Tag Archives: Travel

Cleared For Departure?

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When our family takes a vacation, our preferred method of getting to our destination is by driving. I was trained in the fine art of car travel by my parents. There were only four of us (myself, my sister and my parents) so piling into the car for a quick day trip or long weekend was something we had down to a science. A couple of times that I remember (I may have blocked others out of my mind) we took the term “road trip” to the extreme. One such venture was up and around the extreme northern sections of the Midwest; visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and returning through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. That trip wasn’t too bad as it was only a week and we countered our painful visit to the Mall of America by spending a day in Chicago. The doozy was the cross-country journey that took a total of three weeks to complete…in a Pontiac Grand Prix. From the Midwest to California and back. Out to the Pacific through the Dakotas and Yellowstone. Back home seeing the Grand Canyon, Texas and Graceland. I turned 16 on that trip, spending a teenager’s monumental birthday at Mount Rushmore knowing that there was still two more weeks of road to travel…in the back of a Grand Prix. (I’m currently seeking the support of others who may have shared a similar experience. Anyone? Didn’t think so.)

I joke but, in reality, the trip was something that I will always remember (along with every word of the Randy Travis album that my sister played in the car twice a day for three straight weeks). It took numerous days/months of planning on my parent’s behalf and I can say that I have visited many of the United States beautiful landmarks. The time we had as a family, in the close confines of a four door sedan, was priceless. My wife and I are trying to make the same memories with our children. We haven’t ventured West but we have achieved numerous car trips to the beach and places such as Washington DC, Chicago and Florida. Some of these trips have taken up to 15 hours and we generally make the journey in one or two days. The kids are great travelers and aside from some isolated bouts of motion sickness when they were younger, we have had minimal issues. So, when the situation presents itself that we fly to our destination, it takes us out of our comfort zone.

I have no issues with plane travel. I view it as a necessary means of getting where you need to go in a more efficient manner. The kids haven’t flown enough to feel anything other than indifference when it comes to flying. My wife is admittedly not that strong of a flyer as she often feels anxious when not able to have more control of the environment around her. Until Cam was diagnosed with Celiac, I did not fully understand where she was coming from but, as with many things in every day life that my eyes have been opened to, recent events have shown me the reasons for her feelings.

You see, I’m writing this blog entry in the midst of a three hour flight delay. This doesn’t bother me as I understand that these things can happen but it definitely affects Cam. Much as my parents did with our trips, we meticulously prepare when we travel. This preparation has only increased with his special diet. Car rides are easier as we can pack however much food he needs based on how far we are going. Airline regulations make it difficult for us to do the same. This flight was scheduled to leave right around dinner time so we had him eat a light meal prior to going to the airport and packed some snacks for the flight. We had a plan but then we lost control of the situation. He’s 12 and a sleeve of gluten free crackers and cheese ain’t going to hold him for six hours. Restaurants at our airport have zero gluten free options so sitting down over a meal to kill the time isn’t happening. He’s not going to starve but other than a bag of kettle chips at a walk up kiosk (that coincidentally just closed at 7:00), he has no other choices. It’s another example of a place that wants to provide exemplary customer service to attract return travelers but doesn’t have the knowledge or the means. For now, he’s ok but should the bad weather continue and we get more delayed, maybe I can find a Grand Prix and take a drive.

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Back to the Beginning

Like many people, I love a good mystery. Whether it be an attention-grabbing yarn weaved by a talented storyteller or a well-crafted tale on the silver screen, mysteries often have many of the same, satisfying components.  You have the hero / detective who is trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle to solve the crime. There is usually one main clue that breaks the case open and ties in all of the leads and brings into focus for the hero and the audience the answer to “whodunit”. And, almost always, there is a time when the story returns to “the scene of the crime”. I wouldn’t call any part of my personal life a mystery and there have definitely been no crimes committed but this coming weekend, I do consider myself returning to the “scene” that provided us the main clue in answering the question of what was bothering my son. I briefly touched on this “discovery” in my very first blog that I posted several months ago. My children are very lucky to have three great-grandparents still alive and thriving in their 90s.  My wife’s grandparents, at 97 and 93, are still going strong and living independently in the same town that she grew up in. Not able to travel on their own, we make it a point to go and visit them every four to six months. It was during our visit last September that we had the night that I’ll always associate with turning point in our family’s and my son’s life.

Cam had been going through various bouts of stomach related problems for almost three months. We had visited his doctor several times over the summer and had a variety of tests completed with no definitive answers (no testing assigned was a blood marker test). We went to a specialist and was prescribed probiotics with a fill cost close to $500. We purchased a generic version which had limited success but we were never convinced as parents that a pill was going to be the answer to his problems (in hindsight, money well saved). We kept a limited food diary but our untrained eyes never discovered a pattern that pointed to gluten as the prime suspect. Every time that he had an episode, we were back to square one. So, with the mystery still unsolved , we ventured on our road trip.

