Pride Comes Before the Fall

It’s spring break, and instead of lounging on the beach, umbrella drink in hand, I’ve opted to spend it at home, toilet brush in hand. (And when I say “I’ve opted to,” you know what I really mean is, “My checking account has decided for me.”)

And just to add insult to injury, Mother Nature decided that she’d give Iowa the near-80 temperatures at the end of February and instead deliver a snowstorm a few weeks later, during “spring” break. Yes, Mother Nature, we get it. You’re sooooo ironic.

So since I’m not going anywhere fun and it’s too crappy to be outside, I figured I might as well make good use of my time and try to get organized. (And when I say “Get organized,” you know what I really mean is, “Put some of that laundry away that’s been stacking up in the basement since Christmas and is now taller than me.”)

And speaking of laundry, you know when you look in your closet and don’t think you have any pants to wear, so you go to Goodwill (because you’re cheap that way) and sort of black out and when you come to you’ve purchased 13 pairs of pants? And when you get home you start bringing up laundry from the basement that’s been clean and in a basket down there for several months, and you start putting clothes away, and you keep finding more pants, and more pants, and suddenly you have enough pants hanging in your closet to clothe the entire cast of “The Walking Dead,” (including all the zombies)? No? Yeah, me neither…

I try so hard to get organized, but sometimes I just feel like the universe is against me. Need an example? No problem. I just happen to have one right here.

Take today, for instance. I “ran in” to Target (translation: “spent two hours there”) for a few essentials and got kind of sucked in to the organizing aisles. All of the products seemed to be calling my name, promising that if I just took them home, I’d miraculously undergo some sort of transformation into one of those women whose houses have absolutely no clutter. You know these houses. The ones where the owners apparently never get bills in the mail that they have to stack up on the kitchen table, or whose kids don’t wear shoes. The ones that always look like the owners are keeping it obsessively and freakishly clean just in case some Realtor wants to come show it on a moment’s notice. Even though they aren’t even for sale…

So I just knew if I bought some more things, as in, brought more clutter into the house, it would somehow magically reduce my clutter. (It made much more sense when I was actually staring at the under-the-bed storage tubs at Target.) I settled on one of those put-it-together-yourself two-tier shoe shelves that I could put in my closet. I knew it would just make all the difference. And at $12.99 — what a bargain!

After bringing it home, I encountered my first challenge: actually getting the pieces out of the box, which was glued together with what had to be the most industrial-strength glue ever manufactured. Ripping off the end of the box in little-bitty teensy-weensy pieces, I finally managed to slide out the particle boards. Laying everything on the floor, I convinced myself to at least peruse the directions, even though I was pretty sure I could figure it out myself. (There were literally only four pieces.) I screwed the pieces together and popped on the little plastic thingies that “hide” the screws, and I stood back to admire my handiwork.

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

You see, my track record with things like this isn’t terribly impressive. Usually what happens is, I eyeball it, think, “This looks pretty easy,” put it together, stand back to admire it . . . and realize that I’ve just put all of the pieces on backwards.

But this time, I couldn’t find one thing I’d done wrong. I even double- and triple-checked, just to be sure. And I have to admit, I kind of puffed out my chest a bit when I picked it up to carry it into my bedroom.

And that’s when I made my fatal mistake.

I got cocky.

I got cocky, and I let my guard down. I was unstoppable, I was invincible! I was Rose with my arms stretched out, flying on the front of the Titanic!

And we all know what happened to the Titanic.

I set down the shelf so I could clear out room for it in my closet. Oh, and before I do that, I thought, why don’t I change into some comfy pants? I couldn’t possibly get organized wearing jeans.

And that’s when it happened.

Thinking back, I’m not even sure what happened. It’s kind of a blur. But as I was taking off my jeans, I got a little wobbly, because if you didn’t know, I’m not the most coordinated of individuals. I got a little wobbly, and in what I’m sure was slow motion, I started going down. It’s like I was hovering over my body, looking down and thinking, “What the heck is she doing? Is she really going to fall backwards just trying to put her pants on?”

Yes, yes I was.

I kind of caught myself falling and tried to gracefully transition into a sit, but in reality I just fell back hard and sat right down. On my shelf.

