Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Survival Guide to Road Trips (With 5 under the age of 8).

Snackeez. What!? Those stupid "As seen on TV" cup things? Yes. Those stupid "As seen on TV" cup things. The kids loved them. I bought these over a year ago and have used them twice. Only on road trips. This preserves BOTH the novelty as well as the overall condition of the product. Though, admittedly, George's didn't make it the full 36 hours in the car #chewsonstraw #destroyseverythinghegetshishandson. Added perks: they aren't see through, so the kids could not complain about the low amount of liquid* placed in the cup. And there is only so much room for the snack part; meaning, only so much that could get spilled on the floor. Win-win. Win. Win. And win.

*Liquid consumption is to be kept at an all time low. If they say they are thirsty. Tell them they are not. If they insist they are thirsty, and begin to cry, continue to tell them they are not, until their whining starts to disturb and/or influence their siblings**. Then, and only then, place 2-3 ounces of water in their Snackeez. Or, in George's case, hand him the tail end of your water.

**Which reminds me. If any of your children even so much as starts to mention the words: bathroom, pee, potty. etc. STOP them!! Immediately. Having to evacuate your bladder is highly infectious. In fact, if you hear the words, "I have to" just yell "NO!!!" (Or SHHH. Or Don't you dare say it. Or Hold it. Or I swear to god if you say that out loud we are leaving you at the next stop. Ok, maybe not that harsh. But you can consider it, up to you.) Don't even let them finish. Even if it's not restroom related, they don't "have to" do anything. You're on a road trip. They're stuck in a car. Rest my case. Just no.

PS. I chose to list first a food related item because if you've ever thought to yourself "if they say I'm hungry one more time, I'm taking them all to the fire station" when spending a full day at home. You will think this again. Within an hour on the road. 

All the electronic devices. We have 2 Leapsters, an iPad, and a Kindle. I made sure those suckers were fully charged, new batteries, etc. I considered loading a few new games, but didn't get around to it...would have helped, maybe, but not vital. If they are bored enough, anything is fun. Note: if this isn't an obvious Road-trip-with-children life hack for you, then I advise you NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

All the activity books. Big ones work, but easier to carry around, store (and throw away) are some of the smaller packs you can find these days. Some even come with the stickers and crayons all packaged in tidy little zip lock bag. They don't stay like this. The crayons get everywhere, as do the stickers, and the trash. Why can't they just keep the booklet in one piece? Is it is really necessary to tear out each page? Bite a few corners off? Spit it at your brother? WHY!?  Warning: Crayons melt at extreme heat. Well, maybe not even extreme. Warning: Crayons melt at mildly elevated temperatures. Do with that information what you may. Note: If, for their entire lives, you have not insistently and firmly repeated "Stickers are only for paper or clothing". Even when they simply catch site of the things. Then I'd reconsider supplying the 3rd row of a minivan with them. Unless, of course, you enjoy using a razor blade to scrape stickers off windows. Or find the random splattering of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles about your car appealing. Then by all means, sticker 'em up.

PS: We also have some of those magnadoodles and an Etch-A-Sketch. Also great options.

Afternoon departure. Leave after lunch, if at all possible. Kids are inherently most active in the morning. They tend to do a lot of their business (you know, like #2) in the morning. They are hungry. Thirsty. Antsy. Both days that we attempted to leave before 9am, we stopped nearly every hour for various reasons. It's infuriating. A good run at the park, swim at the pool, walk around the block, is extremely helpful to gear them up for a long drive. All three of our 5 hour stints happened between 1pm-6pm. Most of the kids, even the non-nappers, dozed off for a brief period of time in that post lunch daze. Note: It is important to have a driver equipped to stave off their own mid-afternoon rut. Lucky for us, I don't get tired.

Chick-Fil-A. Cleanest "play place". Cleanest bathrooms. Decent food options. Most kids like it.

Car cooler. We filled a soft cooler with adult and child drinks. Grapes. Carrots. String Cheese. Salami. High protein. Liked by all. Relatively not messy. This came in very handy when we found an awesome rest stop with a Rocket and chose to go there instead of Mickey D's or "Chick-fer-lay" as my children call it. We enjoyed the sites. Ate some lunch. Headed back on the road.

