Archive for Getting Out and About

Hidden Art Friday

christmas pants

Christmas pajamas–done!  The girls picked out the flannel on their own this year.  It is getting easier to make four sets of these, as the mistakes you make on the first pair are fixed on subsequent pairs.  I even used these directions for super seams, so they look pretty on the inside, too.

Are you traveling with your kids this month?  We’re leaving next week and will be flying AND driving hundreds of miles over the next few weeks.  In addition to packing cold weather gear (my SoCal kids haven’t used their coats, boots, snow pants, hats, or mittens since last Christmas in the Midwest!), I’m restocking my “bag of tricks” and loading up my ipod and nook.  If you’re doing the same thing, don’t forget my road trip survival tips post (written in the summer but also applicable to our airplane rides in the winter) and my list of great audiobooks for road trips, followed by Anna’s road trip suggestions.  And please do share in the comments if you have any particularly successful tips that the rest of us facing travel with kids need to know about!

Nancy Wilson had a great reminder that the goal of this season should be joy as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  If we’re not doing it with joy, maybe we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

When Anna shared some of her family’s favorite fairy stories, our dear friend Christina asked us to post on fairy tales.  We’ve discussed the topic a bit with each other, so don’t fear that we’ve forgotten about it, but in the meantime, I remembered that Auntie Leila wrote about fairy tales a few years ago, and I generally agree with her philosophy of literature.



Christmas posts from last year:

Anna discusses how her family handles Santa.

Emily shares how she’s trying to cultivate generosity in her kids at Christmastime.

Our theme week on Christmas presents: Anna’s take | Emily’s take


Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

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Road Trip Ideas, Cont’d…

My husband and I have had a few days away without our five oldest children this week. I, however, did not plan ahead and get a post scheduled. After seeing Emily’s post on Monday, I thought I’d just piggy-back on that and tell you a few of our tried-and-true road trip  tips!

We have been driving from either the Midwest or the East Coast to Montana since our third was a baby. When we first started, I would always overpack on the ‘kid entertainment’ items. Now that I have learned what works well for our kids, and what we have space for in the car, I have really paired down the things we bring.

We DON’T bring:

*Crayons and coloring books. They get dropped, lost, eaten, stepped on, and melted into the seats when you forget to take them out of the hot car.

*Excessive toys. Each kid gets to pick one special toy. No more. (OK, not the baby. He gets a whole bag of toys that hang from the back of the driver’s seat.)

*Excessive books. These also get dropped on the floor, stepped on, ripped, and eaten by the baby. This trip, our big kids brought their Kindles, and out littler ones each picked one favorite. In our experience, the kids just don’t read much in the car, so having a whole bagfull of them just takes up precious space.

We DO bring:

*Lots of things to listen to. I was surprised, reading Emily’s list, how little overlap there was! I guess that tells you how many amazing books there are out there! We like:

The Focus on the Family Radio Theater Dramatization of the Narnia Series. It’s not an exact reading, but we all enjoy listening to these stories.

Jim Weiss’s reading of The Just So Stories. He’s an excellent reader, and the stories are just fun.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. I’m pretty sure I like these more than the kids do.

The Lamplighter Stories. The sticker price on these is expensive, but every once in a while, the mp3 downloads go on sale super cheap. Warning: the stories are good, but intense. There are a few that my older girls find too scary.

And for music to listen to, here are some of our favorites that don’t drive mom and dad crazy!

Andrew Peterson’s Slugs and Bugs. Oh my goodness. So hilarious. These guys have three albums now (I think), and we love all of them.

Anything by Jamie Soles. This man writes and performs wonderful music aimed at children, but the Scripture content is so high that I have really benefited from his music. As a bonus, everything he does, he does with his family. His recording, performing, and touring all features his family. I love it.

Sons of Korah. While these are not aimed at children, they are wonderful renditions of the Psalms that would benefit everybody.

*A bonus tip on cars: We drive a Suburban across the country. We drove a minivan for the first few years, but we are pretty sure we damaged it by overloading the trunk. The last year we drove it out, we had some pretty major car trouble. Now we drive a Suburban, which I love, but is not necessarily a great family car. It is heavy-duty enough to handle all our gear, including a tray on the back, but the leg room for the kids is really lacking, especially as our kids get older. There are also not a lot of kid-friendly features, like convenient cup-holders; and the fact that you have to fold down a seat to get the back row of kids in (including our special needs daughter) is pretty frustrating. Someday, I would like to upgrade to a Nissan NV, but for now, we’re sticking it out in our Suburban.*

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Great Audiobooks for Long Road Trips

Last year, I shared some of our best survival tips for long road trips with kids.  We’ll be spending a month on the road this summer, so I’m compiling a list of CDs to enjoy as we drive from SoCal to Michigan and back.

ten great audiobooksHere are five of our favorite kid-friendly audiobooks that don’t drive Mommy and Daddy crazy!

