Letter #661: Chicago Spontaneity


Dear spontaneity,

Deciding to go on a “spring break’ trip 48 hours before departure is the epitome of you.

My life is typically very planned. I thrive with consistency and discipline.

But everyone needs you in their life. Everyone.

I don’t care how disciplined you are, we all need to have some unplanned fun. Everyone.

That’s why 48 hours before departure, my friends and I decided to go to Chicago! Somehow we always seem to land on our feet, find great deals and have a blast in the process. Our Chigaco adventure was no different.

Roadtrip to Quincy, IL…Home of THE Brooke Ledawn! Road my first train from there to Chicago! Fun couple of days with Brooke and Laine!
Happy St. Party’s Day from the “green” Chicago River!


My favorite picture from the trip…thanks Asian tourists for capturing this!
Oh hey Chitown!!! Kicking on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower!
The Gardens at the Navy Pier…finally a picture without coats! And I had real Chicago pizza today!!
Navy Pier, Chicago skyline and friends that don’t miss a beat!

Here’s to making mems,

Lover of adventure

Where’s the most spontaneous place you’ve traveled?!

Letter #474: Charleston Via Pictures!

Dear vacation,

You were perfect. I can’t sing Charleston’s praises enough, but I’d rather reminisce via pictures and maybe let you guys see into how great it really is!

After three hours of sleep, the journey begins...
We arrived on Mardi Gras, thus masks were required!!!
Harbor tour!!! Perfect way to see the city and area. Also, I fully embraced the opportunity to rock the nautical look. It's VACA!!!
Fort Sumter...where the firsts shots of the Civil War were fired.
Riding bikes on Sullivan's Island and the beach...extremely windy but definite highlight!
One of the many fine dining stops during our stay! Poogan's Porch: January & February, M-T, roll it back to 1970 prices...HOLLA!
The beginnings or our carriage ride through one of the most historic cities I've ever been too!
The carriage...imagine the sound of horseshoes against old cobblestone roads as you pass homes built in the 1700s that are still kept up and lived in. Gorgeous.
The Church Street Inn...perfect location in the quaint of downtown Charleston.
Middleton Place Plantation. Maybe the most gorgeous expanse I've ever seen.
Plantation perusing...
The food was to die for...didn't dine at a bad place. Here's a list of our destinations: Amen Street, Mad River Bar & Grill (was more of a bar than a restaurant...not my favorite, go elsewhere to eat), Market Street Deli, SNOB, Magnolia dessert, Poe's Tavern (Sullivan's Island, great fish tacos), Poogan's Porch ($9.99 steak and the best rolls ever...roll it back!), Toast (brunch), Bakehouse dessert, Magnolia (best shrimp and grits), Middleton Place (the plantation) Restaurant (great deal for a 3 course meal), High Cotton, Magnolia dessert (clearly our favorite...peanut butter, chocolate chip bread pudding. Enough said!)...I'd recommend any of these places, but just know these places and Branson don't charge the same amount for food, but it's vacation!!!

You were so much fun and Charleston was the perfect location. I’d recommend it for any girls’ or couple trip! Readers, if you ever decide to go, let me know. I’ll give you tips and tricks I learned while there. I love to travel and would have fun no matter where I visited, but you were perfect.

Until next time,

Embracer of Charleston’s memories


Letter #466: Vacation can be stressful…

Dear vacation,

Next week. I’m going on you next week!!!! Two of my best friends and I are headed to Charleston, SC. We have heard nothing but raving reviews about the food, King Street and endless neat sites to see.  Oh, I’m just so excited!

While you are filled with anticipation, did you know you create quite a bit of havoc and stress as well?! As a kid I never understood how this was possible. Hello, we’re going to explore and have fun…what’s so stressful about that?! Mom, Dad, I get it now. Leaving for you entails so much more than just preparing for you. The preparation for you takes time too…packing (I loathe this step), itinerary, phone calls to book things, all appropriate paperwork and times for flights, etc.

