Car Batteries And Cranky Kids

The obstacle becomes the way.

Marcus Aurelius

Like most humans, my children like their routines.

Their preferred method to get to school in the mornings is in our Kia, lovingly named “Klara” by my son. Imagine their dismay when the first day of school rolled around this week and Klara couldn’t take them!

It turns out the our Kia had a dead battery, meaning that we had to drive our (much more comfortable) sedan the two miles to school, completely messing up their mental plans. (I know I know, spoiled kids…)

When plans change, we have a choice to either fight the current, or find new shores.

After some minor bickering and reshuffling of backpacks and lunch bags, we were off to school in our other car with minimal fuss.

When we lead by example and our children see us rolling with life’s punches, they learn to do the same.

In Scouts, we learned early-on how to look at our resources, and our objectives, and plan accordingly. I used the time in the car to explain what a battery does and that, just like in their flashlights, a car battery can die too. The next day, I built on this knowledge and showed my 5 year old daughter how to jump-start a car.

We pulled the jumper cables out together, and she watched me connect positive to positive, negative to negative, turn on the sedan, then turn on the Kia. On our way to school, she recited every single step to her brother in correct order. (Next week, we’re changing tires!)

We can find much growth and happiness when we look for the opportunities that life presents us, rather than lamenting the obstacles in our way.

Iceland, Carseats, and RSV

Our daughter rocking her viking beanie – Iceland, 2018.

Traveling with children is beyond fun and offers a completely different experience from traveling alone or as a couple.

Experiencing new things is the whole point of travel, right? To go somewhere you’ve never been, taste something you’ve never eaten or learn customs that are foreign from your own.

Our trip to Iceland was no different. From spending a week with old friends and making new ones, seeing the Northern Lights, and realizing that spaghetti with ketchup is an acceptable dish (sorry dad! 😭), we experienced a lot of new things.

If you’re a parent and you have traveled with children, you can probably agree that as soon as you step onto that plane, your so-called “plans” go right out the window.

This was our first international trip with the kids and to help us get from one side of the airport to the other more easily, we decided to use wheels. We used those folding hand-truck contraptions that attach to your kid’s carseat. The hope was to be able to move the carseats (and children) through the airport effortlessly. They worked pretty well in the airport for the most part. One kid fell off once, but it wasn’t a very far fall. Thanks Graco for the extra padding!

As soon as we landed in Reykjavik, we realized one of the carseats was stuck.

Somehow, the plane seat’s belt buckle had lodged itself into the dark abyss between the seat, roller cart and carseat. It took nearly twenty minutes to wrestle the carseat free from the grasp of the seatbelt.

Many curses and grunts later, I sheepishly walked off the plane past all the people impatiently waiting to board.

Lesson 1: Don’t anchor a carseat, with roller cart attached, to an airplane seat.

Successfully off the plane and in the rental car, we made our way through the blustery cold morning to our first stop along the ring road.

Our plans began to slowly unravel on day two when our daughter, Ellie, had a mild fever around bedtime. Luckily, we brought a large full bottle of Children’s Motrin and soon she was off to sleep. By day 6, that bottle of Motrin was practically gone but the fever was still there.

At this point, Ellie wasn’t eating much, was barely drinking and – as anyone who was sick would be – was generally cranky and didn’t want to do much of anything.

Thankfully we picked up more Motrin at a local pharmacy, along with some magical cough medicine made from moss. The combination of these two medicines helped get us through to day ten – the plane ride home.

Lesson 2: Always bring extra medication.

By the time we got to the Reykjavik airport, Ellie’s condition had worsened and we had to make a decision.

Should we adjust our travel plans, and take her to the local ER in Iceland, or should we get on the plane, knowing it would be at least 8 hours before we could get her to a hospital. We ultimately decided to get on the plane.

During the flight, Ellie’s condition got worse. She began to breathe shallow belly breaths, and was a mixture of asleep and unconscious with occasional fits of scream crying and unintelligible words.

At this point, we began to plan our next steps to streamline the process once we landed. My wife Mallory would carry Ellie and our passports. Our son Gavin would walk in between us. I would handle the bags and carseats. After we got through customs, we would go immediately to the hospital.

After landing in Baltimore, and with Mallory in the lead, we charged to passport control.

A woman in line ahead of us noticed that our daughter did not look well. Soon, a CBP Officer noticed Ellie’s condition and allowed us to cut to the front of the line.

We raced through baggage claim and straight to the hospital where Ellie was admitted immediately.

After a few tests, the doctor determined she had a case of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Soon she was on meds and back to her old self in a couple days.

Lesson 3: Accept what you have control over and what you don’t. I couldn’t make my daughter magically get better on the plane ride but I could plan my next moves. Doing this kept me calm and more able to take action when the time came.

Every trip has its highs and lows, and it’s important to learn what we can from both.

Our family trip to Iceland was full of fjords, [water] falls, and lots of glaciers. But the lessons I learned in those moments of adversity will stick with me and they’ve already paid dividends on my later travels.

