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.

To work or not to work? Is that the question? -deb

So your pregnant and are looking to the future. Are you going to stay home with your newborn or are you going to go back to work? It’s a question all new parents must struggle with. In sharing my story I’m hoping to give you some insights into why my family made the decisions we did as pertaining to working with kids.

When I caught baby fever, about a year into our marriage, my husband and I talked about how we wanted to raise our family and when it would work best for us to have our first child. We originally made plans that I would be a stay at home mom and we would adjust our budget to make that possible. This seemed like a perfect plan, my husband was on schedule with his schooling to get a full-time paid internship and then would only have one year of school left. We figured we could make the sacrifices needed to make our plans a reality.

When we found out we were pregnant with our first it seemed like our plans were falling into place.  God had different plans for us though, my husband’s school track changed. With my husband’s school track changing our plans changed and we decided that me working full-time would be the best decision for our family. My husband’s schedule changed to classes twice a week instead of everyday so he was able to be home with our daughter most of the time and when he had class we had been able to find an in home daycare for her to go to. I regretted not being home with her but I told myself that she slept most of the time anyway so I wasn’t missing much. I took advantage of every minute I was home with her though.

When our daughter was a year old I was able to be a stay at home mom. I thought I would rock at this job. This was my dream come true. I had all of my time to dedicate to my daughter and would be able to give her all my attention. I knew getting out would be key to my success, so we went to story time at the library. I had all this time and she was showing signs of readiness so we started potty training. I would had all sorts of time to do anything we wanted. It didn’t take long though till I was crazy and bored.

My daughter wouldn’t take naps when I wanted her to. I was unable to do even my short to do list. My daughter wanted me to sit and watch her play for hours. I couldn’t handle it. My one year old was emotionally draining me everyday and I wasn’t finding any joy in being with her. Although staying home was something I thought I wanted to do I was really struggling with this lifestyle mentally and emotionally.

I went back to work when my daughter was 19 months old. I worked full-time and sent my daughter to daycare. I was again struck by mom guilt with leaving my child under someone else’s care, but I realized I was able to enjoy spending time with her in the evenings and on the weekends instead of dreading the whole day when I woke up and didn’t really know what the day would bring.

I thought that maybe the number of kids affected my ability to stay home, so when we had our second child I again tried to stay home. It wasn’t the crazy boredom this time but the housekeeping that drove me crazy. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations for myself and just can’t let them go. I felt that since I was home all day there really wasn’t a reason why I couldn’t keep my house immaculately clean every day or cross items off my to do list every day.

So when I was offered a position to teach part time which I jumped on it, and here I am now working part time with three kids and for the most part enjoying the craziness that a busy schedule brings.

Do I think all parents should work? No. Do I think all families should have one parent at home with their kids? No, that has to be left up to each family to decide. I want people to realize that there is more to consider in the decision making process then can we afford this option or that option. Leave yourself open to both options if at all possible. Be aware that what you always saw for yourself as a parent may not be what works best for you in the trenches of parenthood.

Are you a stay at home mom or a working mom? Do you have any pointers on how you made the decision to work or not to work? Leave a comment below.

Let Go of Mom Guilt: Capturing Memories

Mom guilt takes up residence in all kinds of sneaky places.  Let’s address one of those today.

I am never here to mom-bash, so I am definitely not linking to this or mentioning usernames.  While meandering on Pinterest, I saw a pin about mom checklists, specifically “Can’t Miss Photos of the Month.”
There were something like 50 photo opportunities listed here!  If this were a list for the whole year, it might be conceivable.  Being a checklist of 50 photos you “can’t miss” of your kids each MONTH means 90% of people pinning that are going to fail, miserably.  And with that idealism + failure equation, mom guilt sets in.

Do you have a handful of pictures of each kid each year?  You’re doing fine.  (Bonus points if YOU are in any of them!)

I had a looming fear when I had a second child that I wouldn’t take “enough” pictures of him.  Whatever “enough” means.  I love taking pictures, and I had taken a plethora of my oldest because he was so stinkin’ adorable all the time.  Probably ridiculous, but one of my biggest concerns about adding a second child was that they wouldn’t feel as special because I wouldn’t focus solely on them – wouldn’t take as many pictures.  That there would be digital and print evidence that I “loved the older one more.”

