The Autism Parent’s Journey

Announcing:

I am pleased and excited to announce the launch of a very special ebook, about a subject that is close to my heart: The Autism Parent’s Journey.

APJcover

About the Book

It’s not a lengthy book, nor a how-to manual. It’s simply a brief, in-the-trenches, 15-year-post-diagnosis outlook on this journey that we find ourselves on. My intent in writing it is the same intent with which I began blogging in 2008 – to connect with other parents who walk this path with me. Our journeys may differ in some areas, but our hearts are in the same place.

I hope this little PDF book (which can easily be read in one sitting) will encourage you on your own journey with your child and give you some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. You will get through this, no matter what stage of the journey you find yourself.

How to Get a Free Copy

The Autism Parent’s Journey is available as a free PDF when you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Life in the Different Lane. Simply enter your email address below, and a link to the PDF will be emailed to you as soon as you finish the quick confirmation process.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and receive 2 free PDFs:

* indicates required


Not only will you receive this inspiring ebook and monthly newsletter, you will also have the option to download a 2nd free PDF of the first chapter of my novel, Slip.  The newsletter features posts about disorders such as autism, epilepsy, and bipolar, how they affect family life, and how we evolve with them. You can read more about it here. I will always respect your privacy, and you can opt out at any time and keep the free PDFs. Your information will never be sold or shared.

Thank you so much for your interest in my writing, and I hope you enjoy it.

Not Alone

Most of the time, we like to be right. We like that feeling of validation when something goes the way we thought it would. But there are, of course, times when our intuition kicks in, we get a hunch, and it’s not a good one. We hope like hell that we’re wrong.

I wrote recently that I’d been noticing what appeared to be postictal signs from Nigel, that I thought he might have some seizure activity going on even though I hadn’t witnessed it. Unfortunately I was right. He had a seizure on New Year’s Eve while visiting his father. What timing, right? Way for 2010 to get in one last jab on its way out.  Anyway, Nigel’s okay; apparently it was milder than the first one. But still – I so wish I had been wrong. A new year began just a few minutes after I received the call from my ex-husband, and I paced the hallways of my home, crying and swearing at autism for providing yet another issue to continue worrying about. Sobbing about how it never ends. Wishing, again, that I had been wrong.

But the next day, somehow, I felt better. It was a beautiful, clear New Year’s Day (a clean slate!), and I felt determined not to let the event of the previous night get me down. That evening I picked up my boys from the airport (they flew alone again!) and we drove home. It was so good to have them with me, to hug them (even though one can’t really hug back), and to feel the peace that their presence brings me.

I also felt better because I know that I’m not alone in my experiences. I have been blogging for almost three years now, and it has been my lifeline. I cannot put into words how much I have benefited from all the encouragement and advice I have received from readers and fellow bloggers out there. That’s right, from you. You reading this right now, my friends. You have offered much-needed recommendations when I was searching and deciding about medication. You have celebrated Nigel’s accomplishments with me and lauded his progress. And you have empathized; you have supported me when I worried. There are so many more posts I could link to. Through your beautiful comments and your generous emails you have buoyed me up and helped me along this leg of the journey. My gratitude is boundless.

And so, I’m very sorry to say that I’m at a point where I need to stop blogging. This post is my swan song for TeenAutism.com. Basically, as much as I’ve loved blogging, my energy – what little there is – is needed elsewhere in my life. Aidan will soon be doing something that will change his life, and Nigel’s, and mine. But he is fourteen, and that is his story to tell, should he choose to. He deserves so much more of my energy than I have been able to give him over the years, so I want to focus on him now as much as I can. Nigel, of course, will continue to consume a lot of my energy, and whatever’s leftover I hope to channel into some more fiction writing.

