SC Christmas + Cousins

A few weeks before Christmas we decided to road trip to South Carolina to spend the holidays with GC’s family.  We hadn’t spent Christmas with his parents since 2006.

We were in good spirits on our drive down,

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even the dog.

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GC’s parents were on a cruise so we spent the first couple days in their house without them.  The Roc and his Nonna made some Christmas cookies together when they got back.

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IMG_2791The Roc was very excited to be with his SC cousins for Christmas.  He was most excited to sleep at his cousins house on Christmas eve and wake up with them on Christmas morning…which is what GC and I were most worried about.  Our Christmases have always been quiet and calm.  This year would be so different and we could envision many things that could make the Roc melt.  We did a lot of prepping before we left home and crossed our fingers that things would go smoothly.  I was still worried a little until my sister-in-law Andrea texted me,

“We love Roc so much and will be there to help if he has a rough time.  It will be different for him to be here and we totally understand that.”

There is nothing like family who love your kid just as he is, understand that things may be hard for him, and are willing to step in and help.  We are so lucky.

The Roc spent Christmas eve morning playing on the iPad and continually asking when we would drive down to his auntie Andrea’s house.

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When we got there the fun began.  The kids were so joyful.  The Roc and his cousins immediately got together.  They spent the night laughing and dancing.

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IMG_2853The Roc and his cousin Bella even made up a dance and performed it for us.  They are so cute together.  Bella is a gift.  She is sweet, playful, and so wonderful with the Roc.  She reassures him when he is anxious and she is willing to play all night.  She is a very special girl.

IMG_2928The kids weren’t the only ones having a good time.  There was a lot of laughter in the kitchen.

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Guinness found a friend in my youngest nephew Anderson!  He tried to hide his face but I captured this shot this funny little guy.

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My mother-in-law shed a few tears when my brother-in-law from Colorado surprised us all and showed up!  We were so happy to see him!

IMG_2921At the end of the night the kids all opened new pjs from their Nonna and Nonno.

IMG_2931Before the kids went to bed my nephew Aiden read, “The Night Before Christmas” to all the younger kids.  Almost all of my pictures of Aiden on Christmas Eve are of his blurry face as he slid in front of the camera or waved his hand in the corner of my frame.  Except this one.  He’s a good kid.

IMG_2957A moment the Roc still talks about.

The next morning the Roc expressed some anxiety before leaving the bedroom to open presents, but after a little pep talk he told me, “Okay, I’m ready now.  Let’s do this.”

IMG_2958The kids had a blast opening up their gifts.

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We spent the rest of the day eating and relaxing before we headed back to GC’s parents house.

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The holiday was a success all around.  The Roc had so much fun spending time with his cousins and he was very well behaved.  As we drove out of Andrea’s neighborhood GC and I looked at each other and he said to me, “I think that was my favorite Christmas yet.”

Last year, for reasons we never figured out, the Roc had such a hard time on Christmas day.  So we are extra thankful for such a family filled fun holiday.

We made wonderful memories.

 

Happy/Unhappy Christmas

I wrote about our Christmas Eve, which was very relaxed and very happy.  Now for Christmas day…which was both happy and…not.  The Roc was so excited when he woke me up to tell me Santa had come, that there were presents under the tree.  I knew that he went downstairs and checked out all the gifts before coming to wake me.  I noticed the light on and heard the paper rustling long before he appeared by my side.  I laid in bed smiling, waiting for him, loving the magic Christmas can bring.  GC and I got up, took care of the animals and got some coffee before we allowed the Roc to start opening.  He was ready!  I so love that smile!

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Santa brought him a lot of the things he had asked for.

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and he was thrilled.  We had a nice breakfast together,

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but not long after the day began to unravel.  I didn’t take another picture on Christmas day until the very end, before the Roc went to bed.  I felt so bad for him and truthfully, for me too, by the end of the day.  He was done and feeling bad, and frankly so was I.  We both needed the day to be over.

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Here we are a few days later and all I can comfortably say is that the second half of Christmas day involved a lot of screaming.  There were some time outs, a room destroyed and put back together, and many strong emotions.  Anger and frustration along with sadness that the Roc feels so volatile, because I know it cannot feel good to lose control.  There were happy moments too, clinking glasses and saying cheers with my parents over lasagna, and knowing that they “get it.”  They love us, love the Roc unconditionally, are not bothered when things go south, for that I am so grateful.  Also, it’s always nice to hear that you are doing a good job, you are a good parent, even when you feel the opposite.

Sometimes this gig is hard.  That picture above cracks my heart.  I so deeply wish that things were easier for the Roc, and sometimes, selfishly, for me too.

Next year we will try again.

Happy, Happy Eve

There was a lot of joy on Christmas Eve.  The Roc was so excited, mostly for present opening, but also for my parents to come over and for all of us to eat together.  He loves to have “family dinners” and he adores saying, “Cheers!” and clinking his glass.  Don’t try to make a toast before he has his water cup!  The day before, as GC was prepping some of the seafood for our feast the Roc came up to him in the kitchen and said, “Daddy, I’m going to stuff my belly tomorrow!”

