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?

Friday Favorites 5.27.16

The countdown is seriously on, as noted yesterday.  Every minute of having to be a good school mom is sheer torture at this point. The end is in sight…..even though high school sport and dance will continue through the summer, we will have two glorious months off from carpools (carpool lines, idiots who still don’t know how to properly manage carpool lines), homework, backpacks laying in the floor, and weekly come-to-Jesus moments with the Big over accountability and actually handing in the homework he’s done. While we won’t have lazy, sleep-in mornings or regular beach days (we’ll be lucky to get beach afternoons), we will get something of a break from routine.

Given my current level of creative motivation, you’re lucky I read anything today, outside of the trashy novel I’m currently, momentarily, forcing myself away from. I did manage to pull it together for a little while this afternoon, and find some jewels to share this sunshiney Friday.

  • Yes, I’m nearing the end of a training cycle. Wahooo! We run the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon on June 5th. Sarah’s post, Mommy Doesn’t Quit, really spoke to me today. I run because I love the way I feel when I’m running, and the way I feel when I’m done. I run half marathons because I truly feel like I’ve accomplished something, and because, when I started running races, it was entirely out of my comfort zone. I  need my kids to see me doing things that scare me. I need my daughter to see me being a strong woman, and a healthy momma. Sarah says it way better than I just did. Go check it out. She’s an inspiring person who happens to be a badass running momma.
  • Geoff’s post at TanGental cracked me up today. He’s good at that. My married name gets massacred on a regular basis. Do you have a  name people can’t seem to get right?
  • I had to learn how to count money back in first grade. No lie. We had a pretend town in our classroom, and each student had a job. There was a grocery store, a post office, a flower shop, a courthouse, a library, and a police and fire station. We used fake money, and learned to count change. Then I worked retail in college. Yes, the register would normally tell us how much change to give back, but we HAD to count it back to the customers. Where did that skill go anymore? Very few people seem to be capable of it anymore. Joey  of Joeyfully Stated shares her experiences, and her opinion on the matter. Make sure you read all the way to the end – there’s a fun reward if you make it through.
  • Linda of Nutsrok tells it like it is when it comes to Vacation Men/Women   I actually dream of nights being home alone. Don’t get me wrong – I deeply love my family. But oh to eat, drink, watch, read what I want without disruptions, distractions, judgement, and noise…aaaaaaahhhhhhh..Maybe it’s time to send Spouse and the kids off on a camping weekend without me……
  • Sharing this one from A Small Press Life because, dessert.
  • Wins for kids with autism make my day. Over at findingcoopersvoice, there’s good stuff going on. Go cheer him, and his momma, on.
  • Your animal cuteness for the week is my cat, Willie. He’s had himself a banner week, bringing in not one, but two dead birds the other day, leaving half of a mouse in my entryway, and chasing three lizards into the house. Maybe I’ll start a “least favorite pet for the week” count/post. Anyway, this is Willie, keeping watch over the neighborhood from our courtyard wall.

Willie neighborhood watch

Happy Weekend everyone!

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    

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.

How we do Thanksgiving

Breaks in routine, even good breaks such as those for holidays, can cause complete chaos with Little Man. Last week was no exception. He gets excited, but he also goes completely sideways.

We went to my parents’ house in Arizona for Thanksgiving. He loves going there, loves being there. But boy howdy was he high maintenance last week. I felt  I was spending much of my time hyper-sensitive to his every action, every word. He was so completely up and down. Food choices diminished to basically Lucky Charms, goldfish, bacon, and bread.  What did he eat when we sat down to the Thanksgiving table? Five rolls. That’s it. Nothing else. Oh, wait, he may have had some sparkling cider.

I had a long talk with my mom one night. I told her I get why studies show parents of autistic kids can suffer the same stress as soldiers in battle. I never know how he’s going to respond when I say anything to him, or tell/ask him to do something. He may be totally compliant, respectful, nice. Or he could be a complete jerk, yelling, being rude, flipping out. There’s very little middle ground. I don’t know how he’s going to be when he wakes up  in the morning, when I drop him off at school, when I pick him up in the afternoon. I live on the edge, waiting, waiting for him to freak out and lose it. My phone rings, showing the school’s number on caller i.d., and I twitch. My email pings with a message from his SAI, and I groan.

When we are together 24/7 as we were last week, the stress levels peak. I did take myself off for a run one morning, a walk with mom another morning, and mom and I did go to lunch by ourselves on Friday. I know I need that time to refuel and be ready to tackle autistic parenting once again.

He did have some really great moments last week. I took the kids for their Christmas portraits. He was a champ, although by the time we were done, he was tapped out. But he did it, and without his usual mid-session meltdown.  We went to see Mockingjay on Wednesday. He only left the theater once, as opposed to his usual five or six times. He endured meals out with little complaint.  He slept in his own bed all night, every night we were there. He didn’t ask but once on the way there, and twice on the way home, how much longer the drive was.  Those are all big wins, so I’ll take it.

Three weeks until Christmas break. I look forward to it, and dread it all at the same time.