Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our trip to Utah, and what I learned about Julianna

(Before I share our experiences on our trip, I want to make a little disclaimer: We had so much fun being with family! We live far away from most of them, so to be together is a huge blessing. But every time we take a trip as a family, we learn a lot about Julianna and how we can make things better. So this post is mainly about the challenges we faced, and how we tried to overcome them.)

We left July 3rd for Utah, to see our new niece get blessed, and to visit my family there. This time we broke up the drive and stayed the night in St. George. Besides the difficutly in getting Nathan, our 19-month-old, to sleep that night (we made a makeshift fort over his crib by shutting the comforter in the door and weighing it down on the other end with our cooler) it was a great idea. We were able to go swimming as a family and have a break before we finished the drive the next day.

We arrived at my mom's house to drop off some things and say hi to one of my sisters and her kids, and then headed up to meet Joel's sister's family and see our new niece. They got us into FantasyCon in Salt Lake City for free, so we got to see some interesting displays, people, and a giant dragon. Julianna even waited in line with Joel to shoot some arrows at a target. Then we headed to one of their relatives' houses to hang out and watch fireworks.

The word "fireworks" used to fill Julianna with dread. We have spent the last many years doing fireworks at Joel's mom's house, not too far away. I remember when she was around 3 or 4, she would sit inside behind the sliding glass door because the sound was too loud, and the bright colors scared her. Finally, just a few years ago, she was able to move outside and watch, but with much caution. This year, she couldn't wait for the fireworks, and stayed out longer than anyone else watching them. I love seeing progress.

Another thing we did in Utah was hike the Y mountain. Joel and I both graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The nearby mountain has a big Y in it, and a hike that you can do to get there. I don't remember it being very difficult or long, so we decided to try it with our kids. Nathan literally cried the first 10 minutes straight as we situated him in the hiking backpack and got started. Once we got into the hike, Blake stayed with Joel and Nathan, and it was Julianna with me. Before long, we were lagging behind them, and Julianna complained of her legs hurting, and wanted to stop at every switchback to rest. There were times when she wanted to stop, but I kept encouraging her. When we made it to the top, it was a big sense of accomplishment for both of us! The way down was not any easier, because she felt like she was sliding down the trail at times, and her shirt sleeves were bothering her and causing her to stop and scream about it. But we survived, and it was a great experience.

Another day we decided to go to a nearby water park. I knew that this would prove challenging, and I was completely stressed about going. Nathan has the tubes in his ears, which means he cannot get water in them, and lately he has not wanted to wear his ear plugs in the water, so I had no idea how I would avoid getting water in his ears. Julianna, as I shared recently, just finished swimming lessons, and made big gains, but the crowds, people splashing, and the noise would be a challenge for her. She immediately decided she was going to wear a life jacket once she saw them hanging up, and she mostly wanted to stay in the lazy river, and run in the water spraying area.
Our passes included a free pizza and drinks. Now most of you know Julianna is on a gluten free, dairy free diet, and pizza clearly has both. As I waited in a very long line to get the food, I thought, I'll just take the cheese off, and she can eat the crust. I got closer and realized, duh, the crust has gluten!! I began to rationalize, thinking that eating pizza just this once would be okay. Then I realized I did not have my debit card with me, and there was no way I was standing in that long line again, so it made even more sense to just have her eat the pizza. But then, when I went to order, I suddenly had the idea to ask if I could substitute two of the drinks for french fries. Unfortunately, they could not do that, but they said if I went to the pick up window, I could order the fries there instead of waiting in line again. So that's what I did. People are really understanding when your children have special needs, I have found. And to end the day, Julianna went down one of the smaller slides! Progress! (she is on the left, Blake on the right, below) And Nathan did not get water in his ears. Success!
The very next day, my dad rented a giant 20-ft waterslide for the backyard and everyone was having fun on it. Julianna went down before I even got out there, and told me she was brave and did it! I couldn't believe it! But the slide was scarier than she thought, so Joel spent the rest of the day convincing her she could go down one more time. She did, with a bribe to get a dollar store prize. Yes, this is how we get Julianna to do hard things. It works, most of the time.
The last experience I wanted to share was our trip to the zoo. Almost my entire family was able to go together, a rare experience. I was dreading it, knowing how challenging it would be with Julianna. Right when we got to the front gates and were waiting for everyone to arrive, there was a little pond where people had thrown pennies in. I gave my kids and some of their cousins a penny, and everyone threw theirs in, except for Julianna. She said, I want to save my penny, because I can buy something in the zoo instead. I told her she could keep the penny, but that there was nothing in the zoo that would cost one penny. So we went in, lasted no more than 2 hours because of the extreme heat, and as we were all leaving, she kept asking me about spending her penny, and that she wanted to look at the toys. I told her there was nothing she could buy with a penny, and that we weren't going to let her look because she would want to buy something. This resulted in a huge tantrum, the biggest I've seen in a long time, so big that people were stopping and starting, whispering to each other, shaking their heads, etc. I told her none of the cousins were getting anything, so it wouldn't be fair for her to get something. I ignored her, I tried to help her, and in the end, I had to drag her out of the zoo kicking and screaming, all the way to our car. It was awful. But this is the chance we take whenever we go to a public place. Sometimes things go really well, but usually we are faced with major tantrums. This is our life. I don't think my family even knew how bad it could be, because she is really good at hiding it most of the time.
Julianna with Blake and their cousins Will and Bradley.
Later that day, as we were packing our car to leave, she had another major tantrum. My mom and dad came running out, because they thought she was really hurt. I broke down crying, because after over two weeks, I was done! After some comforting words, we were on our way home, and I was looking forward to being there again. Familiarity is good for Julianna.
I sometimes think I have valid reasons for never taking Julianna on family trips, or to water parks, or hikes, or zoos, or any public place, really. I know that tantrums and explosions are inevitable. And this time I had to factor in the diet and making it work while we drove, and at my parents' house, too. I could have easily thrown in the towel and said, sorry, we aren't coming, it's just too hard. But so far we never have. And we will continue to make the trip, because I feel that every new experience helps her to grow, to develop new skills, to expand her horizons. I would be a horrible mom if I didn't continue to push her to do things that are out of her comfort zone. No matter how much it stresses me out, and to be honest, my stress level is always extremely high, I will push forward. She is part of our family, and part of our life--nothing is exempt from her, and the greatest thing is, she wants to be a part of it all, too!  

1 comment:

  1. Oh I can so relate to this. At our reunion last week clara had two big meltdowns with screaming, hitting, and trying to bite me ( both involved sensory issues--soap in eyes and a different kind of socks). I cried and we survived, but it just so hard sometimes. ..especially when she doesn't have the self - awareness to correct the situation. I love your thoughts--thanks for sharing.