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Road Trip Prep

3 Jun

I knew it had been a long time since I posted on our blog, but I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted since Jonah started Pre-K. He’s finishing 1st grade now! I don’t have time to post all that’s happened since then, but I thought I would post about our big road trip this summer. We took our kids on a 7 day trip from Dallas to Pigeon Forge, TN when he was 2 – 1/2 and she was only 6 months old. At the end of the trip we thought, “Wow… that really wasn’t that bad. I’d actually do that again!” So we did. When he was 4 – 1/2 and she was 2 – 1/2, we made a 9 day trip to Michigan. Again, we had a good time and managed the car time pretty well. I think we only watched 2 movies during that whole trip!

So with those two relatively good road trip experiences under our belt, we’ve become a little more ambitious for this summer, since they’re now 5 &  7 years old. We have some friends who moved up to Seattle last summer and thought driving out to see them would give us a good excuse to see some of the major sites out west that Jason and I have never seen ourselves.  The list of places we wanted to see kept growing and so did the list of friends and family we’d visit along the way. Next thing you know, we were planning a full 3 week road trip…. that’s longer than any vacation any of us have ever taken before! Did I mention we’re camping 7 of those nights?

Of course, now when I tell people we’re taking a 3 week road trip… with kids, people give me the jaw dropped look and then either tell me: You’re crazy. You know that right!? OR How in the world are you going to do all of that!? Hehe, yes I’m crazy. I do know that. I also thought this post would be a good way to answer the second question on how we do it. We’ve learned a few tricks from our previous trips, so we’ve just scaled it all up for 3 weeks. In no particular order, here’s a run down of how we roll.


canvas cube with a kitchen trash bag

We used to have a small car trash bag made for that purpose, but it was never big enough for road trips. We’ve actually replaced it permanently with this because it holds more and is a bigger target that the kids can both hit when they are throwing away their own trash.

pockets for small toys on the back of the front seats

pockets for small toys on the back of the front seats

I found this little 6 pocket “shower organizer” in the Target Dollar Spot and attached it to the back of our seats so the kids can keep a few small toys for playing with in the car. Putting it behind the grab bar helps keep it from flopping around.


extra box of small toys

To keep things fresh, I have a box of small toys to swap out what’s in the pockets every day or two. If I gave them access to the whole box, they’d make a huge mess and get bored with everything quickly.  Some of the items have been put away for months, so when they see them again on the trip they’ll be excited to play with them. Some of the items are new and will be wrapped as surprise gifts along the way.


contents of small toy extras box

Magnetic stuff: dolls, words, tangrams, swizzle eggs, trapeze men desk toy.

Tactile stuff: squishy light up spider and puppy, koosh ball, fuzzy bracelets, noise putty.

Fidget stuff: push button collapsing animals, push button action happy meal toys, bending links, balancing bird, mini slinky, pop open calculator, Jacob’s ladder, mini top, ball and cup.

Visual stuff: light up wand, oil and water I Spy wand, fractal kaleidoscope, light up happy meal toys, mini puzzles, ball maze.

Creative stuff: create a face, etch a sketch, Rory Story Cubes, mini play dough kit.

Imagination stuff: Polly pockets, mini play mobile sets in travel soap dishes, littlest pet shop, micro remote control car.

between the seats box

between the seats box

We have a second canvas cube between the kid’s seats to hold a few bigger toys that won’t fit in their small pockets.

contents of the box between the seats

contents of the box between the seats

Color wonder markers for them to share, 3-4 play sets I prepackaged in zipper pouches, CD and DVD wallet, a big slinky (it’s always a big hit), a hobberman ball, hot wheels and squinky barn  play sets that don’t fit in the zipper pouches. The kids are each going to practice their new found stitching skills by making a felt stuffed animal. I put those supplies in a regular ziplock bag so we can throw it away once they’ve completed their projects.

the pre-cut pieces for their stuffed animal sewing projects

the pre-cut pieces for their stuffed animals

Aren’t they going to be so cute?! Once we finish them, we’ll use them like Flat Stanley and take pictures of them at the various landmarks.


