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In The Woods

Canyon and I went to the woods. I am about to share a bunch of pretty photos of Canyon frolicking in the leaves but that will only tell part of the story. Sometimes it is hard taking Canyon new places. I am never quite sure how he is going to react. Once he makes it through the transition period he has a wonderful time in nature but sometimes it is a lot for his senses to process. I am not sure what it is that upsets him-the tall trees? The sounds? The enclosed feeling of walking through the woods? Some days he loves it immediately but others we have to help him through the transition. This takes love and patience and we don’t always have the second part. Some days we just turn around and go home because it just seems like so much work to hold a kicking, screaming and howling Canyon while he works through it. So I try not to get attached to a plan when it involves going to a new forest preserve. But on Thursday I really, really wanted to go for a walk at the Fullerton Woods Forest Preserve. John was away, River and Raven were at co-op and Canyon and I had three hours and forty minutes to have fun.

We pulled up into the parking lot and Canyon seemed interested-good sign! No crying, no asking to go home. The moment of truth-I opened the door and freed him from the carseat. He immediately started to shuffle through the piles of leaves in the parking lot! Then I pointed to the trail and he took off skipping into the sunlight!

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I love that he was excited to go off trail and explore.

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And when he started jumping off the ledge and into the piles of leaves? Mommy bliss.

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I wish I could say we made it down to the river and did all the things I had planned in my perfect mind, but we didn’t. It wasn’t long before he decided to skip back to the van and I decided it was not worth the fight to get him back on the trail. But I wasn’t ready to leave so we hung out in the parking lot. Canyon ate cookies and played with his truck while I cleaned out the van and bagged up the embarrassing amount of Annie’s cracker and cookie packages that had accumulated in the back seat. The squirrels of the forest preserve feasted on all the stale crackers, cookies and kettle corn that I shook off of the blanket from the van floor.

From there we went to fill up the gas tank at the cheap Costco station in Melrose Park. Really cheap gas, but the downside is Canyon loves Costco and there was no way I was going to get away with just driving away after filling up. But it had been a good day so far and I was feeling cocky. Into Costco!

It started off easy. He was willing to sit in the cart and I tried to race by the enticements of the holiday light displays, toys and random aisles of interest to Canyon. “Just let Mommy get a few things she needs and then we will run!”, I kept saying. That lasted until the back of the store and then he started to scream and try to get out of the cart. I managed to get a few items while ignoring the looks from people who obviously thought Canyon was a naughty brat and I was a lazy and indulgent mother. So I parked the cart and let him out. He ran. Everywhere. And I ran after him. The guy who was running the expensive mixer display called out over the microphone, “now she needs an energy drink!”. No. I didn’t need an energy drink. What I needed was pants that stay up so I didn’t have to run and try to pull my jeans up at the same time. But I ran. We slowed down for a moment in the refrigerated section. I caught my breath while Canyon oohed and ahhed over the cool fans in the ceiling. Then we were on the move again. And I was getting tired of chasing him-emotionally and physically. So I tried to get him in the cart. Yeah. That was fun. He tried to get out of the cart, somehow managing to launch himself OVER my head, into a swan dive for the hard floor. I caught him by the ankles. I don’t know how I caught him or how I had the massive strength it took to twist and lower him to the ground. It was Autism Mom Super Reflexes and Strength. I was amazing. People stared as he screamed and hit me. I look back on it and realized I must look wild eyed during all of this but really it’s just me putting on my blinders and trying to ignore everyone around me. I didn’t need the looks or the judgement. What I needed was a sign that said, “It’s Autism. “He’s Not Naughty, Spoiled or a Brat. He is Autistic and he is Overwhelmed.” We made it back to the toy section and I handed him this big toy of Dusty the Crop Plane from “Planes” and that entertained him long enough for me to finish the shopping list. But he was still crying and sobbing and refusing even the delicious, fresh chocolate chip cookie sample. We headed for the check outs but then he saw more toys and started to melt down again. But I was done. I took away the other plane that I had planned on buying just to keep him quiet and then returning later on. But Autism or not, I did not want to reward him for his behavior. I could love him through it but I was not going to buy him any toys. So I put everything back and pulled the cart from the front so he couldn’t slap me. We made it to the check out and the checker said to me…”Why he be trippin?” I stared at him for a second before saying, “Why he be trippin? WHY HE BE TRIPPIN? He be trippin because he is 4 years old, he is Autistic and this has been hard for him.” The checker stared at me. I stared back. We were done.

I fought Canyon into his car seat and went to the McDonald’s drive through-coffee for me and a cheeseburger for him. He ate half before falling asleep. I drove around for a bit, finding another Forest Preserve where I could sit and look at trees while listening to music and playing on my phone until it was time to get the twins.

I guess I could have just shared the pretty pictures and left it at that but sometimes I want people need to see both sides of our life, just so they understand. I don’t want sympathy. I want awareness. I want acceptance.

But let’s end with trees.

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Chicago Botanic Garden

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November 7. John was parent of the day at co-op so he spent the day with River and Raven while Canyon and I headed off to the Chicago Botanic Garden. The garden is perfect for us because Canyon can have a bit more freedom to run ahead. Well in this case, skip. He skipped for almost the entire time! Our garden membership should be free because Canyon made so many people smile with his happy, giggling self.

Of course I don’t have any photos of the skipping since he was moving too fast. It was also hard to get him to sit still long enough to take photos. Everytime I would stop to try and focus on some delicate leaf he would either pull on my arm or skip a short distance away and say, “come one! come on!” He did do a great job of not totally running away. I don’t think I had to sprint after him once that day! He even held my hand for huge sections. These things are progress for us.

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“Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.” Robert Browning

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