Monday, March 26, 2012

An Unusual Sort of Getaway

We're just back from a long weekend with my parents, who live in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ. My aunt and uncle were in town, and the family planned an early celebration for my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. I wanted to be there for that, and thought the kids would have fun visiting their grandparents, so we figured out the logistics and off we went. My husband had just taken a couple of days off when his parents were in town, so he couldn't spare any time off. I could, but didn't want to drive over to AZ with the kids on my own, so we decided that my Mom would fly over to join us on the road trip. My husband would fly over on Friday night, go to the party and hang out with us on Saturday, and then we'd drive back on Sunday.

It was a pretty good plan. But nothing went quite as planned. The basics all happened as we planned- but everything was just a little bit off.

First of all, we were all sick. We all caught a nasty cold, starting with my parents a couple of weeks before the trip. None of us were likely to be contagious, but we weren't feeling like going out and having a lot of fun. Of all the travelers, the only one who felt really good was Pumpkin, who shrugged this cold off in a just a couple of days.

Then, Petunia's usual post-infection mild constipation turned for the worse, making the drive over pretty miserable for her- she screamed in protest when we got her back into her car seat after our mid-morning break and after our lunch/play stop. She cried and screamed "Mommy! Help! Poopies!" for most of our first evening at my parents' house. I finally had to go get some laxative for her to sort things out.

Finally, we got spooked by the specter of the vacation tummy bug, and ended up making only a brief appearance at the anniversary party. My cousin hosted the party, and one of her kids got sent home from day care after throwing up. We are still a bit traumatized by the great Hawaii Christmas Norovirus incident, and were more than a little afraid of the thought of trying to drive home with vomiting children... so we bowed out of the party and just swung by for a little while when the party had moved outdoors. (It turns out that we need not have worried- the poor kid had gotten four teeth in quick succession and probably just had an upset stomach from the teething drool. Better safe than sorry, I guess.) We did go around to spend more time with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle that evening, and the kids played happily while we visited- so at least we didn't miss out on seeing everyone.

But, you know what? It was still a nice little mini-vacation. It was great to see my grandparents, and to give them a chance to see the kids- who behaved better than I dared to hope during our visit, leaving my grandparents and my aunt and uncle with a false but flattering opinion of our children! (They are cute, but they are not usually so angelic.) The kids had a lot of fun at Mimi and Boppa's house, even if we didn't get in the fun outings we had expected. I got the chance to lounge around a bit while the kids were entertained by my parents. I even read a book.

So, despite the general air of feeling not quite well that hung over the trip, I'm glad we went. The alert reader may notice that our travel plans were quite different from those we employed during our California Road Trip- on that trip, we tried to keep the driving to only a couple of hours per day. On this trip, we drove from San Diego to Phoenix (a six hour drive if you don't stop) in a single day. 
Frankly, I was surprised at how well the drives went. Both directions, we left in the morning and stopped in Yuma for lunch and a good long play at the West Wetlands park, which is a truly great park, with a "regular" playground and a gigantic castle "imagination playground". On the way over, I decided to break up the morning drive by stopping at the Desert View tower outside of Jacumba. The kids were moderately impressed with the tower and the view and not at all impressed with the large number of unleashed (but incredibly docile and non-threatening!) dogs roaming around the place, so they would not explore the rocks nearby as I had hoped. We really should work on getting Pumpkin comfortable with dogs again- and I guess now we need to work on Petunia, too, who hadn't previously shown any fear of dogs.

I wish I could say that I have figured out the secret to keeping young children amused in the car, but that would be a lie. Petunia slept a lot, which obviously helped. Pumpkin read, colored, and played with a felt board my Mom had made her. I had my Kindle Fire with me, and she played with it a bit, but mostly preferred to read or look out the window. She napped a little bit, too.

I did pick up some ideas to make the driving (and flying) portion of our upcoming Texas vacation easier: I think I will get each kid her own clipboard and pouch of appropriate crayons/markers, and stock it with papers for coloring. I will also take along some small plastic bags to use to pass snacks to the backseat- we don't let them snack in the car very often, so getting a snack is a treat and serves as a good whine-diffuser. But really, I'm have no idea why the kids tolerated the long drives so well. I I am officially accepting the universe's offer of two good travelers as payback for the fact that neither of my kids slept through the night much before they turned two (heck, Petunia still doesn't reliably sleep through the night, and she is two and a half already). I wonder if the universe thinks this also covers the fact that the kids won't eat vegetables?


  1. We did the drive from SD to Tucson when J was a little over 1--he did amazing. I'm not so sure he'd do as well as your girls did now that he's 2.5. Sounds like they were absolute champs!

    And I'd totally offer my sweetheart of a dog for your girls to reacclimate--but besides the fact that we're north of you, she's a larger dog (lab/border collie mix), and I think I remember you saying one of your girls had a particular problem with bigger dogs? But the offer's there if you want it.

  2. For what it's worth, we do long drives with our 2 kids when we go on vacation, & Little Sister gets carsick. She can't do things that involve looking at or concentrating on things inside the car. Well, she can, but then she throws up. Anyway, we have had great success with books on tape for those longer car rides--& even for daytrips that are just shy of 2 hours in the car each way. We first tried them when Elder Brother was 5 or 6 & Little Sister was 3, so this may be something to try when kids are a bit older than yours are now, but both the kids have loved the various books on tape we've tried. We also listen to those NPR/PRI audio collections, like their Animal Stories & Bird Stories. (The biggest hit of the books has been David Tennant reading Cressida Cowell's How to Train Your Dragon--the first & biggest success of audio books we've tried. Even last summer, Harry Potter was deemed good, but still a little too scary at the end.)

    Anyway, I'm sure you've already thought of the books-on-tape thing, but it's been such a boon to us, I wanted to share one of our few success stories! (Oh, those wrist-band pressure-point things have been great for Little Sister & her motion-sickness, too, though I have no idea if that's a placebo-effect thing or something else. You all don't have that problem, though, so that's neither here nor there!)

    Safe travels to you all.

    1. Oooh! I hadn't thought of books on tape. That is a GREAT idea. We may try that for our next long car drive.

      I get motion sick, too. There is no way I could read in the car! Just looking stuff up on a map can get me a little woozy, and if we are on a winding road, I prefer to be the driver. I use the pressure bands, too, for boat rides. And if anyone wants to tell me it is just the placebo effect, I'll tell them to shut up and let me keep my placebo!

      I also find that fizzy drinks and salty snacks help A LOT. I have taken many a boat trip with a big bag of potato chips and a soda to get me through.

  3. For motion sickness, I recommend spotting. One of my father's Sierra Club friends taught it to me when I was little on the winding roads of Mt. Tamalpias. Basically you pick something in the distance like a tree or a pole and you stare at it until it passes you on the side. Then you pick something else. And you do it until the winding stops.

    Exactly the same idea as spotting when ballerinas do turns.

  4. I've had good luck with eating candied ginger for (pre-) motion sickness.

    More to follow, maybe -- dashing now!

  5. the milliner6:48 PM

    Snacks in baggies is definitely our saviour (for the drive anywhere...DS totally melts down when food needs are not met and everything goes downhill from there). And we used a clipboard with a pouch of crayons when we drove to NYC. Was supposed to be an 8 hour drive (we had a bunch of stops), but it ended up being 12 hours! Eek. DS did amazingly well. He was just over 2 at the time so I sat with him in the back seat to colour, read books, etc. But the clip board was really great. Books on CD are great too. And we've also started playing 'I Spy'...not that you could do that for the whole trip, but it helps break things up.


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