I’m Driving With Kids, Guess What’s In My Glovebox?

Now this is the ride we want on our next big adventure.  Barf bags a must!

Now this is the ride we want on our next big adventure. Barf bags a must!

This week:  a post on the lighter side inspired by a recent family road trip to California.  It was great fun and the kids did really well riding the 2,000-plus miles.  Which, pardon the pun, is a true milestone.  My kids are in grade school and at this wonderful age teachers send makeup work along and this helps pass the time.  It does so in theory, anyway.   Friends named Pixar, Mad Libs and Motel Swimming Pool were indispensable as my husband and I bribed the kids into getting homework done.  So in a nutshell, UN-caliber negotiations and movies and math got us from one destination to another with very little drama.

In January of 2014, I published I’m Flying With Kids, Guess What’s In My Quart Ziploc Bag?  Flying and driving seem like two very different propositions, but in many ways, doing either with kids involves much of the same process (homework bribes and in-flight videos).  There is crossover even in the smallest details, which can only be learned from experience.  And that is why it’s time for the sequel to I’m Flying With Kids.  So what do I keep in the glovebox on a road trip?

Stuff that I steal.

From the Friendly Skies, ironically.  Or from whatever airline can give us a “bargain” rate to take our brood to see the grandparents.  (Which is not so much a “bargain,” of course, and the reason we drove to California).  And why do I take stuff from airplanes?  Predictably my younger son goes so hard while on holiday and is so sleep-deprived, dehydrated and PUMPED UP that he spikes fevers and often barfs his brains out.  Then he collapses into a 13-hour sleep.  It’s a bit weird and scary but he pulls through every time, rarin’ to go by the time he wakes up.  Once on a trip to Colorado, he turned white as a sheet and we just managed to corral the sick in a torn plastic grocery bag that we happened to have in the van.  I was dressed up (a rare occurrence on a family trip) but managed to dump the semi-leaky bag in a nearby trash can without making a huge mess.


Vowing from that day forward to always be prepared for car sickness..I started raiding airline seat pockets.   On our flight home from that Colorado trip, and on every flight since then, I take the all the little white bags.  Well, not all, only the five we are totally justified in swiping.  No beverage service?  No problem.  Those wax-coated gems are more than just compensation:  we use a ton of them when we are on the ground.  The Kayak.com airline-of-choice can come after me if they want but my defense is air-line tight:   At least my child hasn’t gotten ill on the upholstery of your terribly uncomfortable seats, which he could have done because those bags are pretty small.  Your upholstery or your barf bags, your choice.  

So there.

I steal other stuff, too.  I have sticky fingers when it comes to extra napkins and handi-wipes so we don’t have the kid-sized version all over the van’s windows.  Sometimes I take a few feet of toilet paper (don’t ask).  Straws and sporks are nice, too.

But the true windfall is those plastic-lined bags that self-seal.  Even though my son seems to have outgrown the car sickness I still keep a few bags in the van to ward off its return.  Call it insurance.

Some people need their AmEx.  We need barf bags.

And never leave home without them.

What to Expect When Your Son Starts Puberty


When my husband and I learned we were expecting twin boys, I had two thoughts.  One was:

YES!  No weddings to pay for!

And the other was:

Whew.  I get out of doing “The Talk!”

With the former I “thought” too soon, as we now also have a daughter (wedding fund started).  With the latter, well, we’ll see.  Because when my older son, um, discovered himself at age three, I was giving him his bath.  Dad wasn’t even in the house.  That was the wake up call:  I knew I needed to be as knowledgeable about my boys’ pubertal changes as I do my daughter’s.  So Moms, here’s some info to help us all navigate our sons’ transition to adulthood: Continue reading

What to Expect When Your Daughter Starts Puberty


My daughter is eight years old.  She loves jigsaw puzzles, lip smackers, and American Girl everything.  A little girl.  So it’s hard to believe it’s time to have “The Talk.”   Yes, the recommended age is eight.  The thought of sitting down with my second grader to discuss birds-and-bees is, to say the least, unsettling.  When I read this advice I was relieved that age eight was a long, long, year away.

But  time flies.  My daughter just passed the halfway point to age nine.  I guess I need to get a move-on.

It was so much easier when I worked in family medicine.  I did exams and stated, yes, puberty has started, or no, it has not, and made general projections as to when my young female patients’ may start menstruating.  But when a tween is your own child, the issues are less perfunctory and more personal.  As parents, this “talk” is not just an anatomical one but one that delves into our family’s values about intimate topics and how to navigate the inevitable comparisons (and competition and teasing) when kids’ bodies start to become those of adults. Continue reading

I Love You…Quirks and All

The model "ski lift" my son and I built together out of cardboard, string and pipe cleaners.

