Sunday, January 02, 2011

Driving with kids

Correcting the time-space continuum: Despite yesterday's post, we actually drove to Berlin on Christmas day and got back home late yesterday (thank you, blogger's "Scheduled Posts" feature). But I still hope you all had a happy New Year's.

Getting us all to Berlin on a budget required a huge rental van and a driver with nerves of steel. David and Sam split the driving duties (a nice thing about using a local car rental agency--they don't mind having a 22 year old drive their cars). I happily settled into the jobs of conflict negotiator and treat dispenser from the back seat.

What we thought would be a fifteen hour drive turned into an eighteen hour drive when we had to detour off the motorway in the middle of a snowstorm in Czech Republic. Ai yi yi! And David's poor brother and his family, waiting up for us until midnight. AND, as we were shuttling in luggage we dropped one of their Christmas presents on their tile entryway. Sticky red pomegranate syrup. You could still see splatters of it on the front door days later and probably will be able to until the spring thaw when it will finally be possible to thoroughly wash the front door without the water immediately freezing. My sister-in-law is such an angel that she just smiled and said, "Every time I see the splatters I'll think how happy I am you came to see us!"

We also discovered an unanticipated problem with renting a vehicle in southern Europe--i.e. Bosnia--and driving it to northern Europe. Our van had no heat in the back. The windows by the back seats were covered by ice unless we were running the heat in the front seat so strongly that they had to open their windows. Which kind of defeated the purpose. I felt like I was a character in Little House on the Prairie.

Ruth pointed out to me that Isaac and Eleanor were excellent travelers. Very little whining and complaining. Good thing I have her to notice those things because I hadn't noticed it until she mentioned it, but she was absolutely right.

It was really fun to be together. And we weren't even all that cramped either--one of the advantages of having a big family is that although you're forced to rent a van too big to drive narrow European streets, you get plenty of elbow room. Sightseeing through the windows was out (although the feathers and fans of ice were beautiful). So we did other stuff. Ate wafer cookies and chocolate and potato chips and carrots and apples. Ruth read "James and the Giant Peach" and Emma Lucy read "The Silver Chair" and "A Christmas Carol" and Edward read "Dancing Dan's Christmas" and we listened to Edward's Taylor Swift album and the oldest kids taught us a really fun game called "Contact" that we played over and over and over (ask if you want to know how).


Nathan said...

Ok, we want to know how to play Contact. Nice to see that you made it back.

Dan said...

You got to watch out for those space time things. They can be difficult to navigate. Glad you guys had a safe trip. Feliz Ano Novo

Annette said...

Warning: Contact is way harder to explain than it is to play.

Contact is a guessing game but one in which both sides get to guess. You have to have at least 3 people to play; it's better with more. One person is IT and the others are the opposing team. IT chooses any word and tells everyone what its first letter is. Instead of simply guessing the word, any player from the opposing team who has thought of a word beginning with the specified letter shouts out a clue for the word s/he has thought of.

For example, if you were IT and had announced that the word started with "b," I could call out, "a favorite food of monkeys." Any other player on my team who thinks s/he knows my word shouts out, "Contact!" Together, she and I count aloud, "Three, two, one," and then say together the word. Hopefully, we both say "banana" in unison. There are four possible outcomes:
1) Before we finish saying "three, two, one, banana," IT shouts out, "banana." That's the end of that. Now someone else has to call out another clue for a word starting with "b."
2) We might say, "three, two, one," but then I say "banana" and she says "beetles." That's the end of that.
3) We say, "three, two, one, banana" together and IT says that banana was the word he was thinking of. You just won. Someone new gets to be IT.
4) We say, "three, two, one, banana" together without IT shouting out "banana" before us. Now IT has to tell us the second letter of the word he thought of. If he says the word is B-L, all guesses we make now have to be with words starting "bl...".
You keep going until you guess the word (see number 3).

The thing that's really challenging and fun is to think of a clue that IT won't know but that someone on your team will. For example, David and Sam gave each other football clues all the time since they love watching football together and Ed and Ruth gave each other clues about Taylor Swift songs and Emma Lucy and Isaac gave each other Harry Potter clues that the rest of us didn't know.