Monday, August 16, 2010

We bit the bullet

and took the kids on vacation. Five years ago, we went to South Carolina with them, and it was a disaster. Drew cried in the car for hours on end. No one had much fun. We said it would be five years before we would take another family vacation, and that's exactly how it worked out.

So, when trying to decide where to go, we wanted to keep the drive time down to a reasonable amount. And we wanted to have some options for fun things to do. But didn't want to put too much pressure on the boys to be able to handle it.

Something we had talked about doing previously was taking them to Lebanon, Ohio for a Day Out With Thomas. But Lebanon's Day Out is not until September, and we wanted to do something before school started. I went to the Day Out With Thomas website and looked for dates and places that were within our preference. I found one at the Illinois Railway Museum. Eric and I talked about it and decided to give it a try.

I looked for other things to do in the area and came up with a list of possibilities. The only thing we committed to was the Thomas thing. We bought our tickets in advance. We were concerned that Drew would have difficulty getting in the train, as it required going up a couple steep steps. And his issues with going through doorways kind of made it a double-whammy. So, we figured what would probably happen was that he'd not make it onto the train and we'd watch the train leave without us. We decided that we weren't going to be upset if that happened. Guess what? Drew surprised us and didn't have any problems getting on the train!

Ok, so backing up. We left at 9:45 on Thursday morning. We drove for a few hours and stopped for lunch. We drove all afternoon until we got there. Along the way, we drove through Chicago. Drew was quite excited about this and got a good chance to look around. We were stuck in traffic for quite awhile. We made it to our destination--Rockford, Illinois late afternoon. We checked into our hotel and relaxed awhile. The kids promptly took their clothes off the second we got to our room. That evening, we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. It went pretty well. There was a large table of special needs adults and their providers. I spoke with one of the providers and mentioned what an undertaking it must be to take out that many people at a time. He said, "It's definitely a ministry." I told him that our two boys had Fragile X and we really appreciate people like him who care for people like our kids. As we were getting ready to leave, Drew ran off. The hostess told me he went towards the restroom, so I went after him. He wasn't there. Trying not to freak out, I headed back to our table. Not there, either. He was by the front doors, squawking at them. We should have known. Actually, Eric did guess it right and was the one to find him. Crisis averted.

After dinner, we had an incident with a water toy bursting and getting Blake all wet. We took him back to the room for a bath before we went to see Toy Story 3. It started out good, but Drew wasn't able to stay in his seat, so I walked around in the hallway with him for the next hour while Blake watched the rest of the movie. Eric said it was a pretty good movie. I am sure I'll get to see the whole thing when it comes out on DVD.

The next day was Thomas. We left early, as the railway museum was about 30 minutes away. Both boys were pretty excited about seeing Thomas. We brought our giant Maclaren stroller that holds up to 120lbs just in case we needed it. We hadn't planned on using it. Drew would not get out of the van and begged us to use the stroller. Eric caved and away we went. We got in the gates and walked around. There was a big tent that sold Thomas and train merchandise. We avoided that one. :) There was also a tent set up by a train hobby association offering free popcorn and had a big train city set up. A Thomas train was there as well. The kids liked it, especially Blake. After that, we walked through some of their train sheds and saw the old train cars. Eric and I thought it was pretty neat. Blake wanted to see Gordon, and Drew kept asking to see Sir Topham Hatt.

We walked around outside for awhile. It was hot and we forgot to bring straws with us (Drew only drinks from a straw) We ended up buying a huge lemon shakeup because it came with a straw.

Ok, so time to see Thomas. We were corralled into different herds waiting to board the train. This was difficult for the kids. Lots of people and lots of overstimulation. Blake tried to bite me, and Drew tried to run ahead. Finally, it was our turn and we got ready to board. Drew went first with Eric right behind him. Much to our delight, he got right on. Blake did too. We had to sit in two different seats. Drew and I sat together and Eric sat with Blake. Drew did very well for the first fifteen minutes. He held his "ticket" which was actually our hotel room key. He liked that for awhile, but started to get agitated about five minutes before the ride was over. He threw his "ticket" at his daddy, who was two rows back. Thankfully his daddy is a good catcher.

After Thomas, we watched a puppet show and Blake jumped in a bouncy house. He loved that! Then, at Drew's request, we rode a red trolley car, which he called the "red train". Unfortunately, one of Thomas' cars broke down and had to be removed. It blocked our path on the train tracks and we had to get off the trolley. This would not have been so bad, but we left the stroller at the depot. We talked about all of us walking to get it, but the crowds were huge and Drew already was refusing to budge. Eric ran to get it while the boys and I waited. Drew started crying, "Where's Daddy? Where's stroller?!" et, etc. Blake was ticked that Drew was having trouble and hit him. We did get a lot of looks. I just smiled pathetically at everyone and returned my attention to the kids. I told Drew we could go get Daddy and we started walking toward the depot. We didn't get very far when he appeared with the stroller. Bless him. We wanted the kids to calm down before we left, so we took them back to the train city exhibit. That did the trick and we were able to leave short while later.

We went to a western themed restaurant. To avoid another meltdown, I ordered two milks for Drew right away, knowing that he'd down the first one in three seconds. That worked. We also ordered chips and salsa to keep them busy while we waited for our food. We had a nice lunch and some HUGE burgers. When bringing Blake back to the table after the restoom, he patted a waitress on the backside. She just smiled at him as I apologized. Oh dear! What a kid.

Anyway, after we went to lunch, there was an old-time western town next door. We intended to go there, but first Drew wouldn't cooperate, then Blake wouldn't. We looked around the gift shop and decided to skip the western town.

