Friday, October 20, 2017

Fall Fun ~ Corn Pit

As the seasons switch from Summer to Fall, the air gets a little cooler, the leaves begin to change colors we get the chance to do some of our favorite Fall activities.

A couple of years ago I learned about a corn pit.  If you are unfamiliar (like I was...we never went to one growing up, so it was a new idea to me), a corn pit is an area with boards around it and filled with dried corn.

The one we go to is a smaller one compared to others in the area.  They use part of the green house, make a board frame, and fill it up with corn.  Then they add in a climber and slides, as well as toys to scoop the corn and play in it.

We have been going to Country Sun Farms.  Some of our friends invited us along, for our first time, just before A was born.  T had so much fun, not just in corn pit, but with the other things they have to do.  So, we have been going back each year, almost weekly once it is open.  Last year A enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as this year now that he can move around and use the slides too.

We have only gone during the week, so we haven't explored all the areas yet.  Here is what they have to offer:
  • A petting farm, which is free unless you decide to feed the animals.
  • Tractors to climb on and pretend ride.  One is pulling a trailer of pumpkins, which is fun to sit on, climb on, and a great photo opp too.
  • Outside mining area. You can buy a bag of dirt and sift through it to see what kind of cool rocks and gems you can find.  
  • Corn maze, silly string area, hay rides
  • Inside the green house: pumpkins, gourds, decor, rides, food, inside mining area
When we get there we explore say "hi" and "good morning" to the animals and explore the tractors.  Then we head inside, pick out a few gourds and spend the rest of the time in the corn pit until we leave for nap time.

We may be finding corn around the house for the months to come, but the kiddos have a blast.  And you know what, so do I.  This year, finally after two years of going, we got to take Daddy with.  I think he enjoyed it too!  It doesn't matter the age of the kiddos, they will still have fun exploring.

 
















Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why We Love Swim Lessons & Goldfish Swim School Too

 
 My kiddos love the water!

My youngest is more fearless when it comes to it.  He will splash water in his face, fill stuff and dump it out, and go for hours.  If you try to get him to be done because you can tell he is cold he gets mad.  He keeps asking for more of the water fun.  In fact, we spent some time recently at a water park.  There is a climber with easy to navigate slides and it didn't take him long to start doing one of them on his own.  He even wanted to ride the tube down the big water slide with Mama.  Just as we got to the end he started asking for more.  He would have gone all day if we let him.

My oldest is more cautious.  When the water is deeper he clings onto you with a grip so strong. In water he can stand in, he would splash and play.  But getting his face wet wasn't going to easily happen.  It took a long time for him to just put his belly in the water.  And the idea of floating freaked him out even more.  He liked to play, but just didn't have the confidence.

This Summer we decided it was time to invest and enroll in swim lessons.  My oldest needed someone else to get him to put his face in the water and to get him to put a little effort in trying to swim, as well as learn safety basics.  He needed help growing his confidence in the water.  My youngest needed to learn basic swimming moves, how to be safe, and be okay with going under water all the way.

I made a lot of phone calls and asked friends their thoughts on where they took lessons.  But I kept coming up with the same feeling..."this is not right for my kiddos".  Until I found Goldfish Swim School.

