Monday, June 22, 2015

O'Briens Going For Broke: Parenting On The Road

So I've always been honest on the blog, you know by now, it's my thing. Everyone's always like, "Thanks for your candidness on the blog!" and in my head I'm like, "If you think that's candid you should meet me in real life." SO... Cheers to some good road trip candidness happening RIGHT. NOW. (If you're new here and wanting to follow the road trip, this is my third post since we started, you can type in "O'Briens Going For Broke" in the search to read the first two.)

"Parenting on the Road" is my topic. A good timely one... Wouldn't you say?

I don't want to come across in any way like I was somehow thinking my kids were going to just be all-together saints and love every moment of this 12,000 mile road trip. I'd be an idiot. I knew we'd have moments- great ones and terrible ones and a lot of in-between. And we have had great moments. If you're following on IG, you know we've already in the first 10 or so days done some super fun stuff... The kids have loved camping across America, meeting new friends and experiencing new things. Shawn and I have had some great laughs and are loving the bond the road trip is creating between us. All in all I wouldn't change this idea for the world.

But I would change one thing. The car time as of late. For it has been brutal.

I'd love to tell you the kids have been singing kumbaya in the car for the last 2,450 miles of getting to Chicago... But if kumbaya comes in the form of Birdie screaming so loud it startles you in to thinking you've just collided metal to metal with another car... Then yes, absolutely.

Her screaming started on Day 5. The first time we heard it, Shawn and I gave each other the look of, "WOW that octave is downright impressive". It was definitely Mariah Carrey in toddler form, gone insane. I don't think I had ever heard Birdie make this high pitched of a scream before. I have heard her scream of course, she's a hellion of sorts... But nothing like this, this is road trip-only material.

{She got ahold of my phone briefly and without permission, to video herself doing it. Brace yourself and avoid playing if you have a child sleeping.}

You see, what prevented me (us) from immediately stopping it in it's tracks is that Cormac heard it and within seconds was yelling, "DO IT AGAIN BIRDIE!". To which she responded... With more screaming... Somehow even louder which initially I didn't think was possible... Let me tell you it was. At first we were like, "Ok, it'll wear itself out, her throat will hurt... This too shall pass... Cormac will become annoyed with it, 3 against one, it won't go on for more than a day". Well let me tell you something... From days 5-10... It did not pass. It only, somehow grew in power. Her throat never grew scratchy, or if it did, she didn't once let on. And Cormac never once grew annoyed by it, he only egged her on more.

We tried everything... Pretending it wasn't happening. Scolding her. We tried ear plugs. We tried "Hershey kisses for good behavior"... We took away things. But the thing with Birdie is that once she knows you really want her to stop or do something, once she tastes even the smallest bit of desperation... YOU. ARE. SCREWED. As in, taking away things from an already screaming child. Ya... Great idea... Because that doesn't make the screaming worse.

The second day going through Nebraska I thought I was likely going to loose my good mind. I was downright pleading/begging/bribing her to stop. I was singing songs, playing games (btw I'm not a sing-song-ie or game play-ie mom)... But I was desperate. When she napped, it was like fireworks of excitement would go off inside of me... I was selfie-ing nap time left and right because: IT WAS THAT SPECIAL.

Moving on to Cormac. My sweet dear 6 year old son who's given me little to no problems. He is typically well-behaved, well-mannered and an all around "first born type A" child. Enter, the road trip and early on Cormac took a wrong turn to Meltdown City. Upon getting to a friends house in Iowa City and telling her how many tantrums he's had on the road the last few days... She shed some light: Cormac thrives on structure. Rules. Schedule. Bed times. Predictability. And see, life on the road has almost none of these. Getting to a campground after 4 hours of driving... You can't just put your kids to bed because it's 7:30pm and their normal bed time. #1, it's still light out (the mid west has sunsets at 9pm!) and #2, every other camping child is fishing and running around catching lightning bugs. So as parents, we're flexible.

