Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mom Tips - For the Car: Organization & Preparedness

Are you entering in to a season of more travel in your vehicle as the weather gets nicer? Here are some mom tips from me on how you might do so more comfortably and safely.  *smile* 

What are "Mom Tips"? ~ I so enjoy the little "mom tips" that I've come across in life - those little things that I've learned learned from my mom, or a mom friend, that just make life a little nicer.  Things that make the daily-daily just a little easier, or make me smile a little more, or will be a time saver for me.  I'm not referring to the bigger projects like de-cluttering or re-organizing, but just the small things - the "mom tips" that aren't in the self-help books, they're just life-experience things that I've gotten from a mom with experience under her belt.  Well I'll share with you some of my Mom Tips for the car; I hope they bring a simple breath of fresh air to your regular every day patterns!  *smile*

We currently own a full-size, 12-passenger Ford Econoline van – which we love.  We have a blog URL sticker on the back window, and we chose a license plate and rim that are a great ministry opportunity, and they make a statement for being on purpose about family.  The plate and rim are a great conversation starter; we’ve even had people ask to take a picture of it.  *smile*

If you'd like to read more about the features we love about our van (compared to other vehicles), and about how we travel all together.  This "mom tips" post includes ideas that make our traveling smooth, extra pleasant, and extra safe.  *smile*

~ Fixing the double stroller dilemma.  Our double stroller took up most of the back of our 12-passenger van when it's lying down flat, but it would not stand up strait without help while we're driving.  We needed the space in the back for many things including groceries, so to save space back there for other things my husband thought to use a very small bungee cord to help the stroller stay upright.  We loop it through the metal back seat belt ring and hook both bungee hooks to the bar on the stroller.  Works perfectly!

 ~ Emergency-supply box.  We keep a clear plastic tub (approx.  6x30x15) in the back of our van, underneath the farthest back bench seat.  It contains extra or emergency supplies we could need should we ever have to wait for road-side assistance, if we land on the side of the road in snow, or run out of gas - all of which I've done mind you, and I don't intend on doing it again unprepared with 9 young children in the van.  *smile*  I rarely get in to this box, but everything is priceless if I need it.  The contents include:
  • an extra baby bottle - in case I don't have the baby's diaper bag, or do not have a bottle in my diaper bag for some reason, or if the one in the diaper bag was not cleaned out after last being used and now it contains bacteria and shouldn't be used; I have this extra clean one in the van.
  • an unopened can of formula - for emergencies on the side of the road and the food in the diaper bag is not enough; or if I forgot to bring the diaper bag all together; or if the van broke down seriously and we had to stay somewhere away from home for a while, we wouldn't need to also worry about getting baby food; or most often, if the formula containers in the diaper bag were not refilled as they were supposed to have been and now I'm stranded at church or somewhere with no food for the baby.  I open the "emergency can" from the van, and then replace it with a new one when we get home.
  • bottled waters - for people to drink, or to make baby bottles with.
  • protein bars - emergency food (I see no sense in adding starving kids to a situation!)
  • an old but clean bath towel - to clean up throw up in the van, or even better, if a child feels like they may throw up soon then I can put that over their lap and they can catch everything when they do throw up.  This has been used many times.
  • a flash light - roadside assistance.
  • a pocket knife - one we were given as a gift from a catalog at some point and don't need at home.
  • a rain slicker (in the blue bag)
  • a disposable camera - for taking photos of a car accident scene if my phone was out of battery (it's amazing how people's stories change later on when they've thought through potential consequences of their actions)
  • first aid kit
And the box is clear so that I can easily see at-a-glance what is in the box, and where items are located in the box before I open it, which saves time and hassle (and if I need to get in to this box, I can tell you I'm in no mood for extra hassle *chuckle*).


