A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Holiday Celebrations’


I feel as if Christmas snuck up on us this year. One minute we were having turkey and stuffing, and the next TBS was touting their 24-hour A CHRISTMAS STORY marathon. I bought gifts throughout the month, so I didn’t have to mad-dash at the end. Hubz wrapped the gifts on his first day of vacation while the boys were still in school. We attended several holiday-themed gatherings, and yet, it just didn’t “feel” like Christmas. But, last week, there it was…looming large.

I used to get nervous about the holiday hub-bub. I was very concerned about what others would think or say about Tate and his behaviors. I tried too often to shove him into a “typical” role of a child at Christmas. Now that we better understand Tate and his stressors, we have been able to hedge some of the anxiety and go into the holiday with realistic expectations.

Our Christmas went quite well this year. We started our celebrations last Saturday. My dad hosted the holiday, and we enjoyed a very laid back appetizer “meal”. Appetizer choices were perfect for our family. There literally was something for everyone. Our boys had to wait a while after our arrival to open presents. They handled it quite well. Luckily my dad turned one of the bedrooms into a play room, so the boys spent a nice chunk of time upstairs playing. Tate saddled up to the kitchen sink and calmed himself down with the water. He was able to let it go when his time was up, and for that, I am grateful.

My family was incredibly generous. The boys were showered with several gifts. Tate got a playdoh set from my sister, Auntie K. It is still one of his favorites. It’s the one that makes gumballs and other candy items. He got Hungry Hippos from my other sister. While he struggles to play it according to the directions, he and his brothers have gotten much use out of it in the week that we’ve owned it. My dad went overboard–as usual. The boys got tons of toys…all were on their wish lists. My dad got Tate 24 pounds of playdoh. Yes, 24 POUNDS of playdoh. I didn’t realize that playdoh could be purchased in 6-pound tubs…but it can! Cole’s preschool and Tate’s OT will be benefactors of some of said playdoh. We can’t possibly use all of that.

Jake got a Skylander Giants figure from my one sister, and a Wreck-it Ralph figure from the other. He loves both. If you’ve never heard of Skylander Giants, be grateful. A marketing genius created this game. There is a portal…and kids can collect all these super-cool figures and BE the figure in the game, as long as said figure is placed on the portal. It’s right up Jake’s alley–with the fantasy aspect, and animal-like nature of the figures…right now he wants to collect as many figures as possible. Hubz and I are just trying to get him to play the actual game once in a while before we have a small army of Skylander Giants ruling our house.

Cole got a Transformer set (bot-shots…small and perfect for 3 year olds) and some Legos. His life was complete. He carried those around as if his life depended upon it.

In all honesty, with the goodies we received from my family, our Christmas could have been complete. However, Christmas hadn’t even officially arrived, and so, the boys had many, many more treasures waiting for them. In our house, Santa brings everything. I know, I know…that kind of perpetuates the whole greedy thing with Santa…and we don’t get any credit, but oh well…that’s just how we have done it since Jake was born. All three boys still believe in Santa, and I really enjoyed our celebration this year, because I don’t know how much longer Jake will fully believe in the magic.

When the boys woke up on Christmas morning, a veritable cornucopia of presents awaited them. Each had a pile of gifts. Santa listened to our boys’ wishes. Jake got his Lego Spongebob Super hero set. And a stuffed sloth. And Angry Bird Star Wars. Tate got Doc McStuffins and Lambie. He got a Lego set with a stoplight. He got books with Max & Ruby and Team Umizoomi. Cole got the Lego Mine Set. He got some blocks. And of course, some Transformer “dudes”. Each of the boys were incredibly excited about their gifts. Tate readily opened gifts this year…and got excited about many of them.

When Tate opened the Doc and Lambie set, he was so excited and completely overcome with emotion. He had to excuse himself to the bathroom–twice–to compose himself. Once he did, he sat in a little corner in our living room behind our big overstuffed chair. He needed that alone time with his dolls to absorb the amazement and fabulousness that were Doc and Lambie. He shared his private moments and then was able to carry on with our holiday. Our other boys let him be. They knew what he needed. Hubz and I let him be. We knew what he needed. In that moment, our Christmas was complete.

