Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘christmas

First, despite being down a child due to the one still living out-of-state for college, it was an excellent Christmas.

I had worries — what happens if it gets too loud, too crazy, he doesn’t get the cellphone he’s been asking for, the list goes on. We had realities — he needed time to decompress, one part of his favorite gift had a minor break the night of Christmas (when he insisted that this kit go with us to see family, despite us telling him not to take it), he got over the cellphone even though his cousin the same age got one (despite us telling him ten-year-olds don’t need cellphones), he had meltdowns during both the decoration of the gingerbread house and the gingerbread cookies (maybe the ginger smell gets to him?) and he cried more than once that his oldest sister wasn’t with us. But, he made it through and nothing was that serious.

The good things, the things that went above and beyond ‘normal’ Christmas fun, negated the problems. He spent hours playing tag in the dark with his cousins on Christmas night, he played basketball with them, without a problem, and when his sister spent the night (without anyone really inviting him), he came home without a problem or even a mention. But the biggest deal? The thing that made this Christmas absolutely most amazing? SNOW.

We’d been hearing for days that it would snow late Christmas night. A lot of people said that it wouldn’t really happen, it’d be a sprinkling to not get excited about, and how ridiculous it was to want it to snow. Still, we wanted it to snow and hoped the weatherman would be right. Before we moved from the west coast, we had to drive an hour or so to get to the snow, and we’d get to the beautiful mountains only to see that every other family within three hours was there right along with us. In your square foot of clean white untrodden snow, you could play but if you had to use a restroom, get your car out of the rut in the snowbank or want to avoid ambulances because too many people decided fast-food lunch trays were credible, safe sledding devices, you were out of luck. We went to bed close to midnight, and I woke every hour to see if it was snowing. Around 4:30, we’d gotten a couple of inches, so I woke BB up as promised. He wouldn’t go past the front porch — I think the sheer cold caught him off-guard. I took a few pictures and went back to bed. I was woken up around 8am with a loud HECK YEAH from dh. Snow, and not just a little. Inches and inches, and it was still falling. We woke up BB and our older son (dd was still at her cousin’s) and took pictures at the dogs’ first foray in the snow. Hilarious. They loved it, and didn’t want to come back in. We bundled BB up as much as he’d let us and he ran out to jump into the snow. Dad went to get snow gear out of storage at the in-laws and it was four hours before BB would come inside; even then, it was only to get some lunch. Another couple of hours of snow play followed, where we built three full-size snow forts and a slide, had numerous snowball wars, and built a life-sized snowman, complete with carrot nose. He then pooped-out, made a bed in front of the fireplace, pulled out his favorite gift (the magic kit) and put on Despicable Me. The snow’s still around, three days later, but he has no interest in going back out. He just wanted to be sure we put a scoop of snow in the freezer to save as evidence of our awesome day. Works for me, a lot of good memories from that one day.

We’re noticing that the “I must be in charge” trait is coming out really heavily. It’s hard to deal with some days. I can say “Please wait five minutes until I get <xxx> done, and then I’ll make your snack,” and he barrels on about the snack, as though I’ve not even spoken. “Mom, want to hear a joke?” “Sure! Let me finish dressing and I’ll be right out.” But he has other ideas, he’s telling me through the door. “Can I read this story to you?” “Yes, as soon as I’m off the phone.” As fast as I can finish my sentence, he’s reading the story to me, like he never heard me. I can have conversation after conversation with him about how friendships/discussions are two-way. One talks, then the other talks. One chooses the activity, then the next chooses the activity. And I daily teach him that he can’t tell me when I can get up and get a drink, when I can start dinner, or what I’m putting on the TV. Yet we go on and on with him insisting he’s in charge, having such a hard time dealing with the fact that the world doesn’t operate on his plans, and that other people have wants and needs and their own minds. Such a test of my patience, though he’s not being malicious. I can’t be mad when he often just wants to sit with me, cuddle with me, or read with me. It’s just something we need to work on, but if only there was a therapy or something available that a) worked, and b) was available to people with jobs and other kids to provide for as well.

Come the new year, aka the closest we’ll get to normalcy, we’re going to start working with the RDI program. I’ve got a couple of excellent other books to read as well, including “Lost at School,” and I hope to put some of what I learn to use, adding to my homegrown degree in Autism. (That should probably come before my web/blog design certification studies and photography and Photoshop classes. Oh, and the jewelry I need to get to the consignment store.)

