Monday, April 13, 2015

Count Down to Vacation

Almost there...

Six months in the planning and now there's less than a week to go before the big trip!!!

This past weekend, we participated in the Wings for Autism at Logan Airport in Boston. This is a program to help kids with autism and their families practice the airplane experience. My son has never flown, never been to an airport, and never sat in a contained vehicle for longer than 3.5h. I really wanted to do this program so I could see where his sticking points might be.

The night before the program, something didn't sit well in his stomach and we had a few puking incidents, making for a tough morning as we were both tired and he was obviously not feeling well. Since this program only comes once per year and we were leaving in a week, I pushed my luck and took him anyway.

What went well

  • Standing in the short TSA line to get to the x-ray machines
  • Putting belongings on the conveyor belt and going through security
  • Getting on, being on, and getting off the plane

What didn't go so well

  • Waiting in the line to get on the plane
  • Pulling him away from the windows
  • Wandering around the parking garage, trying to find the car...more later

Let me explain...
We got to the airport just in time for our 10am time slot. I parked in central parking, which I'm apparently unfamiliar with because I swear I could have walked from home in less time than it took me to get form the car to the terminal. Literally, I walked through the garage, across a bridge, and through more garage to an elevator up to the 4th level (more on this in a moment,) through a set of doors and onto a moving sidewalk. Then we went through a doorway, onto 3 more moving sidewalks, through a foyer, onto another elevator and to the gate. I thought I had given myself lots of extra time, but I got to the desk with only minutes to spare.

Please note, there are signs everywhere about writing down your parking spot number, which I didn't do because I memorized where my care was parked, G16. This is important to remember later.

So, we checked in at the desk and got our tickets and got into a very short line to the first TSA checkpoint. This took maybe 5-10 minutes, not realistic at all. I've flown a lot and it's rare to get a line that short. Then, we went to the x-ray machines. I encountered no problems putting our belongings on the belt. I wasn't sure if he'd freak out at putting the bag on the belt because sometimes he freaks out at the grocery store belt. Nope, no problem. He even walked through the metal detector alone, but was caught by a TSA agent on the other side as he was ready to run. Then, we picked up our stuff and headed to the gate.

I wanted the experience to be as close to our real travel day as possible, so I packed his carry-on and I let him pull it. He actually liked to pulling it, so that was good.

At the gate there were snacks and goodie bags. My son has recently been diagnosed with a serious nut allergy, so we stayed away from the snacks. Instead, we opted for looking out the windows. There was no way I could keep him away from the windows, but pulling him away when it was time to board started his decline because then we had to stand in line for about 20 minutes to get on board the plane. During that entire time, he was throwing Fruit Loops on the floor and trying to pick them up and eat them. I just had them in a bag, not in a snack container, so they were everywhere. He wanted to run with some of the other kids, but those kids had two parents, one to stay in line and one to watch the running kids. It's just me, so sorry kiddo.

There was lots of whining and eye-rubbing and pulling during these 20 minutes, which made me seriously question my decision to take him vacation. He did remember the PowerPoint presentation I made him and kept quoting, "Wait our turn. Be patient. Stay with Momma." However, they were just words. There was no understanding behind them.

And I realized that I had forgotten to put his chewie necklace on, so he was putting his fist in his mouth, chewing on his jacket and putting everything in his mouth.

He was fine on the jetway and fine getting on the plane and walking down the aisle and getting in a seat and being buckled. I have to say I breathed a sigh of relief at that. I think it was like getting in the car for him. He's used to getting in and getting buckled, so it was no big deal. The sun was in his eyes and I closed the shade, but once he realized that the shades open and closed, that's all he did. They came by with snacks and he liked his snacks. I brought an empty sippy cup and put water into it for him. He was great on the plane.

On the way off the plane, he got to stop in the cockpit and see the knobs and levers and meet the pilot and co-pilot. He couldn't have cared less. I snapped one picture with most of him cut off and both of the pilots heads cut off. You have to be quick with this kid.

Back in the terminal, we went right back to the windows to watch the planes. I could only stay there for so long and when it was time to go, the tears and crying started. I dragged him away from the windows and back through the terminal, onto the elevator, through the foyer, onto 3 moving sidewalks, through a doorway, onto another moving sidewalk, through a set of doors, through the garage, across the bridge and through more of the garage. That's where everything fell apart. I knew I was in G16, but where I thought we had parked was labeled 4Y. With a screaming toddler in tow, my brain stopped functioning. I could not figure out how to get from 4Y to G16 and I started to question my memory of G16.

You have to pay before getting back to your car, so I paid in the foyer. We walked around so long that I had to pay again at the exit. We wandered around in 4Y, Z, X, and W forever. I remembered passing a white Subaru Outback just like mine on the way in, so I figured that was the right level. Every time we passed a white SUV, he screamed, "Momma's CAR!" Needless to say there are a lot of white cars and he must have thought I was denying him something. Eventually, after hearing him scream at the top of his lungs for probably 20-30 minutes, I was about to call security to drive me around until I found my white Subaru Outback, but decided to check the map one more time. I saw that there was a ground level...hence the G. When we got down there, I saw my car immediately. The rows are labeled with numbers on the G level, whereas they are letters on the 4th level. By the time we got to the car, I was ready to sell my son to the gypsies and go live on a secluded island with just me, my cats., and a frozen daiquiri.

He proceeded to fall asleep before we even got off the airport grounds. Thirty minutes of screaming takes a lot out of you. I, also, needed a nap. Thankfully, I will be parking off-site when we go away and the shuttle will bring us right to the terminal and they give you a card with your car location on it that the shuttle driver uses to find your car.

Lessons Learned:

  • Bring something for him to play with while waiting in line.
  • Put Fruit Loops in some kind of snack container.
  • Get there in plenty of time to let him run a muck and expend some energy.
  • Don't forget the chewlery.
  • Don't lose the car.
  • Allow for plenty of time for looking out of windows.

I'm glad I did the program and I hope I'm a little better prepared for our trip next week.

Vacation Part 1
Vacation Part 2
Vacation Part 3

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