Advice you never asked for.

Quick recap of the last couple of days:

Thursday we did the grave of sacajawea, then found an awesome utopian
paradise of a picnic spot. Lake, mountain, pine trees, perfect. then
grand teton national park (see picture below) then into yellowstone
where we did old faithful (which was a bit overrated and not all that
faithful if you ask me, but the kids loved it.) We saw buffalo, closer
than I was planning... Plus herds of elk (sans horns) and deer. But
the high point was the grizzly bear. The picture is horrible because
with a naked eye, the bears looked like a small speck. Honestly we
never would have seen them, but there was a crowd of foolish people
(and their unfortunate children) walking out TOWARD the historically
ferocious grizzly who would surely kill to protect the 3 cubs who were
feeding on a carcus near a small lake. So, we pulled off to see what
the crowd was all about, and a guy told us about the grizzly bear and
cubs, but said we would need a really good zoom or some binoculars.
We used our video camera and let the kids all pile into the front seat
while we watched the grizzly bear and cubs walk around (safely from
the vehicle.). It was pretty awesome. We did the entire grand loop of
yellowstone, which is crazy considering we had already done so much
earlier in the day. The kids were excited to "stay in a hotel that we
don't have to wear our shoes in the house." Which is more than we can
say for the jackpine motel from the previous night.

Friday we woke up and ate breakfast on the road, drove through the
rest of montana, then idaho and into washington state where we camped
for the night. Idaho was actually unbelievably beautiful, which I
didn't see comin' to be honest. We got to our campsite with plenty of
time to cook dinner, make s'mores and even pre-make breakfast (bear
surprise) for this morning. We cooked bear surprise on the fire,
packed up and got going around 9:30am. We are heading now to mt.
Rainier, despite a great deal of peer pressure from our friends rick
and christine to skip the mountain altogether so we can arrive at
their place in newburg, oregon earlier. I'm sure once we arrive
(smelling like campfire and beef jerky) they will wish hit mt. St.
Helens as well.

A lot of people following our tour de usa have asked the same
questions: how are the kids doing? are you glad you actually did it?
Do you think you'll come home early? Are you having fun?

Well, we are having fun. It would definitely be EASIER to have stayed
home, I mean it is a ton of work, packing and unpacking at each
stop... But it is so worth all the amazing things we are experiencing.
I do not think that we will come home early. We are pretty determined
to complete the trip, and so far we have hit everything on our
itinerary! The kids are doing great. Below is a list of unsolicited
advice for anyone considering traveling with young kids for an
extendied period of time.

-rotate team captains. Each day one of the kids is team captain, and
they have some extra responsibilities. (Ex: "captain, I have to go to
the bathroom, stand here and make sure the baby doesn't roll away!"
But, the real fun is that the team captain gets to make special
choices, and they feel pretty bad-to-the-bone when the opportunity to
navigate the fate of the family comes up. It is usually something
obvious. (Ex: "we can have tunafish or s'mores for our treat,
captain's choice.") But the captain is also in charge of choosing the
music, the show if they watch one, and even the campsite or picnic
spot. This is also a great charcter-building opportunity, when you can
throw the whole thing in their face. (Ex: "uh oh, the captain
shouldn't have taken his shoes off and thrown them, because now one's
missing and you have to hop around on just one sneaker.")
-name your meals. Everything should be ridiculously named. They get
more excited about "bear surprise" or "mountain pizzas" than they
would if we just told them what we were actually eating.
-use pita bread and tortillas bc they don't squish.
-use shows as a privilege to be earned, not a constant thing...
Otherwise the trip will be a "movie-marathon" instead of a road trip.
-break the rules. When I was little and was camping with my dad, he
said we were having orange cremesicles for breakfast. It was a dream
come true. breaking the rules makes it fun and keeps kids involved and
excited to see what might come next.
-if you are camping with your baby, bring extra everything. If your
baby needs to eat and all your other kids are sleeping and you can't
risk waking them all up and you are NOT one to risk the tragic
outcomes of removing your baby from the carseat while in transit, and
if you are really desperate, and agile, I recommend crawling in the
back, contorting your body in humiliating positions so you can lean
over and breastfeed your baby in the carseat. Again, agility is key
here. Also, you must be willing to "check your dignity with the
seatbelt and just go for it."*
-make an activity pack. I have a 60 page one I can email you.
-if you have a million kids and don't want to buy them each their own
sleeping bags, just buy two and zip them together making one
queensize. You'd be surprised how many kids you could pile in one
double-bag. Plus, they stay warmer together then they would in a
single sleeping bag. Also, two camping pads laid horizontally is
usually long enough and plenty wide for a few kids... And cheaper than
buying each child a camping pad.
-don't be afraid to let them stay up later than usual and wake them up
before they would normally get up... It just means they will sleep
more in the car.
-use backpacker's squeeze tubes. These are great bc you can fill them
with peanut butter, jelly, condiments, homemade baby food, etc. We use
them to squirt pb and j right into a pita... Great for the road. (I
know you can buy squeeze jelly, but I don't like that kind of jelly
for my kids, so this is a way to have the convenience of a squeeze
tube, without compromising your eating preferences... Basically you
get the convenience without the food coloring and high fructoose corn
syrup. just put your own jam in the tube. Voila!).

*i must give credit to sam cassara for the hilarity of this remark.