Tag Archives: Christmas tree

Our Charlie Brown Tree is a Goliath!

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Once we found our “Perfect” tree it was then time to decorate our “Perfect” tree.

We got it up the driveway and to the front door only to discover another four feet needed be trimmed off.

Finally it was ready to be wrestled into place.

In through the front door it was carried.

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We quickly discovered how far reaching those willowy branches were as the tree “undecorated” the living room as it was dragged into place.

We also found the weight of those far reaching branches pulled the tree forward, so once it was secured in the tree stand Toby had to tie off the top of the tree to the wall so it wouldn’t fall over as puppies ran by.

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Then it was time for lights. Toby and Rusty took on the task of covering the tree with white lights. The flimsiness of the branches on our Goliath Charlie Brown tree only allowed for a minimal amount of draping. The finished product made me smile.

Then it was time to decorate!

Fueled by eggnog and Christmas cookies we were ready to begin.

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The kids  dove into the boxes of decorations, eager to find their personal ornaments.

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We have a tradition in our family of exchanging ornaments every year on December 23rd, on the day before we go out to Ohio to spend Christmas with my parents. We started this tradition on Gracie’s first Christmas with the thought that it would be a fun way to document the years, as well as an opportunity to gift her with 18-20 ornaments that she will be able to take with her when she leaves home and has her own Christmas tree.

The ornaments are chosen with thought, each reflecting an attribute, interest, or event that was important to that child in the past year.

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The kids love pulling out their past ornaments each December and reflecting back on who they were and what was important to them when they were younger.

Rusty’s  collection of ornaments:

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Toby’s theme for my ornament each year is one that started with the first one he bought me in 1998. Every year he buys me an angel ornament.

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The willow tree angel ornament is my favorite. It is the one he bought me the year we adopted Tyler.

 

This year’s tree decorating remained consistent with this season’s overall theme of simplifying and focusing on those things of most importance, with quality reigning over quantity.

Our “airy” tree simply couldn’t hold the usual load of ornaments so the kids had to pick and choose what would go up on the tree this year.

Each of them laid out their years’ worth of ornaments, with Grace having the most at 18 and Ozzie having the fewest at 2. Then they all chose their very favorites from the pile to hang on the tree.

Here is everyone’s #1 favorite ornament:

The finished result was comical but charming. It certainly isn’t our traditional tree. It is as wide as it is tall, making walking to the bedrooms feel like stepping through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia, as we climb through the low, sweeping branches.

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But I love it.

I love story behind the tree.

I love the experience we shared in getting the tree.

I love the humble nature and imperfectness of our tree, so reflective of this Christmas season and the journey God has taken us on.

I love that it is our tree, grown on our land…a living piece of Patchwork Farm.

I love the laughter this comical tree and experience has brought us as we live out a “I LOVE LUCY” episode.

I love that it didn’t go smoothly and perfectly, for I have found it is rarely the perfect moments in life that stick with you and leave an impression. Nobody remembers the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect birthday, or any life moment that goes off without a hitch. No, it is the messy, plan B, imperfect moments that glue families together and are reminisced on and laughed about  years down the road.

No, it isn’t the “Perfect” tree,

but it is perfect for us.

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A “Perfect” Tree

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I think one of the greatest battles for a mother during the Christmas season is the  battle that rages within against unrealistic expectations.

As mothers we feel a pressure to bring the magic of Christmas to our homes. Somehow the responsibility of living up to the “Hallmark Holiday Television Special” standard of Christmas is placed squarely on the mother’s shoulders.

Very rarely do I see a husband stressing about Christmas cards, matching PJs,  or finding the perfect gift for his mother. No, it is the woman that carries that burden, knowing that if she doesn’t execute all parts of the holiday production with Martha Stewart grace, there will be a price to pay… with guilt being the universal currency.

And what is even more ironic in this tale is that the expectations and the guilt is rarely laid on us by someone else. Instead it is placed squarely on our shoulders by self. I have spent this month pondering what deficiency in myself or what human frailty drives this need for Christmas perfection.

Perhaps I was spoiled in childhood by parents who made Christmas so magical and made the magic look so effortless. That is a hard act to follow when you become a mother yourself.

Maybe it is the saturation of possibilities that bombard us on social media (aka: Pinterest,) making everything we do seem “not enough” when compared to all we could do at Christmastime.

Perhaps it is simply the plague of “oldest child syndrome” that comes with a certain drive for pleasing others and performing perfectly that I never can quite shake.

I try to kill the beast within but it is an ongoing battle that leaves me swinging from unrealistic expectations, to fatigue, to guilt and back again.

The Lord knows this sin I struggle with. He knows how the holidays feed this beast within and only make it grow. He knows my fear of losing control and disappointing others only serves as a chasm in our relationship that drives me away from Him rather than draws me closer, so often He will step in to protect me from myself, and allow situations that are bigger than me and my power of control, to realign my focus.

And when that happens, as much as I might fight it, I find that I gain my footing and am able to exhale.

