Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm not a freak anymore....or am I?

Talk about being a control freak. Here’s a little history about me. During my sixteen years as an army wife, I learned to be in charge. Rob was gone for weeks, months and during one deployment five weeks after our fifth child was born, even a year. I learned to be a control freak, because if I didn’t do it, there was no one else who could. But there’s something I’ve learned since my twins were born. I’ve had to give up being a control freak. I simply cannot control things they way I could before they were born, namely because I’ve chosen to exclusively breastfeed and this takes between eight and ten hours per day. It’s TOTALLY worth it to give them the best nutrition I can, but as with all good things that come to us, there are sacrifices. For instance, during a tandem nursing session, I can’t necessarily open the front door when the contractor knocks and needs me to describe the way I need the tile laid in the house we are building. I can’t stop the toddler from unrolling all of the toilet paper onto the bathroom floor, and when he’s finished with that, opening another roll and doing the same. I can’t answer the phone when it rings. When two kids are arguing, I can’t go to them to help resolve it; they have to come and stand before me as I’m nursing in order for me to mediate. And… I can’t pack the van in preparation for a three-day drive to a beach resort in Mexico. Why anyone would WANT to do that with eight kids in tow in the first place is questionable, but for some reason, John and I thought it would be a good idea. This is what our van looked like during the trip home…








I NEED HELP! During out stay in the hotel, I kept thinking that I would go down and “muck it out” as John says, but between nursing sessions, preparing food sessions and magnanimously watching the kids jump off huge rocks into the swimming pool over and over again sessions, there just wasn’t time. I felt out of control and helpless most of the time. My priorties were the twins and making sure they were fed and happy, but everything else was completely out of my control. That being said, John did an absolutely fantastic job with the rest of the responsibilities. He purchased and organized all of the food for the trip, planned the route, and during our stay, took the toddler and whoever else wanted to go for early-morning walks on the beach every day...


...organized a deep-sea fishing trip for all ten of us...


...and prepared many of the meals we ate in the hotel suite...


Overall, the trip was a success, and I will write of certain specific events that occurred in later posts, but my purpose in writing THIS post is basically as a “note to self” of how we can avoid the chaos in the van as pictured above. I always tell myself that I am going to record what went wrong during any given trip and how I can improve things for the future, but I never seem to get around to it. Now that I’m a blogger, however, this will be the perfect forum in which to do this. The following ideas will take a great deal of preparation on my part, but as the twins will be starting solid food in two days, I believe I will have the time I need to prepare properly. This is what I’m going to do differently:

1. The van will be completely cleaned out and vacuumed before we leave for our trip. I know, common sense would dictate that that be done, but in our case it wasn’t.

2. Each child will have their own small backpack, including the toddler (for which an older child will be responsible), in which will be placed notepads, waterproof markers, pens, books and any other small toys we, as the parents, deem appropriate.

3. Each child will have a small blanket and throw pillow. I, in my control-freakish nature, will be responsible for these objects when not traveling. They will be under my protection and never to be used in the home, ONLY for traveling.

4. There will be ABSOLUTELY NO EATING IN THE VAN! Each child may have their own water bottle with a sports top, but absolutely nothing else. Ground in Subway tomatoes in the carpet does not make for a comfortable foot area.


5. All snacks and lunches will be prepared ahead of time and packaged individually. Gone will be the days of having to haul huge laundry baskets and ice chests full of food out of the van at each rest stop. The kids will help in this preparation so as to be accountable for what goes into their snack packs and lunches, hopefully avoiding the disappointed stares as they open their brown paper bags.

6. Each child will be given a plastic grocery bag to contain any trash that might accumulate on the road. These bags will be emptied into the gas station garbage cans each time we fill up.

There…a very idealistic look at what my next trip will be like.

Now, let me ask you this: What do YOU do to make traveling with kids easier? Please feel free to post your comments and share your wisdom. I would especially love to hear from new visitors to this blog! The more, the merrier!

This post is listed at We Are THAT Family, a very funny blog hosted by an awesome lady, and ...

The Lazy Organizer's "Talk About Tuesday". This is an awesome site that will get you out of the clutter closet!


If you're still here, you get to read it...

The 19-year-old girl: Mom, you don't look like you've had nine kids, just maybe four or something...

25 comments:

Melinda Pink said...

First, thanks for your comments on my latest post. Your vacation sounds like it was fun. Family trips are always less stressful the more they are planned out. I like to have my van space very organized. Some of your ideas totally work for me. I only let my kids bring a small back pack, travel pillow and blanket. The backpack gives them a space for their own things and limits what they can bring. I have used the individually packed snack/luch method before and thought it was good. Your plan looks good..great ideas. Kudos to you for taking steps now to improve future road trips.

Kelli said...

Jen,
You are a freak still and DON'T change, my world would stop existing as I know it. I'm traveling this afternoon with R5 and R6 on a couple of small planes to mom's house. I am preparing as best I can... I will actually attempt a "tip" post like you suggest when I get back... Odds are it will be a "what not to do" post... Love ya! Kelli

Becky said...

Hi, I'm not sure what links I followed to get here, but I'll be back! Your ideas for less-stressful traveling are great and we've used most of them with great success.
The most important one is the plastic shopping bag to contain garbage! I didn't bring enough on our last trip and we had to stop to buy something just to get a new bag. We do allow eating, but our kids are teenagers now and it's not quite so messy (at least most of the time and they are the car washers anyway!) When we travel, they keep all of their things contained in a backpack and that works too. Happy future vacations!

