Monday, June 24, 2013

A Day in the Life: Road Trip Edition

Upon hearing that our family planned to spend much of our summer in the car - our five-week Midwestern tour will take us from College Station, TX to Lincoln, NE; Omaha, NE; Minocqua, WI; Madison, WI; and Peoria, IL (and that's not including day trips) before we return home - most of my friends wondered aloud if Tom and I'd lost our marbles. I mean, they've spent time with Hallie, and most people who've spent time with Hallie can't imagine a more insanity-producing scenario than being trapped in an enclosed space for two full days with Spicy McSpicerson.

I mentioned last week that Will and Hallie kick butt at road-tripping. They've never lived closer than a seven-hour drive from any of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, so to them, a ride in the car isn't even worth mentioning if won't last for at least two Disney movies, one Glee CD sing-a-long, three books, 30 minutes of coloring, one nap, one meal, and four snacks. When I've explained our tried-and-true combination of car activities, games, entertainment, etc. that keep the four of us from killing each other, my friends - their voices dripping with skepticism and their eyes dangerously close to rolling back into their heads - usually reply, "in theory your plan sounds like it would/could/should work, but does it? Does it really work?"

Yes, it does.

I'm not saying our kids don't occasionally spill their juice boxes, fight with each other, or melt-down from exhaustion and/or over-stimulation. (I'm also not saying that Tom and I don't occasionally spill, fight, or melt-down.)  But overall, the four of us really have a great time, and to prove it to you, here's a play-by-play of our first two days of driving from College Station, TX to Oklahoma City, OK and then from Oklahoma City, OK to Lincoln, NE.
Thorough planning and good packing make all the difference.
The back of our Ford Freestyle held - fitting together in puzzle-like perfection - two under-the-bed storage totes (to be delivered to my in-laws' house), two large storage totes (to be delivered to my parents' house), one extra large suitcase, two medium suitcases, a full-size keyboard and keyboard stand, an amplifier, two microphones and accompanying cords, a bag of grown-up books and magazines, my camera bag, Tom's briefcase, Tom and Will's disc golf bags, Tom's disc golf shoes, Will's golf clubs, Will and Hallie's bike helmets, three baseball gloves, a bat, a bucket of tee-balls, and all of our hanging clothes. Hard to believe, right? Inside the car we traveled with a bag of kids toys and games, Will and Hallie's backpacks, the DVD player, the snack bag, and my purse. Because I planned ahead and packed accordingly, when we arrived at the hotel that first night we only took in our computers, the snack bag, my purse, and the small red suitcase closest to the back of the car. SOOOO easy. (We hid the DVD players under the seats so not to encourage someone from breaking into the car.)
I like to start every road trip off with a new mix CD - we spent the first 75 minutes of our journey jamming to Maroon 5, Gym Class Heroes, Phillip Phillips, Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, Marc Cohn, Counting Crows, and Fun.
Next we taught the kids how to play the license plate game. I brought along three of these fun printables - one on which Will could systematically check off which plates we saw, one for Hallie to scribble all over, and one on which I could systematically check off which plates we saw (one of my kids is EXACTLY like me) - so that everyone could participate. By the time we arrived in Lincoln we'd already found 35 license plates!
After close to an hour and a half of singing and at least a half hour straight of license plate searching, the kids watched their first DVD. This was our first road trip on which Will was capable of handling all of the details associated with the DVD player, and let me tell you, it was HEAVENLY. I have - on my best days - moderate motion sickness, and having to turn around to mess with the DVD player makes my nausea much worse; the kids' increased independence made this car trip much easier on both my stomach and head. This boy doesn't speak, move, or even blink as soon as the movie starts; his sister, on the other hand, sings along (even when the movies aren't musicals), talks to characters, and laughs out loud from the moment the screen comes alive until the final credits roll.
Whenever the kids have their headphones on, Tom and I listen to a book on CD. We're particularly big fans of political thrillers, heist dramas, and mysteries - genres that aren't exactly appropriate for children (which is why we only listen when the kids' ears are otherwise occupied) but that keep us entertained and awake as we cruise down some of the longest and least interesting stretches of highway running through the middle of the country.
After stopping for a late lunch, it was rest time. Ha.
After about 20 minutes of not resting, I made Will and Hallie a deal: the first kid to fall asleep would win a prize. In keeping with their drastically different personalities, my competitive rule-follower (Will) was asleep seven seconds later and my free-spirited boundary-pusher (Hallie) first complained and then sang songs to herself underneath her blanket for two hours. She never did sleep that afternoon.
We try to avoid major cities during rush hour, but on our first driving day we ended up in the thick of Oklahoma City evening rush hour traffic. By this point the kids were really excited about stopping at our hotel for the night, so to keep them on the quieter and calmer side (so that we could focus on the traffic and directions to our hotel), we finally let them pull out the tablet (Will) and the Leapster (Hallie).
After checking into our hotel we went for a walk in a nearby neighborhood to stretch our legs. The neighborhood itself was lovely - unique homes, majestic trees, thoughtfully planned and well-maintained landscaping - and we enjoyed this quaint little pond, but the people we passed on our walk were anything but lovely. Tom and I both missed the general friendliness of our native Midwest and our adopted home, Texas.
After our walk and quick showers, we ordered pizza delivery and set up camp to watch game seven of the NBA Finals. We cheered for the Spurs (because they're based in San Antonio, but also because I root against the Heat in the same way I root against the New York Yankees), and were sad to see them fall to Miami.
Only Will and I stayed awake until the end of the game.
We started day two off with number puzzles and animal games. Hallie usually loses interest after about 20 minutes and I checked out about 10 minutes after Hallie did, but Tom and Will kept quizzing each other and discussing mental math tricks for an additional half hour. They're dorks, but they're my dorks.
When snack time rolls around, the kids always eat a healthy snack first.
And then if they're still hungry they can pick a treat. Interestingly both Will and Hallie only ate about an eighth of their Texas-shaped lollipops.
Will put all of us through his PE class calisthenics routine (10 jumping jacks, toe touches, windmills, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, push-ups, and sit-ups) at a rest area. If the stares we received from fellow travelers were any indication, most families driving through Kansas don't also exercise when they stop to go to the bathroom.
Well, not all of us exercised. One of us refused to participate because "jumpking jacks are too hard".
50% of the time we stop for lunch at McDonald's restaurants with Play Places. I know that lots of people avoid McDonald's like the plague, but when we're traveling, there isn't a stop better suited to our needs - clean bathrooms, familiar menu, low prices, and a place for the kids to run off steam - than McDonald's. That being said, 50% of the time we skip McDonald's and eat at local diners or establishments. On this trip we ate a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that the community had recently voted "Best Mexican Food".
Hallie stayed busy at the restaurant by coloring the Dots & Boxes game boards (she won't play the game the correct way) while Will and Tom played multiple rounds of Hangman. Have you ever played Hangman with a six-year-old? It's tough to figure out that Will's phrase is "Logan lives in Texas" when he spells it "Logen liives in Texhes". 
So there you have it, two days on the road with the four Ferri. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how - thanks to Hallie - we didn't sleep at all in our hotel room...

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