ROAD TRIP!

This weekend my family is taking a road trip “over the border” from our central Indiana home to our friends’ home in Central Illinois. It is a mere two hour drive. But with a toddler, two hours can seem like 20….

Road trips have been a way of life for our family since the beginning. When our two oldest (now 13 and almost 12) were babies, we took many, many road trips, some as long as 12 hours one way. As they grew, and our number of children did likewise, we began to travel less frequently and fewer hours at a time. But we have always tried to maintain a habit of road trips, partially because we have dear friends who refuse to move closer (Cindy, I’m not naming names here, but you know who you are…). But also partially because we want the children to be in the habit of traveling cheerfully.

Which brings me to today’s Fun Friday. How to make Road Trips with small children FUN!

First I encourage the adults to remember a couple things:

  1. Children are small. They have tiny bladders. They also have little ability to predict when they will need to potty.
  2. If you feed your herd right before leaving, in hopes to avoid the “I’m hungry”s, you will need to expect a potty break about 20 minutes after you get on the road.

 

Keeping those things in mind will help the parent not get so frustrated. A parent’s attitude is more than half the battle in cheerful road trips. Over the years we have learned some valuable tricks. Below is a list of tips we’ve learned,

 

  1. Have them bring a small bag of entertainment items. However, and this is the real key, do NOT let them play with anything in the bag until they have been in the car for 15-20 minutes (or whatever they are used to when traveling to school/church etc.). I have found that they will play excitedly play with everything and be bored in 20 minutes.
  2. If you have children who are prone to car sickness, help them be wise in choosing things to entertain them. I cannot read in the car, though I can use a laptop while we are on the interstate. Help them learn what things make them feel yucky so that they are not miserable the whole drive.
  3. Snacks are helpful. But again, I don’t allow them to have them until we have traveled for a while. We make bags of trail mix and use plastic cups to pass it our to each child.
  4. We started teaching our children to watch the mile markers when on interstates. This helps them not ask “are we there yet” quite so frequently. If you are not traveling on the interstate, find landmarks for them to watch for. If you know that in 10 miles is a large wooden chair, have them start watching.
  5. Many people play the ABC Game. We have never had much success at that. Perhaps due to the vast span of ages (13-2). But sometimes just looking for blue dump trucks or bill boards with animals helps break the monotony.
  6. When you must stop at your first rest stop, allow them each to choose one brochure from the display board. Limiting them to one both reduces car clutter and helps them to actually look at the item they picked, rather than toss a whole pile in the car and disregard.
  7. A favorite for my family is listening to audio books/ radio dramas. We have done this since our oldest children were only around 5 and 6. They don’t have to be very old. Go to the library and check out a variety. We used to get short ones that had the picture books with them, and gradually grew to longer stories. Listening to ones they have heard is comforting to them and will not cause the children to be disinterested.
  8. Stay engaged with the children. Discuss things that they see, point out interesting sites that they may not see often. Teach them about things they have never experienced.
  9. Make up stories together. My children love to take turns giving me character, setting and plot ideas while I make up stories for them.
  10. Sing. Children love to learn camp songs. My husband has taught our children many, some to my chagrin, songs from camp days. They particularly enjoy repeat-after-me songs.

Remember, a parent’s attitude is crucial. Getting frustrated over child like behaviors and weariness will only make it worse on the whole family.

 

What are some tricks you use to encourage keep the attitude of your family cheerful on road trips?

Homemade Play Dough

My kids take random bouts of interest in playing with play dough.  I rarely buy store bought play dough, but occasionally the kids will get interested so we whip together a batch of “Kool-Aid Play Dough”

2 packages Kool-Aid
2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
mix dry ingredients together

Add 2 cups boiling water and
3Tbsp vegetable oil

Mix together to form a ball.  Sprinkle table with flour and knead dough.  Be careful, it will be HOT!

Once kneaded to desired consistency, play.  Can be stored in zippered bags for several weeks.

Salsa!

6-8 Large Tomatoes (chopped)
3-4 Green Peppers (chopped) Zucchini works also
2 Onions (chopped)
4 Cloves Garlic
3 Tsp Chili Powder
1 Package Taco Seasoning Mix
1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Salt
2 Tbsp Parsley
1 Tbsp Cilantro
2 Limes (don’t leave out) zested and juiced
1/3 cup
jalapeno peppers (optional)

This is the recipe as I was given it. I made a few (slight) modifications.  I added extra lime juice.  I was freezing the tomato, peppers, etc. mix because they were going to go bad before I could get the limes and jalapeno peppers bought.  I forgot to add the parsley.   I only used 2 oz (per batch) of jalapenos.  I doubled the recipe and got 5 pints of salsa.  Even my children, who don’t generally like salsa, were eating it!

