Sick in New York City. Again.

Guys. Guys. GUYS! It happened again. A stomach virus from hell invaded our family while visiting the city that never sleeps (read about the first time here). While in the grand scheme of things getting sick on vacation isn’t that big of a deal, the fact that our family was at the mercy of norovirus in New York City has me wanting to muster my best Nancy Kerrigan “wwwwwhhhhhyyyyyy????” and stomp my feet in frustration. We had originally planned to go to New York City over MLK Weekend but a snowstorm derailed our plans (perhaps that was a sign?) so we rescheduled our three-night stay for President’s Day weekend. We’d been looking forward to our trip for weeks.

Washington Deluxe

We decided to take a bus up to New York City for the first time – we ended up choosing Washington Deluxe and booked our tickets a week out. On Friday morning we took an Uber to Union Station in downtown Washington DC to pick up our bus. The boarding processes couldn’t have been easier. Weston and Violet sat next to each other and Clay and I were across from them – we settled into our sets and before long, we were on our way. We weren’t even 15 minutes on the road when we heard a woman say, “Ummm – your daughter threw up.

::record scratch::

We look across the aisle and our five-year-old daughter is covered in vomit. We had a change of clothes, wipes, and bags – unfortunately, they were all in the cargo hold of the bus and not accessible. Thinking fast, I took off my thin sweater (thankfully for the other bus riders, I was also wearing a tank top) and used it as a rag to mop up the mess. Clay grabbed toilet paper from the bathroom on board and I smothered Violet (and her clothes) in hand sanitizer. I spent the next four hours holding her as she drifted in and out of sleep. She didn’t get sick the rest of the ride and she was her normal vibrant self when the infamous skyline came into view so when our bus pulled into the Garment District, we chalked it up to car-sickness and hopped in an Uber to our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen – the Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park.

Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park

Our hotel room was nice – albeit a little small but that is to be expected in our price range for New York City. Would we love to stay at The Plaza Hotel? Of course. Can we afford to? Hell no. So Fairfield Inn it is! Our hotel was a short walk to Columbus Circle so we were close to a major subway station and I loved the old-school attitude of Hell’s Kitchen. After resting for a bit (and washing up!), we set off on foot to explore and eat dinner.

We ended up eating at Mama Mia 44sw on (you guess it…) 44th Street. Clay and I enjoyed some well-deserved glasses of wine and we had a great Italian meal. The kids really wanted to see Times Square at night so Clay and I yielded to them and braved the commercial and cliched tourist Mecca. Our kids loved seeing the off-brand Disney characters and going to M&M World and the Disney Store. The bright lights captivated them and they commented how it reminded them of our visit to Las Vegas. I’ll admit that I am a huge snob when it comes to Times Square but even I caught myself smiling despite the abundance of chain restaurants.

New York City Taxi

On Saturday morning, we were rested and ready to take on the day. We took the subway to the Upper West Side so we could visit the American Museum of Natural History. We opted to purchase our tickets that day rather than online ahead of time – something we’re glad we did because all four of us received free general admission due to Clay being in the Army.

 American Museum of Natural History

We were blown away by the generosity of the American Museum of Natural History and grateful to experience such an amazing museum free of charge. Because we live in the Washington DC area, we have access to the Smithsonian and go to the various museums multiple times a year – they are wonderful. But the American Museum of Natural History is in a class of it’s own – we could’ve spent multiple days there but because time was of the essence, we limited our visit to three hours.

Central Park
 Central Park Plaza Hotel

After the museum, we walked through Central Park down to 5th Avenue to ogle at the hotel we can’t afford (the Plaza) and to make our way Rockefeller Center. While there, we visited the LEGO store and the new FAO Schwarz, which opened in November 2018. While it isn’t nearly as magical as the original – the clocktower is back, as well is the iconic giant keyboard.

Rockefeller Center
FAO Schwarz

We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at Sean’s Bar and Kitchen and then went back to the hotel to rest before heading back out after the sunset.

New York Public Library
Empire State Building at night
Chrysler Building at Night

We then walked, walked, and walked. There is something magical about New York City at night and I will never tire of seeing the iconic buildings lit from within and under the moonlight. We then got hot chocolate and hopped on the subway to the Financial District.

September 11 Memorial

While this was not our first visit to the National September 11 Memorial, it was our first visit at night. If you only do one thing at night with your children in New York City – take them here. We quietly walked around and had the place almost to ourselves. Our kids asked questions and we answered them to the best to our ability. I also shared one of my favorite quotes..

What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” – David Levithan

September 11 Memorial

Around 10pm we decided that we probably should make our way uptown again. If it were just Clay and I, we totally would have stayed downtown and enjoyed the nightlife but kids. So we got on the 1 train at the Cortlandt Street station, which was completely destroyed in the attack – it only re-opened this past September.

