Guest mom: Rhonda Peyton (Robyn’s sister!)

Image 4This is Robyn and today we have a super special guest blogger…it’s my older sister, Rhonda. I asked her to guest blog today because we’re getting close to summer vacation time and she’s a veritable expert on traveling with children regardless of their age. So without further ado…I give you my sister…

My name is Rhonda, I am the mother of 2, married to my best friend and and we have been traveling across America together for the past 20 years. As I look back on our travels I realize that not only did we travel well with young children, but have given our kids, now 20 and 18, a love for the great Road Trip. In part, passed onto me from my own childhood.

Here are the trips we’ve taken over the last 18 years.

Disney World (flew) ages 2&4
Washington DC. 3&5
W.Virginia 4&6
Florida 5&7
Colorado 6&8
Mississippi/New Orleans 7&9
Big Bend, TX 8&10
St. Louis, MO 9&11
Disney World (flew) 10&12
Tennessee 11&13
St. Louis/Chicago, IL (drove/Amtrak) 12&14
Mt. Rushmore 13$15
NY/Niagara Falls/DC. 14&16
Tennessee 14&16
California/Las Vegas/New Mexico 15&17
Wisconsin/St. Louis 16&18
Big Bend, TX 18&20
Beach trips (10 or more times) from the age of 2 and up. Corpus Christi, Galveston, Padre Island, Bolivar (all beaches in TX)

TRANSPORTATION: 5 different vans, Taurus, Suburban, Highlander, steam engine, Amtrak, subway, taxi, trolly, bus, fairy, boat and airplane.

Image 7FOOD: White table-cloth steak houses, Triple D diners, local dives, fast-food and chains.

AMUSEMENT PARKS:  Six Flags, Astroworld, Sea World, Fiesta Texas, Busch Gardens & Disney World.

ZOOS: Amarillo, TX; Ft. Worth, TX, Houston, TX, San Antonio, TX; Waco, TX; DC.; St. Louis, MO

AQUARIUMS: Corpus Christi, TX; Moody Gardens (TX); Chattanooga, TN; DC.

OTHER SIGHTS: Museums, mounments,bridges, national parks.

CAR TUNES: Joe Scruggs, Veggie Tales, various vbs, Toby Keith, George Straight, Beach Boys, WOW’s, oldies, and music from multiple shows we were in or saw.

Image 2Each time we decided on our next destination, I began the research. I think making as detailed of plan as possible is the key to having a successful and enjoyable trip. I would divide the miles to be traveled by the hours and then begin preparing my 2 lists:  the 1st list was of items we always traveled with and the 2nd list would be more specific to the particular trip at hand.

Usual list 1: gallon ziplock bags,mileage bags, cd’s, addresses & stamps, first aid, wet wipes, towels, travel cups, snacks,box of sandwich bags, books on tape, swim suits, cooler with drinks, receipt envelope, window shades, travel boxes….

Gallon bags : these I used to pack the kids clothes in. Each bag had the childs name on it and date to be worn. This helped when planning which clothes were for traveling (for comfort) , which were for parks, museums, the White House or meeting famous people like senators or Mickey Mouse! Packing in ziplocks also helped save room (like space saver bags) and made for a great way to store dirty clothes separate from clean, by putting them back in the same bag they came in. (Great for wet swim suits too)

Image 3Mileage bags: these were life-savers when traveling with small children. I used small paper bags, each numbered and labeled with kids name. Each bag usually contained 3 items : a snack (animal cookies, fruit snacks…) an activity (crayons & book, silly puddy, wipe off  bd,paper dolls, stickers…) and a character for pretending (action figure, small stuffed toy). I would divide the miles we were going to travel into small sections, like about every 90 to 120 miles and then the kids would get their bag. This helped pass the time, and taught them about mile-markers and time of travel.

CD’s : music we All liked as a family that we could sing to….without judgement.

Sandwich bags: were for all the treasures we would find during our stops and a sharpie so I could label each bag so we knew whose treasures they were and where they came from.

Travel boxes: each kid had a plastic box with a lid that could hold all their travel needs and double as a desk. This helped things not get lost, and not be so cluttered in the back seat.

ImageBeing a stay home mom with a 1 income (educator’s salary) we were usually on a tight budget, so we found ways to enjoy our trips without spending too much, especially on the traveling days. I did however, research the trip and area we would be in so if we were going to be near a park or a specific interest of 1 of ours….like my son went thru a phase where he was interested in bridges. Well when I did research I found all kinds of bridges we would have missed had I not been looking. Seeing these extras didn’t add much time to the trip and were free! Maybe you are going to be near a famous persons place, in history, like Billy the Kid or Laura Wilder. Just do a search for interest that are near where you will be traveling.

A typical, long travel day for us would have looked something like this…we packed the car the night before and had everything ready for departure, so when we woke them up all they had to do was get dressed and we would each grab our travel cups. We would leave as early as possible, before breakfast, so that we could get as many miles as possible behind us before stopping for breakfast. I know fast-food is not the healthy choice, but we would look for a stop that had one of those indoor playgrounds, this way we could eat while they played and then we would all visit the restrooms and bring any of the kids breakfast with us when we left. When we got back into the car the kids would eat and then they would get their first mileage bag. We would just talk and let the kids get the most out of their 1st mileage bag…we wanted it to entertain them for long as it could. We would then play a book on tape, music or play a car game to pass the time. ( ie… Car bingo, alphabet game.)

