This weekend we celebrated Christmas at our house. Yes, I know it’s a week early, but we are going to be traveling….and MOMMY doesn’t want to wait until after Christmas! Besides it will give the kids something new to play with while I get us packed up next week! Christmas this year has been very exciting!! Last Christmas, John was just 6 months old, and Jessica was only saying a few words and had no clue what was going on. This year, John is 18 months old, and Jessica is talking almost nonstop! She has also made the connection between Santa and presents….the details we are still pretty fuzzy on as you will see later! This year we also added a few new traditions!! Typically, I resist change; however, I have really enjoyed listening to Jessica’s ideas about what she thinks we should do!
When Jessica and I went to the store earlier this week, she said that she wanted to make fudge for Santa, but after I made the fudge she changed her mind and said that we needed to make “people cookies.” I asked her if she meant gingerbread cookies, but I got a non-committal answer. I took a gamble and decided that must have been what she meant. Thankfully I was right AND had the foresight to hire a babysitter to come help me make cookies with the kids while David was at work!!!!! Also, luckily our babysitter had made gingerbread cookies before, which was helpful since I had not and I decided to make them from scratch…partly because I didn’t know they sold the dough pre-made at the store….and besides buying store bought dough doesn’t sound very “Urban Pioneerish!” We used a recipe I found at allrecipes.com called Eileen’s Spicy Gingerbread Men. They turned out great! David (and Christopher) usually don’t like gingerbread cookies because they are usually so tough, but they both loved these! The trick is to add in as little flour as possible. What we ended up doing to roll out the dough was to roll it between parchment paper, place it in the freezer for a little while, pull the top layer of parchment off, and cut and move the cookies to the pan while they were still partially frozen. Later that night we decorated them with butter-cream frosting. I ended up loving this idea! Not only was it yummy, but also sooo traditional, and I do love having a traditional, non-commercialized Christmas!
One of the other new traditions we added this year was making a new ornament for our tree! A friend of mine at MOPS mentioned that she does this with her son every year, and I thought it was a great idea! Since it was a last minute idea, I had to use things that I had around the house, so we took pine cones, decorated them with glitter glue, and hung them on the tree with red ribbon. They turned out really cute and again very traditional! I think I am going to do some research before next year and try to find some other more traditional ideas for homemade Christmas ornaments!
Christmas Eve, we watched one of Jessica’s new favorite Christmas specials on Netflix: Jingle Bells. It is the story of a farming family that had a tough year and doesn’t have enough money for presents. The children come up with a creative idea to make their parents’ Christmas special, and their parents decide to sell their horse in order to have enough money to give their children presents for Christmas. The children are very sad that their horse was sold, and the parents realize that the children would rather all be together than have nice presents to open. They end up getting the horse back and all go for a sleigh ride. I can’t argue with Jessica’s choice in films….quality character lessons right there (Of course it is, Don Knotts is in it…as the horse!)! We also let the kids open their wrapped present from us. Jessica and Little Girl got matching dresses I made for them. John got a roll-up Thomas the Tank Engine playmat that I made to go with some small trains he already had, and Baby Boy got some coat hangers for all of his and Little Girl’s expanding wardrobe!!
Note: Jessica has taken her “pretend play” with Little Girl to a new level. She decided that she needed a Baby Boy (named John for course), so my Mom went ahead and sent Jessica her birthday present (Baby Boy) early. It has made getting ready to go in the mornings a little more complicated, but it does seem to be helping Jessica develop some proto-pretend play skills and improving her interaction with the world around her, so I can’t really complain. Thankfully, her mother has the patience to get 4 children dressed every morning and put 4 children in pj’s every night, etc! I like to think that God knew I needed 4 children but that I needed 2 of them to be stuffed!!!
We used my Reusable Gift Bags again! I really like them. They look cute, low mess, and you can fix them to keep out the most serious peaker!!! I want to make more sometime when I have more time!
Finally, we got ready for Santa to come! This was the first year that Jessica understood what we were doing. Once they had their pj’s on we went outside and threw some leftover zoo animal food out for the reindeer. It took John a few minutes to catch on to the idea, but once he figured out you were supposed to throw the food, he thought it was just hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing!!! Next we set out milk and cookies for Santa. This is made slightly more complicated by having a child with Autism….you HAVE to make sure you eat ALL of the cookies on the plate and drink the milk….because if you don’t know they WILL notice!!!!
This was also the first year that I wrote a letter to the kids from Santa! My dad used to write letters to us from Santa when I was a kid. Now that Jessica has some understanding of what is going on, I wanted to pass that tradition on my own family. I am also looking forward to the day that the kids are old enough for me to read The Adventures of Nicholas to them. Dad read that to us every Christmas for several years. It is the story of boy named Nicholas who lost his entire family in one night. The families of the town agreed to care for Nicholas one year each until he grew up. As Nicholas left each home on Christmas, he left behind small toys he had made for the children in the house. As he became an adult he continued this tradition with the entire town. In the last chapter (which we weren’t allowed to hear until we stopped believing in Santa) told how Nicholas died and the parents decided to continue the tradition by leaving toys for their children like Nicholas did. I think it’s a sweet way of explaining the “Santa Myth.”
