Cutting down a Christmas tree becomes a family memory to treasure at farms such as Henslers Nursery in Indiana.Read More
Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.
As our family celebrates the 12 days of Christmas, I don't feel it is too late to wish you a very, merry Christmas! After all, it is only the 4th day of Christmas.
Today was Nick's first day back to work in two weeks and we sure do miss having our guy around :( It's hard to get back to real life.
But this is what we are doing today...just chillin'. It is so nice to have these days of no where to be and nothing to do. To stay in our pjs or sweats all day and have some really deep relaxation. I am trying to soak all of this in since we start school Monday and will be on the run again before we know it!
This Christmas was so magical! My cousin, Andy, stayed with us and it was so nice having him around and having lots of family pop over to just hang out. That is what Christmas is made for!
This photo is from our ugly sweater party! It was a small group this year but we had so much fun laughing, snacking, and watching our traditional movie of Christmas Vacation. Memories!
Christmas morning I woke up before the children to make some coffee and get myself prepared for the mental anguish of the wrapping paper blizzard that would ensue.
I know you know what I am talking about here ;)
Check out our Christmas tree! Santa came!!!
The kids were so gracious about their gifts and it was so fun to watch them open everything they got from us and then from Santa. They loved all of their toys and since have been having a blast playing with everything!
Here's Calvin with his lego bible. It is so fun!
Here's Emma with her weaving loom! She asked Santa for it and has played with it every single day!
After the kids opened their gifts I insisted we take some family photos. This year the kids had REALLY wanted us to all have matching pjs. Let me tell you, that is easier said than done. Has anyone else endured this nightmare? After 3 pairs of pjs we landed on matching pjs from Burt Bee's Organic Cotton collection and we LOVE them!
Of course we had to take some silly photos after we FINALLY got a good one!
I think this one is adequately silly, don't you?
Nick and I got one another some pretty great gifts too! Nick got me an Erin Condren planner (I've wanted one FOREVER!!!), he also got me some le creuset kitchen items, a ton of wool socks, and spent way, WAY too much Shearling slippers for me. When I scolded him he said "you're always here doing so much for all of us. You deserve warm feet." He is just the sweetest man!
I got Nick a big tv for our bedroom...he's wanted one FOREVER and I was so excited to actually surprise him with it...I've had it hidden in my dressing room for months! I thought for sure he had discovered it but he hadn't and I was so tickled to surprise him. I also got him some cubs memorabilia from their big win!!! this year. And I got him the book The Secret Garage, about praying for your family.
We've had the best holiday, not to mention all of the wonderful gifts our families gave us! We received some amazing gifts...my camel for my nativity, awesome travel mugs, and more!
We hope you and yours are having a very merry Christmas season and that your days are merry and bright!
This isn't one of those posts where I'm all like "Christmas with an Autistic Child is like a dream come true..." because it just stinks.
The case of the stinks starts pretty much right after Thanksgiving. Or rather on Thanksgiving.
Christmas tree getting leads to over load. Decorating leads to overload. Cookies lead to overload. Church performances lead to overload. Shopping leads to overload. Everything leads to overload.
And a lot of times people don't see it unless you are in the house with an Autistic child. THEN I'm sure you see it.
Our son, Calvin, will fall asleep when he's overloaded. People say "oh, the poor thing's had a busy day."
Nope, he just can't take anyone or anything, anymore.
Which is a great coping mechanism until it's 2 am and he's raring to go while punching me in the face to watch this one commercial with him. Over and over and over and over.
Oh the Christmas joy.
Then there are the times when he doesn't even try to hide his overloaded-ness from anyone.
Take last Sunday in church for example...
Our cute, adorable Emma (who I always seems to describe like Grover) sang in church with some other girls. Nick pulls out his phone to video tape it.
So here is the next 2 minutes of Calvin, full volume, in church with a somewhat Veruca Salt tone in his voice:
"I knew you had your phone.
Why can't I play games on your phone?
No cell phones in church!
No cell phones in church!
Let me play games on your phone!
No cell phones in church!
No cell phones in church!
You never let me play games in church!"
If you seeing me saying this to my son it's not because I don't love him but rather because I am tired of whisper arguing in church after 3 sleepless nights.
Anyway, this is one of those Autism Mom Public Service Announcements to say, if you know someone who has an Autistic child, please cut them a little slack. We all have a lot on our plates this time of year but for those of us with a child from Autism it takes everything to a completely whole new level.
