Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Ideas For Making Schlepping Your Kids Fun, Or At Least Bearable, This Winter

While waiting for my daughter at gymnastics the other day, I learned Mandarin, knitted a blanket, and caught up on all my correspondence. I can't wait for tomorrow's session when I'll give my car a tune-up in the parking lot of the gym and negotiate world peace before she gets out.
Yeah, right.  Schlepping and waiting for my kids, while I consider it my job as a mom, is something I abhor! Granted, it benefits them in so many ways, but it's time consuming and oh so boring (do you hear the implied whine in that comment)! It's too cold around here to do anything in The Great Outdoors like going for a walk or even keeping my car door windows open, so what to do with those 14 hours per week of commuting and waiting, outside of retreating into the amazing, yet somewhat mind-numbing technological vacuum that is my Smartphone? And what about activities sans video screen? 

Well, here are some ideas I've come up with for making the schlep, bearable, if not downright fun. Some activities can be done with your children, but most are for without.      

1.  Car Games – If your kid is not a talker (apparently Diva has not mastered the concept that Mommy can't hear when she shrugs her shoulders in response to a question), use the time in the car to play some games. “I Spy” and “Spot The Out-Of-State License Plate” are two, but there are others we play such as:
      • The Crazy License Plate Game – Take the license plate in front of you and make up
        crazy phrases to describe the driver. For example, FCB21M could translate into Five Cute Babies with 21 Moms.
      • Count The Number Of Idiots On Cellphones – Here's a diversion with a message. In my area, many people still, unfortunately, talk on cellphones while they're driving even though it's DANGEROUS and AGAINST THE LAW. The kids know this is wrong and we've talked about why it's so bad, but we can't do anything about it, so we've turned it into a challenge. We try to count how many stupid adults they see driving while talking on cellphones. Another benefit to this game is that it alerts me to which idiots probably do not have their minds on the road. Our highest count so far: 15 people in 30 minutes. Shame on those drivers!
      • What Are They Saying – Some people in traffic are quite animated. We try to figure out what the relationship is between drivers and passengers and what they might be saying.  
      • What Are They Doing – Sometimes you can see into people's houses while you're traveling. We try to guess what they're doing.
2.  If you're alone, catch up on YOUR music - My kids like artists I don't, so while I'm driving or waiting, I listen to the much-forbidden tunes I like, you know, from a time when singers actually held a note instead of all this “yodeling” they're doing these days. When the car is parked, it's fun to cut loose, something I cannot do with the kids in the car because I'll “embarrass” them, and sing my heart out.  Who cares if people are watching?  It's fun!

3.  Podcasts, books on CD, etc. - Check your local library and use their electronic resources. I love the ones mine offers because I can download a book and when it's “due,” it magically disappears from my device without incurring any late fees. Also, my church's website will let me download the minister's sermons, so I listen to them on weeks I can't get to services.

4.  Read - One of the aspects of waiting I actually like is that, if I leave my computer at home, waiting for Diva forces me to read. With that in mind, Junior wants to accompany me to one of her gymnastics classes this week because he needs to study for a mid-term and he's more likely to do it without the temptation of his computer.  Boredom has a way of forcing you to do what you have to do. 

5. Connect With Your Other Children – Twice a week, Junior and I use the time Diva is at gymnastics for some sorely-needed mother-son time. We grab a burger or frozen yogurt and spend the time talking. We've even bowled a game or two. The defined time frame means he can see an end in sight , something the Teen seems to relish.

6. Bring A Portable Piece Of Gym Equipment – This portable peddler was only $32.66 on I watch my daughter exercise and get some of my own while I wait for her.  Alternatively you
can jog or walk in place while you wait. If people are looking at you, who cares?! At least you're making good use of the waiting time!

7. Journal or Scrapbook – Many places that hold children's activities also have party rooms. If no one is using that space, ask if you can. Spread out and catch up on scrapbooking or use that time to journal.  Just remember: if you're using the establishment's WiFi, do not go on sites where you'll need to plug in your password.  For more in Internet security tips, read this article I wrote for the site SavvyGeekMom:

8. Clean Out Your Car – I know this isn't glamorous or fun, but it's one of those “gotta dos” I never want to do. Grab a garbage bag and, if it's not too cold, clean out the passenger area and trunk of your car..    Re-imagine it.  Is there a better, more efficient way to organize it? Grab this opportunity to do it!

9. Plan The Week's Meals – Throw a few cookbooks in the car and plan what you'll be cooking this week.  With our schedules, I use the crock pot a LOT and waiting for my daughter is the perfect time to figure out what's going to go into the pot.

10.  Catch Up With A Family Member Who Does Not Have Kids Or Whose Kids Are Grown - My mom friends are all busy at the same time, but this time slot is perfect for calling older family members I haven't spoken with for a while.

Now, here are a few Don'ts for the Schlep & Wait:
  • Try not to do any non-essential shopping. Sometimes we shop as a way to alleviate boredom. Resist the urge! Your budget does not need the extra strain of “boredom shopping.” Put the credit card down, Mom.
  • Don't mindlessly eat the kids' food. I carry snacks for my kids and have to remind myself that that's “their” food, not mine. I don't need the protein bars. They do.
  • Don't sleep while you wait. I know one mom who accidentally overslept in the car while waiting for her kid. How embarrassed she was when her cellphone rang, reminding her to pick up her kid, when she was parked right outside the gym! And if you slumber in the gym, who needs to see you drooling or hear you snoring?
  • Don't go too far. Traffic happens. Don't take a chance on being late for pick-up.
Driving your kids around is a part of modern parenting. They, thankfully, have so many more activities and options than we did when we were kids.  Why not make the best of it? Now if I can just get that Wiggles' song “Big Red Car” (Toot-toot-chugga-chugga Big Eed Car. We'll travel near and we'll travel far.”) out of my head...sigh...


Thanks for reading! Please check back in when I'll review a children's game which may or may not be fun (I haven't played it yet).  I'll also be passing on some very useful info about at least one important website you MUST know about!

Happy Monday!

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