How To Dress The Christmas Tree Without Losing Your Sanity First

One piece of advice I will be eternally grateful to my mother for is ‘don’t take life too seriously,’ and I have been forced to live by this approach each year as I dress the Christmas Tree. 23915791_1546298868783446_2538083681710659730_n

 

Because…kids.

 

And it has very nearly killed me.

 

Every year I think that this will be the year we grow up as a family and I will be allowed to create those trees you see in home magazines, where they don’t have kids or animals and they do have loads of money,  and every year it’s the same. Either: a) I’m disappointed with the result, because it looks boring rather than sophisticated and so and I start to slap all the crappy ornaments and tinsel back onto it, or b) Kurt redesigns he thinks I’m not looking.

 

I know that Christmas is about bringing joy to the family and it’s probably about time that I accepted that my family likes a bit of kitsch at Christmas, but…

 

This year I decided to grasp my first opportunity to decorate the tree myself – although the kids don’t know that yet. I’d meticulously planned the day for a while – it’s called taking advantage while the kids are out earning money (not for rent, I hasten to add, but for their weekly supply of avocado on toast and party drugs). ‘It just happened that way,’ I’m going to say when their disappointed faces walk through the door later this evening and they realize that they can’t destroy my Christmas tree, nay my Christmas, for the first time in, like, forever.

 

And I have made some style improvements this year. I have decided that as the kids still live at home on the basis of our goodwill, I get to say what goes on MY fucking tree. Which means I’ve erased all memory of those dreadful kindy homemade decorations which for the past fifteen years I’ve stuck around the back of the tree and the minute I turn my back, Kurt replaces at the front; and I’ve also attempted a color theme, so any ornament that hasn’t met the stringent demands of my design brief has copped it.

 

In light of my new experience today, here are my tips for a perfect tree:

 

Do not let the children anywhere near it.

A bottle of festive wine will be required before attempting to unravel the lights/tinsel/fake snowballs on a string because some selfish fucker just shoved them in the box last year. This is a mindfuck of a test in the early stages of the process that (if you’re not careful/drunk enough) can completely ruin your festive cheer before you’ve really started.

Use a dodgy adapter for the lights so that any children that do touch the tree will be shocked into not touching it again.

Lather the branches in as much tinsel as they will hold for superior kitschiness.

The more naff animal ornaments, the naffer your tree will be.

Destroy any baubles that do not tie in with your color theme – don’t get all emotional about the fugly bauble that your grandmother left you – your creativity is under public scrutiny here, and the glass ball wrapped in a doily could fuck that up. It is with sadness that I must report that the pink bauble that NC made in her first year at school (barf!) didn’t coordinate with the organic effect that I hoped to achieve with my white/red/aqua/tropical/Hamptons/beach themed tree – as such, it has been laid to rest this year.

Theming is difficult with OCD. Try to remind yourself that the tree is a natural thing (mine happens to be artificially natural) and therefore not perfect. If that doesn’t work, take everything off and start again.

Book cats into the cattery for the duration of the holidays or use as an alternative to turkey for Christmas lunch.

 

Dressing The Christmas Tree, With A Little Help From Captain Morgan

After twenty-one years of being forced to compromise my artistry and stem my superior creativity when I am forced to dress the Christmas tree with the kids, I’ve finally found the solution of how not to give a shit.

Decorating A Christmas Tree
Decorating A Christmas Tree With Tinsel, Balls And A Ribbon

 

Drink copious amounts of Captain Morgan beforehand.

 

Why this strategy never came to me before is beyond me. Probably, because, typically we plan the ritual of dressing the tree. It usually takes place on the morning of the Saturday closest to the 1st December, when with Buble crooning on the Bose,  I attempt, (once again), to re-enact what I perceive is the perfect family Christmas scene of unity.

 

‘Remember this beautiful pasta decoration you made at school?’ I imagine myself saying to Nerd Christmas in my role of Mother Christmas.

