OH Canada!

There is nothing more healing than laughter. And if you are new to reading my blog you will be happy to know that my motto is, "If you can't laugh at my life, you have no sense of humor."

I figured it was only fitting that I use that as the direction for the recap of our Victoria trip.

3 boys, 2 parents, 2 grandparents, 4 days, 2 holidays, 1 hotel, 3 boats, and A LOT of fun.

We were supposed to take the Victoria Clipper -- a high speed shuttle from Seattle directly to Victoria. That is what our tickets were purchased for, and that is where we arrived at 7:00 in the morning Saturday.

The water was rocky, and the wind blew hard. We rushed the boys into the terminal, where Gabriel's autism allowed us the luxury of passing the lines and pre-boarding. But we weren't exactly early, so there were lines that had to quite literally be passed.

As we moved through crowds of people in the terminal, much like an airline terminal, my darling Matthew crashed into the butt of each and every adult waiting near him.

"Oh, sorry." I said, over and over again, grabbing Matthew by his down coat and jerking him from place to place and he giggled with delight. Afterall, it was morning, and he was low. It was my idea to bring him to a room full of strangers and assume that this time, he wouldn't crash into all of them. What was I thinking? Matt was happy, and self-regulating. Try explaining that on the fly to a group of strangers.

Once on the boat, that darling little Matthew of mine was seasick. Instantly.

He was gagging and coughing, and refusing to take the little orange pill that we called 'candy' with such enthusiasm that anyone within ear shot must have automatically known that it was medicine. Matt figured it out too -- and refused it with all of his might.

I cannot take a 3 hour trip with a child who is starting to puke before we even leave the dock.

I took him off the boat onto dry land, hoping against all hope that he would take the medicine there. No dice.

At this point I know that I am going to have to drive to Victoria. 5 1/2 hours. OMG.

But the puking seems like a worse fate for my little sensory kiddo and I can't bear to see him in that kind of pain.

If I take him off the boat, Gabriel is going to be the kind of disappointed that only kids with SPD and/or Autism experience. That seems awful too.

I get back on the boat, and announce we are driving.

You should've seen the look on my husband's face.

And off the boat we go, into the freezing wind, with Matthew thrilled to be off the boat (which he had been asking for quite pitifully) and Gabriel fighting back the tears.

I assure the boys that we will meet Grandma and Papa in Victoria. And that we will take a boat. A ferry.

And we did. And it wasn't all that bad truthfully.

Aside from a really stinky Dairy Queen near Squim, it was sensory friendly for all.

Gabriel slept through the first ferry and the drive to the second.

We got to the hotel, the beautiful Fairmont Empress on the harbour in Victoria, played a little, watched a movie, had some room service and then it was bed time. For everyone.

When morning arrived, so did Easter. Along with egg-hunting and baskets (bags) full of items they could use on their trip -- like small coloring books and bunny-driven cars. It was truly a stress-free Easter. My favorite part.

We started the next day with the aquarium, which is kind of not an aquarium at all, but rather a boat that has windows on the bottom and the owner has walled in some marine life around it. Like an aquarium around a boat.

Matt did not like this boat. At all.

He immediately asked to get off. But we all wanted to see the 'show', which was the diver in the tank showing us the animals as a young girl narrated.

The show ended and I said to Matthew, "Tell Grandma thank you and that you had a good time."

"Thank you grandma, I had a good time. Now can we get off this boat?"

Yes Matt.

After some other side excursions, we headed back to the hotel (me with a nice local bottle of red wine from Salt Spring Island tucked in my backpack) for a break. Some down time to reset everyone. Especially Matthew and Gabriel.

But we were stopped in our tracks at the site of a street performer. Who was hysterical. HYS-TERICAL.

Aside from the amazingly fun knife and fire juggling, while on a 9 foot unicycle, the boys were amazed to see that the man had a child for an assistant -- and not just any child. A child that had been chosen out of the crowd. You could see the wheels turning.

And when that child got 5 dollars at the end of the show, well the wheels were turning those ideas into a plan.

The next day, after an enjoyable water taxi ride to fisherman's wharf where the boys got to feed seals, and have ice cream (Moose Tracks: vanilla with fudge and peanut butter cups) we came upon this same street performer again.

And the boys were ready!

The moment came where he asked for a volunteer and Nick and Gabe's hands shot up like rockets.

He picked Nick.

Nick got up there, the man brought out an axe and told Nick to smile, and Nick called BS on that, and left. Short lived fame.

But Gabe was willing to take the spot, axe and all.

And sure enough, Gabe stood there, with a smile on his face, took the axe jokes and more. While I, his mom who knows of his challenges, cringed with each joke wondering if Gabriel would really know that he was kidding -- wondering if Gabriel really got it.

Regardless, Gabe was a rock star.

And got the 5 bucks.

And Nick cried that the 5 bucks should've been 'his'. So I gave him 5 bucks for trying.

When the show ended, to thunderous applause (mostly from my three boys, even Matthew who laughed so hard I thought he would pee himself -- except for the joke when the man threw a plastic child's camera and it broke -- Matt didn't think that was funny at all, and ran into the show to get the camera and fix it).

After the show, I held Gabriel's hand through the crowd, and told him I was proud of him.

His response?

"I wasn't afraid because it is illegal to kill a kid in every country."

Yes, Gabe, it is. Turns out black and white thinking has its use.

We took the boys swimming that evening at the hotel, and believe it or not, Gabriel actually swam. For real.

And not to be out done, Nick did too.

We were very proud of them -- and they were extremely proud of themselves!

