Hanging onto Christmas

It's four days after Christmas, and I am still listening to Christmas music. Last night I drank cocoa out of a Christmas mug one of my students gave me a few years back. My tree and decorations are still up. Nate mentioned taking them down today, and he got a scowl in return. I just can't let go of Christmas this year.

On the 19th my Grandma Kush passed away after battling cancer. This was not out of the blue as she had been steadily declining for a few months, and we did get to say goodbye. Nonetheless, it was a difficult loss for my family. My grandmother was one of the most selfless people I have ever met. She was always thinking of others. If you went to my grandma's house and told her you liked something at the house, she'd send it home with you. Because of this, our Christmas plans changed a bit. We were originally going to spend a few days at home before we galavanted to Ogallala to see our best friends. Our last day of school was the 20th, so we decided to stick out the last day and then drive to Columbus on the 21st after we celebrated our Christmas at home. We're a new family, so we had big plans of starting new traditions for the holidays. Nate and I always spend Christmas Eve looking at Christmas lights while drinking a steamy beverage, and since just about every little likes bright and shiny things, we wanted J to experience this, too. J had been struggling with his behavior for two weeks (I think he's struggling with missing his birth family...more on that later), and had a terrible day at school on Friday. We struggled through dinner and one tantrum wanting badly to keep this tradition alive. We managed to get all of us in the car, pajama clad, and spent an hour gawking at lights. We planned on doing the traditional cookies for Santa shenanigans afterwards, but as the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" (he used way more Scottish vocab than that). When we got home, all hell broke loose. J had a major melt down that ended with us putting him in bed early kicking, screaming, scratching, and begging to get out. We spent thirty minutes in the hallway catching him when he ran out putting him back in bed. Santa did not get cookies that night.

The next morning we ate monkey bread, opened presents, played with our new toys, packed and hit the road for Columbus. The next few days were spent prepping for what would be a beautiful funeral service to celebrate my grandmother's entrance to heaven. Though we spent our days in a hotel, we had an adjoining room with my parents, brother, and his fiance so we enjoyed quality time with them. There was just a twinge of sadness that clouded our time as we all struggled with losing grandma.

After this, we drove to Broken Bow where my parents now reside to spend a few days. We exchanged presents with the family on Christmas Eve and then eagerly awaited Santa's visit on Christmas morning. J has never shown any interest in Santa before (he even told our 4 year old nephew that Santa was fake), so we really hadn't played the Santa game. But my brother had an app on his phone that showed where Santa was, so throughout the day, J and my bro tracked Santa's whereabouts. J's excitement grew. When we put him to bed, he was anxious. Nate and I traded off for an hour laying next to him, helping him fall asleep. J was scared of Santa because he couldn't see Santa's mouth through his beard; he worried that Santa would catch on fire when he came down the chimney. Eventually, he fell asleep. On Christmas morning, in true J fashion, he came tearing into our room at 5:30 screaming, "He came! He came! There are toys in the stockings!" We spent the morning opening presents from Santa; I think we all enjoyed watching J's excitement. Because our car broke down on our way home from church on Christmas Eve, we had to catch a ride with my brother and his fiance back to Grand Island to spend some time with Nate's family. Though it was a bummer not having our own car, it was great to spend a few more hours with Nathan and Abbi.

J was so excited to see his cousins; he had been asking about them for the past two days. We enjoyed Christmas day in our pajamas as we watched all of the kids tear into gifts and then play the day away. We all went our separate ways at the end of the day. Because our car was still in Broken Bow waiting for my dad to fix it (thank God for mechanically inclined papas!), we enjoyed extra time with Nate's mom and his brother, daughter, and his new girlfriend and her kids.

6 days, 3 towns, 2 Christmases, 1 funeral, and 1 broken-down car later....we were home. Saturday was spent unpacking, purging the house, and playing. We ended the night watching J's gift to me: All Dogs go to Heaven. J fell asleep in his new tent, snuggled in a sleeping bag. While Nate showered and readied for bed, I spent a little extra time downstairs staring at our tree (which was decorated this year with my Grandma Kinzer's old ornaments) thinking about the crazy vacation we had already had. My grandmother died, we didn't get to see our best friends in Ogallala, we're having to pay hundreds of dollars to fix the remaining crap on our Subaru, and we weren't home as much as we wanted to be. Surprisingly, none of this bothers me (well, we really were looking forward to spending time with the Josjors, Parrishes, and Cones in Og) because all of this was shrouded with family. Maybe that's why I can't let go of Christmas this year.


What do you do when you feel like the world's worst parent?

On Sunday afternoon, we asked little man to clean his room. He had spent most of the day dumping out all of his toys playing. We gave him about 15-20 minutes to clean; a perfectly acceptable time frame in our eyes. About every five minutes, we went into his room to remind him to keep cleaning and that all of his toys that weren't put away would take a time out. Each time I walked in, he was deep in play. Cleaning was clearly the furthest thing from his little mind. I wanted so badly to toss the toys into his bins; a task that would've taken me all of two minutes. I knew that after the 20 minutes, there would still be toys on the floor. We'd take them, and then he'd throw a fit. I wanted to avoid that, but I knew I needed to let this learning opportunity unfold. I resisted. And then all hell broke loose.

We explained (again) that his toys would take a time out for the rest of the night since he did not follow instructions. He screamed. We asked him to please stand up and take a deep breath. He threw his body on the ground. We asked again.  He kicked and hit his fists on the ground and yelled. We asked him again to stand up and take a breath, and if he did not, we would continue to take toys out of his room. The screaming continued. And pretty soon, his room was empty. Literally...empty. The bunk bed and dresser remained. He even lost his sheets and blankets because he ripped them off the bed during his tantrum (it's been our policy at home that if he cannot treat things nicely, he will lose them for a while). All of his room went into the next door office despite his pleading, sobbing, and trying to pull toys from our hands. When the room was clear, we asked him to stand up and take a deep breath or we'd start to take his birthday and Christmas presents too. The tantrum got worse. We took his presents. We made him sit in his bare room until he was done and calm down. An hour later, he was ready to talk and we were exhausted.

We made him put all of his stuff from the office back into his room by himself and explained the presents would have to be earned back by not receiving safety rooms at school (these are isolated time outs away from the other kids that really take a lot to get). We know he can go without safety rooms because he's done it many, many times. We know that he can snap out of his tantrums and we're trying to teach him how to do this, but I feel like nothing we try is working. It's two days until his birthday, and he has only earned one of three birthday presents back and has earned no Christmas presents.

My fear is his birthday will come and we'll have to return presents because he did not earn them back. Part of me wants to stick to my guns and take the presents back to show him we will follow through (though I really don't think he questions our follow through. We are not wafflers!). The other part of me thinks this would be a great lesson to demonstrate God's grace and explain how God gave us the free gift of salvation and eternal life even though we make bad choices. How do we know which is the right decision? I'm exhausted thinking about it. Today I feel like the world's worst...and meanest...parent.