Mom-ing

Travelling with a Toddler…the good, the bad and the ugly!

Blessed.  I am so deeply blessed.  This winter I was lucky enough to get to escape the never-ending Manitoba winter and head south for a couple weeks with my hubby and two year old son.  We planned a 3 day (one way so 6 days travel total) road trip down to visit my parents in Texas and I knew that I needed to be extremely organized and ahead of the game in doing so!  Here’s what I did to get ready for an extremely long amount of quality time in the truck with my kidlet and what worked the best and what was the hardest hurdles!

First off, if you’re planning a trip with young kids (or even just with adults really) I cannot say enough good things about the Utility Totes from “thirty-one”.  They literally saved my life!  I have two of them which I packed to the max and placed on the backseat floor for easy access.  I bought a few plastic baskets from the dollar store to place inside of them to keep things sectioned off and organized.  One utility tote held snacks and the other activities for my youngster.  I was able to keep things super organized and in tact for the entire trip with this system!

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I also bought a canvas basket organizer to use for our diaper changing station necessities.  E isn’t potty-trained yet so I wanted to keep wipes, diapers, paper towel, hand sanitizer and hand lotion at my fingertips so that we could easily grab what we needed for bum changes at our fuel and ‘stretch’ stops!  If your child is still in diapers when you travel let me tell you, you have to change their bums a lot more frequently than you would at home…we learned that quickly…oy!

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After a lot of research looking for “the perfect” carseat lap desk I decided to make my own for E.  I sewed a small pillow case, stuffed it with batting and glued strips of velcro to it and to a cookie sheet. (I wanted to be able to remove the pillow for washing!). It worked so well.  It was firm enough to play tractors on, to color, to eat his meals and snacks and to read on.  Things I had read about a lot of different styles of lap desks online stated that they were too flimsy and that the children weren’t able to do any activities on.  This homemade version ended up being so much cheaper to make and worked perfectly!

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I bought a container at the dollar store that had a lid and a handle and threw a bunch of small plastic garbage bags in the bottom of.  We used this as our garbage can, removing the full bags to dispose at truck stops and then refreshing with a clean bag from the bottom.  This system was so simple yet so essential.  It kept the truck clean and organized!

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Onto Activities…I knew that I would need to have quite a few new and interesting items planned to peak and keep my little’s interest for the long trip.  We also have a tv and DVD player in our truck (hello millennials…) and we packed some Disney movies along with Paw Patrol and Curious George videos.

Some activities that I packed that were a hit were:

  • Search and Find Books…the best!
  • Tractor reference Books (including the ever popular Market Book and Auction Books)
  • Story Books
  • Coloring Books with Crayons and Markers..the ‘color wonder’ type a friend gave us were awesome!
  • Sticker Activity Books
  • Re-usable Sticker Boards (Melissa and Doug)
  • Small Tractors (I kept them in a clear ‘lidded’ container which I wrote which items we packed onto the lid so I knew what needed to go back into the box when cleaning up)
  • Whiteboard and Markers

Activites that I packed that were a miss for on the road but great for when we reached our destination:

  • Lego (really tho, what was I thinking for planning this for a car activity??!!)
  • Travel Games (Trouble, Pack of Cards, Dominoes)

I packed a couple small soft-sided coolers for the refrigerated items and had plastic plates (some with divided sections for E), plastic cutlery and one sharp knife to use to use for cutting up fruit etc.  The small snack cups with rubber, split lids came in so handy for passing snacks to E and for other things like holding markers.

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Snacks that we enjoyed on the road:

  • Protein balls
  • Mini muffins
  • Hummus and Veg
  • Crackers
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Gold fish crackers
  • Cookies
  • Jerky
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Licorice
  • Fruit, apples and grapes
  • Buns with Sausage or Chicken Salad
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Lots and Lots of Water Bottles (Frozen to keep the coolers cold and a large case left room temp.  We would refreeze the cooler packs in the hotel at night) Another thing that works GREAT for keeping your coolers cold is filling empty box-wine bladders with water (just press the spigot button and let water run into the bag) and then freezing them.  This genius idea was brought to us from my parents when we arrived in TX!