And in case you were wondering, no, a particle-board shelf does not bear the weight of a hundred-some pound woman. No, it most certainly does not.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting down, with half of the shelf to my left and half to my right, and a burning sensation in the back of my thigh. The thing done broke right in half.

Well, not exactly in half, because if you didn’t know, particle board does not break evenly. It breaks in a horrible, sharp, jaggedy way, just to ensure that there is no possible way you could ever dream of repairing it.

I sat there, stunned, thinking, “Did I really just do that?” And then the pain set in. Not only had I gotten a road rash-type bloody burn on the back of my right leg, but somehow I had pulled a muscle right below my left hip.

I remembered then how moments earlier, I was thinking just how cool I was for successfully constructing a $13 shelf. Well, I definitely was not feeling cool any longer. Humility — along with a heaping dollop of humiliation — had promptly taken over.

And as I was throwing the broken pieces into the trash bin outside, before searching the house for a bandage large enough to cover my seepy wound, an old adage popped into my head: Pride comes before the fall.

Well played, universe. Well played.

Let’s All Go to the Movies

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to go to the mall to see a movie on the day after Christmas was kind of an idiot. Oh, I guess that was me. After pulling in to the parking lot and realizing that it was waaaaay more packed than it had been on Black Friday (Yes, I went. Don’t judge.), Husband decided that was a good time to remind me that last year we went to a movie in the morning. And when we walked out of the theater and surveyed the crowd which had gone from “somewhat busy” to “violating fire code insanity,” we had remarked, “Good thing we didn’t wait until 2:00 to come!”

I glanced at my phone: 2:30.

Oh well. We were there, and we managed to find a parking spot. We had already tried to eat at Five Guys with the thought we would go to a later show, but when we couldn’t even get in the door because of the line, we thought we’d see a show first, and eat later. So in we went.

I have never been to Grand Central Station, but I’ve seen it in the movies, and this seemed pretty darn close. Some people waiting in one of several long lines, other people leaning against walls and larger-than-life ads of a cartoon baby in a suit or LEGO Batman and still others just wandering around in circles, staring up at the movie times in red LEDs, muttering to themselves. I looked up at that same movie sign, scanning it for Rogue One, and finally found the 2:50 showing. My joy was quickly dissipated, though, when the 2:50 suddenly changed to the word “FULL.” Crap. So I stood in line for 10 minutes to get tickets for the next showing, all the while wondering what the heck we were going to do in this crowded mall for over an hour and a half.

It’s not like we’re huge shoppers — especially the boys — but couple that with the fact that it was literally difficult to even move through the walkways in between the stores, and the prospect of leisurely shopping at Bath & Body Works or for God’s sake the Apple Store made me feel nauseous. We did, however, have to make an exchange at Hot Topic, so we decided to venture there. But first we had to make it through the food court.

As we tried to weave our way through the people and around the lines, I reverted back to my “mom of little kid” self and couldn’t fight the urge to grab my boys’ hands in the fear that we would get separated and never see each other again. First we walked past Zombie Burger, which had a sizable line, but at least they had organized it, and since it was at the end of the food court, had people standing right next to the wall instead of out in the walkway with everyone else. And everything was going ok — until we came to the hallway for the restrooms.

So many people were spilling out of there, and it seemed to me like they were all moving in fast motion. It was like a hose was turned on and was just spraying these people out. I honestly found myself thinking, “What is going on in there? Are they having some sort of entertainment back by the vending machines and the family restroom?” And of course these people were all swimming against the stream or trying to merge into our lane that was headed out of the food court. It was literally body-to-body contact with perfect strangers. What made it even more challenging was that half of them were also carrying trays — trying not to lose their Potato Ole’s or Mongolian beef and rice.

When we finally reached the end of the food court and could come up for air, at least for a few precious seconds, we shuffled to Hot Topic, just a few stores down. And we entered.