Just imagine we're trying to pacify one child so they won't completely fly off the handle at an event or at home and we are trying to make sure the children who don't have autism aren't feeling like the autistic child is spoiled and everything is focused on them and we are trying to plan for every little thing...is aunt so and so wears her strong perfume and they are going to complain loudly about how bad she smells what are you going to do? Or if that dog that they hate is there what are you going to do? Or if other kids want a turn with the toys at Grandma's and they don't' understand, what are you going to to? We have 18 backup plans with 2 more to have as backup plans to our backup plans. All that coupled with remembering green bean casserole and wrapping gifts and everything can just feel chaotic and overwhelming.
So if you know a Momma (or a Daddy!) who's little one has Autism, a hug and a starbucks giftcard can go a long way towards making us feel like we're not in this alone. That you get it. That you're here for us.
And if you are celebrating Christmas with a little one on the spectrum please don't be freaked out. Be understanding but don't treat them with kid gloves. They will be able to sense it and that alone will feel weird and foreign. Just be you to them and loving and understanding if they need to back away. Look for those signs. The child isn't trying to be defiant or naughty by not wanting to participate or do something but rather that may be their way of shutting down as a coping mechanism to try to avoid overload. We sure love our little ones don't we? Christmas is so special for them and even if they aren't participating or are struggling, they're still here doing it with us. They know everything around them and they get it on a deep level, trust me.
All that being said...
Merry Christmas! I have a feeling it will definitely not be a Silent Night.
So this is a behind the scenes I'm going to be honest post.
This holiday season is not going as planned.
Picture me, early November, all curled up on the couch dreaming of how the holiday would be after Thanksgiving:
I'd get my decorations out before Thanksgiving to have time to mull over what I wanted to use, what I didn't want to, yada, yada.
Everything would be decorated and the bins would be put away by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.
From there, every day we would make a magical recipe and would store them away to give for gifts or in anticipation of the big day.
I would tidily wrap 5 gifts a day and would be done by the week before Christmas so I didn't have to bother with last minute things.
All of this was just a big, fat wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
And wait for it...
So here has been the reality. The week before Thanksgiving my grandmother passed away, which I wrote about here. She had been sick, she's in a better place, but somehow there has just been this fog. I know you can't rush grief or getting over someone being gone but it just feels hard. And foggy. Some days I just want to stay home. And what should seemily have taken me no time (in my mind) and been done by now is still languishing around.
Further more from a working/website perspective this has made it so I have nothing to say. No fun Christmas tutorials over here. No house tours ready from this gal. Unless you want "today I put on jeans and not leggings, and you can too" then yesterday I totally nailed that.
But the sad truth is that as I was wallowing. Because that's what it's been, wallowing, I realized that maybe I'm not the only one wallowing. And maybe that's the beauty from ashes that God pulls out of all of this and wants to use.
This isn't our first Christmas that things haven't gone as planned. It's not always happiness and sunshine over here folks. There have been Christmas' where the tree fell over. Where we had no money when it certainly seemed we should. When there was no work and we had no money and it made sense we had no money.
But somehow God works through those tough times.
And I know He will work through this.
Everything will come together in His time. I just have to give myself the grief and time. To cry over the Christmas card I got from Grandma last year I found that sent me to grief all over again. And the crying when I unwrapped the Christmas ornaments from her. It's all there. All under the surface. And I just need the time.
So I apologize to you readers. I had a really great "Christmas countdown" series planned with games and strippers and rides and fun. Well only one of those things was included but I digress...
Instead I am here with real life, living real, feeling real, hurting real, healing real. And it's going to be okay.
I hope that whatever you are going through this Christmas, your hurts, your pains, your money issues, the betrayals that you've been hurt with, the shocking news you just can't bounce back from; that that is the message of hope that I can share with you:
"It's going to be okay."
Forgive me for being absent. Love you all.
Yesterday we started our countdown to Christmas. In typical me fashion we had to do two days to get caught up but it worked out. If you are like me and are late, you can rest assured that it's not too late to get started with a countdown.
And I'll show you how.
A little history of our countdown calendar:
When Emma was two and Calvin was one Nick lost his job. It was hard and tough and horrid. We had $200 in our savings account. Fun times were had by all.
One thing we vowed was that the kids wouldn't know what was going on. We didn't want them to not have a Christmas or to notice that they had less.
So I came up with this countdown during that time.
