Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tree-dition Rocks




I'm about to start revisions for my book, so I may be scarce for the next few week. It's exciting to be entering the "home stretch." and I really appreciate your prayers and support!

Before I disappear, however, I have a few things to share with you.

First, Bear is dead. Margaret's sweet hamster that Auntie Liz bought her a few days after the accident has died. We had a quick burial in the back yard, and shed some serious tears. Bear was a very dear pet who let me carry him around, baby talk to him, and never once nipped at us.

Second, I need to tell you about our Christmas tree fun. So, you know how we've always had a Kids' Tree and a Grown-up Tree? I know Kristen Howerton got flack on Twitter last week for wanting to put up a separate Kids' Tree, because she didn't want to cover her main tree with all of the dough and paper plate ornaments from her four kids.  Well, I say "More power to you, Sister!" We've been doing that for years and the kids have always loved it! I'm pretty sure having two (or three or four!) trees does not mean you love your kids any less.

You see, our family attended an Advent craft workshop for 9 years straight. Each kid came home with 10-12 ornaments per year. That's a lot of glitter and macaroni, people. There was no way my mom's gold balls and silver bows were going to fit on one tree with all of that homemade goodness. Thus, the two trees.

The kids felt special, plus it helped me seem much more laid back than I was when Tim's mom sent us 2 identical Hallmark Mark McGuire baseball player ornaments one year. Instead of hiding them on the lower inner reaches of the regular tree, I got to exclaim, "Wouldn't these be so festive on the Kids' Tree!?" without looking like too much of a jerk. Over the years, the contents of the trees got more intermingled as we put more of the kids' projects on the main tree, such as the paper ornaments they made with the names of Jesus on them.

Anyway, in the old house, the Kids' Tree was a large artificial tree that stood in the upstairs stairwell right outside Jack and Margaret's rooms. I liked how its lights sparkled through the window as we pulled into the driveway. In the new house, there's no such spot, so the Kids' Tree is now front and center in the living room, and you see it right when you walk in the door.

But that still left the matter of the "real" tree. After a colossal Thanksgiving road trip, that started out with my feeling hopeful and positive and ended up screaming sadness and LACK into my heart, we made it home to a dead hamster and the task of purchasing and putting up the real tree. Tim got it in the stand for me. He debated cutting off a few lower branches to make a more solid fit, but then decided against it. I said nothing.

I waited for him to do the lights, which is his usual job. I prefer to be the one who says, "Dude, you need more lights in that bare spot" than the one actually doing it. Tim, however, wasn't feeling well, and decided to watch football instead. I was aggravated but decided to turn over a holiday new leaf.

Instead of reminding him that he had spent 3 hours working on his sister's tree on Saturday, and helping my brother with various home projects during the 6 days of male bonding time they had sans families before Thanksgiving, I kept my annoyed mouth shut. Killing him with kindness wasn't an option, so I just opted not to kill him.

I waited until the family went to bed and did all the lights myself. Then, I started to decorate. One thing led to another until the tree was almost finished after about 3 hours.

Except then it began to lean at an odd angle. It was not secure in the stand. I lovingly woke up Tim and inquired as to whether he might be willing to come downstairs and straighten the tree with me, lest it fall crashing down in the night. He demurred and resumed sleeping.

It didn't fall, yet I was forced to look at the Leaning Tower of Tree-sa all day yesterday.

Last night Tim was ready to deal with it. Which is good, because if I had to look it one more day, wondering when my heirloom ornaments were going to break, I think I'd have to turn my new leaf right back to the other side.

He lifted the fully decorated tree out of the stand, while I chopped off the offending branch. It was not an easy process. There were no I told you so's, no sounds at all really, just the tinkling of ornaments hitting the floor. After the tree was secure, I stood back and congratulated myself for not being a nag. All was well, even if the tree looked a little worse for the wear. The tree had survived, and so had our marriage.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied Tim crouching near the base of the fully decorated and lit tree with a long pair of hedge clippers. One of the branches did not look quite right to him.  It protruded farther than was acceptable to his newfound Christmas decorating sensibilities. So he opened those suckers up and chopped off the branch along with a strand of lights--  and the entire tree went dark.

I still did not say a word, but climbed into bed with the tv remote and a large bag of M&M's.

Today I took the lights off and hung new ones, which was of course super-easy to do on a fully decorated tree.

The tree now looks fine, thank goodness, and my tongue is sore from biting it for the past 3 days.

All is well.

But could someone kindly inform my husband that "trimming the tree" does not mean what he thinks it means?

