Are we there yet? Road trippin’ ready with littles.

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So it’s finally that time of year for our family…road trip season! I absolutely love traveling with my family and this spring we have some fun weekends planned. We are only a couple weeks away from some fun adventures (some for mommy’s races, some for daddy’s games, and some for both!) which means I am in full planning mode when it comes to making sure the kids are happy and content for the drives. The main goal is to try to avoid having them go from looking like this….IMG_3189 to this…IMG_3188

These pictures still crack me up!

Since she was less than a year old, my daughter has been enduring some long trips in the car. Through my experience, I have learned what works best for us. She was always pretty easy in the car, and would take some marathon naps which helped a lot. My son on the other hand, he proved to be more of a challenge. But I’m always up for those! I had to be much more creative once we had two and now we are way better prepared for pretty much anything.

So here are some of the things that help make our trips a little easier, and actually pretty fun too!

  1. Food. Personally when I am bored, I get hungry. When my kids get bored, they turn into savages! Food for us is definitely first on the list. I have my snacks very organized even at home, which makes packing for trips really easy. Everything is pre-sorted in snack sized bags so I can just grab and go. I make sure to pack two of everything. If you have more than one child, I’m sure this is a no-brainer. Even if your child never eats something, when the other child has it in the car they will want it. I pack a big variety of both dry and cold snacks, and keep the two separate in large storage sized plastic bags. Then everything goes in a soft cooler that we use at the beach too. Along with food, I usually just buy a gallon of water to use for refills in all of our water bottles and sippy cups.

    Some of these snacks are for me as well, I am a way more patient mommy when my belly is full. As for meals, we stop and eat…usually at a restaurant over a rest area but making the time to eat a full meal rather than just snacks all day can really help too.

    2. NEW activities. Sure, your kids have lots of coloring books, stickers, and other small toys perfect for a trip already. But having new things is exciting, and doesn’t have to be expensive. This time of year I am constantly hitting the dollar section of Target and the dollar stores finding things I can hide away and surprise them with in the car. Some of my personal favorites are stickers and paper, window clings, activity books with those wonderful clear markers, scratch books, and even bubbles. If you are down with electronics, both of my kids have kindles and we download a new movie or two and some new educational games on them right before the really long rides. Just remember the charger! Here are some of my latest finds from my latest trip to Target that will be used for our next long ride:

    3. Games. For the bigger kids, there are tons of scavenger hunt type games you can play…it’s super easy to cut and paste pictures and hand them a clipboard and pencil for this. Some things my daughter will hunt for are road signs, different color cars, words that start with certain letters, or just keep it simple like trees, tractors, airplanes, whatever! She is just starting to be able to read, so the pictures right on the page or the letters make this easy. Then she just crosses off the items as she sees them…maybe even for a prize.

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    On our way to Pittsburgh last summer, road sign scavenger hunt and counting tunnels

4.  Cleaning and organizing supplies. I prefer to use the bathroom hand towels as napkins in the car. They are nicely kept in the box, and easy for the kids to pull out one when they need it. However, for any big cleanups have a roll of paper towels handy too. Hand wipes or baby wipes also come in handy for sticky hands and faces. Bring a few extra plastic shopping bags to use for garbage, and do a sweep anytime you stop. Up until this past summer, we were lucky that our kids do not get car sick.  Then we found out the hard way that my daughter cannot color in the car. Lesson learned, pack one extra outfit for each child in a large plastic storage bag and keep them somewhere accessible. We were on the side of the highway, pulling out suitcases searching for new clothes for her. The storage bag will come in handy for the soiled clothes after they change. Along with that, a plastic bucket from the dollar store isn’t a bad idea either. Pack a container of disinfecting wipes for car seats, and also to wipe down all those things kids love to touch and put in their mouths at the hotels (think TV remotes…not at home but without fail in hotels…what’s up with that?).

