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?

A Return

The Herd is safely back from a much-needed vacation, rested, maybe a couple pounds heavier, and ready to take on the rest of the school year (Lord help us).  I have SOOO much to tell you all. Good golly, so many good things happened. Best words I could ever hear, which say so much more than you see on the surface, but Little Man told me yesterday, “I know we just got home, but I can’t wait to go back.”

Why does that mean so  much? Well, he hates to travel. He hates being away from home. He usually goes wheels-off about three days into any vacation. He just prefers home over anywhere else. He endures our trips. He’s usually asking to come home by the second day, no joke.

He had so many breakthroughs on this trip. That’s  not to say he didn’t have his moments of meltdown. We were just so proud of the things he did do. I’ll tell you about them, probably one at a time, because I want to savor each moment, each challenge won.

You know the week leading up to vacation, and the week after vacation are jammed full of work and prep? Yeah, that. Duty calls. But trust me, I have a lot to tell you. And I will get to it. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this……IMG_0472

Traveling with Autism

We just got back from hauling the Herd to and through Washington DC for six days. It was an adventure for sure, but more on the fun in another post. Today, I wanted to talk about how we do travel with autism.

Traveling with autism can be amazing. It can also suck all of the life right out of you in a split second. We had much of both on this trip. Flying is not his favorite form of travel. Getting luggage checked – argh- the line, the crowd of people, the usual confusion because, well, every airline and every airport does it just a tiny bit differently. He gets anxious about what will go with him on the plane, what will be checked, how will our bags get from one plane to another and successfully to the same airport we will end our journey. He watches as the bags are each weighed and put on the conveyor belt behind the kiosks, wanting to make sure they are going where they’re supposed to go. Next up is the security line. This wasn’t his first time at this rodeo, but it always stresses him out. We have to talk through the process in the days leading up to our trip, then again in the car on the way to the airport, then yet again as we enter the line. Blessedly on the way out, we were placed in the TSA pre-check line which meant no shoes had to come off, liquids could stay inside backpacks and purses. We LOVE when we get that line. No such luck on the way back, but oh well.

We decided to fly Southwest for this trip. It gave us flight times that worked best for us, and saved money. Bonus, right? How was it I wasn’t thinking about the unassigned seat thing and boarding by group and number when I booked the flights? A week ago, I recalled both of those things, and started to panic. If we weren’t in the A group, we might not be able to sit together. Standing in line, surrounded by so many people would be enough of an issue. We usually like a bit of time to get him on board and settled into his seat without having to worry about causing a log jam in the aisle behind us. Near-desperate, I checked their website and found we could request pre-boarding at the gate. Whew.

I did feel some stairs as we walked down the jet-way behind wheelchair-bound people, and one blind gentleman. Our son doesn’t look disabled. One of the gate agents even looked like he wanted to give me a hard time. I know there are people out there who will lie to take advantage of situations. I felt at a few points I might have needed a sign explaining our situation. But maybe that was my own fears of perceptions rather than anyone really thinking that. Most people were really nice. He did fabulously on the way to DC. Coming home wasn’t perfection. He wanted to be home. He was ready to be home. His behavior was a little sideways, and he cried a bit, but we survived.

He was a trooper with all the walking we did, which is usually an issue with him.  He was so excited to see everything and I’m fairly sure that overrode his aversion to any kind of physical exercise.  As it was Spring Break, half the country seemed to be in DC. Museums, monuments, memorials, restaurants, the Metro, and buses were crammed. We did skip portions of the museums when he would hit his maximum capacity. He started melting down in the Museum of American History. I found a quiet corner and got him settled. We left shortly after that.

Here’s the thing – traveling with a high-functioning autistic kid can be done. It requires planning ahead, scheduling what can be scheduled, letting him know the schedule (and frequently repeating the plan with him), making sure food is nearby at all times (he gets seriously hangry),  being okay with not doing EVERYTHING you think you want to do, and making sure to give him some decompressing time every day. We aren’t always 100% successful – there were a couple of less-than-stellar moments in restaurants that had heads turning – but we make it work. As we got home last night, he grabbed my hand and whispered to me, “Thank you for taking us to D.C., mom. I loved it.” And that, my friends, makes every rough moment worth it.

He’s So Excited (and he just can’t hide it)

I believe I mentioned we are taking the Herd to DC over Spring Break. Little Man is beside himself with excitement. There are so many things he simply can’t wait to see, things he’s only heard of or seen pictures of. This coming so closely on the heels of his birthday is about to make him burst.

He woke me up at 5:45 this morning to let me know just how many days  until we leave. Yep, nice wakeup call on the first morning of Spring Break. Tomorrow. he will begin counting the hours until our first flight.

