Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Monday, August 8, 2011

What Are YOUR Vacations Like?

Okay, so I just returned a few days ago for a week long vacation.  It was pleasant, and I did enjoy myself, but I wonder if this is so, sometimes, because I've LOWERED MY EXPECTATIONS. 

What I mean by this is that a vacation before kids meant that The Man and I either went away to some place tropical or interesting, because we both had cashola and no great financial responsibilities.  While on these trips we'd take some amazing day excursions, and spend some relaxing time lounging by the beach enjoying an endless, piggish slew of tropical, coconut based drinkies.  There'd also be time by the pool to read a completely filthy novel.  Then we'd probably have a fun snack followed by a nap or something scorchingly SEXAY (a distant dream, people.  A distant freaking dream, ha ha ha ha ha).  Then we'd get all cleaned up, wear something attractive and NEW and head off for dinner and the day would end with a hand-holding viewing of a fabulous sunset. 

Eff.  Now I'm depressed. 

Focus, karen, focus.

Anyhoo, that was my idea of a perfect vacation then.  I'd come home with a fabulous bracelet and a cute little beach wrap and a few other choice souvenirs, a nice tan and a brain filled with wonderful new images. 

But, with kids, there is very little lounging.  Nor are there as many fun day trips.  Kids want fun, fun, fun and near-constant activity.  This means lots and lots of swimming, and a stupid trip to a rip-off arcade when not swimming, or a visit to the park, or the dreaded public pool.  Basically each day I had three swimming excursions.  I like swimming, but I probably wouldn't swim that much if the kids weren't there. 

Also, I have a child on the Autism Spectrum.  I've talked about Jack before.  He is what is considered "high functioning." This means that you would not know he has any "issues" at all until you saw him copying the other children around him; mimicing what they say and do.  Sometimes this is to be a total bugger, other times it's because he's interested in how kids say or do things. 

Or, you'd notice that he freaks out if it's suggested that we go out somewhere for a casual excursion.  And when I say "freak out," I mean this can often be a total screaming, rage filled panic session.  Also, as long as we were swimming, he was in a great mood.  He's a nut for swimming and could probably stay there all day until I was pleading and sobbing to NOT be swimming any longer.  Whenever we weren't swimming though, he was immediately bored.  He's never really known how to play with toys, and hasn't had much interest in toys besides. 

Keeping Jack fed was a challenge.  I've ranted many times about how difficult he is to feed (you can read about that HERE).  We went through 5 bags of cinnamon bread in 1 week (only Jack eats it), and we really had to stretch that last bag of cinnamon bread to make it through the last day and a half.  He was starving all the time from all the extra activity, and a couple of pieces of toast for lunch with no butter just aren't going to cut it. 

In these "down times" the kids were bored, super fighty and Jack was very verbally abusive.  I joked with my Dad that like regular life, there was still plenty of verbal abuse, but on vacation there was verbal abuse and swimming, so it was easier to take.  Kind of. 

Plus, no matter how exciting a vacation is, a vacation is still going to be an upset to routine for a kid like Jack.  So, it's stressful:  there was no computer to get inspiration from youtube.  The window air conditioner in his room sometimes made a frightening low buzzing sound when it it powered down a bit.  There were flies in the trailer occasionally, despite our best efforts to keep doors open ONLY as long as it took to dart in or out.  Jack is terrified of FLYING insects.  He lamented several times to me that week that he missed the computer. 

Okay, so this is all fine and good, and I think changes in his routine from time to time are important because life is unpredictable and hopefully over time he will learn to cope with these hiccups.  However, instead of being able to say; "Mom, I feel very uneasy with things being different.  I'm out of my comfort zone, and sometimes I can't cope,"  he says; "I HATE YOU," and "MY PARENTS ARE IDIOTS" and "I DON'T LIKE MY MOM TODAY."  The only thing I can do is grit my teeth and CONSTANTLY remind him that these verbal responses are inappropriate.  You know, till I'm blue in the face.  Till I feel like putting my head through a wall. 

That's why cocktail hour was invented ;)

Plus, there's that compulsive bugging issue.  Jack is essentially a pest genius, and when he's bored he does actually have one toy:  his sister.  So, we have a lovely pattern of Jack bugging Ella, and Ella turning around and laying A SEVERE BEATING on her older brother.  Then, he'll finally get tired of getting pounded and squeeze Ella's arm.  Ella will then scream and cry like her arm has actually been ripped off.  The Man and I will yell at them both to knock it off and Jack will shout: 


In order to end these death battles I just pretended to call the park authorities all week.  I can't tell you the number of times I flipped out either my real cell phone or 'pretend' cell phone to call the "bosses" to come and deal with my children.  Remember how you used to take your hand as a kid, make it into a fist and point your finger and thumb and pretend it was your phone?  Yeah, you can't imagine how many times that sucked my kids in.  I even whipped out my pretend phone in the middle of the lake one day. 

