For the post (some of) you have been waiting for...
On Friday, we took a trip to Houston. Our only destinations were the hotel, which was AWESOME, and the Music for Autism concert at the Westview School. If you know us, you know we live on one income, and that's a teacher's salary. We're happy as clams, but have to be careful. But this concert was too great of an opportunity. Very worthy of sacrifice!
We had some frequent flyer miles to burn, so we slapped 'em on a nice hotel, because the last time we booked a hotel, we wound up with people walking into our room at 2:45 in the morning because when the not-so-gracious clerk gave us a second room she forgot to tell the ol' computer which room she gave us. What was wrong with the first room? Um, let's just say it was so gross I told the kids they gave us the wrong one and we walked out. Moving on...
We only made one stop on the way down because the kids were happy or asleep for most of the trip. Weather was pretty ugly, and despite some icky directions from a certain website, we made it to the hotel just in time for the bottom to fall out.
When we were sure we wouldn't blow away, we went to the indoor pool for a swim. The kids were thrilled with this privilege! Our little fishes played in the water and we went with them between the "bubble pool" (whirlpool) and the big pool for at least an hour. Then we went upstairs, where Mommy and Daddy donned our super-capes again and ordered our family's favorite thing ever... PIZZA! The kids watched Cars 2, we ate, and went to bed at a pretty decent hour.
Next morning, we got up, went downstairs for breakfast, put the fishes back in the water for a while, then went back upstairs to pack and leave for the concert and for good.
This is where things got a little rough.
If you know Ryan, you know he loves the hotel. Any hotel, really. Just the idea of it, for some reason, gets him all giddy and jumpy-stimmy. He asks at least five times a day... not kidding... when we will go to the hotel again. We kept telling him, when he asked for his beloved Blue Elevator, that we get to see that in July. He made up his own date, too... "You will go to the Blue Elevator on July fiftiieff!" he says, and we either agree or explain. We had to look up the date of the TBA convention so we'd know what day. Because he's gonna keep asking.
So when it was time to leave, he was upset because he knows the luggage cart means goodbye, hotel. So that meant hello, scream for the hotel, beat your chest and ears, and cry.
He did get in the van, although getting him there was a bit like putting a mad cat in a pillowcase. And just as noisy. We made our way to the school for the concert with the littles snoozing. It was, after all, nap time.
Arriving early, we were the first vehicle in the lot. We waited and let the littles get as much nap as they could, with Ryan just itching to get out. I'd promised drumsticks. I'd promised drums.
Now, here is where I have to confess. The Music for Autism concerts are set up very well, and are incredibly well-geared to kids with autism, as well as you can gear to a group so widely diverse. There is first a time for the musicians to perform, then a time for the kids to conduct in a way, and then a time for percussion, when they hand out instruments to all the children to play along. The whole thing was very loose yet structured, calm, and there were even noise canceling headphones if you needed them. Anything past this is no reflection on concert preparation, the people running it, the school, nothing. Just me being all silly again.
First off, I should not have promised drumsticks. I shouldn't have mentioned them. I should have left them at home. It seems so simple, but that was the first thing he melted down over. While my littles and the rest of the kids were in awe of the fabulous music coming from the instruments of such talented musicians, Ryan screamed and cried for drumsticks. Then he screamed and cried for a drum. He saw where they were kept at the back of the room, and being the little ninja stealth child he is, I spent the entire concert keeping him away from them. He went from the thermostat to the drums across the room, not exactly being quiet and happy in between.
I was so confused, granted not as confused as he was, because I know I was supposed to let go and let him enjoy the music how he wanted. But in no way was anyone else going to be able to hear the music if I let him do what he wanted! He ran around drumming with his sticks on the headphones that were meant to block sound! Arrrgh!
Then Richie started to cry with Ryan. Then because he didn't want a drum, rainstick, or tambourine. The n because he DID want an instrument, and it was time to put them away. He cried and generally was in a fit until we got in the van.
Maelynn, on the other hand, was an absolute doll, running around dancing and playing with the other children.
We left frustrated; two of us in tears, and mommy and daddy close.
The ride home was long. Lots of talking. Lots of brainstorming. Kicking ourselves a bit.
Okay, a lot.
See, there were both things I knew to do and things I didn't. There were so many ways we could have set Ryan up for success better. It seemed like all the other kids in the room... these were by and large mostly autistic kids in some way or another... were better behaved and perfectly happy to be there.
On the way out, one of the ladies who worked the event told me that we ought to go visit this and that for the kids while we're here. Holding back tears, I croaked out with a plastic smile, "oh, we're on our way home." Which, of course, we were. In the van, back to good ol' GBT. I actually said, in my utter broken frustration, "Well, it's official. We can't go ANYWHERE." Then I lost it.
We cannot be the only people who would drive 3 1/2 hours to take our child to something like this, but they all looked at us like we had lobsters crawling out our ears when we told them where we were from and that yes, this is what we came to Houston for. They were nice, but they were shocked.
So what will we do differently next time? Well, I guess I should say, we will go again. We will try at least one more time because of how much Ryan and the rest of our family love music.
We will save and only go if we can stay Friday and Saturday nights in the hotel. Period.
We will let go of our training and let the kids be, knowing that the musicians are trained for this.
We will NOT bring the drumsticks.
We will social story wisely, with a story written by us, taken from cues from the one on the Music for Autism website. We will add things like "no sticks or mallets" that pertain specifically to our little guy.
We will make said social story on the iPad, so he'll actually read and comprehend it. Okay, so he'll be interested in it at all.
But above all, we will remember that we are a chosen family, and that even in a crowd of kids with similar disabilities, we are still different. We are still unique, and unique isn't bad or stupid or embarrassing... it's just that. It's unique.
We will take what we learned this weekend and, thanking God for it, apply what we learned to every other trip we ever take.
We will give each other grace and mercy when things get rough. The hurts are deep, the feelings are strong, and we have to bear with one another in love. That's God's design, and the inventor usually knows how things work best.
We will always... ALWAYS... be thankful for the opportunities we have, for they are numerous and undeserved!
And as usual, our thanks be to God, the giver of all good things!