Little Man is not usually one for travel. He goes reluctantly, knowing it is just part of life in this family. But he firmly lets us know he’s unhappy. He was 4 1/2 the second time we took them to Hawaii. He was asking to come home on day 2. We had seven more days on the island. One time we were camping, and he, knowing what day we were leaving for home, was up with sun, dressed, and packing up  his stuff. He sat on the back bumper, impatiently waiting as we slowly woke up, ate breakfast, and broke camp. That’s still one of my favorite photos of him because it showed so clearly his level of distaste for being away from home, and his excitement to get back to his comfy place.

This trip is somehow different. He has wanted for years to see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the reflecting pool (although he did ask why it’s called the reflecting pool…is it because it reflects something, or you’re supposed to reflect on our history while looking at it?”). He is most looking forward to a visit to the Air & Space Museum, air and space being two of his “things.” I can’t wait to see his face through all of it. To be able to bring part of our country’s history to life for my kids is an awesome thing.

My parents are going on the trip with us. My dad is Korean War vet. He’s never been to DC. I can’t wait to show it to him. It will be emotional, I’m sure. He deserves that moment.  Daddy has been counting the days too.

There’s lots to do between now and Tuesday morning, followed by a long day of travel. But this one is for the books. He’s not the only one who’s so excited.

Random Friday stuff

We’re getting ready to host a lobster boil at the house tomorrow night. It was Spouse’s idea, his gig, but I still have stuff to get done. Thus I was found at BevMo as soon as they opened, and then I braved Costco on a Friday, all for love of him. Bonus though – our  Costco finally has again my favorite hummus, the jalapeno cilantro flavor. I bought two. I thought about getting three just in case they change their minds again.

I started out on my walk this morning, and decided to try to see if I could run. Two-point-five miles later…..pretty sure I had that huge grin on my face again, the one non-runners totally don’t get. I was sure to stretch really well afterwards, and use the foam roller both before and after. Whatever it takes for me to be able to run again. It just put me in a good mood to run.

Getting back to the lobster boil though. Spouse ordered live Maine lobsters. They arrived this morning, in two big, heavy boxes. I saw them just as I was leaving on my errands. Dang it anyways. Those suckers were heavy, but I managed to get the boxes into the garage, then sent a text to Spouse to let him know they’d arrived. He asked if they were supposed to go in the fridge. Um, isn’t this your gig? Didn’t the website tell you what to do when they got here? When I returned from my BevMo/Costco run, I went to put stuff in the garage freezer, and heard some scratching claws coming from inside the box. Doh!! I couldn’t get the boxes into the fridge. Frantic text to Spouse, who arrived home fifteen minutes later to manage the situation. I’m not going in the garage, much less the garage fridge, until after tomorrow. I like lobster, but I prefer it already cooked. I won’t be part of putting them in the pot tomorrow, at all.

The kids are out on Spring Break, as of this afternoon. They have two weeks off. Yes, that’s TWO WEEKS!!! Little Man is a little bit stressed. He does like his routine. We will be traveling to DC for six days. Last time he flew, we didn’t plan well with food, and there was some pretty intense turbulence. He ended up throwing up on the plane. He was a true pro though, neatly getting it all in the little bag. But he’s worried it will  happen again. We’re getting him some Dramamine. He’s all about that if it will keep him from puking again. Of that, he was not a fan. Add to this stress all the stuff with the co-pilot intentionally crashing the Germanwings plane this week, and he’s a little anxious. We’re not watching the news for the next few days. Hopefully that will help settle his fears some.

When the kids go back to school, they will have nine weeks left until Summer. Big Man will graduate from eighth grade, and Little Man will finish elementary school. I’m stocking up on kleenex already.

I should be cleaning my house right now, but blogs are more fun. l

I’m taking the Princess to see one of her BFFs in Shrek the Musical tonight. This will be fun.

The dang cat has brought eight (EIGHT!!!!!) lizards into the house in the last five days. I have been able to rescue all of them before they suffered the death blow. It was close on a couple of them. We may have some repeat offenders, I’m thinking. Maybe I should let the cat have his way with them. Survival of the fittest. If I’ve rescued you more than once, your time might just be up. No, I don’t touch them. GROSS! The broom and dust pan work perfectly for lizard capture and release, as long as they don’t jump while I’m taking them outside.

I’m currently reading Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet a few years back and loved it. I’d been looking for another book by Ford. This is definitely following in Hotel’s footsteps. Eye-opening, melancholy, beautiful.  What are you reading? I have five books on my Kindle for the DC trip. Do you think that will be enough? Do you prefer hard books, or e-books? I go back and forth between the two. Sometimes I find myself tapping the page of a hard book in an attempt to turn the page, especially after I’ve been reading on the kindle for awhile.

I have the best friends.

