Tag Archives: Christmas tree

Christmas Trees, Snow And My Middle Finger

19 Dec

Ladies and gents, listen up! I have an announcement!

*Tapping foot while the drone of multiple conversations gradually dies down and people look in my direction*

OK, now that I have your attention – ex­cuse me, you at the back of the room, I need undivided attention here, because this is a momentous occasion. Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you that this year I got my Christmas decorations up a full week before Christmas!

This is unprecedented. Every other year, I’ll be commuting home from work, and I’ll suddenly look up from the book I’m reading with a jolt, thinking, “Holy crap! Christmas is three days away and I don’t have my decorations up yet!” I’ll arrive home, and in a whirlwind of activity that startles my family, I’ll hunt down the decorations and then flit about putting them up.

To be fair, I compensate for my tardiness by leaving the decorations up until mid-February.

This year I decided to do it differently. I would do my decorating on a Sunday, when things are a bit less chaotic, and when I can bully sweet-talk my children into helping. Apart from everything else, my almost-six-year-old son James gave me a reason for getting my decorating done: he wanted to go to school and tell his friend Ciara that he had the best Christmas tree in the world. This would be the same kid who featured in a note James wrote that declared, “Ciara is skeery.”

In order to decorate, I first had to go shopping. My Christmas tree tinsel is a gazillion years old, and is 45% shiny tinsel, 55% tatty string. I also got some oversized baubles and a small disco ball (James’ idea) to hang from the ceiling, and some new stuff for my ceramic Christmas village. I was about to go in search of some cotton wool to make Christmas village snow out of, when I saw some “instant snow” mix. The instructions seemed straightforward enough: just mix with water and viola! You have snow!

Well, this looked nice! My village could have actual snow – or something that looks like actual snow!

I paid for my purchases, wrestled my children back into the car, and drove home. I was unaccountably excited about putting up the decorations, so I hustled my family through dinner, and with a decisive clap of my hands, I said, “Right! Time to tackle the decorations!” The husband helped with the heavy lifting, then he dove for cover, having learned from previous years that the living room turns into a hazardous obstacle course during decorating time.

I got the tree up and decorated. I perched the angel on top, plugged it in, and switched on the lights. Immediately my living room looked like a family was actually celebrating Christmas in it. Next stop was the Christmas village. I dug out all of the pieces, arranged them on the mantle, and strung lights through the buildings so they could glow from the inside. Now all I needed was snow! I grabbed my packet of instant snow. One tablespoon of powder in 32 ounces of water, said the instructions. I measured out precisely 32 ounces of water, added precisely one tablespoon of powder, and stirred.

Hmmm. Didn’t seem to be working out too well. Apart from a few sorry-looking flakes in my water jug, I wasn’t getting anything. I threw in some more powder. Now the consistency of the water was starting to change, which was promising. For good measure, I added a bit more powder.

Thirty seconds later, I was staring in astonishment as fake snow spilled out my water jug and into the kitchen sink. This stuff was unreal. It was expanding like crazy and just wouldn’t stop. It reminded me of the time I used my breadmaker with a tablespoon of yeast instead of a teaspoon of yeast, resulting in the Great Bread Explosion Of 2009.

Well, I had enough snow for my village. In fact, I had enough snow for my village to be buried in an avalanche. I gave my village snow for a pretty snowfall, and then tried to wash the rest of the snow down the sink.

Big mistake. I only got more snow. What the hell is this stuff, and why can’t my money do that?

I abandoned the snow and turned to the big baubles and the disco ball. Hanging them from the ceiling would be simple enough. All I had to do for each one was raise two adjoining ceiling tiles, tie the string onto the metal strat between the tiles, and then lower the tiles. Not a problem – I’ve done this many times. I hung the first bauble, but only one of the ceiling tiles would go back into place. I raised it up a little higher, and then let it go so it could drop. Unfortunately, I neglected to first move my finger out of the way, and the tile came crashing down right on my fingernail.

