In the first post of the series, I introduced a Summer Survival Strategy: Tricking out the family minivan.
In the second post, I detailed a checklist of Must Have items, particularly helpful for ASD families, or anyone weathering (withering?) the summer.
In this third and last post, I present a survey of multi-purpose uses for the minivan. It’s not just for getting to places.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
So, you’re all tricked-out & rarin’ to go. Now what? You could use the van to drive the family from Point A to Point B, just with more amenities. But that’s so predictable.
Worst-case scenario: You’re now ready to live out of your fully Y2K-compliant van, in the event of a natural disaster. Just add some canned goods to The Checklist.
Best case scenario: You’re ready for a variety of summertime exploits and adventures. No further assembly required.
Skill Building Module
Remember those multi-sensory baby activity centers? They have brightly colored wheels that spin, gears that click, horns that honk, and different textured fabric gizmos for developing motor coordination, sensory integration, and teaching cause and effect. With a washable, padded bouncy seat, too, for propriosceptive input.
A six-hour drive to grandma’s house offers a similar, graduated experience for grown ups: Solo-pilot (“Pick it up yourself. I’m driving.”); Navigator (“I already told you, five more hours”); Flight attendant, (“Sir, would you like a beverage? Sir, stop punching your brother,”); In-flight DJ (“Mooooom! The movie’s done!”); and Referee (“Moooom! He’s eating all the chips!”) After six hours, my stress management skills and executive functioning have been stretched and taxed to the snapping point. Pilots in training must feel this way after extended sessions on flight simulators, in “turbulence mode.”
On the other hand, the kids are legally strapped down and immobile for half a day. As long as the snacks and movies don’t run out, I get to sit still for long stretches. I can actually relax, think my own thoughts — and even finish some. It’s a mental spa.
Demi Dining Al Fresco
Too windy at the park? Fog rolling in at the beach? Somebody whining about flies or mosquitos? Bust out a collapsible table-in-a-bag, or spread out beach towels or blankets in the rear. It’s the best of both worlds: dining al fresco, without the capricious elements of Mother Nature. The glamping alternative to picnicking in the rough. After the meal, simply shuck off crumbs in a biodegradable flourish, and you’re off on your next adventure.
Pack your own GFCF snacks or take-out. Spread out blankets and catch the latest summer flick at the drive-in, with volume you control. Kids can fidget, ask irritating questions using their Outside Voices, or vocal stim all they want — all with minimal stress over fellow movie-goers. You can even nurse an infant sibling in darkened comfort (ask not, how I know this.) Invite friends in separate cars and stake out a plot for ASD family friendly fellowship. Kids can safely enjoy the movie (contained + enclosed) while parents BBQ or chat outside. Before the movie starts, change youngins’ into pajamas for an unconscious drive home, and wordless car-to-bed transfer. Forfeit teethbrushing for a night and everybody wins. C’est magnifique!
Auxiliary living space
Our van is the Kim family annex. For the ultimate in modularity, take out the middle row of seats. This configuration preserves trunk storage, while offering kid-friendly, small-space flexibility and functionality.
Give the kids a mock-limo experience. Or create a portable dressing room (gas station and public restroom floors are icky, aren’t they?) by taping blankets or beach towels to the side windows. Or for an activity center/console/mini-playroom, roll out the portable mini-table in the mid-section for on-the-go crafts or games. IKEA, eat your heart out.
Nap anywhere, anytime
You don’t have to travel to Japan to experience one of those sleeping cubicles. Roll down the rear bench, throw down a sleeping bag and you’ve got a mobile nap center. No more slumped-over kids in the backseat, who develop into literal pains in the neck when they wake up. Nap in comfort anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
Like many special needs parents, the minivan is my second home (aside from the doctor/therapist’s office). It’s also where the rare, extended phone call can happen. For me, phone calls have to be scheduled in advance. If you have young children or a child on the spectrum, you know what I’m talking about. Here in an activities-oriented cabin, children are contained and elopement minimized. Plug in an AC Adapter into the cigarette lighter for extended battery power, throw an iPad in the back (or configure van into Nap Mode,) and an isolated special needs mom can chat as long until someone needs to potty. After one lengthy conversation, I turned around and saw this. Someone had been working on geometry.
Food Trucks Redux
Forget the taco truck or lemonade stand (profit margins limited to whoever drives by your block.) Chill a case of Starbucks Chillers or individual snack packs from Costco and throw them into a cooler. Pull up to a soccer practice (it doesn’t have to be yours.) Slide open the trunk or side door and you’re open for business. What tired, soccer mom warding off the mid-afternoon slump (or held hostage to overtime) wouldn’t appreciate hand-delivered, chilled caffeine or organic snacks for $5 a pop? Give the Ice Cream truck a run for his money with this new model of mama-made, trucked-in treats. Teach your kids how to make change and lessons in small business acumen. No permit? No problem. Just hustle off to the next park…
A brilliant alternative to trick or treating, I’ve seen done at local churches. Especially, in this day and age (or at least in our area) when parents are wary about their kids collecting candy from strangers, anyway. With Trick-Car-Treating, individual cars decorate the trunks of their cars however they like (e.g. sports teams, seasonal fall colors, Disney, whatever) and congregate in a parking lot. They pop the trunk open, and kids go from car to car, “Trick-Car-Treat!” They can collect goodies from familiar, trusted folks of their church, youth group or organization. Drivers often set out lawn chairs next to their vehicles, to chat with parents while Treaters check out their wares. It’s quite lovely.
And last but not least, van camping! Starting with The Checklist, and loaded up with a camping stove, cooler, sleep center, modular changing room/activity console, entertainment center, and mobile office with smart phones and tech toys all plugged into the car charger, who needs an RV?
Happy Summering everyone! And may you, too, survive the season…
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