We have two more weeks before our kids are on spring break. It seems an eternity since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to a much-needed break. The Herd will be headed out on an RV trip to some National Parks. We had invited a few other families along, but it didn’t work out for either of them to join us, so it will be just us – just the five of us. While I was super bummed our friends couldn’t come along, I’m now grateful for the time we will have as a family.

I’m feeling we need a family huddle – a time to re-group, reconnect, heal some wounds, help recover from some lessons, push a re-set button. It has been yet another haul this school year. We’ve had some really good things happen, but we’ve also each slugged our way through some pretty heavy stuff. I think we could each use some time to lick our wounds, figure out what we can fix, how we can fix it, what we need to move on from, what lessons have been learned, how we can communicate our needs to each other much better than we have been. We can remind each other all the great stuff about us.

Oh, it won’t all be serious stuff over the whole week we’re gone. There will be adventures – lots of hiking and biking. There will be lots of pictures, because that’s what I do. I’m already planning the scrapbook for this trip in my mind (and on Pinterest). There will be music, food, games, books, late nights, blessed mornings. Someone will say something funny and it will become part of the fabric of our family – another story to tell in years to come. We will see amazing things, go amazing places. There will be meltdowns, arguments, frustrations, but those are all part of building memories, right?

I just feel we need this time to figure out who we are as a family once again. I cannot wait to see the places we’re going to see, but more than that, I cannot wait for the time together, away from tv, friends, distractions, training schedules, classes, homework, practices, computers.  We will be contained in one RV – no separate bedrooms to run off to and close everyone else out. I’m sure that may sound like some form of torture for my three teens, but I think they’re looking forward to this as much as I am. The time with them still under our roof is speeding quickly by. I’m grateful to have the chance to be with them, experience something new for all of us.

Does your family take huddle time sometimes?

Running on Kauai

I don’t tend to work out while I’m on vacation. For me, vacation usually  means a complete break, although our last few vacations involved LOTS of walking/hiking, so I did get inadvertent exercise. I’m not getting any younger, however, and am  in the midst of training for my first half marathon in nearly two years. I knew this vacation was going to have to involve some runs, and at least one long run. I’d done a couple short runs the last time we were in Hawaii and was actually looking forward to it.

Our first morning on Kauai, I got up early, because, you know, time zone change had me wide awake at 4am Hawaiian time. Big Man was supposed to go out with me, but he’d left his running shoes at home. ARGH! I jumped on one of my running apps to track down a route with the mileage I needed, had a little bit of coffee, plugged in my headphones, and headed out.

The first part of my run was along the main road in the town we were staying. There were quite a few people out running and walking. There were lots of waves and head-nods. “Yeah, we’re running in this beautiful place.” My run would loop me up through a small historic town, but was along two-lane roads the entire time. And there were chickens and roosters everywhere! They helped keep me entertained.

I recalled as I ran that going away from the ocean, you’re going uphill. When you’re going towards the ocean, it’s downhill. I did have to stop a few times to take some photos.  The views were just beautiful, and inspiring. That I had the opportunity to be in, much less run in, such a gorgeous place….trust me, I appreciated it.

I won’t lie – I did get a tiny bit lost, but it isn’t too hard to find your way again. Kauai is pretty rural overall. We stayed in Poipu. You can’t really get completely lost there. I didn’t get too many weird looks while I ran along the side of this narrow road. I’m sure the residents are used to crazy runners getting out there. I ran through Koloa, noting the shops I wanted to stop by later, particularly the ice cream/shave ice shop. (Hey, I run so I can have my wine, and sometimes ice cream, with impunity).

I ran by some houses, wondering what it’s like to actually live there, and then hit the “main” road, the Koloa bypass. Ahhhhh…..the downhill part. There were lots of smooshed froggies on the sides of the road. I remembered my mom telling me long ago of her trip to Kauai, and how the frogs were so loud. I didn’t hear any frogs while we were there, but they were probably drowned out by all the roosters.