  • Charlotte’s Web is my all-time favorite audiobook.  Author EB White brings such flavor to this sweet story, which I’ve fallen in love with all over again with my kids.
  • Paddington Bear stories read by Stephen Fry are a big hit around our house.  Paddington’s exploits with the Browns feature enough slapstick humor that even my littles laugh, but the layers of comedy have us smiling knowingly.  A friend gave us a Paddington anthology when our first was born, telling us that these stories helped them understand their own child better.  I have to agree.
  • Adventures in Odyssey have held up pretty well, considering our kids are the second generation listening to them on long cartrips!
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, read by such great British actors as Kenneth Branagh and Jeremy Northam, have long been a staple of our family road trips–my husband actually bought me this boxed set before we even had kids.  It was CS Lewis who said that great children’s literature can be enjoyed by adults, too.  We concur!
  • Winnie-the-Pooh is one of my son’s favorite books, and there are several great audiobook versions out there.  We love this recording, reader’s theater-style, featuring more British greats such as Judi Dench and Stephen Fry.  (I could listen to Stephen Fry read the dictionary…)

We also listen to music, from classical to Bible verses set to song.  I recommend these five…

  • Peter and the Wolf was one of our kids’ first introductions to various instruments in the orchestra.  This version (read by David Bowie, of all people!) includes the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Carnival of the Animals, both of which are great for discussion with the kids.
  • Vivaldi’s The Four Seaons is another piece that is fun to talk about; we have them explain what about the music sounds like spring, and how the different seasons have different sounds.
  • Holst’s The Planets is more of the same.  Rousing good music, and a chance to discuss Greek mythology and music all at once!
  • Seeds Family Worship has a great series of Bible verses set to music.  I’ve had these CDs playing in my minivan for years, and I often find an applicable Bible verse running through my head thanks to a Seeds song.  My kids can memorize anything set to music, and I love that they’re filling their minds with scripture!
  • To Be Like Jesus is our newest addition to the music library–it’s an album of songs based on the fruit of the spirit.  I bought it for the “Self Control” song (much needed by a child of mine who shall remain nameless), but my kids are already singing several of them around the house!

What else can I add to the mix for our next road trip?


*This post contains affiliate links.*

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Road Trip Survival Tips

Road Trip Survival Tips (with small kids)

Summer vacation means it’s road trip time for many of us.  And anyone who has driven more than two hours with small children knows that it can be a pretty stressful time.  Our summer travels are done, but one of my girlfriends emailed me this weekend to ask for any recommendations for an upcoming road trip with their kids (the same ages as ours).  I told her we pack a small backpack for each of the kids with age-appropriate activities in it.

Here’s what worked for us this summer:

BABY: Driving long distances with a nursing baby is horrible, no two ways about it.  When we moved out to CA from PA two years ago, S was 3 months old and screamed every waking minute in her carseat. Bethany hosted us after a 17 hour day, and she can attest that I was pretty close to total despair, even with only one day’s drive left ahead of me.  The only advice I have is to bring a hand pump and pump a bottle which you can feed the baby while she’s still in the carseat.  Then you can use stops to change her diaper and let her stretch and kick around a bit on a play quilt instead of having to sit and nurse the whole stop.

Recommended supplies: Hand pump (I have this one), play quilt or blanket, lots of changes of clothes

TODDLER: Actually, I think the 12-36 month stage might be the hardest.  Mine nap less and are extremely fidgety.  Being pretty opposed to much screen time for our kids, we’d managed many 12 hour drives without a portable DVD player.  Then when we had a cross-country move, we broke down and bought one.  Now when we go on a long car trip, we borrow new movies from friends (or check them out from the library), so there’s the novelty of watching a ton of movies AND not always watching the same things as we do at home.  Our kids get carsick easily (I once called Anna from the road to ask what dosage of dramamine she recommended for our two year old who had just thrown up for the third day in a row, and she changed my world by telling me about chewable children’s dramamine!), so we have to do shorter videos and break them up with other activities.  Stickers and mess-free markers can sometimes hold their interest, though often I have to be sitting next to the two year old, peeling the stickers for her.  Lots of new snack food helps, too.

Recommended supplies: short dvds like Paddington Bear, children’s dramamine, stickers, mess-free On-the-Go color blast pads and On-the-Go coloring pads with water markers

PRESCHOOLER: Even though this age doesn’t read, they can look at pictures.  We try to bring really detailed paperback picture books for their backpacks, and we’ve found that reusable stickers can occupy a lot of time.  DVDs and mess-free markers work, too.  From about age three on, my kids love to listen to books on CD.  Magnetic games are good for the car, as long as they have a decent carrying case so you’re not losing pieces.  I always get a bunch of snacks that we don’t usually have (colored goldfish crackers, fruity cheerios, fruit snacks, teddy grahams) and divide them into three gallon sized ziplocks with our three big kids’ names on them.  So when somebody gets antsy, I let them pick a snack out of their bag (so no fighting over who gets the last one–they all started the trip with the same stuff).

Recommended supplies: Charlotte’s Web read by E.B. White, Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pads, Tangoes Jr. magnetic game, On-the-Go color blast pads

SCHOOL-AGE KID: We are just entering the wonderful world of having a child who can buckle and unbuckle himself, read to himself, and pretty much entertain himself as needed.  He still loves to listen to CDs, watch DVDs, and help his little sisters with their stuff, but we definitely pack a couple fun chapter books for him and his own headphones to listen to a different story on my ipod than what the little girls are listening to over the speakers.  I’ll also stick in a new spiral notebook (I stock up on these at back-to-school sales every August) and some colored pencils, and he usually fills the whole notebook with pictures by the end of the trip.  Wiki Stix are great because they stick to each other but not to the carseat.  Mazes and dot-to-dots and word searches (from the Target dollar bins) have been a hit, too.

Recommended supplies: The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7 Volume CD Boxed Set (read by some of the greatest British actors of our day!), Wiki Stix, Camelbak Kid’s Water Bottle (our favorite on-the-go water bottle for all of our kids–not leaky, and they fit in standard cupholders)

What are your most successful road trip tips?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

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