Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A place where we can all relax

One of the ongoing challenges in my life is finding stuff for all of us to enjoy as a family (well, that and laying off carbs, but that's a whole other story). Max has come a long way in dealing with crowds; still, they unsettle him. It takes him a while to get used to somewhere new, and we often have to visit several times before he'll go without wailing. Some places like sports arenas are off-limits, no matter what kind of sound-blocking earphones he's got on. Although Max loves Chuck E. Cheese's, one of the most insane places on the planet. Go figure.

Family outings have been known to leave me in tears too. It's a combination of the screeching, which gets under my skin, and the ache to be more like families around us who seem to be effortlessly having a good time. I want to go somewhere and not have to contend with meltdowns, stares or a shattered Sunday afternoon.

The beach is our haven, one of the few places where we can all kick back. There's no angst or drama, other than when the kids want to have a third round of ice-cream and yes, we let them have two. Max adores a beach a couple of hours from home that we discovered a few years ago.

The fun starts with the drinking fountain at the entryway. Then there's a long, wheelchair-accessible ramp to zoom down to the beach on.

This time, I brought along a couple of kites I'd grabbed at CVS, where they were on sale for a buck each. I got Max got a Lightning McQueen one, and he thought I was The Best Mommy Ever.

I was so thrilled to see him holding the kite on his own and lifting an arm up high, no easy feat because both of them tend to be stiff from the CP.

Max was mesmerized.

One guess as to which kind of kite Sabrina got.

Drum roll, please...

Monsieur SpongeBob, of course.

On the beach, we're all at ease. Dave and Max like to just stand on the surf and let the waves wash over their feet.

Max told me he was spelling "Sleep at C's house."

I get to take lots of pictures, a hobby I don't always have much time for. I am obsessed with Sabrina's little hands, which still have dimples where knuckles should be. I'm always kissing them.

I kiss all of her freckles, too. Well, as many as I can.

On the beach, I'm never wistful about the good times other families are having...because we are one of those families, too.


  1. Oh I LOVE this! We still haven't quite found our 'place' yet but the safari park is pretty great. Mikey gets a car trip, Dan gets animals and we get to see them both happy. X

  2. The zoo works for us. It's never that crowded and if it is we can always find quieter spots.
    We all take turns pushing Ashley and if it all gets too much I can push him off to a quiet spot and keep in touch with the others by text so we can meet up when he settles.
    Access is great although viewing can be limited as windows are set at adult and child heights and not the inbetween wheelchair height.
    Fab pictures - amazing purple t-shirt and well done Max for the kite work!

  3. This is so beautiful, Ellen. I'm glad that the beach is such a wonderful place for you all. I, too, am always happy when we can just be together as a family, enjoying everything that life has to offer...just like the other families I see around me.

    Oh, and lovely photos, too. :)

  4. Such a great post! Moe loves to be out and about and he loooves the beach. Unfortunately that means we spend the entire time chasing him as he tries to run straight into the ocean.

    Still looking for the place we can be relaxed as a family. Our backyard is our best sanctuary.

  5. Love it! And I love Max's shirt... I've been to the site that sells them but don't seem to remember it. Please share where I can find one. Thanks!

    Love the pics!

  6. We go to the lake, my dad has a little piece of unimproved property and we camp on it. We can stay for three or four days and just enjoy one another. We bring a little portable DVD and have movies under the stars!

    As for the screeching, if I were you I'd remove Max if he's in a public place, say, to your car, and let everyone else go on with their fun (making sure he knows it, too), grab those earphones of his, and PUT THEM ON. And, by PUT THEM ON, I mean PUT THEM ON YOU, not him.

    Then I wouldn't give him any more input--tell him when he's ready to calm down, to give you a poke, and you two can go back to whatever you were doing and have fun with the rest of the group. You might also want to have a book in your pocketbook so you can read while you wait him out, but whatever you do, don't give him the impression that you give much of a hoot either way and don't give him any attention. When he pokes you to go back, make him do it twice like you aren't paying attention--then ask him if he is SURE and get the vigorous head nod before you resume the activities with the others. If you are in a restaurant, grab your dinner and take it with you, but leave his behind--he needs to get the "actions have consequences" connection, without being mean about it. Maybe keep a collapsible tupperware in your "go" bag with a plastic fork...just in case!