Image 6Our kids did not have a movie playing device for the car until they were 10 & 12, so we had to use what we had to entertain them. We tried to plan our lunch by packing one with us or we would stop and pick something up and head to the nearest park or rest area. We tried to go somewhere outside so that they could walk around and get some exercise. This is when we would use the little ziplock bags and let each kid pick up some ” treasures” rocks, acorns, a leaf….the point was to get some moving in, so that just maybe they would nap when we got back on the road. After lunch and hopefully a nap we would sometimes look for another indoor playground stop, we could get a drink, maybe a small cone, the kids could play and of course we would all go to the restroom before loading back up. The kids always knew that these stops would be short, so they were prepared for us to give them the 5 min warning and they seemed fine with it. 10 – 20 min went a long way in helping the weary traveling kid, and helping them…..helped us!

On travel days we always tried to stay in a hotel that had 3 things in common: cheap, free breakfast and a POOL! We would try to get to the hotel with enough time for us to swim, for at least 30 minutes. Swimming is great for tired, stiff muscles that have been sitting in a car all day and it makes for a great nights sleep. We liked to go out to dinner to a place with the “local” flavor. If time permitted, we would try and swim in the morning too, this would cause us to have a later start on morning 2. When scheduling our trip we tried to have our heaviest travel day on day 1 so that day 2 could be lighter. If we had several days of travel in front of us then we often alternated long then short travel days.

Image 5We have traveled 35 of the 50 states, we even had one of our new teenage drivers get his driving hours in 25 of those states. We have seen the Grand Canyon, Pala Duro canyon, the white sands desert, Hoover Dam, Niagara Falls,the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, the giant red woods, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Pacific, Crater Lake and a great lake, the mountains of Colorado, the Smokies in Tennessee and all the plains in between….memories for a lifetime

My advice, make your trips as personal as you can, for your family. Maybe you and your family like a specific food show, make a list of places and dishes you would like to try. Maybe architecture is interesting or battlefields, maybe courthouses, Route 66 , national monuments or windmills…..whatever your family finds interesting will add to your family trips. When crossing state lines stop at the welcome centers, they have clean restrooms, complimentary maps, information about state wide attractions and often a state-themed activity book for kids. Just do your homework so you know how much things cost, so you can plan for it. Be prepared for plans to change due to unforeseen things that Will come up. Rain closed an attraction, sick kids, car trouble….we have sat on the side of the road and played cards or gone to a movie because of a rained out attraction. Don’t let things outside of your control ruin your trip, you are making memories…make them good ones!

Image 4Souvenirs. We did like to buy post cards to send to family, friends, teachers…we helped the kids write them until they were old enough to do it themselves. We sent them to a variety of people depending on when and where we went. Our souvenirs were not always the same but we did have some usuals. I like coffee mugs & christmas ornaments, my daughter liked bells or playing cards my son liked things that were specific to the trip, sometimes both son and husband got hats. We also liked getting music from someone we had seen on our trip or a soundtrack from a musical or show that we got to see. We tried to keep them to small items, with a few exceptions…like the walking stick my son had to have and has traveled with us to every park since. He has it with us on this trip we are currently taking to Big Bend and we are also listening to our soundtract from Grease that we got to see on Broadway.

We have a shell luggage carrier we put on top of our car, so that everything inside the car is for traveling purpose and that gives us a lot more room. The luggage carrier makes our vehicle look like a turtle and so that is what we call it, it also makes it easy to find in a crowded parking lot. As we take this trip to Big Bend and plan for a summer wedding trip to Gatlinberg, I am mindful that any of these trips could be the last “family” trip we take. My kids will both be in college next year and our lives are changing daily. I cherish the travels and adventures we have had and look forward to getting postcards from them when they travel with their own families some day. I wish you safe and happy travels, now go make some memories!

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Rhonda Peyton is a wife and mother. She’s a former Dance Team instructor and taught high school for ten years. She’s the sister of the fabulously famous Robyn DeHart.

Disney Boot Camp Tips for Toddler Momma By Gindi Vincent

Mommas reading this today fall squarely in one of two camps:  (1) I cannot wait to take (or I already have taken) my one, two, or three year old child/children to Disneyworld; or (2), there is not enough money in the wide world that would convince me to take a single, or multiple, one, two, or three year old child/children to Disneyworld.

I had never given Disneyworld much thought.  After we had kids, I knew we would probably end up there one day.  However, I am not Disney obsessed, nor do we watch much television in our house, so flying to Florida to spend a week with triplets (yep, snuck that in there) at the most commercialized place in the world did not top my priority list.  Then I talked to Brandy.  She’s your garden-variety Disney enthusiast and has been taking her (single) child to Disney since he was two.  My husband and I began talking to her and suddenly heading to Disneyworld with toddlers sounded like a logical thing to do.  Even more logical since, at the time of the conversation, our triplets had just turned two and children are FREE before they turn three.  There’s a reason children younger than three are free – Disney would be on the defense end of lawsuits nationwide from parents on the brink of divorce after spending a week with toddlers at the overstimulation capital if they’d had to pay for it!

