Last week my husband and I took our kiddos on vacation, even our oldest son got to go with us this year. The idea of us going out of our comfort zone of home for a week was down right freighting to me. With wild mans autism he prefers to stay home where he knows his surroundings and knows what he can and can’t do. With diva, you never know when her RAD will surface and disrupt the day. I was not looking forward to a week of the unknowns at all. I am sure I’m not the only mother that feels like this. So many different emotions surfaced throughout the week.
Saturday morning the kids woke up around 6. We loaded up the last of the “must haves” in the van and headed out. Have you ever packed for eight people? The amount of clothes, toys, snacks, drinks, and bedding quickly filled the back of our 12 passenger van. The excitement that filled the van made me happy. We were pulling out of the driveway when the first showing of “LAND BEFORE TIME” made its appearance on the DVD player. The kids love Littlefoot, Sarah, Ducky, and Spike. It’s one of the few things all five agree on. For the next 7 hours the excitement built. I can’t wait to see the ocean!! I can’t wait to go swimming in the pool!!! I can’t wait to stay up late!!! ARE WE THERE YET??!!! The closer we got the more giggles and and more more questions we heard.
Big Al was not a fan of the ocean so his first day of vacation started off by searching for sea shells. To his delight he found several shells to his liking. Excitement filled the air when he discovered a large brown rock that he insists is dinosaur poop. He carried said dinosaur poop around as if it was the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Every day after that initial find he surveyed the beach looking for more dinosaur poo. No rock was safe. We have a bucket of dinosaur poo that now sets at the end of his bed. Oh the joy of boys.
Panic sat in when my in-laws called to give us the news about our house we had rented. They arrived to our beach rental before we did. The owner of the house was still in the house. Her mother had came down to visit the week before. The night before we were scheduled to start our vacation in her home her mother fell and broke her leg/hip, meaning they would not be leaving the house. The rental company had tried calling us all morning to work something out with us ( according to the messages on my phone when we got back home they called us 12 times) but were calling the house number not my cell number. As my mother in law told me what was going on I became overwhelmed. I had rented the house because it was child friendly, It had a pool in case wild man could not handle the noise of the ocean. It had a bedroom set up with two sets of bunk-beds so all the kids could be in one room which would be easier for me to “bed hop” when they could not sleep because they were not in their own beds. It had extra locks on the doors so I would not worry (as much) about wild man escaping. I had spent weeks looking and securing the perfect rental house. How would they find me something comparable in just a few hours. When we arrived to the new rental, I must say I was impressed. The rental agency had given us and upgrade, a beach front upgrade. We still had a private pool and there was a bedroom for everyone. Instead of having to walk a block to the beach we could now be on the beach in just a few steps. The agency told us they would help us with anything we needed and apologized for having to move us. I packed sheets for bunk-beds not queens so they brought us sheets and a pack-n-play for baby girl to sleep in. I went from being overwhelmed with fear to being overwhelmed with gratitude.
We were at the beach all of a few hours before diva’s RAD started rearing its ugly head. You can’t baby her when it surfaces, but her grandparents can’t help but baby her. I know they mean well, but it really does not help her or us. No matter what I did for her it was wrong. I could not comb her hair right, I could not put on her bathing suit right, heck I could not even make her lunch without her screaming at me and saying ” I just quit. You are being so mean to me.” She had them eating out of the palm of her hands and she knew it. Because her dad and I were “so mean” she got to go on not one but three outings with them. Just her and them. Once they took her for a walk in the beach to look for sea shells. The second trip, we had decided to take the kids on a golf chart ride around the isle while my in-laws went down the road to do a little shopping. Diva did not want to go on the ride so she began to stomp around and fuss that she didn’t want to go. I tried to talk her into it but she saw them looking at her so she began to scream and they didn’t want her upset so they took her shopping with them. As she walked out the door she looked back at me and just smiled. The third outing they were running out to the store for groceries, diva and Big Al had been arguing, so naturally they took her so she did not have to “put up with him being mean to her” Aggravated does not cover what I was feeling. I was aggravated at the situation not at my inlaws, let me make that clear. They only want what’s best for her. It’s not fair to the other kids, she manipulates the situations and she got rewarded for it. We have spent months trying to move forward and it all went down the drain because she refused to listen to us. RAD, ADHD, and FASD are not things we just made up in our heads. Her actions made for a long week. Today at the house was awful, she kept screaming and trying to start fights. When I told her to stop her response was “I will just call my grandparents they will take my side” Lovely….just lovely.
Wild man was so scared of the ocean the last time we went. The noise hurt his ears and the sand sent his sensory issues into overdrive. So I was nervous to go back this year. For weeks before our trip he would talk about the water and how he hoped to see a shark. Thankfully we did not see any sharks, but what we did see brought tears to my eyes. As my husband held his hand and walked him out to see the ocean shortly after we arrived my heart raced. My oldest son held tight to Big Al and Elmo while my father in law had Diva. Instead of running back to the house like he did a few years ago, wild man ran into the ocean, magic pajama pants and all. He had found his peaceful place. He played hard in the water and loved every minute of it. He even played in the pool once we managed to get him out of the ocean. All week he looked forward to going out and swimming in the great big blue ocean. I have never seen him more at peace than what I did there. Just thinking about it makes me smile and makes me happy.
Other happy moments included watching the kids blow bubbles off the deck, getting baby girl to say cheese when she saw the camera, eating ice cream cones after every meal, and seeing the kids enjoy themselves playing with their dinosaurs and play-dough. Celebrating Diva’s 7th birthday was lots of fun at the beach. I was happy to see my husband be able to relax for a few days.
I was surprised that by children made the trip ( it took us 7 hours to get down there and 8 hours to return home) without anyone getting sick in the car or peeing in their car seat. I was surprised that we watched most of the 14 different Land Before Time videos and no one fussed about wanting to watch something else.
I am thankful for the beautiful works of art God provided in the sky each morning. His mix of colors in the morning sky is simply breathtaking . I am thankful that God found a way to make me a mom to seven unique kids. I am thankful my oldest son got to go to the beach with us and for the time we got to spend together. I am thankful for my husband who works so had to provide moments like this for us.
As a mom I know there really is no such thing as a vacation for me. I was still the one up with the kids at all hours of the night when they could not sleep or if baby girl needed a bottle. I woke up between 5 and 6 every morning because wild man does not sleep in just because its summer break and we are on vacation. I still did the laundry and fixed their meals. I worried, I rejoiced, and I cried. Being a mom is the most rewarding and hardest job I have ever done. I am tired, I am unsure of myself, I am loved, I am hated, I am scared, I am hurt, and I am sure I would do it all again.
We survived our vacation. We had a few bumps in the road but overall we made some great memories. I can’t ask for anything better than that.
From our beautiful chaos to yours take time to feel every emotion God gives you. Emotions are powerful embrace them.