Today, we ventured out of our snow-covered city and visited a local zoo. What a blast! BB was upset at first, said he didn’t want to be there (he’d forgotten his gum at home and that constituted enough reason for him to hate the outing) and that he’d rather be at the movies. (However, the movies wouldn’t work as the only one they wanted to see showed too late this evening to make the trek home during this holiday-traffic week that time of night.) He got over his issues soon enough though, and we had a great time. As always, the second he got there, he was hungry. And thirsty. And hungry again an hour later. I almost spend more on food when we got anywhere than I do on tickets! Tomorrow is going to be a ‘stay at home’ day, where he gets to decompress before family visits on New Year’s Eve, and any partying we may do that evening. I think we’ll make cookies, and I mean we loosely — we’ll start, and I’ll end up finishing them beyond the first tray.

Happy New Year’s to all!

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We’re a family that’s big on Christmas. BIG.  B I G. We put up two trees, garland, the family of Christmas teddy bears, wall hangings, nativity sets, candles, snow globes, and that’s all just inside. The outdoor of the house is covered in enough lights to mix us up with an airport, and we’ve got baked goods stocked up to last through New Year’s. Christmas carols play in the car and we have memorized the channel numbers of the Christmas music television radio station. We write lists of things to buy, things to make, and we take time off work to shop and prep. Christmas eve is a routine — read T’was the Night Before Christmas, the Nativity Story, and put out cookies. Then stay up late wrapping presents to surprise everyone with on Christmas morning. Christmas day is a relaxed event, everyone hanging out testing their gifts, snacking, eating, snacking, visiting with drop-in guests, and just having fun with everyone around. It’s not just a day, it’s an event, a whole month preparing for The Big Day, and being thankful for the reason for the day in the first place.

So, imagine our surprise when we move and find that not just sporadic homes put up decorations, but they ALL do. Nary a house can be seen without some type of Christmas decor. The little town we live in is covered with stars and lights and has an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. You hear “Merry Christmas,” not the ridiculous “Happy holidays!” But we’re also surprised with the lack of holiday parties outside of church. Our open house was a success, and the fact we put wine, aka alcohol, out on the counter didn’t seem to offend anyone. (Out here in the South, you either like alcohol, or you hate it. There are people who won’t enter a home if there’s alcohol present…for real.) Good thing we had that party though, it may be the only one we get to attend!

During the open house, BB hid in his room. The entire time. Getting him to come out and say hello was even hard. Luckily, people understood him and no one seemed put off. It’s our house, so we’d have taken care of that anyway, but it’s nice to not even have to worry about it. Doesn’t happen enough! Let’s count that holiday difficult #1. Parties.

Holiday difficulty #2: Santa Claus. BB still believes, but a lot of other kids his age don’t, and some of them have told BB about it. He’s questioned me numerous times, but seems quite content with my responses, though now and then he throws in a “But Santa’s you anyway, Mom.” I still think he believes though, or at least really, really wants to. A couple of families we’ve run into, the children don’t believe and the parents talk about it openly in front of BB. I’ve had to quickly say “Well, Santa still comes to our house..” so the parent gets a mental kick on the backside to watch what they say. (And I really want to just say “duh?” to them but I bite my tongue.)

Another holiday difficulty is illness. We’ll call it #3, #4, and #5. Not only does it mean that they can’t go to school and might therefore go over the allotted days of illness allowed by the school district, but when they are home, it’s an interesting time. It can throw them for a serious loop, and as a result, us, too. Not all cold meds are good for them, tylenol for fevers is not recommended, and they are even more demanding than usual…and you can’t help but cater to them, because they’re sick and soooo darn cute. Your Christmas baking gets put off, your Hallmark holiday movie gets paused, and your hot cocoa gets cold. Nothing else matters.

Holiday difficulty #6 is the chaos. There’s not necessarily a routine. Things pop up, people drop in (well, you hope they do at least…since this move, we’re still not as socially involved as we used to be but we have hopes) and you come up with things to do on the spur of the moment. Without time to prep BB, well, you know the drill. Imagine earlier this week when my younger daughter sang in a Christmas concert. BB was just starting to get sick, and we knew if we told him way in advance, he’d flip. So we chose for the Last Minute Flip. “WHAT??? WE’RE GOING WHERE??? WHEN??? NOW???” Yep, it was pretty. But the promise of the ability to play with his DSi while waiting for it to start, and subsequently through it, as we were front-row and it was loud, won out and he was fine. Yes, fine. Well, he did fuss halfway through but so did dh..the show was long, and I think the teacher somehow mistook the concert for a church service. (I’m sure there were some phonecalls post-concert, I’ll leave it at that.) He ended up making it the whole way. And so did dh!

