Monday, November 26, 2012

Packing & Road Trip Tips!

We made it on family holiday to Colorado and home with one large duffel bag.
This is our family bag! Everything else (like fleece blankets and books) fit inside the Suburban. This trip we had 11 people with our 11 seat belts because uncle Ty hitched a ride.

As a child I grew up traveling. I remember in 5th grade at Saint James Catholic school we were asked what type of food had preservatives in it that we ate often. I raised my hand and exclaimed  airplane food! Mrs Porath scolded me, but then later apologized saying she supposed eating something every 4 to 6 weeks counted as often. I remember feeling so much better that I had not been dumb and also realizing perhaps I flew more often than others. We traveled all the time and my parents said I had to bring whatever I needed in carry on bag. I learned to pack things that dried quickly, matched interchangeably and items of entertainment that could tide me over during long drives or lectures.

All these years later I find the same applies to packing in one large duffel for our family of 10. Some tricks I employ translate to a family of any size!

I pack per day rather than per child. So for our dress clothes I rolled all the boys pants, all the girls dresses and my clothes together in a bundle. I try to have a vague idea of the day to day activities, hiking and swimming for example, and then make a family packet for each day, these can be in a plastic shopping bag. The bags can be reused for wet & dirty items or diaper bags. The kids have "car bags" for their individual entertainment on the long drives.

Kids making canvas "car bags" $1 each at craft store and kids color them with markers. Inside the bags go snacks, sketch books, novels, stickers, games and cards. Whatever they want for their own items for the trip. If it doesn't fit, it stays home. The little ones always make some stuffed animal friends fit:) We did this rather than backpacks because we often have school right when we arrive home and its nice to have a specific bag for car trips.
When we are packing at home the kids are sent off with what to find so I am not running all over. I might say bring me 1 pair of jeans, 2 t shirts and a fleece jacket. I also pack collapsable bins. Ikea and Target both sell them. So when we get to our tent site/hotel/cabin I pop those out and separate out everyones clothes so they are stacked by day in packets. Everyones socks and underwear are separated in individual ziplock bags that are labeled, then the bags go into everyone's pop up bin. I have 10 bins in varying sizes but everyone has one.
Our room in Maine, bins along the floor! Some collapse and some we use to pack in rather than a bag.

Dirty clothes go into into an empty duffel and almost always I sink wash or find a Laundromat in a town we pass. This allows me to pack 1/2 as much! when it works I pack a clothes line, I always wash unders & socks and keeps things from getting musty. Even an hour in the sun at a park stop can freshen things up.

When we camp we have camping pads but not all sleeping bags. So for camping we often have fuzzy fleece blankets and then each child puts their hoodie sweatshirt into a pillow case so their lap blanket and sweatshirt transforms into a bed! We make a mat of sleeping pads so it is softer but those roll up and take up very little space.

I make different kids of bread, easy to transport and slice in the car. Doesn't need to be cooled and holds up well. Sometimes we have peanut butter or cream cheese in the cooler to add to the bread to make it more of a meal.

For snacks I try to pack enough to go 2 days without fast food. Mini bagels pre spreaded with plain and strawberry cream cheese, nut & dried fruit mix, cracker snacks and cut veggies in snack sized bags. Our kids love raw cucumbers with a little garlic salt and the cucumbers hydrate and cut down on car sickness. We also make snack bags of treat cereals like coco puffs or fruit loops for a non sticky treat. For some reason all the kids will eat string cheese on a car trip but not at home! I freeze it first and as it thaws hang them back.

Watching cows at a rest stop in Nebraska, Otis style entertainment!!

Last but not least we keep electronics to a minimum and listen to books on tape. To Maine we listened to Narnia and to Colorado this time we listened to Swiss Family Robinson. We have one ipad that gets passed around 7 ways but usually it ends up charging as the kids get into the story. This trip the kids played a game guessing movies we would pass in vehicles with built in players! It was really funny, and we saw Madagascar a disproportionate amount of times in passing vans.

Now we are home and I am working through the laundry. Not a small feat, but what a wonderful trip. We were able to connect with the children's GREAT grandparents on Sheff's maternal side. Truly priceless.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Follow up results

On Friday after our last night of oatmeal we had a family round table meeting. More like a large rectangle meeting with parents on stools, but we met.

