My Best Tip for Traveling with Kids

Our 700 mile trip. Jackson isn't much for photos . . .

Our 700 mile trip.
Jackson isn’t much for photos . . .

“Are we there yet?”

“He hit me!”

“Mom, I’m so bored . . .”

Do you ever hear the utterance of these words whilst on long road trips?  Traveling with a child can be tough, but traveling with more than one child can be torture.  Worse yet is traveling with more than one child when you’re the only adult on the trip.  

That’s like inner-circle-of-hell bad.

My family travels.

A LOT.

We live in Kansas but make frequent trips to visit family in Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Colorado.  While the average driver puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle every year, we put an average of 22,000 miles on our trusty ol’ minivan yearly.

Driving is certainly much cheaper than flying—especially if you’re able to utilize fuel points—but it can ensure certain agony.  Even though I separate the kids . . . even though we play games . . . even though they watch movies . . . they find a way to drive me crazy and each other crazy.

Most of the time, my husband is with me on our road trips, so one of us can regulate the offspring while the other drives.  However, every once-in-a-while, I have to go solo as the parent.

A few years ago, I drove 700 miles to Ohio with my {then} five-year-old and seven-year-old by myself to surprise my mom for her 60th 39th birthday.

 I would have rather used a baby porcupine as a stress ball than do that again.

It’s a pure miracle we all made it back home alive.  Before our trip back, I thought there had to be a better way.  That’s when I had quite possibly the best idea of my life.

QUARTERS.

kidtravel

Here’s What I Did:

I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters {equal to $10}. Each child received $5 worth of quarters in a labeled baggie at the beginning of the road trip.  Every time one my children:

  • asked, “Are we there yet?”
  • complained
  • didn’t pick up their trash
  • hit their sibling
  • yelled
  • didn’t share
  • or just plain disobeyed,

that child owed me a quarter.

Whatever money they had left over by the end of the trip was for them to keep and spend on whatever they wanted. Whatever they had to fork over to Mommy was Mommy’s to keep and spend on whatever Mommy wanted.  Each child had an opportunity to earn their quarters back.  If they were good for an hour straight after losing a quarter, I returned a quarter to them.

This summer I made that trip to Ohio again—by myself with my now seven-year-old and nine-year-old.  This time I gave each child $7.50.

The result?

Mommy only ended up with $0.75.

mommytravel

Cherubims, I tell ya.  My children turned into sweet cherubims.  I was kind of looking forward to having enough quarters to buy myself a fancy venti frappuccino or something, but it looks like I’ll only be getting a small black coffee from a gas station. {Can you even get those that cheap these days???}  Seriously, though—I’d rather them act like cherubims for our 12-hour motor marathon than me collecting quarters while pulling my hair out.

For the critics of this tactic, I’m sure you’re wagging your finger at me and exclaiming, “But isn’t that just bribing your children?!”

Yes.

Yes, it is, and it is lovely.

Trust me, I have many discussions with my kids about the fact that good behavior is expected at all times.  This “bribe” is only for an isolated event—an event in which an exhausted mother needs to do something for her sanity.  Besides, isn’t the real world full of incentives?

Here’s the beauty of it:

  • it practices positive and negative reinforcements
  • it gives the kids a visual to see the consequences of their behavior
  • its consequences are immediate {and the end result is within hours}
  • kids realize they can control their behaviors
  • the effects are gradual—it’s not all or nothing
  • kids realize there is a second chance and can work to earn it back
  • kids can be proud of their good behavior and have fun with their earnings when they reach their destination

Do you have any suggestions for traveling with young children on long road trips?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Happy traveling!

Love,

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Chocolate Chip Squash {or Zuchini} Bread

zukbread

This is our third summer participating in a CSA {Community Supported Agriculture} and WE. LOVE. IT.

But.  Our first time belonging to the CSA we received one of our weekly shares in August containing some zucchini and squash.  I love the aforementioned vegetables {or are they technically fruit?}, so we threw them in a skillet and gobbled them up.

Nom. Nom. Nom. 

Then.  There was zucchini and squash in the next week’s share {OK, let’s try a casserole} . . . and the next week’s {OK, let’s make a soup} . . . and the next week’s {OK, um . . .} . . . and the next week’s {really??}  . . . and . . .  DEAR GOD, WHY DO SO MANY OF THESE FLIPPING THINGS EXIST!?!?!?!  PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!

