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 101 Car Travel Games & Ideas for Kids
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Simple Tips to Get Your Car Road Trip Ready

Many people have reservations about driving their cars on long road trips. This can be especially true for older cars or cars with high mileage. Luckily, whether you are driving cross country or across the state, there are some things you can do to ensure that your car is ready to hit the road. Here is a four week car care plan to consider before your next road trip:

Three to Four Weeks –
Major repairs. Has your trusty vehicle been feeling or sounding different lately? If so, now is the time to have those issues repaired. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it is always best to have repairs done a few weeks before you plan to travel. This leaves plenty of time for related problems to pop up before hitting the road.

Tires. Ensure that tires are properly inflated. Tires with low pressure can cause additional heat buildup which may lead to blowouts when traveling at high speeds. If you are not sure how to check your tire pressure, refer to your owner’s manual. While you are looking at the tire, be sure to check its tread. You can do this by taking a penny and inserting it into the groove of the tire with the Lincoln side down. If the space above Lincoln’s head is visible, it may be time for a new set of tires.

Two to Three Weeks –
Coolant. If the destination that you are traveling to will be warmer or cooler than your hometown, you may want to check your coolant. If the coolant levels are low or if it needs to be changed, this is the time to do it.

Spare tire. This is also a great time to ensure that the tire is properly inflated and the jack, wrench, etc. are accessible.

One to Two Weeks –
Take care of scheduled maintenance. Is your car due for an oil change or tune-up? If so, this is the time to have it done.

Clean out your car. Not only can a messy car be unappealing to the eye, but it can also negatively affect your fuel efficiency. Remove as many items as possible from the vehicle before hitting the road.

Emergency plan. No matter how careful you are, emergencies can happen.  From flat tires to roadside breakdowns, it is important to be prepared for when disaster strikes. Before setting off on your road trip, you may want to consider purchasing an emergency roadside assistance plan. Often times, this will cover things like lockouts, flat tires, breakdowns and much more.

Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to having a safe and fun road trip!

May 8, 2014   Comments Off

How to Develop Close Reading Skills

Close reading is more than just a careful reading of a text. It is a technique that helps students to develop important thinking skills that are essential for getting the most out of education and out of life. It is a way of understanding, not only the text, but also the purpose for reading it. The student goes beneath the surface level to engage with the text, its structure, its language, and the ideas within it in an in-depth way. This is the basis for analysis, which is a critical learning skill. Approaching the text with awareness of five basic processes can help a student to develop this ability.

First Impressions
Before diving into a book or story, it is helpful for the student to take a step back and approach the text one piece at a time with purposeful attention. While reading a single block of text, the student begins by giving attention to the first thing that is noticed, and then the second thing. This leads to questions about whether the noteworthy things in the text are complementary or contradictive, and the effect this has on the student’s thoughts and feelings about the text.

This linguistic step of close reading takes the attention of the student to the level of the individual words. At this level, the student determines which words are immediately noticeable, how the diction affects the sense of the words, and how the words relate to each other. Any oddly used words or words with double meanings are noted, and unfamiliar words are looked up and defined.

Point of View
The point of view of any text is the perspective, opinion, or way of thinking of the speaker in the text. The student should consider who the speaker is and how the speaker’s presentation of the story or information may affect a reader’s reaction. The student should also be aware of his or her personal point of view and the effect this may have on the text. While this is a critical element of literary analysis, it is also a practical skill for reading news stories and other nonfiction texts.

Uncovering Patterns
As the student continues to read, repetitive images and themes are noted within each passage, and comparisons and connections drawn between passages in order to identify important symbols. Repetition of images and themes includes structural elements such as punctuation, sentence rhythm, and types of writing, as well as omissions and paradoxes.

Uncovering the patterns of the text is frequently the secret to discovering the symbolism. Recurrences of objects and elements such as colors or animals in the text may have deeper significance to the story. Noting these and asking what else they might represent is a significant step in discovering the symbolism. The student should also note what metaphors appear, if they are recurring, how many there are, and whether they come in any particular order.

Learning to approach any text with an awareness of these five steps is the basis for close reading. This provides the key that can open a world of information, so learning this skill early and developing the ability to apply it in all areas of learning can change the course of the student’s education.

May 8, 2014   Comments Off

7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Beverage That Rules The World

Despite its reign over your childhood, you probably don’t know much about the Coca Cola Company. This is because they’re actually a fairly low-key brand even with their complete global dominance of soft drinks.

But what if you’re interested in peeling back the curtain? What if you’d like to learn some interesting, shocking and downright unbelievable facts about your favorite carbonated beverage? Here are seven things you might not have known about Coca Cola.