Later that day we went to Hubz’s sister’s house for Hubz’s family celebration. It went amazingly well. For the first time, like, ever, Tate sat with his brothers and cousins at the kids’ table. He didn’t eat, really, but he socialized. He laughed with them. They talked, excitedly, about what presents were waiting for them later. It was terrific. We adults were able to sit and eat and talk..and now that the kids are a little older, we didn’t have to be monitoring their every.single.move.

After dinner was cleared away, we congregated for presents. Tate had some anxious energy, but he handled it relatively well. He did try to “squish” his brothers a few times…and his older cousin once, but other than that, he self-soothed. He also offered to help Hubz’s mom be “Santa”! Tate can read names…or well, he could fill in the blanks. Like, he wasn’t sure about my niece’s name, but he rationalized it out…with process of elimination. He saw a gift “To Lisa”, and handed it to me, “This is yours…mom.” I was doing the dance of joy inside.

Midway through the gifts, Tate needed a break. It was loud. There was a lot of commotion. It was not a routine day, what-so-ever. He came up to me and asked me to “sit on him”. Please be aware that I didn’t sit on my son…but he did sit behind me, and I leaned back to give him some deep pressure that he required to regulate. After the pressure, and a little bouncing to get some input, Tate was off again. He happily opened his gifts and showed them off. This was new. In big family gatherings, opening gifts has been very difficult for Tate. We were proud of his ability to stay with the group.

Our boys did very well with the rest of our family time. They said goodbyes and thank-you’s appropriately. They hugged their aunts, uncles and grandparents. They allowed themselves to be hugged and kissed. We let it be as organic as possible…with the occasional prompt to say “thank you”.

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity, but we have made it through. We had some ups and downs through the entire process, but we were able to make it through all of our celebrations meltdown-free. The greatest amount of progress with both of our older boys has been that they really seem to know when enough is enough…Tate has a harder time letting us know it, but thankfully we know him well enough to usually head off a meltdown before it begins.

This progress…this is the best gift I could have asked for this year. It gives me hope.

Giving Thanks

One of the biggest changes in my life since becoming a mom to “special needs” children is that I am constantly thankful for some of the most mundane things. I know we’re taught to be thankful for everything because there are so many people out there who don’t have as much stuff/love/success/intelligence/family, etc. The truth is, though, that we humans do take so much for granted. I was one of those people. Sometimes I still am. But, when it comes to being thankful and grateful for my children’s progress and growth?! I take very little for granted.

Like many other children, our boys had Wednesday through Sunday off from school. Our routines were blown out of the water. To say that we didn’t have some struggles is to put it lightly.  We went to bed later, slept in (ok, Hubz and I tried to sleep in), ate at different times, ate different foods. We put away typical house decor and swapped it for Christmas themed items. I kept going out to “run errands” during peak shopping times. Jake and Tate were totally out of sorts. Cole also spun around in a daze, but that may have been due to his surreptitious snacks of leftover cookies from Grandma. So, with all of the chaos and non-routine that our boys faced over the past five days, they actually did some pretty amazing tasks…and I know it was hard. BUT THEY DID IT! 

On Thanksgiving, Tate struggled greatly at my in-laws house. There were 11 of us in one place. His brothers and 10-year-old cousin were very loud. They were playing legos and watching tv. There was excited chatter about the next holiday we’d be celebrating together. Tate was getting anxious. It is hard for him to keep up with all of the others. While the boys were being loud, Tate asked my mother-in-law if he could play with the sink in the kitchen. He asked. Politely. And in a complete sentence. With the word, “please”. She allowed him to play, and he relaxed immediately. After about 15 minutes of sink time, we told him it was time to be done. He turned off the faucet without issue, and rejoined his cousins.

A bit later, we noticed that Cole, Jake and Cuz were getting loud again. And they were wrestling. Tate was engaging in a little potty talk, which often means he’s on edge. My 9 year-old niece decided she’d had enough of the boys’ tom-foolery, so she constructed a little fort for herself with blankets and pillows. Tate, who had stripped down to his underpants, wanted to join her in the sensory-deprivation tent. We worked out a bargain. He could join Cuzzie, but he had to put his clothes back on. That is the fastest I have ever seen Tate get his clothing on by himself!! Once he was fully clothed again, Cuzzie and Tate hung out in the tent. It was perfect. Perfect that he was able to figure out what worked to keep himself regulated. Perfect that Cuzzie was aware enough to understand he needed that quiet space too. Perfect that the other boys didn’t bother them while they were in their tent.

