Christmas Tree Hunt

On the second day in Rochester, Grammy said to us, “let’s go cut down a Christmas tree.”

Kunz's Christmas Tree Farm.
Kunz’s Christmas Tree Farm.

We awoke to a cold and blustery morning, but no snow, much to Davey’s dismay.   By mid morning, we trekked through Kunz’s Christmas Tree Farm near Penfield, NY in search of a tree for Grammy’s house.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve actually sought out a live Christmas tree and on a farm no less.   Live trees are cumbersome, they’re messy, they require regular maintenance, and you’re cleaning up their needles for the next year, but they’re also fresh, aromatic, and even romantic.

Row upon row of uncut trees.
Row upon row of uncut trees.

The last time I had a live Christmas tree, I was in Charleston, SC in 2001.  The last time I hiked through the woods of a tree farm, my brother was five years old, I was 11, and my mother was miserable.   29 years later, and I’m searching for a tree.

The boys perusing the pre cut trees.
The boys perusing the pre cut trees.

What did we want?   We listened to the owner discuss when he’d planted trees, how many he’d already cut, the fact that we were early or perhaps he was late, and which tree would be best to meet the criteria we had.   There was blue spruce, douglas fir, fraser fir, pine, and a few others.   We were given a cart and a hack saw, we were definitely getting back to the adventure and reality of getting a Christmas tree.

Henry helping Daddy and Grammy.
Henry helping Daddy and Grammy.

My husband led the group, my father-in-law complained about the fact that my mother-in-law had two perfectly good fake trees in storage, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law chaperoned the boys who were nearly bundled up beyond recognition.

Davey helping Daddy with bring the tree around.
Davey helping Daddy with bring the tree around.

We walked a few hundred yards, inhaling the crisp western NY cold air.   Mother Nature was definitely playing her role in the whole “Doser Family Searches for Tree” scene.

Henry off for the hunt.
Henry off for the hunt.

There was every tree imaginable…full ones; short ones; tall ones; fat, tubby ones; and even ones that resembled the pitiful tree from a Charlie Brown Christmas.   After very little debate we landed on a tree.  What kind?  I couldn’t possibly tell you and I was quickly losing faith in the young lad who attempted to tell us.   He looked over the tree, stroked its needles with his gloved hand, before taking off his glove and rubbing the needles.   He closed his eyes for a moment, as if willing the tree to speak to him through osmosis of the needles.   I chuckled and had to walk away, no offense to any of you “tree whisperers” out there.

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My husband gallantly and a bit exhaustingly, I might add, cut down the tree, loaded it onto the cart, and trucked it off.   The entire event took a mere 30 minutes of our time, but was truly an enjoyable experience.   Davey created a song to the tune of “Going on a Bear Hunt”, while Henry did his best to keep up on the walk.

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Day two of Thanksgiving in Rochester is in the history books.   Day two of the excitement and adventure that surrounds the worlds of Grammy and Aunt Dee Dee.   Day two of my boys truly being the most well behaved little angels I never thought I had.  🙂

 

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On The First Day in Rochester

Aunt Dee Dee did for me…a fun-filled crafting spree.

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Our night was short and sleepless.   After the previous evening’s flight, we were all exhausted and Henry had given cry a couple of times during the night having woken in a strange place and in a strange bed, but we all made it, safe and sound, to Grammy’s house, and now we were heading out for an exciting morning of Pancakes and Pajamas at Aunt Dee Dee’s house.

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Rochester, during the winter, is known for its gray days, downtrodden weather, and temperatures much colder than this Southern ga’ls blood is accustomed to.   Today, Rochester did not disappoint…she held true to all of her “winterly” traits.

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So, we dressed the boys in their winter pajamas, put on their insulated snow boots, jackets and hats then trekked off.   When we arrived at Aunt Dee Dee’s, the aromas from the kitchen beckoned us in like the teasing finger of a wicked witch.     She had eggs on the stove, sausage and ham placed on plates, and was finishing off with silver dollar pancakes.   Homemade hot chocolate enticed us at the bar, and fresh fruit, which should be unheard of in these parts at this time of the year.   Did she pay high dollar to specially ship them in?