And let’s not forget #7. I bet this is a favorite amongst many of you. All the holiday crap snacks available. Everywhere we look is a bowl of candy (red dye 41), a box of chocolates (caffeine), a candy cane (high-fructose corn syrup) and more of that red dye 41 as far as the eye can see. Christmas is the month of red, so you can’t leave it out. It’s in coffee, donuts, mashed potatoes..okay, maybe not the mashed potatoes but pretty much everything else. They mine as well just put the big jar of red dye 41 that I actually saw at the IGA out on the counter. Yum. Melatonin, you are blessed amongst over-the-counter supplements.

Autism brings on a lot of difficulties year-round, so I’m sure my list could be a lot longer, but I’m working on — after I get over this nasty sinus/cold I’ve been fighting the last three days — looking beyond the difficulties. It’s Christmas, and there’s a whole lot to be happy about.

I was going to say “holy crap,” but I didn’t think that was the most auspicious post title.  And, as we all know, I’m all about being “auspicious.” 😉

It’s been a while now. It’s been not necessarily the easiest “while,” but what the heck, we all have these times.

It’s not been the worst while either. Just busy. Confused yet?

As I’ve mentioned, we’re planning a cross-country move within the next couple of months. We’re planning on dragging everyone and everything (that I don’t throw away) to a small guest house in the Carolinas to live until we decide what to do next. Build our dream house on our land? (Which we already bought.) Buy a pre-existing home and save some time? It’s a lot to ponder. I literally wake up nightly, sometimes several times, wondering if we’re doing the right thing, while knowing that giving my kids time to know my husband’s side of the family, cousins their age, real space, and calmness is the right thing. Real peace. But real peace takes time.

We’re about to hang our realtor sign. BB (Barnacle Boy, for any new readers) is enjoying his Christmas vacation. He’s much less anxious not having to worry about how his daily social events at school will play out, and quite honestly, so am I. He’s loving the holidays — all the gifts, all the days where he can hang out in “softs” (lounge pants) until bedtime, and he doesn’t have to worry about social issues. And so am I! I took almost two weeks off to hang with the family. The older two are coming and going intermittently with their work/social schedules, but we had a fantastic Christmas day — friends stopped by, dinner was good, and Santa pleased everyone. (And our bank account is a-okay. Planning ahead really is key for stress relief.)

With the real estate sign comes a tremendous amount of packing. I don’t think it’ll affect BB too much. He survived the re-painting of his room without a hitch. He also survived me being gone for 9 days as I stayed in the South with the in-laws to help my sister-in-law recuperate from ankle surgery. (I feel guilty almost saying I helped; I did help, but I also enjoyed — the weather, the company, the bonding, and in the end, the relaxation. Dh was home with all four kids by himself. Welcome to my world!) I do wonder how he’ll do when I can’t pack Every. Little. Thing. in the RV, and then the guest house while we make plans on what to do next. Then again, I hope he’ll find a new interest in running around outside — and that he’ll make friends in school so he can hang out with them.

Tomorrow, we’re taking him to the restaurant our kids work at for dinner. He’s looking forward to clam chowder, and I’m looking forward to getting out of the house. We did some quick shopping yesterday (Tar-jay), but otherwise, I haven’t really been out of the house since Dec. 23. And it was a wonderful night, I must say. BB and the rest of us toured a neighborhood full of Christmas lights and music and noise and crowds, and he didn’t flip! In fact, he even posed for a picture…though he did pull the hat over his eyes. Can’t have everything, right?

He did lose laptop priveleges today. We have U-verse, and while we were promised no slowness because “you’ll have your own fiber-optic lines that you don’t share,” we really didn’t st0p to think that those lines all originate in the same place, which is shared by a ton of neighbors. If my neighbors were non-judgmental (aka nice) enough to talk to, I’d ask if they experience the same slowness we do at peak hours of the day, but I can surmise they are if we are. We aren’t big downloaders, so someone out there is a bandwidth hog. Anyway, he was bugged by the slowness and was yelling at his laptop enough to bug me. Laptop privs gone till tomorrow. But, he didn’t throw the laptop, so I’ll call it a success! 😉   Kidding, but it definitely could have been worse. Working on dealing with impatience, not yelling, and chewing with your mouth closed. Always something, eh?

