Friday, December 9, 2016

A Christmas (tree) Story

Over the years, our Christmas traditions have been a little spotty. Sometimes we go all out, sometimes we're low key. In theory, I love being that family who always does ______. But the reality is when the Holiday season rolls around, I'm much happier to roll with the needs and moods of our crew in that particular year.

So while I grew up always visiting a tree farm to chop down our own (gigantic) Christmas tree, it hasn't been a tradition that I've been consistent with as an adult. Since Dustin and I have been married, we certainly haven't always cut our own (actually...almost never)...and sometimes we didn't even have a tree! There were years when I was too overwhelmed by all the holiday decorating I had already done at work (#retailproblems), or years when I was too overwhelmed by the newborn we had just welcomed. In those times, getting a tree just wasn't a priority. Or if it was, we kept the focus on the end result of just managing to purchase a tree, rather than worrying too much about when/how/where we got it.

It honestly all blurs together now, so for fun, I took a look back at pics from our tree "excursions" over the years:

2005-2007: Not pictured. Basically it was like the dark ages of cameras, so I tragically have approximately 0 photos from the early days of our marriage. We might have had a tree or two. We might not. Who can say? But fear not, in terms of pictures at least, I'm making up for lost time.

This year actually started one of our more successful traditions called- go to Lowe's and grab a tree as fast as possible, because it's miserably cold, and fine you can take one picture, but get a move on because some of our patience is wearing thin. Ho, ho, humbug.
2009-2010: The dark years (also known as: the midst of my retail career. In terms of festive decorating, these two periods are deeply intertwined).

2011: Skipped it. Having a baby brought enough sap that year.

2012: Back in! We visited a cute little nursery with pre-cut trees (and enough gingerbread cookies to keep Piper happy all afternoon). I was 3 months pregnant with Fin at the time, so a little festive + a lot easy was perrrrrfect.

2013: Welcome back, Lowe's! We also fondly remember this year as the time the tree fell off of our car onto the highway, someone hit it, and the girls and I had to come home empty handed while Dustin went to get a replacement. (Fin slept through the tree selection, but woke up and made sure her voice was heard regarding the length of the drive home. Hint: did not love it).

2014: For our first year in Ohio, decided a Christmas tree lot (at a local church) would be about all our little ones could handle. We were pretty much right:

Though we did tag along with my family the next week as they cut their trees down. Turns out the whole thing is pretty fun if you don't have to actually do any of the work!

2015: We joined in the giant family trek to the farm, and for the first time, actually cut down our own tree as a family (with shockingly good results: with the tree and our spirits!)

 So with a few successes and a few "lived to tells" under our belts, I was excited to go out this year and make another round of memories on the (tree) farm. My extended family was thrilled to continue the tradition (they've been steady cut-your-own folks for years) but between 3 families, an always-shifting weather forecast and a frustrating number of overlapping weekend commitments, it was nearly impossible to find a time to go. It took at least two weeks of calendar reviewing, option weighing, location voting, and group messaging to coordinate the details. But we all kept the dream alive, and when said it just might hold off raining during the exact three hour window we all had available for an outing... WE WENT.

After church we Bowdens all scarfed some PB&J's in the middle school gym, and met up with the rest of our crew to caravan to the farm. In the interest of time, we tried a new spot a little closer to home so by the time anyone was complaining too loud, we were already there. Win!

It wasn't the most beautiful day, but it was at least on the manageable side of cold, so got everyone bundled and headed out for FUN and TREES and MEMORIES.
And we ended up having/finding/making all of those things.

The girls had a blast, if only for the "sleigh" rides.

Miller tolerated our more ambitious plans. (and actually all around loved it, as long as we kept a steady stream of peanut-butter-filled-pretzels coming his way...which we totally did). 

And the rest of us tra-la'ed our way through the rows of pines and spruces (or whatever), happily searching for the world's most perfect tree, or at least the world's most good-enough tree.

(My family kept referring to the trees as "our kill" and requesting photos next to them. You can tell how Miller felt about any pause in the pretzel action.)

Oh- and did I mention we had a special guest this time around? (I mean, in addition to my nieces' dreamy friend Hunter, there on the end).

Yep...this guy:

Ok, wait...THIS guy:

That's better. Yep- Mark joined us to capture the action, and make us another one of his magical memory masterpieces (Mark...that gem is on me. Feel free to trademark it...)

This Summer, Mark made the most precious video of our family, and I knew before we even saw it, that I wanted to have him join us for our Christmas tree outing. Yes, I knew six months ago that I was going to drag our friend (and our children) on a potentially cold, potentially inconvenient, potentially miserable "adventure" because I believed in the simultaneous potential of awesomeness. And I'm so glad he shared my wild spirit and love of documentation. He's a beautiful storyteller, and an even better friend. I love what he was able to capture of our time together, and I know I will forever look back with fondness on this trip, this season, and these fleeting moments of earthly heaven with this family I've been blessed with.

The Bowden Family // Winter 2016 from Mark Batke on Vimeo.
Music: Every Bell On Earth Will Ring by The Oh Hellos

(I can't even handle the preciousness of the audio: "Miller, come join us!" "Ok, hop in the sleigh!" "Papa, can I help you?" "Which way is it going to timber?" And of much giggling...)

So that's the story of our Trees of Christmas Past, and Present. I'm already looking forward to the Future...even we find ourselves back at Lowe's.

Oh, and P.s. It turns out there is one tree tradition we're pretty consistent with, and it's pretty adorable. Did you spot it?

Oh, skinny green baby cords, you might just be what Christmas is all about.

P.S. Check out more of Mark's photo/video/general creative awesomeness: 
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