Waiting Game!

We had one of the best layovers EVER! Jet Blue threw us for a loop early this spring when they called to tell us that one leg of our trip to Alaska had been cancelled. After a whole bunch of work on both ends, we came up with flights that gave us a 47-hour layover in Portland, Oregon. No, we did not stay in the airport. Yuck! Instead we headed for the coast.

Our first stop was the Tillamook Creamery. Our family loves farms, cows, cheese and ice cream so this was a place made just for us! The real visitor center is under construction but the temporary one is so much fun. There were displays (a Kubota tractor that Ryan thought looked too shiny to have ever been driven on a dairy farm) and a cheese tasting! Yummy! We all had different favorites so we had to buy several kinds to take with us….to Alaska! (What family doesn’t take special cheese on a plane to a rental RV just so that Sean can attempt to make us the best grilled cheese ever?)

There is also a café and an ice cream shop that we just had to try. The sacrifices that we have to make to ensure that our kids have a memorable vacation!

Next stop…the adorable beach town of Manzanita, Oregon. We spent the day (and evening) walking along various beaches, accidently swimming in the CHILLY ocean, climbing on rocks and massive driftwood, basically having fun.

The next day found us at Cannon Beach checking out the anemones at Haystack Rock. Back to Portland in the afternoon to catch our evening flight to Anchorage. So much better than waiting in the airport for 47 hours!!


Posted in Alaska, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Traveling = Juggling

TRAVELING with small children is tough.  There are tons of things to bring with you and schedules to juggle while on the road.  The logistics of traveling with teenagers is a lot easier…they can pack and carry their own bags, naps are no longer an issue (except maybe for mom), museums are more interesting, and you can let them do some things on their own.

PLANNING a trip with teenagers is a lot more difficult!  When the kids were little, I was able to research where we were going and chose what I thought would be fun for everyone.  Now I have to try to juggle 5 different opinions about where to go, what to see, what to do and what not to do.  And almost worse is when they have no opinion. 

Alaska day 2 036

At a waterfall near Valdez, Alaska in 2011

I want to fill our days but not overschedule.  I want family time but not so much that we get on each other’s nerves.  I want to save money by cooking our meals (we are renting an rv) but not make it feel like normal meals.  Lots of things to juggle.


Alaska Day 9 057

The kids with some sled dogs at the Iditarod Headquarters

This summer we are heading for Alaska and I want it to be a dream vacation without breaking the bank.  That will take some creativity and cooperation.  Over the next week, I am hoping to sketch out a tentative itinerary and then hand it over for editing!  I do, however, think that Mom should always retain the right of final decision.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And the planning begins


My first task in planning a family vacation is figuring out how we will get where we are going.  This summer we are going to Alaska and since we have limited vacation days, airports will be in our future. 


Mapes Family in Buffalo


When I first started pricing flights they were almost $800 per person.  (We fly out of Buffalo so that my dogs can have their own vacation on my parents’ farm)  An overwhelming price tag when you are flying with 5 people!  I was thrilled when I found a round trip flight for $500…until I noticed that there was a 23-hour layover in Portland, Oregon.  Ugh.  My heart sank.  Who wants to spend 23 hours in an airport, let alone with 3 teenagers?  I thought that it might be a deal-breaker but then an idea hit. We can get a hotel and a rental car for one night and take the kids to see Cannon Beach, Oregon on our way to Alaska. A trip within a trip…and we still save money!


Sometimes it is all a matter of perspective.


As a mom, I want to give my kids all of the experiences that I can.  As a responsible person, I refuse to go broke doing it.  I am learning to take my time and try to think of different ways to fulfill wishes affordably. 


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Making A Right Turn

One of the goals that I have when it comes to vacations is connections.  Making connections with nature, history, community, and each other.  This summer we put a little twist on this idea.  We volunteered a morning of our time while on vacation.  What a great way to get to meet locals, make positive impact all while spending time as a family.

One Saturday we spent 4 hours of our morning directing traffic to TURN RIGHT at rural intersection for a charity bicycle ride.  The Ride for Roswell raised $4.5 million for the hospital where my mom is receiving cancer treatments.  We didn’t know any of the riders but so many of them thanked us for giving our time.  We had fun cheering riders on and just being together…. plus, we got volunteer t-shirts as a souvenir!!



Finding an outlet to give back while you are on vacation is only limited by your imagination and is not as difficult as you might think.  If you are staying at a National Park, check and see if they could use a trail clean-up crew.  If you (or a family member) like to run, Google charity races or events in the area that you will be vacationing and I am pretty sure you will find something…and there are some very unique races out there!  If sporting events aren’t your thing, instead of eating out at a restaurant find a community (fire hall, church or a school group) fundraising dinner and lend your support.

