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Car Travel

Going back to my traveling tips posts, today I write about car survival.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I greatly prefer to travel by car with the kids rather than by plane.  So how do we manage to drive for 2 or 3 days and keep everyone happy?  

One year for Christmas, shortly before traveling to Disney World, each child received a backpack.  Inside each pack was a pencil case, coloring book and, a road trip bingo game.  Shortly before leaving each child added books, travel board games, and a favorite stuffed animal or doll.  Everyone was given colored pencils (crayons can melt in the car) for their pencil bags as well as erasers.  We went to Costco and bought snack size chips, crackers, granola bars, and cookies.  Each child picked a few snacks for their backpack and I refilled once or twice a day as necessary.  I have found that keeping the kids well-fed makes for a much happier day.    

We are fortunate enough to have a DVD player in our minivan so I stock a CD carrying case with our favorite movies and TV shows.  At home we limit screen-time, but on the road we are a little more liberal with the time.  The kids are very happy watching their favorite shows and snacking.  Our mp3 player comes in handy as well for playing all our favorite music.  Some of our favorites include the Disneymania music, or any Disney soundtrack.  We even try to theme the music to where we are traveling.  For example when we drive through Texas we listen to our favorite George Strait Texas songs, or a trip through Oklahoma has us listening to the Oklahoma! soundtrack.  

When not doing any of the above things or napping (even the big kids get sleepy in the car) we also play car games. We keep track of how many license plates we see from other states, the alphabet game where we look for each letter of the alphabet in order on billboards and signs, and “I’m going on a trip” game.

To save a little money and to allow breaks for running around, we pack our lunch and stop at rest areas rather than going to a restaurant. There are many rest areas, especially in Texas, that have playgrounds so we stop there to eat and get some exercise. I also pack our big 5-gallon water jug in the car full of iced water. I keep it within arms-reach of my seat and can refill water bottles as needed. I bring the individual serving Hawaiian Punch or Crystal Light lemonade powders to add to the drinks occasionally as well.

Since all of my children are in car seats or booster seats, it can be difficult for them to reach forward to get snacks or water bottles that I want to pass to them. One of the best solutions I have come up with is to purchase one of those grabbers that is often advertised for the elderly or disabled to reach thing on high shelves. I can then easily pass back items to the third row while my husband continues to drive so we don’t have to pull over or remove a seat belt. This is by far the best car tool we own.

I have to admit that not everyone is happy 100% of the time.  Kids (and parents) get tired, cooped up, and bored.  But we’ve managed to find a way to make the trip mostly enjoyable with minimal upset.



It’s been many weeks since the last post, mostly because life has gotten busy.  By my doctor’s suggestion, leading up our son’s birth, I was encouraged to “take it easy.”  I wasn’t officially on bed rest, but since my OB is very laid back, this was probably her version of putting me on rest.  So did I take it easy?  I probably didn’t do it nearly as much as my husband would have wanted.  It’s hard to take it easy while homeschooling and taking care of 4 small children.  But my husband worked from home for a while and took over some schooling, and I did get some rest.

Sunday, February 16 was our standard Sunday schedule.  We woke early for 7:30 AM Mass.  After Mass we came home for breakfast and my husband took the kids to the park so I could take a nap.  I woke from my nap while they were still at the park, and I did not feel well.  I took my blood pressure and it was very high. Shortly after my family came through the door. My husband only had to take one look at my face and he knew we were going to the hospital. I gave my parents a heads-up and then called the on-call doctor. She recommended I go to the hospital to monitor my blood pressure.
We quickly packed up some clothes and toys for the kids and headed out the door. My parents live only a few minutes from the hospital so we dropped off children and made our way over. The nurses had been instructed that if I had even one high blood pressure reading when I got there, I was to be admitted and induced. It only took a few minutes for the nurses to get 3 high readings and I was told, yes, today was the day.
A few short hours later our little Giovanni Nicolaus was born 11 days early. He weighed in at 7 lbs. 15 oz. and 19 1/4 inches. He’s now 2 1/2 weeks old and already I can’t imagine life without him. We are adjusting well, his big brothers and sisters love him, and he fits right into this family!  