Ann Hamilton Chorus

On the platform is an Ann Hamilton installation, titled Chorus, which has text from the Declaration of Independence and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I was in awe and wouldn’t have minded waiting even longer for the train so I could look at the installation more.

We stopped and picked up some desserts on the way home and ate them in our pajamas. Little did we know that all hell was about to break loose that night…

Don’t worry – I’ll spare you the details but this was the only picture I took on Sunday – we didn’t even leave the hotel room. Weston was the first to fall. Then me. Then Clay. And there was Violet (likely patient zero), who kept herself occupied thanks to electronics. It was not a pleasant day – being trapped in 150 sq. ft. space with multiple sick people pretty much solidified that 100% tiny house living is not for us.

Heckscher Playground New York City

By Monday morning we were feeling okay. We were so disappointed to miss an entire day in one of our favorite cities. However, we weren’t getting on our bus until 12:30pm so spent a few hours walking around and getting some fresh air in Central Park.

Heckscher Playground New York City

This picture pretty much sums up how Clay and I felt on Monday. We were well enough to go about the day but utterly exhausted. We took an Uber back to the Garment District and met our bus. Thankfully – the bus ride back was uneventful and dare I say, even enjoyable. Clay and I were able to relax while the kids kept themselves occupied and I was able to keep my shirt on this time, which was nice.

Traveling with kids isn’t for the faint of heart. Clay and I have a saying about a lot of things in our life together – “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” But if I have to get violently sick with someone in a shoebox hotel room, I’d want it to be the man I’ve loved for 18 years. This trip to New York City wasn’t what we’d hoped it’d be but we’re thankful that we at least got one good day in one of our favorite places as a family. We’re planning another mulligan to New York City. In fact – we learned that once you get Norovirus, you’re immune for 14 weeks so we will likely be going back sooner rather than later. You know – just in case it’s three times the charm for us.


What We Liked Best

There is really no way to know that you’re in the good old days until you’ve actually left them. The art of looking back fondly is a somewhat idiosyncratic effect of human nature. We always seem to have a more idealized take on our experiences when we’re looking at them through the rearview mirror. While we have certainly preferred some locations over others, when I think about all the places that we have lived together over the years I’m able to affectionally recall good times and assemble a highlight reel that features what we liked best about each area.

This is my highlight reel.

Clemson, South Carolina Whenever we roll into a new duty station, neighbors have little trouble determining where we went to college. Go Tigers! It has become a running joke among some of our friends, “Hey – did you guys know that we went to Clemson?” because we never shy from talking about our beloved alma mater. Because we got married during winter break my senior year (thanks Army!), we count Clemson as the first place we lived together, even though we didn’t actually live together our first six months of marriage (again, thanks Army!).


Tillman Hall is considered the building that is synonymous with Clemson University. The dorm that we lived in when we met, Clemson House (RIP), overlooked Tillman Hall and Bowman Field. We would cut across the open grass as we walked to class and spent many afternoons playing catch or frisbee in front of Military Heritage Plaza, which happens to be where Clay received his first salute as an officer. We also enjoyed hiking at Table Rock, walking around downtown Greenville, and

Fort Huachuca, Arizona Clay proposed shortly after he commissioned. We were engaged about a week before he left for OBC (now referred to as Basic Officer Leaders Course) at Fort Huachuca. I did not accompany him to OBC because I had a great summer job in my hometown and it made better financial sense for Clay to live in the officer barracks since I’d be returning to Clemson for my senior year of college well before he graduated. I visited a few times and thoroughly enjoyed the area surrounded Fort Huachuca. We ate at the Mesquite Tree (sadly now closed), visited Bisbee (best coffee ever), and hiked in the Coronado National Forest. And of course – you can’t visit Fort Huachuca without visiting Tombstone – we took the kids there during our epic southwest road trip a couple of years ago – I’ll be your huckleberry indeed.


Fort Drum, New York The most obvious place for the Army to send Clay after spending months in the Arizona desert was of course snowy Fort Drum, New York – home of the 10th Mountain Division. We got married and after I graduated, I joined him up at the Canadian border. We spent three and a half years in the north country and ended up loving almost everything the area has to offer. We lived in Sackets Harbor, which remains the favorite place we’ve ever lived to this day.

We would walk to the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company for drinks, eat brunch at Tin Pan Galley, and catch a show at the (now defunct) comedy club. We kayaked on Lake Ontario, walked around the historic battlefield, and skied at Dry Hill. Yes – the winters were cold and white but the summers were some of the best we’ve ever experienced.

