The Hatch-Palucks, Week 12: The Holiday Road Trip From Hell

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

amy hatch family picture

Emmie's happy now, but wait until mile 550. Credit: Amy Hatch

Question: If one car carrying two adults and two children (under the age of 7) travels east at a speed of 65 mph for 700 miles, how much junk food will be consumed?

Answer: Too much.

By the time you read this, we will have departed from our home in Urbana, Ill., in our bursting-at-the-seams minivan, for our traditional holiday road trip. Because our extended family members all live on the East Coast, we spend the week before Christmas traveling. This year, we'll drive the 700 miles from Illinois to Rochester, N.Y., then from Rochester to Alexandria, Va. (that's another 394 miles), and then back home again.

Yes, we're crazy. We've worked this Rubik's Cube from every side and we can't get around it -- we have to travel if we want to spend Christmas with our families.

End of story.

Over the years, we've developed a routine and strategy that makes spending 15 hours on the road a little bit easier: We eat constantly.

I pack a cooler with a variety of beverages (milk, juice and water for the kids, sodas for the grown-ups), and, now that we have Henry the Herbivore, some fresh fruits.

I also stuff a grocery bag with snacks and usually forbidden treats, like miniature Oreos and Combos (what is a Combo, anyways? Is it a pretzel? A cheese cracker? Who can say?). I also make sure to pack the big guns for when the whining and complaining reaches DEFCON Five, usually around the Pennsylvania border.

With more than four hours to go once we hit the Keystone State, it's time to bust out the chocolate bars, jelly beans and gummy bears.

Every summer we make a similar trip, only in the warm-weather months we drive from Illinois to New York and then on to Cape Cod, Mass. Two years ago, on the way back to Illinois, Emmie ate an entire bag of mini Oreos and then fell into a deep sleep.

She woke up when we got home, stumbled out of the car ... and barfed in the yard.

My Mother of the Year Award showed up in the mail the very next day.

I'm not proud of myself for plying my kids with food, but anyone who has known the desperation of a three-pronged Christmas car ride lasting a grand total of 38 hours over 10 days would never cast aspersions.

I understand whole-heartedly that bribing Emmie and Henry with goodies isn't the best idea. I also understand that my sanity needs to remain at least somewhat intact if I'm going to make it through to Jan. 3 with any grace whatsoever.

Normally, this time of year is already a free-for-all when it comes to treats. I'm a Christmas fanatic, and I want the kids to really enjoy themselves. Homemade cookies, candies and other "sometimes foods" become the norm for the month of December.

January is for detoxing.

This year, I scaled back on treat-a-palooza, knowing that the eyes of my fellow Healthy Families Challengers are upon me. I followed the advice of our nutritional team and reduced the variety (and overall number) of cookies I bake, and also tried to be generally mindful of how much sugar, fat and white flour we were consuming.

When it came time to stock the Crazy Car Trip Snack Sack™, I hesitated. Instead of Oreos, I made sure we had some homemade cookies left instead (at least I know exactly what's in them), and cut back drastically on the variety of foods (and I use the term loosely) I packed, because variety drives consumption.

Instead, I spent the cash I would have blown at the grocery store on new DVDs from the bargain bin, for our in-car player.

We'll see how my new strategy works. If you see a woman with a crazed look on her face raiding the potato-chip aisle at a truck stop in rural Ohio, that woman just might be me.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

How is the Hatch-Paluck family doing? Check in on their progress!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.