Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Road Trip Activities 2.0

(Also known as The Trip For Which I May Have Slightly Over-Prepared.)

We just got back from an epic road trip (5,388 miles, to be precise) in which we saw much of the Western US and much of our families. We hadn't done a long road trip since Christmas of 2015 and I was a little worried about keeping the kids busy for that many miles When we first planned the trip, we knew we'd be caravaning with my parents for the second leg, but thought the kids would be with us for the first and third legs, so I maaaaay have over prepared. Maybe. (Pretty sure that when Chris reads this post, he'll roll his eyes and say "yes, yes you did,") Plans changed and Chris and I ended up driving the last leg kid free (which, yes, was as wonderful as it sounds). Don't worry, we didn't abandon our children; they spent a week with grandparents and great grandparents, going to the library, the pool and various parks and they arrived home safely yesterday afternoon.

Due to a last minute vehicle change we ended up taking Chris' Jetta station wagon, and I'm happy to report that it went much, much better than expected and we all still like each other. ;) It did make things a little cramped (all three kids in one row), so a few activities got left behind (roll of aluminium foil, extra sketch books and some construction magnets) but most of what we brought was well used

Last our last trip, I made road trip binders, which they asked for before we'd pulled out of the driveway (sorry, kids, I don't hand out activities until at least an hour into a trip). In the binders I put colored pencils (no crayons on a summer road trip!), a coloring page for each state went to, color by number, blank paper, dry erase markers, dot to dots, a map of our trip, etc. Restaurant bingo was a huge hit. It was pretty cute to hear "that's on my list!" from the backseat multiple times when they spotted one.

I also made travel trays and had some fun customizing them.

Pipe cleaners, strategically picked books (Where's Waldo?, a children's treasury, etc.), stickers and glow sticks (which, by the way, aren't really necessary on a summer road trip when you're not driving late at night) were all repeats from our previous trip. New this time were...
Finger puppets: The homemade Veggie Tales puppets from our last trip didn't hold up well, and I was lazy so I bought some from Amazon this time. They're super cute and are now in the game closet to be used for quiet time or future road trips.

Tic Tac Toe: I bought some colorful round magnets from Hobby Lobby, drew Xs and Os on them and then drew a tic tac toe board which I put into a page protector. Isaac and his Lovey played a bunch, which was adorable.

Plastic animals: I got some from Amazon and then printed off these landscapes, put them in page protectors and added magnets to the back so they'd stick to the travel trays. The kids ended up using them mostly without the pages, but the animals were definitely a hit. I found some road pages, too, for cars and airplanes.

Magnetic puzzles: I took a couple of jigsaw puzzles from the Dollar Tree and put a magnetic strip on the back of each piece. It would have worked really well if I'd measured and realized before we left that the finished puzzles were too big for the trays. Mom fail.

Target Dollar Spot Treasures: Several weeks before our trip (when we thought we were going to be in a van/have extra room), a friend and I went to Target in search of car activities. I left with a memory game, Old Maid and checkers (which we didn't end up playing), some sketch books, pirate magnets and some weird light up ball/Koosh hybrid things. 

Read alouds: I was thrilled that kids liked reading chapter books more this time around. We listened to Little Town on the Prairie, and I read aloud two Boxcar Children books (which I'd gotten on Kindle for a steal. I'm not a huge fan of eReaders, but I can't deny they're quite wonderful when traveling).

Would You Rather?: I printed these cards and put them on a ring, which was a fun thing we all could participate in.

Ice Cream Parlor: I cut cones, ice cream scoops and toppings out of felt. Nothing very exciting, but Lydia enjoyed playing with them.

Misc: The kids were each in charge of packing some toys in their backpacks (Timmy brought the necessary race cars, Isaac the airplanes and Lydia the dolls/stuffed animals). We also borrowed a couple Boogie Boards (LCD writing tablets) from a friend, though we only brought one due to space.

