Whew! I am happy to announce that we are safely ensconced in our new house with the internet connected and our grueling trip just a swiftly fading memory. Before it quite goes, though, I want to evaluate how the preparations worked out. What worked and what didn’t?
Snack boxes for the kids. These were just tackle boxes with a lot of different little snacky things put into the compartments. They went over very well.
(How do you like that picture? It was taken on my new screened-in porch! So looong, Cave of Darkness!!!)
Personal DVD players. This one was kind of expensive but I’m not sure how we would have gotten through without them.
Baskets: I took round laundry baskets and loaded them with books, toys, and snacks for the kids. There was one next to the kid in the backseat, one next to the kid in the truck, and one next to me.
Magnetic Chalkboards: big win! We got some magnetic character sets at Walmart (I think) in the party section which got a lot of play, and the chalk on chalkboards was a novelty. Recommended, but there are a couple of scratches in the paint now… I wonder if there’s some way to prepare the surface better? Hmm.
Coloring books, crayons and stickers. A proven winner. I bought the bigger kids a new one for each day of the trip. (Dollar store coloring books, baby!)
Walkie talkies – Greg and I got a set of walkie talkies to communicate between vehicles, which I highly recommend if you’re going to be driving cross country behind your spouse driving a gigantic moving truck. It’s great for things like “I missed the turnoff,” or “there’s a small car in your blind spot,” or “Charlie has to use the bathroom NOW.”
Mystery toys! I bought several packs of toys from the Dollar Tree and wrapped them individually in construction paper. I tucked one or two in the boys’ daily bags, but one of the places it helped most was with the two-year-olds. When they were crying and frustrated and wanted OUT, I handed them a wrapped little present and they instantly quieted down. I actually packed these for the older boys, but they worked so well with the twins that they got a good half of them. I would DEFINITELY do these again, this time with toys picked out for them!
Reserve toys. I packed reserve bags for each boy for each day so that they had SOMETHING new and exciting every day. That’s where these came in:
I shopped for tubes of small plastic animals, packs of party favors, and toys we unearthed in our packing that hadn’t been seen for a while. It didn’t matter what it was; as long as it was new and novel the kids were happy for a little while longer.
What Didn’t Work:
Snack boxes for the drivers. Not even a little bit. It’s really hard to open those while you’re driving.
Expecting the kid in the back to help out with the twins in the middle. For one thing, have you ever tried having a conversation with someone in the very back seat when you’re driving a minivan? How about when that person is a small child absorbed by the movie he’s watching? I was hoarse by the end of the first day. On the second day of driving I had the snacks and toys for the twins up in my basket instead, because it was easier for me to swerve a bit handing things back than to try and get the attention of the child in the back and communicate what I wanted them to hand up. This probably would have worked better if the kids were older, but for my kids (5 and 7) it definitely did NOT.
Paint with Water: scrapped before we left the driveway. Paint with water? In a moving vehicle?! On a schedule??? What was I thinking?!
Lacing Shapes: the twins needed help with this and the older kids had other things to do. Not a big winner.
Pom-Pom Poke. Not so great without an adult to help open and close the container.
What Could Have Worked:
Carseat trays for the twins. I bought these trays with the idea that it would allow them to color, drive toy cars, have snacks, etc. They insisted on having them off before we even gassed up for the morning of the first day of driving. I still think these could have worked if we had practiced with them first and showed them all the cool things they could do with them. I’m going to try them again as we’re driving back and forth to my family’s house, which is a 3-hour drive each way.
No-Sew Quiet Books. Someone packed the glue sticks for my hot glue gun before I finished them. I still want to finish them up for church and shorter trips.
Sticker scenes. They didn’t get packed with the kids’ trip stuff. Whoops.
A lot of these toys and games (even some of the ones that didn’t perform well in the car) have been useful entertaining the kids while we unpacked. I’m going to pack some more as quiet bags for church and trips.
Anyway, we’re here! It’s not normal around here yet by any means… but we’re here!