Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gabriel's Message.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
"All hail" said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favoured lady,"

"For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emanuel,
By seers foretold
Most highly favoured lady,"

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name."
Most highly favoured lady 

Of her Emanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world forever will say:
Most highly favoured lady

Have a blessed, peaceful and wonder-filled Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Craziness.

I know, I know- everyone says that December is crazy, with the shopping and wrapping and decorating and card writing and calendar making and holiday baking and special food planning and classroom party volunteering. 

We've got all that and a little extra: Alec's speech therapy and special education services have begun.  They both come twice per week, sometimes on the same day, sometimes not, and I really love them both.  The speech therapist is working on teaching him some easy motions in sign language so he can communicate with us.  We've done pretty well integrating all done, more, open, and downstairs into his communcations with us; we are working on help, please, bubbles and blocks.  I also am proud to say that I can now tell you all the signs for common banyard animals and their sounds.

The idea is to have him look at us more when he asking for something, instead of just thrusting something into our line of vision and grunting.  He has to put more effort into the communication process.  And he's doing great- he has had almost three full weeks of therapy and I think I notice a change in his behavior and his vocalizations.  He seems a little more confident as well, probably because we are showering him with praise when he shows us a sign spontaneously or says a new word.

The special education teacher is working on speech type issues as well, and is also giving us some support and advice about how to best handle his behavior meltdowns.  We had a huge breakthrough this weekend when we kicked him out of our bed, where he had been sleeping for a month or two against our wishes.   We just couldn't come up with a better idea of how to handle his nighttime issues, which consisted of him wanting to be with me all night long.  And by "with me", I mean WITH ME- he loved to tuck his knees under my left armpit and lay across on top of my shoulders, neck and face. 

So last Friday night we shipped the girls out to a sleepovers and let Alec cry it out in his crib.  And overall, he did great because I didn't cave, like I did the last time we tried in October and he cried from 1:30am to 3:40am and I just couldn't take it anymore.  This time, I was ready: sick to my stomach and steely-eyed all at the same time.  We put him in at 10:30pm, he cried for a half hour, then puked (which I was expecting) but then after getting cleaned up only cried for another fifteen minutes before falling asleep.  He woke up at 1:30 and then again at 3:30am, but wasn't crying hard and settled himself back down after about 15 minutes.  Saturday night he did even better, falling asleep after 2 minutes of barely fussing and sleeping through the night.  THROUGH THE NIGHT.  We are like new people over here.

And to be honest, this was a victory that we all needed... the temper tantrums and poor sleeping habits were really getting us down, particularly me who is with him all day and bears the brunt of the meltdowns, who never is quite sure when he's going to be lovely and wonderful and when he's going to wrestle me in defiance.  The special ed teacher is helping me regain control and confidence about setting limits with him, and coaching me about following through.  She suggested we make a chart that shows pictures of the evening routine so he can learn what to expect next: first dinner, then bath or playtime, then pajamas, then teeth, then book reading, then crib.  Oooohhh! A craft project!!  I was all over that like white on rice.  And even Michaela likes to help show Alec what's next on his chart, which is a great reinforcer. 

This was also one of the first times I felt I could prepare him verbally for what was about to happen and he understood.  We talked all day on Friday about how he was going to sleep in his crib that night like a big boy, like Mimi sleeps in her room by herself and Nenna sleeps in her room by herself.  And he would smile sweetly at me when I said it.  And I felt like he really got it, which was weird for me because my internal default setting for Alec is that he's about 7 months old.  I feel like this marked a change in my own perception of him, that I finally can see what he can do and see that he's not just a baby anymore.

It has made me more mindful of how I am parenting him, how I talk to him, and what I am doing that is hurting and what I am doing that is helping.  And that, my friends, is not an easy process to go through.  Having people come into your house, even when you invite them in because you need help and your baby clearly needs help, and having them ask you questions and make (absolutely correct) pronouncements about how you can be a better parent is humbling and hard and deflating and uncomfortable.  I really strive hard each and every day to Do Things Right as a mom to my children and to hear from someone that it could be better really feels just plain sucky.  But then you think to yourself, "Well, what's more helpful? To get huffy and defensive and nasty?  Or to swallow and digest what they are saying,  really think about it, and put their recommendations into action?" And it becomes clear that everyone's goal here is to make Alec a happier, more engaged, communicative kid, and of course you do what is suggested, no matter how chastized you may feel.  And you grow and be better.

So that's what's going on here, along with Christmas and Michaela getting glasses, which she desperately wanted and barely even needs (the eye doctor said "the glasses may make a subjective difference") , and Jenna being off the wall about Christmas coming up (she wrote a second letter to Santa this morning, asking if she is on the "good list or the bad list") and us getting new cellphones for our Christmas present  (I love me some iPhone and Siri) and switching over to Fios from regular cable (the verizon people have been here three times since Friday with various issues but I think we're all resolved now) and losing my earthlink email address that I've had for 15 years and establishing new email addresses.

