I have been telling my story and that of my family and friends for as long as I can remember. For me, I love to make photos and capture memories -- my 'big girl' camera has opened up a whole new world, but my iPhone camera is busy too!
Well, the Smith Family is off on another grand adventure! Starting today, we are heading out on the Great American Family Road Trip, in an RV! Stay tuned for posts on this site and our new site, “AreVthereYet” (once I figure out how to set it up)!
In the meantime, I just have to say, we have So.Much.Stuff! It seems we packed for the entire summer, so if we get inspired, we can always return the rental, buy an RV and head out again!
The kids did an amazing job getting ready and they were only mildly frustrated when we were behind schedule. This is in the last 5 minutes before we got on the road.
We underestimated the amount of time to get to the RV Rental, but we finally arrived around 2pm (2.5 hours behind our 11:30a planned arrival). AJ gave us a tour of the RV, who the kids have named, “The Big Dipper,” and while Phil loaded the RV and before I unpacked the items we could fit in the camper (thank goodness for under camper storage), I took a quick selfie. Still practicing social distancing even in the great outdoors.
After we finally got settled, here we are, finally on the road – ready for our trip to begin…
About 5 minutes into the journey, Nala decided to relocate to get closer to the action and Peyton decided to cuddle up.
Today we have to get to Maryland to see Grandma and Grandaddy, but it’s going to be a long 6 hours. In the time I’ve taken to write this post, we’ve been asked 50’eleven times for dinner and had to make one bathroom stop. And now the kids have switched around:
I think the littles are settling down a bit, but I am sure they are wondering… AreVthereYet?
We started off with a bang- the kids watched the NFL Draft and loved every minute! Meanwhile, Phil and I were on the Vanguard Theater Company Happy Hour. It was a great success and the drinks were awesome!
On Saturday we had a family outing to Krispy Kreme… I’d been thinking about it all week and then… poof they had buy one dozen get a second free! I love a sale and Phil found a deal so off we went! There is no evidence, but we have fond memories and plenty to share with friends. No touch curbside Krispy Kreme delivery was a success!
Phil officially moved his plan for cold brew forward – we took photos for his advertising. I was pretty happy with how they turned out!
The kids started their second round of the 24 hour fort challenge. They built their forts in the family room and hunkered down. Family movie time and dinner on Sunday were the highlights for me.
The fort challenge had the added benefit of giving me lots of time to knit mask mates! I made the set shown on the class table, but have been making them with the kids for a few weeks. This time I made some to mail to the nurses in our lives!
It turns out that when life gives you lemons, you should always make lemonade. In this case after a fairly yucky January, we decided to make ‘lemon mintade’ and head to Egypt for an adventure.
With about 3 weeks to plan and in the midst of the Coronavirus scare we set off on our trip to see Egypt and the wonders therein.
We arrived in Cairo after a fairly uneventful flight with the exception of 2 highlights…
1) We had to check our bags. They weighed each of them and informed us that our 13-16kg bags were not allowed as cabin bags with their 8kg max. Arghh! We could have had more room.
2) Our departure from JFK was late — although the check in agents assured us we would be fine for our connection.
When we landed at 705a for our 725a connection, we were dubious, but as we stood waiting for disembarkation we formulated a well thought out plan. RUN!!! And we made it! The gate was close so we made it.
I now know that is pretty typical- we met a woman from California who had the exact same experience flying over Istanbul from San Francisco to Cairo a day later.
Thankfully the slept on the flight and both gave Turkish Air economy a thumbs up!
When we landed in Cairo, we had to go to the bathroom, unfortunately we picked the one bathroom before immigration. Yes the only one we saw and it had a deep, dark secret. Flushing one stall led to a deluge of water from various unidentified places. I don’t know from where, but both Peyton and I were SHOWERED with toilet water. I was unfortunately indisposed (frankly I was mid squat if you must know) with no defense. And Peyton ran out of the bathroom to the safety of her father and brother leaving me wet and alone. Screaming was my only recourse, so I did — LOUD. And when I escaped the stall, the bathroom attendant was there with mop and dollar in hand to indicate that her job mopping the floor required my personal compensation. With her blocking the door and dampness in places unimaginable, I tipped and fled. It was a set up.
We passed through the first immigration point where upon our temperatures were taken. Thankfully we were healthy enough to get in.
We found Mr Abdul, our guide to help us navigate the airport. He showed us the visa booth, we paid for our visas at the bank (yes the bank) and our $100 was well received.
