Friday, November 8, 2013

all by myself...

So my baby cousin got married in August.  The wedding was in Redondo Beach, California, and I attended.  By myself.  No hubs.  NO KIDS!!  So weird.

I agonized about the decision to go.  You have no idea of the guilt I felt even just considering it, much less actually attending.  The hubs kept telling me that it was important that I attend (no
Kevin and me
dispute there).  I had my parents telling me that I needed a break.  None of them were wrong.  But there were financial considerations, as well as the huge "kid" factor.  But we had airline miles that I could use, and my parents were treating me to my hotel room, so I finally decided to just go for it.  I was glad that I did, because my cousin asked me to be a reader.  What an honor!

Dad & me
So I drove down to Virginia and flew out to LA with my parents.  I took with me one carry-on suitcase and my big purse.  There were no bags filled with electronic devices, toys, books, snacks, drinks (ok, maybe there were snacks...I wasn't about to pay the airline $50 for some stale chips).  No DVD players.  No car seats or strollers.  I barely knew what to do with myself.  I intended to bring my Jodi Picoult book that was about an autistic child, but my mom said I was have as little to do with autism as I could for a just few days.  I understood, but I really wanted to read it (I have probably read 5 books for fun since Laurie's diagnosis)!!

I spent the first couple of days "on alert," ready to spring into a sprint to prevent Laurie from running away, from eating gluten-filled food, or from climbing something.  I would look for her diaper bag before going somewhere.  But after about two days of being there, I relaxed a little.  I managed to nap.  I spent an afternoon in my hotel room and it was silent!  I ironed my clothes and dressed up!  And I even...wait for a book FOR FUN!!!

The best part?  I had entire uninterrupted conversations!  Of course they were all about the fam,
The happy couple!
but that was OK.  I finished sentences without someone pulling on me...without Annie talking over me...without having to repeat myself sixteen times before someone actually listened to me.  I managed to eat entire meals without having to jump up to get something, cut someone's food, or clean up a yogurty mess.  I didn't raise my voice even once.  I could go to the bathroom without making sure that someone was keeping an eye on Laurie.

Of course I missed the girls and the hubs like crazy.  But I had such a blast seeing the sights, catching up with my family, being on an adult schedule, and simply sleeping without being on alert.  It was really nice to let my inner super control freak have a couple of days off!

Oh, I really did feel a little guilty when I would get texts and calls from the hubs telling me how much of a whirling dervish Laurie was each day.  It just didn't seem fair that he was dealing with all of that on his own.  But I would do my best to go along on my merry little way and have fun anyway.

Uncle John & me
Because I was with my parents, and not with my kids, there were many times when I felt like I was 7 again since I seemingly had no responsibilities.  At one point my dad even did "the whistle" to get my attention so that I would get on the correct wedding bus...that "whistle" that could be heard throughout the neighborhood when I was a kid...that "whistle" that made you sprint like the wind to get home...that "whistle" that had the other kids telling you that you'd better get home.  I really did feel like I was transported back to my seven year old self.  Then my dad or my uncle (that's him in the pic with me) would get me "adult beverages," and that feeling would fade. (Note: somehow having the men who served you chocolate milk as a kid get you adult beverages seemed just wrong on a certain level.  I managed to get over it.)

After the wedding, we flew back to DC, and I drove back home the next day.  When I walked in the door, I was greeted by everyone (well, except for Laurie, who was watching a show).  The hubs soon left to go teach, and my life of chaos resumed.  It would have been as if I had not ever left...but I was not quite as control-freaky for a few hours or so afterward (too bad the hubs missed THAT!)...

I do think it helped for me to get away, and for me to be taken care of for awhile.  I don't think I can take the guilt of it if I do it very often, but once in awhile, it's a good thing...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


So this summer we spent 5 days in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  It's gorgeous there.  And if you like the beach, it's probably somewhat of a paradise, especially the house in which we stayed.  Personally, I'm not a beach person...never have been, never will be.  But spending time with John's extended family is fun.  And the girls have an absolute blast at the beach, at the pool, and with the family as well.

Annie loves it there.  She gets to play with cousin Shane, cousin Baby Kate, and everyone else in the house (this year there were 27 McNultys present!).