We're listening to lots of Christmas music, enjoying our TWO pretty Christmas trees, enjoying Advent, and looking forward to a quiet, uncluttered, and calm January.  Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.

The Great Tree Fiasco of 2011: Part Two.

I am very, very happy to report that our previously banished real tree has wormed its way back into our hearts and our living room.
Turns out it's all about the base.
We secured a new base on loan and decided to give it one more chance.  Because it looked horribly forlorn laying out in our front yard.
We put up the tree, let it sit inside undecorated for a few days (like a tree purgatory), and last night relit/ regarland-ed/ re-ornamented it.

And it's beautiful again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Great Tree Fiasco of 2011.

The Libutti family has a fake Christmas tree that we bought years ago and just absolutely adore.  Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we drag this tree out, set up the center pole and arrange the branches one by one until it's full and pretty.  Then we add the lights, and the ornaments, and the angel we've had for our entire married life who blinks on the top.  It's sentimental and pretty and satisfying.
When we moved into our new house,  we both thought that maybe adding a second tree to go in the front living room window would be nice.  So for the whole year, we kept an eye on After Christmas sales, Christmas in July sales, and pre Christmas sales looking for a suitable mate for our beloved, trusty tree.  Sure, we found many possibilities, but we were never quite ready to make the commitmentt to buy another.
Then I had a brilliant idea- we could buy a REAL tree, get some basic ornaments for it, throw on some lights, and -viola!- problem solved for much less money.  Plus, we would get to experience the joy of a REAL tree- the smell, the shape, all those bushy branches, and the idea of doing Christmas in the Traditional Manner.   And you know how I'm all about tradition.
So on Saturday afternoon, we all piled into the family truckster and headed out to our local nursery.  We roamed around a little, weighing a few different trees, some too short, some too tall, some too thin, some with bad sides, when Dan showed me one and it hit me with a love force: I LOVED THIS TREE.  I wanted this tree and this tree would look perfect in our living room.   The dream was coming true.
We put the tree on the roof of our car, much to Dan's chagrin and my delight- because what's more Americana than throwing a pine tree on your car full of happy kids and bringing it home? It's as delightful as wearing red, white and blue to your town's Memorial Day parade.  I almost cried with happiness.
We came home, brought it inside, promptly realized the tree was about 6 inches too tall, trimmed the top, put on the lights and the garland and the beautiful gold and brown ornaments and the star on top.  We had on Christmas carols and were all full of cheer.  And this is what it looked like:

I was in love.  Our dream of a second tree came true, and it was magnificent.  I drank a glass of wine sitting in my living room, listening to music and cuddling with Jenna, who was interested in hearing how we chose the names Michaela, Jenna and Alec for them.  A little while later, I went outside with my camera to take a picture of our holiday lights.

The next day, Sunday, I had to take Jenna to a birthday party.  On my way home, I get a call from Dan.
"We have a big problem." he says.
"Are you having trouble with Alec?" I ask.
"No- I WISH that was the problem.  Our tree fell over."
I got home, and sure enough, the whole thing had toppled over to the right.  The water had spilled, there were pine needles everywhere, and it was a mess.  So I did what I always do in these kind of situations.
I called my father.
He came right away to investigate and solve our problem.  Dan and I had tried lifting the tree and repositioning it in the base but were not having any luck.  My dad brought twine and he and Dan worked to get it back up, secured to the window moldings, and all was back to rights.  Disaster averted.

On Monday at about 3pm, I was playing in the basement with Alec right before his nap.  I heard some rustling upstairs but thought it was the cat getting into something- it was just a low level ambient noise we always have around the house.  When I came back up, the tree was down again, shifted to the right, with half of the base off the ground.  I picked it up and leaned it up against the window.
Last night I had to go out with Michaela for Girl Scouts but when I came home Dan and I worked on getting it into the base, tall and straight, for the third time.  We had it all set- a bit precarious, but set- and within minutes it was down again, again to the right side. 
Now, do me a favor- scroll back up and look at the picture of the upright tree.  My majestic, beautiful dream-maker tree.  See where the star on top is? See how straight the tree looks? And now see how far to the left the base is?
Our tree was doomed to fall and keep falling.  It's crooked.  A defective tree.
If it was just Dan and I, I would have stuck it out.  But with a senile cat and three kids whizzing around the house, and three more kids coming for Christmas Day, I was too nervous that the tree would fall down on someone or rip itself out of the twine, damage our walls or window, and generally wreak havoc on our life.
So we took it down. 
Off came the ornaments, the garland, the lights and the star.  Gone was the smell, the needles, the dream of a tree in the window.  We put everything away in a plastic bin, vacuumed up the mess, and generally felt sorry for ourselves.
And here's the tree now:

I'm sure our neighbors are wondering exactly what has happened over here.  We have decided to just buy another fake tree after this holiday and put it up next Christmas.

And I'm pretty sure that our trusty ol' fake tree in the family room is snickering at us.