I did seven miles that first Kauai run. A few days later, I ran 3.5 staying in Poipu, running near the ocean and back along that main road. My last Kauai run, the day before we came home, I ran the Koloa bypass out to the main highway and back to our resort, which was almost six miles. That was a rough one…it was super humid, and the cloud cover was gone. The sun was beating down, and let’s just say, I’d celebrated a little bit the day before, as it was Little Man’s birthday, and I was feeling it on that run.

Our world is amazing with so many beautiful places. Getting out and running when  you’re traveling gives you a perspective you don’t get from a car, or while sight-seeing. Destination running, I’m discovering, is an awesome way to really see a place, feel it, live in it. I’m so thankful l took my running shoes, laced them up, and got out there.

Edited to add some views from my runs    

Zip Adventure

From the moment we decided to go to Kauai, we knew we wanted to go on a zip lining adventure. It had to happen. Spouse and I had both done it before, in different locations. The Princess zip lined at the Zoo Safari Park for her birthday. So we researched, checked in the travel books, and communicated with the resort concierge to find the best, most bang-for-your-buck tour. And we began to prep Little Man right out of the gate.

He’s afraid of heights. Being next to the edge of even a small drop makes him very anxious. So trust  me when I say I was worried how he would handle zip lining. Why did we even bother to take him on this excursion? Hmmm…no, it wasn’t to torture him. We knew he could do it. We  knew with the right level of encouragement and excitement on our part, he could overcome his anxiety. So we talked, and we talked about it, going zip lining. We showed him pictures and video. We reassured him he would not be alone, we would be right there. A couple of his friends had been zip lining before, and their excitement at the prospect of him going truly helped.

The day of our adventure, he was nervous and anxious. It always comes out in other ways – sideways behavior, lashing out, tears, anger. But he finally admitted he was nervous. I didn’t address his specific fears directly, just told him how excited I was we were all doing this together, that we would be totally safe, and we would be there for him.

When we arrived at the base, we were quickly checked in and outfitted in our harnesses and helmets.

He was doing great. We had a small training session, loaded into the bus, sun-screened and bug sprayed, and were on our way to the first line. We had two guides with us. I have to tell you, one in particular was amazing. We hadn’t informed anyone at the zip lining company Little Man is autistic. Maybe I should have. But the one guide was perfect – he had the exact level of encouragement and comfort Little Man needed. He  knew what he was doing with my littlest. We climbed up the first platform -and I’ll tell you this, when you’re on the side of a mountain, facing downhill, you don’t have to climb that high to get a good zip line – got our last instructions, and were off. Our family was toward the back of the pack (there were three families all together), and we put Little Man first, at his request.

I was holding my breath, if I’m being honest. I had no clue how he was going to react, what he was going to do. I think I fully expected him to fall completely apart. I was waiting for the meltdown, half believing he and I would end up getting back on the bus to the base while the rest of the family enjoyed the excursion. The guide calmly and confidently took over. He got Little Man hooked up, quietly calmed his fears, and sent him off down the first line. I couldn’t wait to get to the other end where he was to make sure he was okay. My momma’s heart needed to know he was okay. But Big Man and the Princess were ahead of me in line, and I had to wait. It was good for me to wait, to not helicopter him. When I got to the other end, finally, I saw his sweet, smiling, excited face. I gave him a huge hug. EVERYONE was congratulating him. He’d done it!


There were seven more lines to go, which was maybe three more than he was up for, but he made it through. He did cry a couple of times, right after finishing a line. But again, that particular guide was awesome with him. I don’t know if he’s dealt with autistic kids before, but it felt he’d been trained specifically how to manage my boy’s fears and anxieties.