~ Emergency-supply box - for kids.  I keep this small 8x8x3 Tupperware container underneath the passenger seat up front in the van for quick/easy access.  This is one I'm in to frequently just for convenience, and doesn't deplete our emergency supplies in the back larger box, so I'll never realize that I accidentally used up all of our emergency supplies just out of convenience.
  • Dramamine tablets for motion sickness
  • Claritin tablets (not liquid - too messy for the car) for any allergy discomforts
  • Pick-me-up protein snacks like protein bars or PB crackers - if we're late for a meal or out later than planned, these have come in handy many times to get kids back to "themselves" *chuckle*.
  • Pepper spray - we've had dangerous dogs in the neighborhood keep me and the kids from leaving the vehicle when we arrived home until animal control showed up.

~ Air that makes me smile.  I really love getting in to a van that smells really nice, especially when I'll be in the car for a while.  It just makes me smile (and sometimes when we're on a time schedule and I'm trying to get kids to move in a timely way, I do need a reminder to smile *chuckle*).  I like this air freshener from Febreeze. It is consistant, it lasts for about a month per clip and until I can visually see it's empty, and smells great!  Mmm.  Just nice. Found at most grocery stores.

~ An uncleanable kitchen table.  No food in the van - that's the general rule.  *smile*  We make time for snacks and meals at home.  Food that gets dripped or spilled or spread around by sticky fingers stains the upholstery, like a kitchen table that you can't wash off, and does not have a smell that makes me smile.  *chuckle*  If we do need to eat something in the van I choose foods that are the cleanest possible.  For example, our staple "picnic lunch" is string cheese, or protein bars such as Kind Bars, or Cliff Bars; crackers (such as Cheese Its, Pretzels, or Wheat Thins) that pop in to a child's mouth without needing to be bitten in to first creating a billion crumbs; and cut-up apple slices (no core to be left rotting on the floor or in a side compartment) which not only don't squish easily but also serves to quench thirst well which means less water drinking and fewer if any potty stops; and water which dries easily and does not stain (like juice) or spoil (like milk).  And all trash goes strait back in to the cooler or garbage can - not the floor.  This simple rule of not eating in the van keeps it looking, feeling, and smelling nice all the time with very little effort.  People comment all the time about how clean our van is inside when they see it, but I don't do anything miraculous or strenuous, we just eat at home at a table I can wash.  *smile* 

~ Kids help keep windows clean.  We do not allow the children to put any stickers on the windows.  Stickers are usually permanent (without serious scraping and chemicals to get them off, and even then they probably won't come off), they block my view as the driver, and they look messy.  We also allow the kids to wash the windows inside the van as a paid job (a highly coveted one, I might add - the novelty of it, I guess *smile*).  And children who help wash the windows, at least, are less inclined to smear spit or fingers on the glass.  Looking out of clean windows make me happy.  *chuckle* I'm telling you, these types of little things keep life nicer and not something to be simply endured until kids are older.

~ Important papers pocket.  I hate to admit it, but I've been pulled over before (for not making a complete stop before taking a "free right" at a light - be fore warned) and in my flustered state have searched around the car for my vehicle registration and proof of insurance, which I know are there somewhere, while wasting the officer's time who's trying to...help me.  *wink*  In the future I will know exactly where these papers are.  So This nifty zipper closure pocket (a couple dollars at Wal Mart) which attaches to the visor contains our vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and also a list of places in our area that I could call for road-side assistance if I ever needed to (put together for me by my loving husband).  All in clearly-marked envelopes.

