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Twitter Tuesday: #IStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen

20 Dec

Welcome to today’s edition of Twitter Tuesday! Before we get started: anyone who believes that it’s a fat dude in a red suit who delivers your Christmas presents every year, please leave the room. If you stay, you might just get the shock of your life.

OK, now that we only have those who believe that the whole Santa story was cooked up by someone who was drinking (because what other explanation is there, really?) today’s trending topic is about the man himself.

Many of us believed in Santa at some point during our younger years. Some of us grew out of the belief as we got older and realized that laws of physics would make it impossible for a man of his girth to fit down a chimney. Others had a jolt of realization after some specific incident. For me, I had my first clue when I noticed one year that Santa was wearing Grandpa’s boots.  When I blurted out something about it, the grown-ups quickly made up a story about how Grandpa had merely lent his boots to Santa. We all accepted it, without even questioning why Grandpa wasn’t present.

A couple of years later, we were living in Connecticut, and went to Times Square on Christmas Eve. There, I saw Santa Claus ringing his bell, and I went up to say hi. To my utter consternation – bear in mind that I was seven – Santa asked me for money. That was the deal-breaker for me, the moment of my tearful realization.

Today, the folks over in Twitterland are sharing their own experiences with the hashtag #IStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen. Here’s what some of them have to say:

#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen when i noticed i was circumcised (@ImHiRez)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I realised that a man who breaks into my home & eats my cookies has no right to judge whether I’m good or bad (@jdizzaymusic)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I knew I didn’t have a chimney (@_kingsasha)
#IStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I noticed he and my mother had similar penmanship. (@owlcity)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen OMG SANTA DOESNT EXIST?!?!? 😦 (@kissingjonas)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen? This shouldn’t be trending. I am real. (@thesantaclaus)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I saw this trending 😥 thanks for crushing my dreams twitter. (@jackw25)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I realised it was just Dumbledore in a Santa suit. (@_loony_lovegood)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I saw him ringing a bell in front of Target asking for spare change (@allancozart)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I realised that a man who breaks into my home & eats my cookies has no right to judge whether I’m good or bad (@anonupdate)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I didn’t find Justin Bieber under my Christmas tree. (@selgomezbieber)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen i walked in on him having an affair with the tooth fairy (@will_beckman)
#IStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen my parents started saying he was on a budget. (@valbadassaldua)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen i got a Sega Saturn and it said made in japan (@phantom_sparx)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen No One Ate My Milk & Cookies (; (@x3singerx3)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I analyzed the shit out of it… At 7 years old. (@thebestperson)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen when I recognized the paunch of my uncle. (@berepg80)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen i found the presents under piles of laundry when i was 8… #AwfulHidingSkillsMom @lexxjelmm21)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen When My Kindergarten BestFriend Told Me Mrs.Clause Hit Him With a Chu Chu Train (@allegiantme_)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen my teacher said he blow up in the sky cuz the reindeer were moving really fast ._. (@rhiforeverreal)
#iStoppedBelievingInSantaWhen I had a bar mitzvah (@not_owen_levy)

What’s your story? What was that moment at which you stopped believing in Santa?

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Christmas Trees, Snow And My Middle Finger

19 Dec

Ladies and gents, listen up! I have an announcement!

*Tapping foot while the drone of multiple conversations gradually dies down and people look in my direction*

OK, now that I have your attention – ex­cuse me, you at the back of the room, I need undivided attention here, because this is a momentous occasion. Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you that this year I got my Christmas decorations up a full week before Christmas!

This is unprecedented. Every other year, I’ll be commuting home from work, and I’ll suddenly look up from the book I’m reading with a jolt, thinking, “Holy crap! Christmas is three days away and I don’t have my decorations up yet!” I’ll arrive home, and in a whirlwind of activity that startles my family, I’ll hunt down the decorations and then flit about putting them up.

To be fair, I compensate for my tardiness by leaving the decorations up until mid-February.