One of her favorite things to do there is to have jellyfish fights with the guys.  Apparently that's just fun.  I think it's a little gross.

She also likes to hang out with Aunt Jill and Uncle Demitri.


In the past, Laurie loved the beach.  But when we went two years ago, she seemed to dislike it and spent her time in the pool instead.  So this time around was a bit of a mystery as to what she would like.

Well, this year she had a circuit.  She would wake up before everyone.  I would get up and throw the iPod into her tent so that I could catch another 10 minutes of just not running, then shower, and then get Laurie up and dress her while John got ready.  Then we'd go up to the third level and have breakfast, and try to keep her entertained for awhile before we went to the beach.  Finally, it was beach time.  Everyone suited up, sunscreened up, and headed down to the beach (Laurie in a life jacket, of course).  Laurie would go dance in the waves, then without warning turn either north or south and run away as fast as she could.  (Usually) John was the chaser; he would run her down, get past her, and turn and block her path like a basketball player on defense.  Then Laurie would simply stop, dance in the waves some more, and then dash away in the opposite direction, while John followed and blocked her path the other way.  John's quads were sore for two weeks after the "vacation".

So we'd run up and down the beach a zillion times, and then Laurie would just turn on a dime and head back toward the house.  We'd hose her down to get the sand off, and then she'd jump into the pool, where she would stay for a couple of hours.  Then she'd be over that, and would strip naked, admire herself in the reflection on the sliding glass door (she's a bit of a narcissist), and then into the house where she'd get dressed, have lunch and chill out by watching videos on both her iPad and the DVD player.  And then we'd repeat the cycle until it was time for dinner, and subsequently bed.

The hubs and I had a divide and conquer thing going on.  Though I would chase for a little while here and there, he would do most of the major running.  She had extended family chasing after her too.  I would handle things like meal preparation, laundry and the like.  I must have walked up and down two flights of stairs at least 30-40 times each day. Why am I not any thinner??  It's the million dollar question.

But Laurie did love it.  She sort of interacted with people.  She made good eye contact, and would say hi if prompted.


 Most of all, though, she loved the sensory stimulation that the beach and the pool provided.  BONUS:  She even slept fairly well!

During this trip, Laurie managed to escape a few times.  One time was from the third floor of the house...she slipped out the sliding glass door onto the deck, and made a break for the ocean.  Lucky for us, when she got to the bottom floor, several people were there, so they stopped her from continuing on.  Boy, was she MAD!  Another time the lock on the bed tent wasn't securely fastened, so she managed to get out.  Imagine her in her stripey pajamas with her gleeful grin, racing to the top floor of the house.  She looked like an escaped convict!  Laurie is so's SO SCARY!!  Our nerves were SHOT!  We ended up leaving the next day (that was the tentative plan anyway, but the escaping solidified it).

So on our way back, we decided to take a detour through Winchester, where my parents live.  We stopped in for dinner, and to let the girls run around a bit.  Laurie remembered where everything was.  She made a bee-line for my dad's office, where his computer is.  She played the piano.  And she jumped on their bed. She also made herself at home and jumped into the bathtub.

Just before we were leaving, I found her sitting at the kitchen table admiring a beautiful fruit platter my mom had arranged.  This thing was really a work of art!  My mom took a banana off of the arrangement and tried to hand it to Laurie, who gave her a dirty look and put the banana back.  Next, my brother tried to give her grapes.  Same thing...dirty looks, and an attempt to restore the arrangement to it's proper order.  Poor Laurie was torn...she really wanted to eat some of that fruit...we knew this because she said the name of each kind of fruit...but that would mess up the way it was supposed to be.  What's a girl with perseveration problems to do?  Well, you pile back into the car, and the Grandma gives the fruit to Mommy for the way home.  No harm, no foul.

Vacations with kids are always a little trying because kids thrive on routine, and vacations by their very nature are an interruption in routine. Kids with autism rely on routine more than most, so deviation is especially daunting.  But for that reason, when they can experience the kind of joy and bliss Laurie did from an exciting new experience, it is all the more rewarding.  We are definitely looking forward (admittedly with some dread, but with a lot of excitement) to our next vacationing adventure with the girls!