Tag Archives: traditions

The Fun and the Not Fun

It’s that weird time of year – too busy to make sure my head is on straight, but enjoying fun family traditions at the same time. For about four years when the boys were younger we used to go up into the mountains surrounding our valley and cut down our own Christmas tree. I LOVED doing that, like Little House on the Prairie. We would obtain a tree-cutting permit, pack a picnic lunch, and drive up into the mountains, hike around in the snow, pick out our tree, saw it down and tie it to the roof of the car. Then we’d drive back home, bring it inside, and decorate it while listening to Christmas music. About eight years ago, on our way back down from the mountains, we slid on some hard-packed snow and nearly collided with another car as we headed toward the edge of the road. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if our car hadn’t stopped – inches from the other car, and inches from the edge of a scary ravine. That did it for me. No more getting the Christmas tree in the mountains.

So the next year, oddly enough, I started seeing signs for a local U-Cut Christmas Tree Farm, and it turned out to be in a lovely rural area just seven minutes from our house! I was so excited – all the fun of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree without the danger of driving off the edge of a snow-packed mountain road! (I was also excited that I didn’t have to plan and make a picnic lunch, but that’s not really worth mentioning.)

Thus began our current tradition of going to the charming U-Cut farm mere minutes from our home, in the foothills of southern Oregon. We sleep in on Saturday morning, have brunch, and then off we go to pick out our tree. Last year Nigel did the cutting, so this year Aidan wants to. He picks out a gorgeous specimen, and Nigel gets the sawing started for him, about an inch into the trunk. I pull out my camera and Nigel retorts, “There’s no need to document the strain of sawing the tree,” (!) at which point I suggest that Aidan take over.

After ten minutes of valiant effort, Aidan successfully cuts down the tree and poses for one of my favorite shots of him, ever:

We get home and Nigel elects to put his tired, grouchy self in bed for a nap (more on that in a minute). Aidan helps me get the tree in the stand, and we notice that it is the largest we’ve ever had – the tallest and the fullest. We cut a little off the bottom and the top, get it upright, sweep the surrounding area (at which point we discover that Aidan had stepped in dog crap at the U-Cut Farm), and clean everything up. Finally, we put on the Christmas music, and I string the lights while Aidan plays with the ornaments.

Since the boys were toddlers we’ve had the same star on top of our Christmas tree – an impressive 16-point tin star with holes punched in it for the light to shine through. I think it had been made in Mexico, and it was so pretty. But last year it just fell apart and could no longer be used. So this year I had to get something really special to replace it. Something I knew that the boys would love. See there? That green glow at the top of the tree?

Yeah, that’s right. I got the Yoda Tree Topper.

We save some ornaments for Nigel to hang, and I get him out of bed after two hours, not wanting him to nap too long. Here’s the thing: I think something’s going on with him lately, like, possible seizure activity. At first I thought it was jetlag, but we’ve been back for two weeks, and there have been other signs, some that appear to be postictal. Ironically, the week before I noticed anything, we had already gone to the neurologist’s office at the request of Nigel’s regular doctor as a follow-up to his major seizure in June. And so when the neurologist suggested doing both an MRI and an EEG, at first I thought Fine, we’ll just do it, even though I didn’t think it was necessary. But now I do. Something’s going on, and it’s not just residual jetlag. And it just so happens that his tests are scheduled for next week.

The staying up with him next Thursday night for the EEG? Not fun. The worrying about what’s going on in his brain? So not fun. But I do feel fortunate that the appointments had already been made before I started noticing stuff – an example of things coming together just when they need to. I’m anxious, but hopeful, as always. It’ll be good to get the tests out of the way so that we can enjoy the holidays – and all the rest of our traditions, old and new.

***UPDATE: 12/17*** Both tests are now out of the way, and Nigel did really well with them! We just got back from the EEG a little while ago, and he is now napping ūüôā Of course, we have to wait a few weeks for the results, but at least we can catch up on sleep this weekend! Thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes.

Breaking Traditions

We don’t use the word ‘pajamas’ in our house. When I was growing up, clothes that we slept in were called ‘nighties’ instead of ‘pajamas,’ and I didn’t like them much anyway. I would have rather worn a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed, which I started doing in college. I had my kids do the same; it just seemed more comfortable.

When Aidan could talk (which was delayed, possibly because of having an older autistic sibling), he asked, “Why are the pants called ‘sweatpants?'”

Me: Because some people wear them when they’re exercising and they sweat.

Aidan: But we don’t.

Hence, the phrase sleeping pants was conceived. And in the summer, they wear sleeping shorts. Everything has to be labeled very literally around here.

Bedtime is always a mad dash for the boys to get everything done that they wanted to do for the day, all of their little Lego projects, stuff they wanted to look up online, as well as the requisite teeth-brushing, homework-checking, and lunch-making for the next day. As a result, they are rarely in bed at the stated time, which is as late as I can stand it because they have never, even as babies, needed much sleep for some unlucky reason.

So it’s 10:30 PM and I’m really wanting to close up shop for the night and maybe read in bed for half an hour before going to sleep myself. Aidan’s already down (required since he’s younger), but Nigel is still in mad-dash mode. He’s running out to the game room to find one last Lego piece (a Ghengis Khan-style helmet), he’s printing out a chart of the International Date Line from Wikipedia, and he’s saying good night to the cat. I order him to brush his teeth and get in bed because I want to go to bed.

I shut off the lights, check the doors, turn down the heater, and go back to Nigel’s room to say good night to him, hoping he’s ready.

Nigel: I have to put on my sleeping pants.

Me: Let me say good night to you and then put on your sleeping pants.

Nigel: I have to put my sleeping pants on before you say good night to me. It breaks my traditions.

And in the second before I respond, I think, Wow, what a beautiful sentence. Two! He can now express his needs with words instead of screaming, as he would have just a few short years ago. And I say, “Okay,” and close the door until he says, “I’m finished.”

Yes, he has his rituals. Things often need to be done in a certain order (unfortunately cleaning his room does not fall into that category). But there are many things that Nigel’s flexible about, and I can give him a minute to finish up with the¬†rituals that he feels a need to perpetuate. The traditions. They bring some semblance of order to his often harried brain. And who am I to break traditions? Except¬†maybe pajamas.