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From Inside the Puzzle: Raising a Child with Autism Blog

Vacation Part One: Weathering the Storms

Published September 15, 2011 11:38 AM by Devon Alley

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on our summer vacation. To read part 2 click here. To read part 3 click here. 

So, the first week of September, we had a Big Alley Family Vacation.

This was A. and I's first time participating in this time-honored tradition of my husband's family. Thomas spent many summer weeks of his youth at the beaches at Fort Walton, family gathered together to enjoy the surf and the sand, good food and good company. I'd heard many stories about these gatherings but had never had the chance to experience them for myself, so when the opportunity presented itself, I knew we'd have to take advantage of it -- even if it meant A. would have to miss a couple of days of school.

When A. was very little, she was an angel to travel with. I don't know if it was just because she was used to it (when she was two years old, she was used to the 45-minute-one-way commute to university each day, not to mention the 90-minute-one-way commute to occupational therapy once a week) or if she just genuinely enjoyed riding in the car, but we'd turn on some tunes, kick back, and watch the world fly past our windows. She would occasionally get inexplicably car sick, and would on very rare occasions be fussy, but overall she was a very patient travel companion -- putting up with my detours and random-driving-on-highways and random-weekend-road-trips and all of the adventures during which I carried her along. Somewhere in the same vicinity in which she hit puberty, she started becoming very annoyed by long car trips, becoming the typical "Are we there yet?" sort of kid, unhappy unless she was listening to her iPhone or playing video games. Because of this most recent development, I was afraid I'd run into problems with her on the long 9+hour car ride to the beach. However, she was incredibly patient for the most part -- almost a glimmer of her younger self, until we reached about the 7th hour of driving and she began to despair that either 1) Thomas and I really didn't know where we were going, or 2) We would simply never actually reach the beach. It was also about this time that the rain from Tropical Storm Lee began hitting our windshield, which also sent A. into a bit of a sour mood, since she was afraid this would mean no beach time and no swimming time.

The Tropical Storm was one of a great many trials that the Alley family had to endure over the vacation week, and it did in fact hinder our plans somewhat. While there was rarely thunder and lightning in the sky, there was still a lot of rain and wind, which made it fairly impossible to hang out at the beach. That being said, one of the first things A. and I did after arriving at Fort Walton was to run out to the waves, rain and wind and all. 

The funny thing was -- A. absolutely loved it. She ran up and down the wind-beaten beach, laughing and squealing at the intermittent downpours of rain, proclaiming the entire situation to be "glorious." For my part, I was acting in much the same manner -- laughing hysterically and spinning around, drinking it all in. We were the only people on the beach, and I'm sure everyone who saw us thought we were quite a pair of odd ducks -- but we didn't care. We were on the beach and it was our vacation, and as A. said, it was absolutely glorious.

One of the things I didn't take into account was the fact that as long as it wasn't too cold or there wasn't lightning or the wind wasn't *too* bad, it is perfectly acceptable to go swimming in the pool in a light rain. Because of that, A. actually got a lot more swimming pool time in than I actually thought she was going to be able to do, so I think that was part of what kept A. in high spirits in spite of the storms. She was even able to go swimming after dark, which she felt was an especially nice treat. I have to admit, there's something really awesome about swimming when the sky is dark, so I can understand why she may have loved that a little bit.

The storms did finally let up by Tuesday, but we had to endure three days of pretty harsh weather before it took a turn for sunny skies. Even with the weather, A. really enjoyed herself, and she loved being outside as well as spending time playing video games or Angry Birds on the iPad on the afternoons and evenings when the weather was too bad for outdoor activities.

Of course, that didn't stop us from visiting dolphins in the middle of 70 mph winds. But that's another story...

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