Tree-asco 2014

*Don't forget to check the "Giveaways and Reviews" page! I've got a new giveaway going on and it's perfect for the new year. :)

I'm the kind of person who will arrange the shit out of a Christmas tree, like I'm composing a still life, trying to artfully balance the spaces between ornaments and achieve the perfect ratio of lights and tinsel. I'm a Christmas tree perfectionist. I like everything just so, and all twinkly and beautiful.

But, like ... I have kids. And cats.

That's why this year, my dream Christmas tree looks more like a freaking nightmare.

I was delusional enough to think that this year, maybe, finally, I'd get to have a nice tree. But here's why I can't.

#1: THE TODDLER. Okay, so everybody knows that toddlers and Christmas trees pair about as well as hemorrhoids and a G-string: put the two together and it's just painful. (You're welcome for the mental image, by the way.) But I was hopeful this year. My two-year-old likes to pattern his behavior after his older brothers - who, at ages nine, six, and five, are old enough to stay out of the tree. So I figured since the toddler didn't see his brothers getting into the tree, he'd leave it alone.

Only ... he doesn't. And he can't stop at just rearranging ornaments ... oh, no. He pulls off (and unravels) tinsel. He throws toys into the branches (see the little orange dump truck in the photo above? It didn't drive there by itself). The other day I heard whomp! whomp! whomp! and walked in to find him literally beating the thing with a plastic baseball bat. He pulls the hangers off the tops of the ornaments and, inexplicably, throws them into the kitchen sink. The child is hazardous to the poor tree. Not to mention my mental health.

#2: THE CATS. We have two cats: Nick and Nessa. Last Christmas, when we had Nessa and our old cat Ava, they stayed out of the tree for the most part (Ava was old and didn't climb, so neither did Nessa).

But Ava died a few months ago, and we adopted Nick (who, despite his name, is no saint). And, well, this pretty much sums up Nick's involvement with the tree:

See how it's, like, narrow where he's sitting? That's because he's at the top of the tree. He scales it like it's his own personal Mt. Everest. And while Nessa doesn't climb through it like Nick does, she like to get underneath it, and then they fight in the branches. The tree starts hissing and spitting and rocking back and forth as though it's possessed. It would actually be amusing if it weren't my damn Christmas tree.

#3: MY GERIATRIC TREE. I love our tree, but it has definitely seen better days. Curtis and I bought it in November of 1999, so this is its fifteenth year. To put its age in perspective, we got it when Justin Timberlake looked like this:

... Yeah.

As Christmas trees go, this one is ancient. It's like the Methuselah of Christmas trees. And like anything old, it's falling apart. The branches no longer snap firmly into place. They're getting saggy and loose. It constantly sheds its little polyester needles (or whatever the hell fake tree needles are made of) all over my carpet. It simply can't stand up to the beatings of a toddler or the cat infestation like it used to. It's been unpacked and repacked, fluffed up and compressed again, shipped overseas, and washed and blow-dried in case of rodents and other creepy things.

The poor thing is just on its last legs. Er, branches.

I'm about to say screw it and just take the damn thing down. Every time I pass by it, I cringe at the drooping lights, the bare spots, the ornaments strewn all haphazardly. I'm tired of telling the toddler to get out of the tree (because, to add insult to injury, he doesn't understand the whole Santa concept yet so a "Santa's watching" threat is futile). I'm tired of seeing it wobble precariously back and forth as the cats have a field day within its depths.

But I guess that if all that weren't happening, I wouldn't have any pictures like this:

(He was saying, "Nick! Hold my hand!" Ugh, the cuteness.)

So I guess I'll leave it up, but that still doesn't stop me from fantasizing about a perfectly decorated, un-bothered tree.

There's always next year.

(Gingerbread) House of Horrors

Saturday morning, for reasons unknown, I woke up thinking about gingerbread.

And then I thought, "A gingerbread house would be pretty cool."

And then Pinterest Me and Practical Me started their internal struggle. "You've never made one!" shouted the practical side. "You don't even have a kit! You'd have to make everything from scratch! You don't even have a printer - you can't even print out a template for the pieces! You'd have to freehand draw them! This is nuts!"

But like a psycho girlfriend, Pinterest Me came whirling in with a fervent insistence. "Gingerbread is easy to make! You have the ingredients! And the kids would love it! Look at this mental image of their happy faces! You love to make them happy! Happy holiday memories! HAPPY HOLIDAY MEMORIES FOREVER!!!!" 

*crazy eyes and lots of panting*

So that's how I ended up spending, like, half the day on a project that my kids were mostly interested in picking apart. Still, they did enjoy decorating it. So if you have a "Pinterest You" and she's trying to encourage this ... fun holiday tradition, here's how you get it done in twelve easy steps.

Okay, I'm lying. It's not all that easy. Not even if the Food Network says so.

Step one: find a good recipe.

So there you have it: how to make a gingerbread house. Your experience may vary.

Actually, let's hope it does.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman(-like Ornament)?