box of extra play sets

Just like the box of small toys to trade out in their pockets along the way, I have several other play set pouches to trade out too. I use the zipper pouches because they are more durable and hold their shape better than regular ziplock bags. We tried that one year and it was still hard to find stuff in the box, not to mention that the kids had trouble closing them. I’d seen this pencil bag idea on Pinterest, so I’ve been collecting them for a couple years, in preparation for future travels. It definitely makes my OCD happy too, seeing them all lined up in this box. 😉


contents of extra play sets box

These pouches could have anything in them, but here are some of the ideas I’ve done. Weaving loom, mini doll house nursery furniture and babies, mini play kitchen set from the Dollar Tree, farm animals and wild west figurines, small building set like k’nex or legos, playmobile pirates, my little ponies, army men, kaleidoscope, view finder, their beloved Minecraft action figures, felt flannel board, finger puppets, and their sewing kit.


books and activities saved for later

We have these books and activities saved for the 2nd half of the trip stored in the bottom of the extra play sets box too.


a few items going into their backpacks

We’re each going to have a car back pack with a smaller bag/purse for carrying essentials inside. I haven’t gotten those entirely together yet, but here’s a peek at some of the stuff I’ve got set aside. Pencil box with map pencils and dry erase markers (I have an altoid box of crayons to keep in my purse so they never get left to melt in the car), scissors, glue stick, and a dice (for some of their binder activities). A head lamp, book light, mini fan, sunglasses, lanyard with compass and magnifying glass to pin their Junior Ranger pins to, walky talky, mini journal/sketch book, and a little slug bug car counter I made for our last trip.

location of their binder boxes

location of their binder boxes

I found these metal desk file boxes that make good use of the space between their seats and the minivan door. I used a bungee cord to keep it from sliding around (not pictured).

binder box filled

binder box filled

Each of the kiddos has their own box that will hold their stuff. They both have a cookie sheet lap tray, an eye spy book, an atlas kind of book, a stencil book (he gets to design cars and she gets to create outfits), a color wonder coloring book, a paint with water book, and a car bingo game board.

contents of his binder box

contents of his binder box

He also has a neon drawing board, an Ed Emberly drawing book, brain quest cards, a dry erase game board, and license plate game.

contents of her binder box

contents of her binder box

She has a magna-doodle, water marker book, and a frozen book to practice reading. We will be adding some other readers for both of them too, I just haven’t got them yet.


the explosion of our office while sorting and packing all this stuff LOL!

My husband really hates clutter, so I had to put a warning sign on our office door the day I decided to tackle organizing all of the stuff to keep the kids occupied. Hehe


the car packing configuration minus the snack box, water jug, and the roof rack bag on top

I’ve also done some planning on how to pack the car to make everything easy to get to and keep it tidy (hopefully). I made a master packing list for the clothes a few months ago (more on that later) so I know I’ve got one big bag, 2 medium bags, and 4 small bags for all of the clothes and toiletries. In the back we’ve also got the cooler, camp stove, a tub of camp kitchen stuff, a tub of general cleaning stuff, a stroller for sight seeing (because the 5 year old will tire out and they are both still under the weight limit), and a Luggable Loo for camping and emergency potty stops. All of our camp stuff like tent, cots, chairs, sleeping bags, and pillows fit in a car top carrier we got.


I also found this two compartment canvas tote with pockets that’s supposed to be a trunk organizer. I’ve got it’s handle tied to the 3rd row seat belt so it won’t slide off, but we can still lift it off to get into the cooler. The pockets are nice for paper plates, napkins, and utensils. Most of our daily snacks and drinks will be stored in a soft sided cooler up front, but the rest of our “pantry” will go in here.

jackets for restaurants on the back of their chairs

jackets for restaurants on the back of their chairs

Our kids always freeze when we go out to eat, and then they don’t want to eat because they are so cold. Our solution is to keep jackets in the car year round.

the driver side door

the driver side door

This is another feature we keep in the car year round. I found this wipes/sanitizer/tissue holder in the baby section at Wal-mart. We keep the first aid and barf bag up front too, just in case of emergencies.

the swim box and pit stop box

the swim box and pit stop box

For the trip we are adding these two boxes right behind the kids’ seats for easy access when we stop.

