Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

Safe House

with 3 comments

Once Pudding’s birthday is over and done with, I give December over to Christmas.  We pulled out our not-so-authentic tree and boxes of ornaments, and realized that we must have inadvertently sent a box of decorations to storage.  We can’t find our stocking holders here, and probably some other things that I haven’t yet noticed.  We waited until Cubby went down for a nap, then got to work, knowing that otherwise we’d have two sets of hands thwarting our efforts.

Pudding adored getting into the boxes.  She delighted in unwrapping our ornaments, recognizing them from Christmases gone by.  It always make me wonder just how far back she can remember.  For those of us who aren’t blessed with such a sturdy memory these days, I could look on the bottom of my ornaments to see where on our travels I’d collected each one.  I didn’t need to write on my Red Sox ornament to remind me of my day Defying Gravity in Boston.  The following day, we headed out to the craft market so that South Africa would be represented on our tree of travels.

And of course, there is our other collection.  A steady record of our kids’ special interests through the years.  Pudding loves these.  It reminds me I need to find a Hello Kitty ornament to out on our tree this year.

Having a tree up is a challenge.  There has already been casualties, including the beheading of Santa on my favourite ornament bought one snowy December in Germany.  The kids can’t help but touch, and it takes all the patience we can muster not to chastise them for something that can’t be helped.  Unless, of course, we were to skip the ritual for a year.

I find that as I get further away from my traditional expectations of Christmas, I cling harder to the rituals that we are able to keep in place.  It is summer here in

Shortly before he was beheaded

South Africa, and it feels very different from every Christmas I’ve ever known.  I feel very far from home.  It is tempting to skip, to ignore the time of year when it just feels so wrong.

But that is the thing about rituals- they’re the thing that make us feel safe.  We need them.  This won’t be our home until we’ve spent a Christmas here.  I’ll be homesick until here feels like home.  It may not be the kind of Christmas I’d choose, but this is the Christmas we have, and we’ll make it our own.

Earlier today I was going through old paperwork, and I found some language tests the Pudding’s teacher had carried out over the previous year.  One test was the question: Who keeps you safe?  Pudding had answered incorrectly all three times she’d been tested, including the last time, in May shortly before we left, when she’d answered “home.”

A telling mistake, she’d confused “who” with “what” or perhaps “where.”  But even though she was incorrect, I know how right she is.  I can’t help but be glad that she associates safe with home.  And every ritual, every memory we carve from this house, from any house, will add to that feeling of security.  So we’ll have our first Christmas here, and I might have to sacrifice some of my ornaments in the process, but we’ll make new memories in the process.  Safely at home, where Christmas is supposed to be.

Advertisements

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Santa’s Little Helper

with 16 comments

She’s making her list, she’s checking it twice.  It doesn’t really matter if she’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.  In Pudding’s world, we’re gearing up for Christmas.  Never mind that this is only September.  Never mind that we’re moving from Spring to Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere.  The last thing I feel is Christmassy.  But that matters not at all to our heroine.

At the weekend she declared: “It’s Christmastime.”  And that is all is takes.  For once I’m glad that our belongings haven’t arrived from the US yet, because if she found the decorations, no doubt our house would resemble a grotto within minutes.  Last year I got the tree up the week before Christmas, and that was plenty for me.

The thing is, Pudding is right about making these preparations.  We now rely on Pouch mail services, which is sporadic at the best of times, and a nightmare leading up to the holiday season.  A couple of weeks ago we were sent an email telling us that we should make sure we order everything in the next couple of weeks to be certain we’ll have it in time for Christmas.  Oh dear, not going to happen.

At least Pudding is prepared.  She has a very long list that she wants Santa to know about.  I think she sensed our unease, and looked for other ways to reach the man in Lapland.  She found it, in her grandparents.  Pudding opens up Skype on the computer, and calls her grandparents, not minding such things as time zones.  Here is a typical conversation:

Pudding: Hello, hello, hello?  Hello….

Grandparent: Hi Pudding, is that you?  Where’s your Mummy? [It is about 5 am here, lucky we love you]

Pudding:Hello….Hellooooo  [Pudding will ignore any interruptions to her carefully planned monologue, these people are amateurs!]

Grandparent: Yes, hello to  you too Pudding.  [There you go, much better.]

