Road trips: Driving Overnight

Wisconsin to California. This is our yearly vacation plan. My in-laws live in  California and with that comes some interesting discussions in my family. We have flown, driven without stopping for the night, and taken three days with some rather small children to make this trip. This past summer was no different. Starting in January we began to make plans for our trip. My husband only gets two weeks of vacation, so getting to and from California as quickly and safely as possible is always the goal. Flying is really too expensive now with five of us, so driving is where we started planning. We realized that it would be faster to leave on a Sunday afternoon then to wait for Monday morning and so the plan was hatched to drive through the night on Sunday. We survived but we did learn some things along the way.

Stop to Sleep

Now this may not sound like the way to drive thru the night. We found as we traveled deeper into the night that it got harder and harder to stay awake, which I mean makes sense. As this happened more and more we decided to pull over for an hour or so to try to take a nap as best we could. We found a well lit parking lot and tried to get some sleep. This was the best thing we could have done. When we pulled out of the parking lot an hour and a half later, we felt rested and much more ready to tackle a few more miles on the road. If your planning a trip that has you driving through the night, give yourself a break. Allow yourself the freedom to take a catnap along the way.

Crunchy Snacks/Caffeinated Beverages

Once the sun goes down and your driving in the dark, having something for your mouth to do can help you stay awake. We had made our own trail mix and pretzel mix before we left. We enjoyed these snacks throughout the night. We also bought Monster energy drinks and had some caffeinated soda in our travel mugs from the last gas station. Plan snacks that maybe aren’t something you would get normally so it is a special treat.  It makes the trip have a little bit of fun, while having a duel purpose of helping you stay awake.

Pillows/Blankets

Not for the driver, but for the passengers. We had three young children in the back of our vehicle. we wanted them to sleep through the night as much as possible. Because of this yearly trip our kids get a child sized neck pillow on their first birthday. We also took along car sized blankets for them to cover up with. Not only do these work as comfort items and to help with keeping the kids warm. It helps to give a routine to set a sleep time. On the last stop before we wanted them actually go to sleep for awhile we actually sort of tuck them into their car seats for the night.

Be Ready for Anything

Be flexible. Realize that this may not work the way you wanted it to. During this 30 hour driving marathon we actually ended up getting a flat tire pretty much in the middle of no where. The kids ended up eating breakfast on the side of the road while my husband and I (mostly my husband) changed the tire so we could continue on our journey.

What are some ways you have made travelling with kids bearable? have you found any secrets that have made different parts of your trip more enjoyable or things you may never try again? Leave a comment below.

Why I Love Labor Day

Many people think of Labor Day as the end of summer, but for those of us who thrive on schedules and routine it marks the end of a time when routine and schedules are not as easy to follow. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy summer vacation. But I can handle only so much of it, before I am begging for school to start again. Even as a teacher I feel this way. I can’t wait for school to start. It brings back the routine I need to find some sanity in my life. With the start of school comes Labor Day weekend, which has it’s own benefits for helping ease the transition of back to school.

The Long Weekend

This year my daughter and I had school for three days before we hit the three day weekend. It got my family back into the routine and my students at school through those first few days of organization and procedure teaching. We were rewarded with a long weekend. Although my family is usually quite busy over the weekends, we had one extra day during which we were able to do a family activity together.

Chaos of Summer Ends

No longer am I running around trying to fit in visiting with family, doing fun things with my kids, and still trying to find time to work, but I can know have a schedule that simplifies my life. Yeah, my kids go to bed ridiculously early, but they have activities planned each day whether that be school or daycare. I know what needs to happen when in order for my day and theirs to be successful.

A Break from the Schedule

Getting back into the school routine is hard, even for people who thrive off of living on a schedule. For my family and I getting those few days to make the schedule work and then having days where we don’t need to live on such tight schedule really helps everyone reset and be ready to go back to the schedule on Tuesday. It gives us a chance to reevaluate and make changes to our schedule so hopefully everything can run more efficiently.

Relaxing, Family Time

My family doesn’t always get to relax around the holidays. Our holidays are rather busy with my husband working most of them. This is one holiday where he doesn’t work and we are able to enjoy time as a family. This year is was as simple as being able to go on a picnic. Yes, it was slightly chilly, but it was something that got us away from our house and let us focus on ourselves and our kids.

Do you enjoy the Labor Day weekend? Do you have any traditions that you do on Labor Day weekend? Is the end of summer awaited eagerly at your house? Let us know in the comments below.

Getting ready for the school year: Having a schedule

If you have school age children and you haven’t already gone back to school you soon will be. How do you make the transition? Do you go crazy the first day trying to get there on time? Do you live all summer on your school schedule? Here’s how my family does back to school.

AUGUST: Week 1

The first full week in August is routine time. We start by going to bed at school time. (My kids are still pretty young they went to bed pretty early all summer. You may want to take a few days to do this, slowly moving bedtime earlier.) This doesn’t mean they are getting up at school time yet but their bodies are adjusting to going to bed earlier and it may make it easier for them to get up earlier. Here are the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for amount of sleep children should be getting.

AUGUST: Week 2

We start getting up at school time and following a loose morning routine. We start to enforce school wake up times. There are no time constraints yet so we iron out the wrinkles as we go and make adjustments. This isn’t so much about the time things get done by but the order in which things happen in the morning. The hope is my kids will go through the routine like it’s second nature by the time the school year actually starts.

AUGUST: Week 3

Now its crunch time. We get up at a consistent time. The kids follow the schedule. We try to be ready by the set leave time for school. This week is about making the final small changes so our mornings flow as smoothly as possible.

My daughter’s school starts at 8AM. We have about a fifteen to twenty minute drive to get there. I don’t work in the mornings so me getting to work isn’t part of this schedule equation. She also has two younger siblings that I need to load into the car before we can leave. I get up well before my kids so I can shower, read a devotion, and get some writing or work done before managed chaos descends on my house.

Sample Schedule

6:30 This is my kids wake up time. They are usually up before this.

Once my kids are up, my oldest knows to get dressed. We try to aid this process by laying her clothes out the night before. Her next step is to brush her hair so all I need to do is put it up in some way.

6:45 Breakfast

Starting about age two, we require our kids to be dressed before breakfast on school days. Her little brother is still working on this rule which makes for some interesting mornings.  Breakfast is an easy affair most days being cereal or oatmeal and some fruit.

7:00 Finishing touches

My daughter brushes her teeth. I make sure her hair is done. I make sure the younger two children are some semblance of dressed.

7:15 Load up

Getting three kids in the car in any sort of timely fashion, especially when they are all still in car seats takes some time. This can take my kids anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how cooperative they want to be that day, so I give myself some wiggle room here so my patience isn’t flying out the window as we get in the car.

As my kids get older and more of them are going to school this schedule will change and most likely become earlier. Getting my kids back into the routine before school actually starts makes that first week of school a little less stressful because they know what is happening in the morning and that it happens the same way every morning.

How do you and your family prepare for the school year? Have you found strategies that work for getting your kids to bed easily? How do your kids get up in the morning? Leave a comment below.