Christmas 2014: Vomit, Anxiety, and Other Plot Twists

It is December 28, 2014. Team Robs is two days removed from the fifth and final family function of the Christmas season, and I can sum up the holidays with this review:

THANK GOD THEY ARE (ALMOST) OVER.

I really hate to be a downer. That I have a large family with members who like each other enough to get together is a true blessing. But contrary to the rose-colored Facebook posts I keep seeing, I’m convinced I’m not alone in thinking there has to be something we’re all doing wrong with our overbooked and over-the-top Christmases. The constant rush to do all the shopping, wrap all the presents, take all the pictures, see all the people, cook all the foods, and just DO ALL THE THINGS takes away from what we’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place: the holy night, the newborn King, the light of the world.

And to be fair to 2014 Christmas – much of the craziness was 100% beyond our control. However, the hubs and I have resolved to do things differently in 2015. We cannot control everything, but we’re already getting tactical about how we will approach future functions.

But I digress – I give you the story of the Robs’ Family’s Worst Christmas Ever.

Celebration 1: December 13

We took a day trip to see my dad’s side of the family. It made for a long day – a 3.5 hour drive there, a 3 hour visit, and a 3.5 hour drive home – but we had a really nice time.

However… with about an hour until we arrived, Monkey whined in the backseat. I look back to see what was wrong and found he was exorcist-puking in the backseat. Thank goodness that 1) he hadn’t had much to eat, so our cleanup was largely the Capri Sun variety, and 2)the selection of clothing and cleanup items at the dollar store in Calvert, Texas was surprisingly strong and of decent quality. Since he acted just fine the rest of the day, we shrugged it off to car sickness…

…until the next day when he woke up with a 104 fever. We headed to urgent care, and he was diagnosed with strep. Poor thing – I have never seen him so sick. It was heartbreaking. Thanks to antibiotics, he felt much better the next day (December 15), but I kept him home from school since it hadn’t been 24 hours without his having a fever and fever-reducing meds. (But what you need to take from this is that our autistic child, who thrives on structure, was already off-kilter going into the Christmas break.)

Inter-celebration: December 18-23

So Monkey had strep, and if your little people are anything like mine, all they want to do is eat off of their siblings’ plates and drink from their siblings’ cups. I strove valiantly to keep Kitty from drinking after her brother, but I’m just a muggle, and it didn’t happen. So OF COURSE 15 minutes before I’m supposed to pick brother up from school on Thursday, Kitty becomes a vomit comet. OF COURSE. The next 12 hours were a loop of gathering dirty linens, shaking them out in the backyard (though I’ll confess I did throw out one crib sheet because WHATEVER, DUDE), starting laundry, re-making the bed, and snuggling a rather pitiful little girl. Thankfully the cat had neither the flu nor strep, just a 36 hour stomach bug that has gone around…

…and I got it on the 20th. Ugh. We stayed close to home (largely out of fear, frankly) through the weekend and early into the week of Christmas.

So let’s revisit sweet Monkey – missed school the 15th, went the 16th through 18th, had a half day on the 19th which was UTTER chaos and off the precious schedule, and then had to stay home pretty much all day the 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd because the women in his life were pukey. Bless it. To say he was struggling is an understatement.

Celebration 2: December 23

Every year on the 23rd we celebrate with my mom’s side of the family. When everyone can attend, there are 48 of us there, ranging in ages from 18 months to 85 years old. About a third of the crew ranges in age from 18 months old to 10, and five of those are between 18-23 months old… so yeah CRAZY.

Anyhoo, this year we at least had it at a venue that is essentially one big room. We thought this would be LESS stressful, as we could just keep track of our kids in one room.

Um, no.

Oh snap, before I even start: Monkey woke up at 3:30 a.m. this day. Awesome. So he had been up for 15 hours straight and stuck at home for five days in a row when we arrived…

…and we had to take a family picture. 44 people. 15 kids… and my two were HOT MESSES. Kitty sobbed and sobbed if I wasn’t holding her, and I doubt seriously that Monkey was anything other than a green blur in the pictures.

The event started at 6:00 p.m. I’m pretty sure my pit-sweat stain game was strong to quite strong by 6:10.

And the ease of monitoring kids because of one big room? Well, it was one big room with four exits, and the venue was right off a decently major road in our town. I’m sure most of my relatives thought we were being helicopter parents, constantly tailing our boy. But when you’re touched by autism and hear far-too frequent and utterly tragic tales of children who wander, get lost, and, all to often, are recovered by dive teams or search dogs… well, you freak the F out every time you see your kid bolt to an exit. And when your kid has been on house arrest for five days, there’s a LOT of bolting going on. The hubs and I are pretty amazing about working as a tag team and alternating rounds of super-vigilance, but I had a 31 lb girl attached to my hip that just would not be denied. I think we left after 9:15 or so, and our asses were grass.

Celebration 3: December 24

We slept normally (huzzah!) and didn’t have anything scheduled until church service. Since Kitty’s nap was scheduled, just Monkey and I headed to church. On our way, he insisted on my playing certain songs on the iPod – no big deal – but SCREAMED whenever each song ended. Those outside of the autism world may not really get this… but his sweet little mind was just like scrambled eggs. I think he was just stressed and tired and pissed and confused. Thankfully, he loves church, so while he went to child care and played happily, I went to the service with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law.

