Summer Vacation or Summer Madness?

deep end

Two weeks ago, I packed up Liev for an impromptu vacation.

This morning, I finally recovered from that vacation.

Sometimes, I question the soundness of my urges to take my son on “getaways.”

I am autistic. Grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, and busy restaurants leave me jittery and unnerved. Yet, I longed to take a beach holiday. A holiday alone with my similarly autistic son.

Was this madness or bravery?

My history of adventures with my son is consistent. I endure the effort of each trip with cheer. When I return home, however, I teeter on the brink of a nervous collapse for days.

Bedtime meltdowns in particular promote post-trip burnout. Our typical nights in strange places are pandemonium. In the past, he has knocked over lamps, yanked pictures off the wall and even  called 911.

This  trip he dozed off without incident–every single night.  A first!

Hooray for Liev !

Nevertheless, I wonder why I undertake such grand adventures.

Part of it is boredom. I can’t bear the same walls or the same air any longer. Monotony abrades my soul, like skin continuously chafed.  I must move to find relief. A shift, a detour from the routine invigorates me.


Liev benefits as well.  A five minute meltdown is still only five minutes in the span of hours. The same outburst could occur at Market Basket over a coveted candy bar.  I am not mad to prefer beach meltdowns over queue meltdowns.

My son inherited my temperament. One day he will feel as I do. He will languish, bored and stifled by even the sweetest existence. At that moment, I hope he will plunge into fresh water and breathe fragrant air, leaving his doldrums behind.

Double 911 Easter Surprise!

Easter Vacation

Our family never does things in typical fashion. Our holidays are a good example.

The three of us left for Maine in two separate cars. Papa planned to stay overnight Friday and return home to sing loudly  Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, Liev and I would enjoy a blissful vacation at the Hearthstone House, compliments of my parents.

I learned two things from my trip.

First–I should always have a solid, written plan.

I am accustomed to travelling with  Mom–my backup frontal cortex. My husband prefers to “play it by ear.”   I need all contingencies clarified, discussed, and documented.

The second thing I learned–unplug the telephones at the destination.

After a two hour drive with the question machine, I took a lovely shower. I stepped out to a ringing phone. I picked up. The man identified himself as emergency services.  Appalled, I realized Liev must have dialed 911 while I showered.

Despite my explanation, the operator remained dubious. The chaos and screaming in the background certainly contributed to the operator’s concern.

The police showed up in less than five minutes. I asked my son if he wanted to meet the nice officers. Liev’s resultant paroxysm of shrieking satisfied understanding policemen, who had special training in dealing with autistic individuals.

The police showed up second time Sunday.

At 4:00 am Easter morning,  Liev and I were sleepless. He occupied himself with math worksheets as I played Spider Solitaire. From downstairs, a thunderous racket emerged:

WHAM, wham, WHAM, creak, creak, tinkle-scrape.

I thought,  “Radiator? No. Radiators don’t tinkle or scrape.”

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Creak, creak, rattle, rattle, tinkle-scrape.

I thought, “That sounds like a screen door slamming violently in the wind.” I looked outside. No wind.

WHAM!  Wham, wham, creak, creak, rattle, rattle, tinkle-SCRAPE, SCRAPE, SCRAAAPE!

I realized, “Oh, Dear God! Someone’s trying to BREAK IN!!

And then I thought, “Where did I hide the phones Friday night?!”

I slapped the nearest window with menace.  As my brain spun, I tried to recall where I put the phones. I slapped the window until I saw a phone atop a bookshelf.  I spent the next 90 seconds fumbling with the jack to plug it in.

I called 911. The police were there in minutes.

Officers scoured the neighborhood with infra-red cameras and flashlights as bright as helicopter lights. The emergency service responder chatted on the phone with me for the next 45 minutes as they combed the area.

A sweet, obviously excited officer met with me after an hour search. He told me drinkers often get lost and try to enter the wrong house. This explained the racket. What stealthy robber makes such a commotion?

The policemen explained that a series of similar rental properties rested a block below us. They still planned to patrol for the next two hours but reassured me the person was likely sleeping it off elsewhere.

Despite the turmoil, Liev placidly read and filled out worksheets. He resembled a little professor with his calculator, workbook and serious frown. I felt even prouder when he fell back to sleep at six o’clock.

Recovery from February “Vacation”


February Vacation Week

Last week was hard, and I still feel it.

The final week in February, our school system gives everyone a week off. I think of it as February Flu Week.  People use the time to recover from the onslaught of Northeastern viruses.

