December 8, 2015

a christmas tree, a family council, a hard decision, and a little miracle=a really long run on christmas post

We will be traveling at Christmas this year so we settled on setting up the little tree again. 

Maybe one day we will get a nice, full fake tree for years like this when we can't get a real tree. Until then, this little tree serves its purpose just fine.

I had three different kids try to tell me whose turn it was to put the star on the top of the tree--all three different names. Thank goodness I record it here because we went back to check. Lo and behold, it was Layla who was right that it was Perry's turn to place the star. Which means it was her turn to place the first ornament on the tree.

A very important job.

Then it was a free for all as all of the kids really got into placing ornaments every which way around the tree.

Kacin took the camera for awhile. Of course, he gave us some selfies.

Perry was quite excited to place that star at the top.

We, also, got the nativity and the advent boxes out. Each box holds an ornament that represents something about the life of Christ (25 Days of Christ). We place the ornament on the tree and look at pictures, read scriptures, or read a quote that corresponds. In theory, we would be opening up one box a night. In actuality, we do four boxes at once.

Which brings me to my little Christmas "miracle." I had visions dancing in my head a few weeks ago about how our Christmas season would look--snuggling together reading Christmas books, creating opportunities to serve, making gingerbread houses, looking at nativities and Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies together, doing our Christmas countdown together each night. At the center of all of my imaginings was a happy, calm family enjoying peaceful, fun moments together.

Reality quickly woke me up from my dream. There is no such thing as "silent nights, all is calm" around this house. It is usually quite loud and crazy with energetic kids, or someone crying and yelling and a little boy is in the middle of a meltdown. And because of those meltdowns, one of us is usually on Perry duty and the other is with the other kids and so it is hard to be all together. Then there is the fact, we parents are just plain wiped out and exhausted by evening time.

It wasn't until Dec. 3rd that we were all home at the same time to sit down and actually do our 25 days of Christ for the first time. There was yelling and crying and chaos and I was frustrated because why can't we have some peace? why do Perry's moods have to change so quickly and keep us all on edge and full of stress?

Eric and I talked about all this and a few days later we held a family council. In the bathroom. Because all of our family meetings are held in the bathroom (squeezing into the bathroom means we get straight to the point to get out quick and we are nice and close so we have to look into each other's eyes. anyways, doesn't everyone do their best thinking in the bathroom? ha!).

Back to the point. We held a family council and discussed dinner time. Which has nothing to do with Christmas, but everything to do with bringing peace into our home. Because in the last three years, I can count on one hand how many family dinners we have had in which we can actually have a conversation with each other. Perry is usually throwing a tantrum because he does not want to come to dinner, throwing his food, throwing his fork (only plastic for him, folks), or needs undivided attention from Eric or I to keep him in his seat actually eating. To say the least, it is stressful and hard for each of us to all eat together, but we have kept on trying all of this time.

Sometimes you need to take a break. A guilt free break. We discussed and decided in our council that it would be ok, for awhile, to feed Perry either before or after family mealtime so the other kids could get some attention and conversation and, hopefully, we will all feel a little more peaceful at dinner time. We are not giving up. We will continue to work on mealtime etiquette, but in a one-on-one setting. Of course, he can come to the table and eat with us. We would love it if he did! But we are not going to feel guilty if we eat without him if he is not ready. It is a hard, complicated family decision that will ultimately help everyone be successful right now.

And then we had our Christmas "miracle" Sunday night. Which has nothing to do with our family council and our decision and dinnertime, but everything to do with feeling some peace in our home. Prayers were answered, Santa delivered, the stars aligned--call it what you will, but I got my little wish for a magical Christmas moment. We sat together in the living room. Each child patiently waited and took their turn to put an ornament on the tree. We read about and looked at pictures of Jesus and talked about His life. We sang "Away on the Manger" accompanied by Kacin on the piano. We were all calm, not perfect, but happy and calm.  A joyful moment I so needed right then amongst all the regular crazy and the holiday bustle--my own little Christmas miracle.      

I do hope I didn't come across as too negative about Perry. I love that boy with all of his quirks and behaviors. But let's keep it real. Sometimes autism just stinks. It is terribly challenging.