The only thing that kept me from ugly-crying for the full 100% of the service was the hipster Josh Groban wannabe behind me. I want to make fun of him and say he over-sang the songs… but I’m just more of a “make a joyful noise” type, and let’s just say I count on crowd noise to drown my voice out. So maybe I was just jealous. Anyway – I just felt like I was in a Saturday Night Live skit as he bellowed every song like Pavarotti. This gave me occasional giggles, which was great, because otherwise I was just so raw from a brutal previous week. I struggled to keep it together during the service, but for all the best reasons: slowing down, singing songs, and remembering the hope that comes from Christ… well, it resonated with me as powerfully as it ever had before. We are weak, but He is strong, indeed.

Following the church service, our tradition is to go to my parents’ house and do Christmas presents with my siblings and their kids. The hubs and the cat joined us there around 4:30. We hung out until about 7:00 before opening presents. And again, this is where “the big A” is tough, because though he is 6, Monkey doesn’t really care about the hoopla, the presents, Santa, etc. I don’t want to say he doesn’t understand it, because I think he is very sharp. But he was OVER it and was asking for “Daddy’s car” (code for “let’s get outta here”) before we opened a package. And Kitty is 20 months old, and I’ve recently likened her to a grizzly bear hopped up on Red Bull – I stand by this. So she was a mess. We had a nice night with family, but it ended abruptly. We headed home, battle weary again.

Celebration 4: Christmas Day

I’m so gabby here, so I’m just going to bullet-point this:

  • My kids didn’t care at all about Santa gifts or opening presents. And again, with one with autism and one too young to understand, this is neither unexpected nor a big deal. But I felt like we were due for some magic.
  • I got woozy and weak during our traditional breakfast and had to go to bed for an hour.

Really, I have to say that aside from the less-than-storybook start to the day, the kids had a great time with my mom’s side of the family at Christmas lunch that afternoon, and we had a nice night. So maybe things are changing from the better, right?

Celebration 5: December 26

Monkey was up at 2:00 a.m.. I got in bed with him in hopes of calming him down. We snuggled from 3:00-4:30. I hugged him. I quietly counted up to 500. I think he yawned four times. He got up for good at 5:30 a.m. Thankfully, I caught a few hours of sleep when Mr. Robs got up from 5:30-7:30 or so, and I got up and let him rest for a few hours afterwards. We needed rest because it was time for another celebration in East Texas with the hubs’s family. The plan: get there as soon as we could, do dinner and gifts around 5:30 p.m., then drive about a half hour to my in-laws’ house and stay overnight with them.

Monkey’s early rising antics meant we were tired, so we didn’t leave until later than we had hoped – and as you know, traveling with small kids means you pack dang near your whole house.

Guys, I’ve typed a lot about our hot mess of a Christmas this year. I feel like I’m play-by-playing it to death and it’s getting old. So I’ll cut to the chase… We got there. Monkey played for a while and had a blast. Kitty was clingy but starting to warm up. We were minutes away from serving ourselves dinner. And do you know what happened?

My sister-in-law’s dog dropped dead in the middle of the kitchen floor.

WTF?!?!

I hate to come off insensitive: my poor sister-in-law is crestfallen, as all of us were. So terrible! (And, silver lining: if it had to happen, it happened when she was surrounded by the support of her family, and when the little kids were in the other room playing and blissfully unaware of what was going on.)

But seriously, sometimes, it just isn’t your Christmas. Sometimes you think it isn’t your Christmas because 3/4 of the family gets sick, but then they get better. But your kids are little and there’s anxiety for various reasons, and the anxiety stays, and lessens some but just keeps hanging around.

But for fox sake, when a dog dies under the table of appetizers, it’s just time to say “uncle,” you know?

We valiantly ate dinner and tried to act as normally as possible while my father-in-law and nephew left to bury the dog. (I’ll take “Sentences I Never Thought I’d Write” for $1000, Alex.) They came back a couple of hours later so we could open gifts. We put on our best smiles and did what we could to make the most of it, but yeah, there weren’t many pleasantries exchanged after presents.

Mr. Robs and I loaded up the car and were thankful when his mom called to say she understood if we wanted to bypass staying with them and just wanted to drive back to Dallas. So we did. Because really, nothing else had gone the way we thought it would, so why start now?

So… yeah. There you go. That was our Christmas season. INSANE. But our kids have given us glorious moments amid the craziness. They’ve had a blast playing with their toys and watching their parents act a fool playing Just Dance Wii. Kitty got a baby doll and an awesome Anywhere Chair from Pottery Barn, but more importantly, she got an Elmo doll, Elmo pajamas, an Elmo snack cup, an Elmo puppet… so, you know, her life’s awesome. Monkey is a happier camper now that we’ve had some consecutive days with normal nighttime routines and he’s actually thankful to be settled at home. And through the craziness, I’m ceaselessly thankful that I married my best friend, and that whether a situation warrants laughter, tears, thoughtfulness, and/or resourcefulness, together, we make the best of things. Even amid the chasing/monitoring of children, I’ve gotten to have quality visits with family members, and I’m finding the older I get, these conversations are to be cherished and savored, however brief or interrupted they may be. On this late night, with this year’s Christmas in the rearview mirror, I feel hopeful. I feel thankful.

And? I feel certain that there will never be another Christmas like this year’s. 🙂

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