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?

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.

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

Vacation – Not for the faint of heart

Yes, it’s been a bit since my last post. We flew off to Maui two days after the kids got out of school. I had so been looking forward to this trip, but I knew it would be fraught with its own issues. Pulling E-man away from home, completely out of routine, with no set schedule….just asking for disaster. And we did have our disasters. There were a few times in the past nine days I was mentally blogging about how horrible it is to travel with an autistic child. But today, now that we’re home, I know it wasn’t as horrible as those few moments felt. Granted, I had my own mother of all meltdowns. I am so thankful my Daddy was there to lend a shoulder for my tears. In real life, he lives six hours away. I don’t often get to lean on him. It was a relief to have him there (note to self….buy waterproof mascara for me, and a new white t-shirt for Daddy) when my wheels completely fell off.

Traveling with an autistic child is challenging. I think we’re getting better at it, for the most part. We worked out a deal with him that as long as he did something with us at some point during the day, he could have some “non-social time.” He ended up with probably two completely non-social days, and he had two grand meltdowns of his own. He hates being away from home. He hates not having a schedule. He is not a fan of outdoor activities. He obsessed about getting or having certain toys, gifts, foods. I know we had our share of those looks from people who have no idea what we face. But we also had some amazing moments…times when he connected with family, times when he made us laugh belly-aching laughs, times when he connected with the world around him in his way, times when he surprised me completely. Right now, I refuse to honor our bad moments by outlining them in detail. I won’t let them take away from what was a fabulous family vacation.

I am tired. It is rather exhausting to travel, much less with three children, and even less with a child who has higher needs. But I am rejuvenated at the same time. I cannot say I didn’t have my freakouts. I cannot say I didn’t have my moments when I wanted to run away. I cannot say I didn’t have my  moments when I begged God once again to know “Why us? Why him?”  I cannot say I handled it all as perfectly as I would wish. But we did it. It doesn’t look like the Hawaiian vacation of families with neuro-normal children, but it is ours. Nothing can take away the incredible sights we saw, the cool things we did, and the amazing memories we made.

Worry and anxiety

We will be traveling by plane this Summer, something we haven’t done with the kids since E’s diagnosis. He’s been on a plane before. We’ve survived the drama of security checkpoints, boarding, flight time, him needing to go potty just as the “fasten seat-belts” light came on, and de-planing. None of it was easy. I was always a stressed-out mess. I get anxious when I travel by myself, much less when we venture into an airport with the kids.

But now, I *know*. We have a diagnosis. And I recently read an article on Logan Airport in Boston doing “training sessions” for autistic kids to get them used to the process. E-man has been through the process before, but it’s been awhile. He’s already made comments leading me to believe he is anxious and worried about the trip, particularly the airport and airplane portion. So, being the now-proactive mom, I started researching. Based on website info, it doesn’t seem the airports we will be using have any sort of accommodations in place for autistic children. Nor does the airline we will be flying. In a way, I guess I had assumed it would be on us anyways to navigate our child through, but wouldn’t you think with all the increase in awareness, more would be done to help? Essentially all I’ve found is that we might be able to ask for early, priority boarding. Even that is not a guarantee. And honestly, he would rather wait until the last minute to get on the plane anyways. Early boarding is not helpful in his mind.

So I’m worried, and I’m a bit anxious. It’s taking away some of my excitement for this trip. It’s going to be stressful, getting him through the airport, onto that plane, and through the ride to our destination. My heart rate increases just thinking about it. We have an early morning flight. Hopefully that will mean less chance for delays, and shorter security lines. We will pack his airplane bag with a present and all kinds of treats. We will load movies and probably a couple of new games onto the iPad. I’ll carry along his noise-blocking headphones. And we will pray, a lot. We will prep him as best we can. And then, on a wing and a prayer, we will be on our way, come what may.