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The boys were excited and indulged in almost a dozen pancakes between the two of them, two slices of ham and a half dozen sausage links.   I suppose travel can famish the souls of toddlers.   And what a treat, to have their own special Santa “milk” jugs complete with straws, with which to put their hot cocoa in.   My boys are spoiled, but never as much as when they see Aunt Dee Dee.

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After our wonderfully fulfilling breakfast, we jumped onto the craft train that Aunt Dee Dee had scheduled.   The boys painted ornaments and decorated cookies.   And we even followed this up with a special surprise guest…SANTA!   That’s right, Ole Saint Nick decided to stop by Irondeqouit, NY to see the two little Doser boys.   Davey jumped ecstatically, eager to see Santa and fill his ear with all the goodies he desires. Henry? Well, let’s just say Santa is a little on the scary side for him.   We all, including Grammy, had to thaw the ice of fear that seemed to paralyze Henry, and after a few minutes he shuffled over to Santa, if only to give him a high five before scurrying off behind the safety of Grammy’s legs.

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I was told we’d have a special guest and I suppose I should have known it would be Santa, but my in-laws are great at planning surprises.   Santa was definitely the whipped cream on top of the Pajamas and Pancake breakfast. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay long, so the boys stood at the door and waved goodbye to Santa before we completed our day of decorating Aunt Dee Dee’s tree.

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Our trips are always exhausting, especially the travel, but there’s always one guarantee when visiting Rochester…my boys are never disappointed, and today was no exception.

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Going On a Bear Hunt

I’ve blogged before about all of these romantic, Norman Rockwell-esque visions I’ve had of raising my children.   I’ve always imagined our adventures to be like something you would see in an old Saturday Evening Post.   The boys would be dressed handsomely, the adventures would go off flawlessly, and we’d all have a grand laugh and sheer enjoyment.   Then I became a mother to two boys, and I realized that any sort of notion I’d had about having this type of family could immediately be shooed out the door like today’s annoying fly.

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When Davey was still a baby, we bought a hiking backpack that has a nice little compartment for him to sit in.   My husband and I thought that since we lived in one of the more beautiful place of South Carolina, with mountains literally right in our backyard, that we could go on hikes.   It never happened.   Davey never once got to sit in said backpack and experience the fresh air, the exciting wildlife, or the exhilaration of hiking through the woods.

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When Henry came along, we used the backpack while flying, finding it easier as he’s become older to put him in it as opposed to bringing along a labor intensive stroller.   For weeks I’ve considered remedying this, to take my boys out into the woods, to experience nature, like I did as a kid.   Unfortunately, the incessant rain and cumbersome flooding we’ve received have dampened (all puns intended) my desire to go for a hike, not to mention that I’ve been super worried about going alone with the boys, only because they can be a handful at times.   Yesterday, we made that dream into a reality.

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For the first time in weeks, my husband came home early on a Friday.   He had no meetings, no golf games, or clay shooting events.   He wasn’t going deer hunting on a Saturday morning, so no need to go out on the land to check out his blind or his feeder.  Nope.   The stars officially aligned for our hiking trip, so we took it.

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As I stated earlier, we live in the most perfect of places.   We have Paris Mountain literally in our backyard.   It’s a beautiful mountain, not extremely high, but gorgeous to look at while sitting on our back porch in the evenings.   Since it was after 2 when my husband got home, we decided our best bet was to just go to Paris Mountain to hike as opposed to driving to one of the many other splendid places.

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I laced up my hiking boots, the wonderfully comfortable North Face boots my husband bought me 5 years ago and which I’ve only worn a handful of times.   I dressed the boys warmly, had them all prepared, so that as soon as my husband walked into the door we could go, and off we went.

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This is a great time of year for a hike, especially in South Carolina.   The days are still enjoyably warm, but not too hot.   The mountain air was fresh and invigorating.   We started out on the small trail, before taking on one just a little bit harder.   My husband took the lead, Henry strapped to his back, while Davey and I followed along.