~ Console compartment contents.  My driving essentials (no laughing now).  
  • calculator (for when making bank deposits), before I had one in my phone.
  • Purell
  • hand lotion
  • tissue
  • gum
  • a Tide Pen, for getting out stains immediately when we're out
  • extra hair holders (in a baggie) for girls who lose theirs; clear so that they go with any outfit.  I can't stand hair in their faces (which then gets in their food).
  • quarters (in a baggie) for the drive-up vacuum cleaners at the car wash
  • direction booklet for my Blue Tooth ear piece
  • Sea Bands - orange child-size elastic wrist bands to help a child with motion sickness
  • the latest messages on CD that we're listening to
  • a few post-it notes to myself which I use regularly, so I don't have to re-write them all the time; I just pull out the one I need and put it on the console where I'll see it *chuckle* (i.e. get "Gas", "wash van", "vac. van", "drop V.V. [Value Village] bag", "drop [library] books").  Without my notes I often get home and find that I have forgotten to do one or more of these errands I meant to do while I was out.  So irritating.

~ Immediate "needs".  Kept in the top of the console are things I regularly reach for while driving or at a stop light:  Post-it notes (of course! *laugh*) and a liquid pen (not a ball point, which gets cold and then does not write fluidly), sun glasses, chap stick, protein snack food almonds in a baggie (deters my inclination to get a "treat" while I'm out), and bottled water or now I have a permanent commuter water bottle that lives in the van.

~ The clean way to throw up.  *smile*  *chuckle*  Did you know there was such a thing?  After many episodes over the years of a child throwing up in the van  due to car sickness or actual sickness, I finally bought a deep, locking-lid Tupperware container to keep under that person's seat.  It's been a miraculous plan!  She has grabbed it, used it, and then locked the lid down until we're arrived at our destination!  No soiled clothes to deal with, no embarrassed sweet pea child, and no powerful smell in the van for us all to ride with.


~ Diaper bags on hand, but out of the way.  We used to have 3 diaper bags (4 children in diapers, 2 of whom are twins), and they were kept underneath the bench seats, out of the way but handy.

~ Place for the garbage.  If there is not a designated place for garbage, then the place for it will become either the floor, or a hidden side compartment inside the van where it stays until discovered - yuck.

~ Baby wipes for cleaning...everything!  *laugh*  Hands, faces, hair, clothes, car upholstery, or even dog poop off of shoes.  A package lives in our van at all times.  And the Costco Kirkland Signature brand wipes stay wet forever - so nice.

Hope you've found some helpful tips here!  Please leave a comment and share with the rest of my readers your own great "mom tips" for the car!

Blessings on your traveling experiences,

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  1. Great tips Erika! I love the idea of no food in the car ~ on our holiday last week we each had an iceblock & would you believe it was me who spilt some on the seat & I didn't realise until the next day ~ it certainly needed scrubbing. Almonds are a great idea :)
    Have a wonderful day

  2. Thanks Erika, I love all your tips :)

    I have not had a car sick child but the value of a container with a lid is not lost on me :):)

    I live at the beach so sand is an issue for us. We also have two dogs so it can make the car a very messy place to be...... I went out to our local supercheap car store and bought a lot of good strong rubber mats that can be moved around to wherever the need is greatest. I also bought a rectangle of carpet from Ikea the last time I went and it fits into my boot space perfectly. It's a quick shake off and it's all clean. I also have a wooden hand broom for brushing off feet before we get back into the car......

    I also have two bassinet sized baby blankets rolled up ready for whichever child might need a little extra warmth, comfort, pillow..... whatever. They have been invaluable to us, often used if someone gets wet accidentally or I forgot a spare pair of shorts {or the spare pairs got used and I still need more!} and we need to maintain a little dignity.....

    I love your idea about a container ready with food in it. I am always racing to collect snacks as we leave...... apple slices are brilliant. Don't know why I have never thought of that!

    Susan :):)

  3. RENATA - Thanks! =) Blessings on your day today!

    SUSAN - Thanks! The broom for sand is a great idea. We're at the beach a lot, too, and sand is such a mess. I've been using a cleaning cloth to brush the kids off as best I can before they get in to the car, but a mini-broom would be even better. Blessings to you!