I started just giving them away at school . . .

Me: “Congratulations to the seven students who earned the highest score on the Macbeth test.  I have a special treat for y’all!  So special, in fact, I bet no one has ever given you anything of the sort as a reward before.”

{Proceeds to throw green and yellow zuks at the children}.

A year went by and after some counseling {I kid} I was now mentally ready to tackle the onslaught of another season full of the cucubita pepo with some new recipes in mind.

One of my favorites is my CHOCOLATE CHIP SQUASH BREAD.  That’s right. You’ve probably heard of zucchini bread before.  Did you know you can change it out for yellow summer squash? They’re basically the same thing and both taste just as yummy as the other.  This weekend, I had a hankerin’ for this bread and opted to make it with yellow summer squash {since it was, of course, in the CSA box this past week}.

P.S. I was salivating while taking the picture above.  I couldn’t wait to dig in.

INGREDIENTS:

  • PAM cooking spray
  • 2 eggs {beaten}
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated squash {or zucchini}
  • 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips {optional, but why wouldn’t you?}
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Bring together beaten eggs, sugar, and applesauce in a KitchenAid Mixer and mix on medium speed for one minute or until creamy {if you don’t own a mixer, mix by hand with a spatula}
  • Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix on medium speed until blended thoroughly
  • Add in the grated squash {or zucchini}, chocolate chips, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until blended thoroughly
  • Using a spatula, scrape blended ingredients into a greased 9×5 bread pan.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  The middle tends to be pretty moist, so I usually end up baking it for an additional 15 minutes.

Let cool for about 30 minutes.  Then slice it up and enjoy.  YUMS.

What are some of your favorite squash and zucchini recipes?  I may need some more ideas.  {Wink}.

Love,

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For other fun recipes, check out http://www.skiptomylou.org.

The Unspoken Message from Your Teachers

teachingblog2

Dear Student,

It’s the first day of high school, and you’re probably a little nervous.  I have a secret for you: the first day makes me a little nervous, too.  It’s okay.  In fact, it’s natural to feel that way when you meet someone new—especially someone who is going to become a major part of your life.  In my case, I’m meeting approximately 150 new someones.

From this mid-August day until May, we’ll be seeing quite a bit of each other.  In fact, I’ll spend more time with you than I will my own children during the school week.

There will be days you will like me. We’ll play fun review games, I’ll provide treats, and let’s be honest—sometimes I’m pretty hilarious.  

There will be many days you don’t like me.

At all.

You won’t like me because I’m going to push you.  I’m going to make you write and rewrite an essay until it is cohesive and persuasive.  I’m going to hold you accountable for being tardy to my class.  I’m going to make you take notes until your hand cramps up.  I’m going to make you:

➔ read

               ➔ think

                               ➔ present

                                             ➔ synthesize.

I’m going to require you to expand your vocabulary and use intellectual words—so, no. You may not say f*** or sh** in my presence—you are better than that.

After a while, we will build rapport.  You might just begin to feel a newfound freedom to open up—and if we’re both lucky, I’ll be the one you talk to when you’re excited about your first job; when you’re upset with your mom; when you get your first boyfriend; when you’re heart’s been broken; when you’re being bullied; when you unexpectedly become pregnant; when you aced that ridiculous Algebra test; when you’re being abused.  

Sometimes, you will come in before class or during lunch because you have no friends—my classroom will be your safe haven.  Sometimes you’ll be in the musical or a football game—I will be in the audience.  Sometimes you won’t be able to afford the required school supplies—I will buy them for you with my own money.  Sometimes you won’t believe in yourself—but I will.  Sometimes you will struggle with the content—I will tutor you. Sometimes you will have a parent pass away—I will attend the funeral.

You will always view me as the teacher, but the truth is, I will learn just as much from you. You will teach me new slang, what’s fashionable, and how to use the latest technology. You will also teach me about your culture, your religion, your hobbies.  There will be days where you will have the most creative idea that it will completely change my perspective.

We meet today, but in the future I will attend your graduation and your wedding.  I will be the one who writes your college recommendation letters and gives a reference for your future job.  

