Saturday, December 26, 2015

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Lovely. . .

Yesterday was Christmas day, and we did something we have never done before, and will hopefully never do again.

We took down the Christmas tree.

There are two camps of people when it comes to Christmas decorations.  The after-Halloween-to-December-26th'ers, and the first-week-of December-to Epiphany'ers.  We fall in the latter camp.  I can't imagine taking down the decorations while the kids are still home from break.  Christmas is at full tilt on Christmas day, with many more days to enjoy family, worship, decor, music and the like.

Christmas day is not the day for tree removal around here!

But this year, we had no options.  I actually considered taking it down prior to Christmas, and if you know me at all (or just read the above paragraph), you know how out of character that is.  We decided to wait it out, though, and enjoyed Christmas morning around the tree as we have for the last 17 Christmases we've celebrated in this house.

However, when we got home from church, it was all business.  The tree had to go.  Why, you ask?  Because it was dead as a doornail.  The needles had been literally falling off for a week-and-a-half or so at an alarming rate.  There were needles all over the floor and I had warned the children not to touch the tree under any circumstances.  Sometimes they listened, other times they gently touched the tree and listened to the needles rain down as a cool parlor trick to show their friends.

We had cut the tree down at a really fun family tree farm the first weekend in December.  The tree was beautiful, huge, and smelled great.  I was so pleased with our Norway Spruce.  Once home, it looked gorgeous and filled our space beautifully.  But it was not meant to make merry for the entire Christmas season, no sir.

So back to Christmas day.  My husband and eldest son moved all the furniture and rugs and made a wide berth to the back door (thank goodness we have hardwood!).  They dragged the tree to the door, needles falling off with every jostle.  Within seconds, this was the situation:

I was called away from dinner prep to help get the thing out the door.  My son, my husband and I pulled and pushed the tree into the doorway, only to have it get stuck halfway.  We didn't want to force it through and scratch all the paint on the door and wall, but eventually that was our only option (and thankfully the paint held up!).  With much effort, we shoved the thing onto the deck, leaving piles of needles in our wake:

Truly, I should have taken a ruler and stuck it in the piles to show you just how deep they were.  There were needles everywhere.  

By the time we got it out to the deck, there appeared to be nary a needle left on the thing:

(In case you're wondering, we left the lights on until we got it outside to minimize the mess in the house.  You can see how effective that was).

Yes ma'am.  That is our dead, naked tree, on Christmas day.  Our fresh cut, beautiful tree, brittle and dry.  I admit that watering a tree is not my forte (and apparently not anyone else's strong suit around here either), but I have never been good at watering Christmas trees, and I have never, never, in my 20+ years of having a real tree seen this occur.  One year I recall a tree dropping some needles during the season, but that tree in comparison was a spring chicken to this year's old man.

As my son and husband removed the lights (with gloves on of course, to minimize the pain), my youngest daughter came running into the house with this report: "Mommy, mommy!  The needles aren't all gone!  Two needles are still sticked on!"  Good to know, good to know.  We should have left it up a little bit longer!

And today, I ran to Walmart and outside the store, bound and propped up, were several marked-down Christmas trees.  They had been there the entire season I would assume, and guess what?  They were green and needle-ful.  Moral of this story?  Buy an old, cheap tree at Walmart next year and enjoy it all the way through Epiphany. Or (as my husband has been campaigning for for years), get an artificial.