1: Its Creator Was A Drug Addict

John Pemerton was a pharmacist addicted to opiates when he first invented Coca Cola in the late 1880s. Some say he only made it because he was looking for a complimentary drug to morphine, his favorite kind. It all makes sense when you realize that…

2: It Was Originally Made With Cocaine

While it wasn’t pumped into the bottles like some rumors insist, Coca Cola did derive its name from its first two ingredients, coca leaves and kola nuts. Coca itself is the psychoactive alkaloid used to make cocaine. Until the 1920s, when manufacturers changed the formula, Coke drinkers really were drinking coke.

3: The Brand Is Worth Staggering Amounts of Money

You knew they were rich, of course, but some wealth is simply beyond imagining. In 2012, Coca Cola made $48 billion, which is roughly on par with the national treasuries of several small countries. Their total net worth is even more impressive, with current estimates putting it anywhere from $170 to $200 billion. Again, that’s billion with a “B.”

4: Early Consumers Thought It Had Healing Properties

Maybe they were under the lingering effects of the coca leaves. Maybe they were just ill-equipped to handle the fizzy goodness in every glass. For whatever reason, it was an accepted truth for decades that Coca Cola was good for your health, eliminating headaches and providing energy to the exhausted.

5: The Company Stood Up For Martin Luther King Jr.

When bigwigs in Atlanta expressed hesitation in hosting an interracial dinner for Dr. King, the CEO of Coca Cola told them in no uncertain terms that if Dr. King wouldn’t be served, then Coca Cola would pull out of the event and the city. “The Coca-Cola Company does not need Atlanta,” he reportedly said. “You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Company.”

6: The Staff Is An Eclectic Bunch

There’s no “soft drink” degree, so employees at Coca Cola have been educated in everything from finance to fashion design. Even their investors and directors enjoy a sense of whimsy; a certain Bobby Kotick board member is best known for his video game company. Coca Cola clearly values ingenuity and fun.

7: They Once Went to War Against Water

In 2010, Coca Cola decided that too many people were drinking tap water, so they launched a “Cap the Tap” program to pressure restaurant owners into discouraging their diners from drinking anything other than soda. If they absolutely had to have water, Coke suggested selling them bottled Dasani, one of their own brands. Only an avalanche of bad press nipped this campaign in the bud.

So there you have it, some of the most interesting facts and incredible secrets of Coca Cola. Did anything surprise you? Are you suddenly in the mood for a nice can of Coke?


March 19, 2014   Comments Off

Fan Mail That Makes Me Blush

This letter from one of my readers literally had me all choked up!  Posted below is one of the kindest and most inspirational “thank you” emails I have ever received since I started Momsminivan.  I decided to reprint her letter in it’s entirety (with her permission) and include a link to her etsy shop so I can show her some support too.  And just so you all know, I could never have made MomsMinivan without my amazing readers, so I have to thank all of you too.  –Laurel (momsminivan)

Hi Laurel,
I’m a mom of four.  I am always looking for ways to teach my children creativity and how to have fun “unplugged”.  I didn’t learn very many of these things growing up because both my parents worked and I rarely had time with them.  When they WERE home they would often just sit in front of the T.V.  Now in today’s world, the computer can be an even bigger distraction than our generation had with television.

The internet can also be an amazing tool for good.  In desperation to find my children fun things to do besides video games I went searching for wisdom from other moms.

I am so thankful that I stumbled across your website!  From teaching my children string games, printable games to play in the car and making slime…  I’ve loved every bit of the fun things you share!!!

These are things that help us spend more time together as a family.  And quality/ quantity time with my kids is worth more than anything money could buy!  THANK YOU for making a wonderful difference in my experience of being a mom!

Alicia Rawlins
Come visit my shop: Christian Fine Art


Thank you for taking the time to write to me! I can’t tell you how much it means!  FYI, Some of the activities she’s referring to are from my Momsminivan Youtube channel. 


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January 21, 2014   2 Comments

Auto Insurance in Phoenix AZ

Drivers who need auto insurance in Phoenix AZ can choose from several insurance agencies and insurance brokers. The best ones place their clients’ needs above their own. They work hard to provide the service, stability and prices that drivers expect from an auto insurance representative.

Several factors can make it hard to obtain auto insurance in Arizona. Traffic violations, traffic accidents, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, auto insurance cancellation and young drivers are common examples. Fortunately, many agents and brokers represent well-known, national carriers that offer prime coverage at low cost rates, even for drivers who have trouble obtaining auto insurance.

Drivers with Internet access can get free auto insurance quotes online. Some insurance agents work with specific insurance carriers, while others agents and brokers work with a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents, for example, work with dozens of insurance companies to find the best rates and coverage for their clients.

