Tree Lot

Where do you get your Christmas tree?

Our family gets our tree from our elementary school’s tree lot. We didn’t even know they had a tree lot until our kids went there. Prior years we would get a tree wherever it was easy without much thought. Going to this elementary school changed that as parents were asked by the PTA to help run the tree lot (help customers with the trees, get them to their cars, run the checkout stand) and we felt obliged to help. It was one of the few ways we thought we could actually give back to the school. When the kids were young it seemed a bit overwhelming to run the stand, as we’d need to get sitters for them or be prepared to chase them around the lot the entire evening, but as the kids grew and could truly help out at the stand it became a family tradition we look forward to.

My youngest is in 5th grade and will be moving on to middle school next year. We thought this would be our last tree lot until we learned that my older son’s scout troop also does tree lot. And because there are only a dozen or so kids in the troop, each family has to work multiple shifts. Seems like working tree lot will be in our future for many years to come!

My boys will always gripe about working the tree lot, even though we remind them working the lot means we’re helping raise money for their school and/or money for their troop. But I get it, I can’t imagine I would have been super excited to work a tree lot for hours on end when I was their age. It can be cold, wet, and sometimes miserable (weather wise), but seeing the families come in to buy their tree, young faces wide with excitement about the holiday, and people telling us they specifically came to the lot to support us (be it the school or the scouts), makes it all worthwhile. It makes us feel more connected to our neighbors, our community, and you can’t put a price on something so needed and special.

Working the tree lot has become a family tradition. I’ve a greater appreciation for where we get our tree from, and those that make the time to get their tree from us.

Where do you get your Christmas tree from?

A Change in the Weather

What is your favorite time of year, and what makes it so?

In our house, Fall is right up there.  We made a list of our favorite things (kinda of like Oprah’s Favorite Things list, but made up of things you just can’t buy). 🙂

There are the normal things we look forward to every year:

  • Apple cider
  • The return of college football and going to Red Mill (Red Mill is a burger place that is open all year round. For whatever reason the return of college football reminds us it’s time to go back to Red Mill)
  • The leaves changing color, and
  • Going to the pumpkin patch (we’ll do that here in a few weeks)

And there are those things that are temporary, having to do more with my children’s ages and interests than anything else:

  • Watching my oldest son practicing soccer past sunset with his team
  • Spending more time with other moms during practice — we’ve found the kids don’t seem to miss us if we slip away for a hot beverage or quick meal and get back by the time it’s over
  • Watching and cheering my son and his teammates on at the game (it’s nerve racking for me)
  • Spending time on the playground with my younger son while older brother plays in a game (I’m much calmer here)
  • Decorating a gingerbread Haunted House (again, we’ll do that here in a few weeks…and as much as I’d like to think this will be a long-term tradition, I fear it will only last as long as the boys are interested in doing it).

Time continues to pass. The boys are getting older. We reached a new milestone this season. Our membership expired at the zoo. We’ve had a membership there since the kids were babies. They no longer seem interested in seeing the animals. Other parents warned us this was coming, but it feels a little like a change in the weather…nothing ever really stays the same, and that’s okay. The constant traditions of Fall I look forward to, they will always be there. The ones that are yet-to-be excite me. What activities or temporary traditions will the new seasons bring for my family? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What are your favorite Fall traditions?

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

We are reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a humorous tale of how a traditional church pageant gets overtaken by an untraditional cast of characters–the Herdman family. We got the book so our oldest son could continue practicing his reading skills. The book is just about right for his age as it challenges him from a reading prospective (wouldn’t names like Genesis and Jerusalem challenge most eight year olds?), and from a content prospective–the Herdman’s raise some very good questions about the Christmas story from a child’s naivety about this old story but with a great understanding of the present world as illustrated in one of Imogene’s passages after finding out that the baby Jesus was swaddled and laid in a manger: “You mean they tied him up and put him in a feedbox. Where was the Child Welfare?”

The Herdman children’s questions about the Christmas story have been a good opportunity for my sons and I to talk about the story, what is happening and what it means. Up to this point, my sons have participated in our church’s Christmas Pageant without really understanding the story. They know there are angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Dressing up in the costumes is fun. But their experience in the pageant has been one of participation, not appreciation.

This year when a teacher was asking the kids who might want to play Mary in the Christmas Pageant the room was silent for a moment, than my youngest son who recently turned six stated loudly, “I’ll be Mary.” To which the teacher replied, “You want to be Mary?” and looked at me with a quizzical face. I asked my son, “You want to be Mary?” to which he replied, “Yes. I want to be Mary.” I looked back at the teacher and gave her my permission. I’m not sure how comfortable everyone was with my son’s decision (mainly the adults in the room, the children seemed to care less), but I felt if my son wanted to play Mary, by gosh, I was going to let him.

I don’t know what the Christmas Pageant holds for us this year, but it looks like it might be an untraditional one. When roles are changed and things are done out of the ordinary or expected, our own beliefs for how things are, or should be done can be challenged. It’s like the story The Best Christmas Pageant Ever–will the Christmas story be ruined by the Herdman’s being in the play? No. Their participation ended up making it the best pageant ever. Similarly, will our church’s play be ruined if my son plays Mary? No. It will make the play more memorable, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

How do you encourage or support your child to do something out of the ordinary?

Gingerbread Dream House

Every year I am amazed at the creativity and great lengths people go to for the holidays. Homes and yards I didn’t pay much mind to before, are now filled with lights and decorations and have my full attention. I love how it brings the streets to life giving off that warm feeling you normally only experience inside someone’s home.

While we decorate our home for the holidays, we don’t hold a candle to some of our neighbors (note: we truly appreciate our neighbors decorations, it gives us a great reason to look out our front windows).  Since meeting my husband the art of making, or more accurately decorating, gingerbread houses has become a tradition for our family.  This was a tradition in his family and we incorporated it into ours.

Decorating a gingerbread house is all about how you envision it in its final state. It’s about making (baking), constructing and adding the final touches. It’s about sugar, lots of sugar; colors, the more the better; and details, a great house has a lot of fine detail like a cat in the window or a wreath on the door.

It’s fun to work on a gingerbread house. There is no judgment or expected perfection. It’s about trial and error, being together as a family and building something together.

I’ve thought about what a real dream home might look like for my family in the future. And while I may fantasize about increased square footage, and the number of bedrooms or baths it may have, I’m reminded I need look no further than my family’s gingerbread house, it’s more like our home than I realized. Each year it never changes in size but does in appearance, and most importantly it always brings us together as a family.  I think it’s the perfect dream house.

What holiday traditions do you have that brings your family together?