Or:

‘Where did you manage to find this wonderful mini glass bong for the tree?’ I say to Krazy Christmas.

 

And during my perfect family dressing of the tree, I don’t measure the distance between each decoration afterwards, or get up in the middle of the night to rearrange the Lametta, or even put all the fugly school-made decorations to the back.

 

And I allow Scrooge Christmas to stay in the bedroom watching golf without bitching at him for the being the worst father in the world, because I AM the perfect wife.

 

But this year was a little different, I have to admit. Krazy Christmas had broken the seal of trust again and so the old man and I went off to the pub in a parental huff to get shit-faced and console ourselves that at least our son wasn’t Oscar Pistorius, (even though, like him, Kurt will most probably spend a Christmas season or two in jail if he carries on the way he’s going…).

 

But Krazy, being Krazy, and no doubt wanting me to feel some parent guilt as well as anger, must have felt some twinge of regret while were were out. So while we were merrily being the perfect parent role models drowning our sorrows rather than trying to ‘understand’ him or booking his next ten therapy sessions, he got the tree out of storage to set up as an apology/surprise – even though I’d refused this earlier on the grounds of  punishment, and because I can be truly evil like that and…well… frankly nothing other than spite really makes me feel better.

 

And so upon our return, chilled by the Captain, Krazy and I finished dressing the damned tree with a newfound freedom and fervour this year. And the creativity truly flowed. I allowed the red tinsel on our silver-tinsel-only tree for at least five minutes and I even let Krazy believe that I would allow him to put his favourite tree decoration, which is made out of a green kitchen scourer, at the front.

 

And the tree really does look like someone stood in front of it and projectile vomited. And it might be my higher dosage of meds, but I really don’t give a shit. It’s our tree, and although it has evolved over the years, it is a mish mash of mismatched decorations that the kids enjoy tormenting me with. I never did get around to changing the ghastly bright white energy-saving lights that I bought by mistake in the Target sale and which make the perfect torture on New Year’s Day, and I still haven’t found the balls to stop moaning about the fugly homemade decorations and just chuck all the fuckers away when the kids aren’t looking.

 

One day, I will have my white, silver and glass, perfectly-poised Home and Garden Christmas tree that I dream about.

But not this year. And when I do it will probably made me a little sad.

 

Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

The Frangipanis are finally blooming and the Christmas Tree has gone up today. Michael Buble has been crooning his version of Christmas on Spotify all day, in spite of the old man’s retching motion, and there is a veiled excitement in the apartment, fuelled by the excitement of the Princess Spoodle who thinks that every bauble on the tree is a ball for her to play with. Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

 

We’re a little premature, I know, but this year we need the hope, symbolised by Christmas, to keep us from drowning. I’m always amazed at how, even in your lowest moment, a bit of tinsel and a few crass, white fairy lights can help lift your spirits.

 

Christmas is MY time of the year. I’ve loved Christmas festivities since I was a child and my mum would squeeze every last drop of Christmas-ness out of the few English pounds she had in her purse. We were the only house on our housing commission estate to have a Santa’s Grotto in our living area. And this year I’ve tried to reinvent our own private grotto in the block – in spite of being more than a little peeved that one of the wrinklies (on level 2 – you know who you are, bitch!) beat me to it by putting up her tree first.

 

Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

 

We are in lock-down here, in another attempt to straighten out our son, but for once the old man and I are united in what needs to be done. Christmas is about unity, so it seems appropriate that finally we know where we’re going on our journey with Kurt, and we’ve even managed to laugh about the awfulness of our situation once or twice – although Scrooge couldn’t find it in himself to stretch to some Christmas spirit as I busied myself around the tree, pretending for a precious couple of hours that our life is normal and perfect.

 

We’re not faking happiness, but life goes on, even in your most dire moments.

