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.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thunderstorms of Life


 So how does a picture of a van have to do with a thunderstorm?  Keep reading to find out.

This post comes after being woken at 4 am to help settle my oldest as a thunderstorm rolled through. Fortunately, he fell back asleep and fortunately, my youngest slept through.  But that left me awake, trying to go back to sleep.  Once I got up and ready for the day, I sat on the edge of my bed thinking.

Thunderstorms.  I don't mind them during the day, but at night, I don't like them.  Never have.  So I get my son's aversion to them as well.  But it made me think more, more about the thunderstorms of life.  We all go through them, both weather wise and life wise. Life has a way of bringing them into the day.

No matter where you are; on vacations, at playgrounds, out on adventures, and more, they show up.  In fact, I have been working on some posts about our recent road trip.  But life has a funny way of sticking things into your life that you need to write about in the moment.  Well, that is where today's post comes from.  It started with the weather, but ended with me thinking on our most recent thunderstorm in our life.

Nothing major, just inconvenient.  You see, the day after we got back from our vacation, my car began to have the high temp light come on.  No biggie, checked the fluid, added some, and things went back to normal.  Drove fine the rest of the week.  That is, until the weekend.  We decided to go strawberry picking.  Didn't get more than five minutes from the house when the light came on, stayed on, and I couldn't accelerate anymore. 

Again, no biggie, just inconvenient.  We pulled off, let things cool down, watched a few videos and came to the conclusion that the temperature gauge needed to be replaced and it was something we could do.  So, home we went, swapped cars and seats around and headed out for the morning.  The next day, we picked up the part and my hubby worked on making the fix.  Seemed to drive fine again that night.

The next day came, hubby took it to work and didn't make it more than 15 minutes out before coming back home.  Now, this was becoming more of an issue.  Now we had to get it in, be down to one car, and explain to the kids why plans changed.  Most of what we did was met with flexibility, as  we figured we would get the car back by the end of the day.

So, hubby headed to work and the kids and I headed outside.  We went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then the car repair place called.  Bad news, head gasket.  Worse news, could need a whole new engine.  Now, we are left with what to do.  Fix it, hope it lasts or with it being a 2004 vehicle do we just replace it.  If we fixed it, we would be out one vehicle for at least a week.

My oldest's concern was how were we going to get to see our friends and visit playgrounds with them.  My concern was, no vehicle for a week and we had things to do.  But also, which route do we go.

Well, by 9 that night, there was a new to us van sitting in the driveway, kids were asleep and I was picking up the old van from the repair place.  Now, what do we do with the old one? We wanted to try to get something for it.  So, the next day I spent my time calling salvage companies to find someone who would take it.  Found one to pick it up Friday.

We weathered the thunderstorm.  Now, we could look at it several ways.  No, it wasn't major, but it still added a storm to our life.  Storms come in all sizes, this one happened to be a smaller one.

Now that it is all done.  The old van has been picked up.  I am getting used to the new one.  The emotions have settled a bit.  I am thinking.

I am sad.  Yes, sad over a van.  Why?  Because I wasn't expecting this, wasn't ready (we only had it four years), and I liked the van I had.

My oldest told me, "mom, it's okay to be sad.  It's a different color, that is okay.  But it works better than the old one.  This one is good."  Wise words from a four year.

But I also look at how it all came together.  Timing wise, in our mind, not great as it was unexpected.  However, when we look at it.  We were home.  We had just gotten back from a trip out to Ohio the day before the initial problems started.  At least we were close to home.  We were able to find a new one the same day we found out that my old one wasn't worth fixing.

It is odd how it all came together.  The sales guy had said there was an appointment before us, but they canceled.  It was the same people who had looked at it a few days before.  This new one has all that my other did, plus a few upgrades.  There are a lot of things that are better or work better, and everyone seems happier with it overall.

But going even deeper, I look at the blessing of having the finances to buy it.  My hubby, has been not only working a 40 hour a week day job, but also has a side job in sales through his own website and backyard life gear, as well as on Amazon for several years.  It is because of this we were able to pay cash for the vehicle.

It is almost like God had put into place all these pieces of the puzzle and carefully placed the timing of the thunderstorm.

Life has an unusual way of working sometimes.  We ride the thunderstorms as they come.  No matter how big or small the storm, we make it through.

The picture at the top is a picture of my old van.  The picture below, is my new one.  So how does a picture of a van relate to a thunderstorm?  Well, because our van change out was a thunderstorm in this thing we call life.