As much as I know Cormac wants to fish and chase bugs and mingle with new friends... I also know he needs a structure we can't totally give him right now. In his ideal world, he learns the rules and then makes sure everyone else knows them too. He gets downright mad if he catches you breaking a rule (like if I unbuckle to look for something in the car, he practically pulls out his police badge). So I now can see, that the trip is messing with his very nature and it's in turn causing him to have some out-bursts which we're not used to with him.

So we've had to learn this trip, how to parent slightly differently. Because on a road trip, your kids are going to loose it for a number of reasons: being cooped up in a car, not having enough structure, etc. and you can't discipline them the same way you would at home. And that's been hard, mainly for me, because one of the things I pour the most effort in to in my life, is having well-behaved children. I take pride in correcting their talking back, any unkind behavior, or "potty" talk I hear... I am fairly strict in today's parenting standards. But in a car, you choose your battles. If Birdie talking about how she farted on her hands only to smell it lightens the car mood... You take it. If Cormac throws his 10th tantrum of the day because Birdie spotted a sign before him in car bingo... You look at your husband and say, "That's from you you know..."

At the end of each day, I honestly think the road trip is teaching us ALL more patience, more forgiveness and more flexibility. Not to say we won't still have "bad car days" where I feel like I'm a step away from jumping out of a moving car on a Nebraska highway... But I am learning to laugh at things I'd normally discipline... Play games I hate for the sake of no screaming... And sing Ol' McDonald when all I want to do is nap.

This trip was never meant to be perfect... It was just meant to get us out doing new things as a family, away from the monotony of life. I'm trying to remember that, through the high pitched screaming.

xo road trip or die xo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

O'Briens Going For BROKEN DOWN... And Getting Help From a Stranger!

As many of you know the wagon broke down on day 2, just as we were leaving Las Vegas. All in all, for as big of a car issue as it was… It was the pretty perfect setting for a breakdown, considering where a lot of the trip will take us. However, there is really only one thing worse than a breakdown on day 2… A break down on day 1, and thank God we avoided that or we may have had some rethinking to do?

A couple of people have asked how we knew there was a problem with the wagon. Well you see, there was no NOT KNOWING there was a problem with the car. One second we were fine and the next second the back axel fell out or something. All I know is that I know nothing about cars and I knew it was bad the moment it happened. I quickly said to Shawn, “Let’s not make any rash decisions”…. Which meant, “Let’s please not scrap the trip”. 

We immediately took to social media because well, it’s 2015 and if you don’t know the power of social media yet, you must not care about it! Within a few moments we had friends reposting our IG photo of us broken down as well as HAMB members suggesting how to fix the problem. Shawn’s phone was ringing off the hook with calls to try and help which is a great feeling knowing that many people are following our journey and care to reach out when we’re having a car issue.

At the time of the breakdown it was 104 and even though- thank you Lord- I was only walking about ¾ of a mile to a McDonalds, it was a brutal walk with two kids. About mid way through our walk, I saw a Best Tire Center that was open on a Saturday at 3:00pm, which believe it or not- most things in this area were closed on Saturdays- including the Aamco Transmission the tire shop shared a mini mall with. I figured I’d walk up and see if they could help. The guy told me that their other shop, located not far from us, was a mechanic shop and open until 8pm and would look at the wagon if we could get it towed. AAA was already on the way and they took an ungodly amount of time to get to Shawn, especially considering the heat but regardless they came through and at about 6pm, the car was at the shop.

Meanwhile at McDonald’s the kids and I shared a second lunch while thoroughly enjoying the AC. I realized after we were done eating that the Happy Meal toys were legit Nerf squirt guns... I bought each of them one and we took the party outside where they ran around under an outdoor pergola area for an hour. Best $3.00 ever spent and we’re still using the water guns!

After being at McDonald’s for almost 2 hours, Shawn called to tell me that a total stranger, a young guy named Jeff who lived in Las Vegas (a friend of a friend of a friend of Shawn’s who got a call from his friend about us), was going to drive to Car Quest and pick up the part (real axel), and then drive it to him so he could bring it to the mechanic. After dropping the part off with Shawn, he then came to McDonald’s and got the kids and I and shuttled us back to the Strip where we used our hotel room card to get back in to the Treasure Island pool. He was like our little angel! And we didn’t even know him! He refused even gas money and stayed with Shawn until 10:30pm when the car was fixed. Some people are just total gems and we were so lucky we met this guy, what a huge blessing he was to us. I mean look how happy he looks to be helping!! But serious, he truly was!

