Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas at Our House

I love Christmas.

In our house growing up Mom always had the house decorated to the nines. The holiday countdown would begin in early December with advent calendar opening, tree trimming, and a host of other merry goings-on. I'd spend the entire month in an excited frenzy singing carols under my breath at school and shaking presents under the tree in an attempt to discern their contents. It was, you might say, the most wonderful time of the year.

As an adult and a mother I was determined to make Christmas an equally exciting and meaningful time for my own children. I longed to give my own offspring the same gift my parents gave to me by introducing them to the magic of the season.


Allow me to present you with a brief tour of my Christmas Wonderland themed home:

A few Saturdays ago we put up our Christmas tree. We lovingly decorated it with ornaments, many of them treasured keepsakes from our childhood homes.

Approximately six minutes later the children set about on their epic campaign of devastation. 

The ornament below was one of the first to go. During its brief life upon our noble tannenbaum it had whimsical arms that bounced jauntily.

Then this happened...

The poor guy's face kind of sums up his brief experience in our home.

WHY??? Why did you have to let the two-year-old get me!!!!!!!

The boys quickly moved on to the delightful hobby horse that has been in my husband's family since the early seventies. 

My older son exclaimed, "A bridge!!!" before he snapped the bottom off and began using it as a jump for his matchbox cars. His brother took this as his cue to begin snapping the horses legs off.

Now it waits in a long line of limbless and massacred ornaments waiting patiently for a date with my hot glue gun.

No such luck for my Christmas Santa mug (not pictured) which my younger son removed from the dining table one afternoon and threw onto the ground without warning. When I asked him what could have possibly inspired him to do such a thing he responded jauntily:

"I wanted to broked the Santa!"

Mission accomplished.

The delightful novelties that had once decorated each surface of my home were disappearing at an alarming rate.

I used to be a Santa themed candle snuffer. 
Then I was used as a sword and broken over the head of an unsuspecting baby.

The advent calendar has been another bone of holiday contention. Meant to be a day-by-day representation of the coming of the Lord, in our house the ritual has become less than reverent.

Do you remember the part of the Christmas story where 
the angels dive-bomb the wise men? I didn't think so.

At this point I've pretty much given up. I've put scores of decorative tchotchkes back in storage and I've moved all the ornaments to the uppermost branches of the tree.

Bottom of tree with bare branches.

Dozens of ornaments crammed in unsightly manner on uppermost branches.

But even these measures haven't helped. Yesterday the kids seemed to have tired of wrecking Christmas in favor of playing several rousing rounds of "lock each other in the closet" in my bedroom. I used the downtime to rearrange some of the displaced decor and felt a moment's peace in my Christmas-tastic home.

When the sounds of inter-sibling closet-based fun quieted down I became concerned and went in to check on the boys. I opened the door to discover that the kids had moved on to the "tear the sheets on Mom and Dad's bed to pieces" game. 

 Unfamiliar with the game? It involves ripping our bedsheets to shreds while laughing hysterically.

At least I know their destruction is not personal to Christmas. It's a year-round urge. Perhaps we can consider this the good news and the bad news....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The War of Christmas

My parents have a lovely and remarkably peaceful marriage.

Growing up I rarely saw them in conflict. They generally spoke to each other with respect and almost never raised their voices in anger.

Except for one day of the year...

...the day we put up the Christmas tree.

Our Christmas season began each year with an outing to the Christmas tree farm to select the perfect noble fir. Dad would secure the tree to the roof and we'd all head home blaring carols on the radio and feeling festive.

Things would start to go downhill pretty much as soon as we got home. Dad would struggle to get the tree off the top of the car and into the house. Once inside, Mom would fret over the trail of pine needles he was leaving in his wake. But the real trouble always started as Dad would secure the base onto the tree. As he pushed it upright year after year, Mom would let him know that it wasn't straight.

Dad would crawl back under the branches to adjust the tree. As Mom's alignment instructions were translated into adjusting the three screws holding the tree in place, things would go more and more awry.

Eventually Mom's helpful suggestions became more strident and Dad's replies from under the tree became tinged with frustration. 

Some years, things got pretty heated.

Eventually the tree would get aligned to everyone's satisfaction and the fight would end well before dinnertime. Holiday merriment would recommence and it would be smooth sailing until the following Christmas.

I thought David and I could avoid my parents' yearly fight by purchasing a fake tree. While our "Augusta PineTM" has the slight downside of being made of plastic, it has the major upside of being straight as an arrow right out of the box.

What I failed to anticipate was that my beloved and I would simply replace my parents' yearly holiday battle with another of our own:

David and I fight about the Holiday Card.

Each December I am determined to produce a smiling holiday greeting capturing all the joy of the season through my children's whimsical cuddling and extra-merry smiles. The problem is that I have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a 10-month-old, which means obtaining such a photo is statistically impossible.

Understanding this reality does nothing to dim my enthusiasm -- I remain determined to try.

I am the photographer, which leaves my husband in the role of "kid wrangler". I stand behind the camera and instruct my spouse to pose the children all together in front of the tree. He does so and then rushes to stand behind me and starts yelling to get their attention and make them smile.

ME: OH! They look so cute! Our kids are the best!
HUSBAND: I know, I love Christmas!

This is pretty much when the fight gets rolling.

ME: NO! You're standing too far to the side! I need you behind me so the kids are looking at the camera!

ME: Honey, stop telling him to yell "CHEESE"! He looks crazy! They need to be looking at me!
HUSBAND: I'm trying!

HUSBAND: Kids! Where's the garbage truck?!

(Sons both jump up and run toward the window in search of said phantom garbage truck)

ME: Honey, what are you doing? Go get them and put them back!
HUSBAND: Here, guys! Come play with these ornaments by the tree!

ME: The baby is escaping!
HUSBAND: I see her, I see her!

ME: THEY HAVE TO BE LOOKING AT THE CAMERA!! Why did you give them ornaments??!!
HUSBAND: I thought it would help!
ME: Well, it didn't!

ME: There goes the baby again!
HUSBAND: Alright, just hold on a second!! [Insert highly un-merry cursing]

ME: Alright that's it! Get out of the way! Get out of the way!!
HUSBAND: I don't have him in place yet!!!
ME: I don't care! This could be our only chance!!!

ME: You know what? Nevermind. Our children are terrible.
HUSBAND: I hate Christmas.

Since 2009 we're 0 for 3 on getting a usable group shot of our kids and 3 for 3 on going to bed the night of the picture-taking plotting spousal murder. 

Another great holiday tradition passed down through the generations...