How to Decorate for Christmas

Last year we put up our tree in our new house for the first time and I felt a little bit like tossing the whole thing out the window and starting fresh. I didn’t feel very cheerful last year, so that was probably clouding my vision a bit. I wanted to get a set of matching bulbs and all white lights. I wanted a big bright glowing star instead of the cheap, unlit one we’ve had since our first Christmas tree as a family. But I kept our traditional tree anyways, and this year I’m so glad I did.

garland

This year I’ve decided that we have the absolute best Christmas decor on Earth. “Laziness” is my decorating style in general, as is “Using Stuff We Already Have.” The later is represented with the garland I have hanging in the window. The faux evergreen is the exact same one I have hung every year, always in a different place. At times I have twisted it up around itself and used it as a wreath. I have hung it from the fireplace mantle. I’ve strung it on nails from our front porch. I spent $1 on it at the Dollar Tree the year Rob and I got married. The bow is from a gift basket we received from Rob’s previous job. And the glass bulbs I’ve hung from every different place you can think of in years past. I bought them the second year of our marriage for $8 at World Market. Looking good, cheap stuff.

We have a fake tree because I’m allergic to pine. My husband has come to terms with it, though he was a real tree purist when we met. The tree decorating is great fun no matter how real it is when you’re a little girl, so I put it up the Saturday after Thanksgiving and let the kids go to town. There are many color coordinated trees which I covet in other families’ homes. But our tree is what I’d like to call “eclectic.” See below for an example:

ornaments1

Here we have a plastic bulb which came from the same Dollar Tree purchase as the aforementioned garland; an irreplaceable glass ornament passed down from Rob’s grandparents, which I believe came from Morocco; a pipe cleaner with Borax crystals on it in the shape of a star; a paper origami star gifted to us by a friend; and a piece of paper colored with marker and cut into a circle.

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And here we have a bulb I made out of apple packaging from Costco; a button covered bulb I made 7 years ago; three of the glass nativity themed ornaments Rob’s mom gave us a few years back; a cinnamon salt dough ornament; a glass bulb I bought at the thrift store; yarn I wound up and hung in the tree; and a cardboard horse cut out by one of the girls.

 

 

 

Basically, I let the kids hang whatever the heck they want to in the tree. If it gets hung in the tree, I put it lovingly into the decorations bin at the end of the season and the next year it becomes a treasured ornament lovingly placed with care on the tree for the rest of our lives. The result is a very full tree. It doesn’t even match itself, but I love it.

Our Village

This post is a big shout out to my village. I couldn’t be the homeschooling mom I am without it. Somehow I moved and within a year I found a fantastic group of families to help get the day-to-day done.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

On a typical week, I find myself in need of help getting from point A to point B with these 3 girls with me at all times. By far the most challenging thing about homeschooling is the lack of alone time. There is no time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. No quick run to the store without finding 4 pair of shoes before you go. It’s exhausting. And sometimes it’s impossible.

When I find myself in a bind, I have a handful of women I can text saying, “hey when we see each other at Lego class today, can you keep the kids for a half hour while I go to the Chiropractor?” Recently, I dropped my kids off with one family for a few hours so I could drive another family to the airport in the middle of the day. On my way back I picked stuff up at the store for a third family we were all going to see in the afternoon. All the kids got some extra play time, no one’s family was put out, and all the work got done.

Now that I’ve found myself in a group like this, I can’t think of living without it. I’m happy to bring anyone’s kids back to my house from a class we share because I know the favor will be returned at some point in the future. No one is keeping track, and no one is abusing the privilege.

A large representation of our village's children.

A large representation of our village’s children.

If you don’t have a village like this, I recommend finding one quick. It starts with making time to get together on purpose. If you get along with someone, and your kids happen to get along too, sit together on purpose at the activities you share. Soon, your friend will say something like, “I’m really not looking forward to taking the kids with me to get the oil changed on the way home.” This is your chance.

Offer to bring her kids to your house so she can do the oil change on her own. Don’t worry if your house is a mess. You just saved her day, she’s not going to judge the dishes in your sink, I promise. When the chance to help arrises again, offer again.

The next part is even harder. Now that you and your friend have some report, it’s time for you to unashamedly ask for help the next time you need it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just ask. You know you’d be happy to help her, so believe that she’s happy to help you. The worst that can happen is she is not able to, and she says no. Big deal. You can ask another time and it will probably work out. After a while, you’ll have an extra set of eyes and hands when you need it most, and this sometimes lonely job of parenting just won’t feel so big anymore.

Get stuck? Change the Plan

This morning ended with most of the living beings in our house in tears. The dog can’t cry, but if he could he would have sobbing because I was really mad. And the dog gets scared when I’m mad. Honestly, I get scared when I’m mad, too. I really value peace in our home, and when I’m mad there isn’t any peace for anyone. Today, there was no peace.

Today’s anger came bubbling out of a long-standing stalemate over math. What could have been done in 20 minutes lasted over an hour and half, mostly while I lectured and the perpetrator hid her head in her lap and sobbed (both real and fake tears). School is hard. And it’s harder when it’s the very beginning of the year. And for one of my kids in particular, it’s hard no matter what; homeschool, or school-school. And it’s hard for me to know that letting a kid play with legos and talk with me about outer-space is what would make a kid happy, but it isn’t what would make a kid grow into a real thinker who can get things done. It’s hard to be the tough guy.

But then I remembered that the nice thing about homeschool is that if we keep getting stuck…. maybe it’s the plan that’s not working. It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s not my kid that the problem. It’s that the plan we have set in motion isn’t achievable. We need a new plan. So, I switched math curriculums today. Just for one kid, and maybe even just for one week. But at least we can move forward. And hopefully tomorrow won’t be so full of tears.