Driving Like Jason Bourne

Disclaimer: This post won’t teach you how to drive like a stuntman in a Hollywood movie, however, this will teach you some important driving practices used by both stunt people and alphabet soup government types that could save your life.

The “rules of the road” change from place to place, and your driving style should be adaptable to keep you and your party safe but some safety tips are constant.

Whether you are on the winding Mediterranean coast of Italy, or the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro, your goal as a driver should be the safety of yourself and those within your vehicle. This starts with setting yourself up for success with a quick vehicle assessment.

Tires to grip the road, properly maintained engine, and a fully present driver are the three requirements for a functioning vehicle to transport you from point A to point B.

Step 1: check the tires to make sure they are properly inflated, and in good condition. Flat or worn tires will not handle turns as you expect. In hard driving conditions, under inflated tires can deflate or “debead” – come off the rim – leaving you stranded.

Step 2: check the engine temperature and oil pressure. If either of these two are off, your engine will not be very happy, and you may get stuck.

Step 3: check yourself. The driver must be unimpaired, and fully conscious to effectively respond to and handle the responsibility of being behind the wheel. 

After assessing the vehicle, eliminate blindspots by setting and checking your mirrors.

To maximize your field of view, your left mirror should be angled outward far enough so that just a sliver of overlap is seen between its inside edge, and the left edge of your rear view mirror. Do the same thing with the right mirror, angling it outward until only a sliver of the inside edge overlaps with what you see on the right side of the rear view mirror.

Now, you have access to your full rear field of view, eliminating large portions of typical “blind spots”. This will help you keep track of what is around you and any spaces to your sides, should you need to make any quick maneuvers.

If that wasn’t clear, check out this in-depth tutorial by car and driver.

Keeping your focus on where you want to go, not the obstacles in your way.

Your focus should always be ahead, always looking for the next goal, the next waypoint. 

Visualize your path forward while maintaining 360 degree awareness. 

When stopping at an intersection, make sure you can see the tires of the vehicle in front of you contacting the ground.

Criminals the world over use stopped vehicles at intersections to block a target in.

Stopping at a distance from the car in front of you that allows you to see their tires will guarantee that you have the space to move around that vehicle. 

Don’t forget – precipitation changes everything so take caution in changing conditions.

Whether your vehicle has front wheel or all wheel drive, is heavy or light, has ABS, TCS or any other system designed to keep you on the road – everything changes when you hit water. Maintain your distance and your awareness.

Following these tips will help you get to where you’re going. But if you’re ever in doubt, remember – it’s better to arrive late than not at all.

Security Through Obscurity

Nothing ruins your vacation like having your cell phone or passport stolen. 

Keeping your valuables secure while traveling gives you peace of mind, letting you relax and enjoy your trip.

Thieves are often looking for an opportunity to make quick cash with little to no resistance. 

A criminal looks for opportunities of low risk and high reward – this process is called “casing”. First, the criminal looks for an object of value. This could be an unlocked phone, expensive jewelry, designer handbag or high-end watch. The second thing a criminal is looking for is a distracted person. Once both of those boxes are checked, they wait for an opening, such as a crowded crosswalk during rush-hour or when you’re staring at your phone on a busy street corner. 

Before you set out, find out about recent crime in the areas where you will be traveling.

From the local Facebook groups to the neighborhood Next-door page, social media offers a treasure trove of information about recent crime in a given area.

Local news outlets and law enforcement give statistics that can tell you about historical crime.

Lastly, talk to your concierge or host about any recent incidents. They will be able to tell you specifics about common methods and scams.

After you know what to expect, learn to conceal your valuables for extra protection.

With any hiding place, there is always a tradeoff between security and access. Hiding your money in your sock is pretty secure, but good luck when you want to buy that drink. Hide your passport in the fridge of your hotel and it is easy to get to, but not at all secure. The best hiding spots are easy to get to, but hard to find.  

Walking around town? Keep your cash and ID in a money belt inside your waistband. Need to leave something in the hotel room? Check the box spring or a utility panel to see if they are viable storage spots. Get creative and use your imagination.

Bottom Line Up Front: Do your homework, talk to people who are in the area, and plan accordingly.

Whats in your (backup) wallet?

Here is an @ospreypacks rfid blocking money belt that I modified to have a few extra compartments.

Inside, I carry my passport card from @statedept , in case my regular one gets lost or stolen.

I also have a single sheet of @riteintherain paper with important numbers and addresses on it.

Bandaids (multi-use adhesive device for more than just booboos.)

Ibuprofen and Benadryl, in case a pharmacy isn’t nearby and I need to control swelling, a headache or an allergic reaction.

A small brass housed compass from @countycomm_gov

And finally, a micro SD card with ID and travel docs for everyone in my party.

It still has plenty of room for cash as well (not pictured).

This setup is lightweight and gives me peace of mind while we go from place to place.

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