Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Traveling Child, Part Two

Well, my son's trip went well.  I didn't hear from the chaperone until the night before he left, so I'm glad I planned ahead.
Since it was such a quick trip, they were limited to just a carry-on bag, so I had to make sure the foods I packed wouldn't be confiscated by security.  I wound up packing him a little container of salad dressing, a bar, muffin, couple of cookies, fruit, 2 slices of bread and a packet of peanut butter, crackers and beef jerky.  We drove J. up to the airport, so he ate lunch on the way.  Dinner, once he got there, was to be roast chicken, baked potato and salad, which should have been fine, but I reminded J. to ask about how the chicken was prepared.  Which was a good thing, since it had been cooked with soy sauce!  So, he skipped the chicken and had a huge, plain baked potato and salad.  Breakfast went fine - the muffin I'd packed, eggs and bacon.  Lunch, he brought a sandwich with him and was able to grab cantaloupe and something else from the cafeteria.  This trip, I made sure he had some money along, in case it was needed (learned my lesson after the last trip).  He bought a snack at the airport, but that was it.  Fortunately, he didn't need it again as he lost his wallet.  (Thankfully, the airline found and returned it later in the week.)
Oh, and my son did well at the competition - their team came in 3rd place and he came in 14th as an individual.  He won't be making it to nationals this year, but that's okay (I don't think I'm ready for him to take a trip across the country just yet).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The traveling child

So, this year has been fraught with a new anxiety for me.  My eldest has become quite the outgoing, social butterfly this year.  Now that he's in junior high, he has the opportunity to join extracurricular activities.  And join, he did.  He has groups that meet three or four afternoons per week and has his lunchtime booked four days a week (with plans to start a chess club on the open day).  I'm exhausted just contemplating his schedule!  But, this is all him - he took the lead to join all of these groups.  Our only conditions were that he keeps up with his homework and chore obligations and we couldn't be expected to swing paying for a lot of extra outings.

Two of the groups he participates in are Math Counts and Knowledge Bowl.  His Knowledge Bowl team made it to regionals - a two day, overnight excursion, and his Math Counts team had a day trip to for regionals.  Math Counts has made it into the state competition, which is a two day trip (with a flight and an overnight stay).  All of this travel away from me has tossed us into uncharted territory.  My son has never spent much time away from us, and we have pretty much avoided going out to restaurants for the past four years, since my diagnosis.  So, now we're faced with the situation of him having to fend for himself meal-wise on these trips.  J has always been very good at reading labels and checking foods to ensure they were safe for him to eat and, so far as I've been able to discern, he's asymptomatic if he does eat something he shouldn't.  This makes it relatively easy for him to go on these trips, although not without some major planning and legwork on my part.

His first trip was only an afternoon, so we treated it like any other school day and I packed his lunch and a snack for him to bring along.  The team was being treated to pizza and soda for lunch, so he asked that I pack him a pizza (whew, thank goodness for extra crusts in the freezer!), and he had soda with the group.

The next trip was trickier - the group took the 2 hour drive up, stopping at an A&W for lunch.  Then they had some competitions before checking into their hotel and getting dinner at another restaurant.  The second day's plan was complimentary breakfast at the hotel, then competitions, lunch at the college cafeteria, more competitions and then stopping at a grocery store with a deli for dinner on the drive home.  So, what did I do?  Well, I started by looking up restaurants' online menus to see if there was anything remotely safe for J.  A&W - no.  Nothing but the drinks.  For dinner, they weren't sure where they'd go, so I checked for restaurants around the hotel to see what was available - a Wendy's and a Chili's.  I checked their menus and made lists for J to bring along so he'd know what was safe for him.  For breakfast, I contacted the hotel to see if there might be anything suitable for him on their breakfast menu.  Thankfully, I got a very helpful and prompt reply from the manager stating that he had spoken with the kitchen manager and here was a list of safe items for my son.  He also gave me the name of the cook who would be there that morning so J could contact him directly for help.  The college cafeteria was equally helpful, even asking what my son's favorite foods were so they could be prepared for him!