I wish I had more time and energy so that I could continue to blog – to do this thing I have enjoyed immensely. I feel like I’m leaving so much unfinished! For example, I’d wanted to post a book review of Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. I’m not even half way through it, but I can already tell that it’s a fantastic resource, and I highly recommend it. Another thing I wanted to do was get back to the “What It’s Like” series that I started a while ago. I wanted to hit up my wonderful extended family members for interviews about what it’s like to have a nephew and grandchild with autism. I wanted to talk more with Aidan about what it’s like to have a brother with autism, and write about it. I wanted to do posts called “What It’s Like to Have a Child with Autism” and even “What It’s Like to Have Autism,” from Nigel’s viewpoint. Then I thought about it, and I realized that it’s all here, contained in the existing posts of this website. The social challenges, the sensory issues, the bullying, the obsessive thoughts, the medication and therapy, and much more.

It’s all here.

But there are so many unanswered questions about Nigel as he closes in on adulthood – will he drive, will he continue to have seizures, will he be able to have a job, live independently? How will he be as an adult? Some of that I might mention on Facebook periodically, if you’d like to find me there. I’ll also keep this site up with a home page that I’ll update from time to time with information about how Nigel’s doing. This website has become the resource that I was looking for over three years ago as Nigel entered his teens and I searched desperately for information. Not finding much, I decided to create TeenAutism.com. I figure there will be many more parents Googling “autism in the teen years,” and I’d be honored if they might consider any of my 436 posts to be a resource for them. I’m also touched by the fact that many parents find this site by searching the phrase “so proud of my son blog.” Because I am – of both of them.

My friends, I want to thank you once again for being there, for being part of our lives, for joining us on the journey. I appreciate you more than I can say. I leave you now with one last Nigelism:

The Scene: Interior of suburban family home. A mother enters the bedroom of her teenage son who has autism. She is coming to say goodnight to him, and he is in his bed, expecting her. As is their nightly ritual, she shuts off the bedroom light and comes over to the side of his bed to kiss his forehead and tell him she loves him. As she leans over and kisses him, he holds out his arm and reaches over to turn on the small light on the headboard of his bed.

Teen son (softly): I can’t see you. Let’s do it again so I can feel like I’m not alone.

Mother (with lump in throat): Oh, honey. You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone.

Commencement

When I started this blog almost three years ago, I had this vision of the post I would write when Nigel graduated from high school. Obviously, I would write about how incredibly proud I was of him, how much he had taught me through the years, how consuming my love was for him, and how hopeful I was for his future. And I would post a short video of him receiving his diploma. I imagined that one of my relatives would be filming so that I could watch my son, who had always tried so hard, harder than anyone I know, and struggled so fiercely. I envisioned that the person filming would film me for a few seconds standing there, crying as I watched him, and when I noticed that they were filming me I would hide my face and wave them away, saying, “Film him, not me!” And the person would zoom in and film Nigel, focusing on his beautiful, serious face, self-aware of his accomplishments and determined about his future.

*

All his life Nigel has told me, whether through behavior or words and often both, what he needed. And I have learned to listen (and be attentive). He would tell me, by screaming and bolting, that a sound or an environment was too loud, too overwhelming, and he had to get out of there. He would tell me by rubbing his lips until all the skin around his mouth was red and cracked that his anxiety level was too high. And later, when he had the words to do so, he would beg me to homeschool him because mainstreaming was too torturous with the bullying he endured. After a year and a half of homeschooling, he would tell me that he wanted to try some medication that would help him to regulate his behavior so that he could go back to regular school, because he never stopped trying. A year later, he would tell me that he felt he had learned to regulate his behavior himself and that he no longer needed the medication. And he was right.

Two weeks ago, after a discussion about the dismal state of his grades and the fact that he is not aware of any executive function skills class that he is supposed to be in, he told me that he thinks he needs to get a modified diploma. His anxiety level has been so high that he has been pulling out his hair incessantly for weeks. He feels completely overwhelmed. And he is becoming aware of his emotional delay. Just a few weeks ago, at the grocery store, out of the blue he said, “I think the reason that I still like stuffed animals and Lego is because in my heart I’m like someone younger than myself.” I tried not to cry at his brave, self-aware statement and told him that I think he’s right, that his teachers and therapists have documented it over the years. I gently explained to him that at first they assessed him to have a six-year emotional delay, but somewhere along the way he gained a year, and so at age sixteen, he is like an eleven-year-old. “Yeah,” he said. I could see the wheels turning as he processed this.

