“Look like you’re having fun,” I call out to my kids as I snap picture number 387 on day 8 of our Texas vacation. They are, of course, having a blast escaping the menial daily chores back home in Colorado as they enjoy amusement parks, lake ventures and too much eating out with relatives who remind us that “we don’t know when we’ll see y’all again so make the most of everything now.”

But I’m not just taking pictures of people and places–I’m also getting shots of pennies. There are the pennies in a bag of water that I saw hanging on the back patio of a friend’s house, put there to keep the flies away I am told. Does it work? Well, there weren’t any flies around the evening I was there. The daughter told me that when her mother first went to put the bag up she’d asked for someone to fetch some pennies, but the daughter thought she’d said “panties” and brought out a pair of those instead. Until her story, I’d never considered how similar those two words sound.

Then there was the shiny penny that I spotted lying near a row of suitcases on the train platform in Austin. I asked two women sitting nearby if it was their cent and they said no as I knelt to take a picture of it. This sparked a conversation between us and one recalled how, after the death of a relative, family members kept finding pennies in their paths and were sure their dearly departed one was sending happy thoughts to each of them this way. Maybe this 2013 cent came from him, I said, but she insisted I keep it, so I did.

The penny amidst pebbles and dirt caught my attention at a horse competition near Austin where my youngest daughter rode. I call it my 108-degree penny because that is how hot it got that day–the hottest on record for June, according to local media. I put it in my pocket and told Grace I had a lucky penny for her before she rode out. She ended up winning first place in the junior division and while I am sure that had a lot to do with her skill, it was a close win and I can’t help but wonder if the lucky penny played a teeny-tiny part.

The penny by the sink in a rinky dink roadside Mexican cafe was upside down when I spotted it. How had it gotten there in the first place? I asked my daughters what they thought but they were too hungry from a day boating on the lake to conjure up any answers. Maybe the train traveler’s dead uncle had something to do with it. No! What would he be doing in the ladies restroom? My guess is a previous potty patron pulled it from her pocket when she was reaching for lipstick, unaware it had dropped to the counter.

I turned the cent face up to take its picture as I said aloud to Abraham Lincoln’s stoic profile, “Smile like you’re having fun.” I know I was.