5 Things I Learned about My Family (and Myself) While on “Vacation”

I should have known the fates were against us when, instead of cruising west on Pennsylvania Turnpike as the fine summer sun christened the morning sky, I sat idling with a whiny two-year old Dylan on my lap in a pediatrician’s office waiting on the dreaded strep test results.

Cindy was at home with Haley and Chase. Cindy and Haley were diagnosed with strep the day before. Chase was a week removed from strep, a week of a amoxicillin and he was bursting with pre-trip excitement and asking Cindy every three seconds, “When are we leaving?”

With a sympathetic smile the young doctor confirms Dylan’s strep. She advises us to take it easy and rest for the next couple of days. I tell her were leaving for a family trip to Hershey Park in a few hours.

Young doctor: “Make sure you pack medicine.”

Me: “Anything else?”

YD: “Good luck?”

During my second trip, in as many days, to everyone’s favorite corner pharmacy Wal-greens I stock up on more Motrin, Air-borne, Purrell, cough drops , NyQuil and pickup Dylan’s prescription.

So three hours after our scheduled departure time– the Amoxicillin Express,  the Streptococcal Caravan packed with suitcases and coolers and runny noses and swollen glands finally infects the westbound gravel of PA Turnpike initiating our first family vacation of the summer.

The town, the park, the Hersey Lodge (where we stayed) are all fantastic facilities. There is a ton of stuff for kids and adults to see and do. I would highly recommend a family trip to Hershey for everyone.  Yet I would not recommend strep throat to anyone.

In reflection, our little family trip was fun. There were a lot of nice moments–like watching the kids make their own candy bars at Hershey’s Chocolate World or seeing them dance with an excitable Kit-Kat bar or when I found a restaurant that served Guinness.

FullSizeRender(10)But I won’t lie– in those 72 hours there was some serious stress. We were at the mercy of a bacterial infection. At times it was like being trapped in one of Dante’s levels of hell–you know the one where you pay hundreds of dollars to aimlessly maze your way through a chocolatey labyrinth of whiny, sick kids and dancing candy bars.

And yet I’ve come to learn that trips like these are great teachers. So here are 5 things I learned about my family (and myself) on our family Hershey trip…

1. My kids clearly don’t care about the starving kids in Africa.

Growing up whenever I refused to eat the last of my green beans some adult would level their eyes at me and explain how there are starving kids in Africa who would murder their mother for my green beans. This “starving African kids ” story guilt me into eating many-a-bean in my youth. Sure my kids are cute and polite to strangers but they are heartless little food monsters. They are constantly hungry yet rarely finish a meal.  So as they nibbled on a $5 Hershey Park hot dog that they begged for, I told them about the starving African kids hoping to guilt feed them. They were unfazed by my narrative, by the starving African kids. And almost in unison announced they were full and done eating as $4.50 of a hotdog lie limp in their cold little hands.

2. My family is a bunch of snorers.

5 people. 1 room.  2 beds. 3 people in one bed with strep throat all breathing in and out their mouths. I might as well have shared room with two gas powered generators and a disgruntled goat. (At less the goat would have finished his hot dog).

3. I like a schedule.

Maybe I’m getting old but I’m not great on vacation. I’ve grown to like a routine. When I’m not in a routine I feel off, a bit cranky ( Maybe I’m the disgruntled goat?) I like my bed and my coffee maker. I like making my own breakfast. I like checking email and watching the 4 o’clock news. I really like my reading and writing time. I don’t necessarily like being at the mercy of a menu, a shuttle bus or a dancing candy bar.

4. The Armstrong’s need to work on patience.

The 8, 6, and 2 year old have miles to go. Apparently so do the 37 and 36 year olds.

“I’m hot and tired and sick and I don’t know what I want but I’m going to scream bloody hell for it.”

5. My wife is the Clark W. Griswold of the family.

Like the patriarch of the Griswold family, Cindy just wants her family to have the greatest family vacation in the history of family vacations. Bless her little heart. After a second sleepless night and a throat festering with strep she pulled her hair back and announced, “We all better get dressed, we all better brush our teeth and we all better have fun today because we are not leaving Hershey until we have fun!! Does everybody understand?” For the first time in two days there was silence.And I could tell by tension in her eyes and the gargle in her voice she meant it

You know — in spite of the strep, the crankiness and lack of sleep. In spite of the anticipation not aligning with reality. We made the best of a tough situation. I guess that’s what being a family is all about.

Be well,



In case you missed it… Checkout last week’s Fast Five… 5 Great Pat Summit Quotes (and a hearty screw you to Alzheimer’s Disease.)

Also checkout my return to the Set Lusting Bruce podcast with Jesse James. Jesse and I discuss how certain Springsteen songs have a seemingly magical ability to capture the pulse and psyche of a geographical region.

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