the contents of the pit stop box

the contents of the pit stop box

We’ve got a zip up picnic blanket, 4-square ball because it’s the most versatile for kicking/bouncing, sidewalk chalk (in a re-purposed frosting container), no-spill bubbles (I need to get a refill bottle though because they’re empty LOL), jump rope, frisbee, an oball, and a mesh bag to hold a couple of small sand toys so we can shake the sand out afterwards.

the contents of the swim box

the contents of the swim box

In the swim box we’ve got their inflatables, her puddle jumper life jacket, and another mesh bag for their goggles and dive rings.

the cleaning box

the cleaning box

The cleaning box will be right behind our cooler and contains all of the supplies for the car, camping, snack packaging, and doing laundry.

the contents of the cleaning box

the contents of the cleaning box

Paper towels, car leather and glass wipes to keep our space clean, lysol wipes for the plastic stuff, hand and face wipes, laundry detergent, hand and dish soaps, camp stove propane tank, canister of bungee cords/twine/clamps, toilet paper and trash bags, 3 pop up Dollar Tree hampers for sorting laundry, wash rag and towel, baby wipes refill for the front door as needed, ziplock bags in various sizes, whisk and dust pan, lugable look bags, and the propane hook up for the camp stove (so it doesn’t rattle inside the stove).

the camp kitchen box

the camp kitchen box

I have a really awesome wooden chuck box that I built for camping, but it’s huge and heavy and just can’t come with us this time. So I’ve got my camp kitchen essentials consolidated into one tote for this trip.

inside of the camp kitchen box

inside of the camp kitchen box

This is what it looks like under the layer of table cloth, griddle and cutting board.


contents of the camp kitchen box

contents of the camp kitchen box

I’ve got a collapsible mixing bowl, my whole set of nesting pots and pans, a set of stainless steel plates/bowls/mugs, some small snack cups, kettle, 2 dish pans, dish drying rack and drying pad. I use the dish towels/rags/potholders to keep stuff from rattling inside the box. I re-purposed a crystal light container to hold our silverware/can opener/knives. In our box we also have our telescoping marshmallow roasters, lighter, scrubbing brush, salt/pepper, tablecloth clips, retractable clothesline, foil, apple slicer, and some basic cooking/serving utensils.

the binders are a work in progress

the binders are a work in progress

I suppose next I could tell you a little about the travel binders I’ve been putting together. The kids will each get their own with travel iteneraries, brain work, and fun activities for them to do. I’ll have a master binder with the schedules, reservation numbers, packing lists, etc. too.  I’ll show you theirs so far. This next section is mostly just going to be pictures because they’re kind of self explanatory.

daily map and list of things we'll do that day

daily map and list of things we’ll do that day

state fact coloring sheets for each of the 10 states we'll travel through

state fact coloring sheets for each of the 10 states we’ll travel through


various roll-a-drawing activities


how-to drawing pages of several regional animals


loved how the instructions included animal facts and daily scripture


printable junior ranger work books to do before we get to those national parks


wild west sticker scene set found at the Dollar Tree


“paper doll” cut out cars and roads for the boy child


a play dough mat for making silly faces


parts and pieces for a patriotic craft


various coloring and activity pages that somewhat related to our travels


punch out 3d paper craft dinosaurs


printed materials to make a home school style lap book about the oregon trail


oregon trail trivia file folder game

No, not as cool as the computer game we all played in elementary school, but I do plan to buy the kids the ipad version to play too. 😉


a velcro play set my daughter made at school to sing the 5 little monkeys song


another set of lap book materials about desert animals


frozen paper doll set from a friend’s birthday party


melissa and doug reusable sticker scenes (color forms) I punched holes and folded them to fit in the binder.


reusable stickers in baseball card pocket pages protectors

I’m sure I’ve got other stuff I could add to this post, but I don’t have pictures of any of the rest of it at this point. If it seems like a lot, well that’s because it is. I didn’t do it all at once though. We’ve been thinking about going on this trip for over a year and half, so I’ve had a lot of time to brain storm, plan, and to gather ideas and stuff. I always try to have a really good plan in place with back up options and then once the trip starts, it allows me to be completely flexible with it not going the way I planned. My philosophy with plans… better to have and not need than need and not have. The kids may not play with half the stuff we’re bringing, we may slack and not do as much of the educational stuff we brought either, but at least we will have it. Besides, I just enjoy the planning process.