The kids and I lounged at Treasure Island’s pool until it closed at 7:00pm and then headed to Fashion Show Mall where we ate dinner and bought Birdie some Forever 21 sunglasses, because how can I resist a girl in pink shades for $6?

I decided after the the mall we should walk the Strip and try and see the Volcano erupt from the Excalibur (or where ever it erupts from), since we’d missed it the night before. The Strip on a Saturday night with two young kids in 100 degree heat… Well, on the one hand it was great because we had an exciting place to go that didn’t require me buying them new clothes (Cormac was in trunks and a tank, and Birdie a romper)… On the other it was the Las Vegas Strip on a Saturday night with two kids in 100 degree heat. I did ok until about 9:30pm, which is when the kids started loosing it and I followed suite. I started texting Shawn every 30 minutes asking what was “the plan” was. I didn’t want to stay in Vegas another night because I don’t like messing with timelines and plans, but we were getting tired and I could only handle so much more carrying Birdie everywhere because hello, it’s late and she’s exhausted. I figured the only thing that would pick my spirits back up was… Another mall. So we went the The Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood and the kids got cookies, I got a latte and let me phone charge so I could await the big call from Shawn.

He called at 10:30pm to say he’d be picking us up at 11:00pm at Planet Hollywood. It was like the voice of a literal angel. As long as I knew what was happening, I was fine. So even though 11:00pm was way later than I was initially expecting, there was a definite end in sight. I made my way through the Planet Hollywood lobby, to the valet area and the kids and I plopped on a bench at 10:45pm… They both layed their heads down and took a brief rest and then it happened, our knight on his white horse came galloping around the corner (Shawn in the wagon)… the kids and I literally cheered.

Upon getting settled back in to the wagon, both kids went to sleep almost immediately. I knew they could both sleep like that all night because if my kids are one thing, it’s great sleepers. I asked Shawn how much road he thought he could charge and he said, “A lot” and that’s all I needed to hear. I knew we could get back on track with our plans if we just made it to St. George, UT that night, or morning…. Whatever. We arrived in St. George at 3:30am and decided to not waste money on a hotel for a few hours… But instead utilize the ol’ Walmart parking lot “visitors welcome” rule.

It was a pretty brutal night sleep-wise. At one point I had both feet out of the car window and slept like that for about an hour, while Shawn was sleeping sitting upright with his head on his knees. The hard part about the Wally’s parking lot idea (now we know) is that it’s mainly used by big rig truckers who leave at any time of the morning, so just when you’re finally hitting some REM, the huge big rig next to you starts up and startles the crap out of you. I’d say Shawn and I got about 2.5 hours of sleep that night… The kids slept until 8:30am, when we literally had to wake them because we wanted to go in to Walmart. And they were pissed.

After getting out of Walmart, Shawn got the stove up and cooked a full breakfast of pancakes and eggs and we got in the car and headed for Zion National Park. Zion was great, beautiful, all of it. We explored a bit, took tons of pics and then headed for our first camping of the trip, a KOA called Bryce Zion Campground, directly in the middle of Zion and Bryce. Super cute campground with horses practically in your site, which the kids loved. We swam, mingled with other campers and I remembered I do love camping… Which is good… Because we’ll be doing a lot of it.

So all in all, the wagon breaking down didn’t set us back a bit. It made us tired as hell… But it didn’t screw up any of our reservations for camping.  And if you’re wondering why things look so planned and mapped out in all the pics… It’s because they truly are. Shawn spent a great deal of time planning all of our camping spots and while we’re very flexible usually, this first part of the trip is a bit more scheduled to try and fit in the national parks/camping while trekking along to Chicago, where Shawn has to be on the 22nd for school.