This year I decided to do it differently. I would do my decorating on a Sunday, when things are a bit less chaotic, and when I can bully sweet-talk my children into helping. Apart from everything else, my almost-six-year-old son James gave me a reason for getting my decorating done: he wanted to go to school and tell his friend Ciara that he had the best Christmas tree in the world. This would be the same kid who featured in a note James wrote that declared, “Ciara is skeery.”

In order to decorate, I first had to go shopping. My Christmas tree tinsel is a gazillion years old, and is 45% shiny tinsel, 55% tatty string. I also got some oversized baubles and a small disco ball (James’ idea) to hang from the ceiling, and some new stuff for my ceramic Christmas village. I was about to go in search of some cotton wool to make Christmas village snow out of, when I saw some “instant snow” mix. The instructions seemed straightforward enough: just mix with water and viola! You have snow!

Well, this looked nice! My village could have actual snow – or something that looks like actual snow!

I paid for my purchases, wrestled my children back into the car, and drove home. I was unaccountably excited about putting up the decorations, so I hustled my family through dinner, and with a decisive clap of my hands, I said, “Right! Time to tackle the decorations!” The husband helped with the heavy lifting, then he dove for cover, having learned from previous years that the living room turns into a hazardous obstacle course during decorating time.

I got the tree up and decorated. I perched the angel on top, plugged it in, and switched on the lights. Immediately my living room looked like a family was actually celebrating Christmas in it. Next stop was the Christmas village. I dug out all of the pieces, arranged them on the mantle, and strung lights through the buildings so they could glow from the inside. Now all I needed was snow! I grabbed my packet of instant snow. One tablespoon of powder in 32 ounces of water, said the instructions. I measured out precisely 32 ounces of water, added precisely one tablespoon of powder, and stirred.

Hmmm. Didn’t seem to be working out too well. Apart from a few sorry-looking flakes in my water jug, I wasn’t getting anything. I threw in some more powder. Now the consistency of the water was starting to change, which was promising. For good measure, I added a bit more powder.

Thirty seconds later, I was staring in astonishment as fake snow spilled out my water jug and into the kitchen sink. This stuff was unreal. It was expanding like crazy and just wouldn’t stop. It reminded me of the time I used my breadmaker with a tablespoon of yeast instead of a teaspoon of yeast, resulting in the Great Bread Explosion Of 2009.

Well, I had enough snow for my village. In fact, I had enough snow for my village to be buried in an avalanche. I gave my village snow for a pretty snowfall, and then tried to wash the rest of the snow down the sink.

Big mistake. I only got more snow. What the hell is this stuff, and why can’t my money do that?

I abandoned the snow and turned to the big baubles and the disco ball. Hanging them from the ceiling would be simple enough. All I had to do for each one was raise two adjoining ceiling tiles, tie the string onto the metal strat between the tiles, and then lower the tiles. Not a problem – I’ve done this many times. I hung the first bauble, but only one of the ceiling tiles would go back into place. I raised it up a little higher, and then let it go so it could drop. Unfortunately, I neglected to first move my finger out of the way, and the tile came crashing down right on my fingernail.

I am not proud of the language that came out of my mouth. My husband came rushing in to see what I was swearing about. He asked me why my face had turned white, but before I could answer, James started dancing around me chanting, “Mommy said a bad word! Mommy said a bad word!” James’ older brother George, the eight-year-old with autism, was cheerfully repeating the said bad word over and over. My finger had already started sprouting a colourful bruise. I held it up to show my husband, who was tickled pink over the fact that it happened to be my middle finger. I ran into the kitchen and shoved my hand into the sinkful of fake snow. To my surprise, it actually did soothe the pain a little.

I pulled myself together enough to hang the rest of the baubles (without incident) and the disco ball (also without incident). Now all I had to do was get rid of the excess fake snow. My husband suggested flushing it down the loo, but I had a feeling that if we did that, we’d have to wear snowshoes every time we needed to pee. In the end, I just scooped it up and threw it into the garbage can.

