Flying Alone with Kids

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My husband announced that he was going to Mexico for a week on a mission trip. I did a quick scan around the living room; my two preschoolers were jumping on the couch, my one year old was having her own little dance party to some music that only she could hear, and the baby was on the verge of completely losing his cool.

 

Really?! You’re leaving me for a week with all of this?

 

That night I called my mom and made my own announcement; "I’m coming to your house for a week!"

 

I have traveled with the kids before. I’ve even driven across the country by myself with 3 of them (when I was pregnant with our fourth). But I have never attempted to fly alone with all 4 of the kids.  I was determined to maintain my sanity for the week my husband was going to be gone, and I knew I needed my mom for that to happen!

 

I booked an early flight because my kids tend to do much better in the morning. We would be at my moms by 10 am, and I figured that would be perfect!

 

I made sure to pack as light as possible. We had one suitcase (that would be checked), I had the diaper bag, a baby carrier, one kids backpack and a stroller. We have a sit-to-stand, so I can potentially have every child strolling. I strapped the baby to me, put my one year old in the front of the stroller and my two preschoolers shared the back seat.

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Checking in was a breeze. When traveling with kids, you don’t really need anything for them unless one is a lapchild (then you just need a shot record or birth certificate).

 

We unloaded the suitcase and strolled our way to security. Again, early morning is a great time to go because there tends to be less people and the workers are often more pleasant (because they just started and haven’t had to deal with crazy people all day!).

 

Security can be a little hairy. It can be a little more anxiety inducing when you’re alone with 4 kids under 5. The reason being… the safety net of everyone in a stroller is ripped from you! Someone should tell the security people to figure out a way to keep all kids safely strapped into strollers as they go through. But no! Every child that can walk must walk! And they must walk one by one through the metal detector.

 

Now I don’t know about your kids, but MY kids are very clingy. Like, they literally cling to me. So it was quite the chore to get everyone to walk through the metal detector because NO ONE wanted to let go of my legs. Eventually I just said “heck with it” and I walked through with the kids attached to me. It worked. We made it through. None of the kids were carrying weapons. Thank God.

 

I had a short spat with my one year old who suddenly had a major aversion to getting back in the stroller. But a quick prayer and some bribery did the trick and we were on our way to the gate!

 

As I’m walking, the baby is growing increasingly agitated for some reason. At 3 months old, I know his little grunts by now. He’s nearing the edge of hysteria and I know that in approximately 7 minutes he will be in full blown crazy; shrieks, wild and uncontrollable arm flailing, just a general sense of unhappiness.

We get to the gate around minute 6. I quickly get the older three situated with breakfast bars as the baby just about reaches his breaking point. I whip out the bottle of breastmilk that is no longer warm and push it into his mouth. Well that does it...it completely unravels him and he just loses it. Full blown hysteria!

 

Eyes. I feel all the eyes on me. One mom alone with 4 kids. I know what they are thinking. “She’s not getting on MY flight, is she?”. “Please don’t sit near me, please don’t sit near me!”. “Why would she travel alone with 4 kids?!”

 

BECAUSE I NEED MY MOM, THAT’S WHY?!

 

I don’t actually yell, but I want to. Why isn’t this baby taking this bottle? He’s usually so good. What’s gotten into him. Suddenly my brain starts working again and I remember that he’s been awake for almost an hour now. His grunts may have been tiny hunger cues, but this mess I’m dealing with now is just plain exhaustion. Swaddle! Where’s my handy dandy swaddle? I quickly tear it out of the diaper bag and wrap him up like a tiny houdini that hasn’t quite mastered the technique of breaking free.

 

Instant quiet.

 

My chest puffs with pride. Look at me now, strangers! Look what I’ve done! I’ve...well, I’ve just quieted my own kid. Any newb can do that. My puffed chest deflates. Okay, back to the things at hand. I stuff the swaddled one back into the baby carrier. I give the preschoolers another breakfast bar. I tell the toddler to not throw her shoe. Pick up shoe, put back on toddler.

 

One of the airline attendants comes over to me. She looks at the stroller, looks at me. Smiles. “You need to check this at the gate.” Uh, yeah. That’s the general idea. I’m not about to put it in the overhead compartment. Insert internal eye roll here. She asks for my ticket and walks briskly to the desk. A minute later she’s back wrapping a gate check sticker around my stroller.

 

Oh yeah. That’s what she meant. I smile sheepishly and thank her for helping me out.

 

Everyone is lining up to board and I’m thankful that we are allowed to board before most of these people.

As we’re walking to our death down the terminal I remind the children that they will be getting off the stroller and it’s essential that everyone stands by me and walks nicely onto the airplane. I’m sweating. Why is it so hot in here? I’m slightly anxious as we near the plane door. I only have so many hands. The kids outnumber me greatly.