Here is what I was looking for:
  • A swim lesson time when both my kiddos could be at the same time.  I knew I would have to be in the pool with A.  I didn't want to have one kiddo wait while the other had their turn and I also was uncomfortable with my oldest sitting on the pool deck while I did swim lessons.
  • I was hoping to find something budget friendly.  I knew going in swim lessons could be expensive.  But I didn't want to pay extra for stuff we wouldn't use.  Like having to have a membership to a place and then paying extra for swim lessons.  We weren't looking for a place with extra amenities and other classes.  We just wanted swim lessons.
  • We wanted to do weekly lessons, but didn't want to be locked into long sessions.  We were hoping to do a couple of months during the end of the Summer and some of Fall.  Take a break and then pick up a few come Spring as a refresher before Summer.
  • We wanted somewhere that made swim lessons fun and the kids would look forward to going.
  • We wanted a location an easy, short drive from the house.
  • Had morning swim times available any time of the year.
As I started calling around, I added a few more things to the list:
  • Have open swim times and other fun family nights.  Though most right now fall during nap times or too close to bed time.  The option to go is a benefit.
  • If you miss a class, be able to make it up.  Most places you were out of luck or received a voucher to use on their family swim times or something similar.  I figured if we were paying for the lesson, it would be nice to make up an actual swim lesson.
I know what you are thinking, what place has all of that?  Goldfish Swim School!  They are new to Minnesota and opened their first location this Summer.  After talking to them, they had all I was looking for.  We enrolled and here is why:
  • They are willing to work with your schedule and could get both kids classes at the same time, in the morning even.
  • We pay roughly $160 per month we are enrolled for both kiddos.  We get a discount having a sibling signed up.  There is also a $45 per year membership fee.  
  •  Because you pay by the month, with a simple 30 day notice of stopping lessons, you can easily take a break if you want to.  Then when ready to start back up, call and set up lessons.
  • Swim lessons are about learning the skills, but having fun while doing them.  
  •  They have family swim nights, open swim times, and many other fun activities outside of swim lessons.  A small fee, $5 per kiddo, no more than $15 for family for most.
  • It is a quick and easy drive.  Even if it were a little longer, we still would have gone with Goldfish because of what they offer.
  • Added bonus, if you miss a class, you can find another time to make it up.
After two months here is what we have found beyond what we knew about after signing up:
  • From the time you walk in the place it is engaging and fun.
  • They give just enough push of encouragement to give them the confidence to do the skills and help them overcome their fears.
  • The staff is always excited to see you and will take time to chat.  Their staff is an amazing group of people who make the kid's swimming experience better than I could have imagined.
  • You get to watch your kiddo show off a skill at the end of each class. Being in the pool at the other end with my youngest, the staff helps him to finish his lesson so I can go watch.
  • They have great advice and tips to make things go more smoothly.  My youngest, like a lot of kiddos, didn't like the feeling of water in his ear, so he wouldn't relax during back floats and was reluctant at first to go all the way under.  They suggested an ear band.  Wearing it lets him enjoy getting wet from head to toe.
My kiddos love going!

By the second week my oldest was going underwater, yes underwater completely.  He learned how to walk a long the pool edge using his hands and climb out easily on his own, which is one of his favorite things to do.  He loves to float on his back.  His biggest struggle has been using his muscles to keep strong kicks and strong pulls.  He has gotten there and once he lets himself put his face in the water while he swims, he will be able to go faster and farther.  He loves to get his whole self wet now.  His confidence even led him to go down a water slide head first, all smiles, on his own just on a whim. At the end of every class he gives his teacher a hug.

My youngest still loves the water.  The consistency of the routine has him now where he knows what to do, what is coming next, and still has lots of fun.  I wasn't real excited about being in the pool at first, but I will admit I love taking classes with him.  He has learned basic skills and is getting stronger at doing them.  He knows that when he needs a rest to flip over to his back and float.  He can crawl along the edge using just his hands on his own now after two months.  He has learned that he can still have fun in the water and still be able to move around, as well as how to be safe.

Here's what my kiddos think:

 T:
Because there is a fish tank and fun to watch (*The waiting area has a small play area, a fish tank filled with fish, chairs and tables to watch lessons from, and cubbies for your gear*)
Love my teacher!
Cool painted wall (*The wall in the pool area is one giant underwater mural. They have also decorated the rest of the space in a cabana type theme.  With lots of changing rooms, a blow drying bar, several family style bathrooms with a shower in them.  So many bright colors and engaging when you walk in*)
Like to show off new skills (*He waits for me to come down and watch.  He would do all the skills to show off if he could*)
Loves to crab walk the edge of the pool


