Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fear - Comfort - Gratitude - Faith

Last week we reserved a week at a condo in Gulf Shores, AL.  Our annual trip that began eight years ago was interrupted last year due to the oil spill.  When I started thinking about the fact that our first trip to Gulf Shores was eight years ago, my mind went back to the anxiety and fear we had about taking a family vacation that included a drive of 8 or more hours with two kids ages 4 and 6.  Most of the fear was related to Zachary and how he would handle each part of the trip.  So trouble shooting and acquisition of provisions included:

1. A picture storybook as a tool to start talking to Zachary about the trip - complete with a pictures of the house we would be staying in; waves; the beach; and all of the people who would be going with us; and a calendar with the days marked with a countdown and the seven days we would be gone marked with a picture of the beachouse.  The result of this was Zachary learning a new phrase that fueled my anxiety even more. Actually it was an adaptation of his "Bye Bye Doctor" - He repeated "Bye Bye Beach" over and over for the weeks before and the 8+ hour drive to Gulf Shores.

2. Perscription anti-nausea medicine for the carsickness that was guaranteed to hit him since he looks out of the car window and follows the things we pass with his eyes. The result of this was learning that Zachary does not get car sick but Jacob does.

3. A nonfiction book that I read before the trip was recommended by someone at Waldenbooks.  It was amazing how much the family was like ours.  Two boys, one that has autism, planning a trip to the beach...etc. As I read the result of their trip to the beach, I started to pray that this is where our families differed.  Their child did not like the sound of running water from a faucet, water going down a drain, or the toilet flushing.  They never imagined that the sound of the waves would cause the same reaction. Their trip to the beach was cut short because he just couldn't adjust.

4. A car full of everything and anything we could think of that would make him comfortable in a new place (that he may not like) for an entire week.  This included video tapes (we had already made sure there would be a VCR and TV in multiple places), the entire Thomas the Tank Engine set, books, cassette tape and headphones, his favorite snack items including popcorn, etc.

As Victor and I were discussing the details of the 2011 Gulf Shores trip, Zachary was walking around and definitely listening to every word we said.  He kept repeating "Beach in June. Mommy, beach in June."   After about 15 minutes of this, he sat down next to me placing an old plastic 4x6 photo album in my lap and started to turn the pages.  It contained some of my favorite pictures of our 2003 beach trip. 

With the first look at the Gulf and the beach that separated us from it, "bye bye beach" was replaced with "hi beach! hi beach" and for each of the next eight years we have heard "Going to the Beach in June" beginning in February. 

So curious but cautious...As soon as I saw him pick up the sand and let it run between his fingers and then saw his little toes approach the cool waters of the Gulf, I knew God had answered my prayers of peace and calm.  Watching him as he interacted with his surroundings, I had a feeling that Zachary was forming a lifelong friendship with someone who he felt an instant connection with, who understand him just as he was, and with no expectations of who he should have been.

In the above list of items, I included the popcorn (a hit for sure) but I didn't mention the two most special! His cousins, Ashley and Austin, were so excited we all got to go together and Zachary loved that he could see them everyday.  Austin took protected him and Ashley entertained him with Martina McBride songs. Michelle and Joe along with Maw and Papa Tonjes were also there with us to help with each activity.  It was a blessing to be together.

Out of all of the things we thought of as possible triggers (actually, I didn't just think about them...I had them in a list/chart format) and what we had determined to be a possible solution to minimize his fears and anxieties, the biggest issue was related to the night.  Zachary's sleep routine was still a huge problem at home as we  struggled to get him to fall and stay asleep.  Exhausted does not even begin to describe how we were feeling in 2003.  Even Jacob was being kept awake at night because Zachary would cry for hours until we gave in and let him watch TV.  So if this was a problem at home, it was sure to be worse in a different state, city, house, bedroom, and bed.  But...

...we brought along a new blanket (we called it his Beach Blanket) made by a sweet teacher and his favorite extra long pillow with the perfectly soft pillow case. Those items combined with a long day of playing with his new best friend (the Gulf) added up to a very sleepy boy.

If only I would have been able to reach inside my soul and recall scriptures of comfort that can only be found by knowing God's words, I am sure I would have trusted Him more and stressed less.  So I say a prayer of thanks to you Lord for giving me words of truth and hope, trusting me with raising three precious children who belong to you, and surrounding me with people who have taught me about what FAITH really means.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

1 comment:

Luke's Folks said...

How eloquent you write, and how fothcoming you are. Thank you for pouring your heart and soul out there. You should write a book. Seriously. This is such an amazing story. I can't believe you have lived this. I can just hear the cool, calming waves soothing Zachary and your family. So glad you get to go back this year.