Counting the Miles

June 9, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

“Mom, are we there yet?”

Our kids are no different from yours. Their energetic minds and bodies rebel against the inactivity of sitting in a car for hours at a time. And, as every parent soon learns, we know that idle minds become the devil’s playground.

To head mischief off at the pass, my husband and I use a sure-fire way to entertain our kids on long trips in the car. No, it does not involve OnStar movies or iPods with ear buds. We don’t even hire a professional clown or bribe our kids with stops at Walt Disney World.

Of course old standbys like the alphabet game, I Spy and collecting license plates from fifty states, not to mention the geography game and travel bingo, can help. But with the assistance of my OC husband who has a counting compulsion, we have a new way to keep the kids attention from the start of a trip all the way to the arrival at our destination.

“What shall we count today?” we ask as we settle into our seats and head for the highway.

Flags? US postal trucks? Police cars? Coca Cola signs? Each child suggests a theme. Once we agree on an item, each person in the car, including parents, estimates how many of that item we will encounter in the course of the trip. From then on, everyone joins together in seeking out objects that fit the theme. At the end of the trip, the person closest to the actual total, without going over, receives mega honor and glory.

Of course, counting American flags quickly becomes passé, especially if we plan a trip close to Memorial Day. Do you have any idea how many flags appear in each cemetery along your route? Thus our themes become more targeted. For example, one Fall season we count every orange leaf bag decorated like a pumpkin. Another time, we count houses with dangling Christmas lights. This is in July.

On one memorable trip returning from a visit to my husband’s folks, we decide to count tacky lawn ornaments. Does this sound easy? We soon have to define “tacky.” Is a birdbath, clearly a lawn ornament, tacky? We agree that it serves a useful function and therefore is not tacky. Bathtubs and pedestal sinks, though filled with flowers, are. And crystal balls in varying shades of blue or green, and the plywood cut-outs of female backsides bending over a garden scream tackiness.

Some houses offer more ornaments than we can number as we drive by at 55 miles per hour, so a new rule says that no single domicile may contribute more than six objects to the overall count. That rule saves us from digging out our pocket abacus.

The “tackiest ornament of the day” award? How can you choose between the yard decorated with five porcelain toilets (filled with flowers) and the yard that offered an oversized wagon wheel with ceramic horses attached to each wooden spoke?

We arrive at our own driveway in time for supper. “Aw, are we home already?”

“Preserve sound judgment and discernment . . . [as] an ornament to grace your neck.” (Proverbs 3:21,22 NIV)

The author is busy counting hits at her website. Visit her at to learn more about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up! (Kregel, 2008).

About Emily Chase

Emily Parke Chase is a popular conference speaker and the author of six books on relationship issues, including Help! My Family's Messed Up! (WingSpread) and Why Say No When My Hormones Say Go? (Kregel) Visit her at
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2 Responses to “Counting the Miles”
  1. Hally Franz says:

    This was funny, Emily. I feel the need to be more creative about enroute entertainment, and to give my yard a thorough check! Thanks!

  2. Emily, this was perfect timing! My husband and I are taking a trip this weekend. Perhaps we will count pink flamingos! You can bet I’ll be taking inventory of my personal yard art. Good thing I don’t live on a main road! Thanks for the laughs.

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