Monday, January 23, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth: Part Two

We finally arrived.  Austin is in his element!

He loves Disneyland.  He talks about Disneyland all year.  He goes on you tube and watches videos that people have posted of them riding the rides at Disneyland.  Its Disneyland 24 - 7 in our house. 

Austin had a certain order he wanted to ride the rides.  The first stop was Mr. Toads Wild Ride.  Now it would be convenient of him to agree to ride all the rides in Fairytale land while we were in that part of the park.  But oh no, he wanted to hoof it over to the Roger Rabbit ride, which happens to be a good walk away.  We all took turns trying to convince him to ride all the rides in this area while we are here because I know we will have to ride them before we leave.  We say "Austin do you want to ride Snow White?" he puts his hand up like stop right there and says "Nope I'm OK.  Lets ride Roger Rabbit".  We give in and walk over there.

The day was amazing as always.  Even though we had to criss cross across the two parks to ride the rides in Austins wacky order.  Every time we went through Fairytale land we would try to talk Austin into riding every ride there so we wouldn't have to come back.  But he was determined to do it his way.  As a side note, it is funny to see a grown man riding the Flying Dumbo ride.  Even funnier when Andrew rides on it with him in the same elephant!  But back to the story, by around 10:00 we are in Disney California and ready to go when Austin starts saying "How bout Casey Jr?"  Translated this means, alright family get it together because we are heading back to Fairytale land so I can ride the last remaining ride that we haven't hit yet!.  We all moan but we suck it up because the rest of the year Austin never asks for anything.

We head back to Fairytale land for about the seventeenth time that day and plop down in and empty Casey Junior train car and ride the final ride of the day.  Austin is happy and that makes me happy.  And so our adventure in Disneyland comes to end for another year.  The whole family leaves the happiest place on earth exhausted but happy.

The next morning when Austin wakes up I say "Good morning buddy!"

Austin says "In October go Disneyland"

I love my flappy life!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth: Part One

Hello Disneyland

It finally happened! We were able to make our annual trip to Disneyland!  We take Austin every year for his birthday.  His birthday is in October but the last few years we haven't been able to get out of town in October.  Or November or sometimes even December.  This year we were able to hit Austin's mecca in December.

Like most American families we are over booked and over scheduled so we never seem to be able to just take a vacation for vacations sake.  All our vacations are multi-tasking events.  And so was this visit to southern California.  Austin, Alyssa, and I drove to California from Las Vegas on a Thursday night.  That night we stayed at my sisters house.  Austin was so excited.  He couldn't stop smiling all night.  He woke up early Friday morning and the first thing out of his big smiling mouth was "what morning?".  Translated that means what are our plans for today and it better include Disneyland.  It was then that I realized that I hadn't made it clear that even though we where in close proximity to Disneyland we were not going on Friday.  We still had to take care of other business.  I said "Sorry buddy.  We're not going to Disneyland today.  We have to pick up dad and Andrew today."  Austin said "ummmm".  I wish I could type how ummmm is actually said by Austin.  He says it in the back of his throat and more like a growl than a word.  And it is definitely said with a good deal of annoyance. 

SDSU Football Office
Friday morning we drove from Orange County to San Diego to pick up Andrew and dad Drew from the airport.  They flew in from Reno which is the closest, and only airport I might add, to our home in northern Nevada.  Andrew was on a football recruiting trip for San Diego State University.  We needed to have him on campus by noon.  This meant another meaningless day for Austin.  The rest of Friday was spent on SDSU campus touring and meeting with coaches.  Amazing day for Andrew.  Another boring stop for Austin.  Friday night I made sure to tell Austin several times that we were not going to Disneyland the next morning either.  Sorry buddy. 

  Riding bikes on the beach in La Jolla.  Dad and Austin stayed home for this adventure!

We stayed at a friends house in La Jolla on Friday night.  The house is right on the beach and it is amazing.  In the morning we went to the beach and picked up shells.  We are such tourists!  Saturday was the big San Diego State football game.  SDSU plays in the San Diego Chargers football stadium.  None of us have ever gone to a professional football game or even been in a professional a stadium.  That alone was quite an experience.  Andrew needed to be there early to meet coaches and be on the side lines before the game started.  Once again, amazing for Andrew.  Not so much fun for Austin.  Austin paces and flaps his arms all the time.  SDSU gave our family red and black pom-poms.  Austin took a pom-pom in each hand and marched up down the side lines flapping his arms.  It was hilarious to watch!