“Alright Kemps, the train stops here.” One of the kids looks at me weird. They always have a hard time understanding me. It’s like they take everything so literally at this age. I can see my 3 year old looking for the train, confused. I love these ages. It’s so easy (and often fun) to get the quizzical look from them.

 

“Everyone off the stroller! Let’s get on the airplane!” They awkwardly get off of the stroller. I have to put the toddler’s shoe back on. Again. “Hands” I say as I’m fumbling to fold up the thing while still carrying a swaddled baby on my chest. The preschoolers grab each others hands, make whining noises as one squeezes too tight, and try to wrangle in the toddler. She protests. Loudly.

 

“Hands please, if you want to ride the airplane”. I give the mom look. The line is moving closer to the door and I don’t want to deal with a toddler tantrum at this moment. The excitement of getting on the airplane is all that’s needed and everyone is holding a hand.

 

We board the plane and I prod the kids to keep walking down the long aisle. All the way to the back. I may look like I’m in over my head with these four littles, but I’ve definitely got a plan!

 

We take our seats at the very back of the plane. It’s louder back there, we are right by the restrooms, and it’s where the flight attendants are for the majority of the flight. I position myself in such a way that I can receive help if I need it, we can get to the bathroom quickly and easily and...most importantly, the loudness of the airplane might just lull one or more to sleep.

 

I buckle all of the kids in (three year old by the window, one year old in the middle seat, me and the babe in the aisle and my 4 year old in the aisle seat across from me), say a quick prayer for help, and take my seat.

 

And breathe.

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The hard part is over. We have successfully made it onto the plane. I have enough snacks, new toys and stickers to entertain for hours. The baby is the wild card. He’s not quite old enough to be entertained yet. He eats, he sleeps, and he really doesn’t enjoy being awake. We’ll see how this pans out.

 

We take off and the kids busy themselves with looking out the windows and putting stickers on all the things. I feed the baby as we’re jetting off into the sky and the drone of the plane lulls the little guy to sleep.

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I decline the drinks the flight attendant offers the kids. She clearly doesn’t understand. Drinks mean spills. I’m not interested in that right now.

The kids entertain themselves the entire flight, and before I know it, we have landed in Chicago.

 

As we’re gathering our things to get off the plane, the kids get a plethora of comments on how great they were. And they were great! It was pleasant.

 

Everyone boards our little stroller and we take off to baggage claim, and then we spend a much needed week with my mom!

At Grandma's house!

At Grandma's house!

 

Traveling alone with kids IS possible. And it doesn’t have to be a miserable trip!

                Eating dinner on our trip back home

                Eating dinner on our trip back home

                                             Our trip home

                                             Our trip home

                            Hanging out in the airport

                            Hanging out in the airport

** I left with blonde hair and came home a brunette! Another great thing about visiting grandma...she'll watch your WHOLE crew while you get pampered!

** I left with blonde hair and came home a brunette! Another great thing about visiting grandma...she'll watch your WHOLE crew while you get pampered!

Here are some tips for having a successful Flight with kids:

+ Think ahead through all of the possibilities // I planned out the entire trip in my mind. What time we’d leave, having the kids sleep in their clothes so I didn’t have to hassle with changing them in the morning, how they would sit on the stroller, what it’d be like going through security, how I’d entertain them at the gate, who would sit where on the plane, etc. I mapped it all out ahead of time.

But it’s also important to think through different scenarios. Kids can be unpredictable, but if you already have a plan in place for crazy things happening, you’ll be ready when it does! What will you do if your toddler doesn’t listen? How will you handle a preschooler that runs away? What if there’s a simultaneous meltdown and you’ve got 4 crying kids? What happens if your toddler poops on the airplane and you have to change her in the tiny bathroom, while holding your 3 month old? (That really happened and it was horrible and disgusting and super akward!)

+ Pack light // The less you carry with you, the better. Through the airport we only had a diaper bag and kids bookbag and the stroller.

+ Pack well // Bring the essentials. I packed a change of clothes for everyone (because you never know!), diapers/wipes, pull ups for the ones that are potty trained but might fall asleep, a plethora of snacks (nothing with sugar because….4 kids, small space), new toys from the dollar store, window clings, lots of stickers and coloring books, and the ipad. Bring things you know your kids will want to play with.

My oldest LOVES coloring and using stickers. My 3 year old loves to play games on the ipad, but it’s very rare that we let him so I knew it would go well. My 1 year old loves all things food and candy. So I stocked up on sugar free candies and plenty of healthy snacks.

+ Teach your kids to listen immediately // Ugh! This one is so hard. But it’s so essential. When you are in a crowded area with more kids than you have hands, you need your kids to be obedient. This one obviously will take more prep and practice before the trip, but let’s be honest, you want this to be part of your life anyway! We get compliments all the time about how well our kids behave.

