Monday, June 23, 2014

My Big Fat Vacation Post

So we went on a little trip last week. Okay it was huge. Huge for a ton of reasons--it was our first *real* vacation with the kids, and huge because two years ago, my anxiety was so bad that there is no way I could've gone on a vacation like this.  I don't post a lot about my anxiety issues, but not because I'm embarrassed--I hate that there is a stigma about mental health issues and I'm very open about what I've gone through and how medication has helped me. Other things just seem to take precedence here. Maybe one day I'll feel the need to talk more about it. In any case, it was a big deal.

I won't give you every single detail of the trip. It would bore you. Honestly, we didn't do much. We didn't do any touristy type things--no miniature golf or parasailing or anything like that. We just...hung out. Spent time together. Time as an extended family with Marty's parents (Nana and Papaw), time as just our little family of four, and Marty and I even got to spend some time alone. We played on the beach, played in the various pools at our resort (we stayed here and it was fabulous--I highly recommend!), did a little shopping and ate some delicious seafood meals for dinner. We cooked in one night, brought food in a few others. It was so low key and chill--it was perfect. The weather was perfect, there were no expectations, I even let the kids *gasp* stay up late enough to swim in the dark! If you know me at all, you know how hard it is for me to deviate from our routines. The kids repaid that kindness by sleeping in until 7 most days and taking solid naps, even though we'd gotten away from the nap routine. Playing hard in the sun and water just wore them out completely.

The only blip in the trip was the traveling to and from Alabama.  The kids tolerated the drive fantastically.  They watched many movies and took a few car naps (not nearly enough but oh well). We got out to snack and stretch often and made it a point to eat at least one sit-down meal each trip. The problem came with Anderson's...ahem...bowel habits.  He deals with the typical ASD constipation issue. It isn't horrible and could be much worse, so it generally isn't a big deal.  His routine is to go to the bathroom, skip a few days, go again.  Leading up to his...well...being able to go, he sits on the toilet numerous times, trying to make it happen. Let's just say that he did that on the way there and back.  Due to an unfortunate automatic toilet flushing incident at a Cracker Barrel, he wouldn't just attempt it on any toilet, either.  This lead to some hanging out in bathrooms in, shall we say, 'special' places.  I spent a good 20 minutes in a one-seater gas station bathroom somewhere in northern Alabama with him, listening to the people line up outside and wonder what the heck was taking so long.  Good times.

As we switched off driving home yesterday, I was mentally reflecting on the trip. Without further ado, here are my top five vacation revelations, in no particular order.

1)  Anderson has ASD.  I haven't mentioned it here, but I'd been doubting the diagnosis just a little bit in the last few months.  Not really doubting it, but let's just say that some things transpired that made me less certain.  I sought a 2nd opinion from a high-school friend who has a fantastic mental health practice for children, and I cannot say enough about this place. My friend's story is interesting (and you can check it out in the video on the webpage)...he actually started his career as a forensic psychiatrist, meaning that he testifies in court for various types of cases.  Throughout his work, he realized that, when he's asked to testify, he is allowed to take as much time as is needed to come to his conclusions, but when we diagnose children, we generally do a couple of observations, fill out a few questionnaires, and call it a day. He believes in taking as much time as is needed to both diagnose and treat his patients. If you live in the Lexington/nearby area and you are in need of mental health services for your child, I highly recommend checking out 360 Mental Health. Anyway, he generously met with us to evaluate Anderson and read over all of his previous evaluations, and he was honest with me and explained that Anderson had been thoroughly evaluated and that, based on all of the evidence, he came to the same conclusion as our previous evaluators.  I appreciated that, and was also relieved to know that Anderson had been thoroughly evaluated--props to our school system.  All of that to say, if I'd ever doubted his diagnosis, this trip pretty well eliminated those fears. Don't misunderstand; he did amazing on this trip. He was able to handle the lack of routine/schedule like a champ. But that doesn't mean he wasn't anxious about it. We made the critical mistake of trying to leave in the very early  morning hours. Not only did the kids wake up and not go back to sleep, but poor Anderson was SO confused. He was confused about why it was taking so long to get there, he was confused about where we were going. We had to keep reiterating our agenda for the drive day over, and over, and over...and he still never really got it. He also never really understood that despite that lengthy drive, the beach was in Alabama and our home was 10 hours away in Kentucky--something else he asked about repeatedly.  There was a lot of reassuring and repeating of schedules and talking through everything, which I'm going to admit was seriously exhausting, but he didn't have any meltdowns. He knows how to ask questions to reassure himself so that he doesn't panic, and I'm grateful he has coping strategies. But yowzah... it is something. I think he literally talked from dawn to dusk every single day. So yeah. He has ASD. I'm good with it, and glad I can put the issue to rest for myself.
2. The ocean is healing. I honestly believe that.  Breathing in warm salty air, watching the tide come in and go out--it is medicinal. Sunsets that change the sky to every shade of pink, orange, and purple are a religious experience. I swear I felt some of the weight of the world slip from my shoulders as I sat on the balcony with the kids after dark, ocean breeze on our faces as Amelia gave names to all of the stars. I wish I could get there more often.
 3.  Vacations afford parents the opportunity to fall in love with their children all over again. You know what I'm talking about--those moments where you look at your child and your heart literally bursts with love and pride. Vacations are full of those moments.  Watching Amelia--my little sandbox and dirt lover--see the beach for the first time?? That was a one-of-a-kind experience. Seeing both kids become comfortable in the water over the course of the week  left me feeling immensely proud. Peeking in on them as they napped, their hair a little blonder and their tan lines a little get the idea. My heart was a pile of mush.
 4.  Kids are innately creative.  We didn't take a slew of toys with us and we didn't really watch movies or TV once we got to the beach. The kids created games to play with each other in the condo and collected shells on the beach and played in the water and they didn't need much of anything to be entertained. We took a ton of beach toys with us, and they really didn't use any of them. Next time we will travel much lighter.
 5.  I'm a terrible traveler. I love traveling and seeing new places. I hate the actual trip to get there. I am a bad flier--I have to be medicated. I'm impatient in the car for long periods of time.  After about seven hours, I start to lose my mind. Huge props to my family for tolerating me. That's all I'm going to say about that.

So we are back and we spent yesterday going through that post-vacation depression that is much like post-holiday depression. Today is officially the first day of our summer break together--wish me luck!

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