Sunday, July 30, 2017

On Surviving Long Road Trips

Even after the boys were born there was never a point we strayed far from a deep love of road trips. They're one of my favorite things in life. And something I wasn't willing to sacrifice even when (at times) it might seem more trouble than it's worth. Even back when the plight of packing up three kids under four, and hitting the road for hours on end tested our patience and caused us on numerous occasions to question the state of our sanity altogether. Just off the top of my head I can recall a handful of incidents throughout the years where being on the road with a car full of kids almost broke us. Remembering namely the most notable screaming fits, actual fist fights, unexpected vomiting, extended block blocks, running out of gas, getting lost, and feeling altogether defeated by the mounting pressures of in car travel. And yet as much headache as it came be, whenever we're back, no matter the trials that spring along the way, it isn't very long before we're itching to get back on the road and explore together again as a family. As if all the negative points simply dissolve in light of the Kodachrome tinged reflections we take away from the experiences.

Bright side is, it does get easier. As they get older (and us, wiser) the hours we spend cramped together in the car become - day I say - some of our most"Enjoyable?"

And since we've been on the go non stop this summer (plenty more on those recent road trips coming this week) I wanted to share a few tips that help me ensure things go as smoothly as possible. As practical (and obvious) as some of them probably are.

Leave Your Expectations at the Door:
I've learned by now that if I set out without any kind of overhyped expectations surrounding the trip I'm better off no matter how the experience pans out. Focusing instead on the plain fact of being in the same space together, getting out of the house and seeing new things outside of typical routine being what matters most. And accepting that sometimes the "unexpected" is what makes the best memories in these kinds of situations anyway. In other words if you come to embrace the chaos the rewards are always richer.

Arranged Seating:
One major shift that has really helped mend the quality of our outings is buying the big old van I drive now on the daily. A used Ford Econoline with the glorious fact of individual seats. Prior to this we were all crammed in a jeep with non stop issues arising with everyone too close for comfort. These days the seating is chosen based solely on which children get along best. Meaning Rex next to Hayes and Leon by Arlo. Leaving a few empty seats in the back usually filled by friends who tag along for the ride.

Individual Everything:
I would say that with four kids one of the main points of conflict happens when things don't seem "equal." Road trips being are no exception so what I've learned over the years is the best way to avoid this battle is taking the time beforehand to see that each child has their own bag, pens, paper, head phones, books, and snacks so no one is fighting someone else for something they maybe didn't think to bring but feel entitled to en route right when it' impossible to jump back there and mediate.

Prior to leaving I usually try and pack each of the boys a couple brown bags full of snacks to pass out mid way so we don't have to stop anytime some one is hungry. And when they run out that's it. The rate at which they devour them is up to each of them and no one is required to share. Which that itself alleviates plenty of reason for arguing.

Plastic Bottles > Public Bathrooms
Yes, it's gross.  I know. But also fairly genius  in my situation, with a car full of boys where the threat of gas station bathroom breaks can get excessive. Arlo was the first to do it and now all his brothers follow suit and have become pros at their in car aim. The only thing is remembering to toss them at each stop. Because plastic water bottles or Starbuck cups filled with yellow liquid can be pretty deceiving. And, generally speaking traveling with urine is never cute.

The Earlier the Better
I swear by this one and do everything in my power to make sure we stick to it every time we set out. Not only does it make sense to leave as early as possible (to beat traffic and arrive at your intended destination earlier) but it also allows them to sleep through a good bulk of those first couple of hours in the car. Which means a nice and peaceful beginning for the one behind the wheel.

Window Tape Art
This is one of Rex's recent inventions and I swear it's been a saving grace during long drives as far as keeping him quiet and entertained for extended periods of time. Basically it's a colorful pack of masking tape I let him decorate his window with while I'm driving. The art he creates in this medium is always impressive, sometimes so much so that it pains me to strip if when the time comes. The same idea can be instilled though using a smaller plastic plexi glass board, bold colored tape and small scissors if they request them. But then again white boards are always a good call too.