U of A won last night in the Sweet Sixteen, but it was a bit close for comfort. Elite Eight tomorrow against Wisconsin. Please win, Wildcats. My husband’s mood depends upon it, and we have a party to host tomorrow night!

Seriously, I need to clean. Wait, I think I hear lobsters……

Spring Break – a little of this, and a little of that

The Herd is back to normal routine, well, about as normal as we get. Do your kids’ schools give one or two weeks for Spring Break? We have two, which I say I don’t like, except when we’re in it. Truthfully, I’d rather they cut it to one week and we get out a week earlier for Summer, but the extended break is nice. We spent the first week hanging out around town…..We went to the beach the first day. That trip was cut way short when the Princess was stung by a bee on the bottom of her foot. It was her first sting, and she appropriately completely freaked out. It took twenty minutes of soothing and pouring ice water on her foot to get her calmed enough for us to pack up and walk back to the car. Thankfully the dance studio was closed for the week because there was no way she was going to be able to dance for a few days. Blessedly, she is not allergic to stings (yet, anyways). I was fearful this was an indicator of how our break was going to go. Cue stress.

We took the kids to a Padres’ game that week too. Little Man did great, and not so great. He’s not a sports fan. Let’s just put it that way. He has no patience for it. It was pretty cold that night too, so we ended up heading home in the middle of the 7th inning. I did get a new blanket out of the deal though. And watching a baseball game is always good for the soul.

I chaperoned my three plus two more to the movie theater another day. Big Man had planned an outing with two of his friends. He is thirteen, so the original plan was to drop them off at the theater and pick them up when the movie was over. They wanted to see Captain America, which was also on my list, so I coerced my other two into going. We let the thirteen-year-olds sit by themselves, so they still had some freedom. I’m slowly letting the reins out for Big Man. It’s not quite as scary if you do it in small measures.

Big Man shadowed a high school senior another day of break. We are beginning the process of deciding which high school he will attend. Since Spouse went to an all-boys college prep high school, he’s kinda been pushing for the same for at least Big Man. So he got up crazy early to go to school with this senior at an all-boys, private, college prep high school. He loved it. Sigh. I am wrapping my brain around the possibility he will not be at the high school just down the street, but rather commuting 45 minutes each way to school. How are we at this point? In just over six weeks, he will finish seventh grade. One more year, and he’s off to high school. This momma is sad our time with our babies is growing short.

Our second week of break, we rented an RV, loaded up, and headed to Arizona with two other families. We drove to Prescott the first day and stayed there two nights. Easter  Sunday was spent touring the hillside town of Jerome, which used to be a mining town way back when. Now, the population holds somewhere around 400 I believe. It was interesting. Crazy how it was built literally on the side of a mountain. The views were amazing. I had forgotten what it was like to walk through a high-desert rain storm. The air just feels so different, and the rain drops are huge. It took me back to my childhood and the many visits we made to see family still living in Arizona. I had to text my mom once we were safely back in the RV just to share. We skipped the wine tasting in Jerome because it’s somewhat frowned upon to haul 8 kids aged 13 and under into tasting rooms. :-0

I did get a run in on that Monday after Easter. It was the day of the Boston Marathon, and I felt I needed to run to show solidarity after the events of last year’s race. So I got up early Monday morning, put my running gear on, and headed out of the park. I put in almost five miles. It felt good. It felt right. It’s always fun to run somewhere new.

Day three, we drove to our next RV park, just outside of Sedona. The kids (and husbands) spent an afternoon walking through the creek right behind our camp sites, playing horseshoes, swimming in the pool, and riding bikes. That RV park was so beautiful. Had we known, we would have bypassed Prescott and stayed at Lo-Lo-Mai the first three nights. It was that nice. So pretty. If you’re camping or RV’ing that area of Arizona, I highly recommend staying there.

The next day, we hiked Sedona. This has to be one of my favorite places in the world. It’s just so incredibly beautiful. I haven’t been there in over twenty years, and that was a quick drive-through. I would love to go back again and spend a few days really exploring that town. As it was, we hiked, we had lunch, and then we hit the road to the Grand Canyon.

We were lucky enough to get three campsites within the Grand Canyon National Park, in the Mather Campground. I had forgotten there is a forest on the South Rim. We were appropriately awed by the Canyon. Little Man had been looking forward to this stop the most, anxiously asking each day when we would get there. We hiked the Kaibab Trail our only full day there. No, we did not go all the way down to the bottom of the Canyon. I’ve never actually been to the bottom. It’s a two-day hike to get down all the way, and then back up. And no, there was no way you were getting me on a burro on that trail. It was anxiety-inducing as it was, just walking it. The boys and I only  made it about a mile in, took some photos, and headed back up. Little Man is TERRIFIED of heights, but he toughed it out. Spouse and the Princess made it about two miles in. It was awesome. There just aren’t adequate words to describe the sight of the Canyon. Little Man just kept saying it didn’t look real. I took him to the geology museum so he could see just how the Canyon was formed, and what all the layers are. He loves that kind of stuff.