You might be surprised by how much you receive from your few hours of giving back.

Posted in Uncategorized, Western New York | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earning Their Wings

Getting them ready to travel on their own.  Graduating from the house.  Raising future adults.  Growing up.  All of these phrases describe one of the main goals of parenting.  Our family loves to use travel and experiences to open our kids to seeing and learning about new (to them) things.  Summer seems to lend itself for kids to be a little more open to hair-brained ideas.  I am going to propose some learning experiences that will hopefully benefit our kids for a lifetime.

Several years ago a friend planted the seed of this idea…make a list of requirements for our kids to graduate from the house.  High schools and colleges have degree completion plans that let students know exactly what they have to accomplish in order to earn their degree.  Learning skills to function as an adult are just as important but there doesn’t seem to be a structured plan.  Until now that is!!!  Introducing……

“It’s a Jungle Out There” School of Life

Get up and ready (completely) by yourself for one week

Write thank you notes (address it and send it by regular mail!)

Wash dishes

Cook an entire meal

Laundry – wash and fold

Change oil in a car or take it to get an oil change

Pump gas

Check tire pressure/put air in tire

Navigate via paper map

Use a hammer and screwdriver

Make a doctor’s appointment

Sew on a button

Iron a shirt and pants

Tie a tie

Grocery shop on a budget

This is the start of our list.  If my children complete their list prior to high school graduation, they get to choose the vacation for that summer…within reason.  Clare has a great start and has informed us that we will all be enjoying Alaska together next summer!

What would you put on your list or suggest for ours?



Posted in Close to Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birthday Trips

This post is a little different than my usual.  Today would have been my eldest son’s 18th birthday.  Unfortunately, due to severe congenital heart defects, Ian only got to spend 7 birthdays with us here on earth and now he is celebrating in Heaven.

 I made a conscious decision that when my kids were born (an easy decision when you have a sick child) that we weren’t going to give them birthday gifts.  We were going to take birthday trips.  Just weekend getaways but it was family time vs. things.  Grandparents and aunts took care of giving a few little gifts and somehow the kids still ended up having plenty of toys.  The kids never seemed to question why we didn’t load them up with presents because that isn’t something they ever experienced.  Instead they got to experience mini-vacations at Myrtle Beach, Smoky Mountains, Orlando, Washington, DC and other places.  Our big vacations didn’t come until the kids were older and then we incorporated special “excursions” as Christmas gifts.

 In the spring of 2005, Ian and Sean wanted to ride on Thomas the Tank Engine.  We found out that the train was going to be in Medina, NY a couple of days after Ian’s 7th birthday.  It turns out that was Ian’s last birthday.  I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am that we gave Ian the gift of time instead of a toy.  ScannedImage001_001

 Memories are what stand the test of time.  Unlike toys, memories don’t get broken …or cause you to twist an ankle when you step on them in the middle of the playroom.  Shared memories create great family stories.   Don’t miss the opportunity to share life with your family.all my kids

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Family Playlist


“Music has the charms to soothe the savage beast.”  Are we the only family who, while stuck in a vehicle on vacation, sometimes get on each other’s nerves?  Or have arguments start simply because one child is breathing too loud?

Can I suggest that before heading out for family road trips or vacation, that you bring some music with you?  I am not suggesting individual MP3 players or phones.  Nope, use the vehicle’s sound system.  After all, this is a family vacation and it is a time to connect with each other….not a device!  Music enjoyed together becomes a soundtrack for the vacation.  Every time I hear a certain Lady Antebellum song, I am transported back to traveling a dirt road near Glacier National Park with my kids singing along.  Glacier National Park 023

Since our vacations have themes based on location so does the music in the car/van.  My kids create a custom CD (known as a mix tape when I was growing up!) with music chosen just for that vacation.  When we were in Ireland it was Celtic Thunder and some music from our church.  In Montana, it was a great selection of country music.   Radio stations aren’t always available in the remote locations we seem to prefer for vacations and bringing our own CD’s guarantee background noise to help cover that annoying breathing!! 

My daughter has already chosen the first 6 songs for this summer’s soundtrack.  They are all from a Southern Gospel trio called “Not Easily Broken”  The group’s name itself could be a theme for our year….my mom is fighting cancer and with God’s help, she is not easily broken.  I am not sure what else Clare and the boys will add to the summer’s playlist but whatever it is, summer 2016 will be brought back to mind when we hear it in the future.


P.S.  If you have young children, check out Jungle Jam and Friends.  My kids could be in the foulest of moods at the end of a 10 hour car ride and these would immediately quiet everyone.  They are short stories that the kids love and adults will appreciate with fun songs.  www.fancymonkey.com 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment