October: a Midwestern blessing

octoberOctober has arrived with its redefinition of perfection, bathed by a special color of blue that is reserved only for October skies.  Night time encroaches upon these hallowed days more quickly, a sharpened angle of sunlight illuminating our ancient cottonwoods as they gradually disrobe.  October is the consummate Midwestern blessing, a reward for tolerating summer’s steam.  It’s that annual passage that reflects who we are as Nebraskans, our fields bursting with billions of bushels of dreams realized.  We are historically linked to the land, yet with the harvest, we willingly share our good fortune.

I welcome October as I would the phone call from an old fishing buddy.  October is the sound of a crackling fireplace.  It’s a drive to Nebraska City for apples and a taste of freshly baked pie.  October is the feel of the wool blanket, the search for the ice scraper somewhere under the front seat, the sight of geese readying for winter vacation and a mug of steaming hot coffee in the back yard.  It’s the final push for outdoor projects when windows are bathed and polished.

October is Friday night lights and a sea of red filling the city on Saturdays.  It’s memories of burning leaves in the ditch with my dad decades ago.  October is the end of gardening and the celebration of giant pumpkins, those great imperfect spheres that are surgically and artistically redesigned by young and old.

October is your favorite sweatshirt, the older the better, and flannel shirts and jeans.  It’s hayrack rides and bonfires, marshmallows, s’mores and hot dogs.  It’s apple cider and hot cocoa and the rustle of leaves.

October is a blessing not to be missed.  And like most special times, it races past all too quickly.  It is non-contentious.  It is sharing our best and brightest.  It is a celebration of life’s grandest gifts at our finger tips.  Welcome dear friend.  Pass less rapidly before us that we may know your beauty. 

Decorating for Fall

Saying goodbye to summer doesn’t have to be so sad. Especially when fall, and decorating for fall, is as fun as these ideas. From the front porch to inside the home, these creative tips will have you forgetting all about those delightful dog days of summer.

The Mantle

For starters, get your fireplace in the mood for autumn. After all, you’ll be spending an awful lot of time here (hopefully with hot chocolate) when the weather turns colder. If choosing colors isn’t your thing, consider this easy monochrome look. The white pumpkins really stand out, especially with those little pops of color.

fall leaf mantle
Shelterness.com

No worries if you don’t have a fireplace. You can still decorate like you do. A shelf looks just as lovely as a mantel. And a little chalkboard paint can go a long way if you’re really dreaming of that fireplace look.

Chalkboard paint fireplace with shelf
Shelterness.com

The Porch

If you’re just itching to get your front door and porch in the autumn mood, we’ve got you covered. Think beyond the standard jack-o-lantern and door wreath. Instead, swap out the wreath for something a little more…juicy. This apple display will do the trick, and you can even let the apple theme flow indoors as well.

apple door
SavvySouthernStyle.net

Leaves make a great door decoration, plus there’s no raking required. Leaf garland is stunning, especially when contrasted with a more rustic look. And strategically placed mums are an absolute must for fall–we just love how this look comes together:

fall door
ThistlewoodFarms.com

The Pumpkins

Lastly we couldn’t forget pumpkins, but we love the idea of branching out with the pumpkin creativity. These white pumpkins with glitter letters (yes, glitter!) are just too fun to pass up. Use the monogram of your last name, or let each kid pick a glitter color and represent the whole family.

White pumpkin with glitter monogram
UnoriginalMom.com

And because we love being resourceful, that chalkboard paint for your fireplace project doubles as an essential item in this pumpkin project. Coat a pumpkin in the paint and then change up your design whenever the mood strikes. Check out the full set of instructions here.

chalkboard paint pumpkins
Momtastic.com

It’s pumpkin season—fun, food, frills

pumpkin patchIt’s officially fall, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy all that pumpkins have to offer. From visiting a pumpkin patch, to delicious treats, and even some decorating—there’s really no limit to what you can with a great pumpkin. We have a few ideas to get you started ringing in autumn.

Pumpkin Patches

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

Even if you don’t have small children, a pumpkin patch visit is practically a fall necessity. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from around Nebraska, and for every budget.  Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is large and filled with live shows, a corn maze, shopping, and of course, plenty of pumpkins. Visit on a Monday thru Thursday for discounted ticket prices, otherwise pricing ranges from $13.99 to $17.99.

Roca Berry Farm

Roca Berry farm is a short and beautiful drive only 15 minutes from Lincoln. They even offer season passes for $23.99. If you love Halloween, you might want to splurge for the Sinister Circus Psychopath Haunted Manor tickets. They run $19.99, and it is sure to be memorable experience.

Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch

If you love pumpkins and you also love the honor system, then Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch is definitely for you. You’ll enjoy the complete lack of sticker shock, and the acres of pumpkins and gourds in every variety and color. You’ll have to drive to Minden to get there, but a short road trip through Nebraska in the fall? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Food

pumpkin tiramisu
MyRecipes.com Photographer: Alison Miksch

So you’ve stocked up on pumpkins, now what? If you’re the ambitious type, use a pie pumpkin for your recipes. But we love the ease of opening up a can of pumpkin, too. Whichever way you choose to enjoy the savory flavor, this Pumpkin-Espresso Tiramisu is probably a must!

Decorate

pumpkin vase
ReadersDigest.com

Lining your front porch with jack-o-lanterns is a time-honored tradition. But don’t just stop there. There are plenty of creative—and simple—ways to decorate with pumpkins this season. Try starting out with this elegant and festive flower arrangement. You can browse Reader’s Digest for the rest of their crafty ideas.

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October 2016 Events: Lincoln

gourds-webCheck out this month’s local events:

10/1 8–10 a.m. Breakfast with the Penguins!  Lincoln Children’s Zoo www.lincolnzoo.org

10/1 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m Cornhusker Tailgate FREE at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel 333 S 13th St https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cornhusker-tailgate-tickets-26806722629

10/1 2:30 p.m. UNL Football vs. Illinois Memorial Stadium http://www.huskers.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=100&SPID=22&SPSID=3

10/1-10/2 7:30 p.m. My Fair Lady Lincoln Community Playhouse www.lincolnplayhouse.com

10/1-10/22 (Sat’s) 3:30 p.m. String Beans at Roca Berry Farm http://www.thestringbeans.com/

10/2 12 p.m. EYE RUN Holmes Lake Park www.EYERUN.info

10/2-10/9  See website for times Fall Parade of HOMES www.hbal.org/events/parade-of-homes/

10/4 7:30 p.m. Chamber Singers Kimball Recital Hall http://events.unl.edu/music/2016/10/04/112026/

10/04 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Make Lincoln 2016 Trago Park 20th & U St www.makelincoln.com

10/04 7:30 p.m. MAROON 5 Pinnacle Bank Arena https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/

10/06  7:30 p.m. Chiara String Quartet Kimball Recital Hall http://events.unl.edu/music/2016/10/06/112028/

10/6-10/9 8:30-4:00 p.m. Husker Valley Cluster Dog Show Lancaster Event Center http://www.cornhuskerkennelclub.com/All-Breed-Dog-Show.html

10/06 5:30 p.m. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk Haymarket Park http://pages.lightthenight.org/ne/Lincne16

10/06 5-8 p.m. National Fossil Day Morrill Hall http://www.museum.unl.edu/

10/07 6:30-8:30 p.m. Cork N’ Stogie James Arthur Vineyards http://www.jamesarthurvineyards.com

10/08 7:30 p.m. KEITH URBAN Pinnacle Bank Arena https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/

10/07 5-8 p.m. First Friday Art Walk http://www.exploredowntown.org/first-friday-artwalk

10/08 gates open 4 p.m. event starts 6 p.m. Dirt Diva Pulling Team Muhlback Motor Sports Complex http://www.lancastereventcenter.org/all-events/event-details?EventID=7573&CalDate=1475946000000

10/11 doors open 4 p.m. show starts 7 p.m. Taste of Home Cooking School Embassy Suites 1040 P St https://www.facebook.com/events/102693153521417/

10/12 7:00 p.m. Minnesota Timberwolves VS Denver Nuggets Pinnacle Bank Arena https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/

10/12 7:30 p.m. Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound www.liedcenter.org

10/13-16 7:30 p.m. Thurs-Sat & 2:00 p.m. Sun Young Frankenstein TADA Theatre 701 P St www.tadaproductions.info

10/14 5-9:30 p.m. Okto Beerfest Lancaster Event Center  http://www.oktobeerfestnebraska.com/

10/15 5-9 p.m. Twilight On The Tallgrass: Nature@Night Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center http://springcreekprairie.audubon.org/events/twilight-tallgrass

10/16 1-4:30 p.m. Walk Like MADD/MADD Dash 5K  Holmes Lake www.walklikemadd.org

10/18 6 p.m. Peppa Pig’s Big Splash Lied Center www.liedcenter.org

10/21-23 see website for times 2016 Little Boo Bash @ Bair Tournament Doris Bair Softball Complex www.nesoftball.org

10/21 7:30 p.m. The Capitol Steps Lied Center www.liedcenter.org

10/22 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 2016 Household Hazardous Waste Collection Woods Park http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/health/environ/Waste/HHazWaste.htm

10/22 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m Cornhusker Tailgate FREE at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel 333 S 13th St https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cornhusker-tailgate-tickets-26806722629

10/22 Time TBD UNL Football Vs Purdue Memorial Stadium http://www.huskers.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=100&SPID=22&SPSID=3

10/23 7 p.m. Clint Black Lied Center www.liedcenter.org

10/23 5:30-8:30 p.m. Haunted Hike Through the Vineyard James Arthur Vineyards, Raymond www.jamesarthurvineyards.com

10/25 7:30 p.m. Twyla Tharp: 50th Anniversary Tour Lied Center www.liedcenter.org

10/26-30  5:30-8 p.m. Boo at the Zoo Lincoln Children’s Zoo www.lincolnzoo.org

10/27 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m Nebraska Product Show for Business and Industry Lancaster Event Center http://www.showofficeonline.com/products.htm

10/28-30 7:30p.m. Fri, 2p.m Sat & Sun The Boxcar Children Lincoln Community Playhouse  www.lincolnplayhouse.com

10/29 2:30-6:30 p.m. Celebration of Nebraska Books Museum of Nebraska History http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/programs/celebration.html

10/29 7:30-9 a.m. Monster Dash Roca Berry Farm, 16531 S 38th St, Roca https://smallvoicesorg.presencehost.net/monsterdash/registration.html

10/29 6:30-8:30 p.m. World Famous Murder Mystery James Arthur Vineyards www.jamesarthurvineyards.com

10/30 1-4 p.m. 15th Annual Suite Memories, A Bridal Affair Embassy Suites https://www.facebook.com/events/158063147932722/

10/31 6:30-8:30 p.m. World Famous Halloween Murder Mystery Dinner at Billy’s 1301 H St, http://www.jamesarthurvineyards.com/events/world-famous-murder-mystery-dinner-2/#11/40.9389/-96.7473

 

Ongoing October sporting events:

Check websites

University of Nebraska Sports Schedule: www.huskers.com

Nebraska Wesleyan University Sports Schedule: http://nwusports.com/

 

Ongoing Farmers Markets:

Oct 1 & 8 Saturdays 8 a.m.-12noon Historic Haymarket Farmers’ Market http://lincolnhaymarket.org/

Oct 2 – Oct. 30 Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Rain or shine Old Cheney Road Farmers Market www.oldcheneyroadfarmersmarket.com

Oct 4 Tuesday 4-7p.m. F St Neighborhood Farmers Market 1302 F St www.facebook.com/fstreetmarket/

 

Area Pumpkin Patches:

JK’s Pumpkin Patch 757 Bluff Rd, Lincoln http://www.jkspumpkinpatch.com/#!

Roca Berry Farm, 16531 S 38th St, Roca https://rocaberryfarm.com/

Martin’s Hillside Orchard 2024 Ashland Rd, Ceresco http://hillside-orchard.com/index.htm

Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm 911 108th St, Avoca http://www.bloompumpkinpatch.com/

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St. Patrick’s Day Fun with Kids

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. The kiddos are anxiously awaiting to trap some leprechauns, find some gold, and perhaps, hand out a finger full of pinches. If you haven’t started planning for this amazingly green holiday, we have some great ideas for you to pull off a hit that the whole family will love.

Food:

The best part of any holiday, and arguably any day, is food. You can rest easy with this delightful snack that starts with an incredibly nutritious base: apples! Green Granny Smith apples are the beginning of this deliciousness, plus they’re bit-sized for little mouths (which is code for: you can eat a ton of them without feeling guilty.)

DivasCanCook.com
DivasCanCook.com

You and the fam are bound to be thirsty after that sticky treat, and this effortless drink is equal parts adorable, festive, and effortless:

MarthaStewart.com
MarthaStewart.com

Keep that healthy vibe going with this food trick. It works as a great “I’m hungry!” solution, or as a simple side dish for lunch or dinner. Fresh veggies in fantastic shapes:

MarthaStewart.com
MarthaStewart.com

Crafts:

Ok, crafts. Some of us want to pinch ourselves out of a nightmare at the very thought of this word. But fear not! This idea is so simple, as is the cleanup. And there’s basically no St. Patrick’s Day without shamrocks.

ActivityVillage.co
ActivityVillage.co

Once you conquer that first craft, try something just a smidge gutsier. Kids adore saving coins, and St. Patrick’s day is all about the gold. So turn an old coffee can into a bank for all of those coined treasures. Of course, you’ll have to actually drink all of the coffee to make this craft work, but that wasn’t a problem for us, and we believe in you too.

dltk-holidays.com
dltk-holidays.com

To really get in on all of the seasonal fun, you have to look the part. Little girls in the house? Even better. Check out some DIY hair accessories to match the holiday. Even if you don’t DIY, benefit for those who do on Etsy.

BabesInHairland
BabesInHairland

Entertainment:

After food and crafts, we all want to snuggle in with a good movie. Here’s a list of St. Patrick’s Day movies that are family friendly

And lastly, for those littles in the house who may not sit through an entire movie, help them set up friendly traps for leprechauns. You can totally have fun with the treats and surprises they get as a reward, and the kids’ grins and giggles will be more than a reward for you.

happyhomefairy.com
happyhomefairy.com

A Valentine’s night-in to remember

Couple cooking dinnerFor Valentine’s Day, you could impress your significant other with reservations and movie tickets. But even though the groundhog predicted an early spring, for now you still have to brave the cold (and crowds) for a night out. A better idea? Stay in the comfort of your own home, and throw a romantic night in to remember. Here’s how:

Start with a clean space.

But don’t turn into a frantic cleaning machine the day of Valentine’s Day. Instead, use one of those popular cleaning schedules that have taken over Pinterest. You can download one that suits your cleaning needs best. Or take your cleaning into the digital age with a cleaning schedule app. A cleaning schedule is like eating an elephant, one bite at a time, and by the time the big day gets here the house will be clean and you can focus on what really matters … which is, of course, food!

The food

If your kitchen doesn’t intimidate you, find a recipe that you’ll both love and go for it! You can save time by ordering your groceries online from HyVee. Either use their drive-thru to toss your order in the backseat and be on your way, or pay a small fee for delivery.

But if your favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations, don’t panic. You can always order your favorite meal to-go, or better yet, choose a restaurant that offers curbside pickup. Choose from The Parthenon, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, or Outback Steakhouse, just to name a few. Services like Doorstep Diner offer a delicious menu to choose from, all brought right to your door. It’s like a pizza delivery, but way classier.

Another option is outsourcing your kitchen duties. Chefs like ChefauChef in Lincoln can be hired to come in your home, take over your kitchen, and serve you a delicious meal, all while leaving your kitchen exactly how they found it. Tell the chef what you’d like, or give them a general idea of your ideal meal and wait for a delightful surprise.

Dessert

Dessert is essential on Valentine’s Day. And nothing will ever say “I love you” quite like chocolate does. Chocolate covered strawberries are little cliché for Valentine’s Day, but that’s because they taste amazing. Plus, they’re a breeze to make. But if you’re more into not lifting a finger, Edible Arrangements is the perfect solution. Other companies, like The Warm Cookie, deliver treats right to you. And it’s exactly what it sounds like, a warm cookie, also known as Valentine’s Day perfection.

After dessert there’s only one thing to do. Netflix and chill. Sweatpants are ideal, snacking encouraged but not necessary, but absolute relaxation is a must.

How to have a special Valentine’s Day with your kids

The only thing better than having a date for Valentine’s Day is having a great evening with the kids. Let’s face it, a night in with the little ones beats making reservations and fighting the crowds any day. If you’re planning on a Valentine’s Day full of squishy cuddles and cartoons, here are a few ideas to make your day extra memorable.

The Food

A box of chocolates is awesome every day of the week, but for treats that get little hands involved, the Mommyhood Made Simple blog is a must-read for Valentine’s Day. It features “14 Days of Valentine Fun” full of craft ideas, and yes, food that will make everyone’s tummy feel full of love. We think this Candied Jello Popcorn recipe sounds like the sticky fingers will be totally worth it:

candied popcorn
MommyhoodMadeSimple.com

But we especially love these themed “Dinner and a Movie” ideas, like this perfectly planned “Little Mermaid” meal. Scroll through the themes and pick the one that will make your family’s Valentine’s Day a hit:

 

Set the Mood

Before you get your evening started, dress the part by having everyone pick their favorite red outfit. Or have a “fancy” night with the whole family dressed their best. Bust out some Valentine’s Day temporary tattoos to really spice things up. If cooking isn’t really your thing, you can easily keep the red theme going by adding some food coloring to pancake batter. Breakfast for dinner is special any day of the week, but red pancakes on Valentine’s Day is even better, and let’s not forget that from start to cleanup, it’s super easy.