Teaching is not for the weak. The stress is high—the pay is low.  Schools are understaffed, under-supplied, and most of the time I feel unappreciated.  There are days I will cry and want to quit, but I don’t.

I don’t because of you.  

You are the reason I teach and keep coming back.  

It’s certainly nice to make your acquaintance today.  

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

Fresh Salsa Recipe {Mild, Medium, or Hot}

salsa It’s that time of year.  Tomatoes are in full force.  We joined a CSA three years ago and started getting more tomatoes than I knew what to do with.  I made a lot of BLT’s and marinara sauce, but my favorite recipe was fresh salsa. This salsa is seriously the best I’ve ever eaten. Just about every fresh ingredient came in our CSA share this week, so it was obviously a sign I needed to make it.

INGREDIENTS:

{For MILD Salsa}:

  • 4 ripe medium-sized tomatoes {cherry tomatoes are fine, too—about 1 cup of uncut cherry tomatoes = 1 medium tomato}
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper {seeded and finely chopped}
  • 1/2 white onion {finely chopped}
  • 1 green bell pepper {seeded and finely chopped}

{For MEDIUM Heat}:

  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 3/4 white onion
  • add 1 more jalapeno {seeded and finely chopped}
  • add 1 Serrano pepper {seeded and finely chopped}

{For HOT Salsa}:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1 whole white onion
  • add 2 more jalapenos {seeded and finely chopped}
  • add 2-3 Serrano peppers {seeded and finely chopped}

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, cumin, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a blender and blend until liquefied.

salsablend Finely chop the jalapeno pepper, onion, and green pepper and put in a large bowl. peppers Pour the ingredients from the blender into the bowl and mix thoroughly with a spatula. salsamix Makes four cups. TIP: If you’d like it chunkier, skip the blender and dice all ingredients {but who has time for that?}. Use in salads, on your tacos, or just dip for tortilla chips. salsaeat Enjoy. Love,

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Check out more fun recipes and craft ideas at http://www.skiptomylou.org/2015/08/10/made-by-you-monday-250/

Paying Down Debt – July 2015

You guys,

I’m pretty pumped.  This July was probably the most productive month we’ve had since we’ve gotten intense about paying off our debt.  On average, we typically pay down about $1,000 a month, but this month we killed it.

We paid off $4,561.

Whoa.

You can check out our debt snowball progress here.

We also finally got our balance below $50,000 for the first time ever.  If you haven’t read our full debt story yet, $50,000 was Randy’s original student loan amount when we married in 2004.  After denial + accruing interest {that grew an additional $26,000} it took us 11 years to get our debt back down to that original amount.

ELEVEN YEARS.

Isn’t that dumb?

If we would have tackled our debt back then, we wouldn’t be in this situation.  All we can do now is push forward so we don’t have this regret in the future.

So . . . how did we have such success this month?  We made some smart moves and worked our tails off.  Fortunately we are both teachers and have extra time this summer to do so.  I usually catch up on my sleep during the summer.  Not this year.

Here is what we did to put such a huge dent in our debt this month:

  • I taught summer school for a month.
  • My husband put in about 70+ hours a week with his Promise Painting & Contracting business.
  • We both supervised the ACT test on a Saturday morning.
  • We were able to lower our monthly home security bill {money saved applied to debt}.
  • Our kids didn’t have piano lessons for the month {money saved applied to debt}.
  • I changed one of my checking accounts.  This account grew interest, but I had to keep a minimum balance of $500.  With the interest rate now only 0.01%, that means it only grew about one cent/month.  So . . . I had $500 just sitting there to gain $0.12/year? That makes zero sense.  I called the bank and switched to a non-interest earning account and put that $500 toward the debt.
  • Randy fixed a couple of cars for people {he used to be a certified mechanic}.
  • We had a garage sale.
  • I taught several cake pop classes. 
  • I was fortunate to get a lot orders for my Bondbons business—including a large wedding this month.
Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Pretty monogrammed bondbons for a July wedding

Phew.  There were some nights I was up until 2:00 AM dipping bondbons in chocolate with tears in my eyes—wanting to give up.  Then I see results like that and it reminds me that it will all be worth it.

Stay tuned for September 1st for our next update.

Love,

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