I never realized how much other forethought occurs. Home life: time out groceries perfectly so things don’t expire and go to waste. Leave the APT orderly and clean for roommate and so it’s ready to come home to upon return. Do all laundry so every option is available to pack and so you have clean clothes when you get home. I’m not a home or pet owner so my list is short!

Work life: get everything done for the current work week I’m in. Work ahead so things for the week I’m on you are completed. Set myself up for success on my return so I’m not drowning. This is the component that never once crossed my mind as a kid…except when I had my lawn mowing business. Sometimes I had to mow seven yards in one day, leave for a few days and mow seven again upon my return!!!! Yes, I had my own lawn-mowing business! This is a phenomenal way to develop work ethic and make good money!

Then you add in the fact that I’m actually paying for you rather than Mama and Papa Roth. Worth it…absolutely. However, it was way less complicated when my only responsibility was to throw some clothes in a bag (mom double checked it!), have a good attitude about all the things already planned for us to do, try to fight with my sisters as little as possible, get in the backseat of the minivan and sing at the top of my lungs!

All this being said, I’m sure excited about you…actually ecstatic, but you do add a whole new component to the week before and after you. May my forethought and focus be on point so I can enjoy you thoroughly while flawlessly missing work for a week.

Any Charleston suggestions are welcome and appreciated,

Vacationer at heart

Letter #170: Spring Break for Life

Dear spring break,

Well, I may be out of school, but I’m not quite ready to give you up. No, I’m not a teacher, so I don’t technically get you anymore, but I loved getting to take my vacation days during you.

Based on my last six posts, I’m pretty sure it was obvious we had a great trip to San Diego! I’d recommend anybody to vacation there. Our group was pretty indicative that it’s a place with great opportunity for all ages. We had little kids, singles, young marrieds, old marrieds/grandparents, and I’d venture to say everyone had fun! Lots to do, beautiful landscape and perfect weather. Before I knew what I’d be doing this year I joked that I’d just move to San Diego, get a job and make ends meet. Well, the little bit I saw this week, I don’t think this would’ve been a bad idea.

So, you’ve come to an end. Vacation has ceased, and we’re all back in Oklahoma. I decided to stay for the weekend to get a physical before camp this summer, do laundry (Mama Roth did it for me for my birthday…best present ever along with having steak for lunch!) and relax for a couple days. While I missed a ton of my friends that utilized you to visit Shady B, it turned out to be a blessing I was here.

The Rother girls were two for two in two days for ER visits with me not being one of the two…knock on wood, let’s keep it that way! As I mentioned in Day 2 of San Diego, we made a pitstop at an urgent care in Cali for a rash/infection on Dana’s legs. Well, antibiotics failed and the rash continued to get worse. She ended up in the ER Wednesday night with doctors suspecting staph. All blood work came back clear and her body hasn’t responded to antibiotics. She doesn’t have staph, but doctors are baffled. She’s been taken off all antibiotics, and they’re letting it run its course. But, the story just gets better!

Jamie’s family flew in Thursday night. That afternoon she began having stomach pain but wrote it off as severe gas bubbles…flying with two little ones and tons of luggage, I probably would’ve written it off too. At 4:30 a.m. severe pain led to an ER visit with tests resulting in an emergency appendectomy. I stepped in as aunt/nanny, and Kaedyn, Paxton and I had a grand time. Surgery went well, and Jamie came home this morning on crazy pain meds. I asked her if this or a C-section was more painful: she said it sucked she didn’t have baby to show for it. She’s doing well, and Chad’s taking up the slack around the house.

Kaedyn and Paxton brought wild flowers in a Gatorade bottle!

All that being said, I’m a big fan of you, but my goodness, you threw some curveballs this year. Towed car, jankity appendix, undetectable rash, hilarious conversations and family dynamics. I’ve had some great ones of you in my days, but this one is well worth adding to the list. Thankful everyone made it back in one piece in the midst of all the chaos.

