Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘Santa

Christmas Traditions

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If someone were to ask me what my Christmas traditions were, up until last week I’d have probably said moping around on Christmas Day lamenting at how it wasn’t traditional.  Bah humbug!helpers

I always loved Christmases growing up in England, and spending the holidays in the heat of the southern hemisphere far away from family has always led to much homesickness.  But this year is different.  Maybe it is because we got to have a trip to England this year.  Maybe it is because we feel more settled here now, with me working, and the kids settled and happy in school.  Maybe because this is the year I decided we’d start our own tradition.

cookiesI have these cookies that I always make at this time of year.  I wouldn’t say they’re the best cookies in the whole entire world, but that is only because I let other people do that.  See, I’m humble!  When I make these, I’m reminded how we can never, ever let our kids near crack, booze, or anything else as addictive, but nearly as wholesome as my cookies.

The kids like to help with making them, almost as much as they like to help to eat them all afterwards.  But this year, after allotting a couple for each member of the family, and Santa his traditional portion, I decided the rest of the batch was going to go elsewhere.

You see, I’m not the only ones who doesn’t get to spend time with their family.  The guards at our consulate work year-round to keep us safe.  We don’t have Marine Security Guards here, so these guys are on duty constantly.  What’s more, they are the friendliest bunch of people on this planet, and always, always, make time for our kids and their quirks.  Because many of these guys’ families are in villages far from Johannesburg, working on Christmas Day means that they don’t get to spend time with their loved ones for the holidays.

So, new tradition- they get the cookies.  We wrapped them nicely, stuck the one nice photo of our family we’ve taken in years on them (which is also masquerading as a Christmas card), put Santa hats on the kids and drove to the Consulate to deliver our goodies.  It felt great- even better than my belly feels with those delicious cookies inside them.  So there you have it- new tradition.

Now, we have one more R & R trip during our tour to South Africa, and we plan on going to the UK for it.  So I won’t be able to deliver cookies on the day here, but I’m thinking that there’ll be a police station, or a hospital, maybe a homeless shelter where the cookies would be appreciated.  I have to do it- it is traditional!

So then I was thinking, because these cookies are too good not to share, what if I gave you the recipe*?  And maybe you’d also share them with someone who has to work, or who is protecting all of us day in, day out, with no holiday break.

So although I’m really not a food blogger, here is the recipe using US measurements:cubbychef

Makes about 3 dozen (ish).

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
8 oz white chocolate chips (or whatever you want, and it doesn’t have to be precise at all).

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine flour, cocoa, soda and salt in medium mixing bowl
3. In large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Beat in eggs one at a time
5. Blend in flour mix
6. Stir in choc chips / peppermint patties
7. Roll into balls then flatten onto baking sheet
8. Leave space between each cookiewrapped
9. Bake 8-10 mins until set
10. Cool 1 min
11. Transfer to racks with spatula

*Slight note here: this is my adaptation from an original recipe and I have no idea whose.  I found it in an old cookbook at my mother-in-law’s house before I was married.  I have adapted it a little over the years, and it is a very forgiving dough that works at different altitudes and lets your play around with different chocolate chips etc.

I hope you enjoy them, but I really hope you share them.  It turns out that is what Christmas is all about- no matter where you happen to spend it!

 

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Happy Holidays!

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I meant to write a post on Christmas Day, to wish you all happy holidays from our family to yours, but the only photo I have of us all together is this one, and I realized that it looks like we are in a very comfortable and festive jail.  Not really in the spirit of the season, but a fair representation of living here.  So in the style of not-so-great photo-journalism, here is our Christmas in pictures.

So, as you can see, Santa came.  Or Father Christmas as we call him in England and South Africa.  He enjoyed his whiskey and cookies, and I’d like to say Rudolph enjoyed the carrot, but that was actually Pudding who gnawed on it.  I had to stop her before she ate the whole thing, and shook my head at the strangeness of a child who chooses carrots over cookies, and a mother who stops her.

Pudding awoke at the usual 5am, but we made her wait an unbearable (for all of us) hour until her brother woke up to go downstairs.  Eventually her demands of “I want presents” became loud enough to rouse him.

One of the great things about raising third culture kids is that they are exposed to many different religions and cultures, and we embrace this fully, while honouring our own traditions.  One of the weird things is that you end up with photos of your kids opening Christmas presents while sitting cross-legged on a Muslim prayer rug.

And another great thing is that Christmas is an opportunity to support the local economy.  Pudding had her own very specific requirements that didn’t lend themselves well to sourcing locally-produced items.  We did, however, find this hand-crafted chair for her doll at a local market.  It broke moments after this photo was taken.  Kind of glad the rest of our stuff came from Melissa and Doug or Lego Duplo.

It isn’t difficult to find gifts bigger than the boy himself.  The way he has been eating this holiday season though, we’re expecting a growth spurt any day now.

I told you she was Santa’s little helper!  Once her own unwrapping was done with, Pudding assisted us too.

Love is not indulging your husband by surprising him with Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars with his special interest- Batman.  Love is being seen out in public with him wearing them.

And for most of the rest of the day, it was about play.  Here we are tricking Cubby into developing his fine motor skills.  Probably doesn’t hurt that he is learning about counting, shapes and numbers too- with us as parents he needs all the mathematical help he can get.