Snacks. Choose wisely. Again, opt for non-crumbly things. Veggie straws are A LOT less messy than any sort of chips or crackers. Some cereals are a good option as well. SUCKERS! All the suckers. This provides extended satisfaction. Well, only if your children are lickers, not biters. Also, like the stickers, if you have not instilled the wrath of god into them about keeping them in their mouth and not wiping them about, or dropping the sticks everywhere and trained them to keep the wrapper if they get sick of them...maybe suckers aren't the right option for you. In fact, I think I'll retract the sucker suggestion #CURTIS #mypigpen #suckertrasheverywhere

Movies. Bring along their obvious favorites. You know, the ones they could watch 2-3 times in one sitting. Every. Single. Day. Which are currently Wall-E, Minions and Big Hero 6 for us. But also purchase or borrow a couple new ones. I bought Open Seasons 1, 2 & 3 at Wal-mart, all in one box, for $5. The first Open Season has now been added to my previous list of 3, especially for Mitch, who giggles periodically throughout the film always followed up by "that funny". WIN! I also purchased a set of 4 including both Happy Feet's and both Cat's & Dog's. No major objections, but not overly thrilled either. Note: this assumes you are traveling in a vehicle with DVD capabilities. If you are not, then I highly advise that you NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

Raffi. I know this signifies that I am a product of the 80's, but, hands down, it's the best kid's music ever. My boys love it. Every song. I never get objections. For some reason, blasting Raffi, as the kids all became bored with movies, electronics, stickers, general destruction of the interior of the van but there seemed no real good reason to stop (as I don't think sanity is quite important enough to pull over) worked like a charm. The children also found it extremely amusing when we {the parents} would sing along in various styles, voices and volumes. Particularly, opera-voice to In My Garden.

Books. Easy enough. Brief amusement. Probably will become better as they age.

Toys. Diana loved the toys. Especially ones that made noise. Everyone else, probably could have done without.

Delay Gratification. A road trip is measured in minutes. Not miles. If your kids asks you for a sucker, they asked you at the exact moment they had an urge for it. They didn't wait. They didn't think, "Oh, a sucker sounds good right now, but I just had one 4 minutes ago, so perhaps I should wait an hour to ask for another one, because typically mommy doesn't even give more than one sucker in one day, so 4 minutes might be pushing it." Nope. They ask. Then ask again. And again. I found pointing to the clock and telling them what time to watch for (even though only 1.5 of them can tell any sort of "time") really helped decrease frequency in which request/whining occurred. This also helps prolong the effectiveness of said reward. Note: if you have never used this technique in your parenting prior to your road trip, I would not choose a 9-hour enclosed car ride to be the moment you start. In fact, I would probably advise you begin training and reschedule your road trip to a later date. There ya go! First step in delayed gratification training, done.

Packing. Do this deliberately. If you are stopping over during your drive. Pack just a one night bag for you and the kids, place it on top of the rest of the stuff. Just try to be smart. Ok? If this is a real struggle for you, I encourage you to NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

Manage Expectations. If you and your significant other haven't been dreading the trip, moaning about it, saying such things as "this is going to be the worst 7 days of our lives" or "why the $%#& are we doing this" or "should we see about medicating ourselves for this" for AT LEAST the two weeks prior to departure, then do NOT TAKE THE ROAD TRIP. You should mentally {and medically} prepare yourself for catastrophes such as: vomiting in the car. Peeing in the car. Pooping of pants. Crying. Whining. Crying. Yelling. Hitting*. Screaming (and I mean, ear-piercing, momentarily deafening screeches - usually produced by your large, introverted, mostly silent child #Mitchplease.) Crying. Whining. Yelling. Hitting...yeah, I know I already said this, just trying to drive my point home here. Not saying all of these things will happen. Maybe some of you have little Angel babies. Who would never bother one another, let alone their parents. But we don't. Ours are needy little things, that seem to feel the sole purpose of their existence is to bother those surrounding them at all times. Close proximity makes this exponentially worse. My expectations of this trip were so utterly rock bottom, that, when you compare what I envisioned might happen to what ACTUALLY happened, I might describe this road trip as a HUGE SUCCESS. Would perhaps insert the words: fun, enjoyable, entertaining and/or amusing into my description of the experience. Amazing what a little dose of absolute pessimism** will do fer ya.

*Please, for the love, consider heavily the car seat arrangement. Do not place your two mostly highly tempered and volatile children next to one another. Do not place the babies aside one another either, as that leaves exactly no one to help hand them food, toys, their lovies, etc. This significantly lowers the amount of hitting. As for it's effects on yelling, whining or screaming, YTBD.

**Do not discuss said pessimism near children. Build up*** the trip. Make it sound like the most wonderful event to happen in their little lives. But, be absolutely sure to ALWAYS say, "after 2 days in the car" (or whatever your time in vehicle is) when referring to the positive part of the trip (thus why this falls under the "Managing Expectations" umbrella.) For us, we simply mentioned the beach, as they had never been. They should have nothing but visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, or whatever.

***But don't build it up too early. Eff. Please DO NOT mention it a month, or even 2 weeks in advance!! This results in the constant need to point out the calendar. Count out the days or "number of sleeps". Mention over and over and over and over and over and over again that it's not for weeks. Please do not make this fatal mistake. Unless repeating yourself to the point of wanting to gauge out your eyeballs is something enjoyable for you. Then, by all means, mention the trip the day you first start to plan it...even better! Right!? Then you can give vague answers, that end up changing, thereby confusing the children and adding to their incessant questioning. Wait? It was in May, but now it's in June? Is that Christmas time?