I'm not one of those crafty, creative moms. I don't use my Pinterest boards to share pictures of things I've done ... I use them to pin projects that look awesome, but that I will never actually attempt. (Or if I do attempt, will fail so miserably as to glue my fingers together or lacquer my eyelids shut.)

And I pin pictures like this ... because PIGLETS IN BOOTS!!!!!

Photo via WeHeartIt

I don't do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing, either. It's because a.) I would inevitably forget to move the elf, and b.) I've got enough to deal with - like Turds on the Floor (thanks, dog) - without having to figure out creative ways for the elf to make mischief (and then cleaning it up afterward). Because, like ... if I wanted snow angels on the counter made out of flour I'm sure all I'd have to do is leave the canister within easy reach of my two-year-old. No creepy elf necessary!

But I suppose I'm not totally devoid of motherly craftiness and holiday spirit, because I agreed to help the Kindergartners at my sons' school with a cute little snowman ornament craft. It's actually REALLY adorable, and fairly easy.

... Unless you're doing it with like sixty Kindergartners.

It's pretty straightforward. You fill a clear ornament with fake snow, have the kids draw a snowman face using black and orange Sharpies, and hot-glue the earmuffs on in the form of two sparkly pom-poms and a pipe cleaner. Voila! There's a tutorial here (and a picture of an ornament NOT made by a five-year-old). I helped out last year, and the kids had fun with it, and nobody glued themselves to anything. So there's that.

This year, my son's teacher asked me if I could help again. She asked me this while I was standing in subzero temperatures with chattering teeth, so all I could do was stammer out "S-s-s-sure!" (well played, Mrs. L.). But this year it wasn't only her class doing the craft ... it was all three Kindergarten classes.

And last year, we had a little difficulty shoving the fake snowflakes through the funnel-hole, so this year she decided to use tiny little styrofoam beads from the inside of an old beanbag.

Do you know how badly tiny little styrofoam beads cling to EVERYTHING? Your hair, your hands, your clothes, your shoes, the carpet, the table, and especially to a Kindergartner's entire arm up to the armpit when they decide to sink it into the open beanbag while you're hot-gluing someone's earmuffs on?

For the most part, it went okay - it was just a lengthy process. Because if you've ever hung out with a five- or six-year-old you know that they like to talk. A lot. And they want to argue about why there are only black and orange markers available when theeeeey want their snowman to have bluuuuuue eyes. And they want to look at what their friends are doing and poke them with pipe cleaners and tattle because someone is poking them with pipe cleaners. And they want to know why they shouldn't write their name so big on the back that it wraps all the way around the front to cover the snowman's face.

It took over three hours to get all three classes' ornaments put together. That's a lot of tiny styrofoam beads, y'all. And a lot of patience (which I'm pretty much lacking to begin with). Seriously, I think I used up my patience reserve through about 2017.

But the kids had a lot of fun and were proud of the finished product, and they got to hang them on the school Christmas tree. And I missed lunch and spent at least an hour and a half in a squatting position, which probably counts as a workout, right?

Thanks and Thangs

There's a lot to be thankful for - not just at Thanksgiving, but every day. Being alive, for example: I kinda like it. And all the other things everybody says when you ask them, like family. Friends. Health. We take tons of stuff for granted, truly.

But there are other things to be thankful for. Smaller, but equally meaningful and worth appreciating.

I'm thankful, for example, that I don't naturally look like this:

I mean ... no offense if your teeth are actually like that but it's not really a good look on me.

- I'm thankful for the times when my toddler squirts mustard all over the cat and his mattress while I'm putting sheets in the laundry, and climbs the counter to put his fingers in a freshly-baked Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, and scribbles on his brother's homework (yes, this all happened this morning). Why am I thankful for that? Because it reminds me that he is my LAST BABY* and that I'm almost done with this crap.

*Unless my husband keeps postponing his vasectomy like he has for, oh, two years now.

- I'm thankful for the Internet, so I don't have to go to the library to find the answers to my burning questions about "why are my dog's nipples so big" and "best ways to remove chin hair."

- But I'm also thankful that the Internet was not around when I was a dorky little kid.

- I'm thankful that no matter what I'm wearing or how crappy my hair looks, there's always somebody at school pick-up that is wearing something worse. Like sweatpants and a crop top and slippers.

- I'm thankful that my pets can't talk about the times when they're trapped in the bathroom with me while I stand in front of the mirror naked and jiggle my various parts to see just how wobbly they've become.

- Let's extend the previous "I'm thankful" to include when I stand in front of the mirror naked and dramatically lip sync to Iggy Azalea songs. What? Don't pretend you don't do it. (And if you don't, you totally should. But only in front of your pets. Like a black wi-dow bay-beeee!)

- I'm thankful for comfy things like my couch and my pillows and those big-ass fuzzy socks with pictures of cats on them. And elastic waistbands in my Thanksgiving pants because ALL THE TURKEY.

- Speaking of deliciousness, I'm thankful for pizza. Because even the worst pizza is still pretty damn good.

- I'm thankful for my mad poetry skillz so that I can write Thanksgiving poems like this one.

Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a lot to be grateful for. Happy Turkey Day, y'all!


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