Mad Libs
Leon's favorite. And mine too at his age as well. Mad libs are a fun and easy way to be engaged with the backseat crew. Guaranteed to solicit plenty of laughter along the way too. Especially because boys this age usually tend towards gross adjectives. (Insert slight mom eye roll)

Light Packing
The less cluttered the car the better mindset attached. At least for me. The reason I pack much more intentionally now - pulling less options and knowing I wash if I have to while we're away, as well as coming home home to less laundry to sort through upon return.

Pod Casts 
Don't get me wrong, I live for my traveling play lists - I really really do, but I also like breaking up the drive sometimes with pod casts narratives too. Sometimes we pick younger ones for Hayes and other times we stick to the classics. But usually it's a good call and everyone quiets down to settle into the stories unfolding.

Here, a list from NPR sharing some good ones to choose from.

Be Spontaneous
Pull off where you didn't plan, check out things you spot along the way, talk to people, eat at random places, be open to new courses and adjusted time lines. Some of my favorite adventures are the result

Friday, July 28, 2017

In Between Vacations & Renovations

I woke up this morning shocked to see the date, realizing the month has nearly escaped us. All of July has consisted of vacations and renovations and recovering during downtime from the both of them. I'm here back home for a bit before taking off once again up the coast headed for Big Sur, staring at a pile of drywall and wood that came busted out of ceiling of the boy's room while I was away, wondering how in the world it'll all ever get done. And yet excited by this progress. That we are knee deep in the dirty haul of this renovation. Taking it day by day, clinging to solid (ever extending) deadlines to manifest visions of what end results we hope will amount. Also letting ourselves feel the house out before deciding entirely on the direction it takes. Which plenty of people kindly reminded me to do.

And naturally far behind on blogging. I've set aside a full day this weekend to draft a series of posts to land here next week. Touching on everything from our major construction plans outlined, to our recent pairing with Airbnb, as well as an essay on the art of doing nothing. Which July didn't have much time for, but anyway...

See you then,

Monday, July 10, 2017

Footnotes on Three

You are quite suddenly hilarious sine turning three. Maybe though because you can finally talk in sentences we can all mostly understand.

You are also fairly easy to enrage. Luckily I'm a sucker for three year olds (hopelessly so) so I don't let it phase me much when you tell me moments after reaching tenderly to kiss my face that you don't like or me or that I'm "mean" because I deny you the second or third pack of fruit snacks in the pantry you think you own.

You know your colors which I admire because I never taught them to you.

You call ants "animals" and demand to know the name of every one of them whenever we spot some. I make them up as we go just to see you easily delighted by such things. And, it seems, according to you I have a knack for it.

You love to play hide and seek but always shout out to the one looking for you because of how proud you are of your secret spot. You count and seek too. "one, two, three and ten." No one corrects you.

You love your stuffed animals. Unlike your brothers at your age who were more prone to balls, swords, super heroes, ect - though Rex is working hard to see that admiration for the latter grow in intensity. (Speaking of him, you still worship him the same as the day you were born. Even when he is mean to you (which is so much rarer than he to all the rest) you forgive him instantly. You follow him around and hug him constantly. You see that he is patient with you. Everyone sees it. You appreciate that he teaches you things, explains things to you, laughs, encourages, is proud of you. It's the sweetest bond to see and one I'm guessing will always exist in a similar kind of way forever. But I do hope you talk him out of some of the more daring things he has in mind when you both get older.

You inform me you are "big" constantly until it's time to pick things up, in which you will declare that you are "too little" to lift all these things. But you do it anyway because I press it.

You love cartoons and miss them dearly because the option suddenly disappeared when we moved into the house and never picked up the TV. You remind me of it sometimes and vow to move back in with Grandma because of the simple fact of cable. And basically everything else she has that you miss since the move.

You refer to Arlo and Leon as "Big Leo" and "Little Leo" - Leon being "Little Leo" - which I love.

Yogurt, string cheese, apples and gold fish are your favorite snacks. You pretend that certain foods make you sick but it's really just because you like the sound of yourself coughing.

You are tough and rarely cry when you get hurt. Which Arlo is very proud of.

You play for hours with plastic magnetic tiles and wooden blocks. But are forever happiest at the beach. Diving into the water and chasing the thrill of wild waves that roll and toss you around even with me clinging tight to your hand.

You like being naked. Whenever possible. Which is often now that our patio is secluded and seems to almost invite the habit.

