Monday, July 28, 2008

How to survive 13 hours in the car with a 12 month old!

So for my last full week of summer Philip was going on a business trip to Utah. "Why stay here in an empty house," I thought, "when I could visit my family in Louisiana?" The only thing that stood between me and my family was 700 miles of road (and the thought of doing it alone).

Before the trip I searched the internet for guides on how to travel with toddlers. The only suggestions that were out there were tips on how to fly with toddlers and how to drive with older kids. For other moms and dads out there, here is my survival guide for parents traveling with little ones for extended periods of time. Keep in mind that I was alone during the entire 13 and a half hour trip there and 12 and a half hour trip back.
  • Leave at the appropriate time. This is a tricky one. When both of us were driving the appropriate time was 8pm so that Ethan could sleep all the way down and then the grandparents would be ready to greet and play with him while we could crash. However that requires shift driving through the night. For this trip I waited to leave for my destination until 11 or noon. The key to this method was keeping Ethan awake during his usual morning nap. Before we left I did that by going to church! Ethan refuses to ever sleep at nursery so that gave me a chance to delay his morning nap until noon when we rolled out of the church parking lot (he was sleeping when I got to the light at Middlebrook and Cedar Bluff, about a mile away from church).
  • Chicken McNuggets are great. So after his late morning nap I went through the drive-thru at McDonalds. I just ordered the 10 nugget meal for the both of us and I cut up about three nuggets for Ethan. Then I used this handy dandy treat dispenser to put the cut up nuggets in and we were back on the road. I also gave him a few fries each trip but he wasn't really impressed.
  • A rest stop makes for a great distraction. On each trip Ethan and I took a stop at a good rest stop that had security guards on duty. I don't recommend those that don't just for safety reasons (esp. if you are traveling alone). For these stops I packed my handy dandy umbrella stroller. If someone knows of another way to go to the bathroom with a 12 month old they can let me know, but this worked pretty well. Ethan also loved pushing the stroller back to the car. Just by letting Ethan walk to and from the bathroom building we probably spent 20 minutes at each rest stop but it was worth it. I only stopped once during each trip but each time it was a nice way to let Ethan get out and stretch his legs.
  • New or unseen toys. Ethan's birthday was a week and a half before our big trip. As soon as I made the decision that I was going to make the long trek I sequestered most of his new toys. I also made a trip to Toys R Us to buy a set of Elmo board books (with travel box) and an electronic steering wheel toy that sat on his lap. During the trip I had a small suitcase on the passenger seat that was stocked with all his toys. When ever he would get upset or bored I would just hand him a new toy or book. It worked out great. I even made it to Louisiana without giving him two of the toys in the suitcase.
  • Dinner! So a little over half way of our trip we stopped for dinner. On the way we stopped at Chili's in Meridian, MS and on the way back we stopped at the Cheesecake Factory in Birmingham, AL. At both restaurants there was a wait during which Ethan could walk around the waiting area. Also at both restaurants I requested a booth with a booster seat for Ethan. Until the food came I just let him walk around the booth. I love the Cheesecake Factory because they bring you a little plate of bread (rye and white) and banana slices for your little one before you even order.
  • Nighty, Night! After dinner (which was later than usual) he was pretty pooped and pretty much fell asleep. Well, on the way back he was asleep before I could get back on the interstate. On the way to LA he didn't fall asleep until it got dark outside, but until then he just sucked on his paci and snuggled with his softee.
  • Clothes. Although this is a smaller thing to consider I did dress Ethan in just a onsie for both trips. That way he is ready for bed when we finally do arrive at our destination.
  • Oooooo (The wild card that I saved for the return trip) Before I left Knoxville I did get permission from our pediatrician to turn Ethan's car seat around. While I was in Broussard my sister helped me turn it around and what was Ethan's reaction? "ooooooooo" For about 5 miles after I left my dads house all I heard from the back seat was "ooooooooo." It was so cute!
I should mention that we have a great kiddo who is pretty easy going. We have no plans for purchasing a DVD player for any of our vehicles but I know plenty of people swear by them for long trips.