  4. We get the throw up bags from the emergency room. If we have not been there in awhile and I run out I just go in and ask for some. They don't take up space and you can throw them away and don't have to clean them I also keep a pack of zip lock baggies that we use for a lot of things! Great Post Thanks

  5. Erika, great post! One thing though, please be careful with the formula and any medicines and keeping them in the van due to the extremes in heat/cold. It will make them become spoiled/ruined over time and less nutritional as well.

    I keep an extra change of clothing for everyone in our household in the van and change at season changes. Even my dh and I because you never know when you will need them.

  6. And Baby Powder is fabulous for taking sand off of little bodies! We go to the beach often and that is essential in our van!

  7. Thank you for this post! A friend linked to your blog on Facebook and this is timely. I have five children, 8 & under and am constantly struggling with trying to keep the vehicle clean. (We have a Ford Excursion.)

  8. I also keep a spare set of seasonal clothes in the car. We live in the Seattle area so the weather might change wile we are out. My kids also like to dress themselves, so after telling them all winter that they need to have long pants and long sleeves for the cooler weather they tend to finally get it once spring and summer role around (if it comes at all) so then they want to wear warm clothes all summer, and vice versa.
    I also keep at least two large towels and a large umbrella for the inevitable down pore that happens as soon as I get to Costco. Then I can go grab a cart and dry it off before I put my kids and groceries in. I put two kids in the seat and have one in the cart holding the umbrella wile I push so we can all be under the umbrella.
    Lately I have had the kids pick out one book to bring with them in the car, but it always comes back into the house with us. It gives them something to be in charge of and they like to read to each other in the car.
    Our biggest rule for the car is that everything that is brought in is taken out. Getting the grown ups to follow this has been a process, especially since as Mom I feel like my arms are always full.
    I love all of the ideas you brought up. I don't have any who get car sick (yet) so I had never thought of some of those. We have a well loved Suburban that was given to us. I try to keep it as clean and presentable as possible. Even though the seats are ripped and stained does not mean the kids can treat them poorly. We are so thankful for our car and we treat it with respect. Some day when we get another vehicle I want my children to already know how to keep it clean and orderly.
    I am excited to try out the Bath and Body Works freshener. Our car has a definite "old car" smell, along with a what I think might be dog, that the previous owners had.

  9. Great tips as usual Erika, thanks so much for sharing! I'm about to take our van in to get detailed (deep cleaned) to get the summer fun all out of the van before winter sets in, I try to do that each fall and spring. Blessings on your day!

  10. I have my husband printing this and we are organizing our van tonight! Where did you get the super cool sticker? I want one for my blog too!
    Have a blessed day!

  11. LADIES - Oh you all have more great ideas! Thank you for enriching this post with so much more! Who knew about baby powder! LOL And for the sticker, my husband had it made for us at a local shop for really cheap (like $7 or something!) I'll ask him for more details and get back to you.

  12. Hi Erika! Thank you for this fantastic post. It was so helpful for me! I have a car sick child myself - I will have to get a locking container for her!

    Do you take post requests? As a mom of 6, I'm always finding it hard to find time for myself - personal grooming. From hair, to make up, etc. I'd love to hear how you keep up with this, how you purchase your make up and what you use(if you wear it) how you keep your hair looking nice etc.

    Thank you for your beautiful blog!

  13. Dear Erika,

    Love the ideas! I have found the greatest tool for keeping a van clean--teen-aged boys! My 17 year-old son vacuums our van out after trips without being asked--now that's convenience!

    You will have a few of those soon yourself.

    Our 15 passenger van doesn't even have the space in the back that your 12 passenger does. We used to just put the double stroller in last--sitting in the door well. We do take out the back seat when we take our monthly mega-shopping trips to Sam's Club.