We also let E pick out a treat a few times when we stopped at gas-stations.  This was such an easy activity for him that made him really excited and passed the time before and after the stops in the truck.  He’d plan what he was gonna pick before we would stop and slowly devour his “treat” after! And let me just say, let your kid pick the ‘sour patch kids’ even though they are 100% sugar…the faces you get from your little one add hilarity for miles!!!

My little guy has a special blanket and loves his stuffed animals so were sure to pack a few of them for quiet time and if by chance he’d nap.  We also were sure to dress him in comfy clothes and halfway through the trip I even put a plush blanket behind his back in the carseat as he was getting red marks on his back.

He really was a champ and travelled great.  There were a few times where he was cranky from being trapped so long but we’d try to stop and do some stretches to avoid this.  I found that an 8hr drive day was the perfect amount of time (we did a couple much longer days which were hard on all of us).  My biggest advice is be organized.  Have things your child loves to do and get creative with road games (there’s tons of great ideas online for older kids too)…pointing out landmarks, special vehicles (like tractors if you have a farm-nut like us), lights and landscapes.  At two (nearly three) years old E was kept interested in his surroundings.  And when all else failed we would watch “Sing” for the 8th time!! And be flexible!  Your little one is on holidays too…so with that said, we let E have much more snacky food than he normally gets, he got to have juice boxes, special little treats and a happy meal or two from mcdonalds (or old mcdonalds as he calls it) and strict routine was kind of sent wayside (although we did stick to nap time once we arrived at our destination and tried to keep him on point with mealtime eating…bedtime on the other hand was a bit of a disaster!!)

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(Checking out the sunset with Noma and Bubba.)

I have to say travelling with a child is immensely gratifying.  I’ve been to TX a bunch of times but travelling with a little one means you are ‘forced’ to check out new locations and kid-friendly spots which ultimately bring out the kid in everyone.  We had an amazing vacation and I’m still reminiscing hard about the memories we made.  Here’s hoping this trip went well enough that hubby will want to take us back again soon (like next year soon??!!). Blessed.  Grateful.  Refreshed. And ready to tackle the rest of this Manitoba Winter! (Although spring is welcome ANYTIME!!)

 

Chores

Laundry Lust!

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I may be a freak of nature but I’m freely admitting that laundry is my favourite household chore.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than folding baskets of freshly cleaned clothes (especially when it’s a great TV night!).  I love to keep our dresser drawers organized and the clothes hanging in our closets in colour groups with the hangers all inserted the same way.  I also freely admit that I am a bit obsessive about all of this but being this organized (and yes, obsessive) means that I’m rarely behind with the laundry. Here’s a few tips and tricks I use!

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Check out that vintage wallpaper!  This is our laundry room.  It’s dingy and drab and someday I hope to re-vamp it and brighten it up a bit with a fresh coat of paint and maybe even more shelving for all my canned goods.  Until then this is the system I use!  I have three laundry baskets lined up on a counter.  One for whites, one for colours and one for darks, specifically hubby’s greasy farm clothes which I like to wash separate from all the other laundry.  I keep our dirty laundry sorted as it gets worn, this way I can visibly see when there’s a full load of whites for example and then I throw them in the wash.  This is the hugest time saver and may sound so basic but I’m telling you this little system is extremely efficient.  I have two smaller laundry baskets in E’s room as well, (one for whites and one for colors/darks) and I add them to the baskets in the laundry room as they fill.  We essentially sort our laundry as we get undressed.  I also have two air-drying racks in the laundry room for the articles of clothing that can’t be put in the dryer as well as a shelf above the washer and dryer for all laundry-related care items.

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This is my go-to shelf of arsenal.  It’s basic and although I’ve tried a multitude of stain-removers and other fancy laundering items these are my tried and trues.

  • Tide> I typically use Tide laundry detergent.  I’ve tried other more “natural” soaps and find that they just don’t get our clothes clean like Tide.
  • Dawn> I also use a squirt of Dawn dish detergent in a lot of the more soiled loads (especially my husband’s work clothes and E’s really messy items.).  Dawn is amazing at taking out grease and a lot of food stains.  I use it as a spot remover too and will squirt some directly onto the stain and either wash immediately or let sit until I have a full load of wash to do.
  • Washing Soda>I use a washing soda in loads that I want to amp up the cleaning ability of the tide.  I sporadically wash our towels with tide, washing soda and lemon or thieves essential oil to freshen them up.
  • Bleach> I rarely use bleach but every once and awhile I’ll throw some into the wash with my kitchen linens to sanitize and freshen them up too.
  • Dryer Balls> I never use fabric softener as I find it really irritates our eczema and although I have some of those fancy dryer balls to soften up the laundry in the dryer I rarely remember to use them!  We just suffer through the odd static cling in the winter!