Arizona insurance agencies shop multiple providers to find the best coverage for the smallest down payment and most affordable monthly payments. Because they are local, their agents can meet with clients in the office to provide service and answer questions. Many Phoenix agencies also have offices in Tucson, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Peoria and other major cities. This gives drivers additional convenience, especially if they move or travel across the state.

Most agencies can provide drivers with inexpensive, SR-22 insurance quickly and easily by phone or office visit. An SR-22 form is a document filed with the state of Arizona that verifies vehicle liability insurance. The form is required when an Arizona driver has a car accident or is convicted of a traffic offense. A judge typically orders an SR-22 to prove a driver’s financial responsibility.

Whether drivers want minimum liability or full-coverage insurance, Phoenix insurance agencies can help them find what they need. Arizona law requires all drivers to carry at least liability insurance, and auto lenders require comprehensive coverage before they approve car loans. Insurance costs can quickly add up, so most drivers need the expertise of professional agents and brokers. With a little time and research, drivers can obtain the right insurance from a trustworthy company.

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January 21, 2014   2 Comments

Easy Tips for Conserving Fuel on Your Next Vacation

Just because summer vacations are over, doesn’t mean that your automobile will get a break. There are always off-season vacations – a good option if you are looking for less expensive trips for you and your family – and the travel-heavy holidays. It is also never too late to begin planning and budgeting for next year’s summer road trip.

Sure, a vacation is a time to live large and throw caution to the wind, but traveling the highways and byways these days is an inexpensive endeavor, particularly when it comes to fuel. Before topping off the gas tank and putting the pedal to the metal with your family in tow, consider the following fuel facts:

  • It’s expensive: The average price of gasoline has been over $3.00 per gallon for over 1,000 consecutive days, marking the first streak of this kind … ever. The average price per gallon is $3.62. And the cost per gallon can increase depending on various factors, from the speed you drive to the weight of your vehicle.
  • It supports our dependence on imports: The United States still relies on other countries for nearly 40% of the oil that it uses at a cost of $300 billion annually. The more gas you use, the more you contribute to this dependence on others and their resources.
  • It impacts the environment: Highway vehicles are responsible for approximately 1.5 billion metric tons of greenhouses gases that are released into the air each year, the most prominent of which is carbon-dioxide. Consider that about 30 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted per gallon of gas that you burn; simply put, the less gas you burn, the less damage is done to the environment.

Short of cancelling your next vacation, what can you do to minimize your fuel consumption? Rest assured that you can reduce your energy consumption with the following five tips, whether running errands or trekking across the country.

  1. Drive the speed limit: Driving above the speed limit is expensive. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you will pay an additional 25 cents per gallon for every five miles per hour above 50 mph that you drive. Keep in mind that accelerating quickly also burns more gas (up to twice as much, in some cases), so take it slow and steady when the stoplight turns green.
  2. Maintain your vehicle: There are a number of maintenance tasks – several of which you can complete yourself – that will keep your vehicle running well and using less fuel. While you want to rely on your local mechanic for routine (yes, routine!) oil changes, as well as fuel filter and spark plug changes, you should be able to change your air filter and maintain the appropriate air pressure in your tires.
  3. Eliminate extra weight: If you pull a wagon full of heavy rocks, it will certainly take more energy than pulling that same wagon when it is empty. This wagon is no different than your vehicle. The heavier it is, the more fuel you will use. If you have a large family, it may not be as easy to lighten the load, but make an effort to remove any extraneous items that may create extra weight and consider carefully what you are going to pack. If you aren’t going to use it, leave it at home!
  4. Avoid traffic congestion: Avoid high-congestion areas whenever you are traveling, and if possible, drive during off hours. An idling car not only burns fuel, but it negatively impacts the environment. If you do find yourself in a traffic jam, consider turning off your engine rather than idling.
  5. Buy a fuel-efficient vehicle: If you like to travel and you are in the market for a new car, make an effort to purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle. The more miles-to-the-gallon that you use, the less money you spend, and the fewer emissions that you release into the environment. Flex fuel or hybrid vehicles are popular choices for those looking to save money and protect the environment. Although you may pay a little more up front, you will save at the pump. For help selecting a fuel efficient vehicle, check out the vehicle comparisons at

The price at the gas pump is surely the first thing you notice when budgeting for your next vacation or filling up on your way out of town. In fact, it’s almost enough to make you want to close the garage door in favor of a “stay-cation.” A fuel efficient approach to driving and vehicle maintenance will not only ease the financial pain, but can positively impact the dependency on foreign oil and reduce harmful emissions that threaten the environment.

Guest Post by:  Jessica Johnson works for and contributes to the Extra Space Storage blog, exploring various aspects of organizing and storing possessions.

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November 21, 2013   1 Comment