The Roc’s excitement was palatable (for a few days) and he was bouncing off the walls on Christmas eve.  He had to wait until the afternoon to for my parents to come over, and not long after they arrived I let him open a Christmas puzzle I had gotten for the very purpose of keeping him busy while he waited for the meal to be ready.

He worked on the puzzle with my mom.IMG_2629

GC got to cooking,

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and drinking,

IMG_2642while the Roc and Grandma continued on the puzzle.  I had worried it might be to hard, but he was getting it, fitting many pieces together by himself.

IMG_2641At some point in the evening they finished it!  The Roc was super proud.

IMG_2732My dad was content to sit and eat a little appetizer, with an audience.

IMG_2640I put my camera down during dinner, but the food was amazing.  I am lucky to be married to an Italian.  He makes a huge seafood feast and I get to enjoy it!

As soon as dinner was over the Roc was ready to open some presents from his family back East and those lucky enough to live near the mountains.

IMG_2652My parents were happy to relax,

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and GC continued to drink!

IMG_2655After watching the Grinch, a Christmas Eve tradition,

IMG_2663and setting out milk, cookies, and a carrot (with a cover on the milk!)

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the Roc went to bed, and just like last year, GC passed out early from exhaustion…and wine.

I had the house to myself.  I enjoyed all of our trees,

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IMG_2687and the cats were happy to come back up from the basement.

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I went to bed and Santa came.

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It was a wonderful day.  I love how my parents embrace the Roc and take him as he is.  There is no greater gift for me than seeing them together.

 

Skeleton x3

The Roc wanted to be a zombie this year for Halloween, complete with face painting and fake blood.  GC spent some time watching behind the scenes vidoes of The Walking Dead and thought he could make the Roc look pretty scary.  But there was rain in the forecast and we were pretty sure he wouldn’t like the feel of makeup on his face, especially if that makeup was melting off his face due to the rain.  So we easily convinced him to be a skeleton again this year.  The same costume he worn in 2011 and 2012.  We found a cheap skeleton mask for GC and a skeleton costume for Guinness, which the Roc was really excited about.  I am exempt from dressing up, my excuse being I don’t want to scar little children, which I think the Roc understands now as he told me that a little kid cried when he saw Daddy.

IMG_1852He was pretty creepy looking!

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IMG_1862The dog and I sat with neighbors in the cul-de-sac, handing out candy while GC took the Roc around the neighborhood.  They came back with a full bucket of candy and then headed out for more.  We told the Roc he could keep some candy and trade the rest in for money, ten cents a piece.  He got lucky near the end when a guy said he was done for the night and he dumped the rest of his candy into the Roc’s pumpkin bucket!

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He doesn’t know what he’s saving up for, but he made twenty five dollars!

 

 

Scenes from Christmas

We had a low-key, relaxed Christmas this year.  Well, the adults were relaxed.  The Roc doesn’t possess the relax gene.  He was very excited to go to his Grandparents house for “early Christmas,” where he got one of his favorite gifts this year.  He took at bath that night, at Grandma’s house, so he could play with the shark and killer whale before we went home.

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On Christmas Eve morning GC got to work in the kitchen.

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He had company.

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The Roc worked on a train cake while he waited for Grandma and Grandpa to come over.

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Around the house.

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GC spent the whole day in the kitchen.

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My mom brought over a little workbook for the Roc.

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Later she helped him write a note to Santa.

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“Dear Santa, I am a good boy most of the time.”

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We let the Roc open a couple gifts from far away relatives.  My little baker was very happy to get a cake pop maker!

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Santa came after everyone else was in bed!

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The Roc was very excited on Christmas morning to see all the presents under the tree.

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He was especially excited that Santa brought a few things off his list.  A snowman kit,

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and a snowplow!

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GC and the dog watched.

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Later, my parents came back over for lasagna and we all had a lot of fun playing with the Roc’s (GC’s) new remote control helicopter.

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Low key, relaxed, amazing food, good conversations, and new toys.  A wonderful Christmas!

Now if only the rest of winter “break” would go as smoothly….

Basketball + Eggs

Time is slipping away from me and when grabbed my camera today I realized that I hadn’t recorded our Easter weekend, all the photos were still there on my Rebel.  I transferred them to my computer and imported them into Lightroom, sighing at the couple of photos I had taken the Saturday before Easter.

It was a special day, but I didn’t manage to capture it through the photographs.  I still have the memories.  The week before I had seen a posting from one of the MN autism pages I follow on facebook about discounted tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters, and participate in a meet and greet before the game.  The Roc loves basketball and even though he hadn’t been to a professional game, I figured he would enjoy seeing the Globetrotters.  What hooked me was the fact that it was with an autism group.  Being around fellow parents with children with autism during an outing is a no-brainer.  There is no pressure, no judgement, and no need for explanations.  I signed us up and showed the Roc a video of the Globetrotters on youtube.