And now, we can sit back and relax – actually, that’s a lie. I still have to do my Christmas shopping. But I can at least go home at the end of the day and drink a well-deserved glass of wine in the warm glow of the Christmas lights.

Twitter Tuesday: #WorstHolidayStory

13 Dec

Today is Twitter Tuesday. This means I look for an interesting hashtag on Twitter and find some interesting tweets to go with that hashtag.

For the Twitter virgins out there, “hashtag” is really a fancy word for “conversation”. If you’re tweeting about, say, green bug-eyed monsters, you would include this in your tweet: #greenbugeyedmonsters.

Today, I came across a hashtag that is appropriate for this time of year. If you have anything to add to the list, leave me a comment!

#WorstHolidayStory:

#worstholidaystory the fact we now get in trouble for saying Merry CHRISTMAS well you know what? CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS! (@gnomedruid)

Getting a planner for the year 1998 in 2007, and a “L” charm when your name begins with “A” #worstholidaystory (@alliegoedecke)

#worstholidaystory on Xmas stuck in the middle of nowhere in a broken car, in the freezing cold,no signal, parents roaring at each other (@MissDianaSongsz)

Me “I flew in this wedding ring from Paris! Merry Xmas!” Her “I’m sleeping w/your Dad. And I’m pregnant. Happy New Year!” #worstholidaystory (@ryanpaulgibson)

went to Swiss Chalet for Christmas Eve dinner. By the time they served us, it was Christmas #WorstHolidayStory #SaddestDinner (@paddyjane)

Some weird green creature waltzed into my house and took all my presents #WorstHolidayStory (@justinkase3)

1 yr got busy wrapping presents, forgot to put names on them, then couldn’t remember who they were for #WorstholidayStory (@cindylee137)

The Monopoly incident of 1989. Left a family shattered. The mear mention of the game still sends shivers down the spine. #worstholidaystory (@suckitstupid)

the year my mother-in-law broke her hip we spent Xmas day in the emergency room #WorstHolidayStory (@avalen1)

Santa isn’t real?!? :’o #worstholidaystory (@datkidbrandon)

#worstholidaystory frosty the puddle: the effects of global warming. (@afilardz)

worst thing,I got turkey all stuffed and put it in oven only to realize 3hrs later I forgot to turn oven ON #WorstHolidayStory (@cindylee137)

#worstholidaystory I accidentally got drunk before attending evening service at church! THE SHAME! (@naphtalionline)

Go to see parents up north and come to find out they came south at the same time, so we missed each other. #worstholidaystory (@thomasflorida)

Running over wrapped presents as they fell out of the back of the vehicle on Christmas Eve. #worstholidaystory (#superheroalo)

And finally, a poignant tweet that reminds us to be safe as we celebrate whatever holiday we are celebrating.

I lost my sister to a drunk driver 2 Christmas’s ago on Christmas Day, She would have been 23 this year! #worstholidaystory (@amymariesantee)