Pudding played by dressing up in the same outfit as newly-shorn Kelly doll and telling her a story.  Maybe I joined in likewise- you can’t tell because I’m on the other side of the camera, thanks to Santa bringing me a new lens to replace the one I broke back in the US.

And the rest of the day I pretty much spent making this: my most perfect turkey yet.  The kids ate about two mouthfuls, of course.

That was about it for our Christmas.  It was quiet, cosy and drama-free, and I know what a lucky autism mama I am to be able to say that.  Of course, I did take down the tree the next day- a return to our version of normality is a present to us all.

From my family to yours, I sincerely hope you had a wonderful time.  And if not, I’m sincerely glad they are over for another year.  Extra-special holiday love to you all.

Christmas Magic (at Hopeful Parents)

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This post was originally published at Hopeful Parents.  You can find it by clicking the link >here<

Hopeful Parents

Christmas is strange for me.  I never feel more homesick than at this time of year, nor do I feel more guilty.  I have an overwhelming desire to give my kids the same kind of Christmas that I experienced as a child, and I just can’t.

I’m not just talking about the winter wonderland that was a feature of the season in northern England, such a far cry from the heat of a South African Christmas, but the experience of being around family and friends.  Of having those ordinary moments that appear so extraordinary through a child’s eyes.  The magic of Christmas.

Life as a special needs child is tough.  When she role-plays, I’m at once elated that she is developing her pretend play skills, and dismayed that her doll is “going to therapy” day after day. Childhood should be about wonder and magic, not mundane, routine therapy.

So at this time of year, I find it even more important to put the wonder back into her life.

My previous efforts have been far from successful.  At the age of 2, she figured out Santa Daddy within seconds.  Last year she was sick all Christmas Day, and this year she has already discovered Santa’s stash of presents.

With no sensory Santa around these parts, I knew I’d have to work some real magic.  Yesterday we hosted a Christmas party at our house, and a member of our community here very graciously made a special appearance.

It was perfect.  Pudding was at ease in her own home with us around.  She was so excited (and only a tiny bit afraid) to meet Santa, who seemed to know lots about our little girl.  She was as comfortable as can be, content to sit in the chair next to him even after he’d delivered the goods.

It isn’t going to be a Christmas just like the ones I used to know, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be every bit as special.

Maybe the marvel of Christmas isn’t just for kids.  Maybe we parents crave the smile on their delighted faces every bit as much as they desire a Hello Kitty or Thomas The Train toy.  The good thing is that those are the presents that can be delivered throughout the year, though they never stop being magical.  You just have to believe.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Santa’s Little Helper

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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

Home sick for Christmas

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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

Advocating for Santa

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Custom Santa Suit, http://www.costumers.com

Image via Wikipedia

Disney had given me another kind of magic.  Being in a place where my kids got the accommodations they needed, I got to see them have just as good a time as any other kid.  Normally we avoid certain things, or we tentatively try them with me hanging around the periphery, ready to pull out in case of disaster.  But at Disney, all I’d had to do was ask for the supports my kids needed, and they were given.  Which leads me to think, maybe I just need to ask more.  Maybe instead of feeling like I’m putting people out by asking for certain things, I should instead approach as though my kids are entitled to enjoy the same experiences as other children, and I have every right to ask that they be included and assisted in that goal.

I know, you’re probably wondering why I’m not there already.  After all, Pudding is in the public school system, and receives numerous supports which, while not taking for granted, I do accept as her right.  But the law here explicitly states her entitlement to a free and appropriate education.  I don’t have a hard time pushing for what she needs there.  It is when there is no legal framework in place, when we rely on goodwill that I find it harder to insist on such supports.  When I think, wouldn’t it be nice if she could do X like the other kids, but we don’t because it is too hard.  I loved taking Pudding to a sensory showing at the cinema, but until now, I’ve held back on asking.

I’ve been looking for a Sensitive Santa for a while now.  We just never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and eventually I gave up for this year.  We’ve just been too busy, and I haven’t had time to talk it through with Pudding.  We walked into a mall in Orlando, and saw the familiar site of families queuing up to get their pictures taken with Santa.  He wasn’t a “sensitive” one, but nonetheless, out of nowhere I became determined that Pudding and Cubby took part in this quintessential childhood experience.

I approached the staff, and asked explain that Pudding found it impossible to wait in long lines.  I asked if they could suggest a time when we could return without having to queue.  The lady consulted with another, and the next thing we knew, we were being ushered to meet Santa that very minute!

I’d love to say that Pudding jumped on his lap, and told him what she wanted for Christmas, but with no explaining or coaching, that was never going to be.  She refused to sit on his lap (rightly so, as we spend the rest of the year ensuring stranger danger), but she was content enough to sit with me next to him.  Cubby screamed his little heart out, but calmed down enough when Daddy took him to sit on his lap.  In the end, we got a group photo (including Ernie) that is acceptable.

More than that, I got a lesson that it is okay to ask for what my kids need.  Being an advocate doesn’t just happen at school, I need to get comfortable with doing it all the time.  So comfortable, that when those beautiful big eyes are watching me, they see that it is okay to ask for what you need.  I can’t think of a better present to ask from Santa.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 17, 2010 at 7:58 am