Friday, March 8, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Travel Solo with 3 Kids

While some people, like Jessie (below), get to take tropical excursions, the closest some of us get to a Caribbean vacation is taking a Zumba class at the YMCA.

During school vacation week in February* I took the Duchess, Honey and Ladybug to visit my family in the Philadelphia area.  My husband, The Grump, had to work** so once again I took them by myself. Although I have driven with two before, I was curious to see whether I could do it solo with all three.  The answer is yes indeedy - as long as I was willing to drop my standards.

Leave Early and Be Prepared: As I am wont to do, I left early - 7:03am on the dot.  I made the older girls pee before leaving and put a pull-up on Honey (just in case) and had my husband feed Ladybug her bottle.  I brought along something for the other two to eat en route.  This takes up a lot of time and distracts them, which was good because the first couple of hours of the trip were terrible, due to an overnight snowstorm that brought 4-6" in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I hit Connecticut around nine and with clear roads, was able to really jam after that.

My main challenge at this point was not falling asleep. I know a lot of people really love Connecticut, and certainly there are many nice things about the state, but that patch of I-95 near Rhode Island is sadly not one of them. I had stopped for breakfast at McDonalds on the way out of town and so was prepared with a giant coffee to get myself through this.

Utilize All Help, Even if it's Not that Helpful: I situated the Duchess in the middle next to Ladybug's infant carseat so she could feed the baby on her regular schedule.  The Duchess complained a lot but she did it.  After we arrived I saw that Ladybug was kind of wet and icky from spilled formula, but she was fed and reasonably happy, which is all that matters.

Listen to the Song if it Keeps them Quiet: So there's this one song by Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys that the girls LOVE. They will keep asking for it again and again and I play it so many times that I go from hating it in Connecticut to loving it in New Jersey.

You Can Always Use the Car Vac: In the past I've experimented with giving the girls healthy snacks such as hummus, but once those little packets drop, that's it. So I stick to bars, dried fruit, and other "dry" things.  Of course, a lot of it ends up on the floor of the car and creates a fine sticky powder, but if you wanted a clean car you wouldn't have had children in it anyway.

Make the Most of Your Rest Stop: So with three, there is no chance that I'm going into a rest stop just to pee. That would easily take 20 minutes and probably be disgusting.  Our choice: either stopping-stopping and having lunch, or doing a potty break and nobody gets out of the car except to use the portable potty.  Usually I like to stop for lunch on the ride back, because there is a diner in Connecticut that is about four hours away from my parents' house that is both vegan and gluten-free, so the Duchess can order off the menu. And when we have a potty break and I need to go? Well, let me put it this way - I save the cup from my large coffee for a reason.***

Get By with a Little Help From Complete Strangers: This time I showed up at the diner with three small children in tow in the middle of lunch rush, but to their credit, the waitstaff barely blinked an eye. We were told we'd have a 10 minute wait for a table, so that gave me a chance to bring all the girls into the restroom to do their business (including me, of course).  Then we paraded out and were seated in a corner table away from the other normal customers. 

Six seconds after we sat down, Honey said, "Mommy, poopy potty." She's more or less potty trained but she wears a pull up on the road in case of accidents, and as I surveyed the table with dismay, I looked at her earnest little face and said for the first time in five months, "Honey, could you just go in your pants?" I wish I had a video of the expression of disbelief and, yes, a trace of disappointment in her eyes. "Nooooo," she insisted. So I spun around and saw two nice older ladies having a calm lunch.  I went over to them in my most subservient pose. "Excuse me," I said. "I have to take this one to the potty. I will leave the other two here.  Can you keep an eye on them?" The ladies looked dubiously at the Duchess, smugly sitting next to the infant carrier and patting Ladybug's fluff of hair. "They'll be fine," I said, dashing away.  Honey sat on the potty but nothing came out. 

Soon, our drinks arrived. "Mommy, poopy potty," insisted Honey. I sighed.  Third trip to the bathroom and I wasn't even pregnant? I went through the same routine and sure enough, Honey finally came through. You have to admire a kid who doesn't take the easy way out, even if I had to parade multiple times through a crowded restaurant.

Tip Generously: I left that waitress about 30% because she was so nice. I would have tipped the ladies who lunch too, if they hadn't escaped.

Don't Forget Your Ativan: Ok, that is really more relevant to my visit itself, but it is always good advice, I think.

*For those of you outside Massachusetts, pretty much all public school kids get a week off around President's Day and then another week off around Easter. As a result, many private and preschools also give their kids the week off. Being from another major metropolitan area where we got one week for Spring Break and we liked it that way, I cannot for the life of me understand this, but I chalk it up to another quaint thing these New Englanders do.
**Or so he said, haha.
***Hope you are not clutching your pearls about this. Me peeing in a cup in my car is not the grossest thing in the world, especially after I got really good at it. A friend of mine told me she used Depends once, but I haven't brought myself to that point yet.

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