Also, kids are pretty content to just look out the window...who'd have thunk? ;) When your boys love building/construction and airplanes and your daughter loves animals, there's quite a bit out there for them to see. Isaac and I were excited to count the number of crop dusters we saw, and ended up with a whopping one. 

There are probably a few more that I forgot about. I'm not kidding when I say that I literally wrote down every activity so I wouldn't forget what all I'd brought, because pregnancy brain.  

Next time we epic road trip it will be with four kids. Not that we have one planned anytime in the near (or distant) future, but this baby is coming sooner than we think!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lydia's Third Birthday Interview

1. What is your favorite color?
"pink and purple"
2. What is your favorite toy?
"Cash register" [she got a toy one for her birthday]
3. What is your favorite fruit?
4. What is your favorite TV show?
"Angelina Ballerina"
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
"ham sandwich and pineapple"
6. What is your favorite Bible story?
"Jesus died on the cross."
7. What is your favorite game?
[don't think she has one]
8. What is your favorite snack?
"I don't know"
9. What is your favorite animal?
10. What is your favorite song?
11. What is your favorite book?
"Ballet dancers"
12. Who is your best friend?
"Hailey. I just love Hailey."
13. What is your favorite cereal?
"Honey Bunches of Oats"
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
"Take the dirt off the ground"
15 What is your favorite drink?
"Orange juice"
16. What is your favorite holiday?
17. Who do you take to bed with you at night?
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
"I already told you!"
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?
"cake" [we had that...along with a BBQ]
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A butterfly"

*later that day we had leftover pizza with pineapple on it, which she declared she didn't like. I don't understand three year olds, but I am highly amused by them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Our Latest Volume

I put this on IG and FB but somehow forgot to announce it on my blog...

And we found out this week that it's a boy!

We're very excited to welcome this little man to our family. I'm also looking forward to seeing what name we finally agree on. ;) Thankfully the pregnancy is going well so far. The first trimester was far from pleasant, but by the grace of God we survived. I'm 20 weeks now and other than being exhausted at the end of each day, I feel pretty normal. The tiredness might also be due to having three other children. Maybe. Those three children are pretty great, though, and are looking forward to Baby Flip Flop joining our family.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Farmer Lydia, Cropduster Isaac and Builder Timmy

Awhile back I blogged a couple of the boys' favorite original bedtime stories. While on a camping trip a couple weeks ago, I came up with a new tale in an effort to get Lydia to sleep. Here it is, transcribed for all the world to see.
Resting from all that farming

Once upon a time there was a farmer named Lydia. She had a pink tractor and grew corn, potatoes, peppers, broccoli, apples, oranges and strawberries. One day, Farmer Lydia discovered that bugs had been eating her crops. She knew that she had to do something, or else there wouldn't be any fruit or vegetables left for other kids to eat. So Farmer Lydia called up Cropduster Isaac.

Cropduster Isaac got into his plane right away and sprayed the crops to get rid of the bugs.* He did such a good job that Farmer Lydia's crops started growing so fast she ran out of room her in barns. So Farmer Lydia called up Builder Timmy, who built her some big, new barns to hold all the things she was growing until she could send them to kids who needed the food.

*Essential oil based/organic/non-GMO bug killer. Obviously. ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Isaac's 4th Birthday Interview

Our future pilot turned four yesterday--four! I asked him the traditional birthday interview questions as he ate his birthday breakfast...

1.      What is your favorite color?
2. What is your favorite toy?
3. What is your favorite fruit?
"grapes and bananas"
4. What is your favorite tv show?
"Daniel Tiger"
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
"mac and cheese"
6. What is your favorite Bible story?
"Jesus goes to Heaven"
7. What is your favorite game?
"airplane game" [Busy, Busy Airport]
8. What is your favorite snack?
9. What is your favorite animal?
10. What is your favorite song?
"Old McDonald"
11. What is your favorite book?
12. Who is your best friend?
"Bri and Logo and Bek" [the first two exist solely in his imagination]
13. What is your favorite cereal?
"Honey Bunches of Oats"
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
15. What is your favorite drink?
16. What is your favorite holiday?
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?
"Shadow [dog], Lamby, Chocolate [bear], Lovey...all my animals"
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
"sausage, eggs and toast"
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?
"hot dogs, baked beans and chips and salsa"
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? 
"a pilot"

