Sunday, April 15, 2018

Our Vacation to San Deigo!

Let me begin by saying this, depression sucks. You just can't find the joy in the small things anymore. That positive light fades away. For example, if we get lost while driving, I call it taking the scenic view. Recently, it's just plain lost. You can tell how I'm doing based off of how many posts I write. Luckily, today is a good day. 
Easter was fun this year. Char had work the night before and needed to sleep. He set up the baskets for me. Unfortunately, he wasn't there when the kids got to see their surprises. 
We didn't do an egg hunt because our house is a little on the cramped side with all 5 of us. Besides, soon they were going to have one at Grandma's house. 
We all went to Grandma's house that day. Char usually works on Sundays so it was great having the extra help with the kiddos. What really impressed me it that the Littles actually hunted for Easter eggs, once they got the hang of it. Grandma got the Littles Easter Baskets shaped like baby chicks. Rowan called his basket "Chicken". 
Anastasia referred to her basket as "Egg". If you're wondering which child named their baskets first,"Chicken" came before "Egg". Grandma hid glittery eggs for the older girls. Once they brought their treats inside there was glitter everywhere. It's amazing how glitter can spread so quickly.  
The following day Grandma and Grandpa took all of us for a trip to the beach for 5 days. This trip was full of many "firsts" for all the kids. 

It was the first time Rowan and Anastasia had ever been on an airplane. If truth be told, I hadn't been on an airplane in over a decade. (Wow, that sentence just made me feel old!) The kids would run from one side of the terminal to the other, looking out the wide windows to see the airplanes take off or land. Rowan was in high heaven. 
We got to be one of the first people to load onto the airplane since we had a child aged 2 with our group. By the time everyone else boarded the plane everyone in the family had settled into their seats. 

The plane began to slowly back up from the gate. The engines began to make their thunderous roar increasing the decibels every second. Then they started to become silent. The captain spoke over the PA explaining that the plane had indicated a malfunction. We stayed in place while a mechanic came aboard. (I was thinking this is exactly what my friend's husband will be doing next year). 
After 20 minutes the captain announced over the system that we were to deboard the plane while the crew made some needed repairs. We got off, with very hungry kids in tow. Char decided to stay near the gate, while the rest of us went in search of food. (We barely made it back in time.)

Round 2 of boarding the plane began. This time everything went without a hitch. The Littles behaved much better than I expected. 

We didn't arrive at the condo we would be renting for the next week until late at night. We basically unloaded the car and went to bed. There was a slight problem. The house could easily sleep 8 people. However, there were only 2 bedrooms and the furniture in the living room could unfold. That first night we tried having Heidi Anne sleep in the room, Grandma and Grandpa got their own room. Char, The Littles and I tried to sleep in the living room. 

Yeah, the ones in the living room didn't sleep that night. It was the first time the Littles had slept without a playpen or crib. 
The next night we switched it up. I slept with the littles in the bedroom upstairs and Heidi Anne and Char slept in the living room. It worked out really well. So that's what we did for the rest of our vacation. We think Rowan may be ready to transition to a big boy bed.

The next morning we set off for the beach. This was the first time any of the kids had seen the Pacific Ocean or even to California for that matter.
We were just going to walk on the boardwalk to look around and see the sights. But it ended up with the kids in the water and playing on the beach for hours. We don't have photos except for their first beach experience. Mostly because I heard this rumor that water and cell phones don't mix well.  
Rowan was a skeptic at first but once he got over the initial shock of the wet sand and cold water we couldn't pry him away from the beach. He loved building sandcastles. One time when we were at the beach Rowan, Heidi Anne and I made a sand castle with a mote. We dug a ditch to the ocean during high tide and measured how far up the waves would flood our mote.
The kids had tons of fun on the beach. We went there pretty much every day. We'd hunt for seashells, (we now have a little mason jar filled with them). We'd chase waves out to the water and run away from them as the crashed back onto the beach. Heidi Anne was brave one day, faced the cold water and went out waist deep in the ocean playing in the waves. I kind of want to move to a coastal area one day. 
One evening the Grandparents offered to watch the kids while we went out to dinner. After searching the internet we found a restaurant that had many positive reviews and it was within walking distance of where we were staying. 
We discovered it looked like a hole in the wall place. Sometimes, those are the best restaurants. We had yummy, fresh fish sushi rolls. I LOVE Sushi!

We zig-zagged our way back to the condo, walking on the boardwalk by Mission Bay. We'd admire the styles and colors of different homes/condos while on the concrete. Or stop to admire the plants and flowers. I don't know what the name of this flower is, but I just adore it. It's like a tie-dyed hot pink and bright orange petals. Anyone know its name? 
Then walk down a few steps to the bay to collect seashells. We just did this back and forth for nearly 45 minutes. It was a wonderful date night. 