Here’s the thing: Our kids are wild and crazy at home. They are good kids, but their craziness abounds at home. When we are out and about, one rule prevails: if someone is disobedient, we do NOT get to do fun things. Obviously they all love to do fun things. But this is a hard and fast rule. If just one of the kids isn’t being obedient, we will leave immediately. And I will say “It’s so sad that you were disobedient and now we have to go home instead of doing ______”. This has happened only once with my oldest daughter and once with my youngest daughter. It (typically) only takes one time of leaving something fun for them to realize you’re serious and obedience matters! Be consistent every time (even if you lose money on the fun activity- like going to the zoo) and it WILL pay off down the road.

+ Get there early // Try to get to the airport early if possible. You want to be able to get through security without rushing, and also have time to take everyone potty/change diapers before getting on the plane.

+ Don’t get there TOO early // Getting there early enough so you aren't rushing around and can get everyone to the bathroom and situated nicely before the flight is important. BUT, having too much time before you board isn’t a good thing either. Kids get restless and all of that wide open space just demands to be run around in. Try to plan it so you are only spending 10-15 minutes at the gate. 

*However, if you have one of those cool airports with a play area, by all means, get there early and let them run their crazy out!

+ Explain what’s going to happen // Talk to your kids before hand about what you’re doing. In a way that they can understand, tell them the different steps you will take before getting on the plane.

[Example // First, we will drive to the airport and everyone will get on the stroller. Then we will go through security and everyone will get to walk through this little doorway. Then everyone will get back on the stroller and we will go find a bathroom. After every has gone potty, we will eat a little snack and wait for our plane. Then everybody will line up and we will walk onto the plane and pick our seats, and we will fly fly fly until we get to Chicago and then grandma will pick us up!! Something like that ;-)]

Talking through it several times will help them know what to expect, and they’ll feel like they are a part of what’s going on.

 

What are some of your tips and tricks for flying with kiddos?

 
Posted on November 29, 2017 and filed under Quips and Giggles.

10 "Special Occasion" Activities for the Exhausted Mom

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Let’s be real here; the momming business can be downright exhausting. A lot of the time it’s great and it’s rewarding and you feel like you can handle the day in and the day out. BUT. But then there are days when you’re so exhausted, so depleted, so ready to lose it that you just want to put headphones on and crawl under the bed.

For those moments it’s a good idea to have a handful of go-to activities that will reign in the crazy kids, while also giving you that much needed break. I call these my special occasion activities. The special occasion being a mom that’s about to lose her cool or die of exhaustion.

Special Occasion Activities

Movie Van: I’m very creative at coming up with names. Movie van is… get this … watching a movie in the VAN! I did this one a lot when I was pregnant with my 4th kiddo. I would load all the kids in the van (buckled into their carseats) and give them all a snack. Usually popcorn because they love eating popcorn and watching a movie. Who doesn’t?! Then I’d either leave the van parked in the driveway and just catch a few zzz’s in the driver seat, or I’d drive around and usually get some delicious coffee (we were house hunting at the time, so I’d use that opportunity to scope out potential new homes!). It was great because the kids were quiet and contained, and I got some time to just sit. Win win!

Hair Salon: My kids love doing my hair. I secretly think they just want to torture me. But on some days I just don’t care. Bring on the ripped out hair and the gouged skull! As long as I can sit down and close my eyes, I can handle the torture pleasure of my kids playing with my hair. It gives them the opportunity to be silly and creative, and it gives us all some fun bonding time. Plus… let’s not forget the part where I get to sit down and close my eyes and pretend like I’m enjoying every minute of it.

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Nail Salon: I have two girls that LOVE getting their nails done. I’m not so great at it, but they don’t know that. Yet. One of the great things about doing my girls’ nails is that they have to sit still during that time, and for a good while afterwards (of course, it’s not so easy with the two year old. But we are working on sitting still for a few minutes at a time. So…). If you need some down time where the kids are quiet and sitting still, painting their nails is a great idea!

If you have a boy and you don’t want to paint his nails, just have him paint yours! My son really gets a kick out of doing my nails. And just like when they are doing my hair....it’s enjoyable because I get to just sit and let it happen.

Afternoon Movie Time: My kids regularly have quiet time during the day, and part of that time is watching a tv show. But it’s not for very long. If you need some extra down time, announce a spontaneous movie afternoon! Pop some popcorn, set out blankets for them to sit on, turn off all the lights, and let them watch a movie. Lounging on the couch for an hour and a half will do your weary body some good!

Reading Marathon: Two of my kids LOVE books. My oldest daughter could sit and read books all day. If you have kids that love to read or love to be read to, take full advantage on those particularly exhausting days. Sitting and reading is easy and relaxing!!