As the trip progresses, we may say, “Hey we love it in this town, let’s stay another day!” but for now, we have to get a move on from one city and state to the next… Which, while we’re on the subject… Is hard on Birdie, who lays roots at each place and cries every time we leave. But I’ll save that for a huge recap trip on “What to Expect on a Road Trip with Two Young Kids”… Doesn’t that sound epic?

Until we find free wifi again…

xo road trip or die xo,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

O'Briens Going For Broke: Kicking Off The Road Trip With Some Tears!

As promised I am going to be documenting the “O’Briens Going For Broke Road Trip” (aka #obriensgoingforbroke on social media) as often as I can… The good, the bad and everything in between. I will make this blog a travel diary of sorts, maybe even inspiring a family or two to do a cross country road trip of their own… Or call off the one they had planned, who knows! Either way, I hope you will follow us on this journey from Torrance, Ca to Florida and back! I am hoping to post a couple of times a week for the next 50 days of our travels.

Some background. My husband has owned his 1959 Chevy for over 13 years. He has fully restored it and made it in to the beauty it is today, he is a typical "old car guy" who loves to be under the car fine tuning as we go. We have taken it to both Oregon when our oldest was a year, as well as a trip to Austin, TX 2 years ago with both kids for the Lone Star Roundup Car Show. After the Texas trip Shawn replaced the motor, so we’re hoping for smooth travels but of course- the title of our trip “Going for Broke” covers a lot of areas; financially, mechanically and maritally! I assure you we are not two idiots who just hit the road... We (as in Shawn) have planned this trip for months and are planning for adventure in both car troubles and wanting to kill each other at least a few times. Some people have asked why we didn't just take our Honda CRV. If you're asking that stop reading this now. You're fired from the blog.

We both love to road trip and feel it is truly the best way to take the family on vacation. In our whopping 19 days of “dating” before tying the knot, we actually talked a good deal about road tripping and how it is a passion of each of ours to one day do a cross country trip with our families. Enter that day!

Thank you to BOMONSTER for the awesome set of family tees to kick off our trip!

After some struggles this year in our jobs, housing and ultimately marriage- my husband decided to leave his church job in Santa Barbara where we’d recently moved (less than a year and a half before) and move back “home” to Los Angeles (South Bay) after 7 years of being away.

We came to the conclusion that before we both go back in to the job search we will spend the summer on the road with our kids (Cormac, 6 and Birdie, almost 4) visiting friends, national parks, a few motels and a lot of camping along the way. Shawn is getting his doctorate through a seminary in Chicago so we’ll be stopping there for a week (June 21st-26th) and then moving on from there to Florida… The trip spans us across 23-24 states (depending on weather), and our climax is celebrating our daughter’s 4th birthday at Disney World!


As I write this first post I’m sitting poolside at the Treasure Island hotel in Las Vegas. It’s a weird mix between Spring Break style partiers and families with young kids. Awkward for both parties indeed. Watching your 3 year old daughter pelvic thrust to “All the Single Ladies” while she takes notes from a bunch of 21 year olds… Slightly terrifying. However, I am not complaining as this will be [by far] the nicest place we stay on our 7 week travels across the US. This was initially going to be a birthday trip for my mother-in-law to kick off our trip, but she will now be joining us at another leg on the journey and therefore skipped Vegas and we reaped the benefits of the room… Thank you Toni!

Getting in to the Treasure Island wasn’t without adventure, but we’ll get there in a minute.

First, let’s talk about traveling with two kids and breaking them in to the thought of being on the road for 50 days in some rather ungodly heat. Friday was hot, especially considering it was our first day on the road. No easing in at 104, put it that way. After the kids had napped and were kicking in with the first of something like 10,000, “are we there yets” I offered up a game of “Travel Bingo”. We not only purchased a set of these at AAA while planning for the trip, we were also given a set as well as our friend MADE us a set. So we are pretty much Travel Bingo’d out and it was time to put it to good use.

