If you remember it, you'll also know why it's been so long.... (read about our Tetons trip here and here)
We've been hesitant, nervous and, frankly, a little scared to take another extended excursion as a family.
After a whole year of no official family vacation we decided that it just needed to happen.
We had planned at the beginning of the year to visit my brother in Illinois, but when it came time to actually prepare to go we found that it wasn't going to work out.
I was bummed, not only because I wanted to see my brother and his family, but because we had been preparing our kids, specifically Sister, for months in advance of our plans to drive 17 hours to see family and make little stops along the way. So, when we had to inform them that it wouldn't be happening after all it made for a bit of a fall-apart that lasted the course of several days. Kids with Fragile X don't do well with change, but Sister is definitely our toughest candidate when it comes to ANY change.
We didn't really think that a family vacation was going to happen, but I was bound and determined to make one happen.
We had talked unofficially with the kids for a few weeks that we were going to go on a trip to the beach. We weren't really sure where that would be or how it would be, but we knew it would happen the week before school started.
I had the best of intentions to have everything planned to the "T" a week before leaving so that I could make a map and schedule for Sister to follow to hopefully prevent too much anxiety on her part.
My plans for an easy and fairly inexpensive vacation to San Diego kept falling through. It started to come down to the night before we were planning to leave and we still only had a partial plan laid out. We knew when we were going to stay on the first night for a halfway stop to San Diego and a halfway stop halfway back home, but that was it.
Marc had the time off of work and the kids had been prepped for a vacation, so even though I had no schedule for Sister to follow, I thought it would be worse to cancel altogether than to go without a plan...
The night before we were leaving Amanda and Travis set us up with their portable DVD system so that our kids could watch movies on the drive. We were so grateful and hopeful that this would help.
The morning of us leaving though, we still had no where to stay in San Diego. We were looking at camping on the beach to save some money, but were having no luck finding an available tent site.
We were still going.
I just had faith that if this trip was supposed to happen, that we would find some where to stay in San Diego or somewhere else near a beach. So with my plan to leave still on Wednesday I left that morning to do some last minute vacation shopping to make sure we had enough snacks for the road trip.
While I was out shopping I received a phone call from a dear friend and she informed me that she and her husband had found us a hotel in San Diego for Thursday and Friday night and they were using their Marriott points to pay for our 2-night stay! I didn't know how to say "yes" to a gift that big, but I somehow did and I was now getting very excited about the prospect of our amazing, last-minute, family vacation!
We got a much later start than I had hoped for on Wednesday. My goal was to leave the house by noon and we didn't even pull out of our garage until 3:00... I try, I really do, I'm just amazed at how much my preparation never prepares me for what I've forgotten.
At any rate, we were on our way.
The kids were thrilled to be able to watch movies in the car.
Marc and I were thrilled that they were thrilled.
I had told Sister the whole road plan and where and what we would be doing.
She seemed cool with the plan.
We made the stop to drop Ranger off with my mom so she could watch him while we were gone and the kids were so sad to have to stay in the car instead of going inside. We were trying to save time because we were so much later than we had planned so we just figured that Marc could run the dog in quick while we waited in the car...
I don't know if that was our first mistake or if it wouldn't have mattered for the kids to spend a few minutes at grandma's saying their goodbyes to Ranger.
We'll never know.
But we did know that Sister had already hit her travel limit.
The screaming and whining began.
It was all nonsensical, really... to us... to her, I am sure, it all made perfect sense that we were driving into a place that was going to have tornados and earthquakes. She even made sure to throw in her correct prediction of the "tornado" that had hit Salt Lake when we were at China Town. (If you missed that one you can read the post from two Saturdays ago.) The yelling and all out insults went on for at least 30 minutes. I don't remember what calmed her down, but, like a light switch, she was happily watching movies again in the car.
Every so often there would be complaints or whining from any one of the 3 kids as they were choosing what movie to watch or trying to get comfortable in their seats, but it was generally quiet for the next two or so hours until we had to stop for gas.
