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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.


Christmas 2010

10 Jan

If you’re here for the Scrapbook Challenges Blog Hop, scroll down one post! I just figured it was about time to actually make a post about our Christmas.

Leading up to Christmas we had a lot of fun events… tree farm trip, a new tree (not from the tree farm! haha) and the Raytheon festival. Here’s the LO I made using sketch 233 from Scrapbook Challenges and pieces from several kits at Raspberry Road Designs.

We had our first Christmas at home this year. I guess there comes a time when you want to celebrate Christmas with your own little family, and for us, that was this year. We spent the whole day hanging around the house after we opened gifts until later that night when we went and looked at the lights in Deerfield. The page I made for the blog hop below has the pictures from all of that!

After a nice Christmas at home, we hit the road and had a fun time visiting family. We went to the farm to visit my mom’s folks, then to Tyler to see the rest of the family. It was kinda weird not having a full-on Christmas get together with Paces, but it WAS nice that my dad’s side of the family has decided to start doing presents again, after several years of skipping it. I like getting everyone something, but we weren’t supposed to and then my grandmother always ended up giving everyone an envelope of money anyway, making us all feel bad. So I think that, and the age of our kids now, is probably what spurred everyone to start doing gifts again… or at least doing a name drawing next year.  At any rate, I think this was one of the best Christmas seasons to date. I just finished scrapping it with the newest sketch, 236, from Scrapbook Challenges and the Christmas Thyme kit from Raspberry Road Designs. I am also offering a QP version for free! Enjoy! I’d love to see what you do with the sketch too, so make sure you drop by SC and post it!

And to get your own to work with, click on the image to view it larger and then save it!

Hope you had a great Christmas, cause I know we did!

Halloween Weekend 2010

3 Nov

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A few photos from our Halloween adventures… a playgroup party on Wednesday before… a camping trip on Friday-Saturday and Trick or Treating on Sunday!

Labor Day Weekend Pictures

8 Sep

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Just a few pictures from our vacation, or our safari as Jonah kept calling it. We went to the Galleria, the Children’s Museum, some Triple D restaurants, and the Zoo in Houston, then went to Galveston for some good beach time and even better sea food!

Getting Ready for Galveston!

30 Aug

We are getting ready to go down to Galveston for the weekend. I know it’s not the most beautiful beach or anything, but it’s close, and it’s where Jason and his family has gone for as far back as they can remember. Here’s a little trip down memory lane!

Jason: About 3-4 Years Old

It was the first trip I ever took with Jason, in 2001.

Us on the ferry, headed to Crystal Beach

It also happens to be where Jason proposed to me in 2003…

My Ring 🙂

and where we honeymooned (at the San Luis Resort)!

From our Balcony

We took Jonah to the beach for the first time 2 years ago.

We went with our friends, Ben & Ginger that year.

Of course, we skipped last year because Carly was so small, but now that she’s the same age as he was for his first trip, we are all really looking forward to it. Before we get down to the beach though, we are going to take advantage of the free admission that Bank of America is offering to its customers at the Houston Children’s Museum and the Houston Zoo. This trip is really going to be cheap I think. The hotel rooms are all paid for by Jason’s Hilton Reward Points (from all these trips to NY he’s had to make for work) and with the attractions all basically free, we are really only going to have to pay for gas and food! Sweet!

Also, as the Labor Day Weekend approaches, I have some very exciting news (well, it’s exciting to me at least!) that will have several new people stopping by our blog. Since I’m expecting lots of visitors this weekend, I did some virtual house keeping and updated the kid’s pages and just generally tried to update our content! Hope you enjoy!

4th of July Weekend 2009

5 Jul

McCarty Family Reunion 2009

19 Jun

A few of my favorite pics of us and the kiddos at our family reunion this past weekend. To see the rest of the pictures, visit my facebook album!