 

English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth...
English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth, Western Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I was sobbing in the car, (sending the old man into panic mode because after thirty years together he still hasn’t developed the tool kit to deal with emotional females); today, I was singing along with Buble as I hung all my favourite decorations on the tree and tried to ignore Kurt’s scathing comments, as he tried to intersperse my affected happiness with low-level comments about my decorating prowess.

 

I ignored him and focused on the positives. With Kurt not talking to me, sadly he has been unable to contribute to the design of the tree. So none of those nasty kindy decorations have made the final cut, nor the red tinsel or that hideous lantern that I’ve had to pretend I like for the past fifteen years, made out of a cereal box.

 

He’s angry, we’re angry, but I refuse to let him undo my determination. I won’t let anyone or anything burst my bubble when I’m decorating the tree, not even the most determined, antagonistic teenager.

 

We may have lost the battles, but we will win the war.

 

We still have hope…and wine. Lots of wine.

16 Tips On How To Decorate A Christmas Tree With Children

Christmas tree

It’s the festive season again. That time of the year when we parents are forced to spend quality time with our children in the name of religion. That time when the artificial tree is rescued from foraging Huntsman in the storage space under the house, or the ‘long-lasting’ real tree begins its three day period of looking good, before it dehydrates, droops and slowly dies.

Decorating the tree should be an activity that the whole family can get involved in – but don’t be deceived – there is no surer way to jumpstart some good old-fashioned family Christmas dysfunctionality than with arguments over which decorations will make the final cut on the tree.

So to help you and your family attempt to enjoy this year’s dressing of the tree, here are my tips:

  • Put on the Christmas playlist to create the mood and calm you – there is no better way to drown out noisy arguments over whose bauble should be at the front of the tree, than with some Bing or Boney M.
  • Having carefully haggled negotiated your best price with the scouts (if you buy a real tree), let’s hope you had the foresight to check that the stump will fit into your stand. Never fall for the crap about a tree being able to stand up for longer than a few minutes in a bucket of sand or mud, without the support of a winch or indoor crane.
  • If you have to retrieve the artificial tree from under the house, get someone you don’t like to check for deadly spiders first. They’re crafty those critters, so don’t be fooled – those tiny white balls cleverly concealed as snow among the branches, may actually be Huntsman babies waiting to exact revenge for that time you killed their grandfather in the shower, and you don’t want those sorts of uninvited guests to suddenly appear at the Christmas Dinner table.
  • Drink your first glass of Champagne to truly embrace the Christmas spirit.
  • Remind the kids AGAIN that the lights must go on the tree first, even though you’ve told them the same fucking thing since their first Christmas. Test the lights before they are arranged on the tree because there will always be some bitch of a bulb that has been waiting for its moment all year, and will invariably be positioned in the most difficult part to reach.
  • Treat yourself to a second glass of Champagne to celebrate that those cheap Target lights are still working (at this stage).
  • Remind the kids that the second stage of the decorating process is to put on the tinsel and beads and NOT THE FUCKING DECORATIONS, JUST YET. They will also need gently reminding that there is a special way to do this, so that the tree does not end up looking like six blind Morris dancers have decorated it.
  • That third glass of Champagne will be beckoning at this point.
  • FINALLY you can allow the kids to begin decorating the tree. Referee the inevitable dispute over whether that 70’s angel (with her filthy white dress) truly warrants poll position at the top of your the tree, (indicating to the neighbours that you possess no style whatsoever), but kids can usually be persuaded that the driftwood star is a better option with a discussion about recycling or the bribe promise of an extra gift. Try to steady your breathing as they proceed to pick all the fugliest and oldest decorations in the box (the ones you forgot to throw out last year) and attempt to place them at the front of the tree, safe in the knowledge that you can move each one of these to THE BACK once the kids are safely tucked up in bed.
  • To avoid the tree looking like some pre-school, child-friendly, organic or (heaven forbid) amateur tree, place all those truly revolting, home/school-made ornaments to the back of the tree as well, and explain to the kids that the back looks lonely without them. While it is important for children to embrace the concept of recycling, that is a part of their education that they can practise at school, without having to tarnish your home styling reputation. There will be sad faces and crocodile tears but this is an invaluable lesson in accessorising, sharing and working together, and usually one of those tacky supermarket stockings full of chocolate bars will help them forget those hideous doilie decorations that their teacher planned as revenge for you not volunteering for canteen duty.