Thank you.

43 comments:

Kristal said...

Um, yeah, that sounds like a typical day at my house. I'm so glad to hear another wife/mother point out the things that are going on in my head!!!! Bless you for biting your tongue, sometimes it is necessary, but BOY IS IT PAINFUL!!!! :)

Mama Mel said...

Ha! Love that line from The Princess Bride.
Holiday traditions can be hard on a marriage. Only a few more weeks, you can make it. ;)

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Oh Anna, that is hilarious! You reminded me of a story in our family. Starts out the same as yours, my husband didn't get the tree in the stand just right, everyone goes to bed, mom decorates, meanwhile my then 4yr d old daughter keeps getting out of bed with every excuse in the world so that she can see the tree progress, exhausted I say to her "unless your bed is on fire do not get out of the bed again" I continue to decorate, finish up and lay on the floor to give the tree one final push on the base to get it closer to the wall and yep the entire tree falls on me, all you can see are my ankles and feet sticking out! My husband is sound asleep on the other side of the house, I start to yell for my daughter, remember what I told her, she doesn't want to get up, she keeps yelling what mommy, please come here! She does, of course doesn't see where I am at first, I send her for help, get daddy, the sleeping bear does not wake, she goes back three times, finally saying Daddy hurry, mergency, help, mommy needs help, he stumbles out, doesn't see me, by the way branches poke and lights get hot, but I was determined to not damage any ornaments so I laid and waited! Finally my prince rescues me and it is now one of our favorite family memories!! Means even more now. :) As for Bear, I am sorry, I just lost my chocolate lab, named bear. She was the first and last "person" I spoke to each day and had helped me thru many sleepless nights. You will always have great memories of this tree and the tongue biting! :)

Anonymous said...

Best line ever. I may have to borrow this. "Killing him with kindness wasn't an option, so I just opted not to kill him".

theresa

Princess Kate said...

We are getting our tree this weekend and I'm sure it's going to be a tongue-biting weekend for me as well.

I wish you all the joy that the season can bring to you and your family. Please know that I think of Jack daily and am always praying for peace for your family. Merry Christmas Anna

Anonymous said...

Although your serious writing is great, your comic writing is quite brilliant. Seriously. This was so well drawn and quite hysterical.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about Bear. A hamster that never nips is a special find.

Good luck with the book! You can do it!

Suburban Correspondent said...

I never watch as Larry puts up the tree. Our marriage couldn't withstand that.

Alison said...

I'm so sorry about Bear. :(

I'm glad that no trees came crashing down. And that your tongue is intact!

Noah's Mom said...

I love the idea of having the 2 trees...works perfectly. I still find myself hanging some of the kid's home-made ornaments among the Hallmarks & all the others we have collected over the years...and my girls are all grown with children of their own! What is the 'cut-off' point, where you start doling them out for their own trees...or do you? They are hard to part with, I guess. Anyway, your post made me laugh because I could just picture you holding up the tree while your husband "trimmed" the branch! AND you have WAY more patience than I ever would!

Kim said...

Oh. my. gracious. So sorry. You are the best storyteller, and the leaning tower of Tree-sa? perfect.
Enjoy your lights and lovely decorated tree that now stands beautifully erect for all the world to see :)

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Christmas of '85, we came home to our tiny apartment, and saw our very old hand-me-down metal stand had sprung a leak. So my brothers, who were big and visiting us in our very tiny apartment lifted the decorated tree out of the old stand and placed it in the new stand my then husband had run (literally) to Walgreen's (on the corner of Diversey and Halsted, not happy and healthy) to buy.

A few years later my mom decided to put up a little tree in her dining room. So she ordered a tree from the Sears catalog (ah, memories) and lit it with small colored lights. She then used dozens of little wooden toy ornaments to decorate it. Once "done," she decided she liked the placement of the lights, but not the color. So to make it easy on her, she had me replace every colored bulb with clear. It was a pinchy job.

Good thing, being artificial, she just kept it decorated, threw a sheet over it, and stored it in the basement. When she died, we truly had a tree (one of four in our house BTW) decorated by mom. When a string of lights fizzled out, my sister managed to replace them without moving any ornaments. She's gifted that way.

I the early 2000s, my brother Jim would help single me with my live tree. I bought Fraser firs, and though my condo was bigger than my first apartment, I tended to go slender. Of course, we forgot every year that a slender tree had a slender trunk, so my brother would have to jerry-rig the stand's bolts to make them long enough to screw into and hold the tree. This took lots of ingenuity, some pads for the screws, more than one trip to the hardware store and a really good wrench. One year he got it just so and straight, but on the last turn of the wrench he dropped it into the stand. I made him leave it there as two hours getting a tree right was about 110 minutes too much. The good wrench was a rusty wrench the next time I saw it.