The model “ski lift” my son and I built together out of cardboard, string and popsicle sticks.

I knew from the moment I laid eyes on my younger son, a preemie with dusky, lanugo-covered skin, that he was unique.  Others were scared to hold this fragile, funny-looking baby.  But to me, he was beautiful.  I could hold him and his twin brother for hours watching their tiny, newborn features.  While his brother’s round, pink face relaxed into a smile as he slept, his contorted into mesmerizing expressions, eyes a-flutter, as we listened to classical music in the nursery.

This little boy, whom we affectionately call “Bear,” has always been his own kid.  As a toddler, he would crawl in and out of his bedroom doorway, thumping his little legs before turning back.  Once he could walk, he became obsessed with doors, so much a compulsion we had to tear him away, kicking and screaming.  Oh, and there was the time in between when he stopped babbling. Continue reading

Winning: Is That What it’s All About?

My sons' cars.  And my daughter's pink "D1."  Hers wasn't the fastest on the track but it was the fastest built…20 minutes before the Derby.

My sons’ cars. And my daughter’s pink “D1.” Hers wasn’t the fastest on the track but it was the fastest built…wheels went on just an hour before the Derby.

Pinewood Derby Fever recently took command of our household.  As our boys’ searched the internet for design ideas, assisted Dad with the shaping and drilling of the wood and gleefully sprayed paint on their carefully cut creations, it was hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm.  The best part was learning to fix mistakes, like the misplaced drill hole that was transformed into a brad-covered “gas cap.”  Parents and their boys, spending time together, building something by hand.

Isn’t that the point?

It should be.  But Pinewood Derby is a confusing combination of handshake agreement and paperwork.  It’s understood that the building of the cars begins when the wood, wheels and axels are passed out at a meeting a few weeks before the event.  It’s understood that the boys help craft their masterpieces.  It’s understood the race is just friendly competition.

Or is it?

This is the confusing part.  There are rules that govern the Derby, numbered and lettered like a legal document, more points than The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  This says something:  given the rabidity with which some approach the Pinewood Derby, a simple dozen guidelines would not hold back those addicted to the idea of winning at all costs.

Everyone who participates is a winner, right?  The Cub Scout motto is “Do Your Best.”  Not “Winning is Everything.”  But it seems to me the rules of Pinewood Derby lend themselves toward the idea that yes, winning is everything, and we need painstaking details to keep those misguided by tall trophies from cheating.

What a sad reality.  It would be nice if the rules simply pertained to the construction timeframe, the weigh-in and the car dimensions…the guidelines that make the effort of building a fast, creatively-designed car a little more challenging.  It would be nice if the minutiae that embodies the rest of the guidelines didn’t need to exist.  But I guess there will always be participants who will miss the point:  to have fun, bond and

Do Your Best

Remind Me, Who is This For Again?

The cake freaked me out…so the decorating is my husband's handiwork.  He was Margarita-free.

The “tire” cake freaked me out…so the decorating is my husband’s handiwork. He was Margarita-free.

Take a look at Pinterest, she said.  There are some really cool ideas, she said.

Boy, were there ever.

I “pinned” five.  I liked even more.  That unsettling combo of excitement and stress started to bubble up from my stomach toward my chest and pulsed into my head, which began humming with white noise.  Then, in a rare moment of clarity, a voice said:

Stop.  This is ridiculous.

Who is this actually for???

It was time to plan the annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.  My boys’ den leader, whom I greatly admire, approached me and asked if I would help plan decorations and snacks with her.  She mentioned Pinterest, and I took the plunge.  There were ideas for free-form snacks (oreo “spare tires,”  pretzel “axel rods”), balloon arrangements taller than me in the shape of traffic lights, a three-tiered “tire” cake with perfectly-sculpted frosting “tread.”

That’s when I started to feel dizzy and buzzy and that only lead to the worst of all possible Mom emotions:  guilt.  Guilt at my apparent inadequacy in using a glue gun (which I keep in a holster on my hip, just in case) and my inability to write my sons’ names on a birthday cake unless I have had a Margarita.  Because, clearly there were fabulous moms in the stratosphere who can glue and frost…likely at the same time without mixing the two up.

I know I am not alone but I really try to keep my guilt to myself, or if I let someone in on it, my target is  my poor patient husband.  But I know moms who can’t help themselves and I hurt for them.  They are easy to spot because they are the ones who reply to the group email that asks for school treats with:  “I’ll bring a triple berry tart with a homemade almond flour crust!”

Darn it all if that doesn’t sound yummy.