Santa Pictures And The Autism Family: 10 Ways To Not Go Completely Insane

14 Nov
  1. A week ahead of time, start showing your autistic child pictures of Santa Claus, and tell him that this is the dude whose knee he will be sitting on in order to get a picture taken. Try your best not to be distracted by the neurotypical five-year-old sibling who is bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny on steroids yelling, “Ho ho ho! Hairy Christmas!”
  2. At T minus two days, have a dress rehearsal at your house. This is imperative if you want the autie to wear a suit and tie and he has a tendency to melt down if you try to get him to wear shirts that don’t have horizontal stripes. You’ll probably want to have another dress rehearsal the day before.
  3. The evening before, bath your kids and wash their hair. Do the autie first. If you do the hyperactive neurotypical child first, the autie will head for the hills the second he sees the shampoo bottle. Instead, let the hyperactive neurotypical child dive for cover, hide the shampoo until it’s time to use it, and have a reward system handy. I use gummy bears. Whenever the autie opens his mouth to scream, I just shove another gummy bear in. I have become a master at washing a screaming, flailing autistic child’s hair in less than ninety seconds.
  4. Try not to think of the fact that sometimes, ninety seconds feels more like ninety years.
  5. When you wake up on the morning of the Santa visit, call the photographers who are doing the pictures. Tell them that you have a child with autism, and that if he’s made to wait in line he will have such a bad meltdown that the entire building will crumble and the place will end up looking like an archaeological dig. Most people will accommodate you if they know ahead of time that your child has special needs.
  6. Bring changes of clothes for the kids. As soon as the picture has been taken, the autie will want to put on a shirt with horizontal stripes, and if one isn’t available there will be trouble.
  7. Right before you leave your house, call the photographers again and find out if all their equipment is working. Technology comes with its share of problems, and if you have wait around while they try to get their printer to connect wirelessly to their laptop, your frustrated kids will band together with all of the other frustrated kids who are there, and they will start a Lord Of The Flies kind of mutiny. Believe me, you don’t want to caught with a crowd of angry children. They will overpower you. They will tie the grown-ups to poles and dance around them holding spears and chanting.
  8. Don’t let the absence of spears fool you. Kids can be frighteningly resourceful, especially when they are ticked off and have among their number an autistic child who knows how to think outside the box.
  9. When you are granted entrance to Santa’s domain, don’t mess around. Say hi to Santa, get the picture, and leave. Don’t wait for the autie to make eye contact with the camera lens. You will be waiting until the cows come home.
  10. When it’s all over and you are sobbing in the bathroom from the stress of it all, remember that this experience was positive. As you look at the picture, don’t think about all of the planning and angst leading up to it. Reflect on the fact that you have succeeded in doing a typical family activity. You have brought immense joy to the hyperactive neurotypical child, who shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity to sit on Santa’s knee. And you have taken another step toward teaching your autistic child some vital coping skills that will help him for the rest of his life. Know this, and feel good about what a great parent you are.

How Organization Creates Chaos

28 Jan

This morning I took my Christmas decorations down.  Yes, I know that it is January 28th, and that the 12th day after Christmas passed some time ago.  I have a history of being very last-minute where this kind of thing is concerned, and this laziness is, in fact, the reason we have an artificial Christmas tree.

When you have a real Christmas tree dropping dead pine needles and crap all over your carpet until February, things can get very messy.

The thing is, it’s always a bit of a hassle, not only to take the decorations down, but to put them up in the first place.  You have to dig out boxes that are buried under eleven months’ worth of crap in the storage room, then you have to clear a space for the Christmas tree and figure out how to make your home look festive without being tacky.  Let’s face it, I ain’t Martha Stewart.  I always envy those people who can casually throw a rug over a sofa and make it look like a designer item.  I can spend an hour arranging the rug on the sofa and it will still look like the results of the room throwing up.

Taking the decorations down is worse.  I mean, when do you get the time?  You’re so busy trying to recover – and get your kids to recover – from the remnants of the Christmas season.  You’re trying to catch up on work that’s fallen behind because no-one was at work.  You’re trying to figure out how the kids’ new toys work so you can show them, and you’re trying to figure out where the hell to put all of this new stuff.  With all of this going on, it’s no wonder my Christmas decorations stay up for so long.

This year, I have had an extra excuse, and its name is Autism.  You see, George’s autism hasn’t really affected the comings and goings of the Christmas decorations before, because George has always been pretty cool about things changing.  I always used to think that for a kid with autism, he was pretty adaptable.

That has all changed.

About six months ago, a fear of routine changes reared its ugly head. Now, understand that I’m not just talking about a dislike for or a resistance to change.  I’m talking about actual anxiety fear near-panic that sometimes gets intense enough to make George throw up. We had such an incident recently involving a mirror, and in that case, Gerard and I felt that the best thing would be to restore the mirror to its rightful place to ease George’s anxiety.

