Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What I learned this Christmas

We had a wonderful, busy, crazy, family-filled Christmas break. Erik and I flip-flop which family we visit for Christmas each year, and this year was my family. After a bit of a late start because of car issues, we ended up staying four nights in my hometown in Idaho. Both sisters and spouses and all the grandkids were there (6 kids 6 and under!).

Overwhelm was on my mind. We overdid it with Soren at Thanksgiving. I misread his hyperactivity as joy, when I think it was a sign of overstimulation. The days after the holiday were rough for Soren, with increased aggression and a bit more crying than usual. I vowed to take better care with Soren's arousal level for Christmas, knowing that potentially it could be really overwhelming, with tons of family, no routine, lots of demands (eating with others is a big deal right now), and his parents' attention shared with cousins.

But I think we did some things right, and if we missed a few things, we learned some good lessons. Here's what I'll take away:

1. Staying in a hotel with a pool while visiting extended family is worth the cost. There's room service and quiet time. And a POOL. Have I mentioned that Soren loves swimming? Erik took him in the pool at least twice a day, which really helps his moods and sleep.

2. I tell people I need to give Soren a break by sometimes leaving a social gathering early (which is true), but sometimes I need breaks, too. I'm a true introvert in that regard, so downtime helps us both recharge for more social time. I'm in charge of identifying signs of overstimulation in my child, but how often do I watch for similar signs in myself? When I've started acting ornery or sarcastic, or if I'm zoning out on conversations or relying a bit too much on that wine glass, then I know I've hit my limit and it's time to recenter with a bit of alone time. Having a gym at our hotel was a perfect refuge (and a great way to counterbalance my mom's amazing cooking).

3. We are getting great about thinking outside the box for gifts for Soren. I need to continue to emphasize to everyone how loosely we define "toy" for him. For example, food is something Soren will welcome, usually way more than a traditional, age-appropriate toy. (And really, wouldn't you rather get a box of your favorite chocolates instead of, say, warm socks or a tool or kitchen accessory?) My sisters and sisters-in-law are fantastic at finding nontraditional gifts for Soren. For example:
  • chattering teeth wind-up toy (a huge hit, as Soren is obsessed with teeth lately)
  • Slinky
  • squeeze toys
  • dinosaur anything (another recent obsession, perhaps because of the teeth factor)
  • a big bag of marshmallows 
  • exercise "peanut" ball
  • candy canes
4. My family is a riot. Here's a shot from our sans-kids Greek-themed dinner from last week (um, we're not Greek). There were surprise costumes, a reindeer trivia contest, a Greek god trivia contest, and delicious food and retsina. We crack each other up.

I hope your holidays were peaceful and just a bit ridiculous.

PS: Thanks to Daniel and Dad for the great pictures while our camera acts up!

Happy boy

Helping Soren open presents, with lots of help from the 18-month-old twin cousins.

Erik with one of our three nephews and two nieces (on this side of the family). He's a fabulous uncle.

Gosh, I love this one. Pure love.


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