Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All the comforts of home

OK, so I'm completely avoiding the "doing" of packing right now, in favor of contemplating, and hoping that clarity will arrive.  Sounds very zen, doesn't it?

 Actually, it's more like one of those SAT problems:

  "Val is planning to fill an as-yet-unseen rented minivan with unknown cargo space X and is trying to figure out how many cubic feet of stuff will fit into it.  Subtract from this quantity the amount of stuff that is truly unnecessary, factoring for snow in the Sierra, wind in the high plains, mud in Maine, and hot muggy summertime in the South and East. Include church clothes for a Sunday baptism, and healthy snacks in a cooler to save money.  Express your answer in terms of dufflebags.  Show your work." 

And while you scribble your calculations, I'll sit here and think about how much of home I actually WANT to have with me on the road.  What if "getting away from it all" actually means, "finding all the necessary power-cords, adapters, portable versions of... and travel-sized... so that you can bring it all with you?"  Does a combination coffee-press-single-serving-travel-mug count as a necessity?

My 4 year old just informed me that he's already packed.  His bag contains two stuffed animals and a lot of underwear with cars on it, oh and his bright-orange, hand-knit neckwarmer that I made him last winter.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The countdown begins

Yes, I AM crazy.  I am going to pick up a rented minivan on Thursday, pile-in my kids, some bedding, some clothes, and some gifts for our various hosts, and take off on a 6,000 mile / 1-month  round-trip journey to Maine and back to California.

We've got a library of audio-books accessible on my computer, which will talk to my iPod, which will plug into some little white doodad that broadcasts the iPod signal through an unused low-frequency on my car radio, through the speakers of the car, and ... voila!  Mobile education through ridiculous technology, right?  (And if it doesn't work right, then my children will probably get at least one vocabulary lesson entitled: "Don't say this in front of Gramma-Pat")  If it works, we'll be well-versed in the biography of Crazy Horse, and the history of Little Bighorn, and General George Custer.

In the weeks leading up to this trip, we've zested lemons from our trees and picked (washed, pitted-one-by-one) dark cherries from the orchard over the hills, and made limoncello (for hosts who imbibe) and cherry jam (for our hosts who don't).  The kids and I have pored over maps and guidebooks, and the AAA TripTik website to plan our route.  We've watched the History Channel series "How the States Got their Shapes" and parts of "The Story of US".  We've read "The Great Turkey Walk" and my book-loving sons have dug into reading on their own.  We're prepared.

My three oldest kids (12, 10, and 8) will have rotating "jobs" throughout the trip.  One job is Trip Accountant: keeping an accounting of all money spent on the trip.  Another is "Food Service Coordinator", in charge of the cooler that we will keep filled with veggies, fruit, cheese, lunch meat, and cold drinks. He or she will have to keep a log of what gets used up, make a shopping list for necessary replacements, will hand out snacks as requested, and will change out the ice at each night's stopover.  And the third job will be "Navigator": logging miles travelled, gallons of gas purchased, time between stops... lots of math.  For those jobs, they will earn a daily "salary" to be used toward souvenirs and junk food.  (I'm SO mean, aren't I?  But seriously, how will I tame the begging for Slurpees and ugly tee-shirts otherwise?) As for my non-writing, non-calculating 4-year old (Ok, he is "calculating" but not in the mathematical sense.), he'll be busy playing farm-animal bingo, and asking a million questions about everything he can think of, while practicing the necessary letters to write naughty words on his dry-erase board, I'm sure.

And, no promises, but I hope to update this blog each night as we scribble and chatter, and howl and whine, and sigh and snarf our way around this amazing country of ours.

And today, at 3:00 local time on this Memorial Day, we will observe a moment of silence in honor of those brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, purchasing with their blood, the freedoms we take for granted every day, including a crazy mom's freedom to take the month of June to teach her kids, hands-on, about America.