On Friday we had every intention of decorating for Christmas. However, certain sales beckoned. I went to do some shopping. Hubz went to help his parents pick up a new tv they had purchased on super-sale. The boys hung out at home with Grandma. When I returned, we decided that Jake and Cole would go with Hubz and his parents back to Hubz’s parents’ house, because Tate had speech therapy. 10 minutes after they left, the speech therapist called–the therapy center was without power. The high winds had knocked it out. She had to cancel. Suddenly, Tate and I were left with a 2 hour window to ourselves. I decided to take him to Culvers for a lunch date.

As I pulled into the parking lot, and into a spot, Tate protested. “No, Mommy. We get it and take it home. Go the other way.” I told him that I wanted to take him out for lunch, and that I’d like to sit in the restaurant. He hesitated, and then conceded to going inside. “I have to use the potty, Mommy.” It was a deal. We ordered our usual meals. I can be so like my children…I like the same thing from Culvers. I very rarely differ in my order. I ordered Tate his grilled cheese and french fries “Scoopie Meal” and got him a pink lemonade. I also ordered a side of cheese curds for him.

My facebook post from Friday, “Mommy and Tate date at Culver’s. Complete with cheese curds and spinning fans. My boy is in heaven!”. I posted a cute picture of Tate ripping apart his grilled cheese. He was so excited–he found a table directly under a ceiling fan, and had an excellent view of the other 3 spinning fans in the restaurant. We went early enough that the Black Friday shoppers were still busy, so it wasn’t very crowded. He and I had a great meal, and even a little bit of conversation, which was icing on the cake. He told me (spontaneously) that the grilled cheese made him feel happy. Identification of emotion AND spontaneous speech?! I couldn’t have been happier!!!!

Friday night was relatively low key. Hubz pulled some of the Christmas decorations out from the crawl space. I put away all of the Thanksgiving and Autumn items that were around the house. We brought the tree and the ornaments upstairs to the living room. The boys seemed, at first, excited about the tree. Then Hubz put it up. I think that all NINE FEET of our artificial tree standing front and center in our living room was too much. Jake escaped into the family room to play his Skylanders Giants game. Tate followed, as he has an obsession with our Wii remotes/nunchucks. Tate doesn’t necessarily want to play the game, but he’ll be damned if anyone else gets to play the 2nd person. It can be very exasperating. Hubz and I stood staring at each other over the bin of ornaments. We decided to “trim the tree” at a later time–and joined the revelry in the family room.

Saturday morning Hubz and Jake went to go be a part of “Feed My Hungry Children”. They were there for two hours. It was a lot to ask Jake to prep food for starving children in another country. It is a bit of an abstract thought. However, he did it, willingly. He also did quite well with the packaging, according to one of the scouting moms. I was proud of him for being able to organize and plan all of that! Jake was eager to donate a $1.00 to the cause, as well. And it was from his own piggy bank. (See, when we framed it in a way he could understand, ie, some kids cannot afford cheeze-its, let alone bread, he was happy to give some money so another kid his age could get cheeze-its somewhere!) I’ve said it a thousand times over, but Jake has a heart of gold. He’s such a good kid.

Later that day, we headed out to my sister’s house to celebrate with my family. We started a “meatloaf dinner” tradition years ago when Hubz and I would go visit his family for the actual Thanksgiving holiday. It is one we have kept over the years, and it is fun. My sister, Auntie K, and her husband, Uncle J, hosted. They are always so considerate and prepare some food items that they know our boys will like. They also made sure to have plenty of lemonade on hand for the boys!!

Tate did pretty well up until all of the family was in the house…including my youngest sister, her husband, and their baby. With all 12 of us in there, it got loud and more chaotic. The baby was fussy. Cole was trying to play with his baby cousin as if he were also 3 years old. It was kind of scary. Tate needed an out. He asked (without prompting) if he could watch my sister’s front-loading washer and dryer. They saved a load of laundry for Tate, and he spent a good 40 minutes watching the load go from washer to dryer. He didn’t lose his shtuff once.