That first year I took string, tacked up some socks and mittens I found and put things in them that were around the house...a couple of stickers, dimes, candy canes, whatever. I put them in before I would go to work at 4 IN THE MORNING! And then they had that day's sock or mitten waiting for them when they woke up with Daddy.
And they still ask for this every single year! My kids are all about traditions. In fact, Nick and I even purchased them Playmobil advent sets because they had been BEGGING for them but in the end when I asked which they wanted to do, Playmobil parts or surprises every day they chose our old fashioned surprises method. So the Playmobil's are going back I guess :/.
The thing I love is you can really make this as simple or as elaborate as you want. It doesn't have to cost a lot but if you want it to, you can. It's all up to you!
Okay, so I'm going to walk you through what you need to do the countdown how I did it this year:
Supplies You'll Need:
-String, twine, ribbon. I've used all of them through the years. This year I am going with twine for a rustic look.
-2 Nails or Hooks to hang the string on.
-Socks, mittens, little stockings. I have a mixture of these. Truth be told a lot of these are ones that were cute but we had lost their mate. So I kept them. I also love to see how little their tiny hands and feet were when they were babies so I used a lot of their infant-wear :) See how cheap this is by using what you already have?
-Clothespins, Binder Clips, Safety Pins, or Paper Clips to secure socks to string.
-Numbers. In previous years (I think you can see some from last year on the socks in the previous picture) I printed numbers out. I've used just plain stickers. This year I found these cool gold stickers that were for 25 days. Perfect! They were a little pricey ($4.99!, I know, I'm pathetically a cheapskate) but I had a 40% coupon so it worked out. Emma loved the stickers. I got them at Hobby Lobby if you are looking for them. They are super thick and super sticky so I'm hoping the numbers will last more than one year. But again, use anything! I've used post-it notes before.
-Optional: A Honking Bag of Junk to use. I bought all of this stuff for 90% off last year after Christmas. If you don't have your own honkin' big bag of stuff, it's okay, you can just put in there whatever you would like!
How to Set Up Your Advent Calendar
Hang your wire, string, ribbon, whatever. I just used two nails and tied it on there. I tried to make it as tight as I could because the weight of everything will make it sag a bit. The above picture is what mine looks like before I hung everything. I then went and scrubbed my wall as you can see dirty clay fingerprints from us making ming bowls for our history lesson.
Then hang your socks, mittens whatever. I use some of the kids smaller socks, their baby mittens, and some of those little stockings people give you every.single.christmas. Now you have something to do with them all!
After I took this picture I went and peeled off that piece of tape that is on the wall. This is real life people! I use small clothespins from Hobby Lobby to hang our socks but you can use anything you want.
This is the finished layout I have. I tend to hang them all up and them move them around so I don't have all mittens clumped together or 4 red socks side by side. Make it look how you want, whatevs.
I then put the numbers on. You can o this however you want. I put 25 on one side and then 24 on the other side and then work my way towards the middle. So odds are on one side and evens are on the other. This works great because then I don't end up with one side of the advent calendar empty and the other side sagging from everything in the socks. This is from trial and error that I've figured it out. Also because we have two kids and they like to take turns opening the advent sock, one basically ends up with the odds and one with the even days and so they know which side to go to when it's their day.
Here is another thing I think I do weird but I'll share it with you. I make a column of the days and then next to it I figure out how many days there are till Christmas. Then we open that corresponding day. I know a lot of people do it the other way where if it's December 10 then they open 10 but we open 10 on the 15th when there is 10 days left until Christmas. Get it? Are you confused? You can set it up like me and then have a mini panic attack every day when your kids open it and you're thinking "what? only 21 days until Christmas? Yikes!" but to your kids you can be all "yeah! Only 21 days left!" because that's what cool moms do.
Okay so you saw my weird list, I then start to fill it in with what I'm going to use every day. I started doing this because the first year I kind of ran out of ideas so we had a million days of candy canes towards the end. Lame. Don't get me wrong we have plenty of candy cane days but I try to space them out.
So I write down what events I know we are doing and what we will be up to so if there are things I can tie into that I can plan. One night we are going to a local Holiday event where they always want to buy something so I will put a little bit of money in the sock for them to each be able to shop for a souvenir.
Another idea is I will figure out when we can watch Polar Express at home and I'll put "train" tickets in their sock so they know we are watching the moving and it will be special.
After I've written down events that I know we are doing and things I can coordinate to those I fill in the dates left. This is where I pull out my honkin' bag and see what I have to give them. Again these are all things I got super cheap, for real:
I wait until Target has 90% off and then I buy whatever I can find. So this kit was $0.20! Seriously, I can handle 20 cents. And it makes them work together and it gives them something to do for a while.
