Guest Blogging

When I started blogging 12 (yikes!) years ago, it was mostly for me – to tell my story, to process life, to get support. My writing has evolved over the years, and enabled me to connect, as well as reconnect. What a privilege! To have someone I respect deeply, and appreciate even more, ask me (a second time!) to write a guest post is an honor, as scary as it is. It took me a few months to work out how the prompt/topic for this year with Miracles in the Mundane, but I think it worked out. Check it out here, and while you’re over on my dear friend’s page, give her some love. She’s an amazing writer, momma, friend.

Recreate, Re-Create, and Create at Miracles in the Mundane

Happy Wednesday

 

Huddle

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?

Diffability

Nope, that isn’t a typo. It’s a new word we made up this weekend. It’s our word.

We flew up to Northern California over the weekend to go to my niece’s graduation party. Flying is almost always an experience with Little Man along. When you fly a certain airline, without assigned seating, a whole new layer is added. On top of that, I was flying with all three kids, but no other adult. The last time we flew this airline, Spouse was with us, so when they told us only Little Man and I could pre-board, it wasn’t a big deal. I knew he had my back and would be with Big Man and the Princess. I was a little stressed out they would tell me we would all have to wait for our boarding group, or Big Man and P would have to board by themselves. Bring on the anxiety. I figured I would just ask if we could all pre-board together, and see what happened. Everyone was amazing, and the answer going and coming home was a resounding, “Yes! Of course!” Amen.

Bring on the Diffability. If you have a child with autism, and you ask to pre-board, you are given a card which states, “Pre-board by reason of disability.” I held the boarding passes on our way out, so Little Man didn’t see it. I saw it though. I sent a text to my sister about it right when they gave it to me and I saw that word. It was a bit of a knife in the heart. I don’t think of him as “disabled.” I know his autism is considered a disability, I just don’t normally see that word applied to him, even though I’m aware it is, by definition. On the way home, I did give him his boarding pass, not even thinking about that statement on the card.

My cookie is a smart cookie. Of course he saw it. I saw him look at it, then go silent for a minute. Then, “Mom, I don’t really like that word. I’m not un-able, I’m just different. I don’t think of myself as disabled.” Well, son, I don’ think of  you as disabled either. I wish there were a better word. Maybe someday there will be. I said to him, he’s Diff-abled….differently-abled. He has a diffability. That is much easier to swallow than “Disability.”

We know that vocabulary changes. Words which used to be accepted are now considered derogatory. What’s acceptable now wasn’t even thought of then.  Perceptions change. He’s autistic,  yes, but disabled? Nah. He’s Diffabled. That’s our story and we’re stickin to it.

Single digits, folks

Nine. More. School. Days. NINE!!!!!!!! Well, let me clarify….Big Man has just three left. Yeah, our high school district and middle/elementary districts cannot seem to get on the same page. Trust me, it totally blows. But I digress.

I’m barely making it. The school nurse called yesterday morning – Little Man had a headache and upset stomach. No fever. I didn’t argue – just got in my car and picked him up. He’s home again today. Still no fever, just a general not-feeling-good kind of feeling. He is a bit pasty, I’ll give him that. I just didn’t have the energy to argue with him this morning. There are days I think how I would feel to have to sit at a desk, surrounded by kids, trying to learn, while feeling totally icky. That was my thought this morning. I wouldn’t want to do it, so why would I make him suffer through that? If this were October, or even March, he’d totally be at school. Late May? Forget it.

I think we’re done with school projects. I’m praying we’re done with school projects. If I have to go to Michael’s or Staples to get one more tri-fold, I might lose it completely. Thank goodness 8th grade doesn’t have any “days” like sixth and seventh grade – no Greek Olympics, no Renaissance Fairs, no Colonial Days for 8th grade. We’re done with all that. Can I get an Amen?! My creativity is tapped out, for real.

The most depressing thing going through my head right now is that summer will not bring any respite. Cheerleading continues, Monday through Friday, at 6am. I kid you not. Then Big Man has cross country 9am – 11am, Monday through Friday. Ballerinas do  not get summers off, so we will continue at the studio five days a week, with recital at the end of July. I WANT TO SLEEP IN!!! My summer is being held hostage by high school sports. We’re trying desperately to figure out when we might be able to squeeze a little vacation time in. It doesn’t look promising. Weeks off from cheer, dance, cross country, and my work events are not coordinating at all. Something will have to give. We need to get away. We need some real summer. There’s no way we’re going to have any kind of energy come the fall and  new school year if we don’t get a break.

But there you have it – we’re down to single digits as far as this school year goes. We’ll get there. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll get there.

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!

IMG_0560

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.