Mysterious Ways

4 Dec

You know the saying… that God works in mysterious ways… and also “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” NIV Luke 16:10 well I just had first hand experience with that. Back story…

My grandparent’s wanted an 8′ plastic folding table for Christmas. I found one online for $120 that even folded in half for easy transport. Come to find out, they probably would rather have it as a solid 8′ table, but it was already ordered and I couldn’t cancel it in time. Well, I opened it up in my living room to a.) make sure it was in working condition and b.) to see what an 8′ table actually looked like in our dining room because we have been wanting to get a large dining table for quite a while now. More on that later… anyway, I opened it up and discovered a manufacturing defect with the latch so the table wouldn’t sit down 100% flat… kind angled up in the middle. So I contacted the company about returning it. They were really nice and tried for a couple of days to figure out who was going to pay the $40 for shipping it back since we weren’t asking for an exchange. I felt bad that they’d spent $40 on shipping this $120 table that we no longer wanted AND was damaged.

Meanwhile… I am liking the looks of an 8′ table in our space, and Jason has just in the past 3-4 weeks received 3 performance bonuses for the projects he’s working on. All told, it was enough to set aside $2000 for dining room furniture and pay off one of our 2 remaining credit cards. After much deliberation though, I decided the responsible thing to do would be for me to give up my dreams of a big new dining table before our annual Christmas dinner party this year and we should use that $2000, we had set aside for it, to pay off the 2nd credit card and be completely out of credit card debt. A tough choice for me, but I knew it was the right thing to do… to finally pay off the last of that $6000 foundation repair we’ve carried on the cards for the last year and a half. But that left me with the question, where the heck am I going to seat these 12-16 dinner party guests when I have a round 4-seater table and a 4-seater card table?!

Answers the Lord, “You seat them at this semi-defective 8′ plastic table that the company has refunded you for but has said they don’t want to pay to ship it back and you may keep it to do with what you will. Congratulations on making the right decisions with the money I have entrusted to you, you get a free table.”

Awesome how God works things like that. I just had to share! 🙂

Oh no! Elmo, here we come!

18 Jun

As you all know, from a previous post on the subject, I have tried to keep cartoon character infatuation at bay, in order to keep the more expensive/lower quality “licensed character” items out of our house. Well, I’m here to admit that I’m bringing this soon-to-be Elmo infatuation on myself, and I’m even asking for your help to do it!

We’re about to start potty training soon, and as I started reading the library books I checked out on the matter… most techniques seem to encourage the use of a few teaching tools, to help make potty training into a big deal. They say to have a potty weekend where that’s the focus of everyone’s attention, all weekend long… kind of a “coming of age” thing for the trainee. They say to start off by helping your kid “teach” a doll how to potty, then let them read books and watch dvds about pottying. Then start hourly potty-sits and give rewards or stickers on a chart for good tries and even the smallest of sucesses. By the end of the weekend, the kid should pretty well have it down, and to celebrate that, some say you should have a potty party to invite a few friends and family over to congratulate them on their potty success.

So after reading all that, I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed. I did sit down and start a shopping list of supplies that to get the ball rolling. A potty book, a dvd, a potty doll of some sort, and a progress chart w/ stickers. Once I started researching what was out there, I discovered a major money pitfall… most of the stuff is geared for either a boy or a girl. I have one of each, and I don’t want to have to buy this stuff twice, cause it’s expensive! So, I needed to find something gender neutral.

I first found a pretty cool potty monkey doll that came with a book for the kids and one for the adult. But being that I had already checked the adult book out from the library, I really wished it had come with a dvd instead. Then I found a a wide variety of potty bear items, but no cohesive set, which I feel would make it easier for Jonah to understand the relationship between what the character is doing in the book/dvd and what we’re trying to get the doll to do. Then I stumbled across Elmo. There is a complete line of Elmo potty training products out there, and since Jonah’s never really watched much Sesame Street, Elmo will be new to him.

I was going to put a big order together with everything we’ll need for potty weekend, but then I decided that I might have friends who might have some of the stuff on my shopping list that might be wanting to sell/get rid of it. So let me know if you have any of the following to offer up for borrowing/buying/giving away!