With all that leg work out of the way, I felt better.  I coached J on his responsibility to be aware and to check with the cooks to make sure things were going to be safe and to thank them all for their help on his behalf.  I printed up a few wallet cards in case he wanted to give them to the cooks to better describe what foods he cannot have.  On the day of, I packed him a lunch to eat at A&W, packed some other snacks/emergency foods just in case (some fruit, bars, couple slices of bread, peanut butter, trail mix), and some cash for dining out.

My husband, our two other boys and myself drove up to see J compete the afternoon of the second day.  They were just getting back from lunch, which, J informed me did not wind up being at the cafeteria - instead they went to the Pita Pit.  He said he was good about talking to the folks there, had them change their gloves, clean the counter, and he ordered a salad with grilled meat (after making sure the grill was not used to heat the pitas or anything else that would cross-contaminate).  Yay, J!  I was so proud of him!  It sounded like he did just what he should have and did great.  I must admit that although he is very responsible and understanding about the foods he can/cannot have, he is rather absentminded sometimes.  Pair that with the fact that he's still so young (two years younger than his class peers), and I still worry.

After the competition, they found that they weren't going on so they headed home early, negating the need for dinner on the road.  Other than a short worry that he'd been contaminated by something (a dash to the bathroom shortly after lunch; however, he concluded that it was likely from the soda he'd drank at three of the four meals.  Uh, yeah, that was probably it - we RARELY have soda at home.), the whole trip went very well.  My take-away from it was to prepare, prepare and then have a contingency plan.  With them changing plans and going out to eat for lunch, J would not have had money to buy anything at the store had they stopped for dinner.  He wouldn't have starved, as I'd packed him the extra snacks, but he wouldn't have been happy to have a peanut butter sandwich when everyone else was buying something.  So, next time, I'll send him with a little more cash than anticipated.

His upcoming trip is going to be trickier yet, as it involves a flight.  I'm still trying to work out the details on that one.  I haven't had luck contacting the teacher that is taking the kids, to discuss the food issue.  Their plan is to stay at the teacher's aunt's house, so she'll be providing meals.  However, without prior confirmation, I don't think I'll trust that that will work.  So, I'm trying to figure out quick and easy meal ideas that J can pack in his carry on that will pass the TSA inspection and not require refrigeration or heating.  So far, I've picked up a can of Hormel Dinty Moore Beef Stew that I'm hoping will work (and he can heat it up at the host's house).  I'll also pack some bread and peanut butter, bars, fruit and hoping to make some crackers and beef jerky as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Feeling guilty

My apologies for the lack of new posts.  I don't know where February went.

I haven't been doing much in the way of new recipes lately, so haven't felt the urge to post anything.  I am, however, working on making my Honey Flax Bread egg-less.  I think I'm almost ready for its debut, so stay tuned.

I've also been keeping up with my 'healthier me' plan, which I started on January 1st.  All of January, I kept up with riding my exercise bike for 20 minutes every day (I only missed one day the entire month!)  Having that kind of momentum built up has been great - I actually feel like exercising every day now (something I've never wanted to do before).  For February, I added a strength training component, in addition to the 20 minute bike ride.  Although I'm not losing weight, I am feeling healthier and more toned, which is a great feeling.  A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across the Spark People website, which is coming in very handy with this month's goal of being more aware of and eating more healthy.  Their site allows you to track meals (even adding foods or recipes that aren't already in their database - a great boon for those of us eating specialty foods).  It gives you a way to track different components of the day's food - calories, fat, carbs, fiber and individual vitamins and minerals.  There is also a section to track your fitness regiment.  I'm really excited about learning more about my diet and the particulars - what nutrients I need to beef up on and what components I need to cut back on.

I promise I'll be back soon with another delicious recipe.