"Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature." ~St. Augustine

Saturday, January 26, 2013

ABM Trip #3

October 8-12, 2012

The second biggest stress about ABM therapy (after the expense) is taking the time to go to California.  Even in the summer, when we are not in school, it is difficult because we have 2 other boys and it is not easy to juggle all of that.  But then when September rolls around, I know that I am working pretty solidly through until next June.  When you are a teacher (or counselor in my case) in a school, you can't just take "vacation" during the school year.  Even when you have a good reason and are taking it for medical reasons, which we are, it is not looked upon highly.

Couple that with the fact that I have a new principal and I was very nervous to ask for an entire week off - especially only 5 weeks into the school year.  But I bit the bullet and did.  Now, granted, I don't think they can refuse a family medical leave request, but even so, they were great about it.

So I decided to take off the 2nd week of October even though October 10th is my husband's birthday and the 13th is Parker and Brady's birthday.  I took this week because we had Friday off of work so I only needed to use 4 days of my sick leave.

I took Parker on this trip alone.  I was incredibly nervous because I was flying with him (and ALL of this stuff) alone.  Did I mention that I was alone?  Driving would have actually been easier I think, but I only had to pay $10 for our airfare because of using our airline miles, so I couldn't resist.   We were also planning on staying with my amazing friend Jennifer who happens to have a house in Corte Madera.  So we were able to at least cut costs on the travel fees this time.

The airline gave Jimmy a gate pass, so he was able to walk us through security and make sure we got on the plane safe and sound.  It would have been impossible for me to do it alone.  Not only do I have Parker in a stroller, but I have a car seat (he needs this to be able to sit  in the seat on the plane so I can't check it), his cooler with meds and food, his space saver high chair (has to have this to eat in), 35 cans of his formula, diaper bag, and my purse,   (you see why I was nervous about going alone?)  And because I am bringing liquids - they have to thoroughly search all of my luggage and frisk me.  Now keep in mind that I spent about an hour packing everything in tightly into the backpack so everything would be just right.  They proceeded to destroy my system and leave it a big mess when they were done.  That is ok.  Luckily because Jimmy took Parker through, he didn't have to be searched.  And I get that we need security, so go ahead people, search away.

We had a good flight.  Parker is not too bad of a traveler if you keep him entertained, same as any other 3-year-old.   We landed in San Fransisco and I had requested airport services there to help me with all of my stuff.  And let me tell you, it was amazing!  I would highly recommend this to any parents who are flying alone with their children with special needs.  They were there waiting for me with a wheelchair when we got off the plane.  Parker can't sit in one of those wheelchairs, his stroller is his - so they loaded all of our stuff - car seat, high chair, cooler, backpack, etc. onto the wheelchair and away we went.  All I had to do was push Parker.  We took some very fast route to the baggage claim and he wouldn't even let me get my own luggage.  He grabbed it and rolled it behind the wheelchair.  Then he took me directly to the Airporter which I was going to take into Corte Madera.  So easy!
Tips for parents:  If you are going to request this, be sure you say you need wheelchair services.  Apparently you can request airport service, but unless it is a wheelchair, there is not guarantee that you will get it.  I explained to them that I didn't need the actual wheelchair but they said that was ok.  Another suggestion:  at least at the San Fransisco airport - the people who do this are independent and don't work for the airlines.  So be sure and give them a tip!  It is worth it!   I guess at some airports they are paid by the airline and not allowed to accept tips - but at least you can try.

Parker felt right at home immediately!
My dear high school  friend Jennifer, who was so graciously allowing me to stay with her family for the week, was actually in Paris when I first got there.  So her sweet husband, Patrick, came to pick me up from the Airporter shuttle.   Her mom was there to help with the kids and I loved seeing her.  I felt like I was back in high school again with my best friend's mom taking care of me.  The cool thing is that I am not in high school anymore and we could talk about real life grown-up things.  It was wonderful spending time with her. 

On this trip, Parker was able to see Sylvia, Neil and Anat!  It was great as usual.  I just love the entire staff and their center.  You walk in the door and you are so warmly greeted by everyone who comes through the lobby.  Parker particularly likes Jill.  I think he has a crush on her.  Everyone cares so much about each and every child - it is an amazing feeling.

Neil worked on some great things and of course included his singing which is Parker's favorite thing ever!  He was singing "Old McDonald" and working on Parker's mouth and pretty soon, Parker was singing along with him.  It was so incredible.  I about started crying.

