The air is warm, the days are long, and out of nowhere there is an uncontrollable urge to flee from highway noise and work schedules to roll on grass, climb trees, and play in water. My husband and I look at each other for a long time... "Are we ready for this?"
Summer vacation takes on a whole new meaning for families like ours with a child who eats the same foods prepared the same way, sourced from the same farms at every meal. Up to this point every trip from home has been a big step backward in progress for our child who desperately wants to eat more foods. We've lost sleep, lost safe foods, and gained plenty of gray hairs. We are ever-hopeful though, and maybe a little blinded by our mutual desire for the rite of passage that is summer vacation.
After several late night "We can DO this!" type of pep talks we determined that we are in fact crazy enough to pack up every stock pot, crockpot, and kitchen utensil along with 9 pastured hens (thank you chickens for your sacrifice), 5 jars of kraut juice, a gallon of coconut oil, and everything else our child might possibly eat for 8 days. I feel sure we could sink a small ship.
In a former life I'd travel for two months living out of a weekend backpack and not use half of what I'd brought.
Two vehicles (one with seats removed) and a rooftop storage compartment can barely contain our nonsense. I used to spend time thinking about how to reduce our carbon footprint. Now I think about how to fit 9 pastured hens and 5 jars of kraut juice into a cooler.
Anyway, we made it. People slept. I read a novel from start to finish for the first time in six years and cried when I reached the last page. Our daughter didn't lose any foods or have any mysterious reactions, and we gained new confidence in our ability to keep her safe.
Here is my short list of tips for planning a successful food-safe getaway for your family, with a clear bias toward caring for yourself in the process.
1. Ask yourself what your biggest worry is. Reality test it (talk it over with a partner or someone who understands what it takes to keep your child safe). See which parts you can let go of and which are important to address, then make your plans accordingly. Under no circumstances should you ignore your instinct.
2. Let your mind wander about what would feel like a relaxing vacation. Now try to envision the one that would actually involve your children. (Ha ha.) Gather some details about that vision. Have a brainstorming session with your partner and create a vision that includes some playtime for every family member.
3. If traveling to see relatives, spend a bit of time beforehand with a pen and paper naming what you will need help with and from whom. Examples may relate to providing structure, managing stimuli, or maintaining food safety. Acknowledge any barriers that you meet in this process and breathe into them. Then ask yourself again how to get the help you need.
4. Ramp up the immune boosters several weeks before the trip. Traveling with a high needs child is stressful so use your tools that build resilience. Don't forget about yourself!
I wish you all safe travels or stay-home adventures this summer, and heaps of patience doing whatever it takes to keep your child safe!
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