As the adults cleaned up the table, Tate helped rinse the dishes. It allowed him to “play” with water, and he even conversed with us as we asked him to help out. Jake commandeered the television. I don’t think that much SpongeBob should be seen by any one person in one day…but it helped him keep it together, so we allowed it. He even talked to his aunts and uncles about the show, and other various topics, while the show was on. He also willingly came to the dinner table and ate a decent dinner, so I couldn’t complain about that. My boys are growing up!!!

Yesterday we made it our mission to decorate the tree. We had all three boys help out. In our house, each child receives a new ornament every year. There is some story behind the ornaments, too. As we put up ornaments, we often talk about which year, why we bought them, who they were for, etc, etc, etc. The boys tolerated that for about 3 ornaments before each one was claiming that the ornament they were holding was their own. Hubz and I just went with it and eventually we got the tree completely decorated. It is surprising how quickly a tree gets trimmed when five people are doing the job.

This year, Tate was interested in more than just his favorite ornaments. He put other ones on the tree. He engaged in conversation with Hubz and me about his favorite ornaments, too. Jake told stories about the ornaments he remembered. (He has quite a memory, that one.) Cole staked claim to all of them, and declared that everything was from Target (it wasn’t), but that’s ok. We had quite a good time, and even though the decorating of the tree really made me miss my mom (we had a similar tradition at my house when I was a child), watching my boys grow and participate like they were was inspiring. I couldn’t stay down with all of that excitement surrounding  me.

Our weekend was chaotic, and haphazard, and full of family, food, and love. It is amazing to look at where we are today, versus where we were just a year ago. The boys maturity and genuine interest in the traditions and festivities gives me hope for what our future holds. For all of that, the little moments…and the big ones…I am ever grateful. We are truly blessed.


Happy St. Nicholas Day!! I grew up celebrating the true St. Nicholas Day on December 6. We would put our shoes out on the night of December 5, and if we were good, St. Nick left us some goodies. Apparently this is not a widespread celebration. Who knew?!

I looked it up on Wikipedia so that I could share some of the details with my religious ed class tonight. I found out that in the US it is more regional…and more of a German celebration. That makes sense, as my mom was predominantly German in heritage….

I have continued this tradition with my children. In our case, if they’ve been good, St. Nicholas brings an ornament for the tree, and a few sweet treats.

This year, Jake got an ornament from the movie UP. It’s the kid with the old man, and the kid is showing off his badges. Jake is a cub scout, so I thought it was appropriate. Cole got Space Mickey from one of his favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes. Hubz got a voice-recordable family ornament…it will be fun to preserve the kids’ voices!

I, er, St. Nick really, really struggled to find the perfect ornament for Tate. What would be appropriate? He ended up getting a snowman playing baseball. This past summer Tate played ball…so it kind of pertained to his life. This morning he could have cared less. As his brothers got excited about their ornaments, Tate just played Angry Birds on my phone. I tried to engage him, but he told me it was stinky…and then I was stinky.

All of the new ornaments adorn our tree. Cole has gone over to admire them a few times. Sometimes I wish Tate would…but he seems to become interested in the ornaments as we put them away in January. Go figure…

Hopefully he’ll get into them at some point…and if not, it’s fun to talk about in years to come.

Tag Cloud

Mama Is Only Human

my journey...

Zero Exit

by Sara Jagielski

Musings of an Aspie

one woman's thoughts about life on the spectrum

Emma's Hope Book

Living Being Autistic

Carrie Cariello

Exploring the Colorful World of Autism


Just a redheaded dad trying to sort out parenting and the universe.

Grady P Brown - Author

Superheroes - Autism - Fantasy - Science Fiction

Swim in the Adult Pool

Finding humor in an ADHD life without water wings

Organized Babble

Babbling in the most coherent way possible

Addicted to Quippsy

In the not-so-distant future, you'll wish you wrote down everything your kids said. Now's your chance!

Filtered Light

“Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.” ~ Alice Sebold

that cynking feeling

You know the one I'm talking about . . .

Run Luau Run

Run Committed

beyond the stoplight

sharing resources to create caring classroom communities for all children

The Domestic Goddess

Marj Hatzell Has Been Giving Stay-at-Home-Moms a Bad Name since 2005

"Write!" she says.

Tales from the car rider line and other stories

Autism & Oughtisms

Dealing with the endless "oughts" of parenting and autism.