Potty Time Elmo Doll -OR-  A Plain 1-2′ Elmo Plush Doll that we can teach to sit on Jonah’s Potty Chair

Potty Time With Elmo Little Sound Book

Elmo’s Potty Time DVD

Potty Book Coloring & Activities With Elmo (Let me know if you know where I can find this new in stores anywhere… I imagine if you own it, it’s already been colored and the progress chart used up)

Anyone’s leftover Elmo Party Supplies to make a VERY small (like maybe just us if that all we can get) Potty Party with (preferably ones that don’t say happy birthday on them, like the Hooray for Elmo or Elmo Loves You supplies, but beggars can’t be choosers right? 😉 hehe)

a rough night

4 Jun

ugh. very rough night. jason went to bed at 10:30 and so did i, but carly didn’t stay down. she of course stayed up screaming off and on till 1:15. then jonah woke up crying at 2:45 at which point i discovered he’d puked in his bed 😦 i got jason up for that one cause i told him “jonah just threw up and that falls outside the realm of cranky baby in the middle of the night. i need your help” and he got up and didn’t complain… well that was until jonah threw up on the bare mattress pad after we had already started the 1st puke laundry load, he was pretty pissed about that, but what can you do… and then once we got him back in bed and had just laid down ourselves, he got out of bed and stood in the window and puked a 3rd time. :-\ so we were back up changing jammies and cleaning up for a 3rd time. as we got back into bed at 4:00, carly started grunting like she was stretching to wake up (probably from all the commotion) so i laid there in our bed listening to her grunt for about 15 minutes, waiting for her to cry cause sometimes she likes to nurse at 4 anyway, but then i drifted off. Then she finally did wake up at 4:30. after she ate she didn’t go straight back down as usual (probably because jason had just asked if she usually did and i said yes. stupid murphy) instead she would drift off and i put her in the crib and got in bed myself only for a few seconds before she was screaming again 😦 did that 3 times before i finally lost my temper and just got her and went to go sleep with her in my arms on the couch at 5:30. then jason woke up for work and took her to her crib at 7:00 before he left for work. i kept sleeping on the couch until both kids woke up at 8:00. I haven’t even attempted to try to calculate how little sleep that was last night until now… 4.75 hours!?

sheesh. no wonder i am having a hard time keeping my eyes open.

Got Alot Done

11 May

With my mom hanging around and helping out last week, we got WAY more done than any couple with a nearly 2 year old and a 1 week old should! My mom is a major DIY handy-woman, and just couldn’t contain herself when she came to stay. By the end of the 1st day she was just itching to get started on some projects. Who am I to complain?! I knew it’d happen, so that’s why I had already started a list of little projects around the house that needed doing, that just haven’t gotten done, for whatever reason. She actually started working on things while we were still in the hospital!  My to-do list that my mom tackled this week… as you’ll notice, she didn’t leave us much to do after she left! hahaShe got Jason involved in a lot of the projects too, and some of these he actually did on his own.

  • Install Handheld Showerhead & Caulk Around the Ring
  • Install Blinds in Our Bedroom
  • Fix Drippy Master Toilet
  • Fix/Oil Master Closet Door Knob
  • Fix the Storm Door Alignment so it’ll Actually Close
  • Remove the Satellite Dish
  • Remove the Antenna
  • Put a Piece of Screen Over the Chimney to Keep Birds Out (need to call chimney sweep first to get current nesting birds out)
  • Put Hinges on the Sandbox Door
  • Re-Configure the Sandbox Lid Boards to Make an Easier To Open Lid
  • Dig Out the Rose Bush in the Front Flowerbed
  • Dig Out the Bush Stumps in the Front Flowerbed
  • Check on the Roof Leak and Seal Where Possible
  • Hang the Letters for Carly’s Name in the Nursery
  • Fix the Wet Bar Cabinet Door that’s Sagging
  • Install Trim Around the Guest Bath Mirror (need to buy trim)
  • Change Light Fixtures in the Guest Bath (need to buy light fixtures)
  • Install and Overhead Light in the Garage (Bonus! They ended up re-wiring a bunch of stuff and putting in 2 new outlets too!)
  • Paint the Nursery Furniture (need a non-muggy day to paint)
  • Some Projects she thought of that I hadn’t –
    • Replace the Missing Toe Kick Under the Dishwasher and End Cabinet in the Kitchen & Install Trim
    • Fertilize the Yards
    • Replace Missing Pickets on the Fence
    • Replace the Damaged Board Around the Garage Door (We discovered ACTIVE termites there! Yuck! so had to get that treated first, so that project is sitting unfinished right now.)
    • Clean Some Previous-Owner Junk Out of the Attic

