Driving and Crying

January 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop, Transylvania | 13 Comments
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We knew we’d be sad if we stuck around Romania for the holidays. No family. No decorated mantle. No cranberries. (And did I mention no family?)

So we hit the road. In the rain. On highways named E60 and M1. With an equal number of children and suitcases.

Espresso with a shot of sanity.

Normally, we drive 17 hours across the States to get to our parents’ homes for the holidays. In one day. It’s a hellish, survival-of-the-fittest kind of trip with way more marshmallows, McDonald’s fries, and gas-station cappuccino than anyone needs. Plus, we wing it with activities for the kids. (Read: What do you want to watch now?)

I decided that probably wasn’t the best strategy this year.

Especially because they don’t have marshmallows in Romania. And there’s not a McDonald’s every 4.2 miles. And the gas stations wouldn’t deign to sell powdered cappuccino.

So, I went a’Pinteresting for tips on traveling with children.

Game Boys (& Girls)
First, I searched for car games I could print. And struck out. Road-sign bingo? Nope. Different signs. The license plate game? No states. Tic tac toe? My kids would never get past who got to be X.

Does anyone see a Q??

But I did find enough ideas to come up with my own Europe-appropriate games (Count the Romanian Flags) and continent-neutral ones (Rainbow I Spy). We also attempted the Alphabet Game, except we passed more sheep than billboards.

Which was equally fun.

It’s in the Bag
I also put together a special bag for each kiddo. Inside? Puzzle books. Reading books. Crayons. Magazines. Paper. Stickers (with a gentle reminder that cars are allergic). Popcorn. Pretzels. Cheerios. Goldfish. Graham crackers.

They loved these. Lollipop meticulously went through the entire puzzle book and then moved onto the magazines. Giggles meticulously ate every single snack and then dumped his bag on the floor so he could pick everything up with his feet. (Whatever keeps them occupied, right?)

Chocolate bribes: they work.

I kept the baby’s bag by me and supplied him with various snacks, books, and toys when he started to scream.  None of it really worked, except to remind him that he was still in the car and still not able to sleep and still wearing a wet diaper. But it did pass the time. For both of us.

Sweet Treats
Since no road trip is complete without sugar, I stocked up on tried-and-true Barni cakes and promised one every hour if the kids behaved during that hour. And when their treat bag was empty? They’d know we were close. No need to ask “Are we there yet?” every 37 seconds.

They still asked, of course. But they also understood both the incentive to behave and the time frame of our trip. And they were too busy buzzing on chocolate to notice my distress as we passed semi after semi with no business driving on those narrow, curvy Romanian roads.

Trimming the Tree
Since we spent Christmas in a hotel, I wanted to have some kind of tree to spruce (ha! spruce!) up the generic white walls, white radiators, and white down comforters. So I made a felt tree, trunk, and star, thanks to a glorious Michael’s-inspired care package from my mom. The kiddos were in charge of ornaments.

Have tree, will travel.

I gently suggested they trace shapes with cookie cutters. Or attempt to freehand circles. Or cut something remotely ornament-like. But they preferred the pattern-free-and-with-abandon method, creating polygonal potpourri that any Cubist would be proud of.

They loved it. I loved that they loved it. And Bun loved to undecorate it. It was perfect.

Onward, Ho!
In the end, we made five trips to five different cities. Lollipop completed approximately 2,219 puzzles. Giggles drew on the back seat with purple and green crayons. And Bun discarded about half a bag of Cheerios on the floorboard.

But overall?

There was peace on earth … and in our silver Opel.

How do you keep your kids occupied in the car? Have you ever spent Christmas on vacation? And how many Disney movies is too many?


This post is part of MEP’s Real Women of Pinterest series. Join in as we celebrate collaborative creativity (and the power of glue guns).


Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
See the photos.



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  1. The pattern-free-and-with-abandon method. That’s a pretty great description of parenting in general!

    Think we might have to try the bag-for-each-kid idea next time we go. Good idea. And a special bag for each parent would be nice, too.

  2. First, I loved your 2 post yesterday. I’m catching up so I’ll just post that here. 😉 Second, I love the bag for each kid idea. We did that on our last big trip and it helped a ton. Now my kids are old enough they each have their ipod or a DS or a book and it’s SO much easier!! Still have to have those sweet treats though!!

  3. Our newest game is each passenger picks a color and see who can get to 10 or 50 or 100 cars of that color first. Or just keep counting. Shhh. It worked for 45 minutes.

    We also do silly things with songs – strange animals on the farm, goofy things happen on the bus. And for a full hour once, we played a game of who’s in the car? Is the truck in the car? No. (whatever works, huh?)

    I’m amazed by your big trip and love that tree.

  4. You’re making memories! Beautiful memories!

  5. You are the bravest woman I know. The end.

  6. I absolutely adore the free form ornaments. As always, children know best! You’re going to bring it back to TX as a memento, I hope. I also love the bag full of goodies strategy. I have a variation on it for the 6 months-until-they-will-actually-watch-movies-in-the-car age: reusable grocery bag filled with all the random little baby safe toys you can find. You toss toy to carseat. Baby enjoys, then drops. Then, you reach into the bag and toss a new one. Refill bag when you stop at McDonalds. “Does anyone see a Q?” is my favorite photo caption so far in 2012.

  7. What a wonderful gift you gave yourself!

  8. I love the ideas for keeping ’em busy! We don’t have to drive too, too much, so far, but we do have a pirate sock puppet Li’l D likes to play with. Occasionally he also likes messing with his (toy) phone. 🙂

  9. Love it! I am amazed by your creativity…

  10. love the “survival of the fittest” description… so funny

  11. You are very, very creative – I am seriously impressed.

    I’ve never spent Christmas anywhere but at home, for which I am very thankful. Christmas is stressful enough without having to travel and keep kids entertained as well.

    As far as how many disney movies is too many? I’ve had my fill after 1, but my kids can watch them over and over and over lol!

    Visiting from the RWOP linky.

  12. This was a great post. Now that we have kids we travel the weekend before Christmas, but are home on Christmas Eve/Day. Traveling with 3 kids in the car is never easy. Trips are the only time that the DVD player is allowed in-use in the car so that keeps them occupied for a pretty long time. We also back a bag for each kid with items they enjoy. Our oldest loves flash cards…any. So flipping through cards keeps her entertained for hours. The middle has a very short attention span and requires more toys. The youngest is like yours…irritated and ready to be OUT. He is just now starting to look through books. About a month before a trip I often put away a few of the small toys/books so that they are “new” again in the car. Thanks for your great ideas! Visiting from RWOP.

  13. This tree is going to be one of the best memories you gave them. Flexibility of love that travels and belongs everywhere…that’s what you gave your kids. I just wanted to point that out. I can spot an altared space a mile away. That one you got up close 🙂

    When my kids were itty bitty I worked in another state from where I lived. This is much better than it sounds because mostly that meant that I worked in the bedroom down the hall, but 3 times a year I traveled from Omaha to Denver to hire and train. when I did that I bundled the kids in the car. Our “car carriers” are what saved the day. Snacks gallore along with walkmans and puzzles and books got me through that 9 hour drive solo. The biggest thing my children remember from those drives? How I would always request silence if I were passing a semi. They complied!

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