Bartos family, Berries, Married Life, National Park Project, travel

virgin islands national park

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in March with a spectacular trip to the Virgin Islands national park on St. John. Admittedly it wasn’t the most romantic trip, since we were covered in children the entire time, but since I am nursing Rachel and needed to keep her with me, we decided to make it a family affair.

After booking six flights (plus one lap baby), a VRBO cottage, and the very last minivan left on St. Thomas, the next challenge was getting the whole family tested for covid. The Virgin Islands run all visitors through a strict travel portal which requires a negative covid test. Out of an abundance of caution we decided to skip the free testing option and schedule appointments with our family healthcare provider, which led to unpleasant nasal swabs, consolatory fruit smoothies, a $125 bill, and negative results across the board.

48 hours before our American Airlines flight departed, all five children came down with a cold. We spent a sad Purim evening sniffling through the Megillah reading and praying for a miracle. Face masks + runny noses sounded like a recipe for disaster. Altitude changes + sinus congestion sounded even worse.

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Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

berry adventure #15: florida national parks

Date: December 22-24
Difficulty: 10 (out of 10)

What is the most adventurous thing we could do with our 2-month old, we said to ourselves. Well, let’s do a whirlwind 8-day trip that will take us 70 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, deep into the heart of the Everglades, and across Biscayne Bay, involving 40 hours of driving, three national park tours, and two boat cruises. The trip of a lifetime, my husband said.

Surprisingly, it all worked out. Rachel was pleased with new squishy car toys, dipping her toes in the ocean, and lots of snuggles from her grandparents. She does not like 12 hour drives, but then, who does?

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Baby, Berries, Thoughts

rachel marie bartos


My fifth labor, which may have set a record for the world’s slowest labor, began at some point during the first week of October. My “due date” of September 24 had come and gone, as expected but not intended. “This labor is going to be so quick and easy,” my in-laws said. It wasn’t. “It’s always nice to have one baby that comes on their due date,” my mom told me. This one didn’t. “She’ll be born right at 40 weeks,” my naturopathic chiropractor predicted. She wasn’t. I thought the labor would be similar to Eva’s. Nope.

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Baby, Berries, Planning, Thoughts

third trimester update: berry #5

OVERALL: what started as smooth sailing became a wild ride by the end of this trimester. As covid-19 restrictions started loosening over the summer, we jumped at the chance to travel more before the postpartum slowdown. In the beginning of July (the start of my third trimester), I celebrated my birthday with a 17m bike ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail, and later that month, we daytripped down to Congaree National Park in Columbia SC. August took us north to Shenandoah National Park and west to the Bartos reunion in Fairfield Glade TN. In September, we joined my family at Holden Beach NC for a few days. By the time we got back from the beach, I was ready to stay home for the next six months or so! I like traveling but I started to feel like I didn’t have enough time at home to get ready for the baby. In between trips I got our birth supplies together, started acupuncture to turn our breech baby head down (it only took 1 session!), made a bunch of freezer meals with my sisters, and sorted through all of our baby girl clothes (what’s left of them, after the wear & tear from three previous girls).

Around 35 weeks I started having almost constant cramping and pressure, from how low baby berry was (that’s a good thing, but still uncomfortable). We had 2 pretty big scares with a round of intense contractions, one at Mammoth Cave National Park in KY (literally wandering in a giant cave wondering if we would have the baby in there), and the other at Holden Beach (thinking I was going to give birth in a Homeway rental house)! Both times everything ended up being fine, but we decided “wildberry” is a pretty accurate nickname for this little one who keeps proving to us that number 5 can still be surprising! Continue reading “third trimester update: berry #5”

Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

shenandoah national park: berry adventure #9

Date: August 9-11, 2020
Difficulty: 5 (out of 10)

So there we were, hiking around the Virginia mountains with our four children – and the fifth one at 33 weeks gestation. I was supposed to be relaxing at the Grove Park Spa, lounging around in a fluffy robe or giggling in the hot tub with my mom & sisters! (how did this happen…??)

When we pushed the girls’ getaway until next year, hoping to avoid pesky mask restrictions, it freed up our August calendar a bit, and of course, our next thought was “can we fit in a national park trip?!” One of the closer parks to Charlotte is Shenandoah, about 5 hours north of here in western VA. We quickly booked two nights at a homeaway rental in Massanutten, just outside the park area, and made plans to explore our third national park. Continue reading “shenandoah national park: berry adventure #9”

Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

berry adventure #6

Date: May 24-25, 2020
Difficulty: 10 (out of 10)

We camped! We’re campers now. Absurdly proud of ourselves for making through an entire night in the woods with all four (five) children.

As you may remember, we booked a campsite at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few months ago. We’ve been anxiously watching the park updates all month to see if they would reopen in time for our Memorial Day trip. While the trails are open, campsites remain closed and we had to sadly cancel our reservation (we’ll consider the wildly inappropriate $10 cancellation fee a donation to the National Park Service). Continue reading “berry adventure #6”

Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, travel

berry adventure #5

Date: May 9, 2020
Difficulty: 3 (out of 10)

We spent Mother’s Day weekend in Asheville (an adventure in itself!) and while there, explored the recently reopened Ledges Whitewater Park. This park is on a beautiful stretch of the French Broad River, filled with rapids. Sadly, we didn’t see anyone kayaking, probably because the temperature was around 45 degrees. Who’s with me on a new theory called global cooling?

We climbed over giant boulders along the river’s edge, and reached a point called “Sitting Rock” which extends out into the rapids. A passing couple with two small children offered to take our picture here!

This was a fairly simple berry adventure, but it was a fun afternoon and the kids absolutely loved it! If you’re in the Asheville area the Ledges park is definitely worth a visit.


Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures

berry adventure #3

Date: March 29, 2020
Difficulty: 9 (out of 10)

The COVID-19 virus severely impacted our berry adventure plans for March. We had tickets to a Civil War battle reenactment in Bentonsville, as well as tentative plans to visit Congaree National Park in Columbia SC, but both of those were canceled as the country started shutting down. The national parks are currently closed, as well as North Carolina state parks (making the state park challenge even harder for anyone doing it this year).

The big buzzword right now is social distancing, but we didn’t want to give up on our berry adventure for March and we brainstormed an activity that would still be a challenge but also fulfill the requirement of not being around people. We came up with attempting a 10m bike ride on one of our Charlotte greenways. Our previous record was 7m last November, and that was about as far as we could go at the time. Continue reading “berry adventure #3”

Baby, Bartos family, Berries

bartos party of 7

There’s a new berry in town! Well, she’s on her way. We are all so excited to meet our sweet surprise girl, even Eva.

As my grandfather asked me directly, was this planned? The answer is yes and no. After Eva was born, Greg and I agreed we were open to another child. The way I thought about it was that I had room in my heart for another one. To our surprise, the year 2019 came and went, filled with dozens of state park trips but no pregnancy. At the end of the year, it was a good surrender point to give up any ideas or plans we had for our family and wholeheartedly commit our path to the Lord. After the state park challenge and our first international trip in 2019, it was easier for me to picture always having a family of six, leaving the baby phase behind. We entered the new year ready to continue our family travel, moving on to national parks and bigger trips. Two weeks later I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. Surprise!

So here we are, expecting our third fall baby. This one is due almost exactly on Zoe’s original due date at the end of September (Zoe, of course, wasn’t born for another three weeks). I think it’s hilarious that we will have four girls and a boy because my parents have exactly the same mix. What are the odds??

Being pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting so far. I chose to get a very early ultrasound (14 weeks) because the independent ultrasound offices in our area were closing. I ended up driving out to Gastonia right before the NC statewide stay-at-home mandate took effect!

I had my first prenatal checkup last week and everything looks good. I’m praying she continues to grow strong and healthy, for God’s protection over our family, and especially for strength & patience during my fifth pregnancy!


Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures

berry adventure #2

Date: February 9, 2020
Difficulty: 9 (out of 10)

The first weekend in February found us in Highlands, NC on our second mini adventure for the year: to walk behind a waterfall! We researched the different waterfalls within driving distance and came up with several options in the Highlands/Cashiers area.

Highlands is about a half hour past Gorges State Park, one of our favorites from last year’s challenge. Both times we’ve been in this area of southwestern NC it’s been a beautifully bright sunny day, although this visit was colder, around 40 degrees with snow on the ground from the past few days. The drive out there from Charlotte is lovely but I frequently get carsick on mountain roads and this time was one of the worst. Next time we go to the mountains I’m definitely traveling with air sickness bags. =/ Continue reading “berry adventure #2”