25 Conversation Starters for the Car

This post was sponsored by Ford.

Road trips . . . they can be boring and tedious, but they can also be a time for family bonding. While we certainly aren't opposed to breaking out the technology for long-haul trips, we try to avoid relying on digital entertainment for shorter trips. For example, a trip to grandma's house is about 45 minutes, and one we take pretty frequently. Instead of pulling out the ipads, we try to use that time as a chance to have some deeper conversations with the kids, while we've got a "captive audience."  We are a huge fan of games that ask questions, especially questions that encourage conversation.

In an effort to make our car rides more fun, I curated a list of fun questions that I hoped would spark some great conversations. There are some silly questions, some serious . . . some aspirations, some nostalgic. I printed it out and took it with us on our last trip to grandma’s, and we had a lot of fun with them.


1. What is the hardest thing you've ever done?

2. If you could have dinner with any person from history, who would you choose?

3. What makes someone kind? How could you be kinder this year?

4. If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be?

5. If you had to live on a deserted island with only one book, one song, and one movie, what would you choose?

6. Would you rather be a rock star, the president, or the person who cures cancer?

7. Tell me something new you would like to learn to do.

8. What do you think mom does while you are at school? What do you think dad does?

9. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would you choose?

10. Talk about a friend who makes you feel good about yourself. What do they do that makes you feel good?

11. Tell me about your dream vacation. Where would you go? What would you do?

12. Say something you appreciate about each member of your family.

13. If you could trade lives with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?

14. What are three qualities you look for in a friend?

15. Tell me about a movie that made you cry.

16. You win a million dollars. What do you do with it?

17. Would you rather have a mean teacher who you learn a lot from, or a nice teacher who doesn't teach you much?

18. Tell us about something embarrassing that happened.

19. Describe the perfect day. What do you do?

20. Describe what your house will look like when you are a grown-up. Where will it be? What does it look like?

21. What is the earliest thing you can remember?

22. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

23. Would you rather be the best player on a losing team or the worst player on a winning team?

24. What is your favorite room in the house and why?

25. Share something you like about yourself.

Any new questions you would suggest to get the conversations going?
This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive.

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What I want you to know about my abusive relationship

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by an anonymous writer.

Being in an abusive relationship is one thing, leaving an abusive relationship is another....and having that abuse escalate after leaving is hell. I was with a controlling, verbally and emotionally abusive man for 12 years. I knew he was abusive, but I loved him. So I stayed. Then I found something that I loved even more than him...my son. After I had my son I knew that I deserved better, that my son deserved better. So we separated. At first it was fine, but he was still controlling me. Controlling me from afar. Then after a few months of that...I filed for divorce and the hell began. He began to stalk me. He used my son as a tool and would send me text messages of him screaming and crying for me at night. He would send me pictures of him sitting, crying, in a pool of puke while telling me I was a horrible mother because I let him eat too much chocolate and that was why he got sick. He would come to my house and refuse to leave, he would do things to my house, try to burn holes in my carpet, threaten to move back in. He even put voice recorders in my home. I would call the police only for them to tell me that they couldn't do anything because we were still married. He would harass me for 14 hours straight telling me that I was a horrible mother. When the divorce was final, I got custody and he got visitation...but the abuse continued. He would refuse to follow the court order, refuse to follow the public pick up. He would force me to come to his apartment if I wanted to get my son back. I would call the police "it's a civil matter, call your attorney" they would tell me. I would call my attorney only for him to ignore my phone calls and emails. 

This went on for two years. No one would help. I was alone. When I started seeing someone, he went even more crazy and I took the initiative to file papers with the court to suspend his visitations. They did. He never showed up for court and hasn't seen my son for almost a year. You would think that it would be the end of it...but the after effects of the abuse still linger. I have post traumatic stress disorder and depression. I am scared..all the time. I never feel safe. At the worst, I would pace back and forth through the house looking through windows waiting to see his car pull up. My ears are fine tuned to hear the loud exhaust of his car and anything that sounds like that makes my heart race. Loud noises make me feel uneasy, panic stricken even if I can't hear the outside. Daytime is good, I'm better, but night time is bad. I have problems trusting those around me, there have been times that I thought that my friends were conspiring against me. I drive more through the rear view mirror than the windshield. I don't like to go places in town for fear of running into him. I sleep with lights on so that I can see if he breaks into the house at night. He has guns and a conceal carry license. I have tried to rationalize with myself about death, and that if he kills me, they say heaven is good. Maybe heaven is good..and I try to make myself not scared to die...if he kills me. There are times when I delve into the internet so that my brain is busy so I don't have to think about being scared. I live for my son. He is what keeps me going, what makes me happy and what makes me feel like I'm going through all of this for a reason.