A:
Bubbles the fish! (*OMG, my kiddo loves Bubbles! Every fish he sees now is bubbles.  Bubbles is their mascot.  They utilize big floating Bubbles to get the kids to move around the pool or play games like peak.  He is also on the items they give out to the kids each week at the end of their lessons.  From a bath toy Bubbles, to posters, to tattoos, and more.  We won a stuffed Bubbles and A has had it in his bed since.*)
Scooping water onto his head (*One of the things we work on is getting used to having water run down the kiddos face.  The teacher doesn't even give me a scoop any more, it just goes right to A.  He dumps a scoopful on himself, and then on me.  The technique is meant for gradual, you scoop and dump on the arm, then the shoulder, then the head. From the second week on A just takes the scoop himself and dumps it on his head*)
Big kicks (*We practice lots of kicking.  For awhile he would do more of a frog kick...until he saw his brother doing big kicks at the other end of the pool (another added bonus to being at the same time), so he is loves doing big kicks!*)
Catching balls while kicking and paddling around the pool (*They use puppets, balls, Bubbles, mirrors, and more to help get the kiddos comfortable, excited, and have fun*)
Boat rides and train rides (*At the end of class they get to do a special activity. They made boats using pool noodles and a block. The kiddos get to go in the middle with their arms out and motor around the pool. The trains are giant train shaped foam the kiddos sit on and ride around the pool.*)

All this is why we love Goldfish Swim School and swim lessons too!

Some fun photos and videos.  Sorry some are blurry, but they are the best photos that I've gotten so far of the kiddos swimming.

The ones in the pool are from shortly after we started.  Hopefully I will get some new and updated ones now that we are over two months in.  I know so much has changed in what they can do.  They both have grown in the skills they can do, gained more confidence in their ability, and still have lots of fun.

 


A received a Happy Birthday postcard with bubbles on it.  
He went around carrying it and doing his happy dance.
  video 

A practicing his wet dips and going all the way under. 
T practicing his crab walk along the edge and then getting out of the pool. 
video

Using their new confidence in the water at the water park.

video




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Self-Care Ideas




  • Go for a walk
  • Go for a run
  • Sit on the porch
  • Sit in the quiet
  • Be outside
  • Sit by the water
  • Read
  • Workout
  • Watch funny animal videos
  • Play a card game or word game
  • Grab a coffee or tea, homemade or favorite coffee shop 
  • Pedicures and Manicures
  • Get your hair done
  • Watch your favorite show
  • Have a special treat
  • Journal
  • Bake
  • Get together with friends
  • Date night
  • Go for a drive

Self - Care ~ What Does Mama Need?

How many times have you heard the phrase, "Be sure to take time for yourself.  Self-care is so important, especially once you are a mom."  I can tell you I have heard it a lot and am hearing it more often.

What is self-care? How do I fit it in? What do you do for self-care? Do I really need it?

Let's start off with the last thought.  Do I really need it?  Yes, yes you do.  A little something everyday can go a long way in helping our moods, energy, relationships, parenting, families and more.  We are raising kiddos.  The younger they are, the more dependent on you they are.  We are always on the clock, even when we sleep at night.  If we consistently give and give taking care of everyone and everything around us (but ourselves) we drain ourselves and our reserves.  And yet, even when we do this, we still keep going.

At some point we get so mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  You can not fill others around you if you aren't filled.  Take the time often to refill yourself, so that you can continue to fill those around you.

So, what is self-care?  Anything that fills you and your reserves up.  Anything that makes you happy and joyful.  Anything that makes you feel rested.  Anything that helps you feel calm and peace.  It can be simple or extravagant.  It makes you smile and laugh.  It can take five minutes, it can take several days.  It can be free or not.

What things fill you? Reading, devotionals, journal, being creative, hobbies, grabbing a coffee, working out, getting a pedicure, getting your hair done, sitting by the water, taking a nap, going for a walk, going for a drive, spending time with family or friends.  What things fill you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?  Those are the things that you need to do often.

