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    Preparing for a Journey

    September 18, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    Besides being the longest trip we have ever taken, this was also the most organized. I think I have become more organized over the years out of necessity. First, I used to have a habit of forgetting important items when packing. This has left me terrified of neglecting something. Moreover, I firmly believe that bored children are much more likely to get in trouble.

    The days of arriving at a destination, looking at each other, and saying, “Hey, what do you want to do?” are over. It takes too long to decide, and so the kids, full of adrenaline due to the new scenery, inevitably begin a full-scale mutiny.

    But if, first thing in the morning, we parental authorities are able to calmly announce, “We are all going to such-and-such a place this morning. You three will all play with toys from the basket until we have packed everything needed for our time away,” we can head off such a disaster.

    Here, I will share what worked. {I intend to keep most of what didn’t work to myself!} Keep in mind that all of this was organized in the big, black Mommy Binder that daily assists us in organizing our lives.

    I prepared a set of three maps for every destination {we planned a different place to visit for every weekday}. Why three? One for the navigator, one for E. to color on as he learned all about maps, and one for A. to imitate E. with. This is especially helpful if a child constantly asks some variation of the “Are we there yet?” question. If he is holding a map and knows how to read it, the answer should be obvious to him.

    If I could improve our mapping in one way, it would have been to have a more detailed map for a downtown area we were visiting. This was the one day we planned to eat lunch out. We were on foot, we got turned around, and each shop owner seemed to give us different directions to the place we were trying to find. We soon had some very tired and hungry children on our hands. A map detailing where to park and where to eat would have come in handy.

    Clipboards and Art Supplies
    Each seat back contained a clipboard, and then we had a small plastic container full of colored pencils, a sharpener, and crayons. This was a way to keep small hands busy, and also offered the means for E. to trace our journey on his maps.

    Homemade Spice Packs
    To make our trip more economical, and also avoid complications from nasty food allergies, I cooked almost every meal. For some spices, like cinnamon for the children’s daily oatmeal, I simply brought a whole container. But for the soups I was making for our dinners, I packed individual sandwich baggies that were exactly what I needed for each recipe. Then, I simply used a permanent marker to label them so I didn’t accidently put my chili mix on my cauliflower soup! It saved me prep time to have all the spices already measured out, plus it saved space by not having to bring so many individual spice containers.

    For every meal I was going to make, I brought along a copy of the recipe. Copies are important. If I bring the original and accidently lose the Big Black Mommy Binder Full of Everything, this could cause a major bind upon our return home.

    A Book for the Road
    A family trip wouldn’t be complete without a read-aloud along the way. This time, we began The Swiss Family Robinson. After the first chapter, I began to think it might be too advanced for the children to comprehend. But soon, they were begging for the next chapter. Don’t let anyone tell you that children have to be able to understand every word of a book to enjoy and follow the story.

    The Ever-expanding Book List
    I have three book lists. One is a list of books for my personal self-education {mainly titles on education or theology}. The second is a list of children’s books we want to add to the library. The other contains books for school or family read-alouds. This last list contains books the children can’t read on their own, but are still appropriate for the whole family to be exposed to. I never know when I will run across a used bookstore. If I have a copy of the lists inside the Big Binder {the original is saved as a spreadsheet on our computer}, I can know what to look for.

    It is also handy to keep a column in the booklist spreadsheet that contains resale value. If I find two, and I know it can sell for two or three times what I will be paying, I can pick both of them up. Other important details might be a preferred illustrator {can anyone say N.C. Wyeth or Michael Hague?}.

    That’s All, Folks!
    I think that’s everything that worked. I will later go into detail about where we actually went each day. But that’s mainly because it is fun to reminisce. What do you do to make a trip successful?

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