Have you ever been to a Hot Topic store? I don’t know if it’s every Hot Topic or just the one at our mall, but I’m positive it carries the most merchandise per square foot of any other store in the world. T-shirts, skirts, robes, pajamas, keychains, bags, Pop figures, earrings, chokers, lanyards, candy, posters — it’s all there. All jammed together. And to display all this merch, they have to have racks and display cases and shelves everywhere. It was a maze, but with what seemed like only dead ends. We could see the wall of t-shirts that Boy #2 needed to get to in order to pick out a shirt to exchange, but getting there was an entirely other matter. We tried to walk around the Pokemon display — blocked by a tween girl with pigtails and her mom. We tried to squeeze between the “Stranger Things” and Disney Princess racks — blocked again by two guys who seemed way too old to be buying a Pikachu onesie. Finally, after going what seemed to be the longest distance between two points possible, we made it to the wall.

I instantly got dizzy looking up at all of the t-shirts that were displayed clear up to the ceiling. Boy #2 hadn’t decided what he wanted, so we stood there, pressed against the wall and sweating, necks craning, trying to decide between the sloth in space, Edgar Allen Poe on a police bike and pug with laser eyes. Finally, he settled on an Alexander Hamilton one, which I would agree was a good choice considering some of the alternatives.

So here I made the sacrifice moms make, telling Boys #2 and 3 to save themselves as I fought my way to the checkout. Again, taking the most circuitous route possible, I managed to get to the end of one of two lines. There were arrows on the floor that I think were supposed to help us know where the lines began and ended, but they did not seem to actually correlate to anything related to the line or the cash registers, so we all ignored them and just picked a place to stand and wait. After 15 minutes waiting behind another middle-aged mom with glazed-over eyes and her teenage daughter who was buying a hardly-anything-there babydoll top that made me thankful I didn’t have girls, I finally made my even exchange.

When I stepped out of the store, I took a deep breath and also instinctively covered my eyes at the sudden change from dungeon darkness (I’m pretty sure they don’t have any lights in Hot Topic, or if they do, they’re always burned out) to bright mall light. I found Husband and the boys, who appeared to be having just as good of a time as I was, leaned up against the wall between Lids and Orange Julius. At this point, Boys #2 and 3 were starving and didn’t think they could wait until after the movie to eat, so we headed back into the belly of the beast—the food court.

I don’t know how you get when you’re hot and tired, but in our family, we become incapable of making any sort of decision. Such was the case here, and we stood, trying not get knocked over by other hungry people, taking turns saying, “I don’t care” when asked where we should get something to eat. I had to go to my happy place and do some inner self-talk to remind myself that we were having a fun family adventure and so I shouldn’t completely freak out on them. Finally, we went with the shortest line, which was an Italian place that curiously had no line as opposed to the other restaurants that were at least 8 people deep. The thought that it was because the food totally sucked crossed my mind, but at this point I didn’t care. I just needed something to fill my boys up and waste about 40 more minutes of time. Crappy pizza it was.

We actually managed to find a booth without wandering around hunting for 10 minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a family getting up from the table and made a beeline, ready to knock over an old man or small child if I had to in order to secure the seats. (Ok, I wouldn’t really have knocked over innocent people, especially vulnerable ones like old men or toddlers. At least I don’t think I would have.) As we went to sit down, Boy #3 said, “Mom are we really going to sit here? The table’s all dirty and still has people’s trash on it.” Just sit down I said in a guttural voice that emanated from deep within, and I think Boy #3 knew that he probably shouldn’t complain again.

And there we sat, waiting until we could get into our movie at 4:15. We didn’t even chance having the boys get up out of the booth to get napkins for fear of someone else trying to hone in on their seats, so, like the good mom I am, I just told them to wipe off the blobs of pizza sauce on their faces with their hands. “But it’s all over my hands now!” Boy #3 whined. “Just keep rubbing your hands together and it will go away,” I heard myself saying.

Finally it was time. We could get into our theater, where we could at least wait in the comfort of cushiony seats that recline a little and, even though the movie eventually filled up, was still much less crowded and hectic than the rest of the mall. By the time the movie finally started, we had already eaten our popcorn, but we didn’t even care. The movie was really good, and the conversation afterward at Applebee’s, breaking down the scenes over hamburgers and hot-wings-Boy #2-didn’t-realize-were-actually-hot-even-though-they-were-called-hotwings, was priceless.

I think we’ll do this again next year.

When it’s hard NOT to write

Some say writing is hard. But sometimes not writing is even harder.

As I look back at the past year’s posts, I’m ashamed at how few there are. And as worn out those “sorry I haven’t posted lately” posts can be, I do feel compelled to reflect a little on my negligence.