MERRIANNE said...

WOWZA!
You are Seriously SUPER WOMAN!!!

CJ, the Purple Diva said...

As always, and amazing post! I so wish we lived closer! I need a little of you to rub off on me! I don't know what happened to me, but I used to be just like this! Now, I'm just too old to care!
Great tips though...I did doit just like this when my kids were all little! Then I either stopped going on trips, or I just quit taking them! LOL

Dejah said...

I saw this idea, and love it! http://creativeorganizing.typepad.com/creative_organizing/2008/07/organized-car-t.html We don't travle very often but when we do all i can say is washable crayons!

Bethany Cox said...

that is a fantastic graphic you have designed mother.

Amanda B. said...

Good luck with new rule #4.... That (though ideal) would never work in our van. Snacks is an easy way to keep kids happy. :) I understand about the mess though- that is what our van (with 4 kids- two of which were infant twins) looked like after our trip to Florida last November. :) I understand what you mean about giving up control. Since I nursed my twins exclusively as well, I remember the hours it took to do so and how some things had to slide. It sounds like your trip was incredible!

Barbiemat said...

You are the best. You've got some GREAT ideas. I would never think to pack lunches. Have a safe trip home!

Cade, Jeni and life with our family said...

Jen I have tried all of your suggestions and with only 4 kids my car looks the same. I have even eliminated all toys books markers etc. but some how they end up there anyway. I think a messy car goes along with having kids. My tip is to keep a laundry basket in the car and have all the junk thrown in there and cleaning up is much easier. But good luck with the elimination of food!!

Jen said...

Some great tips for sure! A DVD player in the car is useful for us, for awhile anyway. We also sing a lot of songs. For us its not so much mess and disorder as it is boredom.

Tammy and Parker said...

You are pretty amazing!

And I just noticed your LDS button! Us too!

Tammy and Parker said...

I wanted to thank you for your sweet, sweet comment on our blog. It just made my heart sing.

We give thanks each and every day for this amazing little guy of ours.

And thanks for adding his button to your sidebar. I'd like to add your link, etc., to ours.

Jarmeg Family said...

I can totally relate, we just returned from an 8 hour drive last night with the 4 young kiddos. I also can relate to all the preparation before too, whew! We don't do food, or books or toys, just way too messy. We just do movies! Great tips as always, thanks!

Krissy said...

LOL ... Jen... I just adore you in SO many ways!!!! You're my hero! er,, heroine.. er.. something.

The van on your trip looks about like mine does on a continuous basis!!! (And my house.... eh...) Your tips for being organized are awesome and I think they'll work really well.

For me, I just make sure I have everything I need for the kids within arms reach and Natalie's DVD player is plugged in and movies are stocked! lol Of course I only have to drive 3-4 hours... LOVE the new KidQuip avatar! It's so cute!!

Christine said...

I have traveled solo with the kids several times now and have one big tip - Nix the individual garbage bags because that's just more bags that will possibly be turned upside down and empty all over the floor. Instead, I've discovered that a medium-sized garbage can in the front, between the two seats, works best for us. I keep a box of new garbage can liners in the bottom and can just empty it when full. My kids know that they have to pick up the trash around them before they get out of the van. (Even though they know this it is not always followed as emergency potty stops mean no time for picking up garbage). Good luck.

The Lazy Organizer said...

Lots and lots of books on tape! It sounds like quite an adventure with all those kids. Go you for nursing those twins!!!

Mrs. Organic said...

You trip sounds like it was so fun. I like to make snack bags for each child to bring in their backpack. They also love Triptivities from Scholastic.

frillsfluffandtrucks said...

Oh goodness, my inner control freak is in spasms over your van. I love your plan for future trips--sounds ambitious but great!

~ Sarah

Jill Scott said...

Wow! I'm a control freak too, but I can't even imagine having eight kids and being able to stay that way. You are amazing!

JanMary said...

Great post.

I love the idea of the kids having their own bag of activities and one for rubbish etc. Our car after a few weeks at the beach cottage is so full of sand and rubbish.

Thanks for sharing.

We are THAT Family said...

I think you're awesome! I only have 3 kids and on trip that's how my van looks! So really, you're doing good! And it looks like y'all had a lot of fun!

ZogLady said...

This was wonderful! I'm a complete control freak when it comes to planning the trips... Maybe not so much where we're going but how we shall get there and who will have what on the way!

I make sure to be packed a day or two beforehand (besides things liek toothbrushes and such). I pack the vehicle the night before (or wee hours as it usually turns out to be)... I have little metal lunch boxes that my kids use to hold their coloring pages and crayons, etc. They get water bottles for the trip and eat things that I approve of in the vehicle.

We, as well, throw out all garbages whenever we can....

And I pack WAY to many extra blankets and pillows! *L* But it sure helps with the 'wall' between the kids if needed!

Yup... That's about it. Oh! I also make a list of every item that I am to pack and only pack those (unless something is really needed...). I then take this list on our trip and double check it off when packing to come home to make sure nothing has been forgotten!

:)

Keeley said...

When I saw the first photo of the stuff crammed into the side pockets I thought "Huh. Looks perfectly normal". =Þ

Great ideas for trips!!! Have you gone on a trip since, and did you put the ideas into practice, and did they work?

Mom2my9 @ 11th Heaven said...

Okay, Keeley, you are going to get to know me well with all of your questioning, but no, again! I haven't put this into practice. However, we are going on a long trip in December, so I am going to refer myself back to this post!