This December was one of those seasons of surrender.

This month we were faced with challenges and obstacles bigger than us. And during most of those challenges Toby was out of town and I was struggling to manage them on my own. Add to the challenges we were facing as a family, the pressures and unrealistic expectations that come with the Christmas season, and I found myself at a crossroads. I had to willingly make a choice to LET GO of my vision for the holidays and LET GOD lead.

This meant my itinerary, my plans, my traditional parties, activities, and ways of bringing Christmas magic that I was holding onto so tightly had to be let go so as to open my hands and heart for the type of Christmas that God had planned for us.

I shared some of that transformation in a previous post, but God continues to work on me. He is helping me to refocus, slow down and see the Christmas season in a different way. And in the process He is bringing a depth and closeness to our family and a greater appreciation for the true gifts of Christmas in the process.

Lately it seems the theme for this Christmas is: I plan and God laughs… and then He provides something better.

That theme continued with Toby’s homecoming and our plan to get the perfect Christmas tree.

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We have been eagerly counting down the days for Toby to come home so that we could go get our tree and start enjoying those traditions that we didn’t want to do without Toby. . Going to get our Christmas tree was at the top of the list. We usually drive to a “you pick” Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree. I love everything about the experience from the tromping through the woods, to the debate over the best tree, to the towing the tree home on the trailer.

 It is my favorite part of Christmas.

So when Toby arrived home and we made plans to go out Saturday afternoon to cut down our tree, we were all very excited. It felt like Christmas had finally arrived. Daddy was home, the tree was going up, and now, 7 days before Christmas, the holidays could begin. All was right with the world.

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Daddy’s home!

 

It was right about then God started laughing.

You see, the night before had brought an ice storm that left our steep driveway encrusted in a beautiful, but treacherous, layer of ice.

My van was parked at the bottom with no hope of climbing the slick drive, but we were surprised to find out that Toby’s truck, that ALWAYS makes it up the driveway, even in the worst driving conditions, couldn’t make it up.

In fact not only could he not make it up, he actually ended up being pulled backwards down the driveway,  losing his trailer that was attached to his truck, over the edge of the hill.

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Our plans to take his truck and trailer to the tree farm were stalled as we called for a tow. Assuming we would just have to postpone our plans for a  couple of hours we started working the phones, only to find out that NO tow company wanted to have anything to do with our driveway and our predicament.

So we moved onto plan B. We would take the van and deal with the truck and trailer later. The van was already at the bottom so we would take it and simply strap the Christmas tree to the top. Nothing was going to stand in the way of going Christmas tree hunting.

And then God laughed.

We climbed in the van all bundled up in gear and proceeded to spin in place. For an hour we dug, we laid gravel and salt, we pushed and we pulled, but that van wouldn’t budge.

So now it was Saturday afternoon and we were stuck.

It was the last Saturday before Christmas to get our tree and we had one truck with no brakes (remember Gracie’s crash,) one truck perched precariously on the edge of an icy driveway, and a van parked on an ice skating rink. We weren’t going anywhere until the spring thaw.

I was frustrated and discouraged. Once again my plans were not God’s plans.

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Then He planted a seed of an idea. The day need not be discarded as failure. After all we lived on 53 acres of land. “Why not,” the thought came to us, “go Christmas tree hunting on our own property.” If we can’t drive to the trees why not shop at home, so that is what we did. And it was the most special Christmas tree hunting experience we have ever enjoyed as a family. It was an experience we would have never enjoyed had everything “gone right” and played out as I wanted it to.

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The kids were sold on the idea immediately. With hand saw in hand (the chain saw was trapped in the back of the jack-knifed trailer) we headed out. The three dogs joined us as we tromped through the snowy woods.

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Our Christmas tree options were limited.

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While much of our land is forest, it is filled primarily with deciduous trees and not evergreens. This added to the challenge of the hunt and a whole lot of laughter as we pondered the possibilities which seemed to come down to  30 foot or 3 foot pines, with not too many options in between.

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The dogs loved this unique adventure and raced around our legs, chomping on the snow, as we worked our way from one corner of the property to the other.

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We finally stumbled across a possibility.

It was definitely “airier” (that is the kind way to say it was sparse) than a commercial tree, but it had a pretty shape and a country charm about it.

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Tyler had his heart set on another tree that we had to veto for the simple fact it was too small and delicate to hold any ornaments. I could tell Tyler was frustrated that we couldn’t see the possibilities in his tree, that he viewed as perfect, so he did what anyone else might do in the same situation:

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He ripped it out by its roots and carried it home to put in the corner of his bedroom, root ball and all. 🙂

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Toby then pulled out his hand saw and dropped our mighty tree….TIMBER!

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It looked even bigger when it was laying across the road.

We ended up having to “trim” half of it off to make it fit in the 14 foot tall corner of our living room.

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The hilarity of the situation continued as we tried to drag this enormous tree up our icy driveway and get it into position in the living room.

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Stay tuned for part two of our tree adventure…decorating Goliath.