That very next morning, while I was sound asleep in my room, I began hearing what I thought were the kids up too early again. But as it turns out, it was Jeff.

Jeff got out of bed at about 6:00am, and I rolled over, and went back to sleep.

I heard him go into the bathroom, and the next thing I knew he was standing at the foot of my bed, illuminated by the glow of the tiny bathroom beside him, and talking to me.

"I have a problem that requires smaller hands."


"OK" I say, half asleep, and crawl out of bed and follow him into the light.

There, in the glow of fluorescent lights, was the unmistakable image of his cell phone, at the bottom of the toilet.

He needed MY hands to get it out.


I reached in, not fearing for the germs encompassing my entire hand, but rather for the thought that I could not actually retrieve it. That my husband's all-too-expensive phone would somehow be pushed further down the toilet -- that the pipes descended in what can only be described as a 'log ride' style.

Luckily, they didn't and I was able to retrieve the phone. Ta da!

And as I feverishly washed my hands, my husband said calmly, "At least you'll have something to blog about." Very funny jackass.

The morning began Gabriel's transition issues. Knowing it is the last day means that he would have to begin thinking of leaving yet another amazing vacation.

You see, for Gabriel, every Vacation is amazing -- because everything goes his way.

I know you wouldn't see that from a normal ASD/SPD point of view, but Gabriel has virtually no (and I mean no in the clinical way) independent play skills. Vacation gives him an activity to do all day -- one after another -- that I plan -- and that are normally kid-friendly.

Museums, tours, parks, restaurants, you name it. All planned for Gabriel.

No, "Go upstairs and find something to do" moments like at home. Which he is physically incapable of doing.

With the transition, also came some adamant requests that we stay in Victoria forever. FOR-EVER.

I tried to explain to him concepts that are too abstract, about how vacation is only vacation when it is the exception, but he didn't get it. Or didn't want to.

Then I just said, "We aren't rich Gabe."

"Ugh. I wish we were." He said with a genuine air of disappointment.

You and me both, son.

His transition anxiety only caused one small flip out as we walked down the city streets looking for souvenirs -- during which he was angry, giving dirty looks, and announced, "I am mad because I haven't got my way ALL DAY!"

Translation: Mom wouldn't let me buy all the crap I wanted.

On our way to the boat, to check in, we stopped at the city park and visited the petting zoo. There were a bazillion birds, and the sweetest baby goats.

The boys got to pet them, and brush them (although my anxiety watching Matt running around with two brushes in his hands trying to 'brush' the goats was exceptionally high).

It would've been great, but one of the goats peed on Gabriel.

Lesson? Don't brush a goat from behind.

But, all in all, the boys were amazing. All of them.

Oh, and so was the wine.


Chynna said...

WOW! What a trip! Would you believe that I've lived up here all of my life and EVER been to Victoria? I lived in Comox and Chilliwack when I was tot because my Dad was in the military and stationed in both places but I've never been to Victoria.

LOVED your pics. And I was rolling about the need of your small hands. I often get those lovely jobs because of my small hands and short size. I can often get into spaces only the KIDS can. (eg: I once had to climb through one of those indoor slides at McD's to get Jaimie out because she freaked out and wouldn't budge.)

Thanks for sharing. Good to 'see' you again. =)

(What? You couldn't drag everyone one province over to see ME?! It would have been only another 1/2 day of driving! LOL!!!!)


GB's Mom said...

Sounds like a great vacation. Glad all the kids had a good time.

Jfur said...

I love how you re-tell stories! I can empathize with you on nearly every part of your trip. I too would have felt the same things for my boys. And I even laughed and giggled at some of the things that only another mom of a sensory child can understand. Thank you for the smile today! :-) And I'm glad you had a good trip, and the wine was good! :-)

Jess said...

Sounds like such a fun trip! Your husband reminds me of mine. He's always looking at me out of the corner of his eye and saying, "you're going to blog about this, aren't you?"--particularly when he has made a bone-head move :)

Keri said...

I just stopped by to tell you I received the book today. I tore open the package and read it right there by the mailbox! I especially like how each sense ends with "Gabriel learns best when..." and describes helpful modifications. Definitely will be getting copies for my son's teachers and our family members.

Went to lunch with a friend today, brought your book, of course, and made my pal read it while we waited for our food. Afterwards I said, "Well, now do you get it?" and he said, "Yes, it explains SPD very well...but it kind of made me want to learn more about it." I nearly knocked over my glass, "Hooray!!"

P.S. Gabriel's autograph makes it all the more special. Thanks.

Nancy Peske said...

Sounds like quite the adventure for all of you and I'm impressed your boys all handled the boat well--that can be one intense sensory experience. This is a great lesson in the value of a sense of humor!


Sheila said...

hilarious! Thanks for sharing such a great story.

Hartley said...

I am so glad you all found it funny -- and the thing that amazes me, is that all of those things (and MANY MORE) actually happen in my real life. LOL

I learned a long time ago that if you can't beat 'em, and you don't want to join 'em, you can always laugh at 'em. :)


Caitlin Wray said...

LOLOLOL Hartley! That is SO the type of vacation we have too! I adore Victoria although I have always gone sans kids. We are contemplating a road trip out to Vancouver to visit friends this summer.

I chuckled at Gabe's rationale for being fearless around a man with an axe. That is soooo AS. Soooo Simon :)

Keri - I am so glad you got and love the book. Simon really enjoys reading it because he can relate directly to so many of the things Gabe likes/doesn't like in it. It really helps our kids to feel like they have peers who relate.