Flash forward to my first year with Brad. Our first and biggest to this day argument was over how to decorate our tree. This comment is long enough, so I'll spare you the details, but I really thought he was going to go back to Indy. I did wind up winning, and though he had great reservations at first, he has apologized every year since--apparently, though I'm no Martha Stewart I do know how to decorate a tree. He just wonders if he'll ever get to do more than replace burnt out bulbs.

Someday I'll tell you the story of how my track running son dragged me (it was like a two person crack the whip game, with a tree carcass as the whip) through the dark 'hood to leave our tree on someone else's drive to be recycled, but that's an after Christmas story...

The difference between my story and yours? Mine took place over DECADES, and yours over days. Well played sister.

Meg McCormick said...

One time my husband and I decorated the tree,then sat on the sofa to watch tv. The tree slowly leaned itself off to one side, but before either of us could remark, it fell the whole way over. Luckily this was in the years before we acquired actual heirloom ornaments...

Mrs. E said...

Tis the Season....for biting tongues!

Auntie Pam said...

This was hilarious! Of course, nothing like that happens here...

Joy Tietje said...

I'm sorry to hear about Bear. I had an awesome hamster as a kid and still miss him occasionally.

Your story about the tree had me rolling in laughter, and very grateful that our first Christmas as a family we decided to buy a pre-lit fake tree. Even if it does lean, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Believe me, I've tried.

OSMA said...

I'm so sorry about Bear. I'm also very impressed by your tree determination. One year, after Andy returned from a year long deployment he decided he'd celebrate by going to hunting camp right after Thanksgiving. I showed my "thankful" spirit by taking kids to buy a $180 Frasier Fir. I dragged that diva into our living room w my bare hands. Decorated it, strung lights on it, and smiled at it for a week until he returned...sans antlers.

I love your two tree idea. Might grab a little one this year to try it out. Baby steps.

Jen said...

You always make me smile. Thanks Anna!!! You say what we all are thinking and bite your tongue. Way more mature than me. ;)

Anonymous said...

When you started writing about your husband wielding the hedge clipper I just KNEW what the result was going to be.
I actually scrolled back up so I couldn't read ahead and "spoil it" for myself! LOL
You can't make this stuff up!

Niki said...

ah the holidays.in a few weeks all will be over.xx


dreaming is believing

Ashley Brown said...

That is too funny. I love how you managed to say nothing about the fact that your husband spent hours helping other people and then came home to watch football. Here's to praying I bite my tongue this season too.

Patricia said...

You said it Mama Mel - "Holiday traditions can be hard on a marriage"..Isn't that the truth ! I give you a lot of credit, dear Anna, for biting your tongue and stopping what could have been ugly ! I will take a lesson from you and try that here - I admit I've never been that good at biting my tongue, and it is true that "in a marriage, it's not what you say, but what you don't say" that's important......You go Girl !

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have been in and out of squabbles lately. Seems it's always like this as Christmas approaches. We are a second marriage, and we each have kids from our first. His don't live with us; mine do. Instead of Christmas being a time to - ultimately - breathe deep, settle into each other, and celebrate family - in our house, "Christmas" means coordinating schedules and hotels and rental cars and airplane tickets between two family 'sets,' two households, two States... My husband and I often spend Christmas apart, and I haven't made peace with the chaos that that inevitably brings to the surface of our marriage and the tips of our tongues. Like I said, we've been squabbling lately. And I totally 'get' the TV-and-chocolate strategy as an alternative to completely losing my schmidt! But then, there's this: my husband held me this morning, and said, "I love you. Everything else is a distraction. We get confused sometimes, but it's only a distraction from what is real. I love you - that's it. That's what's real. And we're ok." He's right. Christmas pulls and stretches our relationship beyond our comfort zone, but it doesn't uproot the commitment in which we've planted ourselves. Anna, your writing is a frequent reminder to me of what love can look like, even when life seems lonely, messy, tippy, and dark. Also, you make me laugh! And cry. Both of which are good for my soul. So, thank you. I'm wishing you peace and wellness and all shades of love this holiday season, and holding you and your family in my thoughts. xo, J.

Anonymous said...

Bring on the coffee mugs and t-shirts...."Killing him with kindness wasn't an option, so I just opted not to kill him." This time of year they would sell out:) So sorry about Bear.