Raleigh, North Carolina After Clay ETSed from the Army and joined the National Guard (oh yes – Clay got out of the Army back in 2008…boy is that a story!), we ended up in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. We bought our first home, Clay ended up going back to being a full-time soldier, and we welcomed our first child into the world. While we have no plans to ever choose to live in that part of the country again, there were things that we really liked – like the Raleigh Flea Market at the state fair grounds and the Raleigh Farmers Market.


Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Say what you will about Lawton but the Wichita Wildlife Refuge is up there as one of the coolest places we’ve ever lived near. Whenever we wanted, we could get up close and personal with buffalo and long-horned steer which was pretty amazing.


Fort Leavenworth, Kansas We went to Fort Leavenworth knowing that we’d probably enjoy our year there but we were blown away by how much we loved Kansas City. It really has it all – music, food, sports, museums, and some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.

We loved Union Station, the National WW1 Museum, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. If Kansas City were closer to mountains or water, we’d consider moving there in a heartbeat after this Army ride is over. That being said, we certainly wouldn’t complain if the Army sent us to Fort Leavenworth again due to the proximity to Kansas City and the fact that it really is a lovely and beautiful post.

San Antonio, Texas If I had to sum up the year that my family spent in San Antonio, Texas in one sentence, it’d be: We didn’t love living there but if you haven’t been there, you should totally go visit! Most are surprised by our confession because San Antonio has such a great reputation – it’s a city certainly not lacking in culture and attitude.

We loved going to the Tejas Rodeo in Bulverde on a Saturday night. We’d grab a Shiner Bock and Frito pie and watch the traditional rodeo from the stands for the quintessential Texas experience. We also enjoyed Guadalupe River State Park and of course all of the food!

Washington DC There is our second time around being stationed near our nation’s capital. Because we’ve lived here the longest out of any other place (almost three years the last go-around and we’re currently on year two this time around), it feels the most like home by default. Of course we love spending time in the city, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian. But we love the surrounding area as well.

One of our favorite things to do as a family in this area is hike at Great Falls Park, which is where Potomac River “builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge.” There are multiple trails with varying degrees of difficulty (but none are really all that difficult) with various look-out points along the way. So basically it is perfect for younger kids.

We are slated to leave Washington DC next summer so only time will tell what we will like best at the next place the Army sends us.

Why We Haven’t Gone to Walt Disney World Yet

We’re currently in the brainstorming phase of planning our summer family vacation – it’s always a bit of a dance to figure out a location that works within our budget and peaks our interest. We have at least one weekend trip planned each month leading up to our ‘big’ vacation plus our Spring Break trip so we’re not working with unlimited funds. We were able to go to England and France last year – we’re hopeful we can swing something just as amazing this year but only if the good deal fairy sprinkles some dust in our direction. I’m not sure about you guys but whenever we engage in conversations with other parents about summer travel, it is always inevitable that Walt Disney World comes up at some point.

A trip to Disney World feels like both the ultimate parenting benchmark and the pinnacle family vacation. While we’ve spent three days at Disneyland a couple of years ago (and loved it), we have yet to jump into Disney World pool for a variety of reasons. We have many friends who have had truly wonderful vacations to the most magical place on earth (to be fair – we also have friends who sum up their Disney World experience with an eh). There has to be a valid reason why 52 million people visit interior Florida…

…so why haven’t we gone yet?

It’s expensive! With a simple Google search, you can find a plethora of information about planning a Disney World vacation with various budgets. broke down various Disney World vacations that rang in between $3500 and $10,000. As a family, we love to travel. Our children have seen over two-thirds of the United States and have stamped passports. But we do not have an unlimited vacation fund – we have IRAs, 529s, real estate investments, youth sports, and extra-curricular activities that all need money in their respective pots before cash is even placed into our vacation fund. Simply put – if we spent a lot of money on a Disney World vacation, we wouldn’t have the funds to travel anywhere else for the year.

For the record – we priced a trip to Disney World last year and with what we were quoted (including military discount) for 5 days at Disney World was higher than what we ended up spending on our 8-day trip to Europe – including airfare.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Disney is pricing out the middle class. For some families, Disney World is an annual trip. For others, it is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that will be referenced for years. There are no shortage of articles and opinions about how Yes – I know there are tips and tricks to bring the cost of a Disney World vacation into a more reasonable range but that brings me to my next point…

The planning process is overwhelming! It’s impossible to ask a question in a Facebook group about Disney World without a handful of people offering their services as a Disney planner. Going to Disney World isn’t as simple as buying tickets and securing a hotel. There are FastPasses that need to be booked, dining reservations to be made, and I’m pretty sure a blood oath is required at some point. As someone who hasn’t experience Disney World since childhood – the process of planning a trip there in the 21st century is overwhelming. When we travel, we love to see where the day takes us based on recommendations of locals and people we meet along the way. A Disney World vacation is the complete opposite of how we travel so spending hours planning our days ahead of time feels quite foreign. Not wrong per se, but certainly different.