The immigration agent grilled me (well really Phil because he wouldn’t address me) about my lineage, “where was I from, no really, where did I reside, no not where I departed from or where I lived today, where was I FROM ORIGINALLY?” When that didn’t work, “where was my father from?” He seemed frustrated (disappointed maybe) that I wasn’t from somewhere more exotic than the US born and raised. And the audacity of my father for also being from such a mundane place. He waved us on dismissively with annoyance.
Thankfully, our baggage made the 20 min connection and we exited the airport with the help of Mr Abdul.
We left the airport in a van driven by Mr Nagey. We didn’t know it, but he would be with us for many days.
And before I go on, let me just explain that driving in Cairo takes a series of calculated maneuvers timed perfectly to fit in between 3-4 other vehicles at a precise moment in time. I heard someone say that the lines on the road are more for decoration than direction and I agree. Stoplights are also suggestions versus traffic rules. But Mr. Nagey successfully navigated our travels across Cairo with ease. Wielding the horn to announce his intentions and an iron sense of will and space, he got us to our destination every time.
That first day, I didn’t have this understanding, so I just said hi and climbed into the van with no knowledge that I was placing my life and the lives of my husband and children in his very capable hands.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with the lovely Egyptian hospitality we would come to experience our entire trip.
After some time to check in and get freshened up, we met our guide Mr. Walid aka ‘Brown Sugar’ Abo. He and his colleague Aya would show us around.
We started off with breakfast. Who knew falafel in a pocket would be like manna from heaven? We also had Ful, which is like a cross between refried beans and stew. Turns out it’s mashed chick peas… and served in a pita pocket. And may I just say, when you are hungry from travel across 7 time zones… I ate more falafel and ful and potatoes in those pitas pockets on that first day than I care to admit.
After breakfast served in the back of our van, we headed off to the pyramids.
Giza (Day One)
It’s amazing to think that the pyramids have been there for eons. And across Egypt, I was astounded by the scale. Think of the fact that these massive monuments and temples were devoted to one person. Thousands of workers dedicated to erecting, decorating and maintaining them all for the posthumous glorification of one individual.
We went in the pyramid at Giza and what an experience. More than 100 steps up a ramp to a room at the top that housed the shrine. At one point, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. It was hot, closed, and crowded with people moving up and down.
Once outside, we drove to the end of the pyramid complex to get a panoramic view and as I said, it’s pretty amazing to think about the engineering it took to build the pyramids with only people and ancient machinery.
Fun fact: Egypt is home to more than 108 pyramids!!
The pyramids were built with the idea that everything available in this life would be needed in the afterlife. So each time we could imagine the gold, silver, precious stones, food and finery lovingly stacked up in each memorial.
After Giza, we went to the Papyrus factory. The kids learned about the origins of, and how to make papyrus.
Saqqara (Day Two)
When our guide took us to Saqqara, I wasn’t sure what to expect. These pyramids predate Giza but after seeing such a wonder there, what would we see next?
We started off touring the site. Initially, it was built in the same style as the kings palace. A huge stone door opened into the complex to a long hallway lined with cubbies on either side. The cubbies were designed to house statues to the king pop.
At the end of the hallway, it opened to a courtyard with a pyramid at the edge. It’s hard to describe the impact of the courtyard and pyramid — they were amazing. And the kids loved racing across the courtyard trying to beat their best time (or the best time of their twin).
It was in Saqqara that we let the kids ride… ride what you ask? of course Wilson wanted to ride a horse and Peyton wanted to ride a camel. Somehow we got talked into doing both. And you know, I got talked into getting on one too! It wasn’t so much the kids as the insistence of the guide and the camel guy.
Poor camel…these too rode like they were in the Cairo Derby!
Afterward the kids agreed that the horse was their favorite. Although not many nine year olds from NJ get to debate the merits of horse over camel. 🤷🏾♀️
After the courtyard, we visited the memorial, and went 25 meters down a passage filled with hieroglyphics to see the site of the sarcophagus. Our guide stayed outside but not to worry- another local guide helped us on our tour and took photos to boot!
We then visited the shrine to one of the Kings advisors. Here the hieroglyphics were even better preserved.
After Saqqara, Mr. Black Panther took us to the Cartouche factory – apparently it’s off the tourist track, so a special treat!
We also went to the Oil Store- I could have spent days with this guy. He’s Bedouin and sells oils – something to fix everything up! By the time I found out he also sold spices I was all shopped out!
Dinner Cruise on the Nile
Our last stop for the day was to sail the Nile. It was a fun evening out for the entire family. It started with some time on the top deck to take photos (& drinks for some) and then downstairs to dinner. However before dinner they put on the entertainment portion of the evening!