Of course, if reading is putting you right to sleep and you can barely keep your eyes open, have someone else do the reading for you! Youtube is chock full of people reading kids books. Like...ALL kids books. So pick your kids favorite books, and sit back, close your tired mommy eyes and relax while someone else does all the reading.

Play Doctor or Baby: If you’re just too tired to even stand up, suggest your kids play doctor or baby with you. They will love interacting with you in this way! Just be sure that you are the patient or the baby….ya know, so you don’t have to do anything! A patient just has to lay there, complaining about all of their terrible illnesses and injuries. And if you’re playing baby, well, that’s fun because you get to cry and whine too!

Mud Slinging: Sometimes we just need to let go of the control and let our kids play in the mud. When it’s lightly raining outside (or if it’s not raining at all but I know the kids need an entertaining activity ASAP, I’ll turn on the hose), I’ll let the kids put on their play clothes and just go to town in our backyard. Mud pies, mud fights, it’s all okay! My only rule is no eating the mud...which is something I’ll have to remind them every 30 seconds. And by “them” I mean my 4 year old son who should obviously know better by now. And then, when everyone is done playing, I just hose them off!

Chalk Play: Another activity similar to mud slinging is letting them play with chalk in the rain. It’s so much fun and so very messy. But it’s colorful! And you can just sit in the house watching all the craziness happen out there. And again, when they are all finished, just hose those cuties off!

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Talent Show: Announce to your crew that it’s time to put on a talent show. Tell them to think of something they love to do. Plop yourself down on the couch and have each of your kids perform their talent for you. Kudos if you can get them to do multiple different talents for an extended period of time!

Fashion Show: I don’t know about you, but my kids love to dress up. Tell your kiddos that it’s time to put on a fashion show, and have them pick out their favorite costumes. Have them do multiple outfits! Make it more fun by trying to guess what they are. It’s fun for the kids, and it’s entertaining and relaxing for you!

What are some of your go-to activities when you are just overly exhausted or when you just need something to get all the crazy out of your kids?!

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Posted on November 4, 2017 and filed under life with littles.

Holiday Traditions for the Family

As the holidays are fast approaching many parents start thinking about traditions they can implement with their young ones. Traditions are fun and they are a great way to cultivate lasting memories (not to mention it ties children to their home as they get older. Win win!!).

Try out these fun family traditions this year, or use these ideas to come up with your own (and share your great ideas with us too!):

Halloween

Not everyone celebrates Halloween. Every family is different and will decide for themselves how or even if they will celebrate certain holidays.

When I was younger we did not go trick or treating. Instead, we would celebrate my Aunt’s birthday! Her birthday was October 31st, and so we would usually dress up and go to her house for a birthday party. We would pass out candy to all the trick-or-treaters, and my aunt would load all of us kids up with bags of candy too! It was always super fun for us!

So if you’re family doesn’t celebrate Halloween in the traditional sense, you could always throw a costume party at home for your family and maybe some neighbors.

Boo your neighbor. I didn’t hear about this fun tradition until we moved to Texas. You basically make up a Halloween goodie bag for a friend or neighbor and leave it at their door with a poem and a sign saying they have been “Boo’d”! The “Boo” is supposed to be reciprocated to someone else on the block. It can be a fun way to get to know your neighbors. Read this post for additional info on starting a Boo in your neighborhood!

Family Halloween Costumes. How fun is it to see a family in matching costumes! I love that, and I always try to coordinate the kids. This year is the only year that I have successfully gotten the kids to match. This year my 4 Littles are going as the Paw Patrol and I am so excited. For inspiration in coming up with a theme for your sweet family, check out these awesome families and their creative costumes!

My two little mummies... our first Halloween with matching outfits!

My two little mummies... our first Halloween with matching outfits!

My Paw Patrol crew!

My Paw Patrol crew!

Thanksgiving

I LOVE Thanksgiving! All that yummy food! I love the stories I hear over and over and over again each year. My grandma LOVES to share this one story about me. I bet you anything I’ll hear it this year. It goes like this...when I was really little, probably 1, my grandma was feeding me on the floor. It was Thanksgiving and she was giving me all the delicious varieties of food. Apparently I just kept eating and eating and eating. And she just kept feeding me because I guess I was a baby glutton. She was baffled that I was still taking in bite after bite, until I literally just fell over. My grandma loves that story and will tell it to anyone she is sitting next to.

(I’ve since learned portion control and no longer eat until I fall over, thankyouverymuch).

Share favorite family memories. Obviously this one is already handled at our Thanksgiving dinners. But your dinner table can be full of fun and laughter if everyone will share their favorite family memories. We usually pick one special victim to gang up on and we tell embarrassing stories about that person all day. Don’t you wish you were in my family!! We’re so kind.