Happy holidays to everyone! For the holidays, I gave myself a break from online visitations, but I miss it. I should be around more often, if anyone misses me. Happy New Year!

All year long, Christmas is on a kid’s mind. They talk about how many days there are left, what they want, and seeing Santa. We teach them the reason for the holiday (which, in my very outspoken opinion, is a Christian holiday and should be celebrated as such) and we hope they remember it when the time comes. Kids have such big plans for the holiday, but then, so do I. I build up the day so much, way in advance. I plan how we’ll perfectly decorate our house. I plan the food I’ll bake, and who will sit around and enjoy it with us, candles burning and making the house smell like Christmas, Christmas lights blinking and glowing. Carols playing. Ribboned boxes and bags under the tree — early — and visits planned throughout the holiday week. Then, I throw in the reality. Therapy appointments and cooldown periods for ds. Special shopping trips to be sure ds’s ‘want’ list is adequately covered. Wine for those nights we stay home and have to count to ten because ds is being obstinate.

What would I do different next year? I won’t have a party, at least not to the extent of what we did this year. Too much time invested. Instead, a smaller gathering for our friends rather than trying to open up our house to so many and meet new people. Time taken from my family. But, still, everything paid off. We had baked goods aplenty to give as gifts to neighbors and friends who were unable to attend, and I didn’t have to bake anything else. And the house was already decorated.

It was, and is, a wonderful holiday season. We baked and decorated gingerbread men, after assembling a pre-made Wilton gingerbread house. (Note: warn children frequently not to eat house decorations. Dentists aren’t open on Christmas Eve.) We played games. We watched Christmas movies. (Another note: buy your Christmas DVDs early in the season. Dh braving Wal-Mart crowds on Christmas Eve morning is a story in itself. Or set your Tivo two months in advance. Apparently, many movies show around Thanksgiving, who knew?)

Then there was the weather. Cold and rainy. And cold. (Imagine states other than California thinking 90 degrees is hot — that’s how it is when California temps drop below 40.) We had flurries two days before Christmas, and our mountains were covered in white, and still are. We visited the infamous Thoroughbred Lane in Alta Loma (viewable on this blog: The Smith’s Canvas in the USA Thanks to the Smith’s blog for doing such a great photog job! Hope you don’t mind I shared your link here!) and saw firsthand one big change in ds. Halfway through the walk, ds yells that he’s dropped his magic wand — one of those plastic batons full of liquid and glitter that he’d gotten as a prize from John’s Incredible Pizza at his birthday party earlier this month — and after walking back a few miles..okay, a thousand feet??…we couldn’t find it. He didn’t even cry! He did get quiet, then a few minutes later announced that he felt good knowing that some other kid out there who picked it up most definitely was having a lot of fun with it. Awwwww. Almost back to where we’d parked our car, we find a family selling…you guessed it…magic wands! $2 and a minute later, ds was playing with a light-up wand. Wow.

A post-script? We got home, pulled the stroller out of the trunk to stow back in the garage, and the original wand fell out of a hidden crevice. Two wands!

Christmas day was as perfect as could be. Ds was happy with his gifts, as were the girls. Older ds spent the whole day with us, and we all enjoyed playing with the new Wii games, our non-fancy-but-perfect ham dinner, and we all lived to tell about the Battle of the Nerf Guns. Ds got four of them for Christmas, and I am still finding bullets in odd places. Dd is still glued to her laptop. I think I’ve seen her for three meals in the last four days. Oh, and at church on Sunday.

Two days after Christmas, we got the bright (ha) idea to go play in the snow. Great idea actually, except everyone else within three hours driving distance decided to do the same thing. The bathroom line was 45 minutes at the last potty-stop before the snow, and that was just the beginning. Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, so we finally found a place to pull off and play. Perfect location, snow up to our knees, where we made pathetic snowmen (cute but pathetic) and threw chunks at each others’ heads. We made the drive all the way home to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with nary a stop (laughing at those in line at the AM/PM) and had a calm evening. Snowplay is great, free occupational therapy.