Looking forward to many more great years of you,

Hopefully a spring breaker for life

Letter #169: San Diego Day 6

Dear Day 6,

You are our last day in San Diego. As much as we’ve loved this vacation, it’s time for it to come to an end. I need a couple days to rest!

Sea World was our adventure for the day, and my expectations were far exceeded by this place! For whatever reason, ocean life is magical. This park was the smallest of the three and for this I was thankful! We were able to do much less walking but still see and do a ton.

My favorite part was by far the shows. Shamu, the killer whale show, was good, but I was astonished by how much less involved it was after the trainer was killed in Florida a year ago. The trainers used to ride in the whale’s mouth and on his fin, but the trainers never even got in the water or touched the whales anywhere near their mouths. I guess death really causes change. The show was still great. A few of us chose to chance sitting in the splash zone…knew I bought that rain jacket for a reason! However, we defeated Shamu as he never got us wet! Great show, but all I could hear the whole time was the Free Willy song!

We also watched a sea lion show as well as Blue Horizons. This was my favorite! Lots of dolphins, birds, two pilot whales and probably 20+ acrobats and animal trainers. I think I need to move to San Diego, meet one of these trainer guys and go on lots of romantic dolphin dates!

There were lots of other great exhibits to view including sharks, all sorts of fish, penguins, sea turtles (those guys are HUGE!) and starfish…based on this picture, they did NOT feel like I expected.

They also had a few rides, a kids’ play area and possibly the most gorgeous flowers I’ve ever seen!

Overall, this was an unforgettable last day of vacation. Although I’m still debating whether I think the animals like being taken care of in captivity or if I feel sorry for them being in confined places, I would highly recommend visiting Sea World San Diego…it and Legoland were my favorites! Mama and Papa Roth and I ended the trip with great seafood at Brigantine, packed up, watched a little American Idol and hit the sack for our 5 a.m. wakeup to beat traffic and catch our flight. Like I said, I need a couple days post vaca to rest!

Thankful for a fun, memorable and blessed family vaca,

San Diego theme park connoisseur

Special thanks to my brother-in-law, Chad, for contributing some of the pictures in San Diego posts.

Letter #168: San Diego Day 5

Dear Day 5,

We’re all home now, but there are a couple days left to highlight in our trip. By this day we were all exhausted, but we geared up for another theme park. This time the San Diego Zoo. One of the best in the nation, and I would agree.

Let’s take a quick commercial break for San Diego. The weather here is unreal. Legitimately, it might be as close to perfection on this earth as possible. It’s considered hot at 80 and cold probably around 50 or so. Mornings and evenings I needed a jacket, and during the day I could be in shorts and a tank top. Swim suit would have been pushing it for me at least during this time of the year. Honestly, Southern California, you may be the best climate I’ve ever visited.

Back to our regular scheduled programming…the Zoo. The climate of the area makes the Zoo the experience that it is. It was never sweltering hot as we were walking around the exhibits, and boy, did we walk. The terrain of the Zoo is no joke. We were up and down hills like crazy and easily walked 5-7 miles before it was all said and done. If you ever visit, I would recommend going on the bus tour first, then walking to see the exhibits you want to see more of from there. Easiest and most informative way to see the Zoo!

The gorillas, elephants, hippos and lions were my favorite by far, but all the exhibits were highly impressive. The landscaping was just as beautiful and eye-catching as the animals. Here are several pictures capturing the experience.

Of course his favorite exhibit is my least favorite!

This looks like me when a shower head is too low!
The rhinos looked fake. They're not; I just kept waiting for Ace Ventura to emerge!

We went to dinner at BJ’s afterward and got to watch OSU win the opening round of the NIT. It may be the NIT, but I’ll always be a loyal fan! My family surprised me with my first birthday celebration…pazookie!!!! Of course Paxton needed in on the action which meant spit everywhere!

Another fun day in the San Diego area, but it’s evident our vacation is quickly coming to an end. Everyone is getting super tired. Last day tomorrow where we’ll get to hang with Shamu!