Share what you’re Thankful for. A lot of people think this tradition is cliche and a little hokey. Maybe it is. But I still love it. I think it’s important to be thankful (on a regular basis), and this holiday is just a great reminder for those blessings in our lives. Plus, it’s always fun to hear what others are thankful for as well. So jump head first into this hokey tradition and go around the table sharing what you’re thankful for this year.

Create a Family Cookbook. Everyone has their famous traditional thanksgiving dish they bring each year. My grandma makes the gravy. It’s always perfect and delicious. My mom makes the sweet potatoes (or rather, I tell her she has to make them because hers are my favorite!). Create a new family tradition by creating a cookbook with everyone’s signature Thanksgiving dish, and then have the little ones draw pictures of all the different foods. Print copies of it using Shutterfly or another photo creation program, and distribute it to all the family members.

Make a Thanksgiving Tablecloth. Get a plain white tablecloth and some fabric markers. Have everyone sign the tablecloth and leave a message/memory from that year. Use the same tablecloth each year, adding new memories and messages. Have fun reading the previous year’s memories.

Give back to the Community. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You can teach your children the importance of thinking about other people first and letting them see that not all people have homes to live in and food to eat.

Invite a family. Not everyone lives near family or can get back home for the holidays. Something that has always touched my heart is when another family will invite us over to their Thanksgiving dinner because they know we live far from home. It feels good to know that others are thinking of us and care enough to let us join their holiday fun.

If you know someone that doesn’t have family in the area, invite them over to join your family. I bet they would love the gesture and appreciate spending the holiday with you and your family.

Remember loved ones who have passed. Thanksgiving family get-togethers can be hard for those that have lost loved ones that year. That first family gathering after the loss of a family member can be exceptionally difficult. Take time to remember those that have passed away, and share special memories of them with one another.

Christmas

When my hubs and I were first married we really enjoyed heading home for Christmas. I absolutely LOVED my family’s Christmas tradition of going to my Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve and then spending Christmas Day with our families. But after having several kids AND living across the country from our families, we have started to reconsider our Christmas traditions. While I do still love getting to see our extended families on Christmas, it’s actually more fun for us to spend Christmas morning at our own house and begin new traditions with our own kids. Last year was our first Christmas away from family. We spent Christmas with our 4 littles here in Texas. And while we certainly missed our family traditions, we did have a lot of fun making new traditions and memories with our tiny crew.

4 Christmas gifts. We started a tradition of only doing 4 gifts each for Christmas; something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. The idea behind this is to simplify gift giving and focus on what’s really important. So often people get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas shopping and end up going overboard on ALL THE THINGS! With this four gift idea, you really focus on your individual kids and what would actually benefit them. Plus, I believe it helps them stay grounded when it comes to material possessions. Less is more, if you will.

Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is used to tell the story of the Bible, from Creation to the Christmas Story, using various symbols and objects for each day/story. You can find out more about this neat advent tradition here.

Christmas Tree Ornaments. Have your child pick out or a make a new ornament each year. Then when they are older and move out, they will have their own collection of ornaments (complete with fond memories!) to decorate their tree with.

Christmas Lights show. One of my favorite traditions growing up was to go looking at Christmas lights. There was this one street near my grandparents house that was over the top amazing! It was a street full of mansions, and the owners literally spent thousands of dollars lighting up their homes. One house in particular was just ridiculous. Like...300.000 lights ridiculous! It was/is quite the scene! Now that I have my own kids, we pick a couple of nights to go look at lights. Everyone gets in their pajamas and brings their favorite blanket, and we just drive around looking at all the houses.

Christmas Jammies. I’m a sucker for matching outfits. I absolutely love putting my two boys and two girls in matching clothes. It does something to my mama heart. It’s adorable! And because I love it so stinkin much, I have decided that we will do matching christmas jammies every year! I’ve done it the past 4 years and I still think it’s fabulous!

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Christmas Eve Tradition. Along with the Christmas jammies, is our Christmas Eve tradition. In the evening I will bring out one box for the whole family to open. In the box is everyone’s Christmas jams, a new Christmas movie, popcorn and snacks. We’ll all get into our new jammies and watch a movie together.

(side note: It sounds way better than it actually is. With 4 kids 5 and under, it’s sometimes a nightmare and doesn’t ever go according to plan. But, BUT, my hope is that as the kids get older, this tradition will become more fun and they will cooperate way better. Gotta start somewhere, right?!)

What are some of your family holiday traditions?

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Posted on October 31, 2017 .

Cross-country Road trip Alone... with 3 Toddlers

Let's just be clear here; I have a little bit of crazy in me. I thought it would be a great idea to travel across the country with the three toddlers who were 3, 2 and 1 at the time. Oh, and did I mention that I was the only adult! Oh, and also that I was pregnant! You see, crazy.