Today, as we’re packing the RV for a New Year’s camping trip — four days of dry camping, with a generator and bottled water — we find that older ds’s iguana had passed. 😦  I don’t care how old your kids are, when a pet dies, your heart still cracks as they deal with the loss. In telling ds, he just stopped for a second…didn’t move, didn’t speak, just stared at me. He then said “awww, poor Bubu.” (That’s how he spells Bubba, his longtime nick for his brother.) “It makes me want to cry.” But, a minute later, he’d moved on. And here I was trying so hard to prevent him from seeing the iguana before/after. Do I underestimate him sometimes?

While out camping, I presume we’re going to run into a few roadblocks. Ds can’t ride an ATV on his own, nor will he want rides on anyone else’s for long. He can’t yet ride his new bike without training wheels, unusable in this terrain, and he can’t take the Wii or his computer. We’re using generator/battery power. I’ve packed a slew of games and outdoor activities, and a billion snacks. Oh, and his entire set of Gameboys, DSs, PSPs, etc. will be charged and ready to go. It’ll be pitch black at night, so I am thankful our RV has a full bath. He can watch movies while the adults are hanging around the firepit and the older kids are otherwise occupied. (He’ll be the youngest, with the oldest, other than my older two who aren’t staying beyond Thurs., being 14 years old.) We’ve got a plethora of flashlights, too, and a first aid kit and pharmacy shelf to rival a drugstore. (And the fact that we’re within 20-30 mins of a store, at most, helps…oh, and a hospital, too.)

Anyway, it’s been a good holiday season. (And this all relates to autism, my blog focus, I promise.) The plans I made came through, and there were no major letdowns. Enough planning with room for deviation from our schedule kept us mostly stress-free, so ds didn’t pick up on anything that would hinder him from relaxing. He’s far too wise for his age, and we have to be careful. He has spent hours on Club Penguin, thriving on the one-on-one attention he gets from two parents on vacation. We’ve taken a break from so many of our daily autism-related issues — no school problems, no homework, no therapy appointments, no stressed errands, no rushing around — yet autism is still here. We may be able to alter the environment enough to keep major issues at bay, but it’s temporary. Even at our best, we can’t prevent things from happening. We can’t let him run the house or dictate everyone’s plans or actions. He’s still got this unusual habit of cutting off his nose to spite his face; for example, I tell him to come back to the Sorry game and sit down so others could take their turns, and he refused to play anymore. Tonight, he climbed out of the jacuzzi early because I told him to not lean back so far or he’d knock my water bottle off the edge. I can buy him all the Under Armour in the world, to keep him warm while camping, but I can’t be sure he won’t get hurt feelings when another kid doesn’t want to play with him. We saw it happen while we were out on Sunday — he tries so hard to fit in with the other kids, and most of them just ignore his following right behind them. A few address him, a couple doing so well with including him. Most though? You hear “Stop.” I can’t blame the kids — I see the parents quite often doing the same thing, or they aren’t taught to be nice to other kids, just those who they want as friends. I can’t fix every issue he has to face, but I do hope to teach him to befriend the underdog and to play with the lonely kids. Don’t pick on someone whose different, and if someone’s having a bad moment, assume they’re having a bad day rather than assuming they’re a bad kid. Then there’s the phenomena of parents who try to discipline or correct ds, rather than looking at their own child or, worst case scenario, approaching us about what ‘might’ have happened. Christmas spirit doesn’t prevent the normal things from occurring, but it does make it harder to take. If we can’t be nicer at this time of year, when can we?

I’m off to listen to ds tell me about his latest Club Penguin mission. Online, he has a list of friends, so many he doesn’t have enough room on his list. That’s definitely worth $5.95 a month.

Merry Christmas to everyone, and have a wonderful New Year!

Do you? Or don’t you?

And in case I’m not clear, I mean forcing your child to engage in certain social events or activities.

My son was in our church’s Christmas program last night. To say he participated under duress is an understatement. We forced him. He didn’t want to stand and sing, or even pretend to, and he didn’t want to say any lines. Problem was, I did.

I know, you’re thinking “why.” Ten minutes after we arrived last night, I was wondering why, too.