Kids talked about respect as the primary lesson. We asked about the food side of things.

James (12) summed it up I don't think this was as much about food as being nice to mom. Sometimes I am really nice abut food, sometimes I am not it has to do more with me than the food.

We asked him how he could be consistent having manners during meal times, rather than the pre teen slump and eye roll.

John-Luke (10) jumped in If we just always say thanks for the meal we are not lying or anything, I mean if we don't like it we didn't say we did just said thank you to mom for making it.

And that is the idea folks! I realize not every meal will be perfect, or beautifully made BUT it is the effort and love that went into getting it onto the table for 10 people every day that I need respected.

Markie (7) had his own ideas I will try stuff but if I don't like it I will ask for a banana and not make icky faces. But mommy if you make us corn dogs I will make extra happy faces and give you lots of hugs. 

Mickey (9) and Nate (8) wanted to weigh in on menu options, this worried some of the others because Mickey and Nate love salads and veggie stir fry, others most certainly do not. Daisy (5) and Lucy (20m) were busy rolling a  Dora ball across the table and delighted when it would occasionally roll into a piece of leftover oatmeal .

Sundays Dinner, salmon, rice and cabbage salad, well received! With Ice cream for dessert :)

Annie's (10) comment made me think of a future blog, and in turn realize what a sharp cookie my quiet girl really is. I think you should put us kids in charge of cooking some nights. We would care more about how people acted at the table if it was like they were eating our work. It would give mom a little break and help us when we have to do math problems about cooking, don't laugh! People are always adding food in math problems!

So on that note we are signing off on the oatmeal project. I am claiming success.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Week of Oatmeal

The week of oatmeal. I am very much hoping my kids talk about this week for years to come.

Presenting our children with meals has become tedious lately. "What is this?" and "Could you make this any healthier?" and "Seriously mom this looks like it grew feet and walked out of the garden, can we have something with a crust?" Ok so that insult was actually creative, but usually it is more along the lines of a turned up nose or rolled eyes. And some of these meals were basic fare not lovely baked fish or eggplant parm, the last straw was roasted chicken!

SO not a mother to be a martyr, the Otis kids are enjoying oatmeal for the week. Yes they will have veggies and fruit for snacks and other meals, I am quite sure they will not perish (although I have heard arguments that they might).

Old fashioned oats with raisins, cinnamon and real cream. 5 nights this week. No meat, no veggies, no spices and no curve balls. Oatmeal it is.

Day 3 kids were looking longingly at our marinated beef tips with asian slaw. Yesterday the fish looked possible. 

My hope is that I get my table back, my polite eaters. My kids who are game to try a new food and polite to the cook who prepared it. 

Kids can slide into bad habits as quickly as adults. I simply lost my patience with subtle and not so subtle slams on my cooking. SO if you have some eaters with less than ideal manners try a week of oatmeal.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day & MCHO

This time of year I am always reminded of the deep need our world has for respect. As our kids talk in classrooms, hear campaign adds on the radio and collect flyers from the front stoop it becomes conversation. We have friends and family on both sides of the party line. Debate is healthy, opinions and the right to have them, are the backbone of this great country of ours.

As we navigate the political waters I hope to show moderation and kind language, especially around our kids. Keeping the language clean and the prayers calm help teach our future voters to be fair and reasonable. And those who know me well know I never swear (unless Tequila or Pepper Vodka are involved which is another blog:)

Mark Chappell Hall Otis was born on election day 7 years ago!
We gave him an election worthy name just in case:)
His initials MCHO remind me of macho which may prove more fitting than a candidate run!
It is so tempting to judge others, to condemn other choices but that simply is not my job. I will vote and I will respect others who do the same. I will tell my children what I am doing and why and hope they can see difference as a chance to learn not show fear. Seven years ago I gave birth to a big blond boy. A boy who is able to enjoy the freedoms and the challenges America offers. I can't imagine it being my son up there on either side, I understand it is the nature of the beast (politics) but I do not have to like the system.

May God bless election day to be one of peace and respect to all parties involved.