    (Large Family Mothering)

  14. MICHELLE - The blog sticker came from a vinyl graphics print store. You can go online and look at any font you like, make note of the name, and ask the shop to get it for you if they don't already have it. But the key to the whole thing is going in to the store and talking to them directly. Initially they'll want to give you a quote and convince you to pay like $75 because they'll have to cut in to new material and everything for just one little sticker (or want you to purchase a whole ton of stickers). So you'll need to get them to make your sticker out of scrap material that they can't use for anything else. Even if you need to go to a couple different shops to get someone to do this for you. We requested white reflective vinyl for ours, and it was only $15 for two stickers. =)

  15. SHERRY - Thank you for the encouragement! =) I do look forward to older kids. Not that I'm wishing away precious younger years...but older will really be nice. =)

    And thanks for putting the name of your blog at the bottom of your comments. It always helps me match names to blogs; there's so many people blogging, I usually haven't made the connection automatically myself, especially if they change their photo often (which you don't, so I always recognize you. =) *hugs* Hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow.

  16. A VERY HAPPY FAMILY - Oh yes, I totally take post requests! =) I always desire to know what people would like to know. And I actually have a post draft going called "Mom Tips - Prettying-up Mom", which I have a couple of good ideas that I wanted to share, but have been trying to think of other things to add, or acquire more ideas. So that's perfect! I'll add your questions to that post draft for now and it will be posted some time soon. =) Blessings!

  17. An organized car is one of my serious downfalls!!! I'm inspired. My goal is no food in the car now. PS I love that you have Voddie Bauchum on disk :) He is the keynote speaker at a homeschool conference we are planning to attend this spring. I'm SO excited!!

  18. I love your blog. Thanks Christi Mommy to 16+

    1. Thank you! =) I've looked up your blog to "meet" your wonderfully large family. I look forward to reading a bit more later today hopefully. Blessings.

  19. The emergency box *crucial item* for our family is baby diapers and Pullups. Because having children needing to use the bathroom while broken down on the side of the road is much worse (to me) than having them hungry, LOL!

  20. Great ideas. The problem I have run into is young ones raising my supplies in the van while I am not watching. I am sure someone will think "don't leave them unattended" but it is inevitably going to happen for a few minutes here and there. Any ideas?

    1. Yes, we can't keep things in the car always under our watchful eye while driving! I would probably do two things. I would keep less yummy snacks/foods in the box. Healthy, will do in an emergency but not be a temptation. Even something just plain like nuts. And I would instruct the children in why it's important to have those things in the box and what will happen if people eat them sneakily and then the emergency supplies are not there when they're needed! And I'd encourage them to inform me when they see siblings eating the supplies. That's not tattling; that's informing when you need to know. They're different. =) (tattling being just for the purpose of getting someone in trouble).

  21. I know this is an old post, but your link to the air freshener takes me to a blank BBW page. I'd love to know which one you buy and your favorite scent. Thank you! Great tips, by the way!

    1. Old posts are always still "open"! =) I don't actually use that air freshener any longer because they discontinued it; but I use a Febreeze clip on one that I get at Wal-Mart. I just updated the post if you'd like to see what I use.

  22. <3 We have a very similar van. Ours is extended and has seats for 14. We are thinking about taking out the back row to make cargo area. We have 7 in our family currently and it is doubtful we would ever have need for more than three more seats for foster kids. Our console looks EXACTLY like yours...that made me laugh. I use a huge sports bottle from Dick's sporting goods that has a squeeze straw. Stopping just for a drink for the kids and I can easily set us back $15. I've been keeping a case of bottled water in the van during the cooler months...but I'm concerned about doing that during the warm months for fear of chemicals leaching out of the bottle into the water. One day I found a drink carrier from Dick's that holds six of those big water bottle for sports. I'll post a picture of it and tag you in it on facebook. We fill them up and take them with us in the van when we are going to be out. They are way too big for the little boys, but we have smaller cups with lids we can pour into for them on the go. Love reading your blog. <3 ~Traci

  23. Great post, thank you! Will share!

  24. Brilliant list! We just bought a bigger vehicle this week and it comes home today or tomorrow so I am all excited now to get it all set up. This list has given me a ton of ideas what we just plain did not have room to do before.