How do I fit it in?  Does it count if it still involves family or being with the kiddos?  Yes, it still counts.  Though, for everyone's sake, take some self-care time that is just you (it can help everyone out a lot in the long run).  Fitting it in will depend on what the activity is and how much time you need.  Obviously, somethings take a little more planning and time.  But, what is something you can do for five or ten minutes everyday?

I have chalked up having a specialty coffee on our way to a play date or activity as a moment of self-care.  Even though the kids are with me, it still refills me.  Even working out is something that I try to do most days and find that it too refills me.  A lot of it is perspective on it.  Also, while it may work for another mom you know, it may not work for you.  You have to find what is right for you.

Once I changed my perspective of what self-care was and how to fit in, even just five minutes a day, I began to understand the importance of it.  Yes, sometimes the laundry sits in the dryer an extra day or never even makes it to the closet.  No, my house isn't spotless most of the time.  But little by little those things do get done and I can still keep myself filled or at least not tapping into my reserves as often.

The hardest part I have found about self-care is not feeling guilty about taking the time for it. It is so hard to not let this get to you sometimes.  I find this to surface most often when I am truly out on my own.  It's about giving yourself permission. Give yourself the permission to set aside everything else and take care of you.  It's a tough thing.  Sarah Wehkamp over at Parents Who (www.parentswho.com) has a series of podcast episodes dealing with permission.  She breaks it down, let's you take it in, is open and honest, totally real about it all.  You can listen to the first in the series of podcasts on permission here: http://www.parentswho.com/pwp39/

Take a listen to get started, but stick around and look into the rest of Parents Who.  I highly recommend listening in on all things family, parenting, marriage and life.  There is so much there that one can relate too.

Even after giving yourself permission, the guilt still comes and goes.  But, each time it gets a little easier and the guilt a little less. 

Take care of yourself.  You need it, you deserve.  Those around you need it too.

If you don't know where to start for ideas, check out the Self Care section.  It has a list of ideas.  Some of them are what I do and some are ideas I have gotten from other moms.  If you have ideas to add, share them in the comments or send me an email (lizlauterbach@gmail.com) with your ideas and I will add them to the list.

How do you take care of yourself?



 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Under Construction

 
 We've done remodel projects before, this is nothing new to us.  But this time around we had two kiddos and a kitchen to be redone.  With the help of family and my hubby they got things going and through the toughest part.  Normally, I stay around to help out, but with two little kids, my help was best utilized by findign somewhere else to be.  Something that I had to be okay with.  I didn't really feel like I was much of a help, but having the kiddos out of the house for the week had a lot of benefits for everyone. 

By the end of the week, the kiddos were asking to go home.  I knew we'd be walking into everything being under constrction still.  Things were taking longer than we had anticipated.  But the kiddos and I were ready to be home.  Not that we didn't like being at the lake; it was simply that we missed daddy. 

We started the project August 19.  Today, a week into September, we are still under construction.  While the cabinets are in (all but one), there is no countertop, no sink, no dishwasher, and finishing details need to be done yet.  My bathtub doubles as a dishwaher, but at least the microwave and stove are working, and we still have gorgeous weather so we can cook outside.  Plywood and boxes make up my countertop, but in all honesty, as much as I want it done, it works for us right now and I am okay with that.


Today, I started making breakfast and had to step out of the kitchen for a moment.  When I came back i saw my two kiddos sitting at the dining room table playing.  The older one helped his brother into his high chair.  You see, before the remodel, the only sightline into the dining room from the kitchen was the doorway.  Now, the wall is gone and you can see straight through (which I love!).  While standing by the makeshift countertop watching the kiddos, I began to think. 

Aren't we in a state of under construction often throughout our lives?  As we grow and go through different stages, different seasons, it is like we are in remodel mode. 

My kitchen is under construction, and so are we. 

