Unless you’re really overzealous (or just have way too much time on your hands), you’re probably not even thinking about the fact that Christmas is coming until at least the day after Thanksgiving. And a quick glance at the calendar will tell you that there are not a lot of weekends between that unofficial start of the Christmas season and Christmas itself. When your son’s birthday falls on one of those weekends, the time you have as a family to do Christmasy-type things seems even more limited. Sitting on Santa’s lap, building a gingerbread house, getting your Christmas tree, decorating the house, etc. all takes time, and there’s not a lot of it this time of year.
So when I start to feel under the gun during the holidays, what do I do? I cram every possible Christmas activity into one weekend.
On Friday I took the kids to see The Nutcracker. I took Jackson last year, and he had a blast. So much so, in fact, that when we returned home, he immediately found his sister’s tutu and started prancing around the house in it. But this year? I think this picture says it all:
This is his “tough face”. I suppose the on-stage onslaught of pink tights, tight buns, sequins, and lace necessitated that he appear extra manly. Ella was mesmerized by her first trip to the ballet – at least during the first act. Live dancers on stage! Real dogs?! A Rockefeller sized Christmas tree! And real (ok fake) snow!! Whoa. She was hooked. That was until the second act. By then she realized that it was way more fun to run through the aisles of the theater than to sit nicely on her mommy’s ever-shrinking, baby laden lap.
Saturday morning was filled with even more Holiday festivities. We started off the day by attending a holiday party, thrown by the local mother’s group I belong to. There were cookies to decorate, pictures with Santa, live musicians, a professional photographer taking family portraits. The kids were having so much fun that they didn’t want to leave, but it’s always a lot easier to leave one fun place, when you bribe them with the merits of the next fun place.
“Let’s go get our Christmas tree guys!”
“Yay!” they both responded enthusiastically. Thank God. Ok, meltdown averted. I was really starting to fear that these nice moms who I had just met, and would like to someday be friends with, would fall victim to my son’s usual leave-the-party wailings.
Thirty minutes later we arrived at Little Hills Christmas Tree Farm in Petaluma. This was our first time cutting down a Christmas tree, rather than just buying one at an unsexy, dime-a-dozen tree lot. We strolled in and picked up a tree cart and a saw, with high hopes and a spring in our step. This was going to be so great! The kids were having fun, running around wielding sticks at each other. Fantastic. At least they were happy and occupied.
But as we walked further and further into the Christmas tree farm, we realized something: Christmas tree farms around here don’t seem to have the usual trees that you see at the boring lots. The tree lot trees are all symmetrical, full, green, and smell divine. The tree farm trees? Well, let’s just say they are definitely lacking in the “wow” factor. They are patchy, sparse, very asymmetrical, mostly short, and do not sport the typical needles you see on your traditional Christmas trees. Kind of like the gangly awkward teenagers of the tree world.
This led to much indecision on the part of my husband and I regarding which tree to choose. “Oh I like this one over here. It’s really full”, I’d say hopefully. (And by full, I just meant not covered in massive bald spots like the majority of the others).
“Oh but what about this one over here”, my husband would say. “It’s taller. Not as full, but taller, and if I trim this branch here and this branch here, maybe we can make it look a little more symmetrical. But…hmmm…I like the one you chose too. You’re right that one is fuller.”
“Yeah babe”, I would say, “but this one you chose is maybe better. I don’t know, what do you think?”
This went on for a good twenty minutes, and by then the kids were off chasing a deer through the farm, shaking their sticks at him, and just being generally wild. Actually, I’m not really sure what they were doing. Because while the trees here were short, my children were shorter, and they kind of disappeared every time they would walk ten feet away from us.
Finally we chose a tree. Ok, so it wasn’t a Douglas Fir, but it was still nice, and the whole point was to experience cutting down our own tree. Well, my husband was the one who got to experience that, at least. And experience it, he did. The poor man probably spent about thirty minutes sawing away at what must have been the thickest trunk in the entire tree farm. Back and forth, pushing and pulling, all with a saw that looked like it was better suited for a tree branch rather than a tree trunk. As you can see here, he started on his knees, and by the end he was fully laying down on the ground beneath the tree, desperately trying to make even the slightest dent in the tree’s seemingly impenetrable bark.
Clearly I am being very patient with the amount of time this is all taking.
Finally we yelled a triumphant “Timber!!” as the tree slumped over on its side. We carted it out to the car, and my husband tied it to the roof, while Jack and Ella ran me ragged around the rest of the tree farm. By now they were completely over-tired, and if you’ve spent enough time around children, you know that this has the opposite effect you would expect. Rather than being sluggish and agreeable, they started behaving as if sugar and caffeine had been intravenously pumped through their little crazy bodies:
“Mommy, I want to go see Santa’s sleigh!”
“Mommy, let’s go see the farm animals. Come on!!”
“Mommy, let’s go in the gift shop!!” (Big mistake by the way. Never take two children under the age of five by yourself into a room full of fragile Christmas ornaments. It doesn’t end well for anyone.)
On the way out, I noticed that there were pre-cut trees at this farm as well. Trees that they bring down from Oregon that actually look like traditional Christmas trees. And the kicker? They were $10 less than what we spent to hack that bald one down ourselves. I think I know what we’ll be doing next year.
Finally it was time to head home, but wait! Our Christmas extravaganza was not yet finished! We still had to get eggnog and firewood on the way home, so that we could build our cliché fire and drink our cliché beverages while listening to our cliché Christmas music and decorating our Christmas tree. And oh my God, how stressful! Every time I turned around, Jackson was manhandling another fragile ornament, seconds away from dropping and shattering it into a million little pieces. I was pleading with him: “Please….just let me unwrap, and you can hang them with daddy, ok??” But it was like talking to a tree stump. Absolutely no use.
I kept trying to tell myself that this was supposed to be fun. We were creating a holiday tradition for our family. We were bonding. Blah, blah, blah. But really all I wanted to do was send both the kids to bed so that my husband and I could decorate the damn tree by ourselves, without fearing the loss of our most prized ornamental possessions.
In the end, the tree actually looked pretty great, unwieldy as it was. And my kids were so worn out by the end of the day that they were actually asking to go to bed. Must have been that bourbon we slipped in their eggnog.