In my last post (before my July got hijacked by a sudden housing move), I introduced part one of Summer Survival: The Kim Fam Tricked-out Van. Today, I finally get around to Part Two, “The Checklist.”
The Usual Suspects
Most moms I know carry the standard minivan supplies: a beach mat/blanket, lawn or soccer mom chair, reusable shopping bags, and bottled water. Maybe a sweater/spare clothes and snacks. But being the selectively obsessive person I am (you can’t obsess about everything), I went a tad further.
The list is certainly not exhaustive. But below is my checklist of “just in case” essentials. I like to be prepared.
Disabled Parking Placard
Parking lots are dangerous for all young children, but especially for kids on the spectrum, who lack safety awareness. Especially if he’s excited about arriving at a place, J can dart into the path of moving car, unseen by a driver backing out, etc. I try not to use the placard often, though. Many a questioning glare or verbal harassment I’ve received because we don’t “look handicapped.” Autism is a hidden disability, unlike someone in a wheelchair or other visible impairment; but it still “counts.” Contact your pediatrician and DMV to see if you qualify. Another bonus: J’s younger sibling gets to experience a rare upshot to having a sibling with a disability, “Yay! Because of my brother, we get to park right next to the beach! Too bad other kids don’t have an autism-brother like me!” Honestly, we’ll take it.
Medical ID Tag
With the constant horrific incidents of ASD kids wandering off and disappearing, too often with grave results, I’m even more cautious. J’s “dog tags” have his diagnosis, a brief description that he’s non-verbal, plus our cell phone numbers engraved on it. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t also inscribed, “If found, please call…” which makes him sound like a pet. Anyway, if he ever wanders, I count on him to eventually “out himself” with his atypical behaviors, “Hey, kid! What are you doing? Uh, hello..?” I just pray a decent person finds him and tracks him back to us. In this day and age, cell phones are ubiquitous; but decent people are not. If you have an eloper I highly recommend you get one.
Waterproof Smartphone Case
Like most special needs parents, I can’t function apart from my smart phone. It’s the external hard-drive that extends the capacity of my maxed-out autism-mom-brain. Especially since it’s also my virtual connection to my son (see item above). For all these reasons, I try not to be separated from my phone. Ever. Waterproof cases come in handy especially at waterparks or the beach. I purchased mine at REI for about $10. Amazon offers many varieties, too. It sure beats a ghetto Ziplock, which will do in a pinch.
As a former tomboy, I hate carrying a purse. With all my essentials (e.g. keys, shopping cards/library card and mini-flashlight) each individually ‘rassled onto a D-ring, it’s the ultimate in hands-free, minimalist parenting. Particularly helpful when tackling an escaping child, or in the throes of a full-blown meltdown (keys tend to go missing during moments of mental displacement.) This bad boy can be tossed into a backpack or hooked onto my belt loop for easy access. With all my business (busyness?) jangling importantly from my hip, my mother likes to comment (translating from Korean), “You look like a person who does something.” I think she means like a plumber or a handyman, instead of, like, a harried Stay At Home Mom. Yeah, okay.
Seat coverings + “Dining trays”
As a preventive measure, I cover the kids’ seats with beach towels, to soak up any surprises and minimize stains on the upholstery (still regretting not waiting for the model with leather seats.) And hey! It’s a built-in, 360 degree, washable napkin.
I credit In N Out burgers for the great idea of in-flight (in-drive) dining trays. For road trips, stock up on sturdy cardboard box bottoms from Costco. They’re great for on the go eating while corralling wayward grapes, Lego’s, pencil shavings or what-have-you. Once finished, you just shuck off the whole kit ‘n caboodle. Easy peasy.