So today I took the day off work, with the intention of making a few changes while George wasn’t around.  They were necessary changes that included taking down the Christmas decorations and getting my scary mess of a desk organized (cluttered physical space translates to cluttered mental space and all that).  The kids went off to school, I took a brief moment to relax, and then I started working.  I got the Christmas decorations down and put away, and then I had a major decluttering session.  All of the boxes that were under my desk are now stored more appropriately, meaning there’s room to put my feet.  My filing cabinet has been rearranged, so my files are actually in the cabinet instead of in a broken plastic container on the corner of my desk, which now boasts two stacking trays instead – one for incoming mail, and one for the kids’ homework and school forms and stuff.

When George came home from school, World War III broke out.

First it was the Christmas tree.  Kiddo was insistent on the restoration of the Christmas decorations, and went so far as to start dragging boxes of decorations out of the storage room.  I firmly took said boxes from him and put them back.  He kept mentioning the Christmas tree, but I don’t think it took him long to realize that he wasn’t getting his way with this one.

My desk proved to be the bigger issue.  The broken plastic box that I had discarded?  George wanted it back.  George wanted it back so badly that he was almost panicking.  The poor boy was looking directly into my eyes – something that he only does when he’s feeling emotionally distressed and is desperate to impart a message to me.  Those eyes, those eyes… They had such pain and fear in them.  They were brimming with tears as George begged me to put the box back onto my desk.

I had to say no.  I’m always one to pick my battles with George.  If it doesn’t matter, I don’t make an issue of it.  I let George get his way from time to time.  But sometimes the battle does matter, and this is one of them.  I need for my home office to be organized.  I always have so much to do, so much admin to keep on top of.  The way I was going, I was paying bills late for no reason other than the fact that the papers were getting buried.  I had to arrange things so that I could keep up with everything.  This is definitely a battle I needed to win.

I felt so conflicted, though.  My friend Amy went through the heartbreak of burying her child yesterday, and here I was, with my child alive and well, and I was allowing him to be sad and fearful and distressed.  What kind of mother was I being?

Even with this conflict going on, though, I knew that I was right.  I knew that this was a storm I would just have to weather.  I needed to rearrange things on my desk, and George needed to see that things could change and he would still be safe.

The storm appears to be over – at least for now.  George was upset for a long time, but gradually calmed down.  He started walking around without looking suspiciously at my desk out of the corner of his eye, and he started jumping on the trampoline, making the kinds of sounds he makes when he’s happy and settled.  When he said, “Charlie is a girl” (with reference to Charlie the Unicorn), I knew that he was OK.

Sighs of relief all round.

At least for now.

Christmas Without Casualties

29 Dec

Christmas is always such a weird time of year in my family.  It’s a mixed bag of emotions for me, ranging from the very bad (my Dad’s death three weeks before Christmas six years ago) to the very good (my younger son’s birth on Christmas Day five years ago).  Then there’s the fact that almost every year, I find myself inthe midst of some strange family drama that has very little to do with me.  I have to deal with someone threatening to boycott Christmas, someone else threatening to decline gift exchange, bizarre arguments, and plans that change multiple times before landing on the original arrangements.  Then you add a child with autism, and built-in resistance to changes in routine, and the picture gets very interesting.

This year it wasn’t too bad.  As always, I missed my Dad in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but took heart from the fact that Christmas was his favourite time of year and he would be bitterly disappointed to see me having a miserable time on account of his passing.  So it was with nostalgia and bittersweet memories that I put up the Christmas decorations this year, just a week before Christmas.  Dad would have approved of the Christmas tree laden with ornaments, including James’ plastic Playdough scissors that he insisted be hung on the tree right below the angel.  He would have loved the little village I have in George’s room, complete with lights and snow, and he would have nodded approval at the little Christmas tree with lights that I got especially for James’ room.