My oldest is 4 1/2, my youngest is almost 2.  Two years into two kiddos and I am totally feeling like I am under construction more often than not.  My parenting, my me, my everything around me is in some state of remodel when I think about it. 

I often feel like I have lost me since having the kiddos.  I am "Mom" "Mama!" "Mommy" all day long, I often loose sight on who Liz is.  Something I am working on.

My parenting is often chaging because my kids are changing (too quick sometimes) or because something different needs to be tried and I am trying to find the right fit.

Seasons change, projects come and go...where does that leave us as moms? as a family? as ourselves? or in whatever other roles we fullfill each day?

Though we are under construction often, where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed our always on our minds.  During these remodel times, these season changes, it is a good time to re-evaluate.  Look at where we are and where we want to head.  Take the time to figure out how to get there.  But also, take the time to slow down.  By slowing down, you can take the world and life in in a way that your kiddos do. 

Change is hard, but it can be good.  Going through these physical, mental, emtional, and spiritual construction times is what is need for us all to grow.  To reach our goals, hit the successes we have been wanting, and to learn.  No matter what age we are, we need to face these challenges.

Some of these phases are easier to take than others.  Sure, it can last a day, a week, a month, a year or more, we need that time.  While they may seem daunting, overwhelming, stressful, and more, it is that pressure that causes the most change and the desired outcome.  

You may not see it yet, the results of the remodel, but it will show it's self soon enough.  My kitchen already looks awesome and we like where it's headed.  Being finished will be the icing on the cake.  We work around the stresses of beinging under construction still by doing the things we love and making the most out of what we have.

Where are you under construction right now?  What do you need to finish?  Where do you want it to end up?


Friday, July 7, 2017

Road Trip Anxiety


I will be honest... I get stressed, anxious, and worried about road trips.  Didn't happen much until I had kids.  Even then, after having one kid, road trip adventures didn't seem so bad.  I even got the nerve up to go on a few on my own.  Just my son and I.  Granted, the drive wasn't more than 5 hours.  But I tackled them.

Sure, even when traveling there is some worry and some stress.  It goes with the territory and goes with being a parent.  How would they do?  What will I do if they scream the entire time?  How do I entertain them? What if I am traveling alone with them? What if naps are shorter than expected, or hoped for? And the questions just keep going.

Now with two kiddos, I take a week to pack.  I am packing for three people and worry I will be forgetting something.  I even make lists, and sometimes, my lists have list.  Sometimes, I just have to take on the mentality, it is what it is.  If it's a disaster, oh well.  Hopefully some of the time we spent where we were headed was at least good, even if the car ride sucked.  And almost always there is a Wal-mart or the like if we forget something.  If we have the kids important stuff , loveys, stuffies, and nuks, well that is good enough.

I started road trips on my own with two kiddos this year after the first of the year.  A short 3 1/2 trip, that can be done mostly during nap time with a stop part way for lunch at a McDonald's with a play area.  Doable.  Worried some, but doable.  We have a DVD player in the car, so my oldest could watch something while my youngest would nap (and I would pray he would sleep for as much of the first part as possible).

When we planned our longer road trip in June and had the shorter one the end of May, I thought good, still on two naps that should help.  Um...nope, he had dropped a nap about mid May.  If he fell asleep in the car he was either tired because he was up too early, sick, or not going to nap again that day.

So when we got closer to the one in June, everything hit a high of all the emotions.  I was excited, yet filled with a lot of stress and worry.  You see, we were going to be gone 11 days.  That is a long time for a kiddo to be a way from home.  My oldest, up this point, didn't do well with change and sleeping in a different place.  My youngest, well, the last time we were going for a chunk of time, we spent the next week or so getting him reacquainted with his room again. Plus, there were times the kids would share a room or all of us would...all new concepts for them both.  I was thankful we were starting and ending the trip out a my parent's house (a somewhat familiar place for both).