5. Plan to stop. Take your time getting to your destination if you can. Before having kids I would set the GPS,  look to see what time it was estimated I would arrive at a destination and think, challenge accepted…I can beat that by an hour! Now I set it (the Waze app is my personal favorite these days) and laugh knowing it will take us way longer. Medically I am not supposed to go more than 2 hours without stopping due to the risk of blood clots, so that is one reason we need to stop. But I have found along with that the kids really benefit from getting out for a few minutes and moving. Some fresh air is good from time to time. If we are really taking our time, we look and see if there are any parks or trails we can stop at and get in a quick run too. Just be ready, as soon as you get back on the highway, you’ll hear the word “potty”, or smell that it is time for a diaper change

6. Emergency candy stash. For me, this is everything. Once in a while they are just done. And this usually happens about 30 seconds after you pass the last rest area for 150 miles. At this point, you do what you have to do. Having a secret bag of non-messy candy can be a life-saver for me. Usually it’s pez dispensers, smarties, dum dum lollipops (pull all the clear colored ones out of the bag) and mints. Keep these handy for restaurants on the trip too…a lot of times we eat pretty late at night and these can help keep them happy when off schedule…along with some of the stickers and books from above.

 

I try and use either plastic tubs or tote bags to keep everything organized. The next trip we take which will be around 4 hours long I will be driving without a co-pilot. We are meeting daddy down in DC so making sure items are within reach for either me or the kids is going to be pretty important. The food will be next to me on the passenger seat and the toys between the car seats. The more you plan ahead, the smoother things will go. Let the kids help with this.If they feel involved, it can be an easier process.  I allow my kids to pack one small bag each with whatever they would like to bring. Toys, books, blankets usually make the cut. If it fits in the bag, it can go. Helps make the hotel feel a little more like home too.

As for me, I find that if I work out before we start I will be a lot more patient on the ride. I will wake up super early and get in a few miles because I know for me, it will make the trip a lot smoother.

Every trip I find new things to bring along, and face new challenges that make me tweak what we do. Road trips can be a lot of fun. Stressful at times for sure, but the memories and fun we have on these trips far outweighs any of that. What are some things you find work for you? I’d love to find some new ideas to keep things fresh!

Happy travels!

Heather

 

 

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All about the love

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I have never been a mushy, romantic, Valentine’s Day kind of girl. My husband knows that I would much rather receive a new pair of Asics over a dozen roses, and definitely a jar of peanut butter over a box of chocolates. It’s just the way I am. But even though I may not be what’s considered traditionally romantic, I’m still all about the love. So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to make a list of some of the things I love.  So here it is, in no particular order.

Celebrations                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I’m sure this popped into my head first since there’s a holiday this weekend, but I am a huge fan of celebrations. And themes.  Party themes, holiday themes, Disney trip themes, races…all of it. If there is the possibility of a new outfit, decoration, or dessert, you better believe I’m on it. My kids are completely on board with this, we could probably come up with a reason to have a party or celebrate every day if we wanted to! The first day of school my daughter came home with a list of all the “spirit days” they would have for the year. I was online that night finding ideas and ordering t-shirts. I’m not exaggerating, that day I got her a Star Wars shirt for “May the 4th be with you”day. I can’t help myself. Parties are the same way. I figure out the themes months in advance and start shopping. Sometimes years in advance; knowing 2016 is an Olympic year, my daughter’s 6th birthday has been planned since she was born! I firmly believe that life is worth celebrating, no matter the occasion. Every day is a gift.

My Family

Without a doubt my kids and my husband are the most important people in my life. They inspire me, support me, and we have so much fun together! But it doesn’t end with the people I live with. My extended family is so important as well. I feel so very blessed to have both sets of  my children’s grandparents, plus all of their aunts and uncles live so close to us. They have such great relationships with their cousins, and I am happy to watch my kids grow up being best friends with my nieces and nephews. I love them all so much and am especially fortunate that through the years my sister and I have always been there for each other,  and always will be best friends.

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Marriage

Where do I begin? I do not know what I would do without my husband. From what I’ve realized listening to other wives, he is one of those mythical ones who goes above and beyond. The man cleans, changes diapers, wakes up with babies in the middle of the night, cooks, fills in as “dance mom”, and gives some amazing foot rubs after long runs. There is not one time that he does not call or text to see if I need anything on his way home. We have a great friendship and mutual respect for what the other needs. We both love to workout, so we understand when the other one needs to get out and run. We both coach, so we understand long practices and putting in the extra time for our teams. We both want our children to be raised to be strong and independent with good values and work as a team to parent them the way we think is best. We have each others back. Sure, we have disagreements. I tend to be the emotional (dare I say irrational) one…but he just lets me get it out and then teases me about it later. It works for us and I am grateful for that everyday.
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Being a Mom