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The entire hike, Davey periodically broke into song, singing, “Going on a bear hunt,” while other times asking about the creeks, the fallen trees, the fallen leaves, the rocks he had to climb over, or some of the massive roots.   We used the opportunity to talk to him about if he’s ever lost in the woods and is thirsty where best to drink water…from a flowing creek or stream.   We talked about the huge roots, why some of them can be seen above ground, and what their purpose is.   We stepped over small breaks in the trail where trickles of water were flowing.   We even repurposed some of the fallen branches into our own personal walking sticks.

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About a mile into the hike, Henry decided he’d had enough of being lugged around on his daddy’s back, especially as he saw Davey able to enjoy the physical exploration of the trail, so we took him out and let him walk.  I cringed for a split second as I wondered if he’d actually stay with us on the trail or if he’d wander off and try to climb the mountain.   He quickly proved me wrong, but after only a half mile of walking, he tripped and fell, thereby skinning up his hands and forcing us to put him back into the backpack.

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We had a wonderful time, an hour and a half of nothing but us and God’s beautiful creations.   It took us literally an hour and a half to hike 3 miles, which I’m hoping will improve once we get the boys going more regularly.   Davey even enjoyed himself so much, that he wanted to get up and go again this morning.   Unfortunately, our Saturday is already booked solid.

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What a great day of hiking, “bear hunting”, and family time.   I can’t wait for more.

Welcome Back, Jasper

My father in law has a “thing”, I suppose you can say, about nicknames for his grandsons.   When Davey was born, he nicknamed him Jasper.   When Henry was born he nicknamed him Higgins.   Now, I know where Higgins comes from…My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins.   Jasper?  Not quite so sure.

So, when Davey became old enough to start speaking, he referred to himself as Jasper when around his Guh Guh (my father-in-law).  It’s endearing for Davey and truthfully I enjoy it.   When my sister-in-law purchased an Elf on the Shelf for Davey years ago, we needed a name for the Elf and Davey immediately jumped on the name Jasper.

Jasper resting atop the miniature Elf tree.
Jasper resting atop the miniature Elf tree.

With the onset of the holiday season and my decorating, Jasper was pulled out of storage and found his way onto the top of our Christmas tree.  Last night, when the boys got back home from church, I pointed Jasper out and explained his importance.  I suppose since Davey is older, he grasps the concept and I now find myself falling prey to the whole “Elf on the Shelf” ideas for this Christmas season.

When putting the boys to bed last night, I read the story about the Elf on the Shelf, substituting in Jasper’s name where relevant.  Davey became extremely excited.  He wanted to know if Jasper would really magically fly away and come back in the morning.   I told him, “of course,” and that Jasper’s sole responsibility is to tell Santa all about how well he’s behaved.

This morning when Davey awoke, he darted off to the bathroom and while on his way excitedly asked if Jasper was in a different place.   My first thought was, “oh crap!  I was supposed to move Jasper!   Crap!  Crap! Crap!”   I told Davey that Jasper was in a new place and that he could find him AFTER he brushed his teeth and put on his clothes, thereby buying me some time to unimaginatively move Jasper.

Where did Jasper end up?  On the elf tree in the kitchen.  I know, very lackluster on my part, but I can already tell I will fail miserably at this.   When the boys came downstairs, Davey immediately found Jasper, and heeding the words from the story, kept his hands behind his back, lest he be tempted to touch Jasper and force him to lose his magical abilities.   As I made breakfast, both boys sat in the floor looking at Jasper on the elf tree.  I asked what they were doing and Davey exclaimed, “seeing if we can watch some of his magic.”

Trying to spy some of Jasper's magic.
Trying to spy some of Jasper’s magic.

After school today, Davey asked me if Jasper saw how nice he was to his classmates and if Jasper would tell Santa.  Once again, I replied, “of course,” but secretly I’m already not liking Jasper.   We’re roughly six weeks away from Christmas.  That’s 42 days in which I will be required to remember to move Jasper each night when the boys go to bed.   That’s 42 days that I’ll have to despise all of you creative moms with your cute Elf on the Shelf pictures and your ability to actually remember to do this.   That’s 42 days of me constantly reassuring Davey that Jasper will not do him wrong.   That’s 42 days of pure hell as I’m frantically trying to remember and come up with great places for Jasper.