The Bellydancer was a hit for Peyton, but it was a little much for Wilson. He was embarrassed, but he was also looking out the window to the boat launch. However he missed that because of the spinning small person and the man twirling with a glass of water upside down on his head! The Tanura and Sofi show were definitely highlights.
Originally we were going to the Egyptian Museum after Saqqara, but the day ran long. So we started off Sunday with the Museum. There were more than 150k of artifacts — about 5K for King Tut alone. It was truly amazing how the number of artifacts and how they are displayed! It’s also under construction, so it was a mix of scaffolding, people, artifacts and dust! However without question, the collection is phenomenal. King Tutankhamen’s tomb was the only one not found by Tomb Raiders, and the vast majority of the contents of his tomb are housed in the museum. These shrines housed his sarcophagus nested one inside the other.
After the museum, we went to The Citadel and Mohammed Ali Mosque which is the complex built by the first leader of the Muslim world. It was massive and built on the top of a hill overlooking the City. Obviously chosen for defensive reasons, today’s its got a lovely view of Cairo. The Mosque is huge with a lovely courtyard.
We were done a little early, so when we got back to the hotel, we walked across the street to the mall and then walked down the street looking at all the goods – from pita to fresh fish to potato chips, you can get it at the side of the road market in Cairo. When we got back the kids spent some time journaling their trip. Wilson was determined to list all of his adventures… while Peyton finished and tucked in with her book.
Whew!! What a day. Today we went to the Market and coffee shop… tried to find a Chase in Cairo, and enjoyed our second day of Egyptian Shwarma with Syrian bread.
Our guide treated us to fresh sugar cane juice which the Egyptians say is the way to start your day… and get all the bad cells out of your body.
The kids learned how to bargain… this is Peyton driving a hard negotiation for an alabaster egg. She exceeded our tour guides expectations on lowest possible price.
So the big new adventure begins. My Little Ones are off on their first day of the new school year. New school and for this year, new ride… they are taking the school bus!!
I have to say I am so proud of them both – they’ve been getting the routine and doing a great job. Make your bed, wash your face, brush your teeth, dress yourself, put your clothes in the hamper… They are all over it and the reminders are becoming less necessary!
In my mind, I have amazing pictures of them getting on the bus and waving good-bye. In reality, I didn’t even raise my camera (there was something in my eye… really there was), but I do have a little story from the adventure to share.
We started off yesterday at the Open House, so that gave me the chance to see the kids in their new environment and to meet some of the other students. In their class, they had to put away their things, explored the classroom and spent time learning about this years theme… BUGS. I have to say their school is lovely and I am really excited for the year!
We had an early Capoeira evening and Phil and I got to put my Pinterest skills to work coming up with a lunch we hope they will enjoy.
Today, they woke up, made their beds and were off to the races. Breakfast as a family is a habit that will be hard to break!
After breakfast, we went out to the school bus stop. It’s about a mile away, so that meant we had to drive and wait… and wait… and wait. Worried we missed it on the first day (oh no!) we called and it turns out the bus was late. 15 min, but at least we didn’t miss it — school bussing is not an exact science. The kids were a little impatient – Wilson even suggested we call an Uber :).
I know there will be hard days, but I really hope the kids keep up with their routine and growing independence. It’s lovely to watch and makes the mornings much easier. A huge thank you to Ms P. for preparing them so well on the morning routine over the last few years!
To see them helping each other and working together in their new adventure is totally cool! My littlest ones are turning into my big ones… but they will always be my babies.
Prayers up for an awesome school year! I hope your new adventures are going as well as ours!
August was a fantastic month! From beginning to end, it was filled with fun, family and lots of adventures. And I am so pleased to be able to participate in the 6 on the 6th Blog circle again this month! With the whirlwind of activity, its a commitment for all of us, but don’t forget to head on over to check out the amazing work of Cynthia Valdez as she shares her Summer with us!
We had a family reunion with one side of the family (you can check out more of those adventures here and here) and then a visit from Grandaddy Ted to see us was a major highlight! The kids enjoyed ‘teaching’ reading and math!
reading is fundamental
see – this is how the abacus works
I also had the chance to look at my city in a new way! This is near the train station in Newark, New Jersey… and I just loved the lines. I am enjoying exploring black and white more – creating more ways to look at the area I’ve lived in for a number of years.
August also meant the opportunity to take a girls trip to Miami – it was not restful by any stretch, but certainly restorative! Amazing how some time to be someone other than “Mommie” can re-energize you. As they say however, “What happens in Miami, stays in Miami!” so I will share one shot I took at Wynwood. It’s a wonderful arts district and has a series of murals by very talented artists that seem magical – especially at night (which is when we made it)!