How about tips for the driver? Well, I forgot to check out an audio book from the library so I pretty much listened to my iPod for both trips. I really enjoyed listening to some of Paul Washer's sermons that I downloaded the night before the trip. If you never listened to the message he delivered at a youth conference it is worth every minute of your time. Of course the cell phone is a must and I used it to talk to many a friend during the long journey. My sister even met me in Baton Rouge and took me out for beignets before continuing on to Duson. She also "drove" with me there so that made the last part of the trip bearable.

I do have one final thought about this trip: We live FAR away from my home state!

Well, I think that is the end of my advice for any parent traveling alone with their kidlet. I did it and so can you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The rest of the visit: July 4th

My mom, sister, and mother in-law stayed in Knoxville for the rest of the weekend and we all went hiking on July 4th at House Mountain. There were only a few people on the trail so that was really cool. The dogs had a great time. They get so excited when they hear the rattle of their collars.
Sometimes they get a little too excited!
Although Ethan did enjoy the hike in his pack he also loved being able to get out and play during lunch. I love this picture of Auntie and Ethan:
The view was a little hazy but it was worth the trek.
Here is everyone at lunch (except my mom who took the picture).

Ethan's Birthday - July 2nd

So our little guy turned the big ONE! We had a fun filled day with my mom, my sister, and Philip's mom. First was birthday boy breakfast with bananas and a pancake. He looks really excited to be one in this picture:
After breakfast there were a few presents left from mommy and daddy to open (he had been practicing opening presents all week). Ethan got a few books and a few new cars.

He loves driving these cars around saying, "Vmmmmm".
His birthday outfit even had Elmo on it! In the morning all the Stelly women brought Ethan to Stroller Strides where he received his own birthday balloon. After stroller strides we went home and finished up the last details for the party. This included Elmo name tags, Ethan picture flags for the subs, and Ethan's career poster (seen below).

Danielle, my mom, and I went and went to decorate at the cove during Ethan's afternoon nap.
Look at that awesome baby Elmo. Auntie is more of an artist than we knew!

We had such a great time with all of our family and friends.

Because of the location and Ethan's age we decided to wait to open presents later, but we did have cake.


If you want to see more pictures of Ethan opening gifts I've posted them to our flickr site. But the toy he opened first you just have to see:

Philip and I feel so blessed. One of the neat things that I got to do for this day was to go back and read all of our blog entries from the day of Ethan's birth. I was reminded of God's sovereignty and grateful for the peace that we felt during that time. I was also warmed to read the many comments left by friends and family during that time. Thank you all!

Oh, I talked earlier about a career board that we made for Ethan and here is a picture of it:
I don't know how well you can see the words but we basically found a bunch of cute pictures of Ethan that might depict a future career. People were able to place votes about what they thought Ethan would grow up to be. We originally saw this idea at Mr. Lee's daughter's first birthday party. As voted by the people Ethan will either be a musician or a naturalist/park ranger.

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Blog!!

For quite a while I've thought about starting my own blog to review products that our family has used since we have had Ethan. Well, today I finally did! My Favorite Things will provide reviews for products that our family has found useful. I hope all moms out there share it with their friends and enjoy reading it!

Playing Catch Up

So, I used to be in a really good groove and was posting every Sunday night. As you've noticed I've been busy and have really gotten out of the groove. Since my last real post (June 23) a lot has happened. I'll try to get caught up a little at a time.

About a month ago Ethan was beginning to really take steps around the house. The week of his birthday he was walking when holding hands with someone or he would cruise along furniture and other items (walls, legs, dogs, etc.). Then about one week after his birthday I would look up and there he would be cruising across the kitchen. Now he is a true toddler. Walking from place to place, getting up when he falls, etc. It is crazy how the transformation took place over night.

Other big news: Philip received a "permanent" job offer from ORNL last week and we are really excited about it. It will really help us finish baby step 2 in the Dave Ramsey way of life (hopefully by Christmas)! I use quotes around permanent because after all it is the government and nothing is really permanent with them. The job will have life insurance though and retirement so we are looking forward to that as well. Also, his job title and description won't really change. He even gets to keep his current office so that is nice.

All in all Ethan and I have really enjoyed our summer together. I go back to work this week and I'm a little anxious about it. I was reminded by my friend's blog though to “... not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Finding care for Ethan in these 4 weeks before Preschool starts will be a challenge, but I know God will provide.

I think that's it for now, I'll post more later!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Theresa's update

Thank you all for your prayers. Theresa's niece is happy and at home. Thanks!