We went in for a potty break while Marc filled the car and the girls were doing quite well when I took them into the bathroom with me. There was just that moment when I was going potty with Baby standing in there with me for her safety and someone turned on the automatic hand dryer and Baby went into a panic-driven frenzy and kept trying to get out. I was trying to hurry and take care of business before she managed to unlock the door and fling it open so as to run out of the stall in a panicked frenzy... luckily, I at least had time to pull up my pants before I was exposed to the crowd of potty-going travelers. She realized out of the stall that the jet propulsion hand dryers were even louder and scarier as she left the stall so she danced in confusion and tears not knowing where to go for safety. I was trying to console her and while quickly washing my hands and just had time enough to run after her to see the puzzled looks of the fellow potty-goers and wipe my hands dry on my clothes to get her before she ran into the stuffed animal display that had so cruelly placed itself in her frenzied escape path.
Luckily Sister was not phased by all this and was calmly walking by my side until she came to the exit door and the stuffed animal blockade was long past that. I didn't know whether to run after Sister exiting the safety of the building or to catch Baby so that I didn't leave her in her panic only to make it worse.
Have you ever seen the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr? You know how he plays a whole scenario through his head completely before he makes a move on the enemy? Well, I have that super power. Yup. I can run an entire scenario through my mind during an emergency. So within the split second that I had to decided which child to run after I saw out the window that Marc had moved the car by the front door so when Sister ran out he would see her and grab her and I would have the chance to save Baby from the towering display of stuffed animals that may have thrown us all in to more disaster.
All of us girls back in the car, Marc and Brother go in for their bathroom turn and Sister begins,
"I wanna go home! I hate you! I wanna go home! This is stupid!! Why can't we go home?! Where's Ranger?! You're lying to me! I hate the beach!! I wanna go home!"
It's times like this that I begin to think that when we travel we should all wear a diaper and our car should run on natural gas so that we don't have to stop until we get to our final destination.
I can't remember much from Beaver to Las Vegas other than the moments when I chuckled at Baby playing dolls with the Dumdum suckers I had brought for sustenance... or the sunset over the desert as we were almost to Vegas.
|Not the best picture, but the only one I got. You an see the wrapper in her other hand and that was the dress for her sucker. It was so cute, I wish I would have thought to record it.|
I think I tried to block as much screaming and dull whimpering as much as I possibly could so as to keep a remnant of my sanity.
Then we came over the horizon to see the lights of Vegas. The kids were excited and we spent the next 30 minutes squealing with delight about all the different light displays and beautiful hotels until we came to The Luxor. It's that pyramid hotel. Up until that point the kids were happy to point out the "Eiffel tower," the "Golden Gate Bridge," the castles and the ferris wheel, but for some reason I think that Sister had hit her over-stimulation level at that point and the argument between her and Brother ensued.
Sister was yelling at the top of her lungs that it was not a real pyramid and that we were all liars and this started Brother's waling tears of sorrow that she could say such a thing. Baby responded to all this by pulling Sister's hair and choking Brother all while I am trying to octopus my arms around the DVD chords and cables so that I can prevent any true catastrophe. Then Suri chimes in... you know, Apple's "helper." She was helping us know what exit to get off of to get to my aunt and uncles house but between the traffic and the noise of the kids I wanted to explode. So did Marc.
Then we came to the entrance of my aunt and uncle's neighborhood and Sister continued to call us all liars, tell us she wanted to go home and that she did NOT want to go swimming.
We pulled into the driveway in a ruffled mess of tangled emotions and DVD chords to meet the happy greeting of my Aunt Lori who was so excited to see us.
Sister was able to slightly hide her disgust that we were still following through with our plan and followed everyone inside and immediately decided she was happy to be there! She saw the swimming pool in the back yard and couldn't get her swimsuit on fast enough. I hurried as fast as I could to oblige so as not to set off another meltdown.
