When you have a large family, a lot of decisions are made for you. You have to know that’s the way it’s going to be or you might get frustrated, I guess. I mean even decent ground beef can be viewed as a luxury some weeks.

“Chicken again?”

“Yup! It’s gonna be great, though!”

Making new dishes to thrill and excite are not a frequent occurrence. It’s chicken. Even a simple taco dinner gets expensive when you need five pounds of meat.

Vacations? Even trickier.

A full van

We went to Disney once with all the kids. We had an unbelievable time. We planned it out for months in advance. Driving down from Maine, we stopped to pick up Brendan in Baltimore at Loyola University. He was a freshman and his spring break timed out perfectly to join us on our adventure. Thank God we had the 15 passenger van.

We arrived in Orlando at Kevin’s brother’s family’s home who graciously offered to let us sprawl all over their house and floors

Tigger(left) and Keira, aged 1

for a night. We rose at the crack-o-dawn and headed to Disney. We even managed to include an early brunch with the Disney

Kathleen, aged 4 with Pooh

characters. Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger, they all came and sat with us. It was unforgettable and expensive.

“Eat up kids! This is your lunch, too!”

“Ok!” They all understood that this was a once-in-our-family’s-lifetime-kind-of-day.

After breakfast, we headed for the monorail to enter the Magic Kingdom. The excitement was reaching previously unknown levels of exhilaration. I thought Katie, aged five, might actually explode. Keegan was still trying to recover from meeting Alice, while Aidan wiped Mary Poppins’ lipstick off his 7-year-old cheek.

The day was off to a perfect start.

We got to the gate and bought our tickets. Holding his breath, Kevin handed over $1,ooo dollars for admission. (we were a family of thirteen with our exchange students that lived with us that year…don’t ask, please)

Yes. $1,000. Just to walk through the gates of the Magic Kingdom.

To be fair, we had prepared for this. We knew what it was going to cost, but the sticker shock for a day at Disney still knocked the wind out of us.

Kevin looked at me. “A thousand dollars and we haven’t even rented the strollers yet!”

Really all we could do at that moment was laugh. It was a once in a lifetime trip and there wasn’t a thing we would change. OK, maybe we’d change the admission prices for a “family” resort, but we knew that wasn’t going to happen.

at our favorite place

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the Magic Kingdom. The memories are with us all, except maybe Keira and Declan…and Katie. But we have

Abby and Kathleen reading by the campfire

photos for them…

For our regular vacations? We camp. And we wait all year for our camping week. We go to the same state park every summer for a week. We disconnect from the world and spend an uninterrupted week enjoying each other’s company. We read. We talk. We play games and hang out at the lake.

Abby and Declan kayaking

We have campfires every morning at breakfast and every evening with s’mores.

As the kids get older, their schedules have them coming and going throughout the week. Some stay for a few days at the beginning, others come in for the end of the week. Everyone tries to make it for a couple nights to rest and unwind and eat Oreos because calories don’t count when you camp. Obviously.

And what does this glorious week cost our family? $21 dollars a day. For all of us. Total.

Plus the cost of a week’s supply of Oreos.

If You Like What You See, Please share: