Making memories: The Gronski family’s adventures have them enjoying the sweeter things in life
By Jami McLaughlin
With hashtags #growingupgronski and #icecreamSunday, Meredith Gronski’s Instagram page is full of outdoor and ice cream adventures with the goal of making lifetime memories and enjoying the sweeter things in life as family.
Meredith and her husband, Mark — along with sons Andrew, 15; Lucas, 13; Ben, 11; Samuel, 9; and Joshua, 7 — have been exploring whatever state they live in since the boys were little.
Searching for homemade ice cream has been part of every family outing. And during their travels in North Carolina, the family has discovered more than two dozen ice cream shops. They are as close as Gillis Hill Farm in Fayetteville and Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream in Sanford. Others are a bit farther out, such as Homeland Creamery in Julian, which is southwest of Greensboro, and Two Roosters Ice Cream in Durham.
“It started when the children were little,’’ Meredith Gronski says. “It was easier to get out of the house on weekends than have them stay in or watch TV. We started exploring the corners of the state when we were in Missouri that we found interesting like the world’s largest whatever and finding good hiking spots for day trips.”
Gronski says an afternoon snack in their house is a must, so when the family headed home from their day trips, a search for homemade ice cream became part of their routine.
“Our travel destinations are almost always day trips within a two-hour radius, but we always end with ice cream,’’ she says. “It’s become our thing to do and a snack we all enjoy.”
Day trips to the beach or to state parks are some of their favorite places to go in North Carolina.
“We love Kilwins Chocolates in Wilmington. We are there a lot when we go to the beach,” Gronski says.
Their quest for ice cream has also taken them to Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Angier, which was their favorite during the early part of 2020 when the business offered a drive-thru that served more than 100 homemade flavors. Other destinations include Walker’s Soda Fountain in Mount Airy, Howling Cow Dairy Education Center and Creamery in Raleigh, Kalawi Farm in Eagle Springs, and Candy Edventure in Swansboro.
All these spots are a far cry from Missouri, where Gronski and her husband, Mark, started their family.
The Gronskis met in 2000 when they both worked at the Washington University campus bookstore in St. Louis. They started dating at the end of 2001 and were married on the campus in 2004.
Gronski came to Fayetteville in 2016 when she started the occupational therapy doctoral program at Methodist University, which was the first entry-level OTD program in North Carolina.
“We are very proud of the program,” says Gronski, who is now director and assistant professor of the program.
Her husband is clinical director of behavioral health at Cape Fear Valley Health System.
Their oldest son is a freshman at Massey Hill Classical School. The other four attend Capitol Encore Academy.
The boys have grown up with weekend road trips being a part of their lives.
“My favorite memories of day travels with my family isn’t a specific instance,’’ says Andrew. “My favorite part of our day trips is how much fun my brothers and I had as we had our eyes glued to the ground of a state park’s trail looking for the perfect walking stick (a sword or light saber). I just remember how much fun I had before we went to get ice cream on ice cream Sunday.”
His memories are exactly what his mom hopes for her children.
“It is incredibly important that we build in this weekend family time,’’ Gronski says. “Mark and I both have busy career and community obligations, and the kids have always been in some form of child care or school during the week. We do family dinners, say grace and carve out ‘adventures’ as much as we can outside of our weekday commitments.”
Mark Gronski agrees with the importance of family time and prioritizing their weekends together.
“Meredith and I have busy careers and weeks can be hectic, so we make an effort on weekends to spend time as a family,’’ he says. “I think it brings our family closer together.”
Their travel destinations and hikes are usually within two hours of Fayetteville unless they find somewhere they really want to explore. And finding homemade ice cream spots has been part of the fun.
“I am excited to be making memories with our children and creating traditions that they can pass on to their children when they grow up and start families of their own,” Mark says.
Discovering more about where they live is another priority for the Gronskis, who have found a true community in Fayetteville where their boys can get together with their cousins.
“It has helped us get to know our community and state,” Meredith says. “We really love how Fayetteville blends with the military community. It creates an awesome culture here.”
The Gronski family also loves the small-town feel and frequents downtown to support local businesses, a priority that extends to their travels.
“As we explore our state, certainly we like to frequent different ice cream shops. But traveling allows us to learn more about our state as well as support local businesses,’’ Mark says. “Wherever we go, we always like to try out local places and support the community.”
Their adventures are helping the Gronskis create memories, one scoop at a time.