On our journey, which I can now almost drive in my sleep, we have a designated stop at the halfway point. At this stop on this particular trip, Cam had a sausage biscuit for breakfast. Once we arrived in town, we stopped and picked up lunch before checking into our hotel. For lunch, Cam had a chicken sandwich. Dinner that evening consisted of three more types of bread. As many of you know, as a parent you have an instinct that kicks in when there is something wrong with your child. When our kids were babies, I was the one who would hear them wake up in the middle of the night. It could have been just a whimper but something in my head constantly kept me in tune with their needs. So, on that night in the hotel room when I woke up at 4:00 in the morning, I knew something was wrong. The light was on in the bathroom so I got up and lightly knocked on the door. When I saw Cam’s face, I knew he was hurting. He filled me in on how he felt and what had occurred before I woke up (I guess my instincts aren’t as sharp as they were when he was younger). I had him try to rest with my wife and I in our bed but laying down only made his pains worse. After a ten minute attempt at distraction, it was back to the bathroom. The next 30 minutes of sitting on the cold floor were not for the faint of stomach but through tears, hand-holding and support, the pain passed and he practically collapsed in his bed from exhaustion for the rest of the night.

That evening, I promised Cam that I would make his “nightmare” stop but looking back on it now, I realize that I was clueless as to how to make that happen. The next day, thinking that bread had something to do with his issues, I still allowed him to have half of a sandwich bun for lunch. I actually thought that this would help. I had never heard of cross-contamination and had no idea how many food products were causing my son’s body to attack itself. How quickly things have changed. We approach this trip to visit Cam’s great-grandparents with an entirely new perspective. Six months of immersing ourselves into the world of Celiac disease and gluten-free options, we feel we are ready as we can be. We know the extensive efforts that need to be taken with his foods and have pre-planned an entire, long weekend’s worth of menus, snacks and drinks. We return with our own silverware and plates to avoid possible residue contamination. We have looked up restaurant options and have back-up itineraries just in case his needs can’t be met. We have even been bold enough to book our room at the same hotel; the scene of the “crime” and a memory that will not go away any time soon. Admittedly, Cam is a little nervous, and rightfully so. But, if anything does happen, he knows that six months has provided us with more than enough experience to solve any mysteries that come our way.

Planning Makes Perfect

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We’re coming up on five months since my son was diagnosed as a Celiac. Changes that we have made to our lifestyles are prevalent in our home every day. Right now, I’m listening to the bread machine churn out another loaf of Gluten Free sandwich bread (a wonderful recipe that I will have my wife post soon to my Twitter page). This is on the heels of a mildly-successful attempt at brownies (a little dry but light years beyond the 1st effort). But changes aren’t just designated to only the kitchen and our diets.

We’re a travelling family. We try to make it to the beach every summer (my wife’s happy place) and the kids have been to Disney numerous times (my happy place…side note: so excited that there is going to be a Celiac convention there in November!). We will often take small day trips as well as we are located only a few hours from many major cities and popular tourist attractions. It used to be that we would just be able to hop in the car and go at a moment’s notice. We would usually pack a picnic by throwing sandwiches and chips in the cooler and then stop at a restaurant for our second meal if we weren’t yet at our destination. Now that we need to be Gluten-Free, this doesn’t come as easy as it once did. But, by no means is it impossible.

We view this, as with a lot of things, as another way that Celiac is not going to beat us. We’re not going to let an auto-immune response stop us from being who we want to be. We have always known that pre-planning for trips has resulted in successful adventures but now, it is an essential step. We have rated success in the past based on how much fun we have, was the experience unique and did we make lasting family memories. Now, we add, “did Cam have a reaction” to the list.

The trip this past weekend was wildly successful. Memories were made, fun was had, we were part of something historic and my son had no issues. I credit all of this to my wife’s due diligence in prepping food and bringing along things like individual macaroni cups and “safe” snacks to help with fill the 12-year old’s bottomless pit of a stomach. She also found GF-friendly restaurants in our area that accommodated our needs and lessened our stress of finding someplace where we all could eat. She really is a remarkable person. I credit my daughter, our non-Celiac, for understanding her brother’s needs and not complaining about the extra steps and special considerations that we need to take since his diagnosis. And, as always, I give my son so much credit in doing what he needs to do to get through what life had dealt him. I hope that my great family can act as a model for those who don’t think they can maintain the same lifestyle after their diagnosis. It may take some extra time but the payoff is definitely worth it.