  25. Thank you Erika! I am learning so much about organisation from your blog. It is such a blessing and hope to me. I have always struggled with organisation, laziness and time management and now that I have four little ones, a husband and a house to take care of, the flaws in my personality are really causing me a lot of stress. Can these skills be learnt by someone who is such a relaxed, go-with-the-flow, 'type B' personality? I'm really struggling to get my act together. I really love your blog, please keep writing.
    Peta - www.goddardhome.blogspot.com.au

    1. Of course organization can be learned. =) *hugs* But it does take motivation, which you seem to recognize the need for. And intentionality in learning new habits and disciplines. I will probably take energy and will take time for a while, but then you'll have the freedom to live in your efforts and that will FREE-UP time and energy, I promise! Persevere; ask the Lord to walk with you every day...

  26. The emergency box is crucial for us, esp. in Winter, for we live in northern WI and getting stuck on the side of the road is a real probability. The hard part is storing things that can't or won't freeze. Trail mix, crackers, and other granola type bars work well for the food portion. I try and have at least 4 reusable water bottles in the fridge at all times, which can be easily grabbed while were walking out the door (not necessarily "car tips", but it does help for when we're going somewhere.) Having toilet paper in the car is a must, as well. You just never know when it will come in handy! ;) I also try and keep about 4-5 size 5 or 6 diapers in the car at all times. Living "in the middle of nowhere" and having Winter 7 months out of the year, .... well, they've come in handy more than once! (at night and -30 temps isn't the best time to "stop at the side of the road"! ;) ) We have a 15 passenger van, so not as much room in the back as your 12 passenger, yet we keep a single stroller in the back at all times (as well as the spare tire. :) ). We also try to not eat in the van, but if we have to, I bought cheap plastic buckets from the dollar store which are large enough to hold each person's meal. All trash in put back into said buckets and passed up to me. We do have trash bags on each bench, but things always have a way of finding themselves on the floor anyway. So passing all garbage up to me/older sibling in the front bench has been a way to circumvent the messy floor. I also keep a well stocked first-aid kit in the car, phone charger(s), and a tire pump that runs off of the cigarette lighter. Yes, we've had to use it a time or two! We, too, have a "throw up" container in the van, along with 2 bath towels, to help with the inevitable accident. A change of clothing for the more-than-likely accident prone children are always in a Ziploc bag under the front bench. Just in case I forgot to put them back into the diaper bag. :)

    Jennifer, Mama to 9
    The Days Dewings

  27. Hi, I love your blog and I noticed you have two teenage daughters. I'm wondering how you handle cell phones with them? Do they have their own?

    1. Thank you. =)
      Our teens will not have cell phones until they are necessary for when they are driving. With internet access that is too much responsibility at their age, not to mention the cost. Even when they do need a cell phone to use while driving, it will be a family-shared one initially to be used by whom ever is out driving somewhere. =)

  28. I keep a few gallon zip lock bags in the car, in case I get sick on the way home, from one of my surgeries. They work great and I can zip up the mess.

  29. I just want to say thankyou...I read this post on Wednesday morning and went straight into the car and vaccumed it out ! The kids would like to say thankyou too, although it was there mess I cleaned up ! I will definately be doing an emergency box, such a FAB idea....and with two littlies in diapers and one still has a bottle, this is a must ! Thankyou :-)

  30. When you guys go out for a shopping/grocery day, do you pack a lunch? And where would you go to eat it? We live out of town, so groceries is a whole day out for us. I only have 1 kid so far, but already I can't just buy lunch 2-4 times a month.

    1. Yep, we pack a lunch and eat it in the car while we listen to music and talk. =) And I buy a snack and drink-type treat for the person shopping with me. Much less expensive than lunch for 2.

    2. How does that work with the no food in the van rule?

    3. I'm not trying to be critical, I'm just genuinely curious.

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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