My thoughts were/are that we have to not give up on him in any way, and that we always need to try and provide the same activities neurotypical kids have. If we never make him do things he’s uncomfortable with, will he ever be able to do those things? Of course, there are limitations to where you’d test this theory, but we felt safe with this one. At this point, if I had to decide on next year’s play already, I’d probably say no.

Ds doesn’t take direction well. He wants things his way. He wants routine, sameness, and control. Being in a group activity means he’s going to have to take direction, and he did. Well, he had adults giving needed direction, but I’m not sure he really ‘took’ it. He flashed daggers, shoved away from the group, shoved through the group, argued with a couple kids, and may have told one adult he wanted to kill him. (Thank God, that guy had both a sense of humor and a lot of compassion…and he knew about ds.) He didn’t even make it through the final dress rehearsal/practice. Two minutes before showtime, dh and I were summoned. Ds had another issue with another kid, and it led to a total meltdown. It took dh 20 minutes or so in a quiet room before he was ready to go on-stage, and none too soon — his lines were due in about two minutes. I got him on stage, minus his cap, and he happily said his lines. Total transformation.

Not so fast.

As soon as his lines were done, he started shadowing the child standing in front of him. Every time the boy would move, so would ds. Soon, another adult close by quietly reminded him to stop, which was fine — ds needed to hear that he can’t ruin someone else’s performance and that he’s part of a group — but ds shut down. He moped, dragged, and moved away. It was heartbreaking. I was already nauseaous, it’s painful to watch, and this just made it worse. Then, miraculously, the play was over. Good to go, right?

Ha.

The kids all went to a back room to take off their costumes. Candy was handed out, but when ds didn’t get a ‘big’ candy like the ‘big’ kids (“But I AM big!”) he threw what he was given. That resulted in hysterical crying, and dh carrying him out. We understood his upset and wanted him away from everyone before it got worse, for others and for him. We know he doesn’t want to be seen this way, he hates the stares and whispers, and I hate it as well. So many people came up to us to tell us how good he did, how he at least said his lines, etc. True, true…but nonetheless, it took me a bit to decide if I could eat dinner or not.

I looked through the photos later, and saw his sullen, angry glances. Sure, he may have learned something from this, but how many lessons does it take? How many times do we have to try this? And how often before people start thinking ‘enough, already!’ At what point do the lessons my son learns and the importance/fairness of him participating becomes unfair to others? Or do we continue to ignore that aspect as long as he’s not hurting anyone else? Luckily, the only visible issues last night were not during the show, except for those last few minutes.

I’m really relieved it’s over with. I love children’s performances. I love helping — the laughing, the funny mistakes, the whole organization of it all. But, the stress of trying to get him to go along with the plans? Not priceless.

At least today is the first day of the official Christmas vacation for him, two and a half weeks of him around here, and I’m THRILLED. And no, that’s not sarcasm. He thrives on one-on-one attention, and I had kids so I could be around them. What better time of year than Christmas. Speaking of which, time to go. I need to dig out my gingerbread cookie dough recipe and get that mixed and refrigerated. Tomorrow’s cooking decorating day.

How many of us hear that? (Though maybe I guess the bigger question is: how many of us get that?)

I hear it all the time. While I agree all moms do, especially moms who are blessed with special kids, it’s not all its cracked up to be. Let me tell you.

Yesterday, I was able to attend a training program for my employment. Not counting the long drive due to traffic (we’re talking a 430am alarm) I’m really glad I did it. (And even with traffic, I’m still glad I did it.) Us telecommuters, any drives are a change, but if you throw in 1.5-3 hours one-way, we might go cross-eyed for a second. Anyway, the training program was excellent and I really do think I learned a lot of applicable tips. After training was completed, it was recommended to me by several co-workers who live close by that I hang around in the area for a couple of hours, or I’d just be sitting on the freeway for a couple of hours extra. I chose to hang out. I envisioned myself walking around this beautifully decorated outdoor area, strolling along, having a leisurely dinner…ahhh, sounds nice, eh?

Fast forward to leaving the training. I headed for the Citywalk, with its gorgeous Christmas trees, huge neon sculptures, and loud but perfectly fitting Christmas music. Ahhhh. I wandered through some stores, picked up some souvenirs for the kids, and headed back up the other side to some stores I’d not been in yet. I also was scoping out restaurants for my nice uninterrupted dinner. Then it hit me. Everyone in all those restaurants was either a couple or a family, boisterously enjoying their time together. Couples clanking wine glasses together, kids with sparkles in their eyes (so they were reflections from the Christmas lights everywhere, who cares) and tourists excited about their day. Me, I’m alone. No real shopping bags to speak of, no interest in wine when I’ve got a long drive ahead of me, and <sniff> my little ones at home wishing I was there. Suddenly, having a leisurely dinner really wasn’t as exciting.