Pudding: What’s Santa gonna buy for you? [A little pronoun reversal between family. Not to be interpreted as an interest in your Christmas wishes, oh no.]

Grandparent: Well, I don’t know, Pudding!  Tell me, what is Santa going to bring for you? [Good, Grandparent, you’re playing properly!]

Pudding: A toy Hello Kitty.  A toy Abby Cadabby. Some clothes for Kelly doll. A buggy for Kelly doll. A high chair for Kelly doll. A pink castle. A Hello Kitty nightgown. A wand. A pinkalicious dress…..

In the same order, every time.  It doesn’t matter which set of grandparents, she has determined that they have an ‘in’ with the jolly old fellow, and she is going to make the most of it.  You may have noted that Santa buys presents, according to Pudding.  She is unimpressed by my talk of elves and workshops.  She wants nice new shiny things from toy shops.  Preferably wrapped in pink.

Never one to miss a chance to exploit my girl’s wishes, I came up with a plan to help us suffer through this eternal Christmas countdown.  We’re going to make a big list, and bedazzle the heck out of it with winter stickers (ooh, fine motor delights) and glitter glue and all kinds of things.  When she earns a reward, she can add to her list.  But here is the thing- she must add to it.  She can use those infuriating kiddy scissors and paste a picture, or she can learn to write the new words, but that list will be her own work.

This year, Santa is managing car repairs and medical bills galore, he is going to make sure she earns everything on her list.  He is going to have his work cut out getting all the way down here on his sleigh.  Even if he does have a couple of sets of elves suckered in on either side of the Atlantic.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

Give and Take

with 10 comments

Pudding got Christmas this year.  That in itself is pretty huge.  She got that Santa brought presents in the night; some were for her, some for her brother.  She got that, she just didn’t always accept it.  She liked that Santa bought her various pink and princessy items.  She was cool with Father Christmas bringing Cubby trains and boy things.  But Santa had made a mistake with one present, and she has done her best to rectify that ever since.

A couple of months ago, we’d seen a Sesame Street book with a toddler’s “CD” player and discs.  It was perfect for Cubby, who likes Elmo, and music, and touching (scratching) any grown-up CDs and DVDs he can get his hands on.  We did not anticipate that within the few weeks between then and Christmas, Pudding would develop a new special interest with Ernie.

Special Interests are, well…special in our house. Even before the diagnosis, we’ve always enabled and cultivated these passions.   Of all the aspects of spectrummy life, special interests are the easiest for us to understand.  This is because both Spectrummy Daddy and I both have special interests now, and we did as kids too.  In fact, not having special interests would be unusual for our progeny.  You try telling Spectrummy Daddy that Batman is not the greatest super hero of all time, and see where that gets you.  Just like if you even suggest to me that there might be a greater novel than Jane Eyre.  As a young child I was crazy about horses.  I’d even got a small collection of tack, but…erm, no pony.  Then anyone who knew me as a teenager remembers my obsession for Take That far exceeding the typical teenage infatuation.  I even went to the same concert five times in a row.  My parents were enablers too!

So, at the time of purchase, there was no Sesame Street or Ernie for Pudding, she was enthralled with Upsy-Daisy again.  My parents bought another doll to replace the one she carried everywhere with her, and she was ecstatic with new and old Upsy-Daisy.  But she made more requests for Ernie, we found and bought a stuffed Ernie for her birthday, and that was it:  Ernie, Ernie, Ernie.  I must admit to feeling a little sad for Upsy-Daisy, at being so quickly usurped, but like Sleeping Beauty and other special interests, they still remain close to her heart.  Their importance to her just waxes and wanes.

So all this left us with a dilemma over the CD player.  In the end I decided to give it to Cubby.  It is Elmo, rather than Ernie, after all.  But the instant Cubby opened it, Pudding snatched it away.  One of the songs it plays is The Rubber Ducky Song, after all.  For the most part, he doesn’t mind.  He has plenty of other toys to occupy him.  When he decides he does want to play with it, a possessive Pudding isn’t willing to share.  It is usually around this time that Ernie decides he wants to ride on the back of Pudding’s bicycle, and Pudding graciously runs to assist him in this endeavour.