         Sidelines before game time!


Andrew on sideline.                                            Andrew & Coach Horton

The game was fun.  On the way home the whole family kept saying "Austin, where are we going in the morning!"  He would say "Disneyland".  However,  he didn't say it with much conviction.  I don't think he believed we were actually going to ever make it there! 

But we did! 

Gas money from Las Vegas to San Diego.  Alot.
Food at Charger Stadium.  Ridiculous.
Look on Austins face as we pulled into Disneyland parking lot.  Priceless.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

This is the time of year that we all take a moment to think about and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  I have so much to be thankful for that it would be impossible to list everything.  The thing that I am most thankful for is my family, my husband and kids, and my extended family.

I have thought about this several times.  If I had the chance to make Austin a "normal" child would I?  The answer to that is yes of coarse I would.  But when I think about this it does make me sad.  If Austin didn't have autism he wouldn't be the person he is and I would miss that person terribly. 
I see in Austin what mankind was meant to be.  Thats alot to put on Austin and yet I cant help but see him this way.  Austin is kind to everyone.  Austin doesn't see race, religion, or politics.  If you asked him what color someone was he would look at you with a blank stare.  And forget asking him about religion.  He only knows what love is.  Austin doesn't want anyone to ever be sad.  Even if it is a cartoon character.  When Myrtle is mean to Lilo in 'Lilo and Stitch' Austin will ask 100 times in a five minute period "Why is Myrtle mean?" I will say "I don't know buddy. Because she is." And Austin will say "I know mom. I know."  Two seconds later Austin will say "Why is Myrtle mean mom?" And I will say "Because she is".  And our conversation will continue with the same question and answer until I'm done and either leave or change the subject.

Austin has lived up to and exceeded his potential.  I remember when he was little and in elementary school I wondered if he would be able to learn to read.  He can read at about a second grade level.  I wondered if he would be able to write. And he learned how to print.  I wondered if he would learn his numbers.  He not only learned his numbers he learned how to do simple addition.  I wondered if he would learn to tell time and count money.  OK, those challenges were never conquered but it wasn't for lack of his trying!  On the personal care side he has had to learn to do so many things that the rest of us take for granted.  He has learned to wash his hair by himself.  This took us years of practice because he was afraid of the water being poured on his head.  He will now pour the water on his head himself.  He has learned to brush his teeth himself, even though the dentist tells me I need to monitor this still, but hey the guy has never had a cavity.  Which is more than I can say and I have been brushing by myself for years!

I watched a documentary about a great high school football player, it was titled "The Best That Never Was".  This young man was so blessed athletically and yet he never lived up to the potential he was born with.  And  cant that be said about alot of us, at least about some part of our lives.  We didn't develop a talent we were born with or we didn't learn a skill we attempted for a while.  We didn't try our best in a class or at a job.  We judged someone unfairly.  We were mean to someone else.  These reasons are why I see my own potential  in Austin.  Austin does what we should all aim for.  To be the very best that we can personally be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken On The Bone

Autistic kids have a very picky palate.  Some experts say that its the texture of the food they either like or dislike.  I don't know why they have the preferences they do but it is an unmistakable fact.  Autistic kids and autistic adults, are PICKY!!!

My first case study: Chicken. 
Austin loves chicken.  Now don't get me wrong.  He doesn't like the healthy, no skin, grilled, piece of chicken breast.  Oh no, he is a lover of all things nugget-tized.  He loves chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, and chicken strips. 
Austin also loves fried chicken.  Now you might be wondering if all you ever eat is chicken how do you differentiate between a chicken nugget and fried chicken.  Well, Austin has an answer for that.  If he wants chicken nuggets he will say "chicken nuggets please", if he wants chicken strips he says "how bout chicken strips"  but say he wants fried chicken?  Well the answer to that is, of coarse, "chicken on the bone".