Stocking the Freezer

In preparation for baby #5 my husband and I have been cooking like crazy to stock the freezer.  We are usually blessed with kind friends and family who bring us meals after each baby is born.  But this usually only happens for a couple of weeks, and we don’t want to presume we will have help, so I like to make a lot of freezer meals that can be reheated easily.  Over the past couple weeks we have made about a month’s worth of meals for the freezer.  Luckily we have a full-size freezer out in the garage for storing all these things.  So this post may be rather boring, but below is a list of what I cooked this time around:

  • sauce for pasta
  • borracho beans
  • chicken soup
  • pea soup
  • beef soup
  • pinto beans
  • lentil soup
  • pasta fagiole
  • steak pizzaiola
  • pepper steak
  • meatloaf 
  • stuffed peppers 
  • fried rice
  • stew stock
  • chicken pot pie
  • eggplant parmiggiano
  • Spanish rice
  • sweet and sour pork
  • sausage and peppers
  • quiche
  • chicken enchiladas

And below is what my wonderful husband cooked on the grill:

  • chicken fajitas
  • beef fajitas
  • pork tenderloin
  • hamburgers
  • brisket

Happy birthday Big Viking

Today is the fifth birthday of our #2 son.  I can’t believe it’s already been five years since he was born.  When it was close to a week after his due date, and my blood pressure was creeping up, my doctor and and I decided to schedule his induction.  So one week after his due date my husband and I headed in to the hospital.  It was something like 5 AM and as my husband came to a rolling stop at a stop sign in our neighborhood, we were pulled over by the town police!  When the officer asked where we were going we let him know that we were on the way to the hospital to have a baby.  When are we ever going to have that excuse again?  My husband did tell him that I wasn’t in labor, it was a scheduled thing, but the officer looked at me and ask if I was okay long enough for him to do his paperwork.  He let us off with a warning and we were on our way.  A few minutes later I realized I had forgotten my i.d. at home.  Not knowing if I would need it, we headed back, but I made my husband go into the neighborhood through a back road.  I didn’t want the police officer thinking we had lied to him!

We finally made it to the hospital and all went very smoothly from there.  By far this was the quickest labor I have ever had.  It was so quick that our big 9 lb. 11 oz. boy’s lungs collapsed upon delivery.  The details are hazy, but I recall hearing the doctor call in the NICU team as our son was being born.  I remember that after he was born there wasn’t much crying, and I thought that was strange.  The team worked on him a few minutes in the delivery room and then took him out to the NICU.  I sent my husband with them so we would know what was happening.  Shortly after the doctor finished her work and left, as did the delivery nurses.  That left me all alone in the room with a student nurse who was so nervous and didn’t know what to do.  I think she felt relieved to get out of there when she offered to get me something to drink and I accepted.  So there I was, all alone after having just delivered our boy.  I had no idea how he was doing or what was going on.  Fortunately my husband came back soon after and a NICU doctor came to give us the prognosis.  Our son had collapsed both lungs and their estimate was that he would have to stay in the NICU for a week.

We spent a lot of time down at NICU and the nurses were fantastic!  I’m sure it must be a difficult one, but what a great vocation for them.  Every single one was attentive, kind, and went out of their way for us.  They joked about how our son was the biggest baby they had seen in their ward in a long time.  They are used to preemie babies, and our great big boy took up a huge portion of the little bed.  He had to wear what we called a space helmet as he got enough oxygen.  He also had a feeding tube put in.

A day and a half after delivery I was discharged from the hospital but we had to leave our little boy there.  I remember holding back tears as the nurse wheeled me down to the car.  She was so nice and motherly and told me a similar story when she had to leave her little one.  She gave me permission to have my cry, and sure enough once I got it out, I felt much better.  We of course spent much of our time at the hospital.  I was able to pump and bring in some food for our baby to be put through his feeding tube.  Two or so days after being born, the nurse said he was doing so well that we could try feeding him with a bottle.  She warned us that he probably wouldn’t eat much and it would take a while for him to finish.  Five minutes later we showed up at the nurses’ station with an empty bottle.  She jumped up, laughed and said, “I’m taking out his feeding tube!”

Our boy recovered so quickly that the original estimate of a week in the NICU actually ended up only being about 3 days.  We got to bring our boy home sooner than expected.

I thank God for my beautiful boy.  He is a handful, but also a joy!  Thank you, Lord, for every day you give me with him!100_1494