School vacations are hard for autistic kids and parents. The lack of structure and break from routine makes me twitchy and obsessive.   I hoped one of our two respite workers would give me a break. I need time to regroup. No such luck. One took off to visit with her parents and the other’s daughter had pneumonia.

That is disappointing, but not overwhelming. The overwhelming part came later.

My Husband Leaves on Business

Earlier last week, my husband flew to a faraway state to do laser physics stuff. I had a mini-meltdown before he departed.  Unknown trip schedules, uncertain respite care, and inadequate preparation time left me disjointed and forsaken.


I obsessed over shopping. We were down to ketchup, oranges, and pickles. I winced, thinking of taking Liev to the store.  On a good day, we have fun. On a bad day, I haul his writhing form out of the produce department, leaving a trail of pulpy fruit behind us (most meltdowns occur over using the scales).

Preparations for the impending snowstorm worried me.  Our neighborhood loses power easily and for long periods of time. I imagined starting our generator and re-arranging circuitry for house power. I further visualized clearing our driveway of the 10 inches of expected snow. What was I to do with Liev? Duct tape him to his pushchair? Send him to the neighbors so he could flush their washcloths down the toilet? Sigh.

Finally, I worried about Liev’s sleep issues. He often wakes once at night, but with the changes, I expected multiple awakenings and agitation.  When Papa is away, I average 3-4 hours of sleep a night.


I needed schedules. I must have a picture in my mind of expectations or I disintegrate.

Pen and paper in hand, I got it together. I made a plan to entertain Liev, at home, for five days. I shopped extensively before my husband’s plane took off.   I called the neighbors for help with the driveway.  I moved Liev to Papa’s bed for a campout.

T’s first iron-on number shirt.

Many things worked out spectacularly. We kept busy for most of our break. We visited tall buildings with elevators, made iron-on number shirts and explored the bathtub with his very first mask. We played with balloons, bubbles, and building kits. Liev even halfway enjoyed the snow.

Not in love with winter.


Not everything was flawless. If I needed a reminder that shopping at two stores in a row is not a good idea, the mega-meltdown at Michael’s (No! Don’t buy the Shrinky Dinks! NOOOOOOO! NOT THE SHRINKY DINKS!!!! AAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!), refreshed my memory.

I am still deciding if it was wise to let him camp out in our room. Past business trips left me camping in his room. Multiple night awakenings seemed longer when he was in his own room. I slept on the floor, uncomfortable and harassed. This time, I was comfortable but twice annoyed.

At two in the morning on Saturday, Liev decided to measure our bedroom using various sizes of footsteps. He recorded them faithfully in a workbook, which suggested the foul activity. I requested a quieter game. For the next two hours, he excitedly practiced division and remainder problems.

Papa and respite care returned. Life is better. But more than that, my life improves by documenting what I have done. I have transformed self-pity and anxiety into pride.

A Home Away From Home

Our Cottage

My mom loves to sightsee and explore, so her visits require an adventure or two.

Mom and I plan careful vacations. We reserve the same rooms at the same hotel in Maine. I pack stuffed animals, favorite books, blankets and pillows. The printer overheats from maps, schedules and lists.

Despite the planned routines and familiarity, the excitement still overwhelms my son. Bedtime is grueling.

I understand him. I don’t welcome sleep, especially in a new place. Creaks, pops and distant chatter jostle my brain into flurries of anxious activity. Only the hum of my Holmes HAP242 brings peace. The air purifier’s filter failed long ago, but the fan makes the sweetest white noise.

If I am troubled by environmental nuances, then my son is exponentially sensitive. A hotel room is alive with thousands of thought-provoking details. He cannot slow himself down. Bedtime devolves into screams, laughter and mischief.

Two weeks ago, they closed the wing of our favorite hotel.

We would not have our usual quiet corner to grind through our evening frenzies. We would need to lodge in the main building, next to the lobby.

The only thing worse than nocturnal Aspie rages is proximity to other people.  We rented a cottage.

Removing ourselves from the hotel setting perfected our vacation. True, the stimulation of a new place caused a hubbub, but the freedom to make unlimited racket was precious.

After two days, I understood the full depth of my hotel anxiety.  Jogging down the stairs, singing at top volume, I whisked my deteorating nightgown, side to side. I thought, “How nice to indulge myself in my usual silliness.”  Still singing, I whirled into the kitchen. A good  vacation lets you be yourself.