Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy

Joy on the Trail

Joy!

When I read The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge this week, I pictured walking behind my son when we first set out on a quiet trail. As I’ve written before, this daily walk resolution of mine has been such a blessing: we’ve found something enjoyable that we can do with our youngest son, fourteen and on the autism spectrum.

He is so happy to be outside walking that he often takes off skipping for the first few hundred yards. He eventually slows down and we catch up, but I loved to capture those first joyful steps throughout this year of walking.

It is this joy that will keep us walking beyond 2013.

My son, joyfully swinging off in the distance, while I continued walking the loop at a local park in July.

Day Three Hundred Fifty-nine

Black Ice and Taking a Break from a Raucous Good Time

I woke early this Christmas morning and figured I should head out for a walk in the event that the day’s festivities would prevent me from walking later. It didn’t, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Boy, is my neighborhood quiet on Christmas morning at 6:45! We had gotten a dusting of fresh snow overnight, and the only footprints that I saw were the squirrels’, the rabbits’, and mine. I saw a car drive by on a distant cross-street, but otherwise had the entire outdoors to myself.

I was really enjoying myself until I felt my feet go out from under me on some black ice and found myself sprawled on the sidewalk. Ouch!

I got up, brushed myself off, and continued my walk. By the time I got home though, I realized that my left wrist was awfully sore. I determined that it didn’t hurt enough to be broken and went on with my Christmas. (I got enough sympathy from my husband that he volunteered to peel potatoes for the side dish that I was bringing to my in-laws’ for dinner.)

Later in the afternoon, I went for another walk with my youngest son, who’s 14 and has autism spectrum disorder. We headed out in the woods behind my mother-in-law’s home. It was nice to take a break in the middle of a long visit that got a little loud for him. I’m glad we brought our boots along!

As for my wrist, I’ll keep monitoring it, but I think it’ll be okay. And to think that I had almost made it the whole year without a fall!

Day Two Hundred Sixty

IOU (Myself)

If there’s a day of the week that I am least likely to fit in a walk, I’d guess it’s a Tuesday (or maybe a Thursday).

It’s certainly the easiest day for me to come up with excuses, and I could come up with a few for not walking today. Or, I could owe myself a walk.

I’ll do that. I owe myself a walk.

Update: Make-up Walk (Double Walk) on Day 263

I used to walk my son to and from school almost every day.

Then our neighbors got a dog, tied him up outside, and left him there barking for hours on end. My son, who has high-functioning autism, reaches sensory overload easily when it comes to bothersome sounds. Barking is one of those sounds. He is now super-sensitive to any barking. It wasn’t worth walking to school if he would arrive at school in tears. So we pretty much stopped walking. With the junior high even farther from home, we have never walked to or from school.

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Today we successfully walked home from school. It likely helped that it was a half-day and a Friday. Also, I had given my son advanced warning and brought sound-reducing head phones, just in case. I was the only mom walking with my Junior high child, but my son didn’t seem to notice that.

He really seemed to enjoy the walk. So did I. We’ll have to do it again.

Day Two Hundred Thirty-five

IMG_1011-001“Summer Vacation is Over”

School starts Monday.

On my son’s last weekday of summer vacation, we headed to Lemont, Illinois, to walk on the Centennial Trail. We had trouble finding parking and a trail head but found the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail instead and walked along the towpath for awhile. We got a really good look at a juvenile great blue heron before the flooded trail forced us to turn around and head back to the car and the original plan.

Eventually, I figured it out, and we walked along the Des Plaines River on the Centennial Trail. I got to see a belted kingfisher hover over the river for a fish, a first for me. Mostly though, I found myself thinking about how much I would miss taking a daily walk with my son once he was back in school.

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My youngest son, recently fourteen and with Autism Spectrum Disorder, lives for summer vacation.  I think all kids love summer vacation, but by August accept that school eventually has to get started again, and they are ready to see their friends on a daily basis. Not him.

My son, who’s okay with the actual schoolwork, would much rather do that work in a quiet room without society’s requirements to say hello to people, to pass though raucous hallways of fellow students, and to quietly ignore the persistent coughing of his classmates.  Unfortunately, he has to learn to cope with life’s obstacles and unpleasantries, so it’s back to school on Monday.

