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Tips and Tricks from Mama’s Playbook

April 16, 2010

Today’s edition of Parenting Tips and Tricks is brought to you by our car radio, overused by default due to the coins jammed into the tape deck by a small child simulating a Vegas gambler hot on the slots.


When I’m driving and the backseat dwellers are performing a double concerto of whining, or if the front seat is hankering for a brief cessation of kiddie-demands, I crank up the radio and say “Listen! Did you hear that!?!”

The kids get quiet, instantly forgetting about the demands and questions  stacked in their mouths like airplanes on the runway waiting to launch.

“It’s the angels!” I gasp, as the soprano choir leads us into the Rolling Stones classic You can’t always get what you want.

“Do you hear them? Aren’t the angels bea-uuuu-tiful?”

The kids are transfixed, disarmed, as the high notes chime into their open seashell ears. I’m a wee bit worried that total mayhem will resume when the angels segue to Jagger and friends. But when Mick Jagger scratches out “I saw her today at the reception...” Rose asks, with all her two-year old sincerity, “Is that the Daddy angel?”

Why yes, baby girl, it is.

It’s pure serendipity when the radio cranks out a Bob Marley tune while Rose is frothing with the injustices of being two. “Rosie! He’s singing to you!” And then I sing “every little thing’s gonna be alright...” loud enough to bar the entrances in her mind where toddler-complaints sneak in.

But when all hell’s breaking loose in a synchronized backseat fit and there’s no radio angels to be found, Dan will belt out “Paradise” by John Prine in a car-shaking decibel. Col is instantly calmed by the line “The air smells like snakes and we shoot with our pistols,” while Rose can be counted on to bravely sniff out “But, who Mr. Peabody? What Mr. Peabody’s coal train?”

To which an irreverent parents says: “What Mr. Potty Col train?”

We all fall apart laughing. Rose bursts into tears.

Take two.

What are your tips and tricks for getting wayward car rides back on track?

23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2010 8:50 am

    We’ve been transfixed by book on CD in the car. I don’t hear a sound from my kids. But, that’s out of the question for you until you get your slot machine fixed! Usually when it’s really bad, I say “Who wants ice cream?!!”

  2. Melissa permalink
    April 16, 2010 9:36 am

    Ha! I am cracking up because Leeor just used the same Stones song with Avi the other day . . . we use a lot of musical diversion. A lot. It usually works, except when it doesn’t–like when Avi says, No Mommy, DON’T sing that song! But lately the Beatles, Mary Poppins, Muppets and even good old Bob Dylan work their magic on him . . .

  3. Ellen permalink
    April 16, 2010 9:45 am

    Hilarious. And much better than “I’m going to pull the car over and go back home if you two don’t cut it out.” Or even worse “One more word out of either of you and you’ll be sorry.”

  4. Ami permalink
    April 16, 2010 10:30 am

    Ha! I’m smiling and laughing! How expertly written! We use music a lot, then there’s the “you know, I bet you can’t stay quiet until we get home… in fact, i KNOW you can’t” Cole usually seems up for that challenge if I don’t use it too often. And on really long car rides, we spot rivers – and get excited whenever we go over a bridge… and talk all about how high up we are. One of Cole’s favorite attention grabbers in the car is singing the banana-fanna (name game) song… and he gets to pick what the word is…. I think it started off being fun for him because we did it with all of his friend’s names and I sing it like a silly idiot… Lastly, there’s always the snack bag or the threat of a time out on the side of the road!

    Thanks for your great insights – and wow – I would be so bummed about the slot machine! ? :)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 16, 2010 2:52 pm

      Ami, We do the banana-fana game while brushing the kids’ teeth. It gets a little dicey though when we do “duck” (Rose’s request) or “truck” (Col’s request) and we get to the “f’s” – but only because I start snickering like a third grade boy.

  5. Unearthing This Life permalink
    April 16, 2010 11:57 am

    I grew up on John Prine! I still tear up at Angel from Montgomery and Paradise.

  6. April 16, 2010 1:00 pm

    I love the listening for angel’s training you have going on …
    we use food, which is yucky, but we have a 30 minute drive into town and got tired of hearing “I’m humry” We have books. Searching books seem to be really good right now. There are animals in the margin and you search for them in the larger picture. We also pass a lot of time pointing out tractors and construction vehicles. We are learning how to be conventional farmers…at 4 my son can identify sprayers, manure haulers, seeders, etc.

