After a month of travels and adventure, we are finally home. I had prolonged posting since we have been adjusting to being home and trying to get a schedule back in place. Last week was our first full week home in awhile, and it was an extremely difficult week for Sam transitioning. I had also postponed writing, as I was going to put some pics of our vacation up, but I don't have my camera. I left it at a friends of ours on accident on our way home. So as soon as I get it there will be some cute pics of the boys and Yellowstone.
Brent and I have seen some of the most challenging behaviors from Sam in a long time last week. Lots of running away and escaping, lots of self injury when mad, and lots of aggressive behavior towards our whole family and objects. Brother has seen lots of kicking, dad head butting and hair pulling and mom lots of biting. We know that he has been on sensory overload adjusting to home and coming off of travels, we know he hasn't had a "real" schedule in over a month. We are not surprised and we understand where it all has been coming from.
We were worried about how traveling on vacation would go for Sam. We had several long driving days planned. Our agenda included:
~Traveling from Minneapolis (home) to Wall, SD the first day (over 8 hour car day)
~We camped in the Black Hills for 2 nights/3 days then drove to Cody, WY (over 10 hour car day)
~Spent 3 full days driving (and hiking) in Yellowstone (but again, a lot of car time)
~Drove to Jackson Hole, WY (half day in car)
~Drove to Denver to visit friends (9 hour car day)
~Drove to Iowa to pick up grandma (over 10 hour car day)
~Drove to Kansas City to visit family and friends (3 hour car day)
~Drove back to Minneapolis (0ver 8 hour car day)
Sooooooo......the point being, Sam (and his brother) spent a lot of time in a car. Thank God for DVD players. But the real point is that he did so awesome, we have already planned our road trip destination for next summer. Brent and I were so excited and feel that if we can conquer the car, that we can now plan trips like this.
The easiest part of the trip was driving. We were so shocked for many reasons. When just driving locally in the Twin Cities, we have lots of screaming rides. Sam is all about sameness (nothing new for kids with autsim). Who drives what car and who sits where is often times crucial. It has gotten better this past year though. The other thing that is hard for us sometimes is the routes we take to places. His memory is incredible. Many times he can relay to me where we are going before we get there because of the route. So, the problem being, we can't take different routes to places if I tell him where we are going ahead of time. I usually tell him we are just driving for fun and might go to a store to eliminate battle as to which street we turn on.
The great thing about being on vacation, is that every day is new and never the same. Sam didn't know what to expect, which we feared would make things worse or okay. Fortunately that latter was the result. He couldn't dictate which way to drive because it was always new to him with a different routine never to be followed again.
Our only challenge on the whole trip was safety. We thought it would be safe and didn't bother to bring his cute monkey harness. We figured we would be in nature and not in crowds. We kind of forgot that there are cliffs and things in nature that most of us understand the danger of, oops. Sam had no fear at all on our adventures in nature. He could care less if there was a 300 foot drop from us. Our first stop at the Badlands found Sam running straight to a cliff, and left him kicking and screaming mad as Brent pulled him away. I can't count how many times big brother Zach said, "Mom, doesn't he know he could die!!!!" He even had brother worried at times. Let's just say that our stops in mountain areas and canyon areas were a little nerve racking and found us carrying him (Sam reluctant about).
But the beautiful things about Sam on the trip were the things that are autism related. Sam has always had keen attention to detail. One psychologist had told us that this could lead to learning problems down the road because of the distraction it causes him. And yes, it is an incredible pain in the butt when we are trying to walk some place in a timely matter, and he is distracted by even the littlest pine needle on our path. But, on vacation he drew our attention to some of the most beautiful things we could have missed. He would notice some little beautiful bird in the distance, or an awesome rock along the way. He was in awe of the Badlands, because of the color and shape of the rocks. I am not sure how many 4 1/2 year olds would find such amazement at places appreciated more by adults. The Badlands could lose its awe after the first 1/2 hour for some people, but Sam kept it alive for us. With every turn in the road came "totowee toowa" (totally cool) or "toey tow" (Holy cow-mom and dad are Cubs and Harry Carey fans). He could spot the tinyest bug or creature wherever we went, whereas the rest of the family would have missed it.
As we drove upon the Grand Teton Mountains at Jackson Lake, we got out. The first thing Sam said to Brent was, "is dat a pitter or real?" (Is that a picture or real). He was totally serious. It was cute.
I can't wait to post some pics. As the trip continued we saw lots of detail and had amazing fun. It was a dream vacation.
As the trip concluded, we were in Kansas City. We stayed downtown at the Marriot. Our first night there we could not fit the minivan in the hotel underground ramp because of our topper, so we had to park across the street at a different underground ramp. We came up from the parking garage to see that there was a park on top of it. As we headed to the hotel, Sam took off. Brent and I could not catch him. Brent finally got him as he ran inches to the edge of a 3 story cement drop off to the exit side of the parking garage. Sam was not scared. It did not phase him that he would be hurt. Zach was never more scared for Sam. It seems like when we just start to trust him and feel like he "gets it" (about safety, cars, danger, etc...) we always let our guard down. Three months ago, Sam wondered out of the house to the garage in the middle of the night and was locked out until I heard him at 4am. This incident led to us installing a security system. We know that safety will always be an issue, which makes us mad when we ease off and know better. The trip was awesome, but it was great to be "home, safe and sound" for now.