The Trip Recap

The Boy and I just spent a long weekend visiting old friends and relatives up north. I had promised him three years ago when we moved away that we would visit. This year, I made it a goal to make good on my promise. When an airline opened up a new, cheap, nonstop flight, I jumped at the opportunity.

I encouraged The Boy to make a list of places he’d like to go and people he’d like to see. I coordinated with people on Facebook who wanted to see us, and planned our trip in morning-afternoon-evening chunks, allowing for travel time via rental car. Fantastic Babysitter put us up, even though she was out of town for a couple days. It worked out beautifully as The Boy was comfortable in her house, a place he had been many times, and we saved money on a hotel. The bonus was that the weather was gorgeous, and she lives in a quiet neighborhood, allowing us wonderful downtime at the end of each jam-packed day.

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❤ She hadn’t seen him since she was 3, but asked to hold his hand in the parking lot 

Most of our “places” to visit were really restaurants (um, yeah… we like food. A lot.), and we made a point to eat at places we just don’t have back home. Even better was the company. Every single visit with friends was a joyous, picked-up-right-where-we-left-off extravaganza. The Boy had even prepared three PowerPoints (unbeknownst to me) to share with his former ASD teacher at lunch on Saturday.

The Boy was simply amazing. At our favorite eclectic arcade on Friday, one of his favorite games had been removed, and I didn’t even realize until after the fact, when he explained to me a few times that it had been moved (I put two and two together because of the perseverating on the same point). But he didn’t get upset about it. The only thing that really did upset him was that he was reminded about the glory of the ice cream truck, something we just don’t have where we live, but a treasured memory from living up north. We glimpsed one a few times during the weekend, but didn’t end up realizing his wish to purchase ice cream from one, and that was a tragedy by Sunday.

I could see fault lines forming by the time we got to the gate on Monday to get back on the plane to go home. His laptop was not charged and would not charge. It got a little hairy until I enlisted the help of the gate agent, who allowed us to use her outlet behind the desk. The rest of the day, The Boy was a bit “tetchy” about everything. He didn’t want to come home, but was mollified by a stop at his favorite arcade in Myrtle Beach before heading back home.

It was a huge success, a wonderful time, and I was incredibly proud of The Boy. The people we visited were not the only ones impressed by how much he has grown in three years.

Traveling with The Boy

Tomorrow, The Boy and I depart on a school trip to Washington DC with his band. It is a short trip – only an overnight stay, with a ridiculously early report time tomorrow (let’s hope they haven’t changed that, too), and a ridiculously late return time on Saturday evening, but those two days should be packed with fun and excitement. As long as the weather doesn’t interfere (which it might), and as long as The Boy and I can handle our anxieties about changes to the itinerary, and not being in control of our activities…

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My anxieties stem from my former life as a band director, having taken groups on trips, and the amount of planning and forethought that should go into it. And the amount of communication with the chaperones. All of that should be happening, but as of today, I have no idea for what or whom I will be responsible. I don’t know with whom The Boy is rooming. I don’t know how seating will work on the bus. There’s a whole lot I don’t know, and that makes me anxious.

I’m anxious, too, about The Boy rooming with some other kids (how many? I don’t know…), and if he will be able to handle it. If not, he can always come to my room (I know that I’m supposed to have a single), and if they don’t like it, they can shove it where the sun don’t shine. I emailed the teacher on Tuesday just to make sure this was a fallback option, and haven’t heard back, so I take that as a yes.

The Boy is excited. He gets to travel and see some things, which he genuinely enjoys. He gets to (hopefully) hang out with some of his friends. But I hope he can roll with changes, and maybe not being able to sit by whom he would like, and maybe being put in a group of boys to sightsee, rather than his friends who are girls…

Keep your fingers crossed for us. I think we will have a good time, and I just hope we can keep our anxieties (mostly mine) at bay.

