An Autism Christmas

28 Dec

It’s a work day today so everything is supposed to go back to its normal, everyday routine. It’s hard to shake off the inertia of the holidays. I feel lazy and lethargic, as if my body recognizes the cool December breezes as its signal for relaxation. I wonder how anything ever gets done in this world when all one wants to do is curl in bed with a good book and a cup of steaming hot coffee (or tea or cocoa, your preference).

I’m enjoying this break a little too much, I think. Christmas came a little late for me this year, what with Alphonse’s illness zapping some of the joy of the season. But the Community Mass at the Ateneo de Manila High School gave me a sense of what I was looking for. The Mass reminded me what the frenzy was all about and reawakened a joy I had felt missing in the last few weeks. Surrounded by the angelic voices of my son’s high school class and embraced by the kinship and friendship of my co-parents, I found much to be thankful for.   

The Ateneo High School Christmas Community Mass

with the class 4B as choir

We celebrated Christmas- autism-style, again- this year, and by this, I mean, we were prepared for everything. All my plans for a quiet dinner went out the window when Alphonse invaded the kitchen halfway through the final preparations. He insisted on sampling each of the dishes, coming back for seconds and thirds and even, fourths. Food I had left to garnish had to be hurriedly served, shared, and eaten; the alternative would have been to throw them away as it drives him crazy to find still uneaten food. Either consume it all or throw it away, that’s his motto. Glassware and delicate china had to be kept and replaced with sturdy plastic and melamine. We’ve learned through experience that there is no such thing as shatterproof when it comes to Alphonse. And finally, the rest of the food had to be hidden away in the oven warmer for later that night when he fell asleep.

Baked ham (missing its garnish as Alphonse had eaten most of it), Garlic Tiger Prawns, Lengua Estofado, Crab with Szechuan sauce, Lasagna, Japanese Rice- all served in small, manageable portions  (Not in picture: the meatrolls, chicken, caramel cake and DQ’s peppermint ice cream cake!)

All in all, our Christmas Eve was a collage of moments of chaos and panic (like when Alphonse tried to run away with the whole ham) but nothing we could not laugh about afterwards. The key to living with autism is finding the “funny” in everything. We treasure the moments when things go right and dismiss them as momentary stumbling blocks when they don’t. Tomorrow is always another day to make things right. We savor each moment, each smile, and each hug as if it were last. I’ve lived through the worst life has to offer- five years of daily, miserable violence and constant aggression- and nothing can ever break me again, as long as we are all together.

The kids had a lot of fun opening their presents. Even Alphonse was excited to get his pressies. He especially enjoyed ripping giftwrap paper. Big Brother let Alphonse open some of his presents and they had a blast tossing ripped pieces around. (Not a lot of fun for their mom, though.) Alex got more new clothes, a complete set of mangas, a capo for his guitar, and the computer game he was asking for. Alphonse got clothes, an Aquadoodle mat, a tabletop candy dispenser, and -guess what?- an iPad!  How the iPad found its way to our home is another story which I will share another day when I no longer feel the need to bawl my eyes out at the memory. Let it suffice for now to say that it involved more embarrassing crying in the middle of a crowded mall, haha.

Alex: What’s in the box, Ma?

Me: Fabric conditioner, Son. For your laundry, heehee.

Alphonse gets help with his presents from his Papa.

He got an iPad! (Alphonse smiles, poses for the camera, then tosses the iPad away. Thank God for the Otter Defender case!)

On Christmas Day, we celebrated with my family. Alphonse was particularly difficult that day, refusing to wear clothing and taking them off as soon as we put them on him. He wasn’t unhappy, that’s for sure; on the contrary, he was extremely happy that all he wanted to do was dance buck naked in the cold! We wanted to take photos too, but just getting him to sit down was a challenge; he kept running away. As you can see from the outtakes, family portraits require more than just sitting and looking pretty with our family. What we always need is brawn, and lots of it!

First attempt: Alphonse tries to run away, that silly boy!

Second attempt: Not only is Alphonse thinking of new ways of escape, the camera caught me with my eyes closed! Boo!

 Third attempt: Success!

And off he goes! Freedom! (Alphonse flaps his arms in happiness!)

I guess we’ll never ever be the kind of  family that spends peaceful days in holiday bliss, the kind, I imagine, that sits  for enjoyable, peaceful dinners with polite and  pleasant conversations. There’s always too much going on in our lives, autism and its many gifts always present and forefront. We’re the kind of family that runs after the one who has bolted away, that catches spilled food over and over again and mops it up, most of the time, with a smile, that stays up till 3:40 in the morning patiently waiting for one son to finally fall asleep. But, we find our smiles when others don’t, and knowing this, I am at peace. In fact, I am kind of glad. Autism may make many things more challenging and more difficult but the happiness that comes with it is a kind of  pure joy many people spend their lives looking for. 

I have much to be thankful to the One who gave up His Son for us. But let me just mention the most important gift He has ever given me- the one who stands beside me in the picture below.

Because with this man by my side, Christmas, even autism-style, is always perfect.


6 Responses to “An Autism Christmas”

  1. Indiana Lori December 29, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    I learned a new phrase this Christmas, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”

    Christ must be in awe of how you turned your cross into a blessing. A true testament to the world that our happiness is a choice, and a result of our attitudes.

    Blessings to you from Indiana,


    • Kittymama December 30, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

      Lori, I completely agree with you on that. And thank you for your kind words- I really appreciate them.

      Blessings to you too from this side of the world,


  2. Just A Friend December 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    I really enjoy your stories of your family. God bless you always, Kittymama, and your beautiful, sometimes wacky, family

    • Kittymama December 30, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

      Thank you! God bless you too!

  3. P-Angel December 31, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    It sounds like you had an exciting Christmas, Kitty!

    I am so very sorry I have been distant lately. I have had a relapse of my pain condition, where I have burning sensations in my arm and leg, and even swelling. I currently have a puffed up right eye. I’m feeling quite depressed because I have Andromeda here, and I can’t do anything for her 😦

    We think that I have a rare condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, but I’ve had a difficult time with the doctors here taking any notice of me. I’ve been continually misdiagnosed as having Fibromyalgia. It’s a long, annoying, and complicated story!

    I’m sorry that your son was so poorly too, and I hope everything has now returned to some kind of normality.

    I’m putting together a package for you. Would you like anything in particular? ^_^

    Lots of love,

    Sarah, your Panda friend and fellow kitty-lover
    x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    • Kittymama January 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

      Panda, I’m sorry to hear about your troubles and I hope they find something to make things better for you soon. You are in my prayers, sweetie.

      Don’t worry about the package; you know I’d love anything. But I want you to concentrate on getting better first. I miss you in your wonderful blog, and we all miss you in the forum.

      Sending you lots of hugs and some icky kisses today!

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