When you’re a writer, you are intrinsically driven to share. And anyone who knows me personally knows I’m a sharer. Sometimes I share WAY more than a person cares to know about me, but I can’t help it. I put it all out there and allow people to make their own judgment about whether I’m refreshingly open or downright annoying.

When I started my blog, I loved having a place to share my family’s foibles, as well as my feelings and frustrations. And as I started receiving feedback from readers, we developed a weird kind of collective friendship, and I wanted to tell you even more. I wanted to stay up all night, eat graham crackers dipped in a can of frosting while “Friday Night Videos” blared from the TV, and tell each other everything.  I didn’t want to hold back; I wanted to be totally transparent. After all, that’s what friends do.

But I knew I couldn’t tell all. This weird collective friendship included some of you I’ve never met in real life and others I’ve known nearly all my life. And while I’m the type of person who isn’t bothered much by what people think of me, it isn’t just about me. I have three boys and a husband, as well as family and friends, and what goes on in my life involves — and affects — all of them. My story is not just my story to tell. And that’s become really hard.

With Boy #1 being in high school now, and Boys #2 and #3 being fifth and second graders, I have to be incredibly conscientious about what I share and think about how they will feel about it if people they know read it. And I would never want to say anything that would make my husband embarrassed or uncomfortable (although I’m sure I’ve done this more than once).

Over the past year and a half, we have gone through so many changes. Let’s see…I lost my job while my husband was on a month-long trip to Poland, we downsized and moved from a large new home in the suburbs to a smaller 1950s ranch in our small hometown, the boys had to adjust to new friends and a new school, I turned 40 (of course, without having lost the weight I’d wanted to)…and those are just a few of life’s recent stressors. We’ve also dealt with issues that I can’t write about right now, to be fair to my family. For someone like me to not share such big things in my life, it feels inauthentic. Fake.

Cue the anxiety.

Writing became something I dreaded because everything I tried to write just seemed trite or forced. It wasn’t what I really wanted to tell you all, so I did what I do best when my anxiety gets the best of me — I avoided. I avoided for a long stinkin’ time.

But lately I’ve found myself running across quotes about writing from all different sources, and one theme has seemed consistently highlighted, just for me.

To be a writer, you have to write.

That’s it. You have to write. Whether you feel like it or not, whether or not you know what to write about — you have to write. Every day, no excuses, no avoidance. And I figure now that I’m officially calling myself “a writer,” partly because that’s what I want to be and partly because I don’t want to have to find another job, I should probably follow that advice. I have to write.

So I am officially recommitting myself to this blog and to my career as a writer. I figure if I have the nerve to publish this post, I’m going to look pretty stupid if I don’t post again for another two months, so in that way you’re all holding me accountable. (Thank you very much.) And although I can’t say everything I want to say at this point in my life, I know the time will come when the stories can be told. It would be nice if I still had an audience left to read it when that happens. Until then, I will share what I can in ways that I hope you’ll find interesting and entertaining. Just know that when I do have to hold back, it’s nothing personal, friend.

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July, friends! I hope you’re all spending the day with your loved ones, exercising those freedoms that only America offers!

If you’ve been with me for a while, you probably know how I spend my 4th of July — hanging out in my hometown, which is also now my residence again. The parade…the fireworks…the carnival… I love it all. This morning I’m heading out to plunk myself in front of Chris’ Photography on the square, our “usual” spot, to watch the parade. It’s only supposed to be 103 degrees today, so this year I will have the delight of watching the parade dripping wet with sweat. YES!

I will be taking lots of photos so that I can share our small-town celebration with you. Until then, go ahead and enjoy one of my accounts of past Independence Day celebrations!

4th of July 2011

4th of July 2010

4th of July 2009

4th of July 2008

Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop — I’m not worthy!

Tomorrow morning I board a plane bound for that popular tropical resort destination, Dayton, Ohio, to attend the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

Erma Freakin’ Bombeck.

Now, mind you, I didn’t have to “qualify” to attend. I merely had to man my laptop on December 6, when tickets for this conference went on sale, and be one of the first couple hundred individuals to purchase a pass before the event sold out. Which it did.