Sweet Sylvia, who was just getting over being sick, was so wonderful with him too.   Even though she could barely talk, she was making Parker laugh.  She worked with him on the table for some sessions and on the floor for others - always doing something different.

Our two lessons with Anat were wonderful too.  Of course Parker wanted music so I played my "toddler tunes" on Pandora during the sessions and she made him work hard.  At one point, he was doing a little bunny hop while standing on both feet.  She talks to him so matter-of-fact.  I just love it!

It was a week filled with good lessons and hanging out with great people.  I loved getting to spend time with Jennifer, her mom, and her sweet kids and husband.  They were the most amazing hosts!  They let me use their car all week long, which saved me on a rental car.  Which also meant that the rest of the family had to ride bikes everywhere they went - which apparently they do a lot of anyway in their sweet little town that I have grown to love.

The Browne House
Parker and Loughlin

Her kids, Louglin and Brian, also gave up their bedrooms so that Parker could have one of his own and I could also have one.  They also were so great with Parker and worked hard to keep him entertained and feeling comfortable.  They did everything from playing records (yes records) for him, to singing to him, to having a full on concert where he was on the tambourine.  I love her children!  What special little souls they are.  

Parker with his instruments

 We had good coffee in the morning and amazing home-cooked meals for dinner.  Not only that, but it was all in a beautiful setting.   We are blessed to have the Browne family in our lives. 

Parker getting love from Jen and Loughlin

The trip home was not quite as smooth as the trip there.  I was actually in tears before we even got to the airport.  Jen had dropped me off at the shuttle and we asked the driver if he would be able to help me (because not only do I have all of that carry-on stuff I already mentioned, but I also have a HUGE suitcase that I need to check).  We even just said if he could radio to the airport or drop us off as close to a curbside check-in as possible that would be great.  He was very gruff and said something like "I am in charge of a 50 foot bus, I am not going to be able to help you."  Jennifer looked at me (with tears welling in my eyes) and said "I will take you to the airport."  I of course said no.  It is a little crazy for someone to go from Marin County to the San Fran airport and then back out again in Friday night traffic.  It probably would  have taken her 3 hours round trip.  So I sat there crying for a minute - gathered myself and got Parker on the bus.  I didn't even notice Jen talking to the driver, and I still don't know what exactly she said - but it must have been good.  Because then he got on the bus, came to me and said, "don't worry, I will make sure you get there."  And that is what he did.  Not  only did he drop us off right in front of the curbside check-in, but he actually brought all of my stuff to the lady there and told her than I needed airport assistance.  He said "God bless" and then left.   Now I would like to thank him for that, and I did - but I really thank Jennifer who was my advocate and who set him straight!

This part got a little comical.  I waited and waited for my airport assistance wheelchair person.  Finally they get there and I get the newby.  That's right, this guy has no idea what he is doing.  NO IDEA!  He also couldn't speak very good English, which I am sure made it  more difficult for him, bless his heart.  At first I felt sorry for him.  He was kind of getting harrassed by the guys in the security line.  They actually said to him, "have you done this before?"  (this is how I know he was new) and he said "this is my first time."  So I have the security line virgin. He didn't lift a thing for me.  In fact, as I was holding Parker and they were searching his stroller, I was helped by many people in line who grabbed my stuff off the conveyor belt and put it on the wheelchair.  All the while, my "helper" was just standing there.  There was a sweet mama who also had a little one of her own and she offered to walk us to our gate.  I smiled and thanked her, but declined her offer since, after all, I had assistance.

Then we ended up going to the farthest point in that terminal - got in an elevator - were down on the tarmac - loaded up in a shuttle bus and taken to the other terminal.  (apparently this airline flies out of both terminals)  So we finally make it to our gate.  Whew!  But then I look at our airplane and we have a little puddle-jumper.  That's right.  We have a tiny plane and it is the kind where you walk out on the tarmac and have to climb the stairs of the airplane.  No biggie, right?  I have done that before.  But not while carrying a child, carseat, backpack, and cooler.  Seriously, I hadn't thought about this before, but how does someone who is in a wheelchair get onto one of these planes?  No handicap access?  Well, regardless, I again am surrounded by amazing people who offered to carry my many items up the stairs while I carry Parker.  We got settled in.  The flight was great and the rest of the trip was uneventful.  We were so glad to see Jimmy when he came to pick us up!  And Parker was glad to be home.

I had to hit the ground running though, because we had family coming in the next day for the boys' 3rd birthday and their party was on Sunday. 

The view from Jennifer's kitchen - amazing!

Parker, exhausted from ABM, is ready for dinner.