I’ve always been a traveller during the holidays. Ever since I was four years old and my Mom would have my sister and I for Christmas and my Dad would have us for Boxing Day. This tradition continued for many years until my Dad passed it over to my middle sister and her family. We’re of Ukrainian descent on my Dad’s side so it would be a day consisting of perogie making and eating contests. This was our way of celebrating the Ukrainian Christmas that falls in January.
My oldest brother always won the record of most perogies eaten at one sitting with fifty-two and our Dad a runner up with forty-nine. I won for the women one year with fourteen eaten and many, many, created in my family’s kitchen. Now that I’m married and have a family of my own I have my own traditions. We do Christmas baking and advent calendars with my kids. I also started the book advent where a new book is unwrapped and read each day up till Christmas. My son’s each get to open a present on Christmas Eve which consists of pyjamas or slippers. This year they each get a family movie night box complete with hot chocolate, DVD, popcorn, and pj’s.
I’m excited about this new way of celebrating Christmas with my children! I love to see their faces lit up with the joy of decorating the Christmas tree. As well as their amazement when we see how many decorations we piled on that seven foot beauty. We’ve always been the members of our family who lived furthest away but were expected to travel. And so we did just as couple for many years and later as a family of four. My Grandparents and parents were still alive during these Christmases and seeing them was what made my holiday brighter.
After they had passed away in 1991, 1999, 2009, and 2011 our trips back home ceased to happen. It was just too heartbreaking to go back to the same place and see that empty spot at the kitchen table. The last Christmas I had with my Dad my oldest son was two. I remember how special it was to see them together soaking up every precios moment they could together. It was bittersweet as I knew this would be the last time they’d share aholiday together.
When my Mom had passed I was eight months pregnant with my second son. She had known he was planned for, created, and growing in my belly but never got to meet him or hold him. That last Christmas she spent most of it sleeping as her medication for travel made her very tired. I wasn’t able to travel as I was being watched for complications. The next time I saw her was at her viewing in the church and then her funeral. That wasn’t something I’ve been able to forgive myself for but I know it’s nothing I had control of. In time I will heal and let that go. For now it’s a double edged jagged knife in my heart. That makes it hard to breathe sometimes….
Now my children are growing up so quickly I’d like to freeze time and let them stay little and innocent awhile longer. We travelled to family last year and it took a lot out of us as a whole. It’s not easy to have a busy, loud, bustling, holiday season with sensitive children. Being out of routine, away from their calming and emotionally regulating routine and not sleeping well can lead to sensory overloaded meltdowns. While it’s common for this time of year it’s not always accepted behaviour at one’s home, family relative or not.
I spent a lot of time outside playing in the snow with my kids. Snowball fights, snowman building, and powder diving kept them happy, calm, and me from losing my ever loving mind! My youngest son with his Sensory Processing Disorder has a lot of food texture issues so I knew he wouldn’t be having the turkey with all the trimmings. No matter how delicious it appeared to be for others he was happy with his peanut butter sandwich and milk. I did not pressure or chastise him for this preference, as this is not how to help him adapt and want to try new foods or food groups.
Food is not a battle I choose to have with my son. I pick them carefully because at this time of year everything in his environment is a hair trigger to a blow up waiting to happen. His older brother who’s a Sensory avoider of excess sensory input will cover his ears, beg for quiet time, and get overloaded by the noise and commotion. Then my youngest who’s a seeker of this sensory input who will run, spin, stim, and then fall apart with exhaustion or overload. This is what I refer to as Armageddon implosion, internally they’re struggling so much, and externally they can’t regulate themselves without my help.
In 5-4-3-2-1 BOOM ? massive meltdown city is where we’re living and it’s not for the weak hearted. This leads to my husband and I watching for the triggers and doing our best to keep them calm or remove them from the situation entirely. That is how we spent last Christmas Eve where I was told my one son needed valium, and my reply was “no he could use some understanding, I’ll take the Valium.” To be honest my wine glass was never empty during that holiday. We all got to do what we got to do to get through those hellish hours, without judgement.
Last year was a long, painful, exciting, and exhausting holiday. I got to see family on my husband’s side and mine. My kids were eager to see their aunts and uncles and open up and play with their toys. I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy seeing them happy and regulated around my side of the family. While repeating my mantra there’s no place like home. Because really there isn’t, it’s so rewarding to be able to hang out in your pj’s all day eating popcorn and watching Netflix. I went against my better judgement and did what was expected of me and my kids reacted accordingly. I accept that now, although it was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.
This year I’m doing what’s best for them and staying home. We just moved and bought our house last year and now after eighteen months we get to have our first Christmas in it! I’m so excited to relax in my pj’s, cook a big turkey with all the trimmings, munch on my holiday baking, and enjoy Christmas movies with my family. I will light a candle for my loved ones who are no longer with us. Yet are now our Christmas angels from heaven sending us love and comfort when we need it the most. I will provide strength to my family and relatives who are walking through the pain of losing their family member as well, and trying to get through the holidays while grieving.
After all the eating, sharing, and cuddling are done then we’ll roll out of the house after indulging in our holiday feast and go tobogganing and enjoy a bonfire, hot chocolate, and laughter with our friends. I couldn’t be happier about starting to revive this tradition and add some new ones to our family. This year we are travel free, except to the toboggan hill and back. I couldn’t be more happier and excited about revelling in this freedom and joy! Christmas is where the heart is, and also where my comfort zone resides.
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