Emotional abuse is real. It does things to your mind, to your spirit. It breaks you and you have to be stronger than you could ever imagine to come back from it. There have been times when I felt that maybe he wasn't abusing me...maybe it was my fault. Maybe it wasn't as bad as it seemed. But it was. Leaving was the best thing that I have ever done, but the last 3 years of my life have been pure hell. I can dance, I can sing, I can be silly with my son. I can even make mistakes without worrying about the consequences when "he" gets home. Most people wouldn't know that I am like this, I go to work, I raise my son, we go to the park, we take walks, I smile, I laugh (a lot) but I never feel totally safe.

If you are leaving an abusive relationship....please make counseling your first step. If I had reached out for professional help when I first left I think I would have dealt better with the abuse after. 

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How to Engage Your Kids on the Ride Home From School

This content was sponsored by Ford.

Our pace has really changed since the kids started school again. After we get home, the kids have to do their homework. Then they need to practice drums and guitar, and after that they are usually begging to go outside and play with the neighbor kids while I assemble dinner. Before we know it, it's bedtime, and it's easy to feel like I barely connected with the kids before they have to head to bed.

I've been trying to be intentional about using our car ride home from school as a time to reconnect with the kids and get information about their day. I like the car time for a few reasons. For one, I have a captive audience. There are no distractions - there is nothing else they are trying to do. I also like trying to glean info about their day while it's fresh in their minds.

We've established a routine around the car ride home. We call it "Highs and Lows." (I didn't make this up and surely we aren't the first family to do this, but it works so well for us that I wanted to share.) Highs and Lows is exactly what it sounds like . . . each child takes a turn describing their favorite part of the day, and their least favorite part of the day. We've done this so often that my kids start in as soon as we are pulling away from the school parking lot.

What I love particularly about this routine is that it's an open-ended question that can lead to much more revealing information than the old "what did you learn at school today?"  And to be honest, while I think it's wonderful if Jafta learned the difference between stalactites and stalagmites during science, I also want to hear about the non-academic aspects of his day. I want to know about the social and emotional parts, too. Case in point - the other day, on the way home, I learned that one of my kids had been excluded from a "club" that all of their friends had formed at recess. They were devastated and hurt, and I would have missed it entirely if I'd only asked about what they learned.
The Highs and Lows routine has provided me with some really valuable information about how my kids are faring at school. I love hearing their successes but I also love hearing their struggles and being able to offer empathy and support. I also love having this conversation as a family, because I feel like it affords the siblings an opportunity to attend to each other's feelings and know where they are struggling as well. Many times, one of the kids has mentioned a low, followed by a sibling offering help or support.

It's a simple thing, but it has a big impact for our family. Even though our car ride home is only about 10 minutes, I feel like this time is a great bonding experience for us before we arrive at home to the chaos of after-school activities.

Do you have any rituals you do in the car on the way home from school? Any ideas for capturing that moment as a family connection time?
This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive.

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What I want you to know about what it's like to have a missing loved one

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Anita Davis Sullivan.

Those people you hear about on the news or see flyers of? They have real families behind them and people longing for them, missing them. I'm one of them. My brother has been missing since June 2007. You should know what's it like. Not those few cases that get lots of media and FBI help, but those every day cases like ours, the other 99.9% of them.

Let me tell you what it isn't like first:
- It isn't like TV
- There are few officers involved
- There is very little, if any, media attention
- There aren't big rewards offered

Here's what it is like:
- Forcing law enforcement to take you seriously
- Begging news stations to show your loved one's face for a moment
- Organizing searches yourself
- Spending your money on flyers and gas and searching and time off

When my brother went missing, he was an adult. A cute, dimpled-faced, sweet, young man of 26. He was depressed. We feared for his life and couldn't believe that the police would do so little. He lived with me at the time and so I was the one who filed the report. I remember standing in my kitchen with the officer believing that he'd walk in the door and be mad at me for making a big deal of him being gone a few days. I prayed he would. But he didn't and never has. We were told by law enforcement that their resources were limited and it would be mostly up to us to find him.

We spent the first days posting flyers, making calls, and searching woods. We had family come to help and friends we'll never forget who walked beside us through those dark days. We spent the next months fielding possible sightings and organizing searches.

We once had a detective tell us, "This looks like something on TV." He was talking about our search, one he visited but did not participate in. No law enforcement did. We realized then that we had garnered more experience than our big city missing persons unit had.

