Standardized testing is my least favorite phrase. My skin prickles every time testing comes up in conversation. March has been ruined for me. Before sending children to public school, the month of March meant the near-end of winter and the start of spring. Now March means PAWS…Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students. It’s our state’s annual testing to gauge academic progress. My children will tell you PAWS stands for Punishing All Wyoming Students. That’s just how much they love it. The... [Read More]Read more
I’m a huge fan of the great American road trip. My family likes to travel, and when we do, it’s by SUV. I realize 1,600 miles with six people in one vehicle, is not everyone’s idea of a vacation. We’re known to travel 16 hours or more from our home to our ultimate destination. I have this road trip thing down to an art form after years of practice.
- Make the journey part of the vacation. We, mainly my husband, research our route for unique places to stop that are on the way or within a short detour. Getting out to stretch legs every few hours is necessary. We try to coincide stops with interesting places if possible. On a trip to Washington, we stopped in Deer Lodge, Montana at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site for a potty break and lunch. We discovered an American cattlemen history lesson. We’ve also walked into the crater of Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. I had no idea there were volcanoes I could trek up in New Mexico. We’re known to stop at the kitchy as well. We stopped at the Corn Palace one year in Mitchell, South Dakota on our way home from Chicago and have posed in front of the Octopus Tree in Oregon.
- Limit screen time before leaving. We don’t watch much TV, never during the day, and most of our TV watching aside from football season is in the form of family movie night. We rarely allow video game playing during the week. Even with our limited screen time for the kiddos, we basically have them unplug entirely before heading on vacation. They’re allowed to bring electronics (Nintendo DS for the younger boys and iPod Touch for our oldest) and watch movies while we’re driving. That’s a whole lot of screen time for children who don’t watch TV. Limiting screen time before we leave gives them something to look forward to in the hours we’ll sit in the car.
- Bring audiobooks. Our boys would watch movies and play video games for an entire 10-hour driving day while our daughter is more than happy to chat away to whoever will listen. I can’t let them stare at a screen for 10 hours, even if we are trapped in a vehicle. The kids will watch a movie and then we’ll listen to an audiobook as a family. Check your public library for access to free downloadable audiobooks. Our library has a nice collection of books to choose from. If we can’t find a few to download, we’ll check out audiobook CDs or Playaways. The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger make for highly entertaining audiobooks, especially if your knowledge of Star Wars is extensive. Harry Potter is also a great book to listen to, although each are extremely long. The Fudge books by Judy Blume and Dragon Slayer Academy series by Kate McMullan are other audio favorites in our home. We try to keep audiobooks to no longer than three hours, which helps to ensure attention spans aren’t being pushed.
- Bring food. We are that family at rest areas fixing lunch out of a cooler. Our general rule when traveling is to bring enough food to fix a few breakfasts (depending on hotels) and lunches. Dinners we’ll eat at restaurants. Bringing food is much easier on our budget. We primarily use rest areas with picnic tables for lunch but have sought out parks in small towns if rest areas are limited, which they are on a lot of U.S. highways. On more than one occasion we’ve eaten out of the trunk in a parking lot. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. Another benefit of bringing food, is knowing exactly what we’re eating and not completely loading our system with typical high-fat, high-carb and high-sugar vacation food. I keep small bags of snacks (dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc.) easily accessible in the vehicle for nibbling on between meals.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Road trips have taught me that something always comes up….always. We’ve suffered through pink eye in Chicago, massive vomiting two hours into a 22-hour trip, a 15-month-old crying from Wyoming to California, a poop blowout in a hotel bed, vehicle keys flushed down a rest area toilet and constipation. We survived them all. Each story has become legendary in its own right and talked about as part of the adventure.
I look forward to discovering someplace new within this expansive country during each road trip. Each new region and state we visit gives me a greater understanding of what it means to be American. Thousands of miles have been logged in the car with my family. While some may view that as torture, those miles encompass some of my favorite family moments.
I’m not a fan of souvenirs when we travel. I don’t require t-shirts, stuffed animals or shot glasses from each spot we visit to remember our travels. My children, however, do like to bring something home from our adventures. Most times they’re happy enough to collect maps, brochures and junior ranger badges from various national parks, but we do have a favorite souvenir. Three years ago we were traveling in Washington state and staying on San Juan Island. We were... [Read More]Read more
I was delusional 12 years ago. I was pregnant for the first time and not thinking past my due date. Perfectly nice people, who were parents, would ask, “Are you ready for the baby?” In my delusional state I would reply affirmatively. We wanted this baby boy. We were ecstatic to meet and hold him. We had the crib, diapers, clothes, etc. I was ready. I’m convinced now those “nice” people were laughing internally about how naive I was. I... [Read More]Read more
It all started with a vehicle door that wouldn’t shut. It was snowy and cold, the thermometer hovering somewhere around 0° F. I was late for a meeting, and the driver’s side door on our truck would not shut. I tried repeatedly shutting it to no avail. I locked and unlocked the door repeatedly. I even got out of the vehicle and inspected the door, as if that was going to solve anything. My husband had said he was having... [Read More]Read more
I gave my fifth grader a cell phone for Christmas. I still can’t believe I did. It’s something I never thought I’d purchase for my elementary student. Our oldest son’s fourth grade year was full of sporadic turmoil at the hands of two boys in his class. It was an emotional drain for both him and me. Our son received a full dose of how ridiculously cruel children can be. I knew after last year I wanted B to have... [Read More]Read more
The Blue and Gold Banquet for our Cub Scout Pack held more significance for us this year. This year we watched one of our sons cross over to Boy Scouts. I don’t have brothers. My knowledge of all things Cub/Boy Scouts revolved around clichés. My husband and his two brothers are all Eagle Scouts, and their mom was extremely active in Boy Scouts of America when they were growing up. Scouting was something my husband hoped our three boys would... [Read More]Read more
I stood in my kitchen and told my 11-year-old to do something I wouldn’t do. He had just finished telling me about advice a friend’s mother had given, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” While I understand the thinking behind the statement, I’ve never said that to my children. I want them to do just the opposite. Do something I wouldn’t do. Of course, I want them to think about the legality, ethics and safety of situations before deciding to... [Read More]Read more
It took just one minute from his night to utter one sentence to children he didn’t know. That one minute catapulted him to stardom in the eyes of my boys. Five months ago, in September, we were leaving a University of Wyoming football game at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We were there to celebrate our oldest turning 11. We had prime seats, the Cowboys won and our 9-year-old had just been high-fived by UW’s starting quarterback.... [Read More]Read more
We have three children in elementary school and one in preschool. It was obvious from the first day of elementary school six years ago that organizing school papers would be necessary. The paperwork that is dumped from folders onto my island counter is overwhelming most days. I dread Mondays when our boys bring home their folders full of papers ranging from the next athletic league signup to weekly pizza deals to lunch menus to class newsletters. Everything in triplicate. Rule... [Read More]Read more