I must admit, it took a while.  I’m not a fast cook.  I blanched the tomatoes to make peeling easier.  I stood and chopped for a long while.  I don’t have a food processor, I’m not sure how well it would have worked.  

I was very pleased with how my first batch of salsa turned out.  After it was heated for the canning process, I was less pleased with the flavor, but it had been very runny before and was much better after. 

How To Be Prepared with BOB

A while back I wrote a post on my newly remodeled pantry.  I explained that I had begun to “prepare” for the unexpected events that cause it to be difficult to buy groceries for a period of time.  Today I wish to share with you some other thoughts about how and why you should be prepared (also known as “prepping”) for other situations, namely emergency evacuation.

But I’m going to begin with a background story.

A few years ago, we here in the Indiana experienced a Hundred Year Flood.  On that occasion we happened to be visiting my in-laws and were consumed with helping them with the water rising in their basement.  We had planned to go home, but after watching the news the television realized that we couldn’t get there if we tried.

Had we been home we would have been stuck at home for a few days.  But, had we lived merely a few miles down the road, we would have been evacuated.  I’ve thought a lot about this over the last couple of years.

I’ve decided that I need to be prepared in case 1) I can’t leave my house for a few days and 2) in case I must leave my house in a few minutes. 

I have devised a plan.  I haven’t yet implemented it, but I’m using this as a motivator to help me (if I post it I am accountable, right?) as well as looking for other thoughts. 

I have 6 children.  My desire is to have a Bug Out Bag (BOB as they are called) for each of them that is packed with – at least 3 pairs of undies and socks, at least one set of long pants/long sleeved shirt and one pair of shorts/short sleeved shirt.  Also an extra toothbrush and maybe a hand towel.  I’m not sure yet whether I will pack each a bag or partner pack them.  I’m pondering other items that need to get packed without consuming too much space (Diapers for the baby, etc.), as it is easy to “over prepare” and have more than you can manage in an emergency.

I have yet to decide what I’m going to do about food.  I know I can’t possibly carry enough food for long term, but it would be best to have a few bottles of water and simple snacks (granola bars, raisins, etc) handy that will allow me some flexibility in an emergency.  Should I have each kid pack a few items or keep them all together in one additional food bag? 

In addition to that, I’m packing a BOB for the bathroom.  Since I already buy extra of everything to keep on the shelf, I’m going to keep one set of everything (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bandaids, triple antibiotic, diaper wipes, etc.) in that bag.

I already have a nice plastic container with a lid and handle containing flashlights, candles and matches.  It has grown up flash lights and kid flashlights so each kid has their own (reduces fighting).
Besides a BOB for each member of the family and the bathroom supplies, I have decided it is more important that I get the kids in the habit of keeping shoes and a jacket at the shoe/jacket rack/hook area.  I was even more convinced one day as, while we were trying to leave, we had the inevitable 20 shoe search realizing that had this been an emergency she’d be shoeless.

The last thing I want to touch on with prepping for an evacuation is cash.  I know some people never carry cash, for various reasons.  But I urge you to obtain an amount of cash (determined by you through careful consideration) and keep it safe at home.  Don’t necessarily carry it in your purse, wallet or car, but keep some at home, preferably in a fire proof safe.   Think about what the situation might dictate.  If money is tight in your world, what would happen if it was Tuesday before payday Friday, and you were evacuated from home.  You must leave and be prepared to provide for your family for a period of days before payday hit.  Could you 1) put gas in your vehicle 2) buy yourself a meal or a few meals 3) provide your family a place to stay?  If you can evacuate in your own vehicle, that helps the situation, but can you get away someplace?  Is your car perpetually on E and you don’t have the money to buy enough gas to get to a loved one’s house?  Do you need to stay in a hotel?  Cash gives you choices and choices are powerful.

It might help to have a list by the main exit of things you need/plan to grab.  Let the kids know where everything is so they can grab things.  If you have a larger family, assign bigger kids to carry bags for and hold hands of littler kids.  It might help to think “What can I grab in 10 minutes and be on the road?”  You should be planning no more than you and your help (kids, spouse, etc.) can grab in one trip.  Backpacks reduce what you must have in your hands, therefore increasing what you can grab on the go.

What are your thoughts on prepping?  How are you preparing for an emergency that forces you to leave your home quickly?  What have I not mentioned that I might need to pack in our BOBs? 

