Getting away with a big family on a budget

By: Theresa Coates Ellis — Smiles, grins and key moments were captured during an invitation to meet up with the bulk of our family for one last bonding time in the summer.

My only son, Christopher, active USAF, couldn’t go far from his home base, so we went to him and his family.

We loaded up the two vehicles with as many bodies, luggage and bikes as possible and drove to him. He and his wife and two young sons were added to the convoy with a borrowed boat with fishing rods in tow. All together, we ended with ten visiting in one house.

We lucked out with a bargain place for all of us. A place on the bay backing up to a bayou with a chunk of green space. Before we arrived, four of our six daughters detected possible reasons for a bargain: alligators, mosquitos (water), deceiving pictures, a bayou is really a swamp, or bad location with nothing to do?

My son was optimistic. We have a borrowed boat, there is water and a place to sleep. Of course, he has been deployed about ten times and has lived in really bad conditions, so he keeps it real for us.

Sticking with a tight budget, we planned a menu and planned to eat out for lunch only one time. Air mattresses, hammocks and a tent were added — just in case.

Upon arrival, we realized it didn’t matter — we were together. We needed the time to regroup, reminisce about the year and strategize for the upcoming year.

Kat starts a job teaching high school biology; Laura Marie begins a school counselor position; Laura Victoria is looking for a larger place to live; Jill begins new college classes; Christine had her first vacation in a long time; George and I had grandson time — fishing and sharing our love of nature; and we all discussed our campaign: Theresa Coates Ellis for City Council to grow Manassas together.

The house had absolutely all the necessities we needed. A great room, a few small bedrooms, a view of the water with a simple dock with a calm bay just deep enough to float our borrowed boat.

We fished — and grilled a big one — crabbed, swam, snorkeled, read, sang and kept up with news and work too.

The strength in family will carry you through tough times. We are a blended family — we all shared some rough times.

Through years of rebuilding, we understand and value of spending time with each other, surrounding ourselves with the positive to enrich relationships to accomplish goals with occasional challenges — making us stronger.