Monday, February 08, 2016

Simple DIY Animal Canvases

I wanted to add some more color and some personality to Lydia's room, but wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. After playing around with the layout of the room and finally being satisfied with how things were, I was left with a large empty wall that needed some attention. Lydia's room is tiny, so when we painted it I chose a very light purple. Sometimes it's hard to tell that it's not white, but overall I'm happy with the color. However, I wanted to incorporate some more colors.

Since Lydia loves animals, I thought those would be a fun addition. I finally decided on very simple animal silhouettes with colorful backgrounds. The hardest part was deciding which animals to use. Had I used all of her favorites, the wall would have been fully covered.

Because the wall is so big, I knew I wanted large canvases to help fill the space. I bought 16x20 canvases at Hobby Lobby and used acrylic paint to paint each one a solid color (except for the purple--I didn't realize until I opened it and saw really thick paint that I'd actually bought enamel for glass and ceramic. This is what happens when you're shopping at Hobby Lobby with three kids).

I also had to tone down the green and yellow, but unfortunately I went a little too light on the green and didn't have any more. I added a tiny bit of dark green and called it good.

For the animals, my initial idea was to cut stencils with my Silhouette, trace them onto the canvas and then paint (I would have done the solid colors last had I gone this route). However, I realized that it probably wouldn't come out very crisp and even, and I really wanted the finished product to look nice.

Option two (which almost worked) was white contact paper. I tested it first with the pig, which came out great and stuck beautifully. Unfortunately, the next two (the dog and cat) were super wrinkled and wouldn't stick. I suspect it's because the contact paper was from when we lined the shelves in our old kitchen...4 years ago. Fresh contact paper would probably have worked fine.

Finally, I decided just to use cardstock. A few cuts on my Silhouette, some glue and they were ready to hang. Lydia is quite thrilled, and I'm pleased with how they turned out.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

3 Kids, 3100 Miles and 0 Screens: What Worked and What Didn't

I left this in my drafts for awhile to make sure I hadn't forgotten to add anything. The only thing I forgot was to hit 'publish.'

The suitcases are empty, the laundry is (nearly) done and we've breathed a huge sigh of relief. We survived our Christmas road trip--and dare I say, it went much, much better than we ever expected. (Or maybe our expectations were too low to begin with?) We drove nearly 1200 miles (each way) plus another 600ish miles during our 10 day stay for a total of 3100 miles in 13 days. We also decided when our kids were younger that we weren't going to be using electronic devices on road trips, so that added a (good) challenge. (No judgement if your family does use them in the car--this is just what works for us.)

Before hitting the road, I did a bunch of Pinteresting (that's a verb, right?) and planned activities, most of which I'm happy to say were very well received. I wanted to document what worked for us and our kiddos (nearly 5 year old boy, 3 1/2 year old boy and 19 month old girl).

What Worked
Binders: I channeled my inner Leslie Knope and made the kids road trip binders. They loved them and used them many times. They were mostly coloring pages and printables (found on Pinterest). I put the printables in plastic sleeves and gave the kids dry erase markers so they would be reusable. The pages included handwriting sheets with their name, numbers, alphabet, etc, as well as road sign bingo, draw your own road sign, etc. Lydia's binder contained some pictures of her favorite animals and coloring pages, some in page protectors and some not. I used yarn to attach a piece of felt to each of their binders so they could erase the reusable pages.

The boys each had a binder pouch (from Amazon) for markers and crayons. I just handed Lydia a marker (which she basically used on the entire binder) or crayon as necessary. In the binder pockets I put stickers, which they enjoyed more than I expected. Since we have plenty of stickers at home they weren't anything new or super special, but hey, whatever works, right?

