Posts tagged Christmas

Day 179: Christmas is Coming!

I have finished 31 Days of Autism Awareness although, it ended up being more like 26 days.  It was a great challenge to post every day but the end of that month has brought us to the beginning of the Christmas season and I am starting to get the calendar filled up.

Our family ends up spending Christmas with one side of the family on the American Thanksgiving weekend and then with the other side of the family on Christmas Day.

So right now we are only two weeks away from our first Christmas celebration.  It is exciting and I am getting in the spirit but I am refraining from putting on the music and decorating because I know that by the middle of December, I will be sick of it all.  I want to enjoy the whole season so I am going to wait.

I like getting everything done with one side of the family by the end of November.  It makes it a lot less stressful for both celebrations.

We will have a great extended weekend with family that we last saw during the summer and are anticipating just enjoying each other’s presence (and eating too!).

The boys are doing so well these days with sitting or staying within certain boundaries now, I have a feeling John and I will be able to enjoy conversations with people instead of always being on guard.  Our family knows also to keep their eyes open too and I think it will be a great time for the boys as well.

Ethan may just make the rounds sitting in laps and grinning into the lucky recipient’s eyes with a big grin and tilt of the head and maybe a little chuckle as if to be sharing a joke without a single word.  He will likely find a decoration with which to stim with and spend some time happily spinning something standing in front of the fireplace or piano.

Andy may try and engage someone in a game of “catch me” and spurt out his “Ah hah!” with a boisterous spinning jump turning his head to see the reaction of the person he is trying to engage.  I can almost hear his thoughts “Is he gonna chase me?”  He will probably try to check out the kitchen for some goodies or steal a drink or two.  He will also likely cover his ears when we start singing and playing Christmas carols.

It is an enjoyable time where at some point we will remember what we are celebrating and spend a little time talking about the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Wonderful, Councillor, Mighty God, The Prince of Peace!

Day 167: Thanksmas / Reunion

Wow,  we are over half way through 31 days of Autism Awareness.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I would make it this far.  I am enjoying the challenge.

Today I have been making arrangements for sitters for our annual Nicholson Thanksmas Weekend.  We have been celebrating Christmas with John’s side of the family on the US Thanksgiving weekend in Port Colborne for a couple of years now.  It has really worked out well for all of us and we all look forward to it as it is a weekend event and this year it will start on the Thursday to include a Nicholson Extended Family Reunion.  That is a lot of people but we are excited about that too since it hasn’t been done for a very long time.

Since we will be gathering on Thursday and Friday nights and then all day Saturday, we have made arrangements for the boys to be babysat since too much of those kind of outings would drive them nuts.  We have had a tradition of bringing the boys for most of the day Saturday but then asking workers to pick them up in the afternoon to take them for a swim at a local waterpark as a treat while we do the gift exchange.  The gift exchange for 20 plus people can take a while since we do it one person at a time and there is more than one gift for each person to open.  I like that way of doing it so that you can see the reactions on the faces of those you have given to.  The boys would not do well sitting through 2 hours of gift opening.  They barely are interested in opening gifts themselves.  Which leads me to my thoughts for today’s post.

Gifts for kids with Autism.  This has always been a challenge for us.  To find toys that are appropriate for their developmental level and that they are interested in and that is durable is a huge task.  Most toys that are specially made for kids with developmental delays and sensory processing issues are very expensive and can’t be bought at Walmart.

My boys love vestibular movement, running, climbing, jumping and swinging.  Most gross motor toys are made for little people so climbers, indoor slides and ride on toys are way too tiny for my 13 and 14 yr old boys.

Other toys have to withstand being tossed across the room and being stepped on by 150 lbs. of weight. Whatever they get will be mouthed, ripped and banged.  Not to mention that they almost never are used appropriately so to as get any educational benefits from them.  So this would include sorting games, puzzles, and games with rules and small pieces.

We know that they will always enjoy toys for them to stim with but we don’t necessarily want to encourage stimming all the time.  We also know that they will enjoy toys that they can chew and toys for the bath tub.  But there are too many relatives and birthdays and Christmas gift holidays to keep doing that and not overflow the tub with toys.

Books are great.  They love the ISpy books and the bright Veggie Tales books but they get ripped, yes even the board books get ripped.  So lately any books given have to have the pages taken out, laminated and put back together with rings.  Crazy but they love them and enjoy reading while waiting for the bus and at night.

They love musical cards.  I keep them in a basket in the living room.  A few have ripped and been thrown away but for what they cost and how much use we get out of them, they are very handy and economical.

So why did I tell you all that?  I am not sure.  Just another aspect of our lives that isn’t quite the norm.  I have recently had to send a list of ideas for gifts for the boys to family members so it was on my mind.  It’s hard to believe I am talking about Christmas already.  I suppose I should start looking for winter boots too while I am at it.  They are a rare commodity when the snow actually starts to fly.

Day 81

This is the letter I am giving with the gifts in the previous post:

A Christmas greeting to all the special people in Andrew and Ethan’s lives:

This is the story of two boys who came into the world with blond fuzz on their heads and bright blue eyes. They have very distinct personalities, making Andrew and Ethan two endearing little boys. The way they grew up was quite unlike most little boys, however John and I believe it is for a bigger purpose than most of us may realize.

Like most parents, we had expectations for our children to grow up as outgoing, athletic and popular kids with superior grades in school. We hoped to see them get good jobs, marry and have families of their own. But that was not to be for Andy and Ethan. It wasn’t long before we realized things would be different in our household.