Here’s Nigel at age eleven. How could I possibly expect this little boy to function as a high school sophomore? How could I think that the workload wouldn’t overwhelm him? That even though he was intelligent enough to understand it, he couldn’t handle the amount of it? Along with all of the social challenges and sensory issues he still battles on a constant basis? How could I think that the extensive support and assistance he receives both in and out of school would be enough? It’s not just about his lack of executive functioning. It’s about emotional maturity. How could I expect him to receive a regular diploma? That he would somehow figure it all out and navigate everything when he’s emotionally an eleven-year-old? How?

I’ll tell you how: Dreams. My son taught himself to read at age 3 ½, before he could even talk, and so I dared to dream. But don’t worry – I’m not throwing my dreams out the proverbial window just because he’ll be getting a modified diploma, because I now accept that that’s what he needs. I’ll still have dreams for my son, but those dreams are now realistically calibrated. What’s the problem with getting a modified diploma? It limits post-secondary educational opportunities, but with time and support perhaps in a few years we will be looking up online college degrees. And while I know that extended high school is a possibility for some students in similar situations, it’s not a good option for Nigel. He’s comfortable at his high school, but he doesn’t want to be there any longer than necessary. He knows that option won’t work for him, and I agree.

No sooner had I indicated my support for his need to get on the modified diploma plan than he stopped pulling out his hair. I told him that it wouldn’t go into effect until everything had been written into his IEP at the upcoming meeting, and he understood. His relief, and his appreciation, was palpable. I had given him the autonomy to make a decision about his life and the respect and esteem that goes along with doing so. He knows himself. He knows what he needs. He always has.

*

For every bit of Nigel’s progress over the years, I am truly grateful, and I am so proud of my son. But in all honesty it was painful for me to write this post. To know that after everything we’ve been through and all he’s accomplished, this is the best we can do. Mostly, it was painful for me to let go of a dream. Oh, I can say that I’ve “calibrated” my dream, but in reality, I had to let it go. And that’s okay. Because I’ve learned that my dreams for him are not necessarily his dreams for himself. And the fact is, when I look ahead to his graduation two and a half years from now, the particulars of his diploma will be different, but nothing else will. Someone will still be videoing it, I’ll still be crying, and I’ll still feel all the things that I would have felt had he received a regular diploma. I’m certain of that. And I’m certain that Nigel’s beautiful, serious face will still reflect the awareness of his accomplishments, and his determination for the future.

A Great Idea

I recently received an email from a reader named Patti who had such a fantastic idea that I had to share it here (and add it to the Social Groups page):

“I was reading the posts in your website and clearly most of our kids have little socialization opportunities. I was wondering if parents (local or in other parts of the country) would be interested in helping their kids use Skype so they can actually see and get to know each other over the internet and hopefully eventually meet. Why wait for local kids in our area to have our kids start making friends when there are so many kids across the country waiting to have pals.”

It’s definitely one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? ideas! If you’re interested, please contact Patti at phoenix.newyork@hotmail.com, and thanks for helping our kids connect!

The Re Week

*

This particular week is my favorite time of year – the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I call it The ‘Re’ Week because I spend a lot of time doing things that start with ‘re’: review, reflect, and re-evaluate. (Those of us in the retail industry also know this week as the week of returns, but that’s not what this post is about.)

If you’re a friend or family member, or if you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know that I’m a very introverted person. I value time with the people in my life, of course, but I also value time alone, and as an introvert, I need it to recharge. Three times a week I take a fitness walk on a bike and pedestrian path that runs close to our little town, and true to my nature, I usually go alone. It’s my processing time – 45 minutes of pounding the pavement, pondering questions or issues about my life, all the while getting fresh air and a light endorphin rush. I need this time.