We had to tandom him twice, because he didn’t weigh enough to make it down the longer lines by himself. The last line was a quarter mile long. When we finished the last line, his relief was evident, but so was his pride in himself. His boundaries keep expanding. We got him outside of his comfort zone, and we all survived. Even now, it makes me cry thinking about it. He did it! He did it without completely losing it. He did it without me being by  his side 100% of the time. Everyone was so encouraging to him. It was probably the greatest adventure of the trip, just because we knew what it meant for him, for our family. This day, autism didn’t win. IMG_0523

It’s a different kind of vacation

The thing that kept repeatedly striking me while we were on our vacation was how different it is now. Two of the three are teenagers. Little Man is just a year away from being a teen. Gone are the days of carseats and strollers. We only ever get one children’s menu at restaurants, and only typically use that if there isn’t a burger or plain pasta option on the regular menu. We don’t have to break from what we’re doing for someone to take a nap (unless it’s me our Spouse in need of a nap). It’s just different.

This trip was full of activity and adventure. That’s the biggest difference. We went zip lining. We hiked four times. Big Man golfed three times with Spouse and my father-in-law.  They snorkeled. The older two went back and forth between the condo and the beach by themselves.  And when we went shopping, they each used their own money, handling the transactions with us just watching.

They aren’t babies anymore. They aren’t little kids anymore. I’m realizing our time with them is flashing by, and will soon come to an end, and then a new, different phase will start. It’s amazing to watch. It’s also terrifying to watch. Big Man and the Princess sat in the row behind me on the plane. I didn’t have to check on them. They ordered their own sodas and snacks. They entertained themselves.  I sat there on the beach as teenage boys, and a couple of creepy men, stared at my daughter. I wanted to yell out, “NOT OKAY! She’s a little girl!” but I couldn’t, because she isn’t a little girl. Big Man went to the pool by himself, because he could. He didn’t want to go to dinner with us one night, so he didn’t.

I kept checking myself – this trip just felt so different. They’re becoming so independent. They need me less. They are in that stage of getting ready to go out into the world on their own. It kind of made me sad. Our world will change all too soon – I can’t even imagine what I’ll do with myself when I’m not driving all the carpools, sitting for hours at the dance studio, running ragged to get laundry and grocery shopping done, hauling  them to this doctor or that specialist, this activity, that birthday party.

In a way, I felt like I was shrinking around them, granted Big Man and Princess are both taller than I. I don’t know how to explain in  – they were just there, in front of me, just on the front end of their lives, larger than life. Does that make any sense? Not that my life is at an end – I’m only halfway there. But I just felt smaller, and not just physically.

This trip wasn’t any less exhausting than those from their younger days, because we were so busy being adventurous. It was a different exhausting than that of taking care of toddlers and little kids. I like this new phase, and I don’t like this new phase. It’s fun to watch them take on the world in their own ways, but it’s also bittersweet. What I do know is it was different this time.

Airplane Ride

It should really come as no surprise Little Man is not a huge fan of flying. It’s not actually the flying itself he doesn’t like, it’s the rest of the process. Although after a rough flight home from Chicago a couple years ago, combined with a lack of food followed by too many french fries, ended with him puking on the plane, and a resultant fear the same will happen every time he flies. Sigh….It’s mostly the rest of the process.

I always talk him through the process in the days leading up to airplane travel, from parking the car to getting a rental car at the other end. It is a process, right? I’m not a huge fan myself, and have some general anxiety until we’re checked in, through security, and have boarded the plane. Multiply that by about a thousand and you have his experience.

The flight out was a typical experience with him. Park the car, gather the luggage, catch the shuttle, unload at the terminal, check in, check bags, get in the security line. I see his eyes start to get frantic as we weave our way through the line. Then we reach the initial document check. The TSA employee asks his name and age. I have to prompt him to respond, and then repeat it loudly enough for her to  hear. It’s a time I wish we had that sign indicating his disability. I can see his stress rising. Blessedly, because of his age, he doesn’t have to take his shoes off, but it’s still somewhat overwhelming for him, particularly knowing there’s a sense of urgency to not hold up the line. He watches as his beloved Jaws and Freddy go through the scanner, anxiously waiting on the other side for them to come out safely.  We reach the gate, and I give him the motion sickness medicine. He asks to pre-board. We’ve done this before, and have found it makes it easier for him – he doesn’t have to deal with the line (he hates lines), nor does have to deal with the hurry-up atmosphere that seems to accompany getting in your seat once on board. So we pre-boarded.