That is the other good thing about special interests, they make for great motivators.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 30, 2010 at 7:17 am

Home sick for Christmas

with 14 comments

I get homesick at Christmas.  It feels strange to say that, because our motto is that “Home” is where we are all together.  Each different place we’ve lived together has been our home, and every future one will be too.  So I call here Home the rest of the year.  I’m not expected to get homesick in a place I call home, where I’m a citizen, and own property, where people (mostly) speak the same language, and has many cultural similarities.  There is just enough the same to make it feel really different.  When we’re serving at a post, I don’t feel like a foreign-born spouse.  When we have a domestic assignment, I really do.

There is something about Christmas that makes me yearn for England, and my family and friends there.  I’ve only spent one Christmas in England during the last seven years, so perhaps that adds to the nostalgia.  I’m probably homesick for a Christmas that doesn’t even exist any more.  My parents no longer live in the house, nor the area where I grew up.  My brothers have their own families now, and my friends are all grown up too, with their own commitments and schedules.  I think when you live at a distance, your mind can play tricks, and you convince yourself that the place you can’t be is a perfect paradise.  If you were only there, everything would be just as it is supposed to be.  Fortunately, I only get like this at this time of year, and the rest of the time I immerse myself in my surroundings.  I’d be pretty insufferable otherwise.

There was no way to go to England this year again, and probably not next year either.  For our family, the tradition is now to spend Christmas with just the four of us.  I’m acutely aware that the way that we celebrate now will be the memories that make our kids nostalgic some day.  I’ve tried hard to get into the spirit for this reason, and to encourage Pudding and Cubby to do the same.  For the first time this year, I felt like Pudding “got it.”  We’d played with her nativity set.  We’d read stories.  She’d helped me to put our ornaments on the tree, and when we finished, she informed me that the presents would do right here (under the tree) and Santa would bring them.  We’d attended her school Christmas party, and her delight and excitement was contagious.  We made plans to spend a festive day with friends on Christmas Eve, followed by a cosy day at home by ourselves.

When she woke up on Christmas Eve, she refused food and drink.  As Pudding is almost always in a whirl of hyperactivity, this was our first clue that she was ill.  She had a fever.  Her temperature came down with medication, and she had no other signs of illness, so we continued with our plans, and she was fine, though a little subdued.  We waited for her to get better or worse, but she stayed pretty much the same.  She went to bed, smiling as we told her that Santa would come in the night.

Pudding woke up even earlier than usual on Christmas Day, chattering away to herself until Daddy went in to see her.  Instead of coming in to cuddle with me as she does every morning, she stood rattling the gate and pleading to go downstairs. She was thrilled with her presents, but not long after breakfast she asked to lie down on the sofa with me.  As the day wore on, she looked more out of sorts, until she fell asleep.  After about an hour, she woke up, was violently sick, then went to bed.

For the first time ever, we took down the decorations on Christmas Day.  I just wanted Christmas to be over this year.  Even the Christmas Tree came down, and everything was packed away for another year.  Like Pudding’s illness, my homesickness has abated now too.  I’ve packed that up, hopefully it won’t come out again for another year.  It is time for everything to return to our version of normal, whatever that is.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 27, 2010 at 6:59 am

iBelieve

with 19 comments

From before you could buy an iPad, I knew I wanted one for Pudding.  When Cubby was born, his father bought me an iPod Touch.  When I was nursing the newborn, Pudding latched on to the iPod.  I was amazed how well she could use it, how naturally the touch screen and visual layout came to her.  I downloaded some apps for her, and uploaded some cartoons.  It came so naturally to her, she learned so easily in this format.  I didn’t know at the time that she was a visual learner, like many other children on the spectrum.  Of course, I didn’t even know there was a spectrum back then.

I didn’t notice then that her fingers didn’t work quite as well as they should.  I remember during her initial OT evaluation remarking that there was no way she could have significant fine motor delays, as she was so very capable with my iPod.  I was wrong, and following the diagnosis, I observed how her little fingers would struggle and wished they made a bigger iPod that would be just the right size for her.

Months later, that was exactly what Apple did with the iPad.  By that time, however, the device was way out of our budget.  I told myself we’d save up for one for her for Christmas, but finances just became more and more difficult.  We couldn’t afford the therapy our doctor recommended, then we had to let go of her occupational therapist, and speech therapist.  We’d purposely remained in the US to provide the best treatment options for our girl, we’d never imagined how difficult that would be.

