I have blogged before about our boys’ love of “Rocket”, our RV, several times. As we head home today after 3 weeks of vacation in “Rocket”, it’s only natural to think about how far the boys have come.
Many families I know have a weekend cabin or getaway spot on the beach. Some even rent a place each year as a tradition. As a child, we never had the means to do such a thing as take a vacation. Of course, we didn’t have 2 kids with Fragile X either.
When the boys were young we tried several different things in an effort to have some kind of vacation. We rented a cabin at a dude ranch in Colorado. We ended up going home after 3 days because Jake wouldn’t eat. The following year, we spent a wad of money taking the boys to a week-long therapy camp. It was helpful, but certainly not a vacation for anyone. After that, we were thrust into the world of camping. I wrote about our first camping adventure in an earlier blog.
We’ve really tried to make a priority of taking at least one journey in “Rocket” a year. This year, we decided to re-visit Texas, and then proceed to Arizona for Thanksgiving with the family. We spent the first 2 days just getting out of Colorado and into central Texas. We had been to Texas before, but it seems we missed a few places in our initial visit. We took the time to really take in the scenery this time, which in western Texas, is a bit boring to us coming from scenic Colorado.
From the time we departed, the boys were in their splendor. They each had their comforts of home, and their personal entertainment devices. I had carefully prepared their visual calendar to include “driving days”, “amusements”, and “visits” with various people. This helps keep them motivated and centered. Then, I brought along my library of PECS (picture exchange communication system) and “all done” board. Each day I prepared the program for the day.
We arrived in Austin early on the 3rd day, in time to have dinner at one of the “DDD” places on our wish list. I noticed right away that the weather was already so much milder than home. I liked that. The rolling hills and chirping birds were everywhere! One day we drove through town, and then finished off with a late lunch at another “DDD” barbeque joint. Another day, we ventured into downtown to see the Capital building and take a long walk in the beautiful park that surrounded it. Everything was already decorated for the holidays. One morning, we drove the 25 miles to visit a donut shop we had seen on tv. It was delicious! We even managed to pick out some tasty sausages at a Cajun Deli we had seen along the way. Those babies are in the freezer for sharing when we get home.
Next we headed south toward Galveston Island. We had been here once before, but since it was shortly after hurricane “Ike”, there were no campgrounds on the island. Most of that was rebuilt when we arrived this time. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness and charm of the entire area. The anticipation of an impending lunch with another family also held my interest at its peak level! The first night, we drove several miles back across the island to the mainland area to eat at a “DDD” spot known for its steak. They had something to please every palate.
Before we got to the restaurant, I made my usual call to gauge the crowd or wait time. We like to eat early to avoid the crowd, and this time was no exception. We arrived at the restaurant completely prepared, with backpacks and diversion/wait devices. Joe was especially engaged because there was a young man that reminded him of a friend back home. It was cute to see him make this association. I am reminded of the many times when the boys were young, when they ate a restaurant meal in 15 minutes flat, and we left with boxes filled with our meals to take home. The boys would manage to eat theirs, but our time was spent getting them ready, making sure they were cleaned up, and then leaving. I am so proud that these days are gone. Both boys are able to wait a substantial amount of time for our meals.
The next day we had a special treat awaiting us. Facebook has been such a wonderful meeting place and outlet for me and many others. I became acquainted with a very nice Mom of 2 young boys that lived in the Galveston area. She invited us to have lunch with her family. We agreed to meet at a famous hamburger joint. I prepared the daily schedule as usual, including a symbol for “friends”, and “say hello to friends”. This should do it. We arrived at the restaurant without a hitch. We enjoyed a lovely meal and conversation. After lunch, we were treated to a local tour of the area, and then we ended up back at “Rocket” so the boys could all have some down time. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I certainly did! It’s always a treat for me to meet new families and learn their story and their joys. It was really special to have a local family share their time with us.
We headed back north toward San Antonio. As we drove, I took in the whole environment. It is very relaxed, and quite predictable. Even though we are moving from place to place, there are many things that remain the same. The environment inside of “Rocket” is stable. The routine tasks we do every day are the same. The people and dogs are the same. I believe this has a huge effect on the comfort level and adaptability of Jake and Joe. It also attributes to the success of every visit. I think about what a blessing it is.
We had also been to San Antonio before, and really enjoyed it. We felt it was worthy of a second visit. There are many things to see in San Antonio. I was also looking forward to a special dinner with the families from the area. I knew several of them from Facebook, but looked forward to meeting some new friends. We spent the first few days visiting several “DDD” spots, as well as the Riverwalk, shopping and historic sites. The boys were very relaxed, which made sense due to the lack of demands on them. It was completely different from our home routine, and their work schedule. The level of hyperarousal was easily controlled. We still practice a routine of “up” and “down” times when we are on the road. We also stick closely to our sleep routine and allow for time zone changes with meals and medications. This makes transitions (there are many when we travel) to be very manageable. Having a home base in “Rocket” makes it all very easy too.
Before our dinner with families, I contacted the restaurant to check on menu items and crowd level. One of the ladies from the group had made a reservation, which was great. We arrived, and everyone said “Hello”, and sat down. It was a fun evening full of laughs, sharing and good food. It was a real treat for our entire family to have this kind of welcome. Chris especially enjoyed being able to talk with another Dad. It will be a special memory forever.
The next stop would be to see family in Arizona. Two long days of crossing west Texas and southern Arizona were quite boring. The result would be well worth is though. We arrived at our usual RV Park and got settled in. In preparation for dinner that night, I had the boys view a video I had taken of going into Grandma and Grandpa’s house, saying hello, then getting settled into their “spot”. There was literally no anxiety at all when watching the video. They’ve become very used to this method of preparation. I was glad to have it! We got to their house, the boys said hello (even gave hugs), went in and got settled. We followed this same routine for several days in a row, which made it so pleasant for the entire family. On about the 3rd day, we made a visit to my sister’s house. The boys had only been there once before. The visit was short, but successful. We had brought all of their personal devices and made sure there would be a “spot” for them. When we had the huge family get-together there on Thanksgiving Day, the comfort level was even more evident. It all went off without a hitch.
I often have to remind myself that a lot of hard work has gone into making the boys’ success a reality. Each methodical action that we’ve put into place is now routine for us. But, without them, we would quickly be reminded how important they are. Having a different routine when we travel is important. Having a schedule with us, no matter where we go is essential. Using technology whenever possible is a bonus. Having “Rocket” to guide us and help us stay grounded is everything.