So, what do I do? I turn to the next best thing: texting. I’d already called dh earlier, and he told me that bb had an awesome day, with news he wanted to tell me on his own. When he started talking to me, he sounded SO much older than his newly-eight-years age. Sniff. He wanted to tell me that they had their school party today, the prize for those who sold a lot in the fundraiser. He won the grand prize! He also grabbed another $20 in the ‘money blowing around in a phone-booth-type box’ game. It made his day.

I text my oldest dd. That didn’t last long, she had things to do. I text some friends. However, none of it makes up for the fact I’m sitting alone in a Tony Roma’s enjoying a really good salad..alone. Sounds nice, I know, and so did my friends who weren’t as appreciative of my plight. Hmmph. Thirty-five minutes later, because, really, how long can you drag out a salad, and I was on my way to the car. Smooth sailing for all of three minutes, then traffic. Wasn’t this the whole reason for my foray around Citywalk?

In the end, I did get to check out the whole Citywalk and found some amazing things, if it weren’t Christmas and I hadn’t already completed all my shopping and then some. I found some other restaurants I could eat in next time, but I’ll need to bring a book at least. As good as it all was, the best part of my day was the hug when I saw ds that evening….at 8:55pm. Long day, I’m tired, but that hug was the bestest.

If you get time by yourself, take it. Just plan better than me. You need the time, but wasting it feeling lonely or wishing you had more to do detracts from the experience. It’s all in the details.

This last week, my husband and I have been on vacation. In a word? Bliss. I don’t care if every minute is filled with mundane errands and getting up early to get ds to school; just having the time off together, during our own thing, our own schedule, is fantastic. But, the week has flown by and next Monday will come all too quickly.

During this past week, we’ve been away more than we’ve been home. We’ve gotten 80% of our shopping done, with another 15% tomorrow, leaving the last 5% for next week. We, or shall I say I, have gotten most of the baking for this Saturday’s open house done. Meanwhile, my house smells heavenly. (But I’ll leave out the part where I’ll be up all night baking the doughs we put together….all five MORE of them. I already have three bundt cakes of various kinds, and 15 loaves of fancy breads in the freezer.) It’s been a very busy week.

So, getting down to business…ds has had a busy week, too. First, a birthday party update. SUCCESS! Five kids from his class showed, some who hadn’t RSVP’d, but whatever, they were there. Two other kids showed up, and so did our friends we invited, and away we went. Games went well, we played mini-golf, and he had so much fun, presents took a backseat. Expensive, eh, $300 including cake, but we didn’t have to clean our house before or after, and ds had the party he wanted. Add that to the convenience level and we’re happy. (And no meltdowns at the party!)

We spent a day at Disneyland. Accommodations there were, again, amazing. We used our special assistance pass and got on every ride ds wanted within a very reasonable wait time. (And I still kicked everyone’s butt on Toy Story Mania. Ha.) Towards the end of the day, ds was getting a bit overwhelmed and when I expressed my negative opinion about getting knocked down when he pushed his stroller backwards into me as I was crouched on the ground tying my shoe, he refused to talk to me for almost an hour — even though I was the one who ended up on the ground. It happened again later when he refused to stop pinching his sister, but dh stepped in each time and lightened the mood. We visited the Tiki room, and while we sat in the back..in the corner…it was still enjoyable. A shout-out to Rainforest Cafe for their birthday party recognition! Ds has wanted the volcano cake for his birthday for months now, and he was excited for it to finally happen. We attempted to go back to Disney <quickly> to visit Woody’s Roundup, a yearly tradition, but the monorail held us hostage. First, the new cars only hold 15 a person, so one train, which only comes every 10 minutes, only can take about 40 people. Translation: you wait forever. Walk. It’s quicker. We wait though, as by then, we’d already invested so much time, we figured ‘how much longer can it really be?’ Ha. They had more in mind. Little did we know, after they squeeze 16 in our car (did you hear that, Disney? They put 16 in a car made for 15. Isn’t that against some safety regs??) that they were putting a second train on the line, and we’d have to wait while they got it on-line. Sure. Why didn’t you tell us that, or do it, BEFORE you load us into a small little tube? Then, we get 9/10 of the way to the station, 15-20 minutes later, only to hear that the second car had some issues with its windows, so we’d need to wait. AGAIN. Same little tube. Same claustrophobic help-we-have-been-kidnapped-and-are-being-held-hostage feeling.  After a 30-minute ‘quick ride’ to the Tomorrowland station, we got off. It wasn’t without some commentary, where those perfect people who were still in ‘happiest place on earth’ mode weren’t approving of comments of those of us who feel a $90 ticket shouldn’t include being detained. Oh well.