O Christmas tree

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Larry Wilde has been credited with saying, “Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”

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That may be true but I have also noticed that as my children have grown taller their perspective has changed. The 6 foot tall tree that once appeared to be 30 feet tall no longer cuts it. They want that 30 foot tree!

Saturday we decided (after looking at our December calendar and noticing how quickly it was filling up) to go tree hunting. Normally this is a family activity that takes place later in the month but one we often struggle to fit in since it has to be done on a Saturday due to the shorter days and the danger of wielding a chain saw in the dark.  So after a morning of cleaning and decorating the house we decided to head out and find the “perfect tree!”

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We drove to McIntyre tree farm, where we have done our tree hunting for the last 6 years. Armed only with enthusiasm and a chainsaw we headed into the fields. The first field we visited had a beautiful selection of well manicured trees, which the kids all immediately dismissed due to size. They wanted a TALL tree even if it meant we gave up the beautiful shape of the six footers. As Toby and I walked around examining the trees from all angles the kids had a harder time focusing. The ground was still snow-covered from the big snowfall the previous week so they took advantage of the snow and all the trees to use as hiding places and had a snowball fight.

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Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

We finally interrupted their game long enough to ask them to go stand by the tree they thought was “the one.” Molly, being a smart aleck, ran to this one.

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The kids stopped their snowball fight long enough to inform us that none of these trees would do. We needed to go BIGGER so we headed to the other field where the trees are older, not quite so pretty and manicured, but much larger. The first tree the kids ran to was a 25 foot tree that resembled a mushroom. Toby said, “Uh…No.” Once again the kids lost sight of the task at hand as they discovered the magical hidden spots found between the large trees that had grown together. I was soon following them rather than tree hunting when Gracie yelled there was something I needed to see. I followed Rusty under branches and around trees. As my hair was snagged by the pine branches I debated whether the trek was worth it. Then I broke free into a clearing.

We had found Narnia!

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In that little clearing hidden by 3 tall pines we found a magical world. All it needed was a lamp post.

Toby finally convinced us to leave Narnia by warning us that the sun was quickly setting and we still didn’t have a Christmas tree. It was time to focus on the task at hand and find our perfect tree. We finally stumbled on a compromise in the form of 12 foot tree. It wasn’t quite as tall as the kids had hoped but it resembled a Christmas tree not a mushroom. It was a winner! Let’s cut this baby down!

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Our Christmas tree hunt is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. There is something special that occurs as you traipse through the woods together on that special mission of finding the perfect tree. I don’t know if it’s the crunch of the snow under your boots, the smell of pine in the air, or perhaps it is just the work that it takes to hunt down and cut down the perfect tree that makes the experience so sweet. Maybe it has nothing to do with the “hunting” at all. Maybe it has everything to do with who you are hunting with..

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I’m not sure… All I know is that something special, something memorable, something magical happens every year in the fields of McIntyre farm as we search for the perfect tree.

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O Christmas Tree

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Off to find the perfect tree!

Off to find the perfect tree!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going as a family to get our Christmas tree. We always buy our tree from the same Christmas tree farm. The kids were all excited to go. Toby hooked the trailer to the car to tow the tree home in, grabbed his chainsaw and off we went! We usually pick out the biggest tree we can find..usually it is 12-15 feet tall but this year Toby was looking for something a little smaller. Every year we have the same thing happen..we bring home out lovely, LARGE, tree..decorate it…then sometime in the hours following our set up (usually in the middle of the night) we hear a large CRASH! Every year we seem to have our tree come crashing down. We have tried switching tree stands, tying the top of the tree off, nailing it to the floor through the carpet..but to no avail. So this year Toby said we are “going smaller.” He didn’t want to redecorate the tree 3 or 4 times like we have in the past. 🙂

Tyler with his Daddy

Tyler with his Daddy

We arrived at the Christmas tree farm and told the little old lady that owns the place that we were looking for a 10 foot tree. She sent us to the outer field but warned us that most of the trees were smaller than that or quite a bit larger. We drove to the outer field and then headed out on foot to find our perfect tree!008

As we headed out to the far field we had two little friends join us. There were two puppies running  free in the fields. They were thrilled to see kids to run and play with!

We thought this dog looked just like Ranger!

We thought this dog looked just like Ranger!

We found many nice trees. The challenge was finding a tree that everyone agreed on. The girls wanted one with a pretty shape. The boys were looking for size and didn’t really care if it was pretty or not. Tyler really wanted to bring home this 60 foot beauty! Look at the size of the trunk!

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The girls liked this one..Toby said it was a little too tall..

The girls liked this one..Toby said it was a little too tall..

The sun was setting quickly so a decision needed to be made. A vote was taken and a winner declared. It may not be the biggest tree we have ever had but I think it might be the prettiest.

Toby cutting down the tree.

Toby cutting down the tree.

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Happy Memories!!

This year our tree might me a bit smaller then usual but hopefully we will only have to decorate it once!

It was a wonderful day and a magical time creating family memories…and as Larry Wilde said:

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”

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