And as I prop my eyelids open this morning and get ready to substitute teach in a fourth grade classroom while visions of dirty laundry and unpacked suitcases dance in my head, I begin to think, “Who am I to attend this elite writer’s conference?” Seriously?! What was I thinking?

Humor writers from all over the country will be there. They’ve published best-selling books, written for Saturday Night Live, contributed columns to national newspapers…

And then, there’s me.

I have a recurring nightmare that when I check in at registration tomorrow afternoon, they’re going to ask me for the secret humor writers’ handshake. I’ll try some lame fist bump and then “blow it up” at the end, and everyone will then know that I am a fraud. “She’s no humor writer!” “Kindly escort her to the door!”

So provided I don’t get outed and arrested by the humor writers’ police, I’ll let you know how it’s going…

*Gulp!*

 

 

 

There’s nothing like a small-town July 4th celebration

Since moving to southern Iowa when I was 4, I can remember missing my hometown’s 4th of July celebration only twice — once right after Husband and I were married and we chose to stay in northern Iowa, where we lived, to celebrate with friends, and once when we traveled to Mackinac Island for my brother-in-law’s July 6 wedding. What is it that keeps us coming back? It’s not the flashiest celebration. It doesn’t bring in the biggest musical acts or boast the best carnival around. The fireworks can’t compete with those set off at the state capitol, only 50 miles north. There’s no live orchestra providing the score to the pyrotechnics display. But despite all that, there is something that draws us every year. Call it quaintness, call it naiveté.  Maybe it’s just plain pride. But that small-town celebration delivers just the right mix of tradition, fellowship, wonder and, yes, sometimes bewilderment, that makes my family — among hundreds of others — coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the irony of this old man, probably a farmer, donning his ball cap bedazzled in red sequins and a white-sequined star while watching musical entertainment on the bandstand. The best part was that no one gave him a second look. (Except, possibly, me.)

Last year, we sat through rain to watch the parade. This year, it was a 100+ degree heat index and piercing sun. But, seriously, how could we even think of missing it, especially when we got to see entries such as this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be fair, I think this conversion van was actually pulling a float. However, I’m pretty sure the “float” consisted of a hay rack holding the “Short Cut” barber and maybe his grandkids. Although the theme for the floats this year was “Christmas in July,” it seemed more like “Less is more” or maybe even, “Who gives a flip?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parade was peppered with Santas as parade entries tried to get into the “Christmas in July” theme chosen for this year’s celebration. My shirt was visibly WET by the end of the parade from sweat. I really can’t imagine how Santa held up in his fur-lined suit, hat and beard. I sweated more just looking at him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Santa at least had the common sense to can the suit and instead go with a lavender T-shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in doubt, post a disclaimer on your float.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, they confused “Christmas in July” with “Halloween in July.” A hearse with an arm hanging out the back — it’s good old-fashioned family fun, folks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is not the 4th of July until I have spotted the walking Spam can. He is my favorite walking meat-substitute character ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, these dudes were not in the parade, but they did enjoy parading around in all their glory. I admit, it was swelteringly hot, but I think these guys would’ve gone shirtless even if it was 30 degrees and snowing. But come on, if you were that buff, wouldn’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the heat, the parade was held up for a bit because some old guy had his 100-year-old mom or wife (not sure which) in the van to watch the parade and she passed out. Not the best idea when the heat index is 110 degrees, sir. Granted, you at least had the windows down, but still, the poor woman was probably baking with the sun beating down on the vehicle. Please, people, when I am over 90 and the temperature is over 90, let me stay home in the air-conditioning. I promise I won’t be angry that I’m missing it.

While we’re on the subject of vehicles, there are always a lot of vehicles in the parade. All shapes, all sizes, all colors. And since we’re in Iowa, we can’t have a parade without tons of tractors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, who’s driving my car???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And along with vehicles, we also have lots of animals. Usually, just horses, like these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found this horse’s blinders very disturbing. And I thought it was possibly the most humiliating thing you could make a horse wear, until I saw this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poor thing. It looked like something from Flashdance, and I could tell it was embarrassed. I think the owner should’ve had to wear matching pink legwarmers and beads in his hair too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grinch was not happy, and I don’t blame her. I can’t imagine how hot she was in that green makeup, hat and coat, along with that black plastic garbage big sticking to her leg. But hey, at least she stayed in character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know you’re in small-town Iowa when you see people walking their goats in a parade. However, I almost missed the quintessential small-town Iowa parade entry. See if you can spot it, as I only managed to snap a photo after it passed me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t tell, it’s a cow. But what you can’t see is that — a girl was riding it. This was a first for me. I grew up with cows and didn’t have a clue that I could’ve actually been riding them that whole time. And to think of how I used to ride my imaginary horse through the pastures, when all I had to do was throw a saddle on Bessie. Who knew?