Tips and Tricks for Packing with a Larger Family

My family just returned from a weekend trip to Camp.  We attended a local camp’s Family Camp, a weekend they set aside for families to enjoy camp life together.  It was fun.  The kids had a good time.  Mommy and Daddy had a good time.  We got very wet.  And today is that day – put it all away day!  (Trying to have some enthusiasm here.)
I’m really not sure which is worse, Packing Day or Put it Away Day.  Okay, Put it Away Day is worse.  At least on Packing Day, the kids are motivated to help.  We’ve learned a few things that help make packing easier for a larger family.
I typed up a packing list for the kids, another checklist (they love their checklists). This allowed them to check off the items they need and tells them how many of each thing.  Once they have checked off all the items, they bring the stack to me for verification.  They are then free to pack their items.
You may be able to see in the picture in this post the tubs we use for kids clothes.   We have discovered that using one of these tubs to put their clothes in (or two depending on how long of a trip it is) helps in the packing in the vehicle because they stack nicely.  They also help with storing in the hotel/condo/cabin.  If you take items out to put in drawers during a longer stay, then the empty tubs stack nicely.  If you keep the clothes in them then you can stack them nicely in a corner or closet out of the way.  It helps cut down on the visual clutter.  They also double as dirty laundry hampers/baskets.  And they don’t need to be “stored” when not on vacation.
Take an assortment of plastic bags, both trash bags and zippy bags.  You will need them for something – dirty laundry, dividing snacks while driving, covering car seats that have been peed in and cannot be washed yet, gathering trash in vehicles, etc.
Having one central shower caddy helps.  I put (or had a minion put) all the towels in a laundry basket and all the shower stuff in a caddy and all the toothbrushes in a large schoolbox (have to use the hundreds of those things hanging around for something).  This was helpful because I didn’t have to worry about soap spilling in a bag as usual and the basket was great for dirty towels and laundry at the end of the trip.
But, after all this, I’ve yet to really make packing easy and fun (for me).  It is easier each time, but there is still a lot I have to learn.  I’d love to hear from you.  Even if your family isn’t “larger” than average, please comment.  Do you have tips and trick to make packing easier or more fun?

I’m posting this in the Welcome Home Link-Up.  Check out other blogs from moms embracing life as homemakers!

A Prepper’s Pantry

When I was a child, my father (single parent to five kids) kept an incredibly well stocked pantry.  It wasn’t a “plan for a big emergency” pantry.  It was the way people used to manage groceries.  Keep more on hand than you need in case.  In case of what didn’t really matter.  It wasn’t all about gloom and doom.  It was comforting.  It was normal.  You always knew you had food, and what you had.  As a kid, I always knew we didn’t have a lot of money, but it never, ever felt like we didn’t have enough food.  I am amazed now looking back at how my dad managed it, but he did.

After I got married, I never managed to keep on hand what we needed.  Part of that was the newlywed phase of “I don’t really know what we are going to be eating every day” thing.  But after 15 year, I don’t think you can claim newlywed anything.  So I, or rather we, decided that I needed to do a better job of buying a little extra (despite my cheapness, as mentioned in previous posts).  I began the simple task of buying one or two more of long term storage items than I need and one extra on perishables if it would last until it was used (I have had a bad habit of running out of creamer 2 days before grocery day).  Little by little I began to get a better stock of items.

I began to see why my dad did this.  Just in case finally made sense.  Just in case their is a flood and you can’t get out (happens quite a lot around here).  Just in case the van breaks down and I can’t run to town tomorrow.  Just in case money is a little short next week.  Just in case my husband looses his job.  Man, there are a lot of cases to be preparing for!

After a while, my pantry (such a blessing to have a 10×4 walk in pantry) was unmanageable.  I couldn’t find anything.  Now, this is not do solely, or even largely, to my preparedness (or “prepping”).  This was due to my lack of ability to organize, tidy or clean anything.  But, even at that, when my pantry was clean it still seemed over stuffed.  After all, not only does it house food, but the occasional tool and/or ammo related item does tend to find residence there. 

When a good friend announced that the retail store at which he works is going out of business and selling fixtures, our collective lightbulbs came on!  Metal shelving from a store would make a great way to add storage!  Brilliant!  Cheap, movable, cheap, sturdy, cheap, and did I mention cheap?

Well, as projects do around here, this one became not so much a weekend revamp as a month long (not so cheap) remodel.  I don’t think I will record here all the details as to what all ended up happening and changing.

These before pictures actually look quite decent.  They are ones I took on the rare occasion that it was clean.  I actually took these long before I began prepping.  They don’t look too overrun yet.