Growing up I was not a girl who talked about how many kids I would have or what I would name them. I guess I assumed I would have children but didn’t really give it a lot of thought. But then one day a switch went off, when I was in my late twenties and I was ready to be a mom. We were very fortunate to get pregnant easily and my daughter forever changed our lives. Three years later we were blessed once again,  and being a mom to my two little loves makes me unbelievably happy. I love watching them learn. I love watching them grow. I love watching them develop problem solving skills and find their independence. I love their hugs and kisses. I love when they fall asleep in my arms. Now at age  5 and 2,  I love watching them play together and how proud they are of each other. Being a mom is exhausting but is the most rewarding experience of my life.

The “Aha” moment

Being a teacher, coach, and mom there are a lot of these. Nothing makes me more proud then  when one of my students, swimmers, or kids have that moment where everything clicks. When they try something over and over and then all of a sudden…it’s there! It could be something as simple as a puzzle piece fitting the right way to achieving a varsity time. That look on kids faces…that “I get it now!” look. It’s just plain awesome.

Running

I know, shocker, right? There are so many reasons to love running. Some are obvious even to  those who don’t…weight loss/control, your health, the races. But it is so much more than that. I love the way I feel when I am running. I am in control and every decision is mine. How far, how fast, how long. I love how I feel after I run. I love how strong running makes me feel. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. I have overcome a lot of obstacles in my life. Running, as well as the other sports I have participated in, have taught me how to overcome something that isn’t easy. That when something is difficult or doesn’t make you feel great you can get through it and the sense of accomplishment far outweighs all of the excuses of why you shouldn’t do hard things. I love the example I can set for my children, my team, and other moms through running. I love how I can be completely stressed out but come back from my run a nicer, saner, happier person.  Running is not just about me though, my babies are always up for a stroller run and we make every race an adventure. Whenever I sign up for a race, we find what other activities, museums, and parks we can explore as a family. Having my kids at the finish line, or in the stroller as we cross the line is so important to me and I’m so happy to share the experiences with them.

A challenge

A few years ago I came across the quote “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you”. It has stuck with me and I cannot agree more. I am constantly trying to evolve in my life. I love going to new places, especially now that I can experience them with my children. I love watching my kids do new things for the first time.  As a mom I am constantly encouraging them to be brave and explore new activities and to not be afraid of the unknown.The past few years I have started to realize I need to take my own advice. Last year, I started signing up for half marathons and have really found out how physically strong I can be, and have already signed up for 4 more this spring. This year, blogging and weight training have been my newest challenges. And both are proving to help make me more confident and discover things I didn’t know I was capable of.

 

Me!

Okay  listen up, because this one is huge! It took me over 30 years to get to this one. Even as I made this list I was shocked that I made it. Not that I’ve necessarily ever hated myself, but I don’t know if I could ever honestly say I truly  loved me. I always struggled with self confidence and felt that I was never good enough. I was always the girl that had to change 50 times before going anywhere. I constantly felt that  I didn’t deserve to be completely happy, or maybe that I was being selfish or stuck up if I was. But I have had a lot of breakthroughs lately. It’s hard to completely explain but something has always held me back, or maybe I just kind of ignored it. I no longer feel the need to worry about what others think or say about me. I no longer feel responsible if someone doesn’t understand my journey. It has helped that I have built up a great support system of family and friends who help empower and motivate me. Along with that is that I can even say I love my body. It has been with me through so much…excessive exercise, major surgeries, a blood clot, and numerous bumps and bruises, not to mention carrying 2 babies. I am very proud of what my body  has overcome and continues to accomplish. As a mother,  I  know that the most effective  way to really show my daughter how to love herself and to be proud of who she becomes is by leading by example. I try every day to do so. I am so happy to not only type this, but to actually mean it when I say I love me!

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There are so many more things I love about this life I am living, and I could write for days about them. But these were the first that came to mind. I’ll call it my “I just won an Oscar and want to thank everyone but no doubt will forget someone important” moment. So I will just save some of those for next year…here’s hoping by then I will have tons more incredible experiences and memories to be grateful for. If not, that’s fine too…my heart is very full anyway.

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Take care, Heather