It's now been almost six years. Austin hasn't come home. My 9 year old still misses his Uncle Austin, and my 3 year old never met him. 

But what else should you know?

You should know that we still have HOPE. We have hope that we will have answers one day, and that even if they aren't what we want, that we're not alone through this and that good will come.

You should know that we go on. We still live and laugh and celebrate.

You should know that we still cry. We still hear his laugh and see his smile, but only in our dreams.

You should know that we still feel guilt over not seeing how much pain he was in.

You should know that we're not alone. You should know that each year, about 700,000 people go missing. And many of them come home, but over half do not. Most of them never make the news.

You should know that you can help. Post a flyer, share a story, give some encouragement. Give some hope. 

Check out CUE (Center for Missing Persons)  for information on what you can do to help.

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That's what SHE said: kids ruining marriage, the ills of homework, giving crap to the poor, Africa and Ebola paranoia, and more . . .

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap To The Poor | We Are THAT Family
The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

Our Ignorance Of Africa Is More Dangerous Than Ebola | The Grio
The narrative about Africa has always been a simple, singular picture of the poor helpless, disease-ridden child with mosquitoes all over it. The continent is seen as one huge Sally Struthers commercial pleading for help, and the media will not let go of that depiction. While Africa does need aid, Africa is also rising. However, right now it’s seen as the Ebola zone. Like my shero Chimamanda Adichie said, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

God In Adoption | Mommy Means It
It is damaging to tell a child that God called you to adopt her. This sets you up as a God-ordained savior to your child. It tells your child that she needed saving and that God did not choose her family of origin to do that saving. If your child comes from poverty or oppression, the message that God called you, an outsider, to adopt her, says that God didn’t care enough about her family or country to solve its problems so that families could stay alive and stay together. Instead, God played favorites and called you to swoop in and get her out of there, leaving her family and people to suffer while God figures out who to call for the next adoption. 

Houses in Murnau on Obermarkt by Wassily Kandinsky 

What Autism Has Taught Me...So Far | Little Miss Momma
I cringe when I think of the shame I projected onto him in an effort to help him fit better into a mold I had created in my mind of what my quintessential child would most certainly be like. A few weeks after our doctor gave us the news, I felt that mold shatter into a million tiny pieces. And I remember feeling relief. Screw the mold.

Under The Volcano | Anthony Bourdain

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure…

These are your crossfit friends. Source: youtube.com

Questions For My Son: Is It Hard Being The Only Black Boy In Your Grade? | Los Angelista
"The teachers talk to you more slowly and more simply, like they don’t think you’re going to understand what they’re talking about—like you’re slow, or like you don’t have any kind of vocabulary. For example, I notice when Mr. ___ talks to white and Asian kids, he talks to them in a normal way, but when he talks to me, he talks to me in a slang-ish way, throwing in all these other words. And I don’t talk like that. I don’t talk in slang. But they assume that because I’m black, I talk like I’m a rapper or something. People are also surprised when they find out I’m in the gifted program."

Paul Klee watercolor on paper Via Alongtimealone

How To Tell If Having Kids Will Ruin Your Marriage
If you were thrown into a bootcamp-style training situation with no idea how long it would last, how do you think you would fare? Because I think really the ability to weather the trials and tribs of parenting all comes down to this. You have no idea how it will be, so the only thing you can do is be ready to take whatever gets flung at you (ha, poop) for as long as it will be thrown. And like it and generally try to still be an amiable person others want to be around and talk to. Can you do that? Can you do that without being a total dick all the time? Can you do that and still laugh and love and change and improve yourself and all that other real adult crap?

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? … Surprising Findings From New Research | The Washington Post
This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard. Frankly, it surprised me, too. When you measure “achievement” in terms of grades, you expect to see a positive result — not because homework is academically beneficial but because the same teacher who gives the assignments evaluates the students who complete them, and the final grade is often based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, students did the homework. Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades?

In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time, children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills. They need authentic play experiences that get them moving in all different directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in the vestibular complex (located in the inner ear). If children do this on a regular basis and for a significant amount of time, then (and only then) will they experience the necessary changes needed to effectively develop the balance system–leading to better attention and learning in the classroom.

Let Me Make Your Kid A Buddhist | A Life Overseas
And we shrug a simple story like this off, but I wonder if this is the position we put parents and children in too often in pursuit sharing the gospel? And while we’ve had conversations here about offering humanitarian aid and it’s relationship to missions, we haven’t yet talked about the ethics of engaging with children in another culture– particularly without parental authority present.

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