    A young one having genuine sensory overload needs to be helped by getting the child away from the overstimulation until they can calm down, but beyond that, you don't want to make the "cure" more attractive than the cause. It's not punishment if you don't indulge them.

    dderbyDave's suggestion about texting is a good one (e.g. "Don't let the waiter take his food, he looks like he's calming down" or "Box up that dinner, he won't be coming back in"). Or, if you want to drive the point home, talk to your husband on the phone, saying things like "Oh, Sabrina is playing with the pinball machine? What fun!" He's got to get to the point where he figures that "there" is better than being with you or Dave missing out on the action, and he's got to learn to use what he's got--like the earplugs or focusing on his iPad-- to block out the stuff that is "too much" to deal with. If he likes or at least can stand the big earphones, maybe he'll also like the small wax blobs that you shape/soften with your fingers--they really cut the sound. Maybe you can find them in purple!!

    I dealt with this a LOT. In my case, repeated removal with no other input worked (FINALLY--took a long time). No praise, no blame, no nothing--I just got real quiet and didn't say squat--and that includes no hugs or "poor baby" soothing. Sounds a little cold, but when there's no reward, like pats, massages, or hugs/snuggles, there's no incentive for the full volume screaming to get some personalized attention. Every case is different, but this worked for me, and it only worked because I was at the end of my rope and had tried pretty much everything else, from bargaining to bribing to redirection to individualized attention--nothing stopped it save removal/ignoring.

    It's not easy--you feel like a real shit. For me, though, it did the trick after years of having to abandon shopping carts in the middle of aisles, walk out of fast food places, with a pile of sloppily wrapped food, etc. We can even go to the afternoon matinee now without much, if any, drama.

    Wax ear plugs:

    They make better ones (cloth covered) but they cost way more.

    As for staring, I've gotten great at either ignoring or smiling/confronting with a big howdy-hi introduction. Shame 'em, that's what I say!

  7. Wow! Max looks so big next to Dave!

  8. That was beautiful. Your pictures are very good, it is nice to have time to actually take pictures like that isn't it? Haley loves the beach too, our outings have changed over the years. She used to face plant in the sand. Now she has to wear gloves because she doesn't like the sand on her hands. We stay at a house on the beach that allows us to relax and cook our own meals. Still work, but better than meltdowns at a busy restaurant. Great post!

  9. What a wonderful post. It takes a lot from strangers to make me smile as I did. I have reminisced for over 24 hours. The beach vacations were such great times. The family beach times were the best. I was trying to work in one more beach vacation with my Mom and Dad, knowing it would be the last. Then Dad passed away very unexpectantly and Mom spiraled.

    Max and Sabrina look so happy. One would never know that he has special issues. Just another kid on the beach, having loads of fun with a kite, sand between his toes.

    Definitely, pack up the oatmeal and rent a place on the beach for several days. Cooking is not always work. Bake some potatoes, buy some slaw and go to the local fish market along the beach. Boiled shrimp. Mmmmm. My whole family enjoyed that meal like it was Thanksgiving. We live flat dab in the middle of the country, so each trip was not so easy. But worth it, annually, as long as we could physically do it.

    Having your own place for several days a stay will make it less stressful for everyone. Private bathroom, control of the kitchen, etc.

    Who doesn't find the beach theraputic? Its good for the soul(as long as there are very few people around.)

    I hope you can take Max and Sabrina often, weather permitting. If you have your own place its even great on a rainy day. Watching sheets of rain move across the water. Catching raindrops in your mouth. Designing the castle you'll build tomorrow. Waiting for the rainbow.

    I'll bet they sleep well after a day on the beach. I'm glad its such a good place for your family. The memories make me smile, inside and out. Hopefully they will do the same for you. And don't forget to get pictures of you and your husband. Get strangers to take them of all four of you together. Trust me, one day they will be very, very much cherished.

    The good times.

  10. BW aka Barbara from BostonSeptember 9, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    What a lovely picture of Sabrina - little Miss freckle face.


Thanks for sharing!

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