We are, as always, happy to be back home. The trip was awesome. It’s just fun to share it with friends. All eight kids got along really well. All six parents got along really well. It was just good fun, with a little history, geology, and exercise thrown in.

We have dug in for the last stretch of school. We have six-and-a-half more weeks until the kids are out for Summer. We will be busy with all the projects and festivities that seem to come with the end of the year. In the midst of all that, I have the last race in the Beach Cities Challenge, we will hold our 9th annual poker tournament to benefit the March of Dimes, Little Man will have a dermatological procedure to remove a lump on his back, and I will likely have my own procedure somewhere in there.

We did start the new medication for Little Man. It takes four-to-six weeks to get the levels built up and see the full results. He is doing okay. He’s much more calm. He had a few outbursts over the two weeks, but nothing like we’d seen previously. I am anxious to hear how his day back at school went today. More on that later.


Random Thursday Thoughts

My brain is all over the place at the moment. So bear with me….this post is going to cover a lot of ground, and it may not be completely coherent. You’ve been given fair warning!

First off, we are walking as a family on Saturday in our tenth March of Dimes March for Babies. The fist time we walked, Little Man was just a year old. We had the big double stroller, and had to take lots of snacks and stuff to keep our toddlers entertained. I cried that first walk. My miracle was four years old. He’s now 13. He walks beside us, or runs in front of us. He knows he’s the reason we got involved. He knows his entire story. I am still in awe. And I still usually cry at the walk, for him, for all the other miracle babies we will see there, and for all those babies who earned their angel wings entirely too soon. There’s a lot of work, and some stress, leading up to the walk every year. Once that morning arrives, however, it is all about celebrating. It’s kind of like a race….by the time the morning of arrives, all the work is done. We have family and friends who walk with us. I don’t know they know how much it means to me. This time of year, as well as the month of Big Man’s birthday, brings back so many memories. I spend a lot of this time posting photos from his NICU time, telling our story, writing our story, and just mentally reliving those days, weeks, and months. I dreamed the other night we were back in the NICU. Those sights, sounds, and smells never leave your memory.

Second, along the same lines, and in follow up to my post from Monday….I am not a sensitive preemie mom. You don’t need to guard your words around me. I know that while our story is not unique, it is also not overly common.  I would love to live in the world of not knowing what I know. I am envious of those who don’t know what I know. While I feel a responsibility to help educate and advocate, it takes a lot to offend me. Typically the only time I am offended is if someone has a term but small baby and calls him a preemie just because he fits in preemie clothes, or if someone decided for convenience or comfort’s sake to be induced at 36 weeks and then complains of issues with her baby. Then I’m seriously offended. So please don’t guard your words around me.

Third, I ran a ten-mile long run this morning. Just over three weeks until the OC Half Marathon. I know I’m physically capable. Long runs and races have become more of a mental challenge…..working on nutrition, hydration, motivation, breathing, gait, stride, form.  My “wall” has moved from mile 8 to mile 9, which is an improvement, but it’s still a wall and it irritates me.  I got new shoes over the weekend and tested them out this week. Shoes have improved so much. And the ones I use now, I have been able to essentially take them out of the box and run ten miles without any issues. BTW…..I wear Brooks Ghost 6. It took me four years to find the shoe that really works for me.

We had free HBO over the weekend. They ran a Game of Thrones marathon leading up the premier of the new season Sunday night. Spouse and I have both read the books but hadn’t watched any of the shows. We recorded every one last weekend, and now we’re obsessed. We’ve hardly watched anything else all week. Each night, we can’t wait for the kids to go to bed so we can start watching, and we’ll go through one or two episodes a night. It’s much easier to keep track of the characters watching the show than it was reading the books. Even when you know what’s coming, you still get caught up in it.

Spring Break is next week (and the week after) for our kids. Yes, they have two weeks off. Trust me, I wish it were only one week, and that we would get out one week earlier in summer. They’re ready for a break, especially Little Man. We’ll be going on a road trip with two other families to the Grand Canyon. This should be an adventure!

Little Man has had a pretty good week. He’s had three very good days in a row. He’s completely off the anti-anxiety medication. We will start the Abilify next week while we’re on break.

I went with Big Man’s class on a field trip yesterday to the IMAX theater in Balboa Park, the Fleet Science Museum, and the Zoo. I have to hand it to middle school teachers. I don’t know how they do it every single day. Thirteen year olds are a lot like toddlers in so many ways. It was entertaining, fun, and exhausting. I did love the opportunity to spend the day with my son. And, bonus, it was only when they were eating lunch he didn’t want me around.