Regardless, my budget loving husband realized that fact meant if we made it over to Florida anytime before October 2nd we would only have to pay for two adult tickets for the week.  Plus, we had enough frequent flier miles to cover one of our five flights.  So with a few clicks of a mouse, we had ourselves the first ever, one week, Disney resort + park, Vincent family vacation for a mere $2,000.

Now that we have recovered, I mean returned, I thought I would pass along a few survival tips for those crazy, ahem, loving families wanting to take their toddler(s) to Disneyworld:

5.  Ignore the prices.  Yes, it is all too expensive.  Do not give yourself an ulcer over it.  Yes, it seems ridiculous to spend $50 for a few hot dogs and bottles of water at a self-serve counter, but the reality is you cannot possibly pack enough meals to take with you to the parks so just realize that your overzealousness to get your kids to Disney just cost one of them a college education and move on.

4.  Yes other children cry at Disneyworld, but you will only hear yours.  Toddlers cry in any given day a handful of times.  At least mine do.  But throw them into a massive stimulation pit, add a little heat, and toss their schedule out the window and you will watch meltdowns of epic proportions (and no you cannot stick to a schedule at Disney, I am the most scheduled woman in America and I couldn’t do it).  My husband commented that our two year olds were the only ones crying at Disneyworld.  When my protestations did not change his mind, I simply admitted they were immune to the “magic.”

3.  In a related tip, prepare your wee ones that the Disney characters are the size of monsters.  I actually implemented this tip with great success prior to departure.  Since my kids had not seen any Disney movies, they had no connection to the characters.  I bought a few books so they would know who was who and spent weeks telling them that these sweet characters were VERY large but they loved children and it was okay to hug them.  We had absolutely no problems during character encounters, but there are some children I saw that will need therapy for years to come post-Mickey.

2.  Give your marriage a pass this week.  Pretend you are in Vegas and whatever happens stays there.  You are not allowed to hold a grudge against your spouse for what he or you did or said or allowed over the course of the week.  You were both sleep-deprived, bone weary, frazzled, sunburned, overwhelmed, and hoarse from trying to keep your kids away from the emergency exit door on the airplane.  It’s no wonder he suggested you refrain from another ice cream cone or you suggested he take a second job, this is survival of the fittest, people!  You will totally dig each other once you have recovered.

1.  Enjoy it – you’re making magical memories.  Or at least that is what you will tell your children when you show them the pictures (take a lot) for the next five to ten years to buy some time until your return visit.  And you WILL have to go on a return visit because we all just took toddlers who will have no recollection of having gone the first time.


Gindi Eckel Vincent is a full time attorney, part time writer, wife and momma to three precocious three year olds.  She blogs daily at (soon to be and has her first book about leadership coming out in the Spring.

Adventures in baking…

This past weekend we had my youngest daughter’s birthday party. I chose a Minnie Mouse theme because my baby loves Minnie! I had in my mind the way I could do cupcakes that would look like Minnie and I wanted Babybee to be able to recognize it right away. Of course things don’t always go as planned,for example, I couldn’t find bow candy molds or a bow mini-cookie cutter so I chose the next best thing: a dog bone. Then I got a food pen to try and draw details on said bones to make them look like bows. I do think they ultimately turned out okay. And the most important part, they tasted amazing – homemade strawberry cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting – yum!

Sometime last year Emily hosted a Harry Potter party at her house and I volunteered to make dessert because I had seen some darling owl cupcakes on-line. I suppose I could have called the first part of this blog: how to decorate cupcakes with oreos. Moving on….

So that’s some of my cuter baked goods and then we’ve had the flops, which oddly enough usually happen at Christmastime. One year I tried to make those little ball cookies where you hide hershey kisses inside…they didn’t work, instead I ended up with nipple cookies.

Then this past year, the first year I made my famous sugar cookies as a mother and Busybee asked for Rudolph cookies. Well, I don’t have a Rudolph cookie cutter, but I had seen elsewhere that you could use a gingerbread man cutter and just flip it upside down. Mine look like naughty women. So see, when I try to get creative with my baked goods, I tend to get pornographic.

Have you ever made something that didn’t come out just right? Did it taste good, but just look ugly? Share your story so you can entertain me while I’m rushing to the end of my deadline…

I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. Last year my husband, The Professor, and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is three and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a walking-talking toddler who has a heck of a temper but is so cute, it almost keeps her out of trouble. Though neither of my girls are newborns, I’m fairly new to motherhood compared to the other peanut butter moms, but we’ve settled in as a family as if we’ve always been together. When I’m not trying to keep up with my two bundles of energy, you can usually find me on my laptop on Pinterest, no, that’s not right, um…you can find me writing, yes, that’s it, writing my latest historical romance.