AreVthereYet? Day 1.

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.

Peyton took the first shot at narrating our trip, and although she wants to work on videography, here is a clip.

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?

Smith Family Quarantimes Wk 6

Well really, weekend 7!

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!

On to week 7, we will see what that brings!

Egyptian Escapades

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. 

Day One:

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.

Project 365 – Week 22

I truly enjoyed my birthday weekend! And it followed right up with my mother-in-laws birthday and a prom celebration fit for a princess!  And on top of that, my little miss showed me something about loving nature and science!

And importantly, this week included Memorial Day – sending thanks and prayers for all of the soldiers who defend ideals and freedom for others.

Project 365 Week 21

What a busy week!  From meeting the kindergarten class chicks to hanging out in the park for birthday-palooza, the kids were on the go.  They settled down a little bit over the weekend and little Mstr. played a rousing game of chess with our neighbor, then it was back to capoeira!  The kids were supposed to head to the Central Park Zoo for a big end of year class field trip to see the rainforest exhibit.  They were so ready for the adventure — but Mommie and Daddy certainly weren’t!  It turned out that it wasn’t meant to be… they missed the train with their babysitter and spent the day on a substitute adventure including Chuck E. Cheese and Imagine That!  For them, that was grand enough!  But they sure looked cute and stayed safe -and that was enough for Mommie and Daddy!


Family Tree!

My children have an assignment for school — to build a family tree!  As they both have the same assignment, we have two trees to do. So we decided to build one for my side of the family and one for  my husbands. This has turned into quite the obsession for me.  I am back on Ancestry websites with a fierce focus and determination to build a picture of our family for the kids to share and to truly understand.  It’s been fun! Digging into old databases and family photos I like to picture the story of their lives.  My Mothers side of the family is very small now given that most of the people I grew up with have died.  That makes my focus even stronger so I can document this history before it fades away.

I’ve been all over, but if anyone has any leads on finding out about Black families in Florida (& Seminole families too) and Maryland in the 1800s and early 1900s please let me know!  There are portions of my family that are a mystery and I am still trying to figure out how to solve them.

Have you documented your own family history- it’s fun, interesting and a great activity to do with the kids!  After the last push we made as a family to cut, glue and decorate, my little ones were super happy with there trees!  They were even sad to take them to school because they wanted to keep them to talk about at home.  My ‘babies’ love photos and talking about our past, hopefully yours do too!


6 on the 6

I am excited to join the 6 on the 6 Blog Circle.  It’s made up of a fantastic global group of photographers who share the same camera and same love for Photography!!  Each month we will be posting some of our favorites and I hope you enjoy!  When you finish my post, don’t forget to follow the link to continue through the circle and see some amazing work from my fellow bloggers.

By way of introduction to those who don’t know me, I am Melani Wilson Smith.  I’ve made photos my whole life, but since getting my first DSLR in 2011, I’ve spent a lot of time and paid a great deal of attention to improving my craft.  I love candid storytelling through pictures and I love the feelings they evoke.

I try not to have the camera focused on my kids too much, but they certainly end up in most of my photos.  I am developing my style, but usually spend time documenting life with an occasional opportunity for glamour.

Please let me know what you think – comments are welcome and I’d love your feedback on my story.

Don’t forget to head on over to see the artistry of Elaina B from Bucks County, Pennsylvania — the next up in our blog circle for this month…

Elaina B Photography


Project 365…Week 13

One of the primary things I want to share is my Project 365…hoping your interest will keep me accountable!  This week was an interesting one- lots of photos at the front of the week and they tapered off.  But I am still keeping it up (mostly) and hope to stay on track!

Week 15 Project 365


It’s fun to look back at the photos from my 365 last year.  Although I didn’t finish the year, I have a wonderful documentary of our life.  Between family trees, birthdays, adventures and travels to Arizona, this was a particularly wonderful week to chronicle.  I am sure I will look back on this week with a big smile all year long.