Here’s the amazing thing that happened this Christmas.  There was no family drama.  Let’s say that again, shall we?  No.  Family.  Drama.  Admittedly, we came close.  Gerard and his mother had some words.  Said words were taken out of context by both parties, and a big misunderstanding ensued.  I have so enjoyed the wonderful feeling of peace and harmony that we have been experiencing with my mother-in-law, and I did not want to let that slip away because of one stupid conversation.  I spoke to Gerard.  I spoke to my mother-in-law.  I smoothed the waters, and explained to each of them what the other meant, and peace reigned again.  Mother Theresa would have been proud of me, and for the first time in years, we were able to celebrate the festive season without waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It was truly a Christmas miracle.

Things were OK on the George front as well.  His resistance to changes in routine has intensified over the last few weeks, and while this did cause some difficulties, there were no crises that we couldn’t handle.  They were little things, like the fact that he got extremely anxious whenever the lights on the big Christmas tree were turned on (interestingly enough, he has no problem with the lights on the little tree, or the lights in the village in his room).  So, we dealt with it in the simplest way possible.  We did without the lights on the tree.  When he saw presents, he wanted them opened right away.  Seeing a wrapped present that he’s not allowed to open is not a pleasant experience for George.  Lots of distraction and tactical planning later, we had all survived, and apart from one casualty, all of the presents were left intact until the proper time.

There was one very difficult moment on Christmas Eve, after my brother-in-law had left with his wife and baby, when we were trying to get the kids settled for bed.  Both of the kids, no doubt reacting to the excitement and pure overstimulation, had meltdowns.  One autistic, one neurotypical, manifesting their pent-up anxieties in different, but equally loud and stressful, ways.  Simultaneously.  It was like Meltdown Central at my house, and it took a long time for calm to be restored.

In the end, though, Santa was good to everyone, and we all got through several days of Christmas (and one birthday) as a harmonious, happy family.   I can truly say this: Dad would be proud.

Running: A Great Hangover Cure

20 Dec

On Saturday night, Gerard and I went to my work Christmas party.  It was quite a fancy shindig, in the grand ballroom of an expensive hotel.  The waitstaff were wearing black tie and gliding elegantly around the room carrying huge platters.  There were elaborately wrapped guest favours, a lineup for the photo op that reminded me a bit of senior prom, and a dessert table that included two chocolate fountains.  There were free drinks both before and during dinner, so I drank far more than my usual sedate one glass of wine.

Predictably enough, I woke up on Sunday morning with the mother of all red wine hangovers.  You know the kind – dry mouth, queasy stomach, little men with little but very real jackhammers on the inside of your head.  What I really wanted to do was eat Tylenol like candy, and then roll over and go back to sleep for the rest of the day.
Instead, I got up, with every movement feeling like torture, and got dressed.  With a fuzzy head, I drove to the community centre, and when I saw my fellow running club members, my “Hi” came out as a weird-sounding croak. When the other runners started running, I gritted my teeth and ran too.

It was a hard run.  Very, very hard.  Of course, I had three things again.  First, I had this massive hangover.  Second, I hadn’t run for three weeks.  Third, I was recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis. Considering all of this, it’s a miracle that I was able to get out and run in the first place.  A hard run was made harder by snowy, slippery conditions, and by the time I’d run 4km, my heart rate was way up.

In the end, I managed just over 5km, and I didn’t do it very well.  The distance runner in me was disappointed with this dismal performance, but the plain old runner in me was thrilled to be back on the road again after an enforced break of three weeks.  The best part of all?  The run knocked the hangover right out of me, and I felt great afterwards, and happily joined the other runners for breakfast (side note: breakfasts contain a huge amount of protein for one meal).

The key to all of this for me is that I am back.  Yes, I had bronchitis and no, I am not quite 100% yet.  But I am well enough to run again, and confident that I will start the new year on a strong note when I do the January 1st Resolution Run.