We were down to one nap officially.  Which was great for the days we didn't drive anywhere and we could extend our adventures, but for the days that were more than 3 hours of drive time, well I was scared.  The first day, we had 5 hours of driving and the second day we had 7 1/2.  How in the world will we pass the time and not have to stop every hour?  Fortunately, the rest of the driving was 3 hour chunks every other day and could be done during nap time for both kids

Even now as I type this, I can feel my heart rate rising slightly and the anxiousness returning.  Somehow, by the grace of God, we did pretty decent with the travel and accommodations.  The kids did get a little squirrely as the week went on when it came to being back in the car by the end of the week.  Which resulted in an extra stop and some vanilla shakes to bribe them back in for the last little bit of the drive. The kids managed to make the 7 1/2 hours with only one stop at lunch time.  It still amazes me how long in between bathroom breaks my oldest at 4 can go.  We figured if they were mostly content we would just keep plugging along, and we did.  We even packed outside toy activities in case we had to make extra stops.  Then again, whenever we take a road trip, we always pack a soccer ball just in case we need to get out and run around.  I also hit of the dollar store to create road trip activity bags (you can read more about that in this post Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity With Tips and Tricks For the Ride)

For some reason, both kids were up early the first day we were heading out.  Which, actually worked out alright because then my oldest zoned out to a DVD and took a decent afternoon nap, while my youngest took two decent naps as well.  And because of this, they went to bed early.  Which led to being up early the next day, and we could head out earlier and my youngest did two naps again.  Everything reset itself that night because the two shared a room together for the first time and having not spent a lot of energy for the day, took a bit longer to fall asleep.

The kids did better than expected with the accommodations, but we were all ready for our own rooms by the end of the week, as well as not having to be as concerned about the volume (and noise) created by two younger kids in a hotel room.  I am thankful that for some of the trip we had a suite so we could split up a little.  Most of the days they were so tired and worn out from the adventures that it didn't take long to fall asleep for both nap and bedtime.

We survived the vacation, we survived the drive, we actually had a decent amount of fun and were all happy to be back home (except my youngest, who need to get reacquainted with his room again).

I know a lot of my anxiety was me, my brain trailing off, and creating scenarios.  But even in the day to day we go over bumps, delays, and other unexpected things.  So, why would it all go away when we go on vacation?

Vacations are an adventure.  Usually people use them to reduce the worry, anxiety, and stress.  To relax and reboot.  But how does one do that with kiddos.  It sounds kind of funny, vacation and two kids under 5.

Well, it is possible to have a vacation, to go on adventures, to reduce the stress and the like, to relax and reboot.  It takes a change of perspective.  It takes knowing that you are still running on the same schedule and that you will face the same problems you do at home.  It takes having some flexibility and a whole lot of grace.  It takes lowering some of your own expectations.

Fill your vacation with things that you all enjoy or that you think the kids will enjoy.  For us, if we are outside, everyone is happy.  Give my kids water, sand or dirt, sticks life is good.  So we can go hike or camp.  We can go spend time along one of the lakes.  Both my kids love boats.  Both love collecting rocks (especially my youngest).  My oldest is getting into lighthouses and has a fascination for cars (especially old ones).  My youngest is starting to get into cars too.  So we filled out vacation with all those things.  So many of these things, we enjoy too.

We stayed in Detroit and watched some big cargo ships come in and saw a couple of lighthouses.  We visited the Henry Ford Museum, which for my kids the look on their face was better than on Christmas.  Can't lie, I felt the same way too.  We drove up to Port Huron so we could put our feet in another great lake.  We had already stepped in Lake Erie on our way to Detroit and we knew we would set foot in Lake Michigan at the end of the trip, so why not try for another one.  Plus that gave us a chance to see another lighthouse.  We even we got to climb up one of the lighthouses.  We went to a giant splash pad, had dinner at a train station where they are known for their pizza and the kids got to play with pizza dough before they ate, and built sand lighthouses.  We even did the unthinkable, we had ice cream before dinner one night.  But when you are on vacation, why not.