I keep a number of open mason jars on this shelf above the washer and dryer as well so that I can separate any change or store any random tide-bits (like screws, washers, drill bits etc.) left in pockets…I’m curious to see what kinds of ‘treasures’ I’ll find in E’s pockets as he grows, as long as there’s nothing alive waiting for me!!

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I am old-fashioned in a lot of ways as I like to do some household chores on specific days of the week…like bathrooms on Tuesdays, windows on Wednesdays, vacuuming and dusting on Thursdays and Saturdays. Since having E this has drastically changed since I have to do a lot of these household chores more frequently or sometimes life happens and the windows get missed for a few weeks. One day that hasn’t changed though is Monday, Monday is ‘wash the bedding’!

For the first time this spring I was able to dig out my clothes-pin apron (that my grandma made for me as a shower gift 8+ years ago, note it’s still in mint condition!) and put a load of fresh washed laundry out on the clothesline today!  Typically I wash our sheets on Mondays but this week I saved that job until today as the forecast called for sunshine and a fresh spring breeze!

I think I love doing laundry so much because of its instant gratification.  You can clearly see all the work you’ve done as you sit surrounded by piles of cleaned and folded laundry.  And as insane as it may sound (and I’m sure someday it’ll change,) I love to fold all of E’s little clothes, it fills my heart!  Fresh laundry swinging in the warm sunshine is seriously one of my favourite farm views!  It’s relaxing for me to put a load out on the line and gather it all up later in the day, I know, this makes me sound insane!  I breathe deeper as I take in the smell of crisp air-dried sheets and at night, getting to crawl into a freshly laundered bed is only made better if those sheets have whipped in the wind all day like they have today…*sigh* Is it bedtime yet??

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Chores

Scheduling Set-up

I’m a list-maker.  I like to have things written down, categorized and organized.  It keeps me on top of my game as much as possible!

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Every Monday I set up my week in a few different ways.  I create my menu plan for the week, the groceries I need, the “extra-curriculars” and appointments we have, my daily chores and now what I plan to focus on for my blog for each week.  I keep a bulletin board, a framed weekly meal planner that I use with dry erase markers and a white board on the wall coming into our house.  This way I see it when I leave and come home and stay reminded of what has to be done.  I often just take a picture of my grocery list too, although lately E really likes to “help” at grocery shopping by taking care of my list and I’d rather him drop paper than my phone! I also keep a calendar on my fridge which is right at the top of the landing in theimage same area as the rest of my organizing boards.  This way we have an over-view of the entire month (birthdays, appointments, commitments, etc).

I have an eraser and dry erase markers velcroed right by the white board so they are always conveniently on-hand. (Seems like a no-brainer but before I did this I would have to dig through my junk drawer each time I wanted to add something which became extremely annoying!) I divide the white board into four quadrants: Groceries, Other (the things I need to shop for from a store other than the grocery store), Rhea (this includes our appointments/commitments and chores for the week, listed daily), and Blog (for
what I hope to research/post daily as well).

I’ve used this “system” for quite a few years now and it truly keeps me on point.  It’s efficient and fairly clean-cut.  Every Monday morning I wipe away the previous week and start new! It helps me a lot to configure a weekly meal-plan too.  I can take things out of the freezer a day before as needed, I tend to only have to shop once (which cuts back on costs as well, which keeping us on budget), and I can prep ahead on days that I have more time. As E gets older and more involved with his own things I plan to create a section on the white board for just his commitments and chores so he can check them of as they’re completed.  The bulletin board will more than likely get covered with more of his items too (school notes and calendars etc.). Once he starts school we are going to set up hooks on the landing for his book bag as well so it will truly be a station to start and end each day. (Hopefully his lunch bag and agenda will make it to his momma a bit more regularly this way too!)

These simple little hacks are easy to implement into your own home too!  Dry-erase markers are truly a saving grace (and they’re cheap and cleaner than chalk)!