I am not proud of the language that came out of my mouth. My husband came rushing in to see what I was swearing about. He asked me why my face had turned white, but before I could answer, James started dancing around me chanting, “Mommy said a bad word! Mommy said a bad word!” James’ older brother George, the eight-year-old with autism, was cheerfully repeating the said bad word over and over. My finger had already started sprouting a colourful bruise. I held it up to show my husband, who was tickled pink over the fact that it happened to be my middle finger. I ran into the kitchen and shoved my hand into the sinkful of fake snow. To my surprise, it actually did soothe the pain a little.

I pulled myself together enough to hang the rest of the baubles (without incident) and the disco ball (also without incident). Now all I had to do was get rid of the excess fake snow. My husband suggested flushing it down the loo, but I had a feeling that if we did that, we’d have to wear snowshoes every time we needed to pee. In the end, I just scooped it up and threw it into the garbage can.

And now, we can sit back and relax – actually, that’s a lie. I still have to do my Christmas shopping. But I can at least go home at the end of the day and drink a well-deserved glass of wine in the warm glow of the Christmas lights.

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Christmas Without Casualties

29 Dec

Christmas is always such a weird time of year in my family.  It’s a mixed bag of emotions for me, ranging from the very bad (my Dad’s death three weeks before Christmas six years ago) to the very good (my younger son’s birth on Christmas Day five years ago).  Then there’s the fact that almost every year, I find myself inthe midst of some strange family drama that has very little to do with me.  I have to deal with someone threatening to boycott Christmas, someone else threatening to decline gift exchange, bizarre arguments, and plans that change multiple times before landing on the original arrangements.  Then you add a child with autism, and built-in resistance to changes in routine, and the picture gets very interesting.

This year it wasn’t too bad.  As always, I missed my Dad in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but took heart from the fact that Christmas was his favourite time of year and he would be bitterly disappointed to see me having a miserable time on account of his passing.  So it was with nostalgia and bittersweet memories that I put up the Christmas decorations this year, just a week before Christmas.  Dad would have approved of the Christmas tree laden with ornaments, including James’ plastic Playdough scissors that he insisted be hung on the tree right below the angel.  He would have loved the little village I have in George’s room, complete with lights and snow, and he would have nodded approval at the little Christmas tree with lights that I got especially for James’ room.

Here’s the amazing thing that happened this Christmas.  There was no family drama.  Let’s say that again, shall we?  No.  Family.  Drama.  Admittedly, we came close.  Gerard and his mother had some words.  Said words were taken out of context by both parties, and a big misunderstanding ensued.  I have so enjoyed the wonderful feeling of peace and harmony that we have been experiencing with my mother-in-law, and I did not want to let that slip away because of one stupid conversation.  I spoke to Gerard.  I spoke to my mother-in-law.  I smoothed the waters, and explained to each of them what the other meant, and peace reigned again.  Mother Theresa would have been proud of me, and for the first time in years, we were able to celebrate the festive season without waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It was truly a Christmas miracle.

Things were OK on the George front as well.  His resistance to changes in routine has intensified over the last few weeks, and while this did cause some difficulties, there were no crises that we couldn’t handle.  They were little things, like the fact that he got extremely anxious whenever the lights on the big Christmas tree were turned on (interestingly enough, he has no problem with the lights on the little tree, or the lights in the village in his room).  So, we dealt with it in the simplest way possible.  We did without the lights on the tree.  When he saw presents, he wanted them opened right away.  Seeing a wrapped present that he’s not allowed to open is not a pleasant experience for George.  Lots of distraction and tactical planning later, we had all survived, and apart from one casualty, all of the presents were left intact until the proper time.

There was one very difficult moment on Christmas Eve, after my brother-in-law had left with his wife and baby, when we were trying to get the kids settled for bed.  Both of the kids, no doubt reacting to the excitement and pure overstimulation, had meltdowns.  One autistic, one neurotypical, manifesting their pent-up anxieties in different, but equally loud and stressful, ways.  Simultaneously.  It was like Meltdown Central at my house, and it took a long time for calm to be restored.

In the end, though, Santa was good to everyone, and we all got through several days of Christmas (and one birthday) as a harmonious, happy family.   I can truly say this: Dad would be proud.