Glow Sticks: We were on the road by 5:30 a.m. most of the four days we drove, hoping the kids would go back to sleep in the van. It didn't quite work (something about Christmas AND heading to Grandpa and Grandma's made for lots of excitement), but they were actually pretty happy considering they got woken up so early. And when they weren't happy, glow sticks did the trick. I bought some at the dollar store for the trip up and got a "fancy" pack at Target for the trip home (it even contain pieces to make the glow sticks into glasses).

Sticker Pads: I bought these reusable sticker pads from Amazon and the kids really enjoyed them. They come with a TON of stickers--in retrospect, one or two pads probably would have been enough. I also wish I'd taken the time to remove the stickers from the pages and put them in Ziplocs before leaving. It would have made it easier in the van, especially since Isaac needed help getting them off the page. That being said, they provided lots of entertainment and as a bonus, the stickers work on the window which was fun, too.

Books: I tried to be strategic in the books that I packed, choosing ones like I Spy or Richard Scarry with lots of detail to look at. I also brought a few chapter books to read aloud to them, but they didn't really go for that (not gonna lie, that bummed me out a little..I had visions of LOTS of read aloud time), though we did read plenty of picture books. We also brought along some audio books, but they wanted to listen to music more than stories. Some old Clubhouse Jr magazines were also great to have on hand, especially because I didn't worry if Lydia ripped them.

Music: Slugs and Bugs and Songs for Saplings provided much enjoyment. Chris and I actually like the music, too, and we all had fun listening to it. Lydia was greatly entertained by the Isty Bitsy Spider as well as the up-and-coming finger play titled Two Little Puppies, starring Lydia and her best friend, Maddie. ;)

Pipe Cleaners: I don't know why, but they love pipe cleaners. We made them into shapes, airplanes, rainbows and strung Cheerios on them for snacks. I had planned to make snack necklaces with Fruit Loops (a road trip treat), pretzels and gummy Lifesavers (another treat), but we tried them at home and the boys weren't fans, though like I said, they did like Cheerios on the pipe cleaners.

Finger Puppets: Lydia got a couple animal ones for Christmas, and I made four Veggie Tale puppets they enjoyed. The puppets weren't the most durable (I glued them instead of sewing because it was late and I was tired), but I'd definitely make nicer ones for another road trip.

What Didn't Work
I Spy Bags: I made I Spy bags with paper cutouts and rice (glued shut and double bagged) buuuut...the elevation change sucked all the air out so you couldn't shake the rice to see anything inside. Mom fail.

Silly Putty: I don't know if I'd call this a fail, but they didn't play with it a ton. Timmy liked his more than Isaac, but I think the boys would have done better with it if they'd played with it before.

Mittens just off the needles and a cat...why not?

Other random stuff that helped: I sat in the middle next to Lydia, with Isaac and Timmy in the back. I know some people would say I should have sat in the front because I'm a wife before I'm a mom (which is true), but I knew that if I sat in the middle, the trip would go smoother. And a smoother trip meant that Chris and I would be less stressed. It was definitely a good decision. I could hand things to the boys (Timmy always sits in the back and giving him snacks, books, etc. isn't easy from the front) and help keep the peace.

We also had plenty of snacks, some very rare treats (Fruit Loops) and some more standard fare (Cheerios, lunchmeat). We kept our Costco cold bag in between the front seats so we could easily access the cheese, ham, etc. Also, at every stop we insisted the boys go to the bathroom. Definitely resorted to bribery with M&Ms a few times, but I didn't care. It worked, because I think we only had to stop once so one of the boys could go to the bathroom.

We packed an overnight bag that we could easily access to bring into the hotel instead of having to lug in our huge suitcase. We also didn't change the kids into their clothes until our first stop each day. That definitely made leaving early easier.

Traveling that far with three little kids wasn't easy, but with lots of prayer, planning and (let's be honest) chocolate, it was doable and, at times, even enjoyable.