    Glanbia, principal cream supplier to Baileys I...

  • Move onto the expensive wine you bought for Christmas Dinner.
  • Lametta can be pretty (if you’re blind) for that final touch, but make no mistake, you will be picking up strands of it off the floor for the next year.
  • Time for the Baileys.
  • The moment of truth finally arrives. Remind your (now sobbing) children that this is supposed to be a happy, uniting, family time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and that Jesus doesn’t like spoilt, ungrateful children and Santa certainly won’t show up if they behave in that way. Turn off the power and turn on the tree.
  • Say ‘WOW! LOOK WHAT WE DID?’ or ‘Doesn’t our tree look wonderful?’ as authentically as possible, while trying to resist the urge to rearrange the whole tree or hiccough from your very first personal pre-Christmas drinking session.
  • Send the kids to bed, strip the tree, open the Champagne and start all over again.

Hiccough…

No-One Touches My Christmas Tree!

christmas 2007
christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

Got to admit to feeling a tiny bit proud of myself. The ADHDer and I finished decorating the Christmas tree at least two hours ago and I haven’t moved anything yet.

Just hand me my ‘perfect parent’ award now, but don’t hate me for admitting that every time I catch the twinkle of that rogue (so wrong on every level) gold bauble flashing ‘look at me, look at me!’ amongst my classic red/white theme, I feel physically sick.

I’m trying to fight my demons. The Prozac is definitely helping.

It did nearly kill me, but we did it. This is a monumental achievement in my parenting history. I have finally put the neediness needs of my child above my own. And we now have one very ugly and over-decorated interesting Christmas tree.

I’ve tried everything in my power to deter the kids from bastardizing my tree in the past. I’ve resorted to buying two trees, acquiring miniature trees for their bedrooms, bribery by way of tacky lights for the exterior, but they have always want to be involved with decorating my the main tree no matter how much I doth protest.

You see, kids just don’t get style, co-ordination, colour or accessorising, do they? They ridicule me when I suggest that there is a ‘right way’ to decorate the tree, a particular order of dressing that has worked for centuries: lights, tinsel, decorations first, then tacky homemade/school decorations placed at the back of the tree (late at night when they are asleep).

Every year the dysfunctional family malfunctions hideously when they try to force me into a creative corner at Christmas – NEVER put Mum in the corner! I mean, this is what I do; my whole raison d’etre. I get slammed all year about my lack of brains by the two nerdiacs of the family, and verbally punched by the ADHDer at every opportunity just because I’m his mum (and he’s hormonal and very unreasonable, especially when hungry), but they forget that there’s one thing I am EXTREMELY good at, that I might even go so far to say I excel at, and that is decorating the Christmas tree. If there was a degree…

I’m sure that at this point you’re all begging to know my personal ‘theme’. Imagine ‘beach meets Shaker meets contemporary with a little bit of kitsch-rustic thrown in’; sounds like creative vomit (or modern art), I know, but I can assure you that ordinarily it works. There are starfish and birds, crystals and snowballs, all converging together in a perfect Christmas wonderland mélange on my tree. It is a tree that has evolved through time, without looking contrived; a schmick collection of carefully selected ornaments that has been nurtured through the years with love and a modern twist. It is not a ‘red theme’ ensemble hastily bought from Big W on Christmas Eve.

At the moment it looks like the tree has been dragged backwards through the Christmas decoration department of Target on a Harley Davidson, with its profusion of crass multi-coloured tinsel and overdose of lametta; (like his mother, the ADHDer likes his bit of sparkle!).

