The Best Vacation

Dominic and the kids get settled in to watch Labyrinth
We are on vacation this week.  A week at The Villiage at Izatys.  It's idyllic.  An hour and a half away from home, it wasn't too long a drive, and the kids did great.  The only thing I forgot, was milk.  So, not bad.  This week was an incredibly kind gift from my parents.  The only thing that would have made it better, would have been if they could have come, too.

Away from home, many of the same things are required as when we're in our own house.  For example, I've done six loads of laundry since we got here.  But I've done them here, surrounded by trees and a golf course!

I've learned that vacations are magical.  Piper and Bridget, have been nice to each other.  They're talking, as if they're friends and really like each other.  It's so sweet!  Now, it's not that the girls don't normally like each other, it's that puberty and girls very close in age...it's complicated.  It's been a relief to have them getting along so well.
Vacations are exhausting.  Brennan (4) just had to sleep.

This morning we hung out.  We played outside, and the girls did a painting project, decorating a cupcake shaped piggy bank.

This afternoon, Dominic and the kids walked down to the Club House and found out what there was to do there.  We'll go back another day and really play there for a while.

Since the pool is closed this year, we all got in the hot tub, which for the younger kids was like a small warm swimming pool.  They thought it was perfect.  Even Liam got in, though he mostly sat on my lap. Then we ate dinner.

Now we're all sitting around, watching Labyrinth, while eating popcorn and smores.  This may be my favorite part, so far.  We have plans for a trail tomorrow, a state park later in the week, and a couple of other things.

I Love Vacation.


So, Your Child Has Autism

 photo 1514623q8rxn6g2wf.jpgWhen I was ten, the movie Rain Man came out.  Like many of us who saw that movie, it was our first introduction to Autism.  Even years later when my nephew was diagnosed, I didn't really understand what Autism was.  As close as I understood, it was a diagnosis that required people to live dependent on others for the rest of their lives.  It was a really scary thing.

Then it happened to us.

Reagan was the first to be diagnosed with Aspergers.  Then Ciaran with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Then Piper with Aspergers.  When I got the first diagnosis, I cried.  What did this mean for my kid?  For us?  I felt like we were something different, and it was going to change our whole identity.  For a while, I think it did.  But it didn't have to.

I've met several people, recently, who've asked me about having a child on the Spectrum.  Advice?  Wisdom?  Something useful?  I get it, I do.  It's like being thrown into the deep end of the pool, and you want to do the right thing, because your child's future depends on you navigating the water properly.  But, you know, no pressure.  It's terrifying.

Here's what I wish someone had told me:

  • There is nothing wrong with your child.  He or she is wired a bit differently than other kids.  It creates some challenges, to be sure.  But it also creates people who see the world in a distinct and unique way.  We need people who can bring that perspective to the world.  They make us better.
  • There are challenges, to be sure.  Every kid, Autistic or Neuro-typical, needs to learn skills to navigate the world easier.  An Autistic child will need a different set of skills, but they can be learned.  I promise you, they can be learned and taught.  Don't let it scare you.
  • Your child is a gift.  You really already know that, but with all the talk about therapy and what they need, you can get lost in the fear and uncertainty.  It can feel like all people see when they look at your child, is the Autism.  So let me tell you again, that your child is an amazing gift.  They're perfect.  They were perfect yesterday, they're perfect today, and they'll be perfect tomorrow.  Hear me?  Perfect, little, learning people.  
  • Our kids are honest.  They will tell you what they think, and you will always know where you stand.  Sometimes you'll need to have a thick skin, and not let things bother you.  Sometimes you'll set boundaries and teach them that they have to be careful about their words.  These are good lessons for them, but seriously, pick your battles.
  • Sometimes our job is to teach our kids how to navigate the world.  Sometimes our job is educating the world about our kids.  Spectrum kids will always be who they are.  We have to teach other people how special they are, and how to understand them.  Which brings me to my next thought:
  • This is controversial, but I do not believe in finding a cure.  This is a neurological condition, and is part of who our kids are.  My children are Autistic. It's not bad.  It's not something that happened to them.  I don't think we need to cure it or fix it.  I think we have to parent them with love and acceptance, keep teaching them how to self-advocate, and keep teaching the world that they're not broken, they're special.  
  • I have learned to be distrustful of any organization (for example Autism Speaks) that treats Autism like a burden, that sells parents a pack of fear, and makes Autism sound like a terrible thing that has happened to our families.  Remember, there's nothing wrong with your child.  They're perfect.
It's going to hurt, sometimes, when we take our child to a class, or a group, and they don't do what the other kids do, or enjoy what the other kids enjoy.  It will feel like they're missing out on something.  But they don't think they are.  That's all us.  They're fine.  They're already thinking about something else.  And the things they perseverate on, can be absolutely fascinating.  Ask Piper to tell you about Sonic the Hedgehog sometime.  You will learn more than you ever wanted to know.  Including how there's a Sonic the Hedgehog protein.  Seriously.  