The true motivation for this absurd adventure was that I would be dropping the kids off at my moms and having a girl's trip with two of my friends in Florida! So crazy, yes, but crazy for the sake of a few days of sanity and refreshment and much needed time with friends I hadn't seen in way too long.


Let's just dive right in, and I'll share our road trip experience with you, complete with the logistics and tips.


First, let me just tell you about the long long drive.


I woke up stupidly early (I had planned on going to bed really early the night before so I would be well rested for waking up in the middle of the night. But, alas, these things never go as planned and I got roughly 3-4 hours of sleep. No joking!), made some coffee and got myself ready. Everything was already loaded in the van, so I really just needed to put the kids into their car seats right before I was leaving.


3am: Phillip and I load all 3 kids into the van. Pax is unusually excited for being woken up (he typically cries and it takes him a good 30 minutes to transition out of sleep mode), and everyone is smiling and excited. Granted, I had been telling them about going to Grandma's house for weeks! Finally it's happening.


We tell daddy bye bye and head out on our way (Phillip doesn't come because he has to work all week. Poor guy. Missed all the excitment.)


I expected the kids to fall right back to sleep. This was not the case. Within the first hour and a half I had to stop 3 times for various reasons; Pax needed his paci, the kids were thirsty, potty break (that was also very convenient for me!).


5:00am: All three kids are finally sleeping, though Pax continues to wake up and whine about things. 
5:45am: I about can't stand it any longer...I'm so exhausted I feel like I won't be able to stay awake. I stealthily turn on the white noise and drive to a fast food restaurant parking lot. I park under a light (see...I'm still safe!), make sure the doors are locked and lean my chair back. I pray that the rising sun and the stopped van won't wake the kids up, and I close my eyes.
6:00am: I hear Eliza wiggling in  her car seat, but I'm way too tired to even move at this point. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I know it's 15 minutes later and all three kids are awake chattering away to one another. I groan, put my seat back up and try to enthusiastically greet the kids good morning. Inside I'm rolling my eyes and grumbling about how ridiculously early these kids get up. Seriously! Is it in their genes? Why do they ALL wake up so early every single day?


All they want to do is watch tv. My fault for saying that we would eat breakfast and watch a movie when the sun came up. Why does the sun come  up so early?!


6:35am:We have gone through the McDonalds drive thru where I ordered a large coffee and some hot breakfast (for myself). I park and give the kids their yummy breakfast bars, fruit, and cups full of almond milk (chocolate for Jaelyn!). I put a movie in, we take a potty break (yes, in the van. More on that later!), and get all situated for the long haul.
7:00am: Back on the road. The sun, the warm food and the hot coffee wakes me up. Plus...listening to Toy Story is quite amusing. I've seen that movie so many times, but still find myself chuckling throughout. Cute movie, classic.


I told myself, and the kids, that I wouldn't stop again until lunch time. Who was I kidding?! Not only do I have 2 potty trained toddlers, I'm pregnant....and I just downed a huge thing of coffee (not to mention all the water and Gatorade I've been drinking. Gotta stay hydrated!).


We stop 3 more times for various reasons; whiny baby who doesn't want the toys I keep throwing at her, potty break for us potty trained folks, more food.


10:00am: Eliza takes a morning nap. Surprising since she doesn't take morning naps anymore, but I'm so grateful. She's really quite whiny in the car seat.
11:00am: We've been on the road for 8 hours already, but I'm realizing that we still have a LONG way to go. Because 8 hours of being on the road with 3 kids does NOT mean that we have driven for 8 hours. I roll my eyes and shrug. What did I really expect? To make a 14 hour trip in 14 hours?! We trudge on.
For another 30 minutes anyway.
11:30am: I stop at a gas station where I get more gas, we all go potty and I give the kids their lunch.
12:00pm: Back on the road again.


I inform the kids that once they are done eating, it's quiet time. I'm hoping they will ALL take a nap. I really don't have hope that Eliza will go to sleep since she took about a 45 minute nap earlier. But a mom can still wish, right?!


Around 12:15pm I turn off the DVD with a few groans and let the kids know that it's quiet time. I stop at a gas station so I can give the kids their blankets and pillows (Pax his pacifier), and I also give them a small activity to do if they want. Books and toys. I'm still hoping they nap, but in the event that they don't, I want them to be entertained so they aren't so whiny. Long car trips at that age are hard!


2:15pm: We make it to St. Louis and I stop at a McDonalds play area to let the kids get out for awhile. I'm really starting to think that we might not make it.
2:50pm: Back on the road again!