You call Jack your puppy and treat him (rightfully) like another brother.

You love babies. And I love that you love that.

Your brothers are your biggest idols. You seem to believe you are as big as them and try all too often to pull off the same stunts. Arlo is adventurous and you like it, Rex is daring and you mimic it, Leon though is a mystery to you sometimes and you tend to ignore him. Thankfully, he doesn't seem bothered by it. He still compliments you often and thinks you're the cutest "baby" there ever was. Even if three now doesn't technically hold that title anymore.

You are a mama's boy through and through, and it shows. You're also the only one who's lasted this long in our bed because I can't seem to find the right way to get you away from me for too long.

Your flashing eyes and bouncing curls are your saving grace. It's hard to get mad at a face like that, even when you fully warrant it. Still we try.

All in all, three is the best.
Until you turn four.
Then we'll love the next year somehow a little more.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Around Here

In midst of settling in we get lost all too often during a morning trek out for drive through coffee, distracted by the strip of blue that snakes along the coastline all the way downtown, pulling us into curious turns that comes lined with aged Spanish bungalows nestled amongst overgrown succulent landscapes with drive ways manned by teenagers sporting well earned tans, loading surf boards onto their parent's hood racks. 

The five of us weaving aimlessly around the streets while the fog lingers, wandering untouched necklines of a new town we still don't know. Piling clothes into clean and dirty baskets without the help of drawers or dressers to divide them neatly like before. 

Reminding the dog - with a penchant for lounging in the middle of a warm culdesac back at the old place that embraced the habit - that this street is anything but forgiving. Eyeing neighbors curiously who eye us back the same way. Meeting boys down along the block while visiting parks and taking walks. 

Driving a roofless old Land Rover down the hill at sunset with Mexican blankets on our lap to keep us warm, to the beach before dinner to squeeze in a quick surf session before the sun falls away. 

Complaining about the absence of TV. 

Eating tacos for dinner for seven days straight. Feeling like vagabonds on vacations, caught somewhere between being broke and downright blessed. 

Dreaming up renovations that entails walls being trimmed, torn and rearranged. Book shelves carved bedrooms. Bathrooms busted and ceilings exposed. Dry wall dust on our shoes. 

Every corner reminding us of all the time and money we don't have to any of it happen very fast. Big plans tethered to patient budget. 

And of course the laundromat on a humid Friday afternoon where we manage to stuff eight days worth of dirty clothes into four big metal basins and count down the minutes until they dry. Laughing carelessly as we do. Because it's new and unfamiliar. Life between the undetermined and the settled. Whispering of new adventure around every turn. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Right White

At our first house, a cute 1927 Spanish Bungalow, we fought endlessly over colors choices. The fact that Mike is seriously color blind when it come to anything with a touch of green gray, didn't help matters. I think, just based on what I can remember, we must have painted and repainted the inside of that little house more than six times in four years. With quite a few really stupid quarrels in midst of it

Needless to say, the decision to go all white has saved us a lot of bickering, time, and money. I mean, painting is one of my least favorite tasks. And I'm awful at it. So once the entire house was one bright clean color, I felt an inner peace unravel inside of me. Simply retouching the walls every few months when the grime of a four boy household became all too evident.

Yet just as impossible as it was to find the right "grey" that I searched for years before, the right white might be even harder? Our last house was a generic brand of swiss coffee which I liked because it was soothing and warm with a slightly touch of cream to it. But photographed more yellow than I liked so this time around we're on the hunt for one that is a bit brighter and clean but not cool or stark. Just one of countless descriptions I've uttered aloud that make me cringe hearing myself speak to the poor kid at the paint counter. Realizing how ridiculous I sound expressing these variations. Good thing is social media offers up a lot of help in these areas, and as much as I'd like to say we found "The One" based on what provided, I'm actually headed to the local paint shop today to test one more. And then we're tearing a bedroom ceiling out.
Wish us luck.

Top contenders (based on Instagram suggestions) so far being:
Benjamin Moore 
Arcadia White
White Dove
Vanilla Milkshake
Cloud White cc40
Chantilly Lace
Designer White
Super White
Simply White
Heron White

Martha Stewart
Glass of Milk

Ultra White

I let you know what we finally decide on.