One crazed mommy said...

So sorry to hear about Bear. :(

The rest, had me laughing and nodding my head! We got back from my parents on Saturday so I could get the decorations up...I say I because I have learned that I am the only one who does it, while biting my tongue the whole time - kids start, but disappear quickly - hubby does put the star on before we decorate, but then his job is over! Sigh...luckily we have a pre-lit tree, so I don't have to worry about the lights. However...I was a little shorter with everyone this weekend because my MIL is coming down tomorrow (my daughter's birthday) and the party is Saturday...so I was on a time line, and darn it, it HAD to be right. So, I was desserted by all, and left to fume and decorate alone. I feel your pain, and my tongue is sore too. Then dear hubby had the nerve to tell me that I was an ill ass all weekend and why do I even bother to decorate...smh - he just doesn't get it!

Anonymous said...

This story is hilarious! Your paragraph about politely asking Tim to help in the middle of the night is one of the funniest ever. Tree-sa! lol

love,
jbhat

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

Hugs to Margaret and all of you on the loss of Bear. I'm sure that was hard. I love how you put up a kids' tree. I haven't had the heart to do it the last few years. I can't bear to look at Joey's ornaments whether they have his face on them or his huge kindergarten handwriting. Good luck on the edits! And keep in mind, I would love to help you do a review or promote your book when it is done. Love to you, mama.

Anonymous said...

Lovely writing. This one. Fantastic. Best of luck in the final stretch of your book. Hope your holiday season is filled with love.

Sarah Reinhart said...

We have a decorative tree and a separate family tree. I think it's whatever works for your family. Why do people give other people flack over that kind of stuff? silly. Wishing your family much joy this season!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, you guys stop - I am laughing so hard over the tree stories - hilarious! (I know, just not at the time) -Nance

helenasc said...

I am sorry to hear about Bear. This time of year is hard enough for those of us who are not grieving so deeply. I pray that the moments of joy and peace will give you fill your love tanks enough for the yucky moments.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

My kids each have their own small trees in their bedrooms. They love them! Wow! I don't think I would have been able to bite my tongue as well as you :)

Mariah said...

That's hilarious!! I don't know how you kept quiet! Way to go. I would have been yelling for days. Ha!!

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

Two trees?! Why didn't I think of that??!!! THANK YOU!

Lisa C said...

Killing him with kindness wasn't an option so I chose not to kill him. That is my new favorite phrase.

Much love.

Kim P. said...

This has to be one of your most hilarious blog posts ever! You are such a great story teller.

I am so thankful to not feel guilty just because I have MY tree and then we have the family/kids tree....which by the way, I still adjust the ornaments on, when the kids go to sleep. Don't they understand spacing? :)

I have to say you are soooo much more patient than I would have been with my husband. Kudos to you! I always learn something wonderful from you Anna.

I will miss your blogging while you are working on your revisions. Holding you and your family in prayer, always.

So sorry about Bear. Truly. Huge holiday hugs from Purcellville!

Sherri said...

Anna- The story about Tim, the tree, and all that transpired had me Laughing Out Loud big time. You are one funny lady in this story-telling. Too bad Tim's so darn handsome. You have to forgive a hottie like that!! Biting one's tongue is something that I definitely need to remember with my husband at this time of year and always!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! You are hilarious!

Heidi Cave said...

A bag of m&m's and the remote...you are my kind of girl! Have you had dark chocolate peppermint pretzel crisps? I found them at Target and I actually squealed when I saw them in the store. It's a seasonal thing and they are maybe the best treat ever.

Scott has refused to put up outside lights this year. Normally I would fight him on this, but I can't be bothered. It's just too much work to argue the merits of outside lights.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

All the best to you on this last stretch of edits. I am so proud of you and cheering you on. Love you.

Thrift Store Mama said...

I'm so glad that there is someone else out there who writes honestly about the trials of marriage!

I love this line "Killing him with kindness wasn't an option, so I just opted not to kill him."

I spent two hours in bed this past Sunday afternoon because I was so tired of nobody listening to me and everybody yelling.

Andrea Mowery said...

Ha! We have our own holiday "tradition." It involves me quietly asking to leave some ornaments off of the tree and my husband insisting on putting every.last.one. on, even though no tree in the world has that many branches. Glad you compromised with the kill him with kindness part.

Lisa said...

Oh my he has no idea how lucky he is to have you as his wife and not me.

Alison said...

I'm glad everyone survived. xoxo