Notice the hideous shag orange and nasty colored carpet.  My one request in the ever evolving plan was that the nasty carpet disappear.  As you can see we had shelves down both walls, but they were narrow and spaced such that there was a lot of gap where I could have had more shelves with food rather than empty wall space. 

We left the wall on the right empty and placed double the number of (deeper) shelves along the wall on the left.  We then added shelves along the back wall.  In this picture you can see that we had run out of the size used on the back and still  need to add the extra.  Even with removing the shelving from one side, we were able to increase the storage quite a bit with the addition of wider, more closely mounted shelves.  The bottom shelves were spaced high enough to allow 5 gallon bucket storage for long term food storage.

The hideous carpet is gone, with plans for tile when the funds are available.  The empty wall now has a place to store the step stool, a hanging rack (out of view) for brooms and mops and room for the vacuum.  The far back corner will eventually have a custom built shelf for the ammo that is stacked there. 

We also greatly increased the light by adding a long florescent light instead of a small incandescent bulb.  The light had been on the same switch as the hallway light, which gets left on most of the day.  My husband put the light on its own switch and installed a motion detector switch that turns off after 5 minutes so the pantry light won’t be left on unknown all day!

There is a lot of information out there on prepping, disaster preparedness, long term food storage.  I am sharing this as encouragement.  Whatever your “just in case” may be, there are easy ways to begin your prepping journey.  It doesn’t have to consume your life.  It may take some adjustments, such as my added pantry shelving, but it doesn’t have to look like the shows you see with rooms and rooms of stores.  Start where you are, make adjustments as you go.  Begin small and add as you can.  Determine your needs and what “cases” you are planning for and start.  It will get less scary and easier as you go!

 Please check out other great blogs at the Welcome Home Link-Up.

How I Organized My Family Closet – Finally!

In October I shared some of the issues and plans I have used to make my laundry for an army more manageable.  In November I shared some of my dreams and plans as well as my then current modifications to my family closet.   Today, I share the final results, pictures and all.  Here is my Family Closet.

I am sure you noticed that there were no “before” pictures.  I know everyone loves to see “before” the makeover so they can appreciate the difference.  However, I was too embarrassed to take, let alone post, the pictures of before. Picture a laundry mat, clean and dirty laundry both, exploding inside a small, dark, poorly lit bedroom. That is about it. 

I originally planned to keep two dressers and install more closet rods.  Then a friend of mine who works at a major retail store told us that his store was closing and selling off all their fixtures.  We went shopping.  We came home with goodies for remodeling our pantry in an attempt to store more food for emergency preparedness (hopefully I will post on this later) and with hanging racks and cubbies for the closet. 

We have 6 columns of cubbies, and four rows.  Since we have 6 kids this seems to work.  Each kid has a tub for socks and undies, pjs, shorts (pesky things – don’t like to stay on hangers) and shoes.  On the top of the cubbies, there is a small plastic basket for tights.  We keep all the girls’ tights together since guessing the size is next to impossible.  Next to that is a wicker basket filled with swimsuits.  I decided that since we occasionally go swimming in the winter, I needed easy access to them.

All other clothing goes on hangers.  Each child has their own rod for hanging their clothes. (Or rather they will have once the final rack is collected from the store.  We were able to buy two, but they couldn’t give us the second until all the clothes had been removed.)    I hope that by having all this extra space for each child, we can keep winter/summer clothes out all year and not have the endure the hassle of season change.  I was also able to put some clothes I have been saving for my 7 year-old for this coming winter on his rack rather than find a home for them.  The cardboard box in the bottom of the boys closet is a temporary home for sheets until I find my final solution.

This also helped me find a solution for The Bathrobes!  We have tried finding places for these things, but nothing has ever worked.  Now each kid has a spot for a bathrobe.

I put a laundry hamper (not pictured) in the room so that they have a place for dirty laundry.  For some reason, I did not foresee them wanting to actually dress in here, presuming they would take their clothes to the bathroom.  This created quite a problem as I couldn’t figure out which clothes were dirty and which were clean that they “dropped” while putting laundry away.

This room still must, temporarily at least, act as the printer/school computer room.  I am including a shot of the printer station.  The computer is out for repairs.

This project was the culmination of a lot of trial and error, pondering and planning.  We removed 4 dressers and a table along with 3 boxes that had never been dealt with since our move (almost 5 years ago).  The room still needs painted (school bus yellow walls and ceilings are rather nauseating), some wiring needs run for the computer and an overhead light needs to be installed.  But finally, this space is usable.   

Do you have a family closet?  Or a laundry system that is workable for your family?  Share your ideas!

I’m linking up with Raising Arrows Welcome Home Link-Up, check out the other links!