Loving the adventures of family vaca,

Exhausted traveler

Letter #167: San Diego Day 4

Dear Day 4,

It’s currently a toss up what my favorite day of the trip is, but you are definitely in the running. I’ve mentioned before that I was WAY into LEGOS as a kid, and I may have been more excited about visiting Legoland than both my nephews combined!

Running to the gate to begin our adventure through Legoland!

They had play areas for the kids while waiting in line...Genius!
I promise we took kids! The adult crew at Legoland waiting for The Lost Kingdom...the boys wouldn't be in it!

Miniland was hands down my absolute favorite part of the park. Literally, millions upon millions of Legos built various cities from the U.S. The details were remarkable. I easily spent more than an hour admiring the details here.

Hollywood...i.e. Legowood
Washington D.C.
Southern California

I was really hoping for a Branson scene…I guess I’ll have to submit a request! Legoland was definitely geared for kids, but it was quite the experience for adults as well. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever even been slightly interested in LEGOS. I visited a factory demonstrating how LEGOS are made and learned some interesting facts. About 10 billion LEGO bricks are produced a year. That’s 2.5 million an hour! Also, an estimated 400 million children and adults all over the world have played with LEGOS with an estimated 5 billion hours played a year! No wonder this place was SO cool!

Overall, you were a great day. As we were ending our day, I went out to the front gates and my friend, Gwen from the Institute, came to say hi! Fun to have friends all over the world!

We made a quick stop by the Escondido mall to make a run in H&M (cheaper, trendy and super cute clothes store NOT in the Midwest!)…LOVE that place! Picked up a few pieces but my frugality got the best of me again!

Thankful for another fun day in San Diego,

23 and still a lover of LEGOS

Letter #166: San Diego Day 3

Dear Day 3,

Well, thankfully we were able to mostly get disaster out from under our belts, and you went pretty smoothly. We heard La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya, get that right or the locals will laugh at you!) had neat shopping and restaurants, so we headed to that area. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

Seals were everywhere! Real, live, in the middle of their own environment seals. Who needs Sea World when we have La Jolla?! It was awesome to watch them do their thing without them being in a cage. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me!

We then walked around the cute beach shops for a while…out of my price range! Lunch was a blackened fish sandwich from George’s on the Cove with this oceanside view. Needless to say, unbelievable!

Next up, Pacific Beach to play for a bit. My nephews LOVE the ocean, so this was way fun for them. The beach was pretty, but it was hilarious to enter a more “college spring break’ area. The farther I explored away from the pier, the crazier the environment…we kept the boys close to the pier! Of course they ended up buried in sand and in the water again, but Jamie had learned her lesson. Extra clothes and towels were packed, and they used the public beach showers…you can tell by his face it was pretty cold!

Outlet malls were next on the list. My frugality led me to purchase one $5 sweater, but there were definitely some neat stores and a really great ice cream parlor! My sisters and bro-in-laws got some great deals! The evening ended at Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company. My parents took the boys back to the hotel to swim, so dinner was calm. This was a neat atmosphere. Outdoor seating with heaters and fire. Walking trails and ponds. Everything was very natural, and I decided this would be an awesome place for a rehearsal dinner. The conversation was hilarious at my end of the table (which sister’s not like the others…?!) with quotes like, “I learned quickly they (my family) share everything, especially food, and I better learn to be ok with it.” “Chad doesn’t know about rashes (in reference to the infection on my sister’s leg) on legs, but if it were on your Woo Hoo then he’d be your guy (he’s an OBGYN).” Super fun to have big kid conversation with the siblings!

Another great day in good “ole San Diego. So many more adventures coming soon…next on the list: Legoland!

Which sister’s not like the other?!

The Misfit Sister 🙂

Letter #165: San Diego Day 2

Dear Day 2,

You did not disappoint. In the words of my sister, this day turned into the “vacation day from hell!’ It wasn’t quite that bad, but there were definitely some major moments of frustration. The day began with a stop at this really neat, local breakfast joint…not sure if you’ve ever heard of Subway or not?! For the record, their breakfast is awesome!