After child #2 being on the planet for a full year, let me tell you.  There are just as many pictures.  In fact, I upgraded to a smart phone recently so there are actually BETTER pictures this time around.  Gasp.  There are so many sweet moments between the two boys that I take photos on an almost-daily basis.

I have my own checklist – make sure I take a photo the day a child joins our family, and on each birthday.  Sometimes I remember to take one on “firsts.”
But about “firsts.”  I have learned this – it is far more important to be engaged, present, actually watching the firsts, than it is to be taking photos or videos.  In 20 years, it might be fun for your child to page through photos of their firsts.  It might impress or entertain some relatives or a future child-in-law.  But really, those firsts are the most important to you as their parent.  And what you hold most dear will be a strong memory of having actually witnessed this event, not a sterile photo of it taking place.

While we’re on this topic, let me address scrapbooks.  If this is a hobby of yours, wonderful!  Go forth and craft.  If it’s not, let it go!  Remember our moms’ photo books of yesteryear?  There were some pictures with names or dates scrawled on maybe half of them, jammed into photo albums.  Done.  And our lives weren’t any less rich for it.

Maybe a lesser guilt: printing physical photos.  This is one I feel distinctly, as a natural cynic.  I assume that the internet is going to fail me at some point in the future, and my photos backed up in the mysterious “cloud” will disappear.  And then who will get to see all the badly-timed smartphone photos I took?!
I have decided to let go of that mom guilt by specifically printing photos once a year.  Around December, after everybody’s birthdays in November, I go on a spree one night and choose pictures to print.  I get them done “overnight” to our local-ish Walmart and pick them up the next day when I go to pick up my photo Christmas cards.  Sometimes some of them make it in an album.  Good enough.
I’m going to try photobooks this next year – supposedly I can use my Instagram and have them automatically curated and delivered to me.  Sounds wonderful!

Be present with your kids.  Put down the camera/phone.  Watch and encourage and feel.

That sense of family created by memories is what you’re really after.  Photographic evidence that it existed is just extra.

Souvenirs for Kids

…that aren’t garbage.  Or toys.
When I was a kid, my dad traveled a few times a year for work.  He always brought back souvenirs for my sister and me, which was ridiculously exciting to my little hoarder self.  Postcards, t-shirts, stuffed animals, plastic travel mugs, tiny statue replicas… You name it, I had it.
I love what my dad was trying to do – generate a fun surprise for when he got home.  And it was wonderful!  
But the stuff.  
Oh my.
Going on a trip, and wanting to buy your children/grandchildren/nieces and nephews/nanny charges something? Great! Here’s some suggestions on how to do that without clogging up their room with stuff.
Washcloths or towels.  Especially those kind that come all compressed into a little brick and then revive when you wet them.  It’s super fun to make them grow, but then you have a very useful item left over.  Those washcloths are actually really soft and big!  Bonus: easy to fit in your suitcase!
These adorable washcloths are from Grandma and Grandpa’s trip to Hawaii.  I don’t know what “A Coconut Named Bob” is about, but it’s SO CUTE an SOFT.  Big L enjoyed wetting them and watching them “grow.”
A pen/pencil or eraser (for school aged children.). They can can use it at school and tell their friends about their cool relative who went cool places.  And it is consumable.  Rulers and folders are also good possibilities!
Candy/regional snacks.  Does your location have a particular packable food item that kids would like?  Saltwater taffy from the coast? Fudge from Michigan?  Maple sugar candies from Vermont or Canada?
1 T-shirt, 1 size too big.
Because they are already wearing their current size, so obviously mom and dad have dealt with their current wardrobe and they have enough clothes.  The shirt will get more wear if it is an intentional part of their next wardrobe.
A book.  Now, I am a softy for books – it is the one area of my home I have yet to purge.  That being said, a book about the cool place you went (at an appropriate reading level, of course) might be a perfect souvenir.
A useful item they can grow into.  For example, if your special child is almost ready for a water bottle, or a plate, or a baseball cap, or their own cocoa mug.  That way is not an extra of that item, but  it is the one the child uses daily because his/her parents know they already have one.
Any other great ideas for souvenirs for minimalist kids?  Leave them in a comment!  Happy travels.