Often while I’m walking, cyclists or other pedestrians will pass by me on this well-loved rural path, and I smile and say hello. But one day about a month ago, I had gotten to my half-way turnaround point and realized that I hadn’t seen anyone else out there. It seemed eerie to be the only one on that stretch of the path, even though I enjoyed the solitude. I turned around to head back, and about twenty minutes later I neared my starting point, still having seen no one. But then, about five yards from the end of my walk, I saw her. It was a large female wild turkey, walking on the dirt beside the asphalt path, headed in my direction. She was about three feet tall (or long) and stunningly beautiful. I literally gasped. I’ve heard over the years that the turkey was close to being chosen as our national bird, and that we should be “glad” that the more majestic eagle won out. But let me tell you, as I slowed down in the presence of that amazing creature, all I could think was that the turkey is every bit as impressive as the eagle. I hear people call someone a “turkey” as a deprecating word, something a little gentler than “fool” or “jerk.” And now, having seen one and looked into her eyes, I’ll never think of the word that way again.

I slowed down, in awe, and watched her as she watched me. She kept slowly walking toward me, showing no fear. At first I thought perhaps she was injured, but she seemed to be walking fine, just slowly and purposefully. I swear she looked right into my eyes for a moment as we passed by each other. Then I turned my head and watched as she walked off into the brush.

Intrigued by this encounter, when I got home I tried to find out the symbolism of turkeys, especially hens. I just couldn’t get past the fact that there was no one else on the path that afternoon, and I truly believed that the turkey was some sort of sign for me. I found this great website and discovered that although the turkey (not surprisingly) is a symbol of abundance, it also symbolizes awareness, generosity, and sacrifice. The turkey is a sign of cycles, preparation, and new beginnings. To quote the site: “When a turkey visits us it is a sign that we must be mindful of our blessings [and] a message to express our strength and brilliance…and reveal our true selves.”

And it’s the perfect message for my annual “re” time. I’ll be thinking of the turkey this week as I reflect and review, looking forward to a New Year of greater awareness and a few other things on that list (perhaps even abundance).

Happy New Year, my friends! May it be filled with many blessings and special memories.

*photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Last-minute gift idea

I just received the following message from the Elija School for Autism and thought I’d pass it along in case anyone is looking for a last-minute, autism-related, philanthopic gift idea. If so, please support them!

“The ELIJA School for Autism is an incredible institution that focuses on treating some of the gravest cases of Autism in children.  Due to the recent state budget cuts, the ELIJA School is searching for new ways to receive financial support for their programs and this holiday season they have created a unique holiday card that makes for an influential and uplifting gift.  With the Seeds of Hope Holiday Gift Card, supporters can make a donation to the ELIJA School in the names of their friends or colleagues, who will then receive a beautiful card ornamented by the ELIJA tree made out of removable seed paper.  This is a great last-minute gift that will truly make a difference as people join together to plant the seeds of hope. [It] benefits not only the ELIJA School itself, but also the inspirational gift-giving that it is promoting this season. 

Seeds of Hope Holiday Gift Card Link: 

https://elijaorg.ipower.com/contribute/donate-now/holiday-gift.php?

Thank you for your time and may you have a wonderful holiday season!”

Hope on a River

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”  – Anne Lamott

*

Sometimes I think that as much as I have defined my hopes over the years, it is they that have defined me. Hope is the thing that gets us from one day to the next. And those days turn into weeks and months and years, until finally we look back, exhausted but still hopeful, and see where those hopes have taken us.

My hopes have certainly changed over the years, evolving and developing as my son has. I remember hoping when he was six years old and learning to talk that someday we could have a conversation. I remember hoping that someday he would stop screaming and bolting away from me in parking lots or other public areas when a noise startled him. And I remember hoping, as he started talking more and bolting less, that someday I could take him on an international trip with me. That he would be safe, and that he might even enjoy it. Because I love to travel – my whole family does – and someday I wanted to share that with him. It’s a frivolous hope, I know – unimportant, and certainly nowhere near a matter of life or death. And in the grand scheme of things, in all of the hopes that I’ve had and still have for my son, I can assure you that international travel was low on the totem pole. But still, it was there.