Nevertheless I have so far resisted the urge to ‘re-arrange’.

The thing is a monstrosity. It makes mall trees look tasteful. I have Christmas drinks next week and I will be justifiably ridiculed by my friends, who once considered me to be the bastion of Christmas tree chic.

I may be forced to cancel.

He has even put his god-awful school decorations at the front, IN FULL VIEW. I have had to tape my arms to my side to prevent me from snatching them off because I know that he will be monitoring my movements, staging a round-the-clock surveillance operation with that spy kit I bought him last year. If I could just take off that tacky over-sized glittered pine cone that he ruined in Year 1 and the ugly Disney cracker he ruined my dining table creating in Year 5.

I might have to set my alarm for 2am.

Anyone feel the same protective instinct for their Christmas tree?

Ten Things You Should Never Tell Your Kids (Revised)

Woman’s Day have set the cat among the pigeons with their insightful comments regarding how we should be talking to our kids. I’m a huge advocate of ingesting the generous source of great parenting advice available on the Internet, especially as a wannabe ‘perfect parent’.

However.

Ten Things You Should Never Tell Your Kids

This is my alternative guide:

  1. Try, Try AgainI Know You Can Try Harder – apparently this subtle form of coaching can be discouraging to your child. LEGIT? Of course you need  to point out the obvious if your child is under-performing and embarassing the family gene pool. How dare they squander their talents! If you don’t have high expectations for your child, how else are they going to impress their peers and the parents of their peers (leading to lots of high-brow, pretentious networking between aforementioned sets of parents without having to organise one single coffee morning)? This is not a criticism, what you’re really saying is, ‘get your ass into gear, buddy’, and in my opinion, sometimes going a bit Victorian is ok. It’s not manipulative to say, ‘you’re a bright kid, so don’t waste your talent and my time.’ Maybe it won’t motivate them, but ignoring the fact that they’re lazy buggers isn’t going to either.
  2. Food MattersAre You Sure You Need That Second Cupcake? I love this example. In today’s arena of political correctness (yawn), it’s frowned upon to draw attention to the extra kilos your kids shouldn’t be carrying because Macdonalds is cheap and easy. I’ve read all that perfect-parenting advice, and the concern regarding body image issues relating to adolescent girls in particular. Apparently, commenting on their weight or diet issues is worse than mentioning the colour of someone’s skin these days . But if your child is getting picked on for being a bit ‘porky’, surely they need to be educated? I remember talking to my daughter in pc euphemisms about the need to get ‘fitter’ and ‘choosing healthier options’ when she started getting a bit pudgy around the middle, and she’s thanked me ever since.
  3. Absolutely WrongYou ‘always’ or you ‘never’ – this is one of my cardinal sins in parenting. I must use this expression a minimum of 30 times a day. ‘Why do you ‘always’ have to leave the milk out?’, ‘why can you ‘never’ tell me the truth?’, ‘why do you ‘always’ side with the kids?’, ( said to the old man). For some reason it makes me feel infinitely better to vocalize my frustration with that little exaggerated emphasis so that the family really knows just how awful they can be. I probably am really (and inadvertently) alluding to my inadequacies as a parent/wife and the frustrations therein, because I can’t get the little horrors to remember anything I tell them; but it’s bloody frustrating when they ‘always’ make the same mistakes.  ‘Can you ‘never’ flush the toilet?’ is my most common whine; agreed, it doesn’t change diddlysquat but it makes me feel better. If I suggested to the kids, ‘why don’t we work on this together?’ when they forget to flush the toilet, they’d be completely grossed out. Maybe the right approach would be to make them clean the toilet?