If you know Shawn and I, you know we’re both incredibly competitive. Like, when our efforts our combined it can be downright frightening for anyone going up against us and when pitted against each other, well… It is taken to a level of intensity few can handle being around.

Our kids however- used to it.

So enter the ol’ family “boys vs. girls” version of Travel Bingo. It would have been just me against Cormac but Shawn claimed Cormac, “couldn’t see as well as me from the back seat”, so he had to join forces with him. I am not in the least scared of my opponents for I am a fearless competitor. I took Birdie so she wouldn’t be left out, which is pretty much like asking a blind person to join your team… (No offense Bird but for goodness sakes how did you not see the helicopter out YOUR WINDOW). Moving on… The boys team was “winning” with more transportation objects spotted and I decided I needed a strategy. Enter the “I-don’t-really-care-anymore” method of winning where you start talking about lots of unrelated things like the heat, future trip accommodations, etc. to distract your competitor. All the while having one transportation object in mind, and focusing on the road around you completely. Then BAM, it happened… I gave a loud, “MOTORCYCLE!! call and tie game. All I now needed now was a police car and the game would be mine. You’d think Nevada would have its fair share of cops but holy cow it took a solid 20 minutes to come across one… And actually Shawn spotted it first (milliseconds people) but rules are rules and I yelled “POLICE CAR!”, pushed the wooden game door closed and then gave a solid “BINGO!” call first, hence I AM THE WINNER.

It was a great feeling, I will not lie.

Let’s take a break for a moment so I can tell you a little something about my kid’s personalities. If you know us or have followed the blog for any amount of time you know that Cormac is my easy child and Birdie is well, a tad bit harder to parent. Cormac is the kid that you say something to once and he listens without issue. If you have to discipline him, he is easily corrected and has his feelings hurt if a voice is raised.

Birdie on the other hand is a force to be reckoned with. She is the second born and on any given day if you ask her to do something, you will need to repeat your request on average 4 times. At that point there’s a 50/50 chance she will either yell NO or just completely ignore you and do whatever it was you were asking her not to do. It is the type of personality that makes you so happy she didn’t come first for fear you’d have only decided to have one child.

Anyway, back to Travel Bingo.  It is rare we see Cormac’s ugly side… I’d say it comes out only about once every other month or so. But when it does make it’s uncommon entrance in to the world, it is special on every level imaginable.

Note to Self: Beating your son at the first game of Travel Bingo played on a 7 week road trip... Let’s just say I’ve had better ideas. Who knew? After a fair amount of gloating on my part, Cormac burst in to tears- the big, dramatic kind. For FOURTY FIVE MINUTES. He threw a full on tantrum, complete with kicking, snot and claiming he was car sick. (More like he was sick he lost to his mom!) He claimed, “cheating” and an “unfair view” enough to make a mom wish she’d never have began the game... Not this mom though!

After finally getting within view of the Strip, he calmed down and we were able to get back to reality… (The reality that mom is a fierce competitor and will not loose for the sake of keeping the peace!)

Upon getting in to Treasure Island we decided that we would lay our bags in the lobby (aka Casino) and Birdie and I would camp out while the boys checked in. Well the security guard threatening me with a $5,000 fine for having my 3 year old in a Casino… That put a damper on the idea. I had to call Shawn out of an LAX style check-in line to come help us move our luggage. Waiting in the line all over again, we finally got to the front where they could not check us in without Shawn's mom, the card holder there to confirm the room. I had to get a little, “Can I speak to your manager?” on the poor hotel dude but in the end we worked it out. Our bored kids literally practicing gymnastics routines in the hotel lobby (no they’ve never taken gymnastics). I apologize to any hotel guests whom my daughter crashed in to with her version of a cartwheel.

Today is Day Three and we’re traveling from Saint George, Utah to Zion National Park.

As a lot of you know who follow me on IG and FB... Day Two was an adventure of epic proportions! I'll try and blog about it soon but since we're camping this week wifi isn't always available (I stopped at a McDonald's to post this!). Get on Instagram and add me if you want more updates!

Thanks for following along, we appreciate your prayers and moral support! 

xo road trip or die xo

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