Road Trip or Insanity by Car

Road Trip. Do those words fill you with excitement or dread? The answer may depend on the ages of your children.  It may be dependent on the length of the trip or the destination.

For many years we lived in Chicagoland and my husband’s family lived mostly in  central Nebraska.  That is a 10-12 hour trip depending on weather, road conditions, number and length of stops, and speed limits.  Thankfully the speed limits have increased.  Since the oil embargo in the 1970’s forced everyone to economize fuel usage, the federal government reduced all interstates to 55 mph.  Little by little states have boosted those limits.  Higher speed limits make a big difference on a long road trip.

1979-plymouth-horizon-08I clearly recall one particular trip to Nebraska in our sea-green four-door Plymouth Horizon (I think this model has been discontinued).  We had two sons, ages four and one. I must have been wearier than theywere because I was convinced the car was shrinking as we drove.  That particular trip was so difficult for me that when we bought our next car I literally used a tape to measure its interior.  I was convinced it had to be bigger than the Horizon for my survival.

Some families choose to travel long distances at night.  They hope the children will peacefully sleep.  We did try this a few times.  Once was in the unescapable Horizon.  It really did not work for us, primarily because my husband is a morning person and not at his best when driving late.

We recently took this same long trip for a family funeral.  My husband and I were good travelers, but we did not have any children with us.  On the other hand, one of our sons made the same trip with his pregnant wife and their five children, of whom the oldest is 10.   They arrived safely and in good spirits.  This latest road trip reminded me of some of the tips we gathered for friendlier travel with children.

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  1. Children’s movies on DVD players. (we did not have this one for our children, but it would have been wonderful)
  2. Audio books
  3. Favorite music
  4. Picnics at rest areas are better and cheaper than eating at restaurants because of the freedom to move and run. Some areas also have playgrounds.   Yes, this takes some planning.   Seasonal weather can be a challenge or make picnics impractical.
  5. Snacks and drinks that are not too messy, but also not the typical ones at home.
  6. Change up the typical seating order/arrangement. Might even change seats at the half-way mark unless moving car-seats is too cumbersome.
  7. New coloring/activity books and markers, crayons or colored pencils.
  8. New toy without too many small parts to be lost.
  9. Travel Games. i.e. I spy something (name a color), Guess what animal I am thinking, Counting (flags, barns . . .  .) on your side of the road,   and Travel Bingo.
  10. Individual  back packs in which the child has chosen the contents.  Back packs provide a place for belongings and an opportunity to practice being responsible for one’s stuff.
  11. Whatever activities you plan, be willing to be flexible and be observant of how well each one is coping with the confinement. Making an unscheduled stop may make the rest of the trip more pleasant for everyone.
  12. Also carry a first aid kit, facial tissues, wet wipes, and a plastic bag for trash.

One more tip: Do your best to obtain a full night’s sleep the night before the trip.  This will help everyone have a better attitude and sunnier dispositions.   The driver/s will also be more alert.

Travel Prayer:  Lord, watch over us as we travel.  Help us to have good attitudes.  May we not get lost or sick.  Keep our vehicle in running order.  Please keep all crazy drivers away from us.  Amen.

 

 

Overflowing

I recently discovered a huge mess in my bedroom which happened while no one was at home. The top shelf and pole in our closet had broken away from the wall and crashed onto the floor inside and outside of the closet.  My husband blamed the two heavy boxes of journals, which I kept on that shelf.  It was quite a mess.  We emptied 2/3 of the closet so that he could work in it.  I realized that my closet was over stuffed.  Since most of it was already all over the bedroom, I sorted through it all. I made a garbage pile, a donate pile and a store in the attic pile.  He also went through his hanging clothes and when we were finished we had over 50 empty hangers.   Plus I parted with 8 purses and 10 pairs of shoes. That is almost embarrassing to admit.

Too much stuff is a burden.  How much is too much?  Are your dresser drawers barely closeable?  Do you struggle to find your stuff?  Do you keep a car, or stuff, in your garage? Are you paying a monthly fee for extra storage?   If so,iIt may be time to declutter.

Most Americans could learn a few lessons from the minimalist movement and living in tiny houses trend.  Both of these lifestyles require radical simplifying.   One does not have to live in only 200 square feet of space to benefit from decluttering.   I did not ask myself if any specific piece of clothing brought me joy before parting with it either.  I just knew it would be easier to find what I wanted in a less full closet and there were many items I did not need or use at all.14263971_1368114123222506_5363390220919011006_n

I once mentioned to my daughter-in-law that in earlier times big families lived in tiny houses.  My mom was from a family of seven and lived in a three bedroom house and so did my dad, who was from a family of nine.  There are two very big differences between now and then.  Then there was much less focus on personal space (actually there was none) and today every individual has lots and lots of stuff overflowing our homes and bulging out of drawers and closets.

I want to share with you one thing I did well with my children in this area and one I wish I had handled better.

I did expect my children to be responsible for their rooms.  When they were little I did most of the routine cleaning, but as they aged they were expected to do more and me to do less.  Sometimes I would ask them to focus on a certain area.  I might announce that tomorrow after lunch I would be doing a drawer inspection.  Each child had time to organize their few drawers keeping only what was designated in each drawer and attempting to make it neat.  The children actually enjoyed this challenge because it came with rewards.  My inspections were really just a cursory glance.  I would leave a note such as, “Impressive!” or “Great Job” in some drawers or might give a stick of gum in another.  Obviously these rewards are more exciting for a 6 or 8 year old than a 12 or older child.  Use them when possible.

There were several times when we did major house-wide decluttering.  Then we held garage sales to part with our unwanted/ no longer loved items.  The problem was, when they sold their old stuff, they then had money to buy new stuff.   This created the “stuff cycle”.  I think it would have been better if we had collectively agreed upon pooling our garage sale proceeds to make a donation to a community service or a ministry or even an individual in need.   Or we could have skipped the entire garage sale and just donated our stuff to a resale store that was the fund for a non-profit.  I think I missed a great character building opportunity.

How do you manage stuff in your home?