We then headed out to Mount Cabrillo and Point Loma Lighthouse. Absolutely gorgeous minus a bit of overcast, but still no room for complaint. We could see the whole city from this point and the climb to these locations was beautiful. On the drive to these locations, we passed huge military cemeteries oddly resembling Arlington National Cemetery in D.C. It was strikingly eye-catching, but the neatest thing is that it looked over the sea. Seaside real estate is pricy, so that fact these soldiers are honored in this location is a big deal.

Next on the list, Coronado, the island we have to take this bridge to arrive. Interesting fact: this bridge was designed to be straight over and would have been 1.8 miles long. They figured out if a bridge was longer than 2 miles going into a military base then it received federal funding. Obviously it received funding. Here, we visited the famous Hotel del Coronado where multiple movies have been filmed as well as did lunch at Miguel’s where they’re famous for their shrimp burritos, and I now understand why! We were able to eat with my Californian cousins and were all thankful to see them!

Next stop, my nephews first time at the beach! As you can tell my their outfits, it was pretty cold. After getting more and more brave, they both ended up completely in the water fully clothed. They could have done nothing this whole trip but go to the beach.

This is where things turned for the worse. One of the rental cars wouldn’t start. The boys didn’t have extra clothes. Opinions of handling all these situations clashed a bit. Dana has had an unknown rash/skin infection for a few days now, and it has begun to spread. Literally, everything at this point has gone awry, and of course, I’m laughing the entire time!

Car gets towed and new one delivered. Boys got new sets of clothes at Wal-Mart. A quick stop at an urgent care results in stronger antibiotics. We’re back in business. We made a visit to Old Town that evening…more like Old Mexico, grabbed some In-N-Out Burger (this will be highlighted later!) and hit the sack.

Hilarious and fun day! Just call this the re-make of the Griswald Family Vacations.

May many more adventure ensue,

Lover of San Diego



Letter #164: San Diego Day 1

Dear family vacation,

I knew you were going to be a riot, but I definitely didn’t expect you to be as chaotic and hilarious as this. Here’s our line-up…me, Papa and Mama Roth, nephews, both sisters and brother-in-laws as well as both sets of their in-laws. Yes, the 13 of us touring San Diego in three rental cars…you do the math.

You have been nothing short of what I imagined. My not so detail-oriented sister created an itinerary (if you could call it that!) including only theme parks a couple months ago. Thankfully, my other sister and bro-in-law are planners and made the most detailed itinerary I’ve ever seen including eating locations, historical sites, shopping and theme parks…honestly, I’d travel on their itinerary anywhere, any day of the year.

Literally the first site we saw was a good “ole Culligan truck. Dad, you can move to Cali!!

Day one was a day of firsts. First time to Cali. First time to eat fish tacos (pretty good). First time to travel with this much family. We quickly headed to the Harbor and visited the USS Midway. This is an old Naval battleship you can tour. Pretty neat and all the boys really loved it!

Pretending to give a speech behind the podium on the flight deck

Next, a cruise…if only it were another one with my Institute friends! We went on an hour cruise through the Harbor and saw the whole Naval base. Most of the ships were out since we’re still at war and more will likely be deployed to aid Japan. We also saw the 5th largest hospital in the U.S. It’s a ship.

We ended our long day of traveling with a trip to Little Italy and dinner at Fillippi’s. Unbelievable Italian food.

Next stop: Extraordinary Desserts. Holy cow, this place was insane. I ordered the Dulce de Leche cake, and it’s been on the Food Network show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate…it did not disappoint. This place would break me in a heartbeat, but I’m glad to have experienced high class Cali at least once!

After waking up at 4 am to fly out, it was time to call it a day. My pull out couch of a bed was calling my name…oh, the benefits of being the only single person in the family! This is going to be quite the trip to say the least, and I’m excited for the stories you will continue to provide.

Kaedyn fell asleep at the dinner table without eating and sitting up!

I thought you were supposed to be relaxing,

Exhausted vacationer