During the time that the kids were in the pool I was able to unwind my knots and enjoy that fact that we had done something good and that our kids were having a great time.
We even made it through the entire night without much of a hitch... other than when I had realized I had forgotten one of Sister's night time meds and my anxiety meds... oh boy... I was able to get creative with Sister's night time routine and I just prayed I would have the strength to handle the next few days without some anxiety relief...
In the morning we were greeted by my aunt making us pancakes to the shapes of our heart's desire. I had to take a picture of the dolphin that sister had requested.
My cousin and her 3 girls were there to visit with us too. It was so fun to see how sweet they all were with our kids and how accepting they were of them.
I was so grateful to have stayed at a place where they understood our children and didn't judge our situation but just loved and embrace us the way we are, meltdowns and all.
|My cousin, Amy, me and my aunt, Lori being goofy.|
|I look like a giant... ha!|
You thought we were going to San Diego?
Ya, so did Marc and I.
But, after I had the bright idea of letting Sister follow our travels with the GPS on my phone she had scrolled over to Mexico and decided that that was our true destination and we had been hiding it from her all along.
"We're going to Mexico?!!"
I don't know quite how to describe the rant she went into about Mexico having earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis. It was quite and informed yet very unrealistic rant. She knows all about earthquakes and what it's like before they happen and the same with tornadoes and tsunamis. She made sure to, again, remind us of the tornado in China Town in Salt Lake.
Marc and I tried to talk sense into her, but she wouldn't believe us and she raged on about all the scary things in Mexico and how scared she was to go there. It didn't matter how many times we explained that we were going to San Diego she was already on her platform. Of course with this tirade we would also hit horrible traffic that would take our 5 hour trip to 7 hours!
There were moments of excitement and happiness mixed in with the craziness that was Sister's eternal meltdown and with those moments of happiness while cooped up in the car were moments of, "We did the right thing. Look how happy they are. This is tough but it is worth it."
When we finally got to our hotel Sisters rants had become more insistent and I could tell she was really scared of the unknown. There was no calming her down so we just had to walk through the elegant hotel lobby filled with suited employees as she raged on, hitting us and screaming that were were mean and were liars and were rude all while Brother whimpered quietly behind us hoping to avoid and flailing arms.
We got to the elevator and Baby freaked out. Totally fell apart and cried in sheer terror.
It wasn't until that moment I learned that she is deathly afraid of elevators. Throughout the course of our stay we learned that she would say "hold me" as we came to the elevator door and Marc would wrap her in his arms and she would dig her claws in so as not to move an inch and clung for dear life until we got to the 9th floor.
Sister thought this behavior was silly and laughed and forgot her fears.
We came to our room and the children excitedly looked out the window and discovered the hotel pool.
I was really hoping they wouldn't see that just yet.
Because of the traffic we had gotten to the hotel two hours later than we had hoped and we really wanted to get to the beach to see the sun go down.
When I say "we" I mean Marc and I.
The kids were at a hotel.
Therefore we would be going to the pool.
We know they LOVE the beach and knew they would love it once we got there.
So with a clawed clinging Baby, a rant-driven Sister and a sulky Brother we fought our way through the lobby into the van, rushed to Taco Bell for a "hope this quiets the rants" dinner and endured the insults of Sister for the 5 minute drive to the beach. We pulled right off the side of the road to the beach access and were there in time to see the sunset.
Miraculously once we opened the van doors and the sand was caressed beneath their toes the children were happy and quiet. All we could hear were the waves of the ocean reaching the beach. We were there for only a half hour or so, but it was enough zen to bring peace to the entire day and make us feel grateful that we were able to come here.
I learned a valuable lesson multiple times during this vacation, but it was most prominent at this moment.
Nothing is appreciated more or seems more beautiful than when we suffer trials before the reward. That's why rainbows are so beautiful after a storm.
I'll give you the second half of our trip in the next post... until then...
Days 224 - 225 of 365 Days of Up