The Man, a Cargo Van, and IKEA

The Man and I are traveling this week.  Just an overnighter to help a friend’s daughter move from her parents’ house to a deluxe apartment in the sky in a big city about six hours away from us.  We’ll be traveling by cargo van, and staying in a moderately priced hotel, with a quick trip to IKEA the following morning, and hopefully returning home with a new couch.

I know, luxurious, right?

It’s no honeymoon, but I know we’ll still have a good time.  We like spending time together, even while working or doing menial tasks, and he actually loves to drive.  I can’t wait to hit IKEA, one of the things I miss most about living up north.  When the closest one is six hours away, you appreciate it so much more.

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And I can’t wait to have a couch!  We’ve been sitting in chairs every evening, and even though The Man loves his recliner, I’m ready to relax, and stretch out.

We’ll mix a little work with a little fun, and my parents will stay with The Boy – a little changeup to our routine.  Enough to make it interesting, but not too much to throw us off.  This is the life.  🙂

Time for High Gear: We Really Are Moving

We have 10 weeks to go before the big move, and it feels like we’re out of time.  We have prepped The Boy, and he has shown increasing acceptance, although he still talks about cloning himself, so that various copies can attend all the middle schools in our area, and one can even play video games all day and visit his current ASD teacher after school.  I don’t disabuse him of these fanciful notions, choosing instead to concentrate on the realistic, and I am getting a strong urge to kick it up a notch with this approach.  I picked The Boy up from his dad today, and began talking about the changes to come, reminding him of everything we had talked about with the moving process.  At first, all seemed OK, and then he began to fret about last spring break.

Labyrinth of MemoryPart of his autism includes never forgetting things that have upset him, which are usually times he has missed school for various reasons.  Luckily he does not get ill often, but there have been times over the years when he has either had to stay home from school or be picked up due to illness (I learned early on never to make appointments for the doctor or dentist that interfered with school, because I would never hear the end of it).  Last spring break, I had to make an agonizing decision about pulling The Boy out of school for a week so that I could have a vacation.  Our breaks did not coincide, and not pulling him out meant I would get no break at all.  It may sound selfish, but I am firmly in the camp that believes that if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and therefore I decided to pull him out.  I also chose not to tell him that he would be missing school.  Honesty is usually the best policy, but if you don’t have to step in manure, than why would you choose to?  Unfortunately, a parapro let it slip a few days before that he would, indeed, be missing school, and that was just about the worst thing that could happen.  It was as close to the end of the world as it could get for The Boy, and on top of it all, I had “lied” to him.

Needless to say, with the memory he has, especially for tragic events, this has come back to haunt us a time or two, as it did today.  The Boy was in tears about something that had happened a year ago, and it is one of those things about autism I have a hard time wrapping my brain around.

We talked about how it was in the past, couldn’t be changed, and how we had to move on from that.  I promised it would never happen again, and he launched into his next set of fears, having to give away all of his toys, because he is “skipping middle and high school, and going to college”, like Andy from Toy Story 3.  We have talked about how we will be purging some toys before the move, and this is how he interprets it.  So we talked about part of growing up is outgrowing things like baby toys and baby clothes, and that once you learn what those toys have to teach you, they are much more suited to younger children.  I reassured him we weren’t throwing toys away (a constant fear, again, thanks to Toy Story 3), but donating them so that 3rd graders could play with his 3rd grade toys, and so on.  This idea of outgrowing clothes and toys seemed to make more sense to him, and he quieted, thinking about everything I had said.  After a while, his tears turned to smiles, and we were back on track.

Visitation Means He’s Supposed to Visit You…

On the Road AgainI just spoke with the ex about spring break plans.  He is supposed to have The Boy for the week, and I just never know what’s up, it seems, until the last minute.  I texted him the other night, asking him if he was planning on having The Boy for the week, and he said he was.  We spoke this evening, and I’ve noticed that recently, he has been trying to do some Jedi mind-meld deal like tonight when he said, “So we’re going to do Saturday to Saturday again?”

We have never, ever done Saturday to Saturday, but I think he thinks that if he says it that way, I will go, “Yeah!  That sounds good!”