I’m only one day into our Elf on the Shelf.  One day, and I’m already despising the little flying pixie.   Stay tuned to see if I can manage to keep up the fiasco.

Goodbye, OCD

There are things in life that must be a certain way.   Cabinet doors and drawers must be closed at all times.   The fat fold of the towels must be facing outwards in the closet and beds must be made.   These are my criteria for my house.  I don’t think they’re absurd, but to many these are difficult goals to attain.   I’m told that I have a bit of OCD, but I don’t think so.   I think I’m just your normal, average, every day person who likes things her way.   I’m human.  Well, yesterday I let that “human” persona slide away just for a little bit as I allowed Davey to have his very own Christmas tree in his bedroom and I allowed him to decorate it.

I blame this side of my personality on my mother, not that it’s a bad side, but it is a side that I perhaps should let fall by the wayside at times.   My mother has her own way of doing things.  She’s very particular and she prefers doing it herself.   It’s faster, it’s easier, she can blame herself if something goes wrong, and then there’s the sense of accomplishment with doing something on your own.

As children, my brother and I were never allowed to decorate a Christmas tree.   Christmas was, and still is, my mother’s favorite holiday.   She loves to decorate her house, erecting numerous trees for every room of the house, even providing each room with its own personal theme.    We weren’t allowed to help decorate because there was the concern we would break things, but mostly I think it’s because as children we didn’t understand the necessity to separate out the ornaments when placing them upon the tree.   We basically wanted to put them all in the same place.

Placing the first ornaments.
Placing the first ornaments.

Last year I allowed Davey to somewhat help me with decorating one of my trees and I encountered the same thing…his inability to see the full picture, or er tree.   He wouldn’t even walk around the tree, he just seemed to zero in on one spot, pulled in by the force like that of a magnet.   It was as if there was only one place for the ornaments to go, one place on a seven foot tree.   I had a hard time with this last year and my patience, or lack thereof, took over and I shooed him away.  This was definitely not how I saw my family decorating a tree.

He's so intent.
He’s so intent.

This year I decided that I would let Davey have his very own tree and since it’s in his room which no one really ever sees, then he could decorate it however he wanted.   The only stipulation was that he had to use a tree with decorations I already had or else make his own.  I think the thought of making his own and the time involved bummed him out.   Like his mommy, he doesn’t have much patience, and making ornaments would have delayed the erecting of the tree.   So, he chose to have my Clemson tree in his bedroom, a perfect choice considering his bedroom is a sports theme.

As he and Henry ate their lunches, I put the actual tree itself up, checking to make sure all lights were working and that there was an easily accessible power outlet.   Once that was completed and Henry was fast asleep for his afternoon siesta, Davey and I began the process of decorating the tree.   And true to his previous form, he wanted to put all the ornaments in one location.   And going against the grain, I stood back and let him.

My sweet boy.
My sweet boy.

Truth be told, it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and probably the fastest I’ve ever had a tree decorated.   For me, it was nice to quickly mark that one off the list of trees that need to be put up.   For Davey, it was easily one of the most exciting times he’s had.   For every ornament he put on the tree, he would step back and say, “mom, come take a look at this.  Did I do a good job?”  I loved that he wanted to please me, but it also saddened me a bit to know that he was seeking out my approval.   I don’t want him to do everything to please me, especially things like decorating a Christmas tree.   I want him to really enjoy it and I want him to have these memories as he grows older.

Davey and the Christmas tree.
Davey and the Christmas tree.

I loved watching him as he would study the tree, walking around it a couple of times, looking for just the right spot, which like I said seemed to be right next door to the previous ornament he’d had.   I loved how he would stand back, after placing the ornament, and smile, proud of himself for what he’d done.  I loved how he didn’t want to handle the glass ornaments, but instead handed those to me, wary of himself actually holding them.   I loved how he wanted to just sit on his floor in the dark, looking at his lit Christmas tree.   I could see the sense of accomplishment in his eyes and it made me happy.  Happy that I had the ability to create another memory with him.

And…I was happy that I was able to cage up the OCD monster at least for this memory.