Gifts

Give the kids a few days to prepare and let them create their own masterpieces to exchange as gifts. Meanwhile, you can plan a few inexpensive and adorable gifts to share the love with them. Real Simple has some great gift ideas for all ages, including these Valentine’s Day Emoji stickers, one of the few (magical) gifts that can make toddlers and tweens smile:

Emoji stickersIf you have the time before settling in for those cuddles and movie, a family game night is always a win for everyone (and, bonus, it requires no prep or planning.) But if prep and planning are near to your heart, Parenting.com has you covered with these love-themed crafts. Some celery stalks and a bit of paint are all that are required for this work of art:

celery art
Parenting.com

And finally, while you’re snuggled close to those chubby cheeks and tiny toes, don’t forget to high five yourself on a successful Valentine’s Day, and try not to think about all of the hungry couples still waiting for a table to open up.

7 tips for a memorable New Year’s Eve with kids

kids partyNew Year’s Eve parties are notoriously full of adults and late nights. But don’t leave the kids out of the celebration. After all, no one loves a great party more than kids! Kids bring the fun, the giggles, and the best memories. Use some of these tips to throw your kiddos their own New Year’s Eve celebration, and we promise it will be way more fun than waking up with a headache the next day.

Invite Friends.

Let the kids pick a few friends to join in on the fun. A New Year’s Eve playdate will give you some adult interaction as well. Let the kids play as you socialize; it’s definitely a win-win.

Fancy Nancy

Kids LOVE dressing up. Make your event feel like a real adult party by letting the kids don their fanciest attire. Costume jewelry, some hats from the party store, and some (moderately) high heels to clunk around in will make the kids feel like they’re fancy enough for an Oscar party.

Don’t Stress the Food.

Give yourself a night off in the kitchen by heading out to your family’s favorite restaurant. But the trick is going early. Eat light snacks for lunch and plan for dinner around 4pm. You’ll beat the traffic and the crowds and make it home with a full stomach ready for the festivities to begin.

Let the Games Begin.

Family game night passes the time in the best way: with plenty of giggles. Jenga, UNO, Twister, and Pictionary are always favorites. But nothing gets the friendly competition going quite like Mario Kart. Pick up an inexpensive trophy at your party store for the winner.

Snacks

S’mores, roasted marshmallows, homemade Chex mix, they’re all the perfect munchies for games and movie watching. Settle in for a few favorite family movies. (Start the movie watching early in case the kids can’t decide on just one.) If you have a fireplace or even just a pile of soft, cozy blankets, even better.

Dance Party

To get all of that energy out before bedtime choose some lively tunes and get your dance moves rocking. The kids will squeal and bounce out their energy, and you’ll even get some exercise, too. The best part? Kids are awfully forgiving when it comes to your outdated or even a little awkward dance moves.

The Clock Trick

Turn those clocks forward! It’s an easy trick to “make believe” midnight. Bonus—there are plenty of YouTube videos of the New York City ball drop. But if the kids are old enough to last until 11 p.m., let them watch the actual ball drop. But while you wait, don’t forget to help them write a few New Year’s Resolutions. They can be fun, silly, or helpful. Add to the fun and let them write a few resolutions for you too.

Then after the kids are nestled in bed dreaming about their fun party with mom and dad, you can stay up and do your own celebrating … or just revel in your success and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Hosting a New Year’s Eve party you can enjoy also

2016So in a moment of holiday cheer, your excitement took over and you invited all of your family, friends, old high school buddies, the grocery store clerk, and some strangers on the street to your home for the most EPIC New Year’s Eve party this century has ever seen! Now that reality has set in and that holiday cheer has turned into the reality of your task at hand, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered with these simple, fun, and wow-worthy New Year’s Eve party ideas that will actually allow you to enjoy the festivities also.