It’s in Orlando. There are few places I dislike more in the world than interior Florida – especially during the summer. I’m sure that we will go to Disney World at some point but I guarantee that it won’t be during June, July, or August. The fact that it is in Orlando is a major buzzkill for us. For that reason, planning another trip to Disneyland in California is much more appealing than dropping $5000 in a place with 99% humidity and no ocean. Sorry Orlando lovers – it just isn’t for us.

The crowds. Disney World is family-friendly, magical, clean, escape from the regular world so I can’t really begrudge people for wanting to go there. While there are peak and off-peak times to visit – there will always be crowds. One thing that Disney does great is make waiting in line as enjoyable as possible so while waiting 60+ minutes for a ride isn’t preferable, it is at least more enjoyable at Disney theme parks than other ones. But it is still crowded.

There are other places we want to go more. The cost combined with the fact that there are simple other places we’ve wanted to go more in the world are the two main reasons why we haven’t gone to Disney World yet. We feel that our trip to Disneyland ‘checked the box’ so-to-speak for our children so we don’t really feel the pressure to take them to Disney World anytime soon. We may not know where we are going this summer but it definitely won’t be Disney World. We haven’t ruled it out in the future but it just isn’t for us right now.

Disneyland Splash Mountain

Have you gone to Disney World yet? Do you find it to be the best place on earth or completely overrated or somewhere in between?

A Recap of Our Christmas Travel

Another year. Another holiday tour of the south. 7 days. 1,369 miles. 21 hours on the road. 4 states. 3 houses. 2 extended families. And one packed-to-the-brim car. We woke up on Christmas morning in our own home the previous two years so when we discussed holiday plans in the fall, the idea of coordinating multiple schedules and enduring holiday travel headaches didn’t seem too daunting. However, now that we’re on the other side of this adventure, I’m not going to lie – it was exhausting. We did manage to have some fun along the way though.

On our way to Charlotte, we stopped for lunch at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. Clay and I both enjoyed craft beers and the kids had fresh-squeezed lemonade on tap. We played Clue and ate a pork carnitas taco (me), a Carolina hot dog (Clay), and the ‘picky eater’ hot dogs (kids). Fullsteam’s mission is to “craft distinctly Southern beer that celebrates the farm and food traditions of the American South.” We enjoyed the rustic and industrial vibe and appreciated the knowledgeable bartender on the various beers offered.

We spent a couple of days in Charlotte with Clay’s sister and her family. While there, we ate at Pinky’s Westside Grill. Their homemade potato chips may just be the best thing I ate this trip – they were delicious! The burgers were really good too.

While at my parents in Gainesville, Georgia, we caravanned up the mountains. We hiked around Anna Ruby Falls and Unicoi State Park. Afterwards we walked around Helen – a once thriving-logging town that decided to transform into a Bavarian alpine town in the late 1960s. We drank hefeweizen and bock and ate bratwursts and jagerschnitzel. The kids particularly loved the Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.

After saying goodbye to my family, we stopped at our alma mater, Clemson University, before making our way to North Carolina coast. We walked around the empty campus and pointed out special little spots to our kids. We tried to take them into our favorite building on campus but soon realized that it was sealed for asbestos abatement. After picking up more Clemson gear at various shops downtown, we attempted to eat lunch at one of our preferred bars but they were all closed for the winter break – womp, womp.

We celebrated a second Christmas with Clay’s family in coastal North Carolina. Before the celebration, we took Clay’s parents up on their offer to watch the children while we went into downtown Wilmington for the afternoon. We went to Front Street Brewery with Clay’s sister and our brother-in-law and went down to the river in the fog and rain.

The following day, we put on our best Clemson gear and went over to Ocean Isle Beach to watch the Cotton Bowl. But first, we walked the beach. We were a sea of orange (six graduates in one family!) and many people stopped us to wish us luck on our game (as if we had anything to do with the outcome – ha!).

We left the next day to drive back home. We stopped in Richmond for a late lunch at Beauvine Burger Concept. It was as hipster and delicious we thought it’d be – definitely worth checking out if you every find yourself in the river city.

We’re back home now. I am writing this post on our couch while wrapped in my favorite blanket. It will be just the four of us on this rainy New Years Eve with no plans other than to stay up until midnight. While our trip was a lot of fun, it wasn’t particularly relaxing so we are going to spend the next few days reflecting on the past year and gearing up for what 2019 has in store for us. To everyone who has taken time out of their day to read this blog – thank you. And to everyone who left a comment on Facebook, Instagram, or via email – thank you, thank you, thank you.

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, 
and never thought upon; 
The flames of Love extinguished, 
and fully past and gone: 
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, 
that loving Breast of thine; 
That thou canst never once reflect 
On old long syne.