I'm going to be finding shards of shriveled up cranberries for months.
True, most people who've decorated their homes with Christmas trees typically find pine needles tucked far under their couches in mid-summer. That's a normal occurrence in a normal household. That's in a house where people walked by the tree and stopped to admire the beautiful ornaments. Occasionally, a needle or two was lightly knocked onto the floor. But in my house, we'll be finding not only pine needles, but also bits of cranberries and popcorn all over the place up until the day my husband and I get our AARP applications in the mail.
We thought we'd planned our holiday celebrations carefully. We didn't want to overwhelm the kids with our household's Christmas and Hanukkah traditions, so we tried to keep everything low-key. We tried not to interrupt nap schedules and meal times. We thought we had everything under control. But the best-laid plan went drastically awry.
Let's start with the tree.
I'd heard from a couple of moms at our playgroup about a great Christmas tree farm not too far from our house. They lauded it as "the perfect place" to take little kids. With somewhat sketchy directions, we took off (against my better judgment) at 5 p.m. on a weeknight. We got lost. After over an hour of frantically pointing out Christmas light displays to the kids to keep them from hollering, we finally found the farm, which, as it turned out, was only 10 miles from our house.
And it was closed.
After getting the kids all pumped up to get that tree and calling attention to every high-wattage display in sight like maniacal General Electric shareholders, we went home empty-handed, with two really cranky toddlers in tow. We finally got the tree – after going to two different places, with Abbey in tears after we left the second one sans a conifer– but our adventures were just beginning.
We thought we were being smart; we strictly limited tree decorations to non-breakable ornaments and relied heavily on lights and homemade garlands of cranberries and popcorn. But, we quickly discovered that we are woefully dim. I can't tell you how many times we found the kids either in the tree or standing on tables with their mouths wrapped around the garlands. Half-chewed pieces of wet cranberries and popcorn spit out in gooey pink gobs became commonplace. I tried moving the garlands higher and deeper into the tree, but it was no use. (Why I didn't just take the tree down, take off the garlands or put a gate around it? I have no idea. Chalk it up to sappy holiday sentimentality. Or stupidity.) And, when the kids weren't leaving naked noose-like threads where popcorn used to be, they were stripping the tree of all of its ornaments and organizing them into miniature armies ready to overthrow the tyrants who were trying to rob them of their popcorn and cranberry feast.
And then there was the chocolate. The children also spent the holiday season gorging on chocolates from the Christmas advent calendars and Hanukkah gelt (little chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil), that I bought. (Yes, I bought them. This is one thing I can't pin on my mother.) At every meal they'd beg for Hanukkah and Christmas chocolates in lieu of whatever was being served. And they wouldn't quit.
Speaking of not eating, the actual holiday celebrations were marked by an ambitious consumption of crackers, grapes and apple juice. The kids ate virtually nothing else. No Christmas or Christmas Eve dinners. No Christmas breakfast. They also didn't nap and went on an anti-Christmas gift strike. I kid you not. When confronted by a mountain of presents from Santa, their parents, grandparents, and relatives, they opted instead to open the first toy that wet their whistles and turn their backs on everything else. We begged them to open the rest of the presents to no avail. Daddy and I had the pleasure of opening a wide array of anti-parent gifts ranging from Billy the Big-Mouthed Bass (that singing plastic fish mounted on wood) to an incessant Blue's Clues radio that we secretly hope will be accidentally dropped in the toilet.
Add to that the questioning of when Santa's coming again, when we're going to light the Hanukkah candles, and where the Christmas chocolates went, and I'm on the verge of waiting two years before celebrating either Christmas or Hanukkah again. And if I have to sing or hear "Frosty the Snowman" or "Rudolph" one more time, I swear I'm going to have to go into a long winter hibernation. Wake me up when it's July.