Christmas is a special time for everyone.   Some of the greatest and most treasured memories are made during Christmas.   I’m trying to keep that in mind this season as my boy’s are anxious to help Mommy do the decorating.   So, OCD, you’ll need to take a holiday from these holidays.

Kitchen Talk

In my short amount of years as a mom, I’ve learned a few things.   First, you don’t ever offer a toddler options…he’ll always choose poorly.   Second, snacks after 4 in the afternoon spell imminent doom for those of us hoping to enjoy a peaceful family dinner, and third…you learn a lot about your child when cooking together in the kitchen.

Allowing his little brother to help melt the marshmallows.
Allowing his little brother to help melt the marshmallows.

From the moment Davey was old enough to help in the kitchen, I had him with me.   I was a new and inexperienced cook at that point, eager to start a new adventure with my child.   I voraciously poured through websites, Pinterest, and our cookbooks looking for easy, yet fun and healthy things I could cook with my little one.   I wanted to create memories, to be the fun mom, to have something to do as a stay at home mom.   I wanted to document our cooking fiascos with my new camera and my insatiable desire to write.   The kitchen was my stage, my prop, the backdrop to my coolness as a stay at home mom.   What I didn’t know was how much I would learn from cooking with my son.

Adding in more marshmallows.
Adding in more marshmallows.

Before he could even speak, he was lining muffin pans, tossing cut up apples into batter, dipping his finger into icing and licking the spoon and bowl.  When I would suggest we make something, he would jump, grab his monster apron, a stool, and an eagerness greater than anything I’d ever seen.   One would think when starting in the kitchen with your littles, you would pick something easy, a Betty Crocker brownie, Pillsbury premade, precut cookies, or a Duncan Hines cupcake mix.   Me?  Well, I don’t like to start small, my goals are high and lofty, so we started with a made from scratch apple muffin recipe.   It took us nearly two hours, but we made some of the best apple muffins I’ve ever tasted and Davey was hooked.

A continual process of mixing and stirring.
A continual process of mixing and stirring.

Back then, he didn’t talk much.  These days; however, are much more different   These days, my son loves to talk about what he’s measuring, how he’s going to bake it, cook it, or grill it, how to decorate it, and who gets what.  This past week, I learned a lot more than I bargained for, especially about Davey’s fellow classmates and his teachers.

All ready to be cut out.
All ready to be cut out.

In celebration of Halloween, I decided we would make Rice Krispie treats for his class.  I decided to make them in the shapes of pumpkins and bats and decorate them with chocolate and candy eyes.   I even bought cake decorating pens to help with the faces.   As usual, Davey jumped right in, his brother even helping out, but the true fun for me didn’t really start until Henry was napping and Davey and I were left alone to decorate the treats.

The cut product.
The cut product.

For the better part of an hour, I spent the afternoon with my oldest son listening to him as he decorated the Rice Krispie treats.   He told me about the two Annas in his class, one of whom I knew from last year.   He picked out the pumpkin each one could have and told me the reasons behind giving them their pumpkins.  He told me stories of the boys in his class, how one always makes him laugh, how another one is really quiet.   He picked out bats for his two teachers and told little anecdotes about the things that he likes best about them.   I learned who he likes to sit alongside, who he plays with the most, who makes him sad and why, and what his favorite part about each person is in his class.  This was truly the first time when I wanted to put down the camera, the laptop and phone.   This was the first time in our cooking when I just wanted to totally immerse myself in the moment, the being, with my son, and savor every little morsel he wanted to share with me.

The bats.
The bats.

This was more than just a memory to be created.   This was more than just an adventure, or an excuse to write.   This was my opportunity to really get to know my son.  This was an opportunity I hope to recreate again for years to come as his love for the kitchen grows, but it was also an opportunity for a mother and son bonding experience that may one day go away as he gets older.   Needless to say, if you’ve had some sort of influence in Davey’s life, be it good or bad, then I’m likely to hear about it in the kitchen, while we cook, and dissect the events of the days.

The pumpkins that look like monsters.
The pumpkins that look like monsters.

Kitchen talk…it truly is a magical time.

***as you can see, there are no pictures from the actual cutting or decorating.   I was too wrapped up in the stories I was being told.***