These last several hours are the absolute worst! Pax and Eliza are seriously not having it. They are beyond over this road trip. Jaelyn is absolutely fine. Her ideal day would be sitting in front of a TV and eating snacks. She really has zero complaints (aside from when I put silly songs on for Pax instead of a movie), and it's actually quite pleasant road-tripping with her.
From 6pm until we arrive I have to stop 4 times. Pax thinks he needs to poop, but nothing is happening. I secretly think he just wants to get out of his car seat. Exclaiming poop will usually allow for that!


Constant crying from one or two little people (sometimes simultaneously) ensues the last 30 minutes. I grit my teeth and remind myself that they are toddlers...they have been stuck in their car seats all stinkin day. The poor kids are miserable. Heck, I'm miserable! I'm sure they are really having a rough time.
7:30pm: We arrive!! Most of us aren't happy, but we are all alive!

Okay, so that was the drive. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the logistics.
How does one person successfully travel with 3 toddlers across the country?


1. Pack your own food:This will save money and it will save time. I brought lots of snacks- things I know that the kids like. I didn't care about healthy options (though we did eat some healthy things). My goal here was survival. Kids that are eating and not complaining will be happier and that will help me survive! I was able to toss the kids snacks so I didn't have to stop every single time they needed/wanted something. I didn't have to wait in line at a fast food place for every meal and we didn't have to get out to eat.
    Breakfast: Breakfast bars, fruit, and almond milk
    Lunch: Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, fruit, veggie chips, applesauce (the kind in a pouch), cheese sticks, juice
    Dinner: We pretty much skipped dinner since the kids had eaten snacks almost constantly after they woke up from their naps.
    Snacks: Goldfish, fruit snacks, peanut butter and jelly filled something or other (I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was located in the fruit snack aisle!), cheese crackers, raisins
    The fruit I brought were grapes, blueberries, and cuties
    I brought single servings of almond milk; both regular and chocolate. We only drink almond milk since Pax has an intolerance to dairy. It's just easier that way. Plus...this milk didn't need to be kept cold before using it.
    *Tip: Pack things your kids like and will actually eat. I don't recommend candy, but it also doesn't have to be the healthiest options either. Remember...the goal is survival. And one day of eating mostly junk probably won't do too much harm.

2. Bring things your kids love to do: My 3 year old loves television. Maybe too much? Yes, definitely too much. But it's something I know she can and will do for extended periods of time. Having a DVD player is a life saver for her on a long trip. She also enjoys coloring, so I made sure to bring crayons and coloring books for her. My 2 year old, on the other hand, does not like to sit and watch TV. He doesn't really like to sit at all. But that's a different story. He does, however love to listen to silly songs. So I made sure to incorporate that into our trip periodically. He doesn't do well with coloring (still tries eating the colors), but he does like playing with toy cars and dinosaurs. So I picked up a few new ones at the dollar store. The one year old was a bit more tricky. She will watch TV, but she was still rear facing so she could really only hear it. She was the hardest to keep happy. Let's just be honest, there wasn't much that would entertain her other than food and drinks.
    *Tip: Bringing new items is always exciting. I recommend having a few new things for each kid (simple stuff from the dollar store), and bringing it out throughout the trip so that they have something new every few hours. It'll be fun for them and it might buy you a few minutes of quiet ;-)
3. Potty Breaks: I'm sure this is the one you've all been waiting for! How on earth did we go potty (so often) on this long road trip? Well, you may be surprised to know that the kids never actually got out of the van, except for our little excursion into the play area at McDonalds. And no, I didn't leave them alone in the van.
A toddler potty seat! Yep, that's the answer. The two older tots pottied in the little potty seat when we needed to stop. Eliza obviously just had her diaper changed in the van.
And my pregnant self?! Yep, the potty seat in the van. I kid you not, that is how we managed to make the long haul without me having to get 3 toddlers out of the van every time my pregnant body needed to potty. Luckily the kids are too young to get embarrassed about things like that ;-)
So we would do our business, then I would empty out the potty seat in the grass somewhere and wipe it out with a Clorox wipe. Easy peasy.
4. Use your debit card:We are trying to do more cash these days, in order to curb our spending. But when it comes to road trips by yourself with kids...just use your debit/credit card. If you're like me, you won't want to leave your kids alone to run in and pay, and I certainly wasn't getting them all out of the van!
5. Be Realistic: If you're going to travel with kids, whether alone or not, just go ahead and add in a few more hours. If you happen to make it sooner, great! If it takes the full 5 extra hours, well then bravo for being realistic! Traveling with kids takes a. very. long. time! You have to account for all the things; bathroom breaks, endless ridiculous needs, more bathroom breaks, food, time to stretch their legs and run off their energy.
6. Allow time for getting out: It's hard enough for an adult to sit for 12+ hours straight. It's nearly impossible for kids. You don't have to spend hours letting them out to play, but do spend about 20 minutes or so if possible. Ideally, it would be nice to let them out every few hours. But at least once on a long road trip is pretty necessary.