But I think I'll take my chances on a real one again next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bits and Pieces of Family Life #8

  • I went through the drive through at Chick-Fil-A the other day, happily ordering my usual.  The cashier was very prompt and oh-so-polite like always, reminding me it was her pleasure that she feed me the best chicken on the planet.  But when I got up to the window and was given my meal, I heard something I haven't heard in years from a cashier:  She wished me a Merry Christmas.  I have to say, I don't get too enmeshed into the whole Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays thing, but it really brought a smile to my face to hear her say Merry Christmas in a world where everything has to be politically correct.  
  • Changing gears (a lot - remember this is a bits and pieces post - the glory of which is that I don't have to have any natural segue between subjects), I was skimming Facebook the other day when I came across this headline:  Smelling Farts May Be Good For Your Health.  Who knew?  Apparently some smart people in England did a study (who would want to sign up for that research test group??) and discovered that an occasional whiff here and there could reduce the risks of cancer, heart attacks and the like.  My takeaway here:  the seven people in my house are going to live long, long, healthy lives, 'cause we get the occasional whiff all. the. time. 
  • We cut down our Christmas tree a couple of weeks ago at a tree farm.  The tree is huge and smelled so fabulous when we brought it home.  However, it appears longevity is not in its genes.  The tree is falling apart before our eyes.  I admit I am horrible about watering the thing (though I might point out that I live with six other people who are capable of watering it --- and I am consistently awful about watering our tree every year), but the speed at which it is losing its needles is outrageous.  We are seriously worried if it will make it until Christmas, or if it will look like the Charlie Brown tree by then. If we touch it at all, it sounds like it is raining needles.  Here is an example of just a few of the needles it has dropped:

  • My sister's community chorus is performing a sing-along Messiah tomorrow afternoon and my mom and I are going to join her and sing too.  I am over the moon about it!  I haven't sung most of the Messiah since early college, and I haven't sung in a choir with my sister and mom since high school.  I cannot even express to you how ├╝ber excited I am for the performance!  I've gone through all the sections we will be doing and most of it has come right back to me.  I plan to run through it all again today and hope for the best tomorrow.  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bits and Pieces of Family Life #7

I was standing out at recess the other day, wearing my winter coat.  I had only worn it once or twice this season, and as I was standing there, I felt something in my pocket.  Assuming it was an old grocery list, I pulled it out.  Dear friends, it was not a grocery list, it was TWENTY-TWO dollars!  I squealed with delight and told all nearby teachers of my newfound fortune. $22!  One might hope to find a dollar or two in your pocket, but 22?  Seriously made my day.

The beautiful season of Advent is upon us, and with it, we get to enjoy midweek services, full of glorious music and Bible passages reminding us of the glory of the season.  One of my children, however, does not find the opportunity to attend midweek services quite so exciting.  And I quote: "I cannot handle two church services in one week."  Sigh.  On the upside, it turns out he can indeed handle two services in one week, as he is still living and breathing among us.

My eldest son took the placement test on Saturday at the parochial high school he will be attending in the fall.  He has been to the school a few times since his sister attends there, but he knows no one there, and is general unfamiliar with the building.  I walked him into the hallway, checked him in, and watched him walk into the cafeteria with a hundred kids, most of them chatting with their friends.  My heart was in my throat, dear reader.  I have no doubt my son will make lots of friends next year and have a fabulous high school experience.  But on Saturday, it was hard to watch him take those first tentative steps into the unknown.  I would love to pave the way for my children and have them skip right over all the hard parts, but I know those struggles are character-building and they will all be stronger for going through them.  But still!  This mamma's heart!  

I went to Carson's last week, somewhat begrudgingly, with three coupons in hand.  As you can read here, my relationship with the Carson's affiliates has not always been a pleasant one.  Because of my experience in the link above, I marched straight to the cashier upon my arrival and asked for reassurance that my coupons were indeed as good as they sounded.  She looked rather shocked herself, and told me they were.  I then spent the next 45 minutes in Carson's looking for the best bang for my buck, and finally approached the register.  5 minutes later, I was holding $141.50 of merchandise that I had paid (are you ready for this??) just $2.42 for.  Yes sirree!  I "bought" two men's pajama pants, 1 Star Wars T-shirt, 13 paris of socks and one nail polish.  Let me take a moment to reassure you, my dear friend, that I would NEVER have paid $141.50 for those few items, but for $2.42?  Sign me up!