It was such a busy week that I’m probably forgetting some of the other stuff that got done, but we always appreciate having my mom come stay for a while! Jonah CERTAINLY enjoyed having his Mamaw around to play with, and to “help. work. hammer. outside. saw. ears. noise. loud.” with!

This Thursday

6 Apr

This Thursday is going to be some wild crazy fun, I tell ya! I volunteered to host our playgroup’s Easter Egg Hunt Party at my house this Thursday, and so far, from the looks of the RSVPs I’ve gotten on the e-vite, it looks like this may be our biggest turn out for a playgroup yet! Including Jonah and myself, we’re going to have 13 moms and 19 children between 0-3ish years old! Holy moly that’s a lot of people, but I think I can handle it, and I’m really looking forward to it! I’m sure a lot of people think I’m insane for hosting a party of this magnitude at 36 weeks preggo, but this is going to be a blast! I just hope I have enough food and such!

Wanted to post a couple of pictures from the insanity:

Haven’t Felt Up to Posting Much

23 Mar

I know I haven’t been updating here, or anywhere really, very much the past couple of weeks or so… but my heart just isn’t in it. It’s breaking for several of my friends right now. I’m sure they could use the prayers, and I could use some myself… to have the right words to say to them… because right now I’m at a loss for words with some of their situations. I think to help myself navigate through the pain I’m feeling for them, it’d help to share the issues (not their names obviously) but maybe some of you have helped others through tough situations like these before and can give me some advice. For now, all I can do is pray diligently for them.

  • a husband who was caught sending inappropriate texts to a female co-worker by his wife. thankfully they seem to be working things out.
  • a husband who has unrealistic expectations of his (2nd) wife when it comes to bodily appearance and upkeep of the house when she is working full time to provide the family with insurance (so he can run his own dream business), takes care of their young daughter, and takes care of HIS daughter from the previous marriage, when it’s his time for visitation. come to find, he may have been cheating on her with as many as 3 other women. they separated this weekend.
  • a husband who is depressed about having failed out of the nursing program he was in, and my friend who is trying to be supportive of him, but depressed that it means she may be stuck in this full time job she hates and never get the opportunity to stay at home with their young son or have more children. we’re hoping he’ll be allowed to re-take the tests in the fall and it won’t put him too far behind schedule to still graduate.
  • a husband who’s just found out that the restaurant he was recently hired to manage has gone bankrupt and he is now out of a job.
  • a husband who’s had several bacterial and viral infections over the last few months that has had him in the hospital several time, missing a lot of time from work. thankfully his wife hasn’t caught anything he’s had yet.
  • a long term fiance (and father of 2 young kids together) who thinks the world revolves around him, isn’t very helpful with the kids, has video game addictions, and has verbally aggressive tendencies when he feels like he was “made a fool of” whether real or imagined. very bipolar sounding from the stories I’ve heard, but my stay-at-home-mom friend stays because she has no money, no where to go, no degree and no real job opportunities to be able to support 2 kids on her own. at least he’s not physically abusive.
  • a couple who just lost their baby at around 20 weeks, when they were going for the ultrasound to find out the baby’s gender, they found no heart beat.
  • a couple who were trying to adopt a baby from a young, teenage, girl in their family recently found out (after several months of drama over whether the girl would give the baby up or not, who the father might be, and the girl’s refusal to get prenatal care) that the baby never even existed. at least there’s not a baby being denied prenatal care.
  • a husband who’s had to move to an apartment 1.5 hours away from his wife and 2 kids to be able to focus on finishing his medical rotations, and swimming in debt at the same time.

There are probably more that I can’t think of right off hand, but needless to say, I have a lot of friends who are suffering right now… and all I can do is pray and send out lots of hugs.