National Mantoan Winter Vacation

I know I said I’d take December off blogging but, OUR FAMILY WAS AWARDED AN ALL EXPENSE PAID TRIP TO FLORIDA, so, I decided to write a little update. But first, here’s our five minutes of fame. (For the record, Fulton never wants to be on the news again.)

The details (for those who don’t want the whole back story.) Earlier this year, I submitted our story to Baking Memories 4 Kids, an organization that sends seriously or terminally ill children on vacations to Florida. In May, Frank Squeo the founder called to say we were one of 45 families selected to take a trip. But we had to keep it a secret as Frank would come out personally at the end of the year to surprise our kids with the news. On Thursday, December 7, Fulton and Teddy thought they got to stay home from school for a medical appointment, when in reality Frank, and our local EMT, police and fire departments showed up to surprise everyone with the big announcement. Two local news stations covered the event. We’ll be leaving in February, just when winter is its coldest here. Fulton was totally overwhelmed by all the attention, but he, and all the kids are super excited to go, and I’m glad we can finally all talk about it. When I wrote I wanted to take time off blogging, I knew this announcement was coming, but for some reason, I thought I would just share it after Advent, but I’m still a bit too giddy to wait.


Now the back story. Remember when I spoke at Edel ’15 in Charlston, SC? Well, during my radio interview with Jen at that event, I caught the attention of a certain listener Traci, who also happens to have two boys with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is a devout Catholic. We connected via email shortly afterwards, and have been good friends since then (though we have yet to meet in person). Her boys are close in age, and abilities, to Fulton and Teddy. When I feel like no one else understands my life, Traci is the one woman I can reach out to who knows exactly what I’m going through.

In 2016, I was overjoyed when Tracy shared that her family was being sent to Florida through an organization I’d never heard of, Baking Memories 4 Kids. Founded by a cancer survivor, BM4K, sells cookies every year and uses the money to send kids to Florida. The trip includes a week at a special completely handicap accessible resort, Give the Kids the World Village, plus admission to Disney World and all the major attractions you can think of. Traci’s trip wound up getting postponed a couple of times due to illness, but when her family finally got to go, I was amazed at the pictures she started sharing on Facebook. GTKTWV wasn’t just accessible it was completely wheelchair accessible; mini golf, playground, pool, rides- 100% accessible Our family has wanted to do a Florida trip for a while, and Traci encouraged me to apply to BM4K. I filled out the paperwork, and then forgot about it.

I arrived home from a first Holy Communion Party in early May to discover a message from Frank on my phone. My heart sank a bit. I was under the impression that families selected for a trip were notified in June. I assumed the early call meant we hadn’t been chosen. I stepped outside while the kids enjoyed screen time and called Frank. To my surprise, he told me we had been chosen to go to Florida and immediately, I started ugly crying and thanking him profusely.


I immediately texted Traci, my sister, and mom, but I couldn’t tell the kids! I knew the surprise wouldn’t be for months, so I only told a couple of close friends. My fear was parents would tell their kids, who would let it slip to my older kids so Thursday’s announcement was a surprise to a lot of people. And even of those who knew about the trip, I didn’t tell them when the surprise was scheduled, for fear they’d say something or let details slip.

When Thursday finally approached, I was a basket case. I didn’t know if we’d be outside or if anyone would come inside so I tried to tidy the house without being conspicuous. Finally, I showered, did my hair and makeup and asked Tony, “What should I wear???”
“Do you want to look professional, or like a homemaker or what??”
“I want to look hot! But not slutty! I want people to see me on TV and think, man, she looks good for having five kids!”
(Ultimately, we were outside and all my motherly hotness was hidden under my winter coat.)
Finally, an hour before Frank’s arrival, I called the older kids upstairs and told them they had to make themselves presentable because someone important was coming at 11 a.m.
“Did we win a million dollars?? Is Robert Downey Jr. coming???” asked Byron excitedly. While we did tell them that we didn’t win a million dollars, Tony and I didn’t give them any other information except that it was very important they NOT look like homeschoolers in their pajamas. I also put them to work tidying up our front yard and around the house.

Finally, we saw a news van park across the street and we quickly moved the boys outside so we could “load up the van” for their supposed “medical appointment”. I had to go back into the house to “get my bag” so we let them drive around the back yard a bit until we heard a cacophony of sirens. “Wow  guys, let’s go out front and see what all the commotion is!”

Frank jumped out of the first fire truck with a huge Mickey Mouse and finally revealed to our kids the huge secret. You can view the other news segment HERE, it shows the procession of vehicles and more awkward quotes from moi.

On Friday, both boys returned to school where their friends and teachers stopped them constantly to say, “We saw you on the news!”. I picked up several Florida travel guides so everyone can read up on the attractions and share (repeatedly) their preferences.

Excitement is still high, but we’re trying to focus on the usual holiday activities in the mean time. I’m reminding everyone to practice proper hand hygiene because I don’t want a cold or rogue stomach bug postponing this trip. Friends who’ve visited GTKTWV are emailing with advice, and Disney veterans are extending a helping hand as well. Thanks to everyone for celebrating with us! It’s sure to be an incredible time that I will happily share with y’all when the time comes.


If you’re in need of Christmas cookies, or just want to support the wonderful organization that is making this possible for us, please visit the Baking Memories 4 Kids website soon, as cookies are only on sale for a limited time.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Advent break.


  1. I am so excited for you all!! Christmas blessings to your whole family. What a wonderful organization.

  2. How awesome is that! Totally deserving. Love the surprise and the “don’t look like homeschoolers” part. God bless ya!

  3. WOW!!! This is so beautiful!! I actually started crying with joy as I explained it all to my husband, because this is so insanely incredible. What a gift! I am just thrilled for your family!

  4. I’m so excited for you! I’ve visited Disney with a disability, as have some other friends, and one of my friends also went with her father after he was diagnosed with ALS. Every time Disney has been awesome about accommodating me. I also recently went to Universal Orlando and while their system was not quite as smooth as Disney’s, I was able to do everything I wanted. I love visiting Disney because it is the one place I’ve travelled to where I felt like I was able to do everything everyone else did and it was almost entirely accessible.

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