However, the day was completed without further incident. Disneyland’s special assistance pass saved the day. We enjoyed the beautiful Christmas castle and music and were glad to have gotten in our annual Christmas visit.

We also squeezed in a dentist visit. After losing the two teeth (mentioned in a prior blog entry) ds ended up with two shapes on his palate, shapes that looked like teeth coming in. He’d also complained his teeth were painful to brush in some areas. While I could have done without the hygienist smiling at us like we were paranoid craziacs when the xray confirmed it was just his palate being shaped funny, I felt redeemed  (the words “neener-neener” came to mind) when the dentist confirmed that we were right to bring him in just to be safe, as sometimes losing teeth can cause swelling like he had, and apparently infection. One point for the parents who pay high rates for good insurance and want to be sure their child’s mouth is safe. And ds didn’t freak, but that’s due mostly to an excellent dentist who knows how to ease his fears by explaining everything to him, addressing him appropriately, and letting him touch/feel all the tools prior to their use.

Then, today. Awards ceremony at school. Ds got a certificate for his grades, one for turning in homework regularly, and one for passing his health/P.E. requirements. He came into the ceremony SO excited. Smiling, dancing, and chatty. Trouble came when halfway through, a teacher reminded his table to be quiet. Poof. Magic words. That was the end of it. When it came time for his second award, he went to the front with his hood over his face. Our Assistant Principal, an amazing V.P., acknowledged it and tried to help, as did both dh and I, but to no avail. He stood for pictures with no face showing. When his name was called for his third award, he refused to move. He sat at his table, head down, while everyone else went on stage. Prompting from us made no difference. He was so upset by then, he was agitated and we had to leave him alone for fear of a full-out meltdown. (And to the lady who went  “Look!” and pointed at him like he was a rare parading zoo monkey eating a banana while hanging upside down and pottying, I really hope you realized that the child’s parents heard you and watched you. We wish no ill upon your child(ren) but you could stand to learn some manners and compassion.) We picked him up shortly after, and after sticking to the ‘no more negative talk once we get to the car’ credo, the day wasn’t so bad after all.

Tomorrow, we finish our shopping. Then, we take ds and a the girls (other ds won’t be along) to see the infamous Christmas lights a city away. It’s a big event every year, where we walk the entire show (after parking a mile away) and drink coffee purchased from a resident we find along the way. We sing carols along with the music pumped from the fancy homes, and talk with our friends, same homes we see every year but we’re nevertheless amazed. It’s going to get down to 37 degrees tonight. 37. I am jazzed. Christmas weather at last. Now, if I could just figure out how to get ds to wear a jammy top, we’d be golden; good thing he likes to wrap himself up in a special blue blanket every night because it’s soft. Tomorrow night will be cold as well, so Amen to getting Christmas weather on target.

Ds stayed in his bed last night — the WHOLE night. I heard him having a bad dream, but he got back to sleep and stayed there. Good thing, I stayed up late reading the last of the Twilight books. Yes, I am one of “those” moms. So what if a few people think they’re mindless drivel. We don’t all need to read enlightening award-winning literary prizewinners. Some of us like fictional books that don’t take a lot of thought, and these books fit the bill while allowing you to pretend you’re somewhere else for a while, because believe me, these books do put you in a whole new environment. Get a grip if you’re anti-Twilight, and go back to your Pulitzer material, Stephenie Meyer’s raking in the bucks so she’s got my vote.

Now I’m off to get more cookies in the oven, and watch a Nascar race on ds’s new Nascar toy race track the girls got him for his birthday. I can hear him giggling from here, and I need to watch his smile light up his eyes. Merry Christmas, everyone. I got my gift already.


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