Andy would spend hours flipping through books; he particularly enjoyed the phone book. He would stand behind my back and play with my hair for lengthy periods of time without pulling or hurting me. He didn’t respond to his name but would respond to his favourite character on TV. I would repeat, “Andrew, I love you…I love you…I love you…” until finally he would say, “I you.” Andy stopped saying “I you” at 18 months.

The tests were all done and the neurologist confirmed that Andrew was autistic. Apparently he thought I needed clarity because he reached out and took my hand and said, “This is going to be hard”. At that moment, faith and confidence in a supreme God who loves us were like arms holding me. John and I knew He would give us what we would need to raise this little boy. It was this that gave us peace in the storm.

We were slowly figuring out what to do for our Andy when, little by little, we were forced to realize that Ethan, our youngest, was behaving just like Andy. We couldn’t deny it any longer; Ethan was autistic, too.

Thus began the change in our expectations for our little family. No longer were we set to cheer from the sidelines as our boys scored goals or attend their school plays. Instead, this family found new things to cheer and discovered blessings that most will never get to experience. And through it all, we continued to hold firm to the promise that our God would take care of us when times were tough!

There were plenty of tough times, too, and not at all what normal families consider to be tough. Bouts of crying with no communication to know if it was a tummy ache or a desire to eat a certain favourite snack or watch a favourite show. Most nights, sleep was a luxury and taken for sporadic moments, usually on the couch while watching a child that was up and ready for the day to begin at 2 am. Often it was soon after the other brother had just fallen asleep for the night.

But then there were moments we cherished. Like when Andy—who usually had no interaction with his siblings—tried to console his little brother Ethan, who was crying, with a gentle touch on his shoulder and a smile as if to say, “It’s OK, please be happy.” Or when Ethan sat at the table during a family get-together with china plates and crystal glasses and sipped from his crystal like a pro, quite enjoying the treat.

There was a day when I was feeling a little sad that I couldn’t have nice things in the house, because the boys usually destroyed nice things. Ethan had been pulling threads out of the curtains in the sunroom and using the strings to stim with. On entering the sunroom, I first noticed the floor strewn with these strings. I then went to examine the curtains with the gaping holes and dangling threads. A feeling of frustration swept over me.

Looking through one particularly large hole, I noticed outside a bit of familiar colour. I went out to get a better look. Sure enough, there, up in the tree, was a nest. A very large bird’s nest with threads woven in to cushion the occupants. Threads from my curtains! Ethan had been discarding thread after thread in an attempt to find a better, longer one for stimming. These threads made it outside as the boys went out to play. The birds readily took these discarded threads and built a nest with them, I daresay the warmest and most comfortable nest in town. Ethan had helped the birds to build their nest!
Christmas day is near, and some of us are reminded about Jesus’ birth. I tend to think that people these days have mixed opinions about Jesus. Most folks find it extremely inconvenient to have religion forced on them when they aren’t
interested; in fact, some grow to hate hearing the name of Jesus because of it. Some feel they are being unfairly judged
by religious people, and take offence at that. Others haven’t even heard of Jesus. Could I ask you to look with me beyond this other curtain, the one that keeps people from seeing Jesus clearly?

A lot of hurtful things happen in this world. If there is anything that I’ve learned, it’s that everyone has some trouble in life. Something that wounds, exhausts, frustrates or angers you. Not one person is free from troubles, despite appearances and wealth. And strange to say, religion, which was supposed to provide comfort and help in times of trouble, has perhaps angered and confused many as well. Trust is gone and with the trust, hope is gone too.

So whether it’s the heartaches or our disillusionment with what are supposed to be the answers, we feel like a curtain has closed on our souls, keeping the sunlight from shining in, obscuring our view. Often we see troubles as a punishment from God or a sign that he doesn’t care. But is that how things really are? Is it possible that the fingers that tear those ragged holes in our lives are actually the things God uses to help us really see?

I would like to introduce you to Jesus. I want you to lay aside any previous notions you may have about him and hear me out. If you know John and I, then you know that our life isn’t always easy. But it’s our testimony that being friends with Jesus has made all the difference for us.

Jesus started out on this earth as a very special baby—which is why we celebrate Christmas. One of the amazing things about his birth was that it was predicted many hundreds of years before: when he would come, how he would come, where he would come, and the family into which he would be born. But before all that, Jesus was the eternal Son of God. He lived in the splendour of heaven where everything is perfect. Angels served him. Yet he left all that to come to this sad world for us.

He took on a body that could feel tired, hungry and weak. He didn’t come expecting to be served but to serve others—the lonely, lost, sick and sad. He healed the lame, blind and deaf, and washed the feet of his disciples. He provided nourishment, encouragement and truth from God to those who were waiting for a promised Saviour. He never did wrong and loved greatly. He cried in sympathy with others, was pleased when people accepted what He was saying, and he loved having the children near him.

Although Jesus came and did these wonderful things, that wasn’t the main purpose of his coming. He came to provide salvation for all people. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). But he came to take the punishment for our sins by His death on the cross. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). It is the gift of salvation that is offered to everyone who will believe. Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

We hope that you will examine the Lord Jesus Christ in a whole new way this Christmas season. Why not get a Bible and read his story for yourself in the Gospel of John. It may be that the hard things in your life have torn open a hole in the curtain this Christmas so you can see Jesus for who He really is, and discover what He is offering to you now.

Andy and Ethan are a gift from God too. We’re amazed at how these two little boys with no words can show us a God who loves and cares for all people in simple ways. Like the hole in the curtain, we’re looking for that beautiful home in the sky.

We wish you God’s greatest blessings at this holiday season