You already love them, so above all, keep doing that.  If there's something else you'd like me to address, or questions you have, feel free to share/ask.  


Stress Free Travel With Your Kids!

 photo travel_zps99465a14.jpg First of all, let's be clear, you aren't here because I'm the impeccably dressed better-than-you-mom.  If you're here, it's because you know that watching me try to navigate the world of parenting can be at times, hilarious, and watching me makes you feel better about yourself as a mom.  I mean, really, did you hear your three-year old this morning yelling "Penis" as loud as humanly possible?  No?  Then, parenting win for you, I say.

We have taken family trips to California for many years, with decreasing regularity as our family has grown.  But we stay with my folks, and mostly visit family and friends.  It's not a "Family Vacation", if you see the difference I'm going for here.

I was beyond thrilled when my mom and dad told me that they'd made arrangements for us to stay at a local resort, for an entire week.  It's so nice.  We'll be in a house.  A house twice as big as the one we live in.  Full kitchen, spa, four season room, everything.  It's right on a golf course.  It should be lovely.

It's only an hour and a half drive from here.  Not bad.  But I have to pack us for the week.  Clothes, toiletries, toys, household items, groceries, everything.  There is so much to do, and it's possible that I'm losing it.  Or, at least I would be if there were anything left to lose.

So, what are my tips for stress free travel?

  • Realize that there is no such thing.
  • Purchase wine, if you drink it. 
  • Make lists, because it's very grown up, isn't it?  It works, too, so that's nice.
  • Make some more lists, because the more kids you have, the more you'll have to remember.
  • Drink some wine.
Let me reiterate: It's not stress free.  But so what?  Life isn't stress free.  Maybe the goal shouldn't be to not have any stress, but to manage it better.  

Tips for managing it better:
  • Delegate.  Let other people do the things you don't have to do yourself.  The kids cleaned out the van for me in preparation for grocery shopping and packing.
  • Let some things go.  It won't all be perfect.  I haven't even checked the van to see what kind of a job they did.  Maybe it was crappy.  But I didn't have to do it, so I'm choosing not to care.
  • Know that this will pass.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  They may scream for the entire 90 minute drive out to the resort.  It will pass.  But Reagan will be a Senior in High School this year, and my days of all of my kids being kids, is drawing to a close.  You have to hold on to it while you can.  Because it will pass, and you'll never get it back.
  • Don't yell.  I'm already a believer in not yelling (even if I'm not always perfect at it in practice), but it doesn't help and only stresses everyone else out.  Drink a glass of that wine you bought.  Aren't you glad I recommended buying wine?
I plan to take pictures, hold my babies, laugh, snuggle, and explore the great outdoors.  I plan to do all of these things while heavily coated in sunscreen and bug spray.  Because this is Minnesota, and the mosquito is our state bird.  

If you can travel with your kids, enjoy it, and be grateful for the luxury.  It won't be stress-free, but sometimes it's the crazy stories of those things that happen while preparing and traveling, that make the best stories in the years to come.  And I love me a good story. 

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