I started to read about how the autism community had discovered the same thing with this technology as I’d observed with Pudding.  The iPad tapped right into our kid’s strengths.  Developers created and marketed apps directly to those with communication challenges.  The iPod, and later the iPad, became a more affordable communication device.  Families discovered how it helped their loved one to remain organized, with visual schedules and social stories at the touch of a button.  Pudding’s teacher introduced them to the classroom, and is undergoing training to help Pudding and her classmates use them to their full potential.  Apple had created a revolution.  I told myself one day, perhaps after returning to work, we’d become part of that revolution too.

I didn’t have to wait.  Pudding is the very fortunate recipient of an iPad.  A gift of kindness so touching I can hardly find the words to express my gratitude.  We aren’t waiting for Christmas, she is using it right now.  Though she can use it to access entertainment, it isn’t a toy.  She uses it, she doesn’t play with it.  It is fostering her independence as she makes her own leisure choices.  It is teaching her how to write the letters of the alphabet, and the basics of reading.  It is a tool that works with the way her brain works, rather than struggling against her differences.  I’m busy learning about other apps to organize her day, and encourage appropriate behaviors in unfamiliar situations.  If anybody reading this can recommend apps, please do so in the comments.  We’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m already amazed.

And I believe.  I believe in kindness and goodwill.  I believe that this world is becoming more accommodating to those with differences like my girl.  I believe in my girl.  I believe in her future, with all the tools she needs to succeed in life.

I believe in Santa.

*****

If you have anything left over to give, please consider making a donation to the Autism Society of America, so that other families might benefit from this amazing technology.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 24, 2010 at 8:47 am

Wordless Wednesday 22 Dec 10

with 17 comments

 

Christmas 2006

 

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2008

Cubby Christmas 2009

Pudding Christmas 2009

 

 

Pudding Christmas 2009

 

Christmas Past.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy Wordless Wednesday!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

The Party

with 9 comments

A rubber duck.

Image via Wikipedia

On Saturday we held a party.  Now, you’d think as a Diplowife, I’d be a practiced and efficient hostess, but not so much.  As we were out of town for Pudding’s actual birthday, this celebration came two weeks late.  This would be fine, were it not for the fact that it was now a week before Christmas.  As a December baby, for Pudding the whole thing just clumps together, and as this party approached it became clear that holding a party this close to Christmas was just a bit confusing.

As usual, when our guests first arrived, Pudding became upset and very clingy.  We always have a 20 minute period where she needs to adjust.  As time went on, she settled down.  She happily made a craft with the other children, and enjoyed all the food, we had separate tables for allergic and non-allergic foods, which worked surprisingly well.  Pudding opened her gifts with glee, and had become so comfortable by this point that she happily went around giving hugs and thanking our generous guests.  Before long she was frolicking on  the floor.  I was touched by a couple of our friends saying how well she was doing.  It is always nice when her efforts are recognized. It is particularly welcome when people who don’t walk in our shoes try them on for a while.  Our friends had taken such great care to choose gifts that Pudding would love and be able to use.  I truly appreciate the thought and effort that went into their choices.

I served cake, but opted not to sing Happy Birthday.  The reason I gave was the whole too-close-to-Christmas-confusion thing, but a more honest reason is that I couldn’t find the candles and had no time to get more.  See, told you I was a poor hostess.  Nonetheless, we did have a sing-song.  As was clear to all by the grip she had on her new Ernie doll, not to mention the endless repetitive questions about said toy, Pudding has a new special interest.  I only wish I’d been able to capture on video the entire room spontaneously bursting into the Rubber Ducky song.  Everyone celebrating her passion was such a special moment for my girl.  Our girl.

I’ve talked before about how being a spectrummy parent can make me feel a disconnect with others, like a stranger amongst friends.  It is equally true though, that I’m gratified beyond words by the way our friends will show us that we aren’t walking this journey alone.  By Pudding’s next birthday, we’ll likely be living on another continent, but there will always be room for the people I’m honored to call friends.  And if they come to visit, you can guarantee I’ll throw a party.  Hopefully my hostessing skills will have improved by then!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 21, 2010 at 7:06 am