When we arrived the Roc held tight to my hand, and repeatedly told me he was nervous.  We got our tickets and then looked around the rapidly filling lobby for any signs of the group were would be a part of.  I didn’t know anyone, but figured I would be able to spot “our” people.  Then we waited in the lobby of the Target Center for our meet and greet time.  There were a few other groups also waiting for their turn, and because not everyone from our group had shown up, we waited and waited in the lobby while the other groups went through the meet and greet first.  The Roc got restless and fidgety.  He started to whine about standing around, about wanting to go to his seat, and about the crowd.  Waiting is hard for any kid, waiting within a crowd of people is torturous for the Roc.  Finally we were lead through the arena to meet some of the players.  We always hang back in a group, the Roc is not fond of having a crowd follow him, so the small meet and greet area was jammed when we entered.  The Roc didn’t care about the players though, there were too many people in that small space, he just wanted to get out to his seat.  But we tried, and held himself together, even entering the group photo when he was asked.

When the “game” started the Roc alternated between gazing around the arena and watching the players.  He was happy to be there, eating some of the snacks we brought, and even accepting a hunk of cotton candy from the family sitting right beside me.  (Then handing the sticky clump to me when he decided he was done with it.  I had no place to put it, so I ate it, holy sugar!)   I ended up talking and talking to the mom sitting next to me, finding out that she is originally from Delaware!  We laughed at the coincidence and both agreed that we would attend the groups first support group meeting in May and see each other there.  We all had a good time!

When we got home that evening we broke out the dyes and colored some eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide.

The next morning the Roc woke up early and looked at the trails of eggs before he came to my side of the bed, or so he told me.  He was thrilled to see the eggs leading to a few small presents around the house and went right for them as soon as we came downstairs.

Then he followed the final trail and found his basket.  (One of my favorite pictures of that day!)

Later that afternoon we went over to my parents house for food and another egg hunt, this time outside.  The Roc raced around the yard looking for the 20 eggs my dad hid earlier that day.

He loved it and was so excited that candy was inside each egg.  We found 19 eggs but couldn’t locate the 20th!  My dad hid them so well that even he couldn’t find it (remember where he put it!)  I’m pretty sure he was still thinking about the location of the missing egg when we backed out of the driveway an hour later.

Which still makes me smile a couple weeks later.  I wonder if they found it yet?

 

Holidays, a Recap

I started a post about the holidays a couple weeks ago…and never finished it.  I have a few other unfinished posts in my dashboard, a couple in my head that are screaming to get out, (basketball! swimming!) and one that I wrote in a margarita haze last night after coming home from a neighborhood gathering.  But I am a little OCD and even though no one but the Roc is thinking about Christmas anymore I just have to say something about it, and of course post a few pictures.

The Roc was pumped about Christmas, our first here in Minnesota.  He was sad that we didn’t have any snow and I felt like a HUGE liar for telling him over and over since we got here in June that we would go sledding, and build snowmen, and that he would get to play with his cousin in the snow over winter break.  The anticipation of opening those presents under the tree and waking up to find more presents on Christmas morning was enough of a balm to relieve the brown Christmas disappointment.

GC wanted to keep his family tradition of having lots and yummy seafood on Christmas Eve so he got to work in the late morning making us a lunch feast, and don’t worry, even though he looks unhappy in the following photo, he is very happy…

I took one of my favorite pictures of the Roc while trying to get GC to smile for my camera, take note GC, this is how it’s done…

I wanted to photograph the food, but GC wanted to serve it up right away.

So I settled for a pic of my two guys,

the fried goodness,

and the Roc eating a lemon (which he tried to eat after we told him that his cousin Aiden in SC used to eat lemons when he was younger!)

The Roc was so excited about the presents from our extended family under the tree, and wouldn’t stop asking if he could open some of them that we let him pick three to open before we were due at my sister’s house for Christmas Eve dinner.

We had a lot of fun at my sister’s house that night.  The boys drank and told stories before dinner,

and after dinner the kids couldn’t wait to open a few presents from family.

I got a great shot of my dad,

and after all the presents were unwrapped the little boys opened up their new art stuff and went to work.

We exited around the Roc’s bedtime knowing it would be one night that he wouldn’t balk at going to bed and staying there.  He was just a little keyed up…

but he slept the whole night through.

I woke up to a little voice whispering that there were presents under the tree at 7 am on Christmas morning.

We didn’t know if we would ever get a reaction like we did last year, but there was one thing the Roc had been asking for.  The Polar Express.

He was pretty happy to get it!

My parents came over later that afternoon and we had dinner together.

It was wonderful and relaxing and fun!

The Roc had the following week off of school for “winter break” and by the time it was over I felt like I needed a vacation!  He had lots of new toys to play with so we played a lot, and he took a long bath everyday to play with his new boats.  We went over to my parents house the day before the left for Arizona to say goodbye.  I will admit to feeling a little teary when I pulled out of the driveway, I had gotten used to seeing them on a regular basis.  I took the Roc to see a movie one afternoon and he did great, only needing to be shushed a few times.

And now it’s mid-January, it’s cold and grey and I’m dreaming of spring.

Whew, now that this holiday recap is out of the way I can concentrate on the here and now, and those two subjects that are screaming for posts of their own – basketball and swimming!