  7. April 16, 2010 1:33 pm

    I like your car-ride soundtrack! Some of my favorite driving tunes.

    My trick is open windows. Even in the winter, I’ll crack the windows a bit. Maybe it’s the shock of the cold air, but the change in the atmosphere tends to do us all some good.

    And, like @elizabeth, finding and identifying farm trucks and equipment is often a saving grace for us rural dwellers as well.

  8. April 16, 2010 2:14 pm

    Excellent…music to sooth the savage beasts. Unfortunately, my car radio doesn’t work, so I have to resort to the Silence Game–“on you marks, get set, silence!”–which, believe it or not, is about 90% effective 90% of the time.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 16, 2010 2:43 pm

      Andrea, I am 100% impressed.

  9. April 16, 2010 2:18 pm

    We, too, are fans of I Spy. Tractors, trucks, cars of every color, gas stations, school buses, flowers, birds, piles of rocks, all the colors of the rainbow, inexplicable shoes on the side of the road … anything and everything to get the kiddos to forget about the fit they so desperately want to pitch. =>

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 16, 2010 2:52 pm

      Stacia, Kristen, Elizabeth – isn’t is a blessing how distractible young kids are! I’d almost laugh hysterically at how quick some road equipment can take the kids’ minds off their troubles, if I wasn’t so busy looking for things to distract them with!

  10. April 16, 2010 2:23 pm

    My little guys love books on tape. The Little House on the Prairie series read by Cherry Jones is amazing as are the Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre programs.

  11. April 16, 2010 2:37 pm

    So far, car riding is still an enjoyable event with our group. I’m sure by next year, when Sullivan is old enough to tell Theo what he’s thinking, we’ll be searching high and low for these coveted tricks.

  12. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    April 16, 2010 3:43 pm

    So apropos to my week! I recently broke into my own rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Cry, Cry, Cry” to cease the screams while fixing lunch. Car rides are pure bliss with Story Nory’s very own Natasha – we love the Greek myths, the adventures of Robin Hood, and the Grimm’s Brothers tales. Others are impressed by Ian’s ability to mimic a British accent.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 16, 2010 9:57 pm

      You honestly never know when a five year old might need a British accent. And, I must learn new Johnny Cash song.

  13. Barb permalink
    April 16, 2010 5:23 pm

    I say all we blog fans better take up a collection to get this family a new car audio system. In just a few short years the Harry Potter books will get you across country and back at least once. Did i tell you that Sarah (now 17) still falls asleep to the HP books? I will send them to you if she is ever done with them (I think she has them all on her mac and ipod now…).

  14. April 16, 2010 7:38 pm

    I am cracking up here; angels, brilliant!! And I am so with you: 2 year olds DO have a little sneaky complaint door in their brain. If only we could find the entrance… But yeah, the car ride thing… sometimes you get lucky, sometimes, well… all the usual games, of course: I Spy, 20 Questions, Aunt Alice is going on a trip and she’s bringing…, yada yada. Sometimes, I throw my 2 y.o. by just asking her to count, or repeat after me, or make cow sounds, or whatever it takes! Not half as good as angels, though.

  15. Steph permalink
    April 16, 2010 10:36 pm

    Sadly, we don’t go anywhere that’s far enough away for a car ride to go awry… but I’ll get back to you on this one in the future, when we have some semblance of an adventurous life again! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy that our car rides are peaceful for now!

    (I may have misspelled several words here… oops!)

  16. April 17, 2010 12:16 am

    oh, sweet! i used to sing that rolling stones song to my boy too – it was a helpful mantra to me “you get what you need”, and he still requests the “mr. jimmy” line. so happy to have found your blog!

  17. April 17, 2010 11:51 am

    lol this is hillarious, I felt like I was right there in the car with you and I have been on that car ride one too many times too! : ) Books and drawing supplies, snacks and yes music seems to work too. Driving around naptime or later at night works like a charm too! But of course nothing is ever 100% right : )

  18. thelocalfarm permalink
    April 19, 2010 1:52 pm

    So cute! Jotting all these good ideas down for our next long trip when my soon to be 2 year old is squirming and crying for freedom!

  19. April 22, 2010 8:45 pm

    Can I jump in your back seat? Some of my favorite tunes.

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