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Accept that your vehicle will be dirty and your children irritable.

Use the quiet times to talk to your spouse. (I swear we conducted our own couple's therapy sessions.)

Enjoy the chaos.

Cherish the memories.

Then. It's over.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Let's Talk about Sex, Baby.

I saw a preteen in clinic the other day. She was going into 6th grade. When I examine this age-group, I like to keep things light. Cheerful. Safe. Interesting. I ask questions, even with the parents in the room, about everything. I ask them as if it's totally normal to bring up questions of grades, schoolwork, friends, safety, peer pressure, alcohol, drugs, puberty and yes, even sex. I almost always bring up the more stereotypically "awkward" subjects by first assessing the patient's level of knowledge or experience, and open it with this simple question: "Have you had health or sex education at school yet?"

YET. I always use that word, as, silly me,  I thought it was standard in ALL school curriculum to teach children/teens about not only their bodies, but one of the MOST BASIC of all human interactions: intercourse. You know. Procreation. How a species survives. One of our most primitive and natural instincts. One's sex drive is so vital to human existence that it is one of the 4 major groups we use, as physicians, to assess quality of life. When meeting a patient for the first time and/or screening for things such as Major Depression I ask about these basic things: Appetite, Sleep, Mood and Libido. (Admittedly, with some well-adjusted, healthy seeming adults, I will just inquire into one or two of these categories and leave it at that, but only sometimes.)

So, I proceed with my usual exam with this patient, and I ask her my usual question. She sat there somewhat silently, so I looked to her mother, who was shaking her head, as if to say "no". I responded, "oh really? I thought most schools did this in 5th grade, but maybe it's 6th." The mom continues to shake her head. No? "They don't teach sexual education at ## #####." I'm fairly certain my jaw dropped to the floor. I'm still looking at the patient, and I ask, "Did they teach you about the menstrual cycle, or periods?" While continuing to avoid eye contact by looking down, I hear a rather meager, "no, they don't teach us anything to do with that kind of stuff". I ask if she and her girlfriends have talked about it. Still a no!! This visit continues, I give some education, ask some questions. Talk to both the mom and daughter, trying to keep communication lines very open, make it clear to her mother that she needs to be sure and continue this education at home, and that the daughter should feel comfortable to go to her mother, me or a teacher if she has any questions or concerns. I print some materials for them both to read and discharge them on their way.

What just happened? Why would this be cut out of a curriculum? I don't care your religious beliefs, there is no way to remove procreation from the equation.  Our bodies were created for it. Girls start bleeding. Boys...well, I have four boys, I really don't want to think about what happens to boys. But I HAVE to!!! My boys ask me questions all the time, and though I mostly keep it scientific, they are getting honest, real answers with true anatomical names. I am educating them. Preparing them for life, a happy life, a realistic life...and hopefully, an open, honest and respectful one.

I don't just answer questions about their boy parts either. I put them to bed at the same time every night. When they try to fight this, I explain (futile as it may be) how important sleep is to their little growing bodies and huge growing brains. When I offer food to them, I try to help them understand healthy choices. No, my kids don't get a fruit and vegetable every single day, or probably even week for that matter. I think we just had pepperoni pizza for the fourth night in a row tonight, but, yes, I still talk about nutrition when the opportunity arises. When they are having a tough day, or a melt down, I try to bring awareness and validation to their feelings, so hopefully, in the future they can deal with their anger or sadness appropriately...and not like a 2 year old. (By the way, 2 year olds were NOT meant to be 40lbs. Makes picking them up or forcing them in a car seat A LOT harder.)

What I'm saying, is it's not just about sex. Kids need to learn about life. Everyday. We are cultivating their future attitudes and decisions towards VITAL human needs. And by we, I mean adults. It doesn't have to be mom and dad. It can be aunt, friend, teacher, coach, doctor. I am slightly enraged that an entire generation of children that have gone through this school (and I'm certain it's not the only one) will secretively discuss sex amongst their peers. Will feel so insecure when they have their first menstrual cycle. Will have been led to believe that sex is a taboo subject that should not be freely and openly discussed. Will think that something as vital to the human existence {experience} as sleep is to be ignored, shushed, brushed under the rug, left to those much less qualified to teach. I can't help but wonder what kind of sex education a male college student got from his school, parents, peers, that led him to rape an unconscious woman? Insomnia leads directly to psychosis. Lack of dietary eduction leads to obesity or other major health concerns. What does ignorance of sexual drive lead to...? I can't help but wonder.