances and she refuses to fly. So, this year, we are all going together. Not only do I get to share Disney World with my kids again, but I get to share it with my aunt, who is my closest family member (more like a mom than an aunt), and her two kids. My kids get to run through Disney World with their cousins, who they adore.

Once again, we get to make new memories with the people we love most.

I know a lot of people mock Disney because it is too commercial and too expensive and too crowded and a host of other “toos,” but for me, it will always be one of the happiest places on earth. I have so many wonderful memories there and I simply cannot wait to make more with my aunt and her kids.

*You can watch the Alien portion of The Great Movie Ride around minute 3 if you use the link

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