I even finished a book and began another one.  I had time to think quietly.  I had time to go off on my own for a little bit.  I ran through the splash pad, had many laughs along the way.  I had fun.  I even learned how to unplug from emails and facebook.  While I do love to write (which I did some of that too), I knew I needed the time from trying to always catch up on social media.

So will this stop me from having anxiety, stress, and worry leading up to a road trip or even while on one?  No, it will still be there.  But I also have a better footing in the let it go side of it.  I can settle in on the fact that there will be less of it, less chance of it getting to me, and less chance of it holding me back from the true moment of it.

Now, I am not saying every moment was perfect and without a hitch.  We had some off moments, some rough ones, and some that pushed everyone just a little too far.  But despite it all, it's not the part we remember.  And we really did enjoy our trip.

You know what, you can too.  Happy and safe travels and adventures this Summer!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity with Tips and Tricks For the Ride



We recently went on a road trip vacation.  We had two weddings to attend, one week apart.  One in Ohio, the other in Wisconsin.  So in between the two, we decided to make it into a vacation, visit places we have not been and wanted to explore, and break up the driving.

Some of our driving was during nap time in three hour chunks.  But we had two 5 hour days and one 7 1/2 hour day.  We wanted to keep moving along while we could and as long as the kids were content we plugged our way through the long days.

The longest, 7 1/2, was the day I was dreading the most.  It is already a long time to be in the car, but if we had to make a lot of stops, it would take us even longer.  Also, my youngest was down to one nap by the time we left and the longest he had lasted in the car until this point was 2 1/2 hours.  It was going to be a long drive.

So, I prepared myself mentally for that.  I also prepared my kiddos.  While my oldest could watch a DVD the whole time, I didn't want him watching that much T.V if possible and my youngest could glance at it, but not get much out of it as he still faces backwards.

We always have books and toy remotes in the car.  The kids tap into those as we drive around town.  We did use these some before taking out the new stuff.  Luckily, we have the DVD player and we only use that for long distances and for the first part of our drive.  But we did pop one in a couple of extra times just to get a little more mileage out of the drive before stopping. 

But I knew that even the usual stuff wouldn't hold them over for the entire trip or as the week went on.  I also wasn't sure if we would need ideas to fill our time in the hotel, as well as at any stops we made.  When we travel we always toss a soccer ball or two into the car just in case we need to stop and burn some energy off.  So, the soccer balls, DVDs, books, and remotes were ready to go as usual.  We also travel with water-less reusable paint books.  Melissa and Doug make painting books that just use water filled paint brushes.  The kids paint on the page and the picture shows through.  The water dries and they can use it again. 

But this time, I wanted to change things up and create some surprises for the kids in hopes it would allow us to get a little further in our drive or in the case of through Indiana, we couldn't stop until we got to the other side as everything was under construction.  Before going, we spent some time at the dollar store.

Oddly, the day we were scheduled to leave and the next, two of longest days, both kids were up early.  Which helped because then my youngest did two naps and my oldest did a decent afternoon nap both days.  Very helpful.  But, for the in between times, here is what we packed and why.

We found all the items at the dollar store.

Bubbles, stickers, blank notebooks, whiteboard, crayons, car bingo, sticker activity books, a frog jumping game, and coloring activity books.  As the drive went on, we added in beach balls and counting games

Bubbles:  a great idea that I wish I had found sooner.  From Jill Savage I got the idea.  You crank the car's vents up to high.  Make sure you have just the top vents on (it works better).  Hold up the bubble wand to the vent and let the air blow the bubbles.  We have a van so they flew all around and the kids had fun trying to catch them.  This alone would sometimes buy us an extra 20 minutes or more of drive time.

