The tree is trimmed. The lights are up. Holly, ivy, bows, and silver adorn our staircases and mantles. Everything looks merry, bright, cozy, and charming. Not that it wasn't a battle to get it looking that way. Every year, decorating is such a struggle for me because it is not something that I particularly enjoy doing. I enjoy it all once it is all in place, but I really detest the whole process of dragging the various boxes from the attic and cellar and then opening them, dusting off the contents, and finding a place for them. The only part of the whole process that I truly enjoy is selecting our Christmas tree.
For the past couple of years, we have driven outside of town to a little Christmas tree farm where we are given a little tractor ride into their tree fields where we then select and chop down our chosen tree. We decided to go tree hunting on a Sunday which might not have been the wisest choice considering we get up early in the morning for Mass and everyone is pretty grumpy and ready for a nap by 10:00 AM. But, off to the tree farm we went, grumpy kids and all.
It was bitterly, bitterly cold that day. The chill in the air did not seem to bother the kids but I made sure we were all wearing gloves, hats, and warm pants despite Matthew and Emma's insistence that a light jacket was sufficient for them.We bundled Lucy up in clothing so warm and so fluffy that she could barely move. It was quite the sight to watch her waddle her way around the tree farm.
Last year, we had no problems choosing a tree. We glanced at perhaps no more than four trees before finding one that was perfect for our home. This year, however, we took quite a bit of time wandering in and out of rows and rows of fraser firs before finally settling on one pleasing enough to the both of us. Matthew was not at all picky. He went for the first tree we saw, which we quickly rejected because it was only four feet tall. After we rejected a few more of his suggestions, he began to get discouraged and proceeded to go fight with Emma over who got to pull the wagon with the saw. When Paul and I finally chose a tree and asked the kids what they thought of it, their answer was basically something along the lines of :"Looks great now chop it down already!"
Paul had a bit of difficulty with that part. He sawed and sawed, but that tree stayed rooted. The kids began to entertain themselves by arguing once again about ownership of the wagon.
Finally, the tree fell over! Time to take it home and decorate!
While picking out the tree is my favorite part of the decoration process, adorning the tree with lights and ornaments is my absolute least favorite part. I simply detest it. The kids were so incredibly excited about it but they broke two ornaments before even placing a single one on the tree. Plus, our lights were burnt out so we had to make a special trip to the store just to get some lights for the tree before we hung the ornaments, which frustrated everyone further. In addition, both Matthew and Emma kept fighting over who got to put what ornament on the tree. They both only hung their ornaments in a 6-inch radius along the bottom of the tree, so I spent the majority of the time rearranging their ornament placement. The fighting was nearly constant! Paul and I were so incredibly frustrated by the end, so much so that we both were repeating under our breaths: "We are creating memories, we are creating memories...."
Paul, at one point after yet another ornament shattered, was ready to throw in the towel. I reminded him of what so many people readily remind me: we will miss all this some day when our kids are grown. Paul just raised one eyebrow and said: "Really? I'm not so sure."
In the end, we did get that tree decorated. It is beautiful and the kids are so proud although I need to figure out a way to keep Emma away from the tree. She's constantly removing ornaments, playing with the tree branches, or sticking her hand in the tree stand to play with the water. She's worse than a cat.
Speaking of Emma, I have really been struggling with her lately. My sweet, fun, spunky, adorable little girl has been replaced with the most stubborn, obstinate, and completely unpleasant minion. She breaks my heart on a daily basis with her lack of obedience. The other day, I broke down to Paul and lamented my parenting and he reminded me that I had similar struggles with Matthew around the same age. In time, it will pass. It's just a phase. But in the meantime, the girl needs discipline and she had a major lesson taught to her on Saint Nicholas Day.
Each year, Paul and I leave treats for the kids in their shoe on the evening of December 5th so that when they awake on the morning of Saint Nicholas' Feast Day, they are magically greeted with the goodies left for them by the generous saint. We warned the kids that if they were not well-behaved, Saint Nick would most certainly not leave them anything special in their shoe. Much to my dismay, all our threats had absolutely no effect on Emma. While Matthew has been a perfect angel recently, Emma's behavior only seemed to get worse. When we sent them to bed on the night of the 5th, Paul and I knew that there was no way Emma would be getting any treats in her shoe.
When Emma awoke the next morning, she saw that Matthew and Lucy had received cookies and chocolate. Rather than treats, she found rolled up in her shoe the following note from Saint Nick.
And you know what? She has actually been behaving better. I'm hoping that her behavior continues to improve because I would really hate to leave a lump of coal in her stocking on Christmas morning!
Oh, and Matthew got a note from Saint Nick too. Before he went to bed, he placed his shoe by the fireplace and folded up a picture he drew of Mary the mother of Jesus with instructions to Saint Nick to take it up to heaven with him and show it to Mary. We couldn't not write back.