Last month, after a year of planning, both of my sons (one with autism, one without) accompanied me to Thailand, where we met up with my father on his annual Thanksgiving in Thailand trip. We had purchased our plane tickets back in February, timing our departure with the school district’s break for the US holiday. What we didn’t know was that our arrival date coincided with the festival of Loi Krathong (pronounced loy krah-tong), a Thai holiday that takes place on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November. And this year, it just happened to be on the day that we arrived.

It was night when we flew into Bangkok and checked into our hotel. We slept well and had continental breakfast before heading out for a stroll that morning. Everywhere we walked, people sat outside making and selling krathongs – handle-less baskets traditionally crafted from intricately folded banana leaves and loaded with flowers, incense sticks, candles, and other offerings. They are beautiful in and of themselves, but it’s what they symbolize that really hit home with me. The krathongs are released into waterways across Thailand as offerings of hope – an opportunity to wash away the past year’s misfortunes and let go of resentment or fear, so that one can start fresh, with hope for good fortune in the future. A festival about hope! How wonderful is that?

That night, after a lovely outdoor international banquet at our riverfront hotel, we watched as the locals picked up their krathongs and walked down to the dock when it was dark. There they stood, holding their krathongs in front of them, eyes closed and heads bowed for a moment as they meditated. Then they placed their krathongs in the river and watched them float away. Parents held their children by the hand as they walked to the dock, bent down, and, it appeared, instructed them about what to think of before they released their krathongs into the river. I watched in wonder; I was so moved by this beautiful tradition.

Then it was our turn. The hotel had provided pretty krathongs for its guests, and we each picked one out, lit our candles, and slowly walked to the dock. I thought about all the things I needed to let go of in my life – fear, resentment, stress, sadness. I thought about all the hopes and dreams I have for my children and myself and the fact that at that moment, where we stood there on the dock of a river in Thailand, one of my hopes had come to fruition. We were there; we had made it. I released my krathong, and then I looked out across the river and saw dozens of tiny candle flames floating down it, bobbing along in the water. And I watched as my family’s krathongs floated away together and bobbed along with the rest of them.

The remainder of our trip was just as magical. We had our challenges, of course, as my son (now 16) still has a tendency to wander and has a very limited palate. But overall we were blessed with safe travels and wonderful memories. And hope that continues to evolve.

The Fun and the Not Fun

It’s that weird time of year – too busy to make sure my head is on straight, but enjoying fun family traditions at the same time. For about four years when the boys were younger we used to go up into the mountains surrounding our valley and cut down our own Christmas tree. I LOVED doing that, like Little House on the Prairie. We would obtain a tree-cutting permit, pack a picnic lunch, and drive up into the mountains, hike around in the snow, pick out our tree, saw it down and tie it to the roof of the car. Then we’d drive back home, bring it inside, and decorate it while listening to Christmas music. About eight years ago, on our way back down from the mountains, we slid on some hard-packed snow and nearly collided with another car as we headed toward the edge of the road. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if our car hadn’t stopped – inches from the other car, and inches from the edge of a scary ravine. That did it for me. No more getting the Christmas tree in the mountains.

So the next year, oddly enough, I started seeing signs for a local U-Cut Christmas Tree Farm, and it turned out to be in a lovely rural area just seven minutes from our house! I was so excited – all the fun of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree without the danger of driving off the edge of a snow-packed mountain road! (I was also excited that I didn’t have to plan and make a picnic lunch, but that’s not really worth mentioning.)