Heh heh, naive children. 

So, tell me parents, and especially my homeboys and homegirls raising kids with special needs: 



  1. Shockingly familiar. Our son has Asperger's...we bring every computer related item--Itouch, Ipad, Iphone, a mini computer, the WiFi cables and everything else we need so he can be in his comfort zone. We actually changed condo's our last vacation as it didn't have a good enough connection.

    We have a routine and by God we stick to it and we go to the same place every year (Yay Sanibel).

    Believe it or not we do have fun. We have a lot of problems too but the fun outweighs it. Maybe cause I'm drunk? I don't know...

  2. thanks Lizbeth, I was waiting for you to share on this one because I do see a lot of similarities in what you and I go through. I don't think they have any internet access where we stay yet, believe it or not. I don't mind being unplugged for a week though--I kind of like it. Yeah, I think it'll be even better next year because even though we've gone to the same place many years in a row, we've stayed in three different trailers. Next year we'll be in the same one. The people were nice and we like it.

  3. Thing is, the only reason we have to be connected is because it's his "go to" thing right now. I am with you and would love to be rid of it for a week!

    Phineas and Ferb and How its Made are big right now too. We have all the episodes DVR'ed...I had to laugh when you went out of order. We have the same thing! Have you see the P&F movie that just came out?!? We have, like 200 times. Funny though--the first time he see's it he can't sit through it. He can't handle it and goes back and forth, from room to room....

    It should be good next year to be in the same place. Alex thrives on routine and consistency and I bet it will help your son knowing his surroundings.

    Our kids sound a lot alike.

    Sorry to post again, I had to write back. :)

  4. Karen, don't know how you do it, sister. I can say as they get older, it gets easier on the mundane side. They have more strength and can, well, do things, so you don't have to do EVERYTHING.
    I don't have an answer for dealing with Jack, I wish I did - I realize my ideas might not work. I do have one VERY picky eater, and we play "Adventure time" with food. There are a few great places we've done this: one of the massive insane salad bars at a local grocery store. Pick five things to try - you don't have to eat all of it, just try it - you might like it. Indian food places with brunch buffets, same with Chinese and places like Chipotle and Subway - where they can see the food first. It has added a few items to the menu - rice was a surprising one. It took the heat off, somehow.
    Our vacations? heh-what's a vacation, again???? : ) JK

  5. Wow, that sounds like quite a fun-filled, relaxing vacation! Not. I will say that right there is why we didn't take a vacation this summer with our spectrum kiddo. We have enough challenges right here at home, so we didn't feel compelled to take it on the road. Maybe next year. Or the one after. Or maybe I will send mine off with you and yours, and we will go somewhere else...hehehe!!

  6. Lizbeth, I'm only starting to become aware of Phineas and Ferb..sp? I'll bet my 4 year old daughter knows about it. When she comes down for lunch I will ask her, since she gave up the little kid stations some time ago.

    No need to apologize for repeat replies. Me likee! But I'm a bit brain dead and what did you mean by you had to laugh when I went out of order? I want to laugh too! Help my BARBIE brain!

    Wow, sounds like you were well-prepared for vacation, and therefore, smarter than I.

  7. Christina, those are all excellent, innovative ideas to get picky eaters to eat, that would never work on JACK THE TYRANT. We'd take one step into the Subway restaurant and he'd be freaking over the smells. Sigh.

    It would only work in the chocolate aisle, sadly.

    Yeah, as a single mom, when do YOU ever get to go on vacation? It would be very difficult!

  8. Flannery, I was hoping more people with kids on the spectrum would weigh in on this, so thank you. See, that says it all right there: that the idea of even taking your kid outside of his/her/your comfort zone put you off completely, and understandably so.

    And that is why there is vodka and lemonade.

  9. HEY! Flannery, I didn't know you were "the connor chronicles"!!! I signed up to receive your feed via email ages ago, but apparently it isn't working, and APPARENTLY I need the computer to be my brain and remind me to check your blog because my damn brain isn't doing it on its own.

    Stupid brain.