We headed to a town called Loves Park, where there was a play place. It started raining on the way, so the timing was perfect. The play place was at a recreation center. We paid our admission (cheap! Four fifty per kid!) and they played for the next ninety minutes. By the end of the time, Drew wanted to leave, so Eric took him out while I got Blake rounded up. He was waaaay overstimulated by this time and was getting wild. He did NOT want to go, and he bit me, breaking the skin and causing me to bleed! We eventually got them wrangled into the van and headed back to the hotel.

We got there and I gave the boys baths and Eric and I took showers. We relaxed in the hotel room until about 8:00 and decided to go to IHOP for dinner for something different. It might have been ok, but our server left a lot to be desired. Blake "ran out of good" as I say, and got under the booth. We left, taking our sideshow and leftovers with us.

The next day was Saturday. We went to the Rockford Discovery Museum. We were the first people through the doors,which worked out great. No crowds. We did not take the stroller this time. Drew had trouble getting through the doors, but soon discovered they had an elevator, which drew him in. There were lots of neat things there. One favorite was the outdoor fort they had. Both boys liked it, and we realized later that we hadn't even explored the whole thing. There was an area for kids under age six that both boys wanted to see. There were very few people around, so we went in anyway. There was a Thomas train table, which Blake loved. And a telephone that Drew really liked. I tried to get Drew involved in a particular exhibit which proved uninteresting to him. I said, "And away he goes..." A snooty mother said, "That's because he's too big for it" I said, "Well, he is mentally impaired, so that's not really true. He has a very short attention span though." She was a little shocked. I wasn't rude to her, I just explained the situation. Later, after leaving the area and coming back, a worker tried to prevent us from going in, explaining it was for kids under age six. I told him that Drew is mentally impaired and actually has a mentality of less than that. He said, "Oh! No problem, go ahead. There's a water exhibit he might like.." and stepped aside.

After the museum, we went looking for somewhere to eat. We decided on Fazoli's and found one using our GPS. We drove all over creation, following the directions. When we got there, we found a mexican restaurant which was formerly a Fazoli's. lol. So we decided to try Popeye's Chicken, having never been there before. We drove all over again, following our GPS instructions. Drew said, "I'm hungry, remember? Where's the food?" lol. We finally found it and it was actually really good. Biscuits with honey, ummmmm.

After lunch, we drove through a scary part of town on the way to a children's farm. It had signs up that said, "Ceasefire Zone" Ack! We were quite glad to get out of there. The kids' farm was not a big thrill, though Blake liked the cow. And the cow came right up to Eric and let him pet it. Blake wouldn't get close to it, though. And Drew was about twenty paces off asking when we could go to Chicago.

We headed back to the van and started towards Chicago. The kids were doing quite well. We had debated about whether to go home on Saturday night or to find a hotel on the way home to stay for one more night. We let it up to the kids and they picked finding a hotel. With an elevator. That's what makes a proper hotel, you know. At least according to Drew. We stopped at a couple hotels in Elkhart, Indiana looking for a vacancy. The first one we stopped at had availability, but was pricey. We stopped at another one which only had a smoking room available. We settled for the Sleep Inn, which had a non smoking room, an elevator and a good price. And a continental breakfast, which was also nice. We checked in and found our room. We unloaded our stuff and discovered that there was no bathtub, only a stand up shower. Drew has always been afraid of the shower, so we weren't sure how it would go. Eric checked with the front desk to see if they had any rooms with a bathtub. The only thing they had available was a Jacuzzi tub with a king size bed. So, that didn't work. We decided to give the shower a try the next day. We headed out for dinner. We ended up eating at Culver's. After that, we just went back to the room to relax. We didn't need to look for something to do. That night, the hotel was the attraction for the kids. They were just thrilled to be there. When we went to bed, Eric slept with Drew, and he said Drew had a great big smile on his face as he fell asleep.

The next morning, we decided to takle the shower. I was selected to help Drew. By Eric. lol. I said I'd volunteer because I have the most patience. It was a handicap accessible shower and was big enough for two people. I helped Drew go inside and he stood holding onto the railing. I had taken a shower the night before and adjusted the water pressure to a non-threatening spray. I got it set to the right temp for Drew and helped soap him up. He never really left his spot at the railing, so I manuevered the shower head to rinse him off. We shampooed his hair and rinsed that the same way as the rest of him. Voila! No big deal. He did great and I told him so. He said, "I am so proud of you!" to me. So I said, "I AM proud of you. Great job!" Eric got him dressed and I helped Blake with his shower. He's not nervous about the shower so for him it was no problem.

I decided to go down to get the boys breakfast and bring it up to the room. That way, they could watch tv and eat at their leisure. The breakfast room was right next to the elevator as well, and I thought that might be an issue of Drew's obsession as well. We left around ten in the morning and were home by one thirty in the afternoon.

We were glad to have the portable DVD players with us. We had them mounted to the back of the front seats. Blake was watching Thomas the Tank Engine and told his daddy about it. "Daddy look!" he said, "It's Thomas! 'Hind you!" It was pretty funny.

Drew asked me once, "Where are we, Mom?" I said, "We're in Rockford, Illinois." to which he replied, "No, we're in a hotel." :)

It was a really nice family vacation. We had our moments, of course. Don't all family vacations? But, overall we really enjoyed it. And most of all, so did the kids.


Jen said...

It's hard to believe we've never been to see Thomas. I guess it's still an option!
Sounds like the trip went well, yay!
Neat little picture thing there...I was looking at different "windows" I had opened to try to figure out what that camera noise was, lol.

Lisa said...

It sounds like a good vacation and a few meltdowns are to be expected. Usually it's the parents that melt down though!