Thus began our current tradition of going to the charming U-Cut farm mere minutes from our home, in the foothills of southern Oregon. We sleep in on Saturday morning, have brunch, and then off we go to pick out our tree. Last year Nigel did the cutting, so this year Aidan wants to. He picks out a gorgeous specimen, and Nigel gets the sawing started for him, about an inch into the trunk. I pull out my camera and Nigel retorts, “There’s no need to document the strain of sawing the tree,” (!) at which point I suggest that Aidan take over.

After ten minutes of valiant effort, Aidan successfully cuts down the tree and poses for one of my favorite shots of him, ever:

We get home and Nigel elects to put his tired, grouchy self in bed for a nap (more on that in a minute). Aidan helps me get the tree in the stand, and we notice that it is the largest we’ve ever had – the tallest and the fullest. We cut a little off the bottom and the top, get it upright, sweep the surrounding area (at which point we discover that Aidan had stepped in dog crap at the U-Cut Farm), and clean everything up. Finally, we put on the Christmas music, and I string the lights while Aidan plays with the ornaments.

Since the boys were toddlers we’ve had the same star on top of our Christmas tree – an impressive 16-point tin star with holes punched in it for the light to shine through. I think it had been made in Mexico, and it was so pretty. But last year it just fell apart and could no longer be used. So this year I had to get something really special to replace it. Something I knew that the boys would love. See there? That green glow at the top of the tree?

Yeah, that’s right. I got the Yoda Tree Topper.

We save some ornaments for Nigel to hang, and I get him out of bed after two hours, not wanting him to nap too long. Here’s the thing: I think something’s going on with him lately, like, possible seizure activity. At first I thought it was jetlag, but we’ve been back for two weeks, and there have been other signs, some that appear to be postictal. Ironically, the week before I noticed anything, we had already gone to the neurologist’s office at the request of Nigel’s regular doctor as a follow-up to his major seizure in June. And so when the neurologist suggested doing both an MRI and an EEG, at first I thought Fine, we’ll just do it, even though I didn’t think it was necessary. But now I do. Something’s going on, and it’s not just residual jetlag. And it just so happens that his tests are scheduled for next week.

The staying up with him next Thursday night for the EEG? Not fun. The worrying about what’s going on in his brain? So not fun. But I do feel fortunate that the appointments had already been made before I started noticing stuff – an example of things coming together just when they need to. I’m anxious, but hopeful, as always. It’ll be good to get the tests out of the way so that we can enjoy the holidays – and all the rest of our traditions, old and new.

***UPDATE: 12/17*** Both tests are now out of the way, and Nigel did really well with them! We just got back from the EEG a little while ago, and he is now napping :) Of course, we have to wait a few weeks for the results, but at least we can catch up on sleep this weekend! Thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes.

Our Thanksgiving in Thailand

And…we’re back!

It was the kind of trip that made a day feel like a week because it was so full, everything in it so new. It was the kind of trip that left even the kids with no desire to watch TV in the hotel room at the end of the day. We tried to read and all three of us dozed off within ten minutes.  At 8:00 PM. Of course, that was probably the jetlag, but still. A full trip, indeed.

The boys did great on the planes, all 21 hours’ worth (just to get there). The three of us met my dad in Bangkok. He had been staying in the northern part of Thailand for a week and flew down the day before we arrived. Nigel’s only issue on the plane was not wanting to sit next to any “strangers,” and when it was his turn to do so, he started to have an anxiety attack. This was somewhat unexpected – he is usually so social (yeah, I know – autism and social sounds like an odd co-description, but it happens) that I didn’t think it would be a problem for him, or else I would have prepared him better.  I just didn’t think of it at all. Seeing the writing on the wall as Nigel started to escalate there on the plane, I quickly switched seats with him, much to Aidan’s chagrin. “Don’t give in to him, Mom;” I’ve heard it before.  I tried to explain to Aidan that it was not a good time for a teachable moment.  I always feel that I lose respect in his eyes when I have to do things like that. It comes with the territory, unfortunately.