When we are in Las Vegas we live in our home.  When we are in Lovelock, northern Nevada, we live on property.  In Nevada speak that means we live at the hotel/casino, or the property, that Drew is the General Manager of.  Its like the Disney show "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody."
Except not like that at all!  I like to call our living situation "The Redneck Life of Andrew and Austin". Our apartment, which is part of the hotel, has a kitchen but who in their right mind wants to cook when you can eat at a restaurant.  And that brings me back to "chicken on the bone".

When we first got here we would go eat dinner at the restaurant.  Whenever we eat out I like Austin to give his order to the waitress or waiter or the person at the cash register.  So it was no different the first time we ordered our dinner here.  The waitress asked Austin what he would like for dinner and he said "chicken on the bone please".  This was immediately followed up with a totally confused look on her face and by me quickly saying "he would like a fried chicken dinner".  The funny part of this story is that now that we have been here for two years this is how the dinner order goes.

The waitress says "Hi Austin! What do you want for dinner tonight? Chicken strips or chicken on the bone?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baby Its Cold Outside

Austin and I are currently in Northern Nevada.  It is definitely colder up north than it is down south in Las Vegas.  Don't get me wrong, believe it or not it does get cold in Las Vegas.  I have sat through many a freezing, windy, soccer-lacrosse-football game.  The wind can get so cold it chills you to the bone.  I always feel sorry for the tourists who come to town and only bring shorts because they think it is always hot in Vegas.  News flash to anyone traveling to Las Vegas.  Las Vegas is smack dab in the middle of a desert.  Deserts get extremely hot and, surprising to many, extremely cold.
Having said all that, I have discovered it is definitely colder up here!

Andrew had his first football playoff game Friday night.  The game started at 7:00 p.m.  At kickoff time it was 29 degrees.  As the night went on it got colder and colder.  I was bundled up in my lined jeans, down coat, mittens, hat, scarf, etc.  You get the picture.  I looked like Ralphie's little brother.  You know, the kid from the movie Christmas Story, whose mother puts so much outside clothing on him that when he falls he cant get up. I was bundled up and still I was cold.

So that brings me to Austin.  I knew it was going to be cold that night so I needed to dress him as warm as he would let me.  Austin doesn't own a pair of jeans.  In the winter he wears sweat pants and in the summer he wears basketball shorts.  Austin doesn't care about fashion, he just wants to be comfortable. Lets be honest with ourselves, wouldn't we all go around in sweats if we weren't caught up in fashion over comfort!

I knew his sweat pants would not be warm enough in these temperatures.  So we put a pair of his dad's lined jeans on him.  Drew is 6'5".  Austin is 5'11".  So we rolled up the bottom of the jeans and cinched them in at the waist with a belt.  The belt was dad's also because who needs a belt with sweats!  Good thing Austin doesn't care about fashion!  Austin refuses to wear more than one shirt at a time.  He does not believe in layering!  He also does not like long sleeves.  If ever I put him in a long sleeve shirt he will push the sleeves all the way up to his arm pits.  So a t-shirt is all I can get him to wear up top.  Next we put his coat on him.  His coat is too big for him but beggars cant be choosers!  One of Andrew's beanies went on his head and a pair of dad's camouflage hunting gloves on his hands. He should be nice and toasty in the sub-freezing temperatures.

At the game I sit in bleachers.  You can only see my eyes peeking out between my hood and scarf.  Austin is behind the bleachers pacing back and forth and flapping his arms.  I decided I need to crawl out of my blanket and check on him just too make sure he hasn't frozen in place.  What do I see?  His coat is unzipped and he has taken his beanie off!  I have him come up to me, sorry I am frozen in place I cant move, so I can zip up his coat.  I feel his hands.  They are toasty warm! What the heck!  Austin definitely must be on to something.  Next game I'm going to pace and flap with him!  I love my flappy life!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Fears

Fred Flintstone

Austin has always loved Halloween.  He loves to dress up.  He has been very consistent in his costume choices over the years.  The first few years he went as whatever I dressed him as, a pumpkin baby, a toddler teddy bear, and a little boy dragon.  Then he got his own ideas.  He was a ninja turtle for several years. Usually Leonardo, but there was a year of Donatello.  Then he moved on to Prince Phillip. Prince Phillip is the prince in Sleeping Beauty, his favorite Disney movie.  I have made several red satin capes over the years.  They got progressively bigger as Austin grew.  One year I rented a Maleficent costume,  she is the witch from Sleeping Beauty.  So this year I was prepared to break out the red cape, brown tunic, black pants, and sword.  But people change.  Rarely for autistic people, but even for them change comes. 