We went to visit Sea World one morning. We got there as it opened to try to bet the crowds. I think everyone had similar ideas. A bonus of going so early is you get to watch the critters getting breakfast. Char got this picture of the dolphin being fed by its trainer.  
Next, we went to visit the tide pools. It's like a petting zoo for small marine animals. The biggest pool was for the stingrays. After much convincing Heidi Anne finally touched a stingray. She said it was slimy and cold.  
I had to try for myself. (I've never touched one before either). They feel so smooth that I can see why Heidi Anne described them as slimy. I found a stingray to pet that was "close". Turns out Heidi Anne forgot to mention how deep the pool was. My "close" sting ray was towards the very bottom and I ended up nearly armpit deep in the cold water. I would still do it again to touch a string ray of that size.
Following the tide pools, we went to the arctic zone. We got to see some belugas. Then we caught a glimpse of a walrus. We visited the penguins, there were many breeds altogether in this massive enclosure. It was fun to watch their antics. What Heidi wanted to see the most were the polar bears, unfortunately, their area was down for repairs. Sadness.
We decided to break for lunch. We brought our own picnic lunch to enjoy and save a ton of money. A 16-ounce coke cost $4.oo!! Food prices escalated from there. 
After lunch, we went to visit the shark encounter. We got to pet some leopard sharks in one of the little tide pools. After that went into the shark aquarium. We looked down and saw; black tips, white tips, bonnethead, and reefs sharks.
As you walk through the overlook you slowly descend into the shark tunnel. 
From there sharks surround the clear tunnel allowing one to see them from underneath or right at eye level. 
There were more tide pools around the shark encounter intended for the smaller kids. Char found a baby sting ray. It's so cute.  
Every time a saw or we played at a tide pool I thought about that scene from "Finding Dory" where Dory and Hank are tapped in the little discovery pools and all the critters are trying to dodge the little kids' hands. I know that's not how it is in the real world, but you try to go to Sea World or one of those awesome aquariums and not have a moment of "Finding Dory" pop into your mind. 
Rowan surprised us by getting wet and wanting to touch some of the urchins and baby stingrays. We went to some of their smaller aquariums, but the lighting wasn't good enough for photos. Char and Heidi Anne decided to ride one of the roller coasters. After which the Littles were all tuckered out. We choose to skip any of the actual animal shows and headed back to the condo. 
Don't worry after a short nap they were back at the beach the rest of the afternoon. 

Just a friendly reminder that Autism never takes a vacation even if you're on one. Rowan did tolerate things much better then I could have hoped for. However, he had a meltdown when it was nearing bedtime and 2 of his 3 blankets were in the wash. (I made that quilt for him, it's called "Big Blanket" and he needs it every night). Rowan stayed with his other 2 blankets to keep a protective eye on them. Grandma got out a beach chair and the 2 of them lounged while guarding the beloved blankets. 
One way Rowan likes to recenter himself if he feels overwhelmed is to line things in a row. Char took this picture of Rowan lining up every shoe there was downstairs. I can only guess the stuffed animals are in formation for good measure.  
P.S The little seal pup is now Rowan's, he's named it Puppy and is a new addition to the night time routine. 