Lots of things come with the territory when you travel with someone who has special needs, of course. The two that affected us the most were food preferences and wandering. I took a risk embarking on an international trip with a child who wanders, but it was a calculated risk. Nigel has a history of wandering in public places, even fairly recently. I would never have attempted a trip like this in his younger years, or even two years ago. But I felt confident that at this point the risk was manageable. And he did wander once – at the Ayutthaya ruins, the highlight of the trip for him – but I quickly noticed and found him within five minutes. Of course, I was beating myself up the entire five minutes (which felt like twenty), but it was really just my PTSD kicking in. My rational mind knows that he can pretty much hold his own these days.

Enough of the negative stuff! We had clear skies the whole week, and all of our tours went off without a hitch. My dad treated me to no less than three (!) Thai massages, including one on the beach! Aidan’s stomach bothered him a little one night, but other than that, no one got sick. And other than a few mosquito bites, no one was injured. A successful trip on all counts! And without further ado, I give you…the pictures:

Aidan on the plane, right before I switched seats with Nigel.

Nigel on the balcony of our tenth-floor hotel room.

On a khlong boat on the Chao Phraya river, which flows through the middle of Bangkok and most of Thailand.

Along the river sits Buddhist temple Wat Arun, which means “Temple of the Dawn,” with its Khmer-style tower, approximately 80 feet high.

With Dad at the base of Wat Arun, photography by Aidan.

Guardians at Wat Arun

Climbing Wat Arun’s scary-steep stairs!

Aidan (in red shirt) at the bottom stair landing of Wat Arun.

 

Along one of the canals of the Chao Phraya river. Bangkok is nicknamed “Venice of the East.”

The famed Floating Market, where Aidan bought a cool wooden crossbow as a souvenir. Even with my suggestions, Nigel had great difficulty choosing a souvenir, saying, “Everything is so unfamiliar to me.” Finally he settled on a giant, one-inch-diameter pencil, stating that he could use it as a prop in his films. I guess it was the only thing that looked familiar to him! But still, his souvenir from Thailand is a pencil.

Dad purchased a coconut from a floating vendor who cut it right then and there and stuck in the straws for us (that’s the top of the coconut, not a drink umbrella). It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Even Nigel drank it!

Ah, coconut palms…they were everywhere, and I loved seeing them.

At the Bridge on the River Kwai (about an hour from Bangkok). Nigel did some filming here. Not only did I have to keep my eye on him, I also had to make sure he didn’t set his video camera down anywhere. Can you imagine the meltdown if he’d lost it?

At the Tiger Temple (two hours north of Bangkok).

Nigel with a “real Tigger”!

Some of the many buddhas in Thailand.

Walking around Wat Po, aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Nigel standing guard.

Aidan’s favorite (because of the top hat!)

Mealtimes were interesting! Nigel subsisted on fruit, rice, and the doughnuts served with the hotel’s continental breakfast. Aidan, the pickier eater, dove in and tried pad thai, among other things!

Chakri Mahaprasat Hall at the Grand Palace.

The boys at the Grand Palace.

At the beach at Pattaya – Nigel did not enjoy himself and remained in the beach chair the entire time – two whole hours! Both boys discovered on this trip that they were not fond of humidity.

Exhausted at the end of another full day.

At the ruins of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam. The boys said it was too hot to smile.

We declined taking the elephant tour around Ayutthaya. If it was too hot for us, we thought it would be too hot for them as well.

More ruins.

Aidan taking a breather.

 

Dad/Grandpa filming the ruins.

Thanksgiving dinner at our favorite restaurant in Bangkok – The Waterfront. Incredible food and ambiance – alfresco, and literally right over the river.

On our way home, we had an eleven-hour layover at LAX – perfect! Nigel and Aidan’s dad came and picked them up and spent the day with them, and one of my sisters came to get me. I freshened up at her apartment and then we went winetasting with our brother! It was such a treat to see both of them, and a wonderful end to the trip. Massages in Thailand and winetasting fresh off the plane – yep, that’s how we roll. I love my family!