Austin, Alyssa, and I were at the store when he found a Fred Flintstone costume.  That was it.  He wanted to be Fred for Halloween.  I asked him if he wanted to buy the costume and he vigorously shook his head yes.  He loves his Fred costume.  He will try it on for anyone who asks.

Alyssa & Austin
Austin loves to trick or treat.  When the kids where little we would go around the neighborhood with the kids and they would happily collect their candy.  That is a wonderful time in a kids life and most kids love it.  But kids grow up and out grow trick or treating.  Not Austin! He still loves it.  He really doesn't even care about the candy.  He just loves trick or treating.  I wish I could tell you why but I'm not really sure myself.  Usually crowds are too overwhelming for him and he gets overwhelmed and withdrawn.  But not on Halloween.  This is just one of the mysteries of Austins life. 

So why the title of Halloween Fear?  It doesn't refer to Austins fears but to mine.  As Austin has grown older and he still is trick or treating people have gotten, I hate to say it, but rude.  They think he is too old.  They will give him dirty looks, some say aren't you too old, some will throw the candy in the bag with no smile, you get the picture.  And I cringe each time.  On the bright side, Austin doesn't even notice.  He marches happily to the next house.  I know people feel trick or treating is for little kids.  And even though I cringe I guess it doesn't bother me enough to not take him anymore.  But at every door I hold my breath just a little.  As a mother I wish I could protect Austin from the ugly part of life. But in truth Austin teaches me how to handle it. Whether the person who answers the door is kind or rude, Austin just gives them a huge smile and says thank you.  I'm trying to be more like him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy 18th Again!

This week we celebrated Austin's birthday.  His birthday is on October 18th.  He turned 23 this year.  However, if you ask him how old he is he will say 18.  He has been saying he is 18 for the last 13 years or so I would say.  He's a lucky guy.  He will forever be 18, just ask him!  I think its too confusing for him to have more than one number associated with his birthday.

Every year we go to Disneyland to celebrate his birthday.  In a perfect world we would actually make that trip in October, somewhere near the 18th of the month.  But ever since Andrew has been playing high school football we have had to push back our Disney trip.  And the further Andrew's team goes in the playoffs the further Austin's trip gets pushed back.  Last year we didn't make the trip until December because the final football game for the state championship was the the week before Thanksgiving.  We won that state championship football game by the way! This pushing back of our trip makes no sense to Austin.  When its his birthday that means its Disneyland time.

The other event that is associated in Austin's mind with his birthday and Disneyland is----Halloween.
All these great events take place in October.  Unfortunately for me, the business' begin bringing out their Halloween stuff about July 1st.  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but they do bring it out sometime in the first part of September.  Let me tell you how a visit to Wal-Mart in the beginning of September this year went: 

Austin and I walked into those big doors.  As the greeter said "hello" Austin's eyes were immediately drawn to the Halloween decorations. 
He said "Halloween"  I wish I could type the wonder and amazement in his voice as he said this.
He didn't say much of anything else that day in Wal-Mart. However, the following day it began.
The first thing Austin says to me the following morning, "Disneyland".
At lunch, I say "Aust, what do you want for lunch?   Austin says "how bout Disneyland"
That night I ask him if he's ready to go to be and Austin says, yep you guessed it "Disneyland?".

And so this conversation has gone on for the past couple of months.  And if Andrew has his way it will continue through the end of November again! 

I will keep you updated on the progress of Austin's October Birthday-Halloween-Disneyland trip.

And the next time anyone asks you anything such as,
"What would you like for dinner?",
"What do you want to do tonight?",  or
"Where should we go eat?"
just answer as Austins does
"How bout Disneyland"