Few things are as insufferable as a non-verbal kid howling for twenty minutes at the pool because of sunscreen stinging his eyes. There’s just not much you can do about it, other than gouge out your child’s eyes as you wait out the judgemental stares (Why, yes. I am wearing my “LOSER MOM” t-shirt today.) My favorite is Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids with SPF 70. It slicks onto young faces as smooth as a Burt’s Bees lip balm. Waxy, yet with minimal drag, yet clings enough not to melt and bleed into their eyes. As a self-proclaimed SPF Nazi, I keep one in each child’s backpack, in the van, in the house, in my purse… You get the idea. Bundle these with an assortment of sprays, lotions, and non water-resistant/easy to wash off varieties, for full body protection.
Disposable latex gloves
No matter how much you try to wipe off water-resistant sunscreen from your hands after slathering your kids, your phone gets greasy, your keys gets greasy, everything gets greasy. I hate greasy. I just can’t be bothered by gummy hands with no immediate access to a washroom, especially with kids running off into the pool, beach or whatever. I buy boxes of latex gloves from Costco and wear one before applying sunscreen to the kids. I keep a stash bundled with the SPF buffet (above), in a gallon-size Ziplock bag. One bundle in the house, one in the van, another for my husband’s car, etc….. Again, you get the idea. I know it’s not very green. But we fly fast and furious during the summer. Besides, fun should be fun, not work.
Diaper wipes, napkins, paper towels, etc.
Kids = Spills + Stickiness.
Add a bottle of hand-sanitizer to minimize inconvenient trips to the rest room for mere handwashings. Besides, taking a big boy (who requires constant supervision) into the ladies room with you gets unwieldy at a certain age.
Sports water bottles
My favorite for drinking and driving (that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean) is the type that come with sports caps. These eliminate splashes and spills (wet clothes and car seats!) at sudden turns and hard brakes. I might buy a six-pack of these and transfer the caps to cheaper bottles from Costco, as we go along.
Sand Toys + Laundry Basket
Keep sand toys contained in a sturdy bucket or handled laundry basket. Because the handles to cheap plastic bins that sand toys are originally sold in never last. They also leak (wet, caked) sand everywhere, which is irritating when it sticks to young bodies slathered in waterproof sunscreen, who tend to squirm around on the upholstery. And as mentioned in the previous post, deep vacuuming only happens once a year around these parts. Just get a decent basket.
I refuse to spend $1.50 for chilled bottled water, just because nobody wants to drink the warm stuff that’s been sitting in the trunk. I keep a supply of frozen water bottles in the freezer at home, ready to grab and toss into the car cooler. Shopping for frozen foods goes better, too. Nobody like slushy popsicles or peas. They certainly don’t like slushy popsicles with peas. Ew.
Lock N Lock boxes of nuts, crackers, granola bars, dried-fruit/fruit leather, or those 100-calorie packs (come on, you know you don’t eat just one.) Beware of items with chocolate chips. Same goes for lip balm or lipsticks. I used to carry Gummy Vites until I found out they weld together into a single, multi-colored glob. Tragic, how they cling together in death. Think the intoned incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.
I also like to keep a short stack of Dixie cups for dispensing snacks throughout the cabin. Particularly helpful on long drives or road trips. On solo-drive trips, I end up having to multi-task as pilot, navigator, in-flight deejay (“Mommy, the movie’s done!”) and flight attendant,
Sir, would you like a beverage? Sir, would you like more Goldfish? No, sir. We’re not there yet. Sir, I saw that. Sir, stop hitting your brother… Sir, don’t you make me stop this car..?!
More on Minivan Mommy Multi-tasking in the last post. Part 3: A roundup of creative ways to repurpose your Tricked-Out Swagger Wagon. A minivan offers waaay more functionality than just getting to places, folks. Stay tuned…
How about you? What summertime essentials are in your minivan? Leave a comment or suggestion below.
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Dog tags — yes! Got mine on Etsy. Both of my older kids have two of them. One has their name, address and my cell number. The other has a short list of prayers to our favorite Saints (St Anthony, finder of lost people; St Patrick, our son’s patron because he was born on St Paddy’s Day; the Holy Infant Jesus, because He IS sweetness, wisdom, beauty and FIERCE PROTECTION all rolled into one). Our priest blessed them. No one has been lost!
Love the additional helpful hints. Superbad, Mighty Mama!