  4. Beyond ReasonBecause I said so! Love it, love it, love it! This form of solid, in-depth reasoning was how my own mother raised me and why I respected her authority. I accepted it without question (probably to avoid corporal punishment, which was standard practice then). This comment did not censure my ability to think or figure things out for myself; she made the decisions and took the responsibility, and if I questioned her logic, she could smack. We were the mute generation, seen and not heard.  If she ‘said so’, who was I to challenge it? In an ideal world, it would be great to have the time to give a full explanation every time your child asked ‘why’ in domestic combat or when you have to say ‘no’ for the twentieth time of the day, but few of us are paragons of virtue.
  5. Told You SoI told you waiting until the last minute was a mistake. Well you did tell them, didn’t you? And you can’t be fairer than that. They were lucky to get a warning. It’s a well-known fact that procrastination nearly always has consequences and it’s a lesson better learned early and before they hit the workplace.
  6. Such Great HeightsYou’re the best at soccer! A few years ago we were supposed to shower our kids with praise (no matter how inadequate they were) to avoid self-esteem issues. These days it’s wrong to big up your child’s strengths in case it sets them up for a fall later. WTF! Fully supportive parents celebrate the achievements of their children and begrudge the achievements of other children – fact. Apparently, building impossible mountains for them to climb can create anxiety. Diddums’! It’s a tough world out there with fierce competition, and that’s without considering the implications of  ‘survival of the fittest’ (think Hunger Games). Shouldn’t we be building them up? Did Richard Branson and Steve Jobs succeed through ‘trying their best’?
  7. Smooth OverDon’t worry, the first day at school will be fine. You’re not supposed to lie to your kids at all, you have to now say it how it is; even the ‘little white’ versions to protect them, can be interpreted as massaging the truth, thereby being disrespectful of their opinions. If something is going to be truly ‘wetting-their-pants’ awful, they need to know, to prepare. By manipulating the truth, you are dismissing the value of their feelings! You need to ‘discuss’ their worries, hug it out, and then feed them to the lions.
  8. Pal AroundI wish you didn’t hang around with Jack. I actually partly agree with this one because in my experience, the more you demonize those revolting friends, the more your kids canonize them. I used to watch a bi-lingual friend of mine welcome new kids to her house, and then in Spanish say to her kids, ‘what have you bought this little shit home for’? Our social skills develop from spending time with different people, good and bad. The old man’s mother used to say to him, ‘Get rid of her,’ all the time, but I’m still here, bitch.
  9. Don’t DIYThat’s not how you do it, here let me. I once took pity on the kids who wanted to be involved with Christmas so I invited them to help me dress the Christmas Tree, thinking I could trust their creative judgement. The tree ended up looking like Santa had reversed over the tree with his sleigh, several times. They’d even hung those terrible school-made decorations on it, and I had to organise colour blindness tests for both of them not long after. It was an assault on the senses in all the worst ways. The following year I bought a separate Christmas tree for the playroom and one for each of their bedrooms.
  10. Spare the CompareWhy can’t you be more like your brother/sister? This is done in the belief that the child who is being criticized might begin to develop the desired qualities of the other sibling, and sometimes it works. What’s wrong with sibling rivalry? It’s why ‘only’ children are so self-centred and can’t share. Being the eldest I was obviously intellectually superior, (apparently the eldest gets the higher IQ, height and parental care), nevertheless, being compared to perfection instilled the ‘survival’ instinct in my siblings, the desire to succeed, for no other reason than to knock me off my perch. Labeling can be negative but if the comparison is balanced between siblings,  I don’t really see a problem.

Some of my ‘gems’ that you might consider employing to achieve that goal of ‘perfect parent’:

‘You know you’ll get biscuit cancer if you eat that many biscuits?’

‘One day you’ll know what it’s like to have children like you’.

‘Sometimes I really wonder where you came from.’

‘I think it’s time to call the adoption agency’.

‘Do you want to be the fattest boy in Sydney?’

NO CHILDREN WERE HARMED IN THE EXPERIMENTATION TO DEVISE THESE EXPERT TIPS.

Naughty Kids Faces by Simply Cupcake – Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com