Does he not remember that we were married for ten years, and never once was I ditzy enough to fall for that kind of crap, and in the almost five years since the divorce, never once have I been inclined to do anything but tell him how it’s going to be?  Because realistically, and according to our court documents, his visitation starts the evening of the last day of school for The Boy (Thursday) and runs through the day before we return (Sunday).  And I am not inclined to give him an inch, especially when he has the track record he does.

I explained my plans, and since he knows that I am still doing him a huge favor by meeting him (or his parents, whoever comes to pick up The Boy) about three hours from home (saving him 6 hours in one trip), he agreed.  At least for now.  He could always call the night before and cancel the whole thing.  If that happens, no worries.  The Boy and I are used to it by now.

How Was Your Flight?

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Fine.  All four of them.  Besides the bloody noses (two of them, one on each leg of the flight down [The Boy, not me.  He actually took them pretty much in stride, and thanks to helpful flight attendants, they were quickly handled]), the screaming-coughing-sneezing children behind us, and the parents that were clearly outnumbered (can’t you do math??), the seat-backs that were no more than 8 inches away from our face, the waiting, the CRAZY prices they can charge you for snacks at the airport, and the fact that my ears are STILL popping… yeah, completely fine.

I’m only half joking.  OK, maybe I’m not joking at all.  Since when did airline travel become the big, expensive, greyhound of the sky?  Back in the day, air travel was exciting, a luxury, and they gave you snacks!  Now, it is the equivalent of the chiva of Central and South America, replete with chickens, noise, and too many people.  Oh yeah, and they charge you for the peanuts.  And if you want to apply for a credit card, here you go! – we will talk at you about it for about 20 minutes, and make a big production of handing out the applications and then collecting them, while you are desperately trying to tune out the noise and read your book.

I don’t mean to be complain-y, but if I am spending $700 on something, I expect it to be at least kind of nice.  Nice was not spending four of my vacation days traveling, I’ll give you that.  But beyond that, I got nothing.

Suffice it to say, I have yet another thing to be thankful for: when I live very near my parents, and with my boyfriend, I will not have to fly/drive as frequently as I do.  That’s beautiful.

(And it was AWESOME to watch The Boy be so independent, and way better behaved than any of the neurotypical kids around us!!)

A Lesson

Today was my first opportunity to really teach my son.  Not the things that every parent teaches their kids, like manners, humility, and putting both the lid and the seat up to pee.  Nope. Today I gave my son his first real baritone lesson.  And it was eye-opening.

I think every parent has some understanding of the cognitive abilities of their own children.  I should say every parent who is involved in their child’s life to the point where they have regular conversations, and enjoy doing things together.  Let’s face it — that statement just disqualified a lot of parents.  But intelligence is harder to gauge for us special needs parents.  Our kids don’t often test well, and we have to take the word of the people who spend their days with them at school, and hope we can trust they know what they are doing.  We do some homework during the regular school year, but his teachers send home assignments on which he will have success, to lessen the negative connotation of “homework”, a BRILLIANT idea, I might add.  So even homework does not give me a clear picture of what we’re dealing with inside that big noggin of his.

This afternoon, I got a better understanding.  As his teacher, I saw a talented kid who picked concepts up amazingly quickly, but needed almost constant redirection to focus on the lesson.  It seemed that once he learned a concept, it was pretty much solid, too.  We worked for about 20-30 minutes, and then he was done, but he had learned the concepts so quickly, and so well, that there was no reason to extend the lesson.  Ideally, every kid would have this type individualization, and they would achieve amazing things.

I know that many of us in the special needs community have this nagging concern that is always in the backs of our minds, and oft repeated to us by well-meaning friends and family members: “But what will you/he do when he is done with school?”

To others, I say, “I can’t dwell too much on the future.  I really have to take it day by day.”

To myself, I often say, “I have no freakin’ clue, and that scares the crap out of me.”

But today, after that lesson, I started seeing some answers to that question.  Hopeful ones.

My teacher taught me well today.