  10. holy crapper snappers, batman, that sounds totally annoying! your vaca sounds like our school years. i crave the summer or any time without school because it's like brooke can NEVER adjust to having to get out of her freakin head & do school crap that she doesn't feel like doing. and i homeschool her because if i was a teacher & she was my student as well as a million other kids who are NT, i'd want to throw her through a wall.
    our vacations usually go pretty well because we go to a time share where every cabin looks the same, so the girl adapts well, plus we always have her tech stuff with us. another thing that works well for us is to have her video camera along because she spends a lot of her down time when we're not doing an activity making videos. something video diary stuff, other times just filming her toys or out the window of the car or whatever. and i always take stuff for art inspiration. so she can draw while we're out.
    we're going on vaca next month with my whole family to an island where there will be 14 of us in one house & it's a place we've never been. i'm sure there will be some meltdowns & she will need a quiet space to hide where she can cover her ears and touch her special toys til she feels less overwhelmed.
    brooke's got a massive issue with noises too. flies stuck in a window behind curtains or blinds are like death to her calm.

  11. What is this thing you call a "vacation?"

  12. off topic here...someone mentioned Phineas and Ferb...we love that show...our whole family...thats our vacation...watching those two!
    Our vacations are okay...but we need to actually take a vacation and stop going away to visit family. yeah, its going away...but then we have to hang out with the fam. kids seem to handle going away well.

  13. Sherilin, somehow it's comforting to know that flies FREAK Brooke out as much as they do Jack. Sigh.

    Yeah, I know that summer vacay takes a lOt of pressure off you. In some ways I'm glad I leave the educating struggle to the public school teachers, but at the same time my heart aches for Jack as I look over another year of social struggles and school anxiety.

  14. I used the term loosely, Laoch. Maybe it's that rum concoction you offered up

  15. Well Steph, vacations with family can be more fun though, because sometimes they take our kids off our hands :)

    Hm...must check into this Phineas business.

  16. the term 'family vacation'is an oxymoron, it just cannot be fun for the adult part of the 'family'.

  17. :( Not when the family you are going to vist is 94 years old...however going away with my parents (which sadly, rarely happens) is a bag o fun! They do inded take the kiddos off our hands!
    When we go see Grandma in texas...she is too old to do much of anything with our kids...they sit togeher and stuff...but we have to be right there...or very close by. We fill the rest of our time exploring the area. Sometimes it tough...other times its like we are a scene out of an old '50s movie...just one big happy family driving around everyone with smiles on their faces. Only one trip was a complete nightmare...both of the kids got the stomach Texas..ben was part way through our that was manageable...but Cohen got it at 4am in the morning on the way back to return our rental car on the way to airport. OMG. She puked int eh car...then again in line at airport, then again waiting to get on the plane...then once of the first flight...then again in teh Atlanta airport...then she too tired or whatever and stopped...but by then I was all worried tha i was going to get it and was freaked out. NIGHTMARE of a trip!

  18. Steph, I remember that story about your nightmare trip home! What a disaster, to say the least! Ha! I didn't realise Grandma was/is 94! What do the kids think of her? When I was really young, people that old were just plain scary, I'm sad to say.

  19. Well, teh ol' age of 94..and strange to say, after Grandad passed away, Ol' Grandma (or Memaw) has kind of turned moer into a kid agian...not in a bad either. Shes a grown up...but doesnt whine or have meltdowns and such...she funny and loves toys and jokes. She cant walk much she sits in her chair (if you ever check out pics of texas shall see Grandma in her chair in ever picture...true storey!)
    So, yeah, back to teh kids liking her...they love her. She tells funny jokes and colours with them and reading them strange things out of magazines and yells at us (their parents) if we say to junk food. This past trip, Ben loved hangin out with Memaw as they could share lame, ugh, I mean funny jokes together adn Cohen, well, you know you could be on to something...seh may have been frightened by her...she sat so still looking at pictures in the Texas Monthly magazines with Memaw for about an hour. Now putting even mor ethought into is her dog that teh kids hate for the forst 5 days of a 7 day trip. that makes it stressful.
    My dream vacation..(i really LOVE my kids, i really do!) Would be to go drive down the entire West either no kids or when they are old enough to keep themselves under control. Where I could have a grown up drink whenever i wanted...and raom through little shops adn not have turn into evil Mom. Ahhh...

  20. steph, that is a wonderful fantasy trip, and not so far from my own--I'd LOVE to drive through the American desert.

    Well, Memaw does sound charming, that's for sure....


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