And finally – I have to say August was so much fun in terms of times with my little ones! One adventuresome day with no babysitter yielded lots of laughs (take a look), but we surely had time to spend together, talk and I love how they are growing, being and becoming!
I love my kids. They are really lovely and although there are ups and downs, the wonderful times outweigh the difficult ones. I had a recent example when unexpectedly we were without child care for a week! Our day went something like this:
I started on calls at 7am, kids ran in and out, wanting to hear the calls, wanting to speak on the calls and making quite a bit of background noise as I tried to work.
At 9am, I took a break for a pit stop to the bathroom with a detour to get Little Mstr’s hyena. It was in solitary confinement due to the kids non-compliance when they were supposed to clean their room several months ago. Hyena was forgotten until very recently when he was rediscovered and my little Mstr has been on a relentless pursuit ever since (and cleaning his room like a champ)!
Sometime between 9-10, Little Miss managed to get me to let her polish her nails. She picked out a color and went to work. That focused activity (did I mention I had calls) lasted about 10 min before my husband found a spill on the floor and that was the end of that. A bit of a bummer as she is usually pretty good at polishing her nails and gets mostly in the lines!!
At 10am when I finally had a break, we went outside for the kids to ride bikes and me to work on my laptop. Of course our neighbor came home about 10 min later and my children badgered (uh I mean beguiled) her into a playdate with her son who is a year older. That resulted in said neighbor and I sharing a workspace at her dining room table while the kids played together for a couple of hours. It was actually quite productive and mostly interruption free.
We raced off at 12 because Little Mstr had an appointment at 1p. We didn’t have enough time for lunch before leaving the house, but did get some yogurt from Starbucks next to the office before his appointment. And the kids took the opportunity to have an in depth conversation with (quiz mercilessly) a local police officer – they discussed all of his ‘tools of the trade,’ his car and lots of things!
Little Miss wants so badly to go to her brother’s appointment so today’s treat (distraction) was to get her a pedicure (did I mention she only did 2 toes before the spill)? It took a bit longer than expected so I had to carry her back with no shoes to get Little Mstr.
On the way home in the car, we had a great conversation about their dialogue with the police officer in town. I finally found a way to explain that police are there to protect and to serve, but that you always have to trust your intuition and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, there are bad people in the world and some of them might be police who might not have your best interests at heart. The kids key takeaways: listen to your intuition – if it tells you someone is bad, be polite and respectful, but get out of the situation, you can always rely on your wisdom from God, call Mommie and can always pray. I was quite pleased with how well our discussion landed.
Lunch was served and I was super proud of my little ones who decided they were still a little munchy (or I didn’t feed them enough) and they made their own cheese sandwiches. This included getting a real plate and warming the sandwich in the microwave with only the help of a step stool (no help from Mommie needed aside from finding the cheese). They even did the dishes after lunch!
The next big activity was for a ‘stand’ in the yard – they would not be deterred from this venture and in fact, it turned into the highlight of the day! The kids made their sign, helped make the tea (no fixins for lemonade), got the ice from the ice machine and helped set everything up.
Iced tea anyone?
Waiting is ‘not what we expected’
They made $4 on $0.50 cups and met some friends who were on a walk which turned into another fun ‘playdate’.
With a day like this, I didn’t have much time for photos, but I did manage to snap a few. Having said that I really want to remember this day. It was a great example of the gift of watching my children grow up right before my eyes! If you made it this far, thanks for reading and sharing with me.
And after our fantastic time in Charlotte, we got on the road and headed home! It felt faster, although wasn’t really that different in terms of time, we just stopped for a shorter overnight.
There were two highlights for me 1) getting to see my friend and her family on our overnight stop (boy do I wish we had more time) and 2) the Pecan Nut bar we got during a special stop when my husband passed Horne’s Restaurant — a one of a kind store from his childhood road trips — passing through Port Royal, Virginia.
We continued our affinity for Dollar Tree and Chick Fil-A. I think Dollar Tree is the worlds best kept road trip secret. You have the chance to stop, go to the bathroom (usually its a reasonable one), and purchase snacks or water very reasonably. It’s also a very good distraction – next time we road trip I will add it to our scavenger hunt!
I do have to say that the activity I enjoyed the most was our Rest Stop Scavenger Hunt. Each time we stopped (and that is at least once per five hours – of a 30 hour trip) we had to find something on the scavenger hunt. It took us the entire trip to and from the Reunion, but we finally crossed off the very last item… the Road Atlas. For anyone born before the iPhone, you know what I mean. Those born “post iPhone” haven’t had to read, much less navigate by the Atlas. It was quite disappointing when I asked at WaWa if they had an Atlas and the answer was, “what is that?”