For the most part each year we give our children homemade gifts. We started this because of budgeting constraints. However, I think this is something we are going to continue for quite a while. Not only does it save us a lot of money, but it is also a lot of fun and keeps our Christmas rather noncommercial. This year I got a late start on Christmas because we had Jessica’s evaluation and then were getting used to her new therapy schedule, but we still managed to do a mostly homemade Christmas. Well….except for Little Girl and Baby Boy….I found out a few weeks ago that Jessica expected Santa to bring them stuff too…..so I mostly bought their stuff!! And yes, it had to look like all 4 of them got about the same amount of stuff….Jessica is very concerned that everyone needs to get the same amount….she was very concerned about Santa not coming to see adults…..but I did NOT want to come up with an equivalent Santa for me and David too! (We usually get ourselves a joint gift of something we would enjoy doing together.)
At any rate, this year Jessica got a sand digger (We actually bought it because they had a really good sale at Harbor Freight and we were able to get it for $15 which is less than David could make it for. However, he is considering making her a nicer one at some point if she really enjoys this one), molded crayons (I made those…pictures and instructions to come later), a mango (one of her favorite fruits), some books (Mostly I got those used at the library for $.25 a piece, except for one that I got used on Amazon), and a hairbow that I made for her. Unfortunately, Jessica had apparently seen the ribbon for the bow, and she said “Oh! You made this for me!” I thought, “Oh shoot, first year she gets the Santa concept, and I’ve already blown it!” Thankfully, that is another good thing about having a kid with Autism!! She apparently associates Santa with presents but does not believe that only Santa can leave presents in her stocking!!! Whoo hooo for having a kid with Autism!!!!
John got a vintage Fisher Price cash register I found on ebay (which has been one of the most popular items with both kids), a stuffed puppy dog that I already had (which he LOVED), some board books I got from the library for $.25 each, The Best of Elmo dvd which I got used on Amazon, a small inflatable basketball from the Dollar Tree, some shaped crayons, and 3 bananas which he devoured!!!!!
Little Girl got a pair of jeans, a backpack, a pair of crocs like Jessica’s, a pair of tennis shoes, and some panties. Baby Boy got a play outfit, a dress outfit, a pair of sneakers and socks, and a diaper bag. Most of Little Girl’s items I got at JoAnn’s 50% off since they sell a lot of Springfield doll items (read knock-off American Girl). Baby Boy’s items were very difficult to find because he is a 15 inch doll (basically a knock-off Bitty Baby by American Girl) and a boy (for some reason they don’t make baby boy clothes?!?!?). However, I did find some at My Doll’s Life, and I cannot say enough good things about their selection, quality, and shipping service!
For breakfast on Christmas morning, we usually have pancakes and whatever fruit the kids got in their stockings (which they ended up devouring before breakfast…); however, this year I decided to experiment with Red Velvet Pancakes. Unfortunately, it appears that my entire family prefers Pumpkin Pancakes (Crazy I know….my entire family prefers a vegetable in their pancakes instead of chocolate…) so in the future we will be having Pumpkin Pancakes on Christmas morning!
The kids had a great time playing with each other and their toys today, and it was fun to see John being assertive and pushing Jessica away when he did not want to share his toys!! By the way, I was particularly pleased to see Jessica using the toy cash register to re-enact some pretend play that we had read about in one of her Bobbsey Twins Ready-to-Read books. They are very similar to Dick and Jane books and have been VERY helpful in getting Jessica to make the leap from board books to picture books!!!!! It was not complete pretend play, but it was another step in that direction!!!! I was also very excited to hear John really start talking!!!!! It is so fun watching him learn to talk because it is the first time we have seen one of our children just learn to talk….it’s so cool how he just picked it up!!!!!! I also just enjoyed hanging out around the house with my family and doing a little cooking (including canning some Strawberry Applesauce)! David smoked a turkey I got on sale the other day for $.69 a lb, and it was delicious!!!
Christopher came over this evening to help us eat it, and he brought some other yummy items with him! Overall, it has been a really great Christmas so far! Tomorrow after church we are having a Breakfast with Santa and getting the kids pictures made with Santa (and yes, I have matching outfits for all 4 of the kids)!! I am hoping to do a little more baking, finish up a few Christmas presents for extended family, and send out some Christmas cards (This year I am sending a card with a handwritten note and a small photo of the kids to everyone who sends us a Christmas card). Looking forward to seeing all of our families next week and holding all of those sweet babies!!!!!!!! “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”