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 quiet...so stealthy...so sneaky...it'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!