It’s fall y’all! That’s what we say this time of year here in the south Ad ;). This is the time of year where we head out to the farm (and brave the risk of extreme sensory overload that comes along with it), and pay $20 for a pumpkin (that we could’ve bought at our local grocery store for about $5), all in an effort to make some fun family memories!
One, two, three, let’s go team Menzo!
Let’s do this!
So my dear, lets clear up one thing. In my opinion, fall = food. You see, from a pure biological, and kinetics standpoint, it is imperative to pack on some extra weight heading into winter to keep us warm in what will likely be very chilly 50-degree days in the coming months… Brrrr! Ok, so that’s just an excuse because I like to eat – especially “fall food”!
Ever since the first time we moved to NC, daddy and I would ask the same question every fall - where can we find fresh, hot apple cider, and cinnamon donuts? I know what you’re thinking, “the store?”
Now a days there little to no thought given to that either! I can order them online and pick them up without ever leaving my car(or even getting out of jammies!) Score! (Not gonna lie, that’s pretty cool, but that’s not what I’m talking about).
I’m talking about cider mills and not just any donuts, but the real granulated sugar and cinnamon, piping hot kind! A simple taste that brings back fall childhood memories for daddy and I!
The hunt begins and generally ends with us finding pumpkins and… cotton. Cotton?! Yup, you heard that right! Most of the farms in NC actually grow cotton, and pumpkins. I don’t know about you, but cotton doesn’t sound like a super delicious treat. (For the record I don’t even like cotton candy.) OK, so I guess we can say we’re in this for the “experience” then.
It sounds a little crazy that we’d take you out into this crazy scene of events, but in our little autism world its often-said exposure is key! So, with a variety of potential sensory aggravations playing out in my head, we take a deep breath and head on into this fall extravaganza!
We got this!
I happened to catch a glimpse of our dream team walking in and realize gone are the days of cute matching outfits, posing on hay bales or in piles of perfectly picked pumpkins. You’ve all developed your own opinions about style (or lack thereof), and honestly the rate at which you’re all growing we’re just pleased if it fits more than anything else.
We stood in line and I got a little jealous of all the families with strollers - I know, almost as weird as my love for minivans,right?! You see, when you’re in that “stroller phase” of life you can’t wait to sell it to someone for far less than you paid for it,and move on to the sweet spot of parenting. I on the other hand rather enjoyed it! Storage, a canopy to block sensory distraction if need be, A BUCKLE to keep you in one place! Only parents of runners (children that take off as soon as their feet hit the ground) have a sincere appreciation for the buckle. Daddy use to ask me how long was I planning to keep you in that thing. Thinking about it now, you being all legs and arms dangling out of my giraffe umbrella stroller – ha, you looked ridiculous. Oh, sometimes I miss those days.
Well, the day finally came. You , securely buckled into your umbrella stroller, you put your feet down on the ground and started walking away – stroller strapped to your hiney like an extra appendage. Bye-bye stroller, hello running shoes!
Back to reality, here we are at the farm. We got our tickets and engaged in our first hurdle, getting your wrist band on. We were a little surprised when you held your hand out as if to say “me first,” but as fast as dad got it on, you decided “eh, I kind of hate this” and started screaming that it needed to come off!
Ok, so we were only literally 5 steps into the farm. This should be interesting.
Breathe in and out.
Next up - goats! You love goats! Well, not today. You were less than impressed and screamed at them too. Sorry goats, youwon’t be nibbling our clothing today my furry friends.
We made our way through the heart of the chaos and you led us straight to the giant jumping pillow. You removed your shoes saying “jump, jump, jump!” as if you knew exactly how this was going to play out. Unfortunately (insert our next challenge), this is not a free for all - you have to wait in line Addie.
Yeah, let’s just say “waiting” isn’t your forte. Some would think you’re having a tantrum, but here’s the thing Addie, you know how to wait your turn but in an environment like this, it’s especially HARD and this turns into a mini meltdown.
When you’re asked to stay still you become overwhelmed with the sensory stimuli all around you. The pumpkin chucking canon going off every couple minutes, the chainsaw wood carver creating masterpieces (Clara loved this!), children laughing, babies crying, the smells of popcorn and goat poop (odd mixture.) All this with a sensory processing disorder…it’s coming at you like 100 mph! Filtering it all out is a challenge to say the least. Making your displeasure very well-known, you screamed a pretty fierce scream quite a few times…can’t say we didn’t expect it. We got some looks…again something we’re used to, but today perhaps I felt power in numbers and seeing that daddy and I were together. I just kept telling myself that all the people turning and looking weren’t really staring at us, but rather passed us and at your devastatingly handsome daddy… he’s a real looker Ad ;).
It was finally our turn to jump. I could tell that for you (with all this sensory craziness) it was quickly becoming a need rather than a want. With each jump, your proprioceptive system understood again where your body was in relation to itself. You slowly started to feel grounded amongst this chaos.
You see Addie when you’ve got a lot of sensory stimuli coming at you, you become less and less aware of your actual body. Your limbs can almost feel numb, vision incapable of focusing on anything, and your hearing unable to differentiate sounds or where they are coming from. Honestly, I’d scream to. Jumping is self-regulating and calming. It gets you more grounded even though you’re doing anything but staying on the ground!
Ah, happy Addie again or “Gladdie” as Gabe calls you…well, for at least the next 3 minutes.
Next hurdle, times up! You kept happily jumping while all the other kids quickly cleared the jump zone. It was as if you were saying “thanks for clearing the way y’all!” I actually had to go in to retrieve you. Happy to report, you took my hand no problem. No crisis here. Phew!
All the chaos aside, you found fun crawling in the giant spider web and cheating at the hay maze. But the best surprise was yet to come! A little sensory reward was tucked away in the back corner of the farm – The Corn Kernel Pit! This right here was your happy place Ad.
You trudged your way through deep corn kernels to the back of the pit, where you tried to bury as much of yourself as you could, repeatedly saying “Popcorn! Popcorn!” Rolling, scooping, scooping, and rolling. Until eventually, you laid down surrendering to the exhaustion of the day and the calmness of the corn. This was our cue to call it a day.
So there were still no donuts or apple picking this year Ad. The food was more for chucking across the lake and rolling around in rather than eating, which my waistline probably appreciated ;) We accomplished our fair share of “exposure” with some meltdowns, a few diaper stowaway corn kernels, and even some fun.
I know it wasn’t easy, but you did it and we were very proud of you. Perhaps next years “exposure” will include some donuts! I’m always hopeful :)
I love you.