Subourbon Mom


Myth: Fake Christmas Trees Are Like Fake Boobs – You Can’t Tell the Difference

This year I made it my mission to convince our office manager Lacy that she should get a real Christmas tree instead of using the same old plastic one she’s been using for the last few years. After an hour of nagging and convincing her that a real tree smelled better and was a better way to enjoy Christmas, Lacy gave in and got one. When she explained to the folks at Lowes (she went to a store, not even a place outside – mistake #1) that she had never picked a live tree before, and asked who had the most experience with picking out live trees, a German man said “I don’t” and immediately walked away. I don’t think he got the irony that the live Christmas-Tree-in-the-House tradition comes from Germany.

What I didn’t realize was the amount of basic Christmas Tree Knowledge I have accumulated over the years, and that I probably should have passed on:

PICKING OUT A TREE:

Size Matters:   Decide what room you’re going to put it in BEFORE you go shopping.  A fat tree in a little room is like Donald Trump’s ego in an election – there isn’t room for anything else.image001

Trees are not naturally symmetrical.  Even the trees trimmed to look like perfect cones will never be perfect. The fun part is finding the most perfect one you can. This can be difficult at the places where the trees are wrapped and leaning against the wall, like, say, your local grocery store. To get the full experience of arguing for 30 minutes in the cold over which tree to get, you must suck up the cost and go to a place where the trees are set up on stands, as if they are ready to decorate, or better yet, in the field where you must cut them down.

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Trees Get Bad Haircuts Too – Sadly, the two-week rule doesn’t apply. Most live trees come with a bad side – that side where the branches don’t fall right and there’s a hole.image005

This is the side you turn toward the wall when you put it up, or if it isn’t going against the wall, you find your fattest, heaviest ornaments to make the branches dangle over the hole. (These ornaments, along with the most fragile ones, will be the ones the cat goes after.)

What About Bugs? Some tree vendors will do the Tree Shake, which entails putting the tree on a spike attached to a generator that shakes the tree so hard that it looks like Beyonce twerking, until all the loose needles and bugs fall out – of the tree, not Beyonce. If your vendor doesn’t do that, you can console yourself with the fact that the fallen needles will make your vacuum cleaner smell good for months.

image004Net or No Net?  I recommend getting one, even though it might ruin your Norman Rockwell vision of a Christmas tree strapped to the roof of your car. The net is crucial to getting the tree through the door and easily sitting in its stand. Trying to get a tree through the door without the net is like trying to thread a needle with a sausage.

SETTING UP YOUR TREE

Size matters – again.  Tree trunks come in varying sizes and diameters, and they often come with branches sticking out of the bottom. Trim the branches at the bottom – you’ve heard the adage, “trim the bushes to make the deck look bigger“ – well, we don’t need the stand to look bigger, but we do need the tree to glide into the hole smoothly.

image001Getting the tree to stand up straight in the stand is usually a deal breaker – worse than hanging pictures on a wall. This task is for the patient and determined. If you’re like me and not allowed to go into the car dealership because you get too impatient to sit through the deal-making process, sighing and rolling your eyes for the entire three hours, this may not be the task for you. Some tips:

Wear gloves! Christmas trees look and smell great, but their trunks are covered in sap that is harder to remove from your hands than the image of Miley Cyrus twerking from your memory.

 

image004When you’ve given up and decided that tree that leans is now “charming,” make sure the tree doesn’t fall by tying some part of it to the wall. If you have cats or dogs, this is a must – they will find a way to bring that big green monster to the ground, and then skitter your breakable ornaments over the floor for the next two days.

FEEDING YOUR TREE

To determine if the tree needs water, you have to see how much water is left in the stand each morning and evening. Checking the water level for a live tree requires freakishly long arms and a relationship with your tree. As Lacy said, “I feel like I’m feeling up my tree.” Would that be second base? IMG_0171

Watering the tree requires the ability to slither along the floor and pour a pitcher of water into the stand without spilling any. I recommend placing a piece of plastic under the stand, hidden by your tree skirt to prevent any stains on the carpet from water spills. image005I also recommend getting one of the tree watering tubes that blend in with the branches, the top of which sticks out for easy access.