After the parade we took our heat-stroked and sunburnt selves back to the paradise of air-conditioning before heading back uptown for the carnival rides. Here I am with two of the Boys, sporting my sexy tan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I was a lobster. A highlight, though, was burning my cleavage. Not actually having cleavage until my recent weight gain, this was a first, and although it was a tad bit painful, I thought the white line in between really accentuated the fact that I now have a rather ample bosom. (My apologies to anyone reading this who is under the age of 35 and has to look up the word “bosom.”)

 

 

 

 

 

Although carnival and amusement park rides rank right up there with circuses and magic in my mind, somehow I found myself on a ride with my nephew. I’m blaming it on the fact that it’s called “The Sizzler.” Didn’t that used to be the name of a steakhouse? I was temporarily confused and thought I was volunteering to taste a ribeye, not spin in circles. Oh well, nothing goes with a massive sunburn like vertigo.

If you didn’t think of a carney as a glamorous job, think again. Notice the disco ball hanging in this booth? Not only did the worker get to control a ride under the strobing effect of the disco ball, he also got to be in charge of the music that was blaring out of the massive speaker in the trailer beside him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, yes I did win the hat. And no, you can’t borrow it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnival prize suicide, although swept under the rug by the mainstream media because of the powerful carnival barker lobby, is on the rise. Sadly, Wish Bear’s last wish — to ditch this life on the road and maybe retire at some quiet second-hand store — did not come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s all I have to report from this year’s small-town 4th of July. Despite the snarkiness of my post, I really do enjoy the celebration. (I’m getting a little afraid that one year I’m going to get to the city limits on July 3 and see a sign stating that I’m hereby banned from the festivities.)

 

 

 

 

 

Until next year, Creepy Carousel Bunny says he’ll be watching you… while you sleep…

Want more small-town 4th of July fun? Check out the highlights of 2008, 2009 and 2010!

Road trips with kids (Plus win a vacation from Twizzlers)

We’re broke. I’m sure many of you can relate. But even though we can’t afford to take that trip to Jekyll Island that I so meticulously researched and planned last year and we likely won’t be able take the boys to Disney World until they have their own kids, I still want my boys to be able to experience family vacations, even if they’re only short road trips.

Growing up, we road-tripped it on all of our vacations — first in a Winnebago and then in our brown conversion van pulling our pop-up camper behind. We didn’t have a DVD player in the car (well, partly because DVD players and possibly even VCRs weren’t even invented yet), and our portable cassette players would drain the batteries after the first hour on the road, so the thing that made it fun for us was our “treasure chest of treats” that our mom would pack for us. She’d use one of those white Styrofoam coolers and would fill it full of snacks that we didn’t normally get, as well as Mad Libs, activity books and other fun things to do on the road. We couldn’t open it until we were actually started on the trip (which my sisters and I decided was as soon as we left our driveway).

I did this for my family several years ago when we embarked on a loooong road trip to Arizona over spring break. (Note: 52 hours in a van with three boys, ages 11 and under is not highly recommended, at least without the help of sedation.) It really did help pass the time for the boys and gave them something to look forward to. Next time we go on such a long trip (Lord help us), I will space out the treats, maybe one new thing every so many miles, so they don’t get everything all at once. Here are some ideas of things to include in your own Treasure Box of Road Trip Treats:

  • Packs of gum (especially helpful if you’re driving through the mountains)
  • Cheap journals from the dollar aisle at Target to use as travel journals
  • New markers or crayons
  • A folder of coloring/activity sheets about places you’ll be visiting or driving through. Just Google the destinations and look for free resources on teacher websites or other educational blogs. Then print out and create your own customized “activity books.”
  • Homemade “road-trip mix.” You can save money by tailoring a “trail mix”-type snack for your kids’ taste. Try: dry roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds, M&Ms, yogurt-covered raisins, Goldfish crackers, Twizzler Nibs and pretzel sticks.
  • New pens and pencils in fun colors and styles.
  • New pair of sunglasses.
  • List of each state so they can play “License Plate BINGO.”
Convert a hanging travel cosmetic case into a case full of fun and hang it from the seat back in front of the kids’ seats. Consider creating fun works of art with Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel Candy before snacking on them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over spring break this year, we road-tripped to the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Ia.; Moline and Rock Island, Ill.). It turned out to be a really fun destination with tons to see and do. The highlight for us all was getting to visit Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Ia., the shop behind the hit TV show on The History Channel, “American Pickers.” The boys even got their picture taken with Danielle Colby.

Danielle with Boys #2 & 3
Danielle & Boy #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to win a family vacation to the U.S. landmark of your choice? Twizzlers is giving away this grand prize to one lucky winner, but they’re also giving away other great “road-trip” prizes daily, like GPS units, national park guidebooks and digital cameras. Enter here for a chance to win!
Where is your family’s favorite road-trip destination? What do you do to make road trips enjoyable for everyone?

Disclosure: I’m using this post as an entry to a contest for a Twizzlers Landmark Summer promotion prize pack as a member of the Mom Bloggers Club. Thanks!

Things That Would Only Happen to Me (and Liz Lemon): The Christmas Edition, Part 2

Earlier this week I shared with you one of the highlights of Christmas vacation, and because I know the suspense must be KILLING you (I’m sorry if you weren’t able to sleep last night), I present to you “Things That Would Only Happen to Me (and Liz Lemon): The Christmas Edition Part 2.”

So after chasing a runaway dog for over an hour and a half and arriving late to my parents’ on Christmas Eve, we ended up having a very nice day. We got back home at a decent hour and the kids opened their traditional Christmas Eve gifts: a book and a new pair of PJ’s.

And then I turned to my annual Christmas Eve task: wrapping presents until my fingers bleed.

Or even just covered up.

Oh, well. At least I had Husband to help me. Right?

Riiiiight.

Husband put himself in charge of making sure the boys didn’t come downstairs while I was wrapping, which basically meant he would lie in the hallway with his laptop and watch episodes of “Psych” on Netflix.

Oh, yes, helpful indeed.

So in order to keep myself awake and alert while I wrestled the paper and bows, I decided to watch something that would put me in the Christmas spirit. And of course, I chose “Ghost Adventures.”

When Husband announced he was going to bed at 10:30, I said, “Yeah, I’ll probably be up there soon. I think I’m just about done.”

Three hours, 73 presents and countless ghosts later, I was still downstairs. The presents were finally all wrapped and I was tidying up the kitchen so our photos the next morning didn’t reveal to our future selves what incredible slobs we are. I admit, I was getting pretty spooked after nearly 5 hours of the paranormal marathon I had embarked on. So when I turned around and saw a figure standing in the doorway of the kitchen, I did what any rational mom would do on Christmas Eve night when everyone was asleep, and screamed my lungs out.

Then I realized that the figure wasn’t a ghostly apparition but Boy #2, and then I realized that he was about to turn around and see that Santa had already left gifts, even though I was still downstairs. Determined not to spoil the Christmas magic, I started running toward him so I could direct him back into the hallway and out of the line of sight of the incriminating evidence. But, since I was on a hardwood floor AND wearing my special Christmas socks, my feet suddenly flew off the ground — and I landed flat on my back.

And now, Boy #3 was up too.

Despite the pain shooting through my tailbone, I managed to crawl to Boy #2 and shove him into the hallway, his eyes now huge in confusion, and, possibly, horror. The bruised back (and elevated blood pressure) was worth it, though, because he didn’t see a thing.

So after getting Boy #3 back to bed and reading to Boy #2 so he could settle down enough to go to sleep, I finally fell into bed.

My back was throbbing, my fingers were cramped from repeatedly tearing off pieces of Scotch tape, and my pulse was now racing. But I got to sleep until 6 a.m., a whole 4 hours, until the Christmas morning mayhem began.

Right out of the story “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”…