Can you spot the Atlas
The last leg is always the most difficult as evidenced by my face and my Little Mama’s as we brought it home…
I have to preface this post with the fact that I do not like road trips! And when you add two energetic 5.5 year olds to the mix the idea of a road trip strikes fear in my fearless Mommie heart. So when we decided to drive to my husband’s family reunion in Charlotte, NC, I was determined not to let my worst fears come true. For perspective, my Little Miss can get to the point of pained boredom on 45 min ride – I did not relish the thought of of 9.5 hours of “this is boring” from the backseat!
Mommie mind and Pinterest kicked into high gear, resulting in 2 bags, 2 bins and several different activities designed to keep even little miss occupied. Did I mention I was trying to avoid 20 hours of screen time?
Here is our adventure-
Left NJ and within the first hour three of the activities were played!
Activity 1 – playing with baby
Activity 2 – molding with modeling clay
Activity 3 – road trip bingo
Activity 4 – cutting and crafts
Activity 5 – maps and states
Activity 4 remixed for the third leg of our trip
In PA, we ended up with backseat highway bingo and a stop at the Dollar Store for the bathroom and some water (really a break for Mommie and Daddy). Chick-fil-A and singing songs followed.
In VA, we went to the amazing Luray Caverns. We were very late arriving but managed to catch a lovely (but late) tour with Tabitha – our very knowledgable tour guide. Quite wondrous to see the Caverns and hear the history. We were there 168 years – 2 days from the discovery date!!
The beauty of Luray Caverns
The kids loved it and stayed interested the entire tour!
This was gorgeous – a wishing pond
“The Eggs” what happens when humans touch the stalagmites
Just after sunset from the caverns
A historical milestone!
We found a very nice hotel, The Mimslyn Inn – and had our own cottage for the night. The kids enjoyed the pull out love seat and gas fireplace and I loved that we had a real refrigerator with a freezer for our ice packs.
My little Mstr was a little disappointed that we didn’t stay in the hotel proper (his first reaction was that it was fancy), but allowed that the cottage was nice and he wanted to stay longer.
In the morning, we woke up, had breakfast from the cooler (I knew that yogurt and granola would come in handy) and we got on the road. Fortunately, we decided to drive a bit of the Skyline Drive- a beautiful route through the Shenandoah Valley.
We even saw a baby black bear and we were all thrilled!
That kept the kids occupied for the first couple hours. Then we had craft time!! I took a leap on faith and had construction paper, markers, crayons, scissors and glue in the project bags! The kids spent some time making crafts to give to Grandma and Granddaddy for their walls.
While they aren’t old enough to stay occupied reading books for hours, when craft time was over I discovered that they do love the story telling channel on Spotify!
We finally arrived around 7p in Charlotte and the family reunion festivities began!
Thanks to the Universe for traveling mercies on the first two legs of our trip.
I am so exited to be back on for this month with the 6 on the 6th blog circle! If you haven’t seen my blog post Summertime Memories about how fast the Summer has flown, check it out!
This amazing group of photographers from all over the world shares their favorite 6 photos each month (with a brief hiatus due to a time warp in June!). One you look here be sure to head over to see the work of Clopping Photography and Desert Bloom Photography.
In July, we had so many wonderful moments… From time with friends and lots of swimming, to the best parts of the Summer.
Fourth of July at Grandma’s house with friends my husband has known since childhood; the Jersey Shore and the joy of a sprinkler on a hot Summer day!
The Summer of 2016 has absolutely flown by!! I can’t believe it’s already the last day of July and with a busy August planned, September will be here soon. I truly believe that time goes faster the older you get and with kids, it’s like living at the speed of light. But I can say for sure I am learning and growing and loving watching my little Miss and Mstr. experience the world! A few Summer memories – I hope you enjoy…
A whirlwind tour! I had the pleasure of making the story for this beautiful young woman and her family as she prepared for Senior Prom…
Final preparations – Mom and daughter
Good friends to send her off
The beginning of a lovely night
Our first 5K race… the kids did an amazing job!
We did it!!
Crossing the line
5K is easy!
The kids had many adventures with family and friends…
Riding Out Buddies
New friendships for life
Father Day Memories…
Repeat after me… Ohmmm
Travels for me from Brazil to Singapore and back to the Northeast!
New Hope PA Farm
Always a wonderful time with the Cancelmo’s! Swimming for the kids plus food, drink and relaxation for the parents!