One morning we took the kids to a little park just off Mission Bay. It was meant for kids aged 2-5. So Heidi Anne just played out on the green space between the park and the bay. 
The Littles favorite part by far had to be the swings. We place them facing opposite ways so they could see each other while swinging. They laughed so hard and screamed at the top of their lungs with joy. Which was fine because no one was around and there weren't any homes nearby.
Somehow we would set out just to go walk along the bay or the beach and end up in the sand and waves. We did discover Anastasia HATES the feel of sand, even if she was wearing shoes. She spent a lot of time overseeing Rowan's sand projects. I swear some of her looks towards anybody on the sand or near the waves was "Eeewww, how can you stand that?" 
All the adults decided that the babies couldn't handle another day of attractions. However, Heidi Anne was more than ready to go somewhere or do something. Since we hardly ever have time with just her everyone agreed that Char, Heidi Anne and I would go to the San Deigo Zoo. Once again we went first thing in the morning. (When you are awakened at 6:oo am by tiny dictators a 9:oo am opening time works out just fine.) Heidi Anne was super excited to go to 1 of the best zoos in the world. 
We were among the first to take a double-decker tour bus tour around the zoo. Naturally, we rode on the top deck. The tour took nearly an hour! It was time well spent and helped us deiced what exhibits we wanted to see the most. 
As a kid, I watched a documentary about animals in South America. There was this one animal called a Maned Wolf, however, it's not really a wolf. It's more like a fox on stilts. They're taller than a wolf, too. Since that show, it's been my on my bucket list to see one. (I'm a sucker for canines). As we turned a corner in the South American Exhibit there were a few Maned Wolfs in the flesh! (Girly EEKKK!) 
After the tour, we discovered the park was much larger than we planned on. Each of us picked an exhibit we were dying to see. Heidi Anne decided on the Arctic Zone. I picked the Asian Experience. Char wanted to see the Grizzly bears up close. I think that was in the North American Section. 
Heidi Anne was thrilled to get to finally see a polar bear up close. She was face to face with him and even got to watch him dive into the water. Since there weren't any toddlers that needed to be entertained we stayed there with Heidi Anne for as long as she wanted. 
Somehow we got turned around and ended up in the African portion. We saw; gazelles, meerkats, warthogs, lions, and elephants. It was like a Lion King Reunion. We took a look at the map and found we were on the opposite side of the park that we wanted to be. 
We broke for lunch and Gatorade (picnic lunches because we're smart and still remembered that $4.oo coke from Sea World). After lunch, we took the Skytram to get to the other side of the zoo. A neat little fun fact is that the San Deigo Zoo doubles as a botanical park. I took a lot of pictures of lovely flowers and I have no clue what the names are for any of them.   
We went to the Asian section where I got to see a Panda bear up close! We found a variety of monkeys, a river otter, and a sun bear! Sun bears are extremely rare and I desperately wanted a picture. However, this particular Sun bear was camera shy. 
As we walked throughout the park one of my favorite animals was anything but shy. Squrriels would sit on the lowest branches of trees, wait for a scrap of food to fall to the ground and chase after it. They'd grab the desired item and run up another tree all within a blink of an eye. 
We finally came to Char's pick, the Grizzly Bears. It was a tad intimidating to be up close to not just 1 but 2 bears. Their claws are so much larger in real life! 
The last section we explored was the reptile house. We began playing a game of "Who could find the creepy crawly first." Heidi really wanted to see a Kimono Dragon. They had one but he was just too elusive for us. Oh! I saw a huge anaconda, it was awesome! We spent nearly 45 minutes in there. After that, we were all exhausted, drank all our fluids, and had visited everyone's "must see" sections. Back to the condo we went. 

When we weren't exploring the beach, bay, or attractions we had some downtime at the condo.
I was cuddling Anastasia one afternoon and just dropped off the face of the Earth. As you can tell it didn't phase her. As long as she had someone to cuddle her, she didn't care if you're awake or napping.  
Anastasia loved the downstairs of the condo, it was nice and open except for this little nook in the kitchen. Anastasia would hide in the nook and yell "Heidi!", which translates to "Anybody, come find me!". Anastasia kept herself fairly entertained even if it meant stealing Rowan's toy cars. 

Heidi Anne would spend her downtime reading "A Wrinkle in Time". If she put it down within Rowan's grasp, he would grab her book, find a comfortable chair and flip through the pages. 
Anastasia liked looking at the maps of the Zoo and Sea World. She kept them with her and randomly pull the guides out. She'd look down at the map (like we would do at the parks) start walking in one direction. Pause. Look down at the map and head a different way. 
Anastasia doesn't typically fall asleep on people. She's been that way ever since we brought her home from the NICU. I think because for three months she had to learn how to put herself to sleep with minimal human contact. She loves cuddles but needs a bed to sleep on. We were shocked one afternoon when we found her asleep in Grandpa's arms. We had to take a picture of it to prove that she can fall asleep while being held. The sight of it is a very rare thing and almost brought tears to my eyes.   

Sadly, the day came when we had to go back home. Everyone was well behaved in the terminal, maybe it was due to the fact we arrived just as they were boarding the plane.
The short wait didn't stop Rowan from enjoying the airplanes while we were there. I love his new sweatshirt Grandma got. His old one had gotten too small, but we thought we'd just make due until next fall. Grandma bought him one that fits perfectly and reads "Life Guard San Deigo". 
Oh My Gosh! Anastasia was that crying screaming baby everyone fears they'll be placed next to on the flight home. She was the exact opposite of her first plane experience. People behind us tried playing Peek-A-Boo with her. The stewardess tried to give her extra Sprite, which Anastasia flat out refused. People from three rows back tried giving her a toddler-friendly craft to do. Someone from two rows up passed us a pop-up book for her. NOTHING WORKED. She did begin to settle down as we hit some turbulence on the way to landing. Oh, she thought that was hilarious. 
Once we got home we began unloading our bags. Rowan jumped into the empty suitcase and said "Again! Again!" I think everyone had a nice trip.