Anyway, what stopped me from volunteering a lopsided three-“tire” cake, or a balloon arrangement that wouldn’t survive 5 minutes with a roomful of rambunctious cub scouts was this:  the event is for the kids.  Not the adults.  Why would I try to impress the adults?  Furthermore, why would I try to impress the kids?  Kids don’t expect anything fancy, they are happy with pretty basic party “stuff.”  Do they really think it clever if I  label a Tupperware full of Teddy Grahams “Pit Crew?”  No.  They are hungry and will see junk food and dig in.  (Ok, I confess I did label the Teddy Grahams.  Please believe me when I say it was a social experiment.)

So after my foray into a collage of amazing ideas, I slept on “Pins” and needles and the next day I returned to Pinterest and chose two reasonable projects to try, nixing the balloons in favor of a putzy, colorful snack idea and an idea for a flat tire cake (something I could goof up and would still look ok.  Hey, it’s a flat tire so it can’t be perfect, right?)  I decided to make “Pit Passes,” too.  I could have had them professionally printed, laminated and strung on fancy lanyards.  But for a mere few cents apiece, I used white notecards, stickers and a sharpie.

And you know what?  The kids still liked them.

Fruit and veggie "cars."  I can't glue but I am fierce with the toothpicks.

Fruit and veggie “cars.” I can’t glue but I am fierce with the toothpicks.


Strep Throat: Easy Fix, Not Easily Suspected

Well, it finally happened.  My kids had their first bout of strep throat.  My girly daughter was thrilled with her “pink”-acillin, happy to take a plastic shot glass-sized amount twice a day.  My younger son was stoked, thinking he would get the same pink goo. But he ended up with a liquid that he said tasted like “poison cherries,” tortured to take it three times a day.  And it only went down hill from there:  my older son ended up with amoxicillin capsules, the bitter contents of which we sprinkled in applesauce and he slurped down with nary a breath. Continue reading

Jenny McCarthy, Mouthpiece Mom

Tired of all the vaccine talk?  I kinda am.  And I thought it was just receiving vaccines that caused sleepiness (my kids crashed big after boosters).  But no, this time it is my brain that is tired.  But to lay this issue to rest (at least for now) I need to get something off my mind.

Actually,  I need to get someone off my mind.  Jenny McCarthy.  Mom, famous-person, apparent anti-vaxx advocate.  It says something when a well-known individual’s stint as Playmate of the Year gets upended by her staunch support of the vaccines-cause-autism movement (McCarthy even went so far as to write a foreword for Andrew Wakefield’s book Callous Disregard).  But I’m not here to add to the mountain of criticism of McCarthy for her position.  In fact, I want to do the opposite.  Even though I vote “pro-vaxx” I am even more “pro-mother.”  As you might know, Jenny McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with autism.  She writes fervently in her book Louder than Words:  A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism about her efforts to find successful treatment for him.  And what I took away from reading her desperate words was just that:  desperation.  And anger.  And frustration. Continue reading

Grocery Store “Gangstas”

No, that's not my son's hand.  It belongs to some random shopper whom I almost warned to not eat the peppers, but I think he thought I was weird enough already to be snapping photos of produce.

No, that’s not my son’s hand. It belongs to some random shopper whom I almost warned to not eat the peppers.  But I’m sure he thought I was weird enough already to be snapping photos of produce.

He was so proud.  He loved bell peppers and tiny things in general (still does) and showed me the diminutive green pepper while we shopped the produce section of the grocery store.  I turned away for just a few seconds (it’s always “just a few seconds,” right?) to select some lettuce and when I turned back to my son, his tongue was hanging out of his mouth and jalapeño seeds falling to the floor. Continue reading

Why We Vaccinate

[For this week’s photo, imagine a seven year old girl with glasses, opening Christmas presents.  That little girl is me, with the chicken pox]

The answer may seem obvious, but why do we vaccinate children against diseases we may never have heard of, much less whose names we can’t pronounce?  Parents and guardians who consent to having their children vaccinated do get that information (it is a federal law that families receive vaccine information sheets, otherwise known as VIS’s).   However, parents who chose to forgo vaccines for their children are not required to take VIS’s.  Why not?  Every parent should have adequate information regarding vaccines before making an educated decision.  But as seen in the state of Colorado, opposition to that idea made waves in 2014.  A house bill proposed that families denying their children vaccines be required to complete an online tutorial and obtain a healthcare provider signature that vaccine education was completed.  But the bill was shot down, and only a proposal for a voluntary vaccine education module made it to the governor’s desk.

That gutted version of the bill was passed into law in May of 2014 and the online education module is still “Coming Soon!”  But I say, “Why wait?”  Any parent on the fence about vaccinating their child should know why kids need the alphabet soup of shots that is now recommended.  So below is information on some of those vaccines: Continue reading