     *Tip: Search ahead of time for a place to stop. We typically will find a nice park that the kids can play at. Or we will just look for a fast food place with a play area. But it makes it nicer to have a location already nailed down so you don't have to go searching on the road.
7. Build the excitement: It's probably not a good idea to load the kids into the van one morning and start driving ALL DAY LONG. Your kids might freak out. I find it best to build the excitement about the long road trip. A week or longer could work, but really it's up to you. I explain to the kids that in so many days we're going to go see Grandma!! And then throughout the coming days/weeks, I share specifics about our trip to Grandma's, but always keep it as exciting as possible. I let them know we will be in the van ALL day and we will get to watch movies and eat snacks and go potty in the van! They like that one. That way, as we're driving hour after endless hour, I can keep up their excitement by retelling them what we are doing, where we are going, and all the fun things we get to do on the way.
8. Don't do it!!:I'm just kidding! It was very difficult at times, but it was totally doable. And there is some pride in knowing that you can do it! People will call you crazy, and you'll feel a little bit crazy. But honestly, it's something that can be accomplished.
I was always very spontaneous before I had kids. Like...I did seriously silly things sometimes (quitting my job to travel to Canada with a friend, skydiving 8 times, mission trips to other countries at the spur of the moment, road trips with friends when I was broke as a joke....crazy, stupid things). But I didn't want having kids to keep me from doing things. Granted, having kids did bring my crazy down a few notches, and I've learned to plan things out ahead of time. But it didn't take away my desire for adventure. So if you feel the same way (or even if you don't), rest assured that you can still do things with kids. And you can still do things by yourself with kids. It will be a heck of  a lot harder, and you have to plan for things to happen (like a blown tire on the highway or a toddler getting carsick, or what to do if you have to poop....), but if you want to or need to, I'm here to tell you that it's possible!
And please...feel free to share your own stories of doing crazy things with your kids or how you survive road trips with the littles. I need to know I'm not the only one ;-)

I wish I had taken more pictures of our adventure, but I didn't really even think about blogging about it until after the fact. Again, it was kind of just crazy survival mode! But I did take one!

Starting out on our road trip. You can clearly see how excited the kids are! I had a bag of toys and snacks within reach, so that I could just toss things to toddlers as needed! And with one seat stowed underneath, there was plenty of room in the back for when diaper changes and potty breaks ;-)

Starting out on our road trip. You can clearly see how excited the kids are! I had a bag of toys and snacks within reach, so that I could just toss things to toddlers as needed! And with one seat stowed underneath, there was plenty of room in the back for when diaper changes and potty breaks ;-)

Posted on June 24, 2016 and filed under life with littles, road trip.

Things you NEVER imagined you'd say...

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Ya know, there’s just some things in life that you don’t think you will ever say. And it’s not until you have children that you find yourself saying the most ridiculous things!

I’ve compiled a list of things that my husband and I have said…probably more than once since having kids. I’m certain that as the kids get older and do more ridiculous things, we’ll end up saying even more off-the-wall comments (feel free to add your own in the comments section!)

-       We don’t eat pennies!

-       Pee pee goes in the potty, not on the floor

-       Don’t put your feet on your brothers face

-       Chips don’t go in your ear.

-       No, don’t put chips in your brother’s ear.

-       Please don’t lick that off the floor.

-       Oh, no, don’t lick mommy’s shoe!

-       Don’t put that diaper in my coffee please

-       Put your tongue back in your mouth or your food will just fall right off of it

-       That is garbage. We don’t eat garbage.

-       Wait, where are her undies? She’s wearing a dress, how did we not notice this?!  Hey missy, we never leave the house without wearing our undies.

-       Please don’t step on the baby

-       If you lick the book again, story time is over

-       Are you giving him kisses, or are you sucking on his head?

-       Hands out of the toilet. Hey! Both of you, hands out of the toilet!

-       We cannot go outside until EVERYONE is wearing pants.

-       Don’t let your brother step in your bowl!

-       Don’t put your foot in your sister’s bowl!

-       Why are you licking that?! That’s disgusting. Do you even know what that is?!

-       Stop climbing the stove!

-       How did you get in that drawer? Please get out of there. No! Don’t close your brother in that drawer, he’s trying to get out.

-       Oh, umm…daddies don’t have milk. Only mommies with babies have milk….

-       If you’re going to tackle your sister, do it on the rug. That floor is entirely too hard!

-       We don’t eat chalk or rocks. As a matter of fact, we don’t eat anything that is not food!

-       If you don’t stop licking that rock, you’re not going to get to hold it anymore.
 

Apparently my kids lick a lot of things….

Posted on November 11, 2014 and filed under life with littles.