Stickers: Nothing to it, just stickers.  I would hand them back to my youngest and he would stick them to where he could reach.  The kids also had blank notebooks to use however they wanted.  They would sometimes stick the stickers in them.  Sometimes, my oldest would put them in his and then create a picture to go with it.  We used smiley face ones, which are fun to just put on things and have a smile at you.  The other was farm themed.  This one too would give us a decent amount more drive time.

Blank Notebooks: My oldest loves art.  So I figured if anything he can pull this out and crayons to color and create pictures.  My youngest likes to color, so blank pages and crayons were easy for him to use in the car.  I even thought that maybe it could be used to "write" about our trip.  The kids also stuck the stickers in them.

Whiteboard: My oldest found a Thomas one.  It had number writing practice on one side and counting engines on the other side.  He used it once in the entire trip.  But it was good practice and fairly clean.  He asked for it and I figured for $1 why not.

Car Ride Bingo Cards:  I was planning on making them, but when I saw them in dry erase form, I bought them instead.  One was road signs and one was vehicles.  My youngest just looked at them.  But my oldest tried to find some of the stuff.  He didn't want to mark any off, but still enjoyed them.  We joked about some the things pictured figuring we'd never see them from the car, like a hot air balloon and a sailboat, but we did end up seeing everything on them. Being four, my oldest preferred the vehicle one over the signs this time.  I just taped them to his window.

Sticker Activity Books:  These were an extra find.  I knew my oldest liked stickers and knew his letters, numbers, etc., so these were something he could do on his own.  He had to find the right page to put the matching sticker.  He had lots of fun doing them.  The only tough part was getting the stickers off.  We solved the problem by pulling off all the extra parts around the stickers.  Then he could easily peel them off.

Frog Jumping Game:  Not intended for the car, but was a lot of fun in the hotel room.  It could be done outside if needing a break at some point, or even at a restaurant.

Color Activity Book:  Just a bunch of pages that can be colored, mazes to do, word finds, etc.  We used these more in the hotel room if my youngest ended up needing a morning nap, then my oldest would color for a bit.  

Beach balls:  Never realized how much fun these could be.  We picked them up at one of the lighthouse gift shops for the kids.  They had fun playing with them in the car ride back to the hotel.  They also used the water filled paint brushes to paint them.

Counting Game:  At one point we picked a vehicle...semis...and said let's count semis.  You could totally do this with any other vehicle or object.

For older kiddos I spy works great and so does the ABC game, as well as the license plate game.  The ABC game is: starting with A, find the letter.  Once found, move onto the next letter.  The only time I skip over a letter is Q and Z.  But when I see them, I bank them.  Then again, more and more license plates are showing up with a letter Z on them.  The license plate game is: watching for license plates from each state and marking them off. 

In the past, when we make stops, we try to plan them around meal times.  Added bonus if we can find a place that has a play place inside.  But if not, on a decent day, we find a local park to go play at or green space nearby.  I have also stopped at a rest stop and let the kids do a nature scavenger hunt collecting pine cones, flowers, and sticks to decorate the picnic table there.

The black pocket thing in the picture hangs on the back of a seat.  I put it on the seat in front of my oldest's seat and put all his stuff in there or under his seat.  He could reach the pockets and I could reach the stuff under his seat, while it all stayed organized.  My youngest's stuff was in a bin near the front seats to easily hand him stuff.  We also kept a cooler in front with us filled with snacks and water to have within easy reach when needed.

This is what worked for us.  Will it work next time?  I hope so, but I don't mind changing things up a little bit too.  Then again, I don't know when our next long distance road trip is happening, so a lot can change between now and then.  But have fun, be flexible, and let the kids help pick out ideas too. 

Before your next trip, head out to the dollar store or dollar section at Target and see what you can find.  Get creative and have fun.  If it doesn't work that's okay.  Have a bunch of options to work from.  Just because it didn't work at one point in the trip, doesn't mean it won't work later on (or vice versa).  And you know what, a vanilla shake can go a long ways sometimes.

What are your tips and tricks for road trips?  Extra bonus if they aren't electronic.