NO - we do not have a DVD player in the car.
I remember childhood car trips fondly: stopping at rest areas, state parks, singing, playing the road kill alphabet game (A is for Armadillo Soup, B is for Broiled Beaver, C is for Crispy Coyote... etc.), stopping at old graveyards to make rubbings of cool head stones, tents, campfires, fireflies... I want that for my kids. I want them to know that a road trip is just as much about the journey as the destination.
YES - I packed some books, markers, paper, a giant stack of CDs and a cooler full of food.
Why this trip? Well, to witness my beautiful sister getting married, to see family we never see otherwise and to check in with our ever growing family in Oklahoma.
As we have traveled around the country I have paged through local papers and ran across an article on how to go on road trips with kids. A two hour trip was used as an example and I put down the article. Where we live a two hour drive gets us to the next big town and is hardly considered a road trip. It took us three days to get from home to our first destination and upon reflection, there are a few things we try to do to make the journey more enjoyable.
1. STOP FOR LUNCH - and no - I don't mean stop at a fast food joint, shovel food in your face and keep driving. Pack a cooler, take advantage of the rest areas and welcome centers that dot the American highway system. Grapes, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, hard boiled eggs and sandwich fixings and a few treats are easy enough to pack and unpack. The kids stretch their legs, climb around, fill their bellies and when we get back in the car there has been a noticeable reset in the overall mood. We can go on.
2. Maintaining the KID'S SANITY - choose one or two things of the usual routine to maintain throughout the routine. For us this is reading bedtime books. It can be 11 o'clock at night. We can have just watched a movie. We can be at grandma's or in a tent. There will be a bed time book and in reality there will probably be two or three. And, really, is there anything better than being cuddled up under a blanket in a tent reading by flashlight?
- Bed Time Reading for Kids: (among other books) Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Bed Time Reading for Me: Travels with Charlie in Search of America by John Steinbeck
- Bed Time Reading for Adam: which ever Game of Thrones book he is on now... something with dragons in the title, I think.
4. EXPLORE!!!! There are things to see and do everywhere. This is almost a comprehensive list of places we have explored during this trip.
It was drizzling slightly and I was afraid the kids would protest to walking... but they loved this place: they ran from sign to sign, from the first cave to the second and then the tepee. That night, after our books, we told stories about the caves...
We arrived after dark, gathered firewood and ate a late dinner. Sylvan was elated to sleep in our new tent. We awoke to more bird sounds than I have ever heard before.
- Bricktown in Oklahoma City (OK) - take a canal ride, visit the Crystal Bridge and play around in the adjoining playground, the water features and explore the Children's Garden
- Science Museum Oklahoma (OK)
- Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium (OK)
- Oklahoma Aquarium (OK)
- Botanical Garden of the Ozarks (AR)
- Riverside Park, West Fork (AR)
- Kiddie Park (OK) - this place what the whole reason for last year's trip to Oklahoma
- Public Library - a default location to entertain children in an air conditioned space. There are books to read, toys to play with and often offer free story times. The public library has served us well in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Aurora, Colorado and is a frequent destination to which I take out of town guests in Missoula.
- Never underestimate the fun that can be had in a back yard.
- Whenever possible - stick to the smaller highways - there is so much more to see.
5. BREATHE!!! Breathe deeply and practice patience. The kids do get tired, overstimulated, under engaged and short fused... and through it all I try to remember it is not my child's behavior that defines me as a parent, but rather how I respond to the current situation. So I try to remember to respond with kindness and love and understanding and then we read bedtime books and go to bed.
Adam just finished the drive from Oklahoma and arrived at our house in Missoula. The garden is lush - I told him to eat the radishes - and our chicks are almost full grown. The kids and I will go on to our second leg of the journey by plane, further east, to visit more family.