Decorations:

Skip those plastic party store decorations. (Exception: 2016 eyeglasses. Never skip 2016 eyeglasses.) Nothing says “classy adult party” like this decoration focal point. Beautiful, unique, and a breeze to clean up afterwards.

clocks
From MarthaStewart.com

Food:

If the idea of preparing a five-course meal leaves you huddled in the corner in fear, then don’t. Invite your guests to arrive after dinner. In their post-meal state they’ll be totally ready to nibble on all the easy appetizers you’ve so beautifully displayed. Vegetable and fruit trays, meats and cheeses with crackers—all of these are stress-free (and you can even buy them already prepared at your grocery store). Then spend your energy on a few cute appetizers like these mini hot dogs. Miniature food is like a miniature pony, way too cute to resist. Try these mini hotdogs and get creative with other foods that you can cut down to size.

mini hot dogs
From SouthernLiving.com

Drink:

Have a little “Mad Scientist” moment in the kitchen and create your own signature drink concoction for the night. Think beyond the normal fruity punches and get creative! For extra fun, freeze juice into ice cubes for extra color and flavor. Just don’t forget to give your brand new drink a fun name that your friends will be repeating all night as they refill!

Games:

For a really simple—and really fun—holiday game, Real Simple always has the right solution. Have some fun with normal tradition of New Year’s Resolutions with these downloadable New Year Playing Cards. Guests fill in the blanks to questions like “The person I want to be more like this year _____.” or “The bad habit I want to kick this year is _____.” Then shuffle the cards and read them aloud; try to guess to whom each resolution belongs!

resolution cards
From RealSimple.com

Countdown:

The countdown to midnight: the most anticipated part of a New Year’s Party. But please, your vacuum begs you, skip the confetti. Instead, feast your eyes on this amazing personalized idea that really shows your guests how much they mean to you. It might take a little extra prep work, but personalized confetti with your favorite photos of friends and family will be the highlight of your party, right after 3…2….1. The best part, guests will want to actually help pick them up so they can keep their special memento.

photo confetti
From MarthaStewart.com

Post-Midnight:

After the ball drops, don’t let guests rush out the door. Keep the party going with some softer music, the glorious glow of a fireplace, and of course, bottomless cups of coffee. As the excitement of the night wears off, you and your friends will find a cozy end to the night talking, laughing, and reminiscing on a wonderful 2015, but also looking forward to what 2016 has in store.

7 tips to survive holiday travel with kids

Holiday travel with kids“Are we there yet?”
“No.”
“Are we there yet?”
“No.”
“Are we there yet?”
“NO!”

From the moment the driveway is out of sight that age old question repeats like an old broken record, the same phrase again, and again, and again.

It will test your patience under normal circumstances, but if you’re traveling for the holidays, that magical time when everything is supposed to be joyous, and dare I say magical, that old familiar question can be especially grating on your on tired parent ears.

If you just can’t play the license play game one more time, and you’ve already run through the gauntlet of every “I spy” in your packed-to-the-brim minivan, enjoy some deep breaths of peace and joy with these holiday travel tips.

  1. DVD: We know; you’re already trying your hardest to limit screen time. But in the name of Christmas and sanity consider limiting screen time after you’ve reached your destination. Portable DVD players can be handheld, or handily attached to the back of seats for easy viewing. Choose a few family favorites and rest your head into that travel pillow for a few moments of solace.
  2. Snacks: The trick here is limiting the mess factor. Anything that creates mountains of microscopic crumbs is out. And a sugar buzz is definitely not going to be your friend on a road trip. If your kids are the health nuts that you dream of them being, raisins (the ones in individual tiny boxes) are a lifesaver. Healthy, low on the mess scale, and time consuming as those chunky hands reach in only able to pull out a couple at a time. Fruity snacks, string cheese (bring a cooler for safe storage,) yogurt bites, and even pepperoni slices are a win.
  3. Lunch: Fast food is tempting, so, so tempting. But the health factor is daunting. Pack some PB&J, reward the good behavior with a bag of favorite chips, and find a truck stop with indoor (read: warm) seating area and have fun with an impromptu picnic that’s healthier than restaurant eating.
  4. A simple lap board with paper and a few crayons will go a long way. Make up games such as “draw the first cow you see,” or “draw a map of where you think Santa is right now.” Siblings can play tic-tac-toe, or a few new coloring books are perfect.
  5. The Dollar Store is your best friend. Pick up a few inexpensive toys, but the real trick is not letting the kids see them beforehand. Every couple of hours pull out a new toy. The excitement of something new never fails. Cheap, easy, and failproof. Better yet, use them as a reward for good behavior.
  6. Remember driving by semis on the highway as a kid and using the universal symbol for “blow your horn!” Have a contest to see who gets the most honks, and keep tally. And admit it, this game is fun for adults, too.
  7. Lastly, keep your eye on the prize. Instead of answering “are we there yet” at every unreasonable interval, set a timer, let the kids follow along on a GPS or map (Don’t let map reading become a lost art!) and you can sanely count down to grandma’s house.
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