He had the window seat. His airplane bag was loaded with his phone, his DS, snacks, headphones, and his plushies. I fully expected him to fall asleep at some point. We’d woken up at 3am, and he’d had the motion sickness meds which makes even me sleepy. We had a six-hour direct flight. I thought, if he did’t fall asleep, he would at least have enough to keep him entertained. Um, not so much.

That was the LONGEST six hour flight ever. I could feel his anxiety ramping up. His breathing was out of control. He was fidgety. He drew near to tears twice. We hit the mid-way point of the flight, and I thought there was no way we were going to survive. Spouse was across the aisle and a row behind. Big Man and the Princess were right behind us. Somehow, I still felt Little Man and I were an island unto ourselves. Have I mentioned his anxiety causes my anxiety? I had hoped for some sleep myself on the long flight. That didn’t happen. I didn’t have a chance to watch the movie I’d put on my laptop. I hardly had a moment to read the book I’d brought along. I spent six hours trying to keep him calm, fed, entertained, breathing normally.

When we had about 90 minutes left in the flight, the attendants came around with a last offer of beverages, including a complimentary rum punch for the adults. YES, PLEASE!!! Spouse looked at me like, “Uh, really?” I looked at him, silently saying, “You haven’t been sitting here for the last five hours!”

We finally landed. Little Man and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. We couldn’t wait to be off the plane. But we weren’t done yet. We still had to catch another shuttle and get the rental car. As expected, he began to lose it while we were waiting in the rental car line. Then we discovered the Princess had left her phone in the seat pocket on the plane. Three quick phone calls later, we were pulling back up to baggage claim at the airport (thank goodness for a small airport on a relatively small island). Another delay to cause him more stress. We finally reached the condo. He found a corner of the couch once we’d unloaded, and did what he needed to do in order to decompress. We’d survived, but it had been a close thing.

Would that I could make airplane travel easier for him. We’ve taken them on so many trips, you’d think it would be easier. But his sensory issues and his anxiety just make it stressful each and every time. That’s just one reason why I was shocked when he said he wanted to go right back the day after we got home from our trip.

It Just Isn’t Really My Gig

The Herd is planning a family ski/snowboarding adventure this weekend. We haven’t been up to the resort in probably four years, necessitating the replacement of appropriate ski/snow clothing for all three kids. The fact all three are still growing makes me supremely hesitant to drop a bunch of money for stuff they likely won’t wear again.  And of course we’re going on a holiday weekend (it’s President’s weekend for us this weekend), there are NO deals on lift tickets and equipment rentals. Much suckage.

I went to one sporting goods store this morning. I was in there for maybe three minutes and walked out without buying a darn thing. The least expensive snow pants I found – the kind without any lining at all, mind you – were $139!!! They went upwards from there. If you want lining, it’s apparently $40 extra. No thanks. Spouse’s suggestion was to let them wear water-proof pants over jeans. I’ve experienced that joy before. Not comfortable in the least. And, as I informed him, I’d still have to find and buy water-proof pants for each of them.

Off to sporting goods store #2. All the way there, I’m somewhat fuming. You see, I didn’t grow up skiing. I think I put skis on once, for about ten minutes. Slid backwards down the hill, because my mother who had never ski’d a day in her life decided to be our instructor and had us put our skis on while facing uphill, and decided to call it good. I just never had the inherent desire to put two sticks on my feet and slide down a mountain. Six years or so ago, I actually took lessons, and am bunny-hill competent. It still just isn’t really my gig. I don’t like going fast. I don’t like to feel the least bit out of control. I’m terrified of falling, not to mention running into another skier/snowboarder. I’ll do it, because it’s a family thing, and I like my kids to see me doing something that kinda scares me, something outside of my norm. But, seriously….not my thing. So I have a really hard time motivating myself to find snow clothes, buy the (totally overpriced) lift tickets, and pay the exhorbitant equipment rental fees (don’t even talk to me about buying skis/snowboards/boots/helmets for the kids!!). I was thinking, the five of us could have a really amazing day at Disneyland for what this is going to cost.