Check your tree for tree food – some vendors provide it. The tree food is the little white thing on a random branch that you thought was the price tag.

If all of this seems like too much of a hassle, and you want to go back to taking your tree bits and pieces out of a box each year, and putting it together like a Tinker Toy that’s fine. I totally understand. Nothing says Christmas like a plastic tree with “Sensicles” hanging discreetly among the branches so that the whole house smells like fake Christmas.

Perhaps Lacy said it best when she was describing the experience of getting a live tree vs. setting up a plastic one: “It’s like trying to pick an animal out from the pound, but it’s such a pain in the ass I want to give it back.”

Well, I’ll take my temporary, evergreen mutt with its holes, dropping needles and intimate watering/groping sessions. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. Your plastic tree may make your house look like it was decorated by Southern Living, but my tree reminds me that life goes on, even in winter.

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Stagers and Build-A-Bear – A Moving Story About…Moving

There comes a time when every suburbanite needs a change, so they turn their lives upside down, become instant HGTV experts and get the overwhelming urge to purge.

Since there’s no good time to have kids and there’s no good time to move, we decided to add the challenge of doing it in the fall of Daughter #1’s senior year. I mean, really, there isn’t much going on except SAT Tests, college visits every weekend, college applications and Senioritis.

Once the decision was made, we realized we had to get our stuff out of the house (all 15 years and two children of it), and try to make it look like no one ever lived there except June Cleaver and a decorator from Crate & Barrel.

It quickly became clear that we needed a Stager. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a Stager is someone you pay to come to your house and tell you what you need to get rid of or change so your house will sell. What no one tells you is that having a Stager come into your house is a lesson in humiliation.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – our Stager is a seriously nice lady with good decorating sense who was trying really hard not to be too critical when she was talking about my decorating.

Apparently, there are decorating rules.

I decorate by seeing a picture in Southern Living or Coastal Living, buying one piece of furniture to start the look, then covering that piece of furniture with stuff until you can’t see it anymore. Then I start the process all over again. After walking around the house with my Stager, she said in an exasperated but kind voice, “Are these also the same curtains that were here when you moved in?” When I nodded, chewed her lip and asked hesitantly, “So, do you like shopping?”

I looked around and said, “Um, does it look like I like shopping?”

She just nodded to herself, like a therapist would after hearing some whackadoo story that confirmed their theory that the client is definitely…skewed.

After realizing my serious decorating deficiency, I decided I would channel all of my pent up anxiety at having my world (voluntarily) turned upside down onto the Stager.

And Build-A-Bear.

I now despise Build-A-Bear. Not only did they raise the stuffed animal bar so high you spend half a paycheck picking out fake roller skates and a tutu for a leopard, but they did something even worse – they created memories for the children.

Oh, it was great when my sweet baby girls’ faces lit up on a Build-A-Bear day. I loved watching them pick out the outfits and “adopt” their animal at the kid-friendly computers. Fast forward 10 years when we are trying to fit everything into a pod and there are two more trash bags filled with stuffed Build-A-Bear creatures that just won’t go in. Can I give them away? Of course not – each bear is a memory. They say you can’t put a price tag on memories – well I call bulls#*&t. The price tag is $25-$35 dollars, if you’re lucky and get the basic model without the fancy clothes.

images-2So in went the Build-A-Bear bags (yes, I kept them, damn you, Build-A-Bear) and all of the syrupy memories, and out went two trailer loads of junk to the dump. In went boxes of schoolwork from kindergarten on, and out went my jean skirt from 1989. The closer we got to the show date, in went a lot of bourbon, and out went sentimentality.

Now that the Stager is no longer in our lives and the Build-A-Bears are packed away, I’ll have to find something new to channel all of this self-inflicted anxiety onto.

I’m thinking it will be the person who decided the NFL should play football on Thursdays. I’ve already missed my picks for Week 1 – maybe I’ll go get a football bear.




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