Because of this walking resolution of mine, I’ve had an extraordinary summer with him, my walking buddy, exploring new trails and towns.  Most of the places we’ve gone have been quiet, and it’s been nice to spend quiet time together walking and even driving to and fro.

He never complained that the drive to get to a walk was too long.  He never gave me a hard time about the “duds”–the walks that didn’t turn out as planned. He always patiently waited for me while I looked at a bird through the binoculars or photographed a pretty field of wildflowers. The only times he complained were the times it was especially hot and sunny.

Most of our conversations this summer consisted of my answering his silly questions or his noting that the car clock showed a number palindrome, but that’s okay, because once in awhile he’d mention that he missed one of his siblings, he’d ask about his grandfathers (both passed away when he was five), or ask me about things when I was young. And those times made all the silly questions worthwhile.

I’m sure we’ll walk together this fall after school, and it will be nice, but this summer was special.

Day Two Hundred Twenty-three

Crowd-pleasing Nature

We’ve gotten greedy. On most of our nature walks, we only see a few other people. Today’s walk was quite the opposite.  It was downright crowded.  It actually took some getting used-to, especially for our son (fourteen and on the autism spectrum) with his extreme dislike of toddlers and their meltdowns.  Unfortunately, we encountered several toddlers–many of them unwilling nature-walk participants–but our son did quite well, and I’m proud of how he handled himself.

It was easy to see why the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, in Palos Heights, Illinois, is so popular; it is downright beautiful.

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

We did not go into the popular nature center building, but instead walked on the Black Oak Trail (which was less crowded the farther we got from the nature center). This limestone and gravel trail winds past the Long John Slough, packed with water lilies, and through a forest of black oaks.  We ended our walk back near the nature center at an interesting bee-keeping area.

I have entered WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge with two pictures I took on this walk. The challenge is to take two pictures of the same scene or subject, with one horizontal and one vertical; check it out here.

My runners-up:

Little Red Schoolhouse LiliesGood day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Seven

IMG_0771New Park Success

Today, my son and I checked out a new park in a nearby town.  The property has been vacant and underused for over twenty years.  For the past few years, the village hosted a community garden on the property, but from what we could see, they mostly used the property to store wood chips.  This year, however, they constructed a park, and it opened this spring.  It’s lovely!

A 3/8 mile bike and walking path travels around the perimeter of the park.  At four spots along the walkway are interpretive signs that explain the different ecosystems of the area:  tallgrass prairie, wetlands, forests, and farmland.  Within the park itself is something for everyone:  a playground, a splash pad, a community garden, a sensory garden, and a basketball court. They did this park right.

At first my son walked with me, but then I sent him to go play while I continued walking.  As you can see below, I checked on him often as I made my way around the park’s walking path (he’s in red, swinging away).

Swing and a WalkIt was nice to give him a little independence; he did great. (He has Autism Spectrum Disorder, but is, thankfully, high-functioning.)   I didn’t end up walking much though before he was ready to go because someone else showed up to play at the playground.  He remained calm, came running over to me, and said that it was time to go.

I’ll put that in the success column.

Good day, good walk!

Day One Hundred Fifty

Listen in . . .

Son:  (an hour after dinner) “What about dessert?”

Me:  “What about it?” (trying to encourage my son with Autism Spectrum Disorder to express himself or, at least, use more language)

Son:  “We should have it.”

Me:  “We should?  What do you want?”  (knowing full well that he wanted to go out for ice cream)

Son:  “We should go out.”

Me:  “It’s fine with me, but you’ll have to ask Dad.” (the person who usually suggests that we go out for ice cream)

Son:  “We should go out.”

Dad/Husband:  “We should?  What for?”

Son:  “For dessert.”

Dad/Husband:  “That sounds good.”

Me:  “Oh no!  I haven’t gone for a walk yet today.”

Dad/Husband:  “You go for a walk, so we can get dessert.”

I walked, so we could go out for ice cream.  It was worth it.