Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taking the Yellow Crocs on the Road

Pretty soon, we'll be packing up for our annual Pilgrimage to Pinellas County (Florida, that is).

The first time we did this particular drive, our adolescent was less than two months old. THAT trip involved several nights' walking the colicky babe around roadside motels hoping we weren't keeping the whole place up.

Those first few trips involved dog-friendly hotels (For Maggie of course) and many of them. Some years it felt like it took FOR-EV-ER to make it down south.

There were two-baby trips (imagine a toddle with a stomach flu and a looooong fruitless Christmas morning search for a tube of Balmex), three-baby trips with endless Raffi sing-alongs, blizzards in New Jersey, and buckets of plastic toys.

Once we wised up to the beauty of a car-full of sleeping kids, the trips evolved into all night affairs, late afternoon starts and logy 2 AM passes through Washington DC.

I guess you could say miserable-yet-oddly wonderful road trips are now a holiday tradition with us.

It just wouldn't be Christmas if I wasn't waking up in a Cracker Barrel parking lot after an all-night drive, shuttling the kids through the chachkas and into the bathroom to pee and brush their teeth and arguing over how many hot chocolate refills might make up for their hellish night in the car.

If you are traveling with kids this holiday, here are a few things we at Maggie's farm found tremendously helpful:

1. Books on tape. We are finally all old enough to enjoy the same books! Our family currently loves the Septimus Heap series!

2. Books on paper! I visit the library and take out several new books per kid and hide them away until we're on the road. Variety is key here: Guiness Book of World Records, Graphic Novels, Calvin and Hobbes, Science Encyclopedias and many, many new novels keep all three busy.

3. Whiteboards and markers. For some reason, even kids that don't get much into drawing love to doodle and play hangman on these things.

4. Flashlights, blankets and comfy clothes-- make an all-nighter a sort of slumber party.

5. Taking turns. There are five of us and each person gets to choose an auditory option (book or music or-- in case of grown-ups-- the dreaded NPR.

6. Rest areas. Take advantage of these! We play tag or catch or just run around like nutcases, anything to expend a little energy.

7. Snacks. I make gorp and other protein-rich snacks like cheese and crackers, peanut butter and carrot sticks, and also junk the kids don't often see (Bubblicious gum and Tic Tacs are favorites)

8. Board Games. these aren't for the road. But they are mighty handy to have when the kids are jumping bed-to-bed in your motel room with nothing to do. Some of our current favorites are Bananagrams, Settlers of Catan, Blokus, and Poker!

9. A plan for the day after the all-nighter. We make sure to do at least one fun, kid friendly thing on that weary second day. (Did I say we? Um, I am the all-night designated driver, so often I rest up while Dan-- who can and does sleep through anything-- takes the kids to a hotel pool or local playground.)

10. Sense of humor. If you have kids, you know this is no small thing. Dan and usually balance each other out-- we are never in a bad mood at the same time.

11. Oh, just go for it! As frequent readers may know, we at Maggie's Farm are not the look before you leap sort. We are all about jumping in with both feet ... and at the drop of a hat, too. (There-- three cliches in one paragraph. My work here is done.) But, you know, we always get a good story out of the deal, and we never-- as my Grandmother used to say-- think we "woulda shoulda coulda!"


Alicia Gregoire said...

Great post. Have a terrific road trip to Florida.

maryw said...

Excellent, hard-won insights. And your cliches are the creme de la creme, the cat's meow. You can take them to the bank.
Have fun!

Little Bit Of Land... said...

Hope you enjoyed your travels. I wish Florida would have been a bit warmer for you, as I've heard it's quite chilly- oddly enough. My brother lives near Ft. Lauderdale & he's freezing. I told him he should come back up to northern Indiana & he might change his mind on what "freezing" really is. :-D

Happy New Year~ Andrea