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The Rest and the Restless

on November 23, 2011

When my amazing church decided to help my family finish up & start some projects around the house this weekend, I was encouraged to take my son on a little getaway trip to the coast, with a stop at grandma & grandpa’s along the way! This is the story of that weekend…

Day 1: First of all, I hate packing. Combine that with some prep work I had to accomplish before 30 people came to fix up my house, the weekend started out a little hectic. I looked at my husband and said that I felt like I wasn’t doing enough; that I was leaving too much for him to take care of. But he simply smiled and reminded me that I had the hardest job of all…taking care of Alex by myself for 3 days. I pondered that.

And so my son and I got in the car to drive down to Grandma & Grandpa’s first. The visit was, for the most part, enjoyable – Alex was on his best behavior, playing quietly, giving hugs when prompted, etc. His grandparents were thrilled with his progress since the last time they had seen him, and I had a wonderful time chatting away with two of my favorite people while Alex played. We stayed overnight and Alex got to see his cousin (and I my sister & brother in law) the next day for a little more family time! Though, I have to admit, when Alex gets together with his cousin, it’s like, “Boys will be boys” times a hundred!

Around 2pm, we headed off to the coast for our little getaway…all was going pretty smoothly until I was driving and the weather dropped to 34 degrees. 34?? Seriously? Ok, people, I’m from California, and that’s just wrong; I knew the Pacific Northwest was no place to be complaining about cold beach weather. But when it started to rain? That’s when I knew things were going to be a little harder than I’d hoped. The bright side? The sun that came out for about 10 minutes on the drive into our chosen beach town was glorious. The down side? The rain started dumping on us the minute we began to unload to hike all our stuff up to our 2nd floor room.

Many of you know that going anywhere with an autistic child is like packing for an overnight trip. Well, imagine packing for 3 days and 3 nights of cold weather (and the layers involved), including specialty foods because of your child’s needs (and of course to save money for oneself in the long run). So I got out of the car, got the first load to get up to the room (including Alex). And then I realized I had dropped the key to our room somewhere. So then we were both crying because Alex wanted to go down to the beach and I couldn’t even find the key to get to the room.

Well, needless to say, I found the key (on the wet ground), and started, with my first load, up the stairs. We got into the room to find our beautiful, stormy ocean view, two queen sized beds, plenty of space for both of us, and free wireless connection! I was excited, and Alex was happily enamored by the view of the ocean from our room. I set up the computer so he could play his favorite games (the only thing that would keep him from following me) while I made the next two trips to get the car fully unloaded. When I came back, Alex was jumping from bed to bed, happy as can be. I smiled and soaked up the moment.

The first night wasn’t too bad; Alex woke up around 3:30 am and wanted to play, but I sent him back to his bed and he waited till 5am to fully wake up decide the day had begun. Luckily, I had gone to sleep at 10 the night before, so this wasn’t too horrible (especially with coffee in the room). But we both woke up congested and with scratchy throats. Uh-oh.

Day 2: I’m not gonna lie, the second day was HARD. The plan was to spend a little time at the beach, then drive to the local aquarium to see the fish. Well, Alex decided it was time to go down to the beach around 6am. Trying telling a kid who’s been staring at the beach from a window that it is too early and cold to go play! We finally made it down to the beach around 9am (still too freakin’ early and cold to play), and Alex smiled as he played with the sea foam and the very wet sand. The tide was really high, so I had to keep him from the water that kept rolling in a little too close. Even with hoods on, the wind beat at us until I finally declared it was not good for us in our congested, coughing state.

So I had to drag Alex, kicking and screaming, back to the car, where I kept telling him I was taking him to the aquarium to see the fish (he usually loves the aquarium). I showed him a picture of the place until he finally asked for the sharks. I assured him that yes, we would see sharks, and he calmed down as we drove away from the beach, and then promptly fell asleep in the backseat of the car.

Suffice it to say that the aquarium was a great experience, if only because Alex had a great time watching the sharks mess with the guys cleaning the tank (hehe, this was kinda creepy, but funny too). I’m not sure which he enjoyed more, the scuba divers or the sharks! A lot of the exhibits were featured outdoors, much to my dismay, but Alex really wasn’t interested in anything but the great tubes that held the sharks all around us anyway. One of the neatest parts of this experience? We met at least 2 other families with autistic children in tow, so nobody even gave Alex a side glance when he did some off the wall things.

When the scuba divers were done cleaning, they paid special attention to Alex, moved right up to where he was watching them, and waved bye-bye until he noticed them and softly said “bye”…it was very sweet. Then Alex was done and didn’t want to see anything else, so we just left. As parents of autistic children, many of us understand that, when we commit to spending money to go someplace fun with our kids, we may be experiencing a short visit. But the possibility of our children even having a short visit that was rich with fun for them usually far outweighs the cost of said visit. We got our money’s worth in half an hour at that aquarium.

We returned to the room and proceeded to “geek out” on our various electronic devices, which was pretty fun for me…we had a laptop, an Ipad, and a Kindle along and made great use of all three. I think we were both done with the great outdoors for the day. But around 4pm, I decided it was time for a little more fun for Mama & Alex, so I asked him if he’d like to go to the hotel swimming pool (indoors and heated, thank you very much). He was ecstatic, of course; he loves pools. So we went and laughed and played in the pool for a good hour; we even made some new friends. It was a nice ending to our day. We got back to our room and watched a movie (Surf’s Up, which was fitting), and Alex fell asleep at 6:30. I got sushi delivered to my door (YUM), read a book on my Kindle and went to bed around 9 (because I’m no fool). Rough night, that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Day 3: After our rough night, we got up and lazed around the room some more (hey, reading and chilling are my favorite things to do on vacation…my husband’s the one who likes the great outdoors!), then I started packing us up. Thankfully, there was less to take home than what we had brought, but it was still quite the task. We did our standard 11am checkout and got started on the road back home.

The visit, our “getaway,” was strenuous to say the least; I threw my back out, ended up with a pinched nerve, and made my cold worse. But there were moments that I will treasure; moments that make memories that we made and will last in his mind and mine, moments that make these trips worthwhile with an autistic child. And so I focused on the good stuff, and tried to let the bad stuff roll off my back.

As we left the parking lot, Alex softly said “Bye, ocean…see you later!” I smiled and whispered the same thing to our ocean, then turned onto the road that would take us home.

Vacations with special needs children aren’t easy. But they are worth every minute.

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