I try to space out events, candy, a toy, money, and craft days.
As you can see here, Day 25 they got candy canes! And they were super excited. It's the little things around here!
Day 24 I had puzzles to give them but they wouldn't fit in the sock so I wrote this note and stuck it in the sock. They love the little hunts and running to see what they will find.
By spending a little bit of time putting this together I have peace and quiet in the house. They worked on these puzzles for about an hour. They helped each other, we helped them and it was so much fun!
So I hope that gives you an idea of something you could thrown together and have lots of fun with your kids. There's nothing really special about "here have another candy cane" but the act of putting it in a sock or mitten in the countdown makes my kiddos so super excited. Weird, I know, but it works.
And remember you can make it as basic or fancy as you would like! A couple of dimes makes kiddos super excited. Or put Bible verses in each sock. Or candy. Or an event like "drive to see christmas lights".
I know you'll do awesome! Let me know about your fun advent countdowns and remember,it's not too late to start making memories and traditions!
The kids are getting older (shocking I know!) so I was a little leary about using this again. After all I started doing this when Calvin was a year old and Nick had been laid off...this was cheap! But the kids are insisting we do it again this year. When they were younger it was easier to stick small things in the socks and mittens...coins, candy, stickers, etc. But as they've gotten older it's been so fun to incorporate clues and crafts into the socks.
Have fun with it!
Last year we had a great time getting our Christmas tree. You can read all about it here.
Our old c7 bulbs died and we had to buy new LED bulbs. Don't get me wrong, I love them and they're pretty but they just aren't the same. Here's our picture of the tree last year.
I had the hardest time trying to explain this to people but while the lights were almost annoyingly bright the tree was dark. Do ya know what I mean?
So this year this is our tree.
It pretty much looks the same except this year it's a little glowier. What's my trick? Those cheap white twinkle lights. We took 2 strands of white twinkly lights (100 bulbs per strand) and wrapped them around the trunk of the tree. Our tree is 9 feet tall and the 2 strands worked great. So we kept those strictly on the inside of the tree and then on the outside we put our fancy dancy LED lights.
And this is the result. I'm loving it!
Our tree decorating and chopping has been a bit weird this year. We always go the day after Thanksgiving. But this year it was rainy and gross so we didn't go until Sunday. So we shopped Friday, decorated the house Saturday, and Sunday we were ready to get the tree.
Most of us were ready. This guy was just sleepy or sick or off or something. He just was not feeling it.
Here he's standing next to our fire pit. My in-laws rent us a fire pit every year and we have a tailgating type party with food and drinks and good times. This year friends stopped by and we saw lots of people we know, it was so much fun!
These kiddos have my whole big heart. Here we are on the tractor tram ride thing. Off to get our tree!
After searching and searching an searching we found our tree! It took lots of looking and walking and hunting and backtracking and grumbling but we found it! And this was the best picture we found because Nick's parents were off looking for their tree, Emma wanted to be with them, so it was the three of us hunting for the perfect tree. I've gotta tell you though, it was super weird and cray having a picture of just the three of us.
This adorable guy has the biggest heart and decided that this year it was his year to cut down the tree! He was so careful with the saw and was all business about it.
He was trying so hard but it wasn't long before he asked for his Daddy to help. These guys are so cute together!
This is a picture of Cal getting to push the tree over. He yelled "Timber!". There are some days when I forget that he has Autism. These days remind me that Autism is something like being left handed. It doesn't define him, it is just part of who he is. We're not dragging it behind us like some type of cumbersome burden but rather it's just him, pushing a tree over and laughing.
And just as easy as that we are ready to go!
These cute guys are all throughout the forest and the kids love spotting them as we ride through on the tractor ride to the trees and then back to the firepit.
And then it was time to eat and warm up by the fire! By the way Cal here is eating a gluten free cupcake from the King Arthur Flour brand. They are so super yummy and moist!
There's my PSA, go buy this cake mix if you are gluten free. Yum!
After lots of snacking we came home and got to decorating! Who doesn't love to decorate the tree? It was so much fun! We got all of the decorations down before so the kids weren't sitting around waiting for us to find the decorations.
So there was our Christmas tree experience this year!
And our 25 day countdown to Christmas started yesterday! Did y'all get started on a countdown or an advent calendar? Let me know in the comments, I love all of your ideas!!!