Okay, so back to the story…..Sporting goods store #2. We’ve come back to the land of reality. I equipped all three kids with pants and gloves for just over what the first place wanted for one pair of snow pants. WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER! I felt rather proud of myself. Then I came home and got on the resort website to get the lift tickets and rent equipment. I had that moment again of why-the-heck-are-we-doing-this? Then a technological glitch stepped in and I was totally ready to call it. Said some bad words. Texted Spouse my frustration. He wisely did not respond. Worked the stupid glitch out (note to self – sometimes the auto-fill will defeat you), and purchased the whole package for the five of us, which, yes, did involve putting in birth dates, height, weight, ability level, and shoe size for each person. DONE!

What a total pain. All this on the person who doesn’t really care, whose thing skiing just isn’t. Honestly, I’d rather sit in the lodge than slide down the side of a mountain, not to mention deal with chair lifts. Lord save me from chair lifts. Ever ski with an ASD kid? Yeah – it’s awesome, and at the same time, the worst sort of wear-you-out you could imagine. But come Saturday, we’ll be there, skiing and snowboarding. master snowboarders

“Thank you for your service, Sir.”

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m re-posting something I wrote back in April. Thank you, Daddy, for your service. Thank you to all Veterans.

My parents traveled with us to DC last week. Daddy is in his 80’s (sorry for throwing you under the bus, Daddy) and had been wanting to go for a long time. It was truly an honor to have them with us. You see, Daddy was in the Navy way back when, and served during the Korean War.

He didn’t talk much about his Navy time while I was growing up. It was always knowledge that was there, but he didn’t tell stories about his time serving, his time in the war. He knew all kinds of fun Japanese words he used to holler at us at will. We learned, in context, what  many of them meant. It was part of my childhood, but not something I knew a lot about. As  the grandkids have come along and gotten old enough to understand, Daddy has begun telling the stories of his days in the Navy, of being in that war, of being stationed in Japan for a good amount of time. He was even given a medal this past fall for his service in that war. It’s is awesome in the full sense of the word to hear him talk about that time, to see the looks on my children’s faces as they listen to him. I love those moments so much, and treasure them.  Big Man in particular loves to hear about the airplanes Daddy was in.

So yes, it was amazing to have Daddy and Mom with us and take him to all the things he’s only seen on television. He had much the same look as my kids as we took in the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, (empty) Reflecting Pool, the Capitol, the Mall, the museums, the Pentagon, Arlington, and so on. He was happy, which made me so happy.

We went to the Korean War Memorial on Thursday. I’ve seen it before, but it felt it was the first time because Daddy was with us. Have you seen it? It’s somewhat eerie with the soldiers in full gear and packs walking through the ground cover, and the faces etched in the wall.  The flags overhead snapped in the wind. The water pooled in the fountain behind us. Tears flowed down Daddy’s face. The kids seemed to know to remain quiet out of respect, and to stay by their Papa’s side. I won’t forget it, ever.

Flags over Korean War Memorial, Washington DC

Flags over Korean War Memorial, Washington DC

At least once a day, it came out that he had been in the Navy. Without exception, each time he told someone, the response was, “Thank you for your service, Sir.” I was so proud of my Daddy. He’s a veteran. He served our country. He deserves the honor accorded him by those people who thanked him.  It’s just a side of him I didn’t really experience growing up, and never thought of much. But those words stuck with me.

I’m probably not explaining this well. I can’t fully describe the feeling of being in our nation’s capitol with my Daddy, who also happens to be a veteran.  In the midst of all the things we did, all the things we saw, this one thing will always be one of the most memorable of the entire trip.

Thank you for your service, Daddy.