the hyphens that define my life

Christmas Vacation December 19, 2013

My friend posted on Facebook that her favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald. Hahahaha!  I can not even type the title and Chevy Chase’s name without chuckling to myself at the hilarity contained in this film.

Do you find this movie funny?  I think I find it so riotous because my life resembles Christmas Vacation so much.

This year’s Christmas tree is only 9’6″, chopped down from a tree farm, but twelve years ago, our first Christmas in Parks, Arizona, we, then only a family of four, ventured into the Coconino National Forest and chopped down a Griswald Family Christmas Tree. We were thrilled that with a $15 Christmas Tree Pass, we could cut down our Christmas tree.  We did remember a chain saw so we didn’t have to dig out the tree roots Griswald style, but the tree was a beast.  We had a Dodge Dakota Quad Cab truck at the time and the tree, when strapped to the roof, was anchored by the stump to the rear bumper and the tree top anchored to the front bumper.   Trees really do look smaller in the forest than they do when you get them home.

This tree was so big.  How big?  Once we somehow wedged the tree through our front door into our tiny cabin we called home, my husband had to bring a chainsaw, into the house a la Griswald, and chop off at least a foot just to get the tree erect.  Our home was small but it had really a high ceiling too.  Once the chainsaw was turned off, my husband, channeling Clark, screwed the Christmas tree base directly to the floorboards so it wouldn’t topple in the night.  He rationalized that we were going to replace the flooring anyway at some point, what’s the harm in a few screw holes?  For the record, the floors weren’t replaced for another 2 years.

To get the star on top of this monster, I stood on the partial upstairs level, leaning way over the edge while my husband pulled the tree top toward me while standing on a ladder.  Our children, ages five and almost one, watched as their stupid parents pulled off this stunt.  Yes, children, we are the Griswalds.

I will be posting a Christmas’ Past, Present and Future blog and will have photos of this tree soon, I promise!.

Having watched Christmas Vacation recently while laid out sick on the couch with my kids, my favorite part relative to 2013 was, of course, the squirrel attack.  I AM NOT ALONE!  I replayed this scene at least 3 times until the boys were convinced I completely lost my mind and begged for mercy.  Add squirrel attacks to our Griswald family resemblance.

We have never burned down a tree (nor will we), I’ve never burned a turkey, we do not overly decorate the outside with 25,000 lights causing a power outage, but I do have to flip a switch to get our outdoor lights to turn on.  The likeness between our two families is uncanny.

If you have never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or if it has been awhile, sit down and laugh with us as we just want to celebrate Christmas.


Advent-ageous! December 1, 2013

Happy December 1, Happy First Day of Advent,  and Happy Countdown to Christmas!

Being the non-practicing any religion person that I am, Advent, to me, means chocolate calendars that countdown to Christmas.  Chocolate isn’t required, it could mean a construction paper ring chain counting down the days.  Western Christians  observe Advent as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The Nativity Fast, a period of abstinence and penance from November 15 through December 24practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Christ.  My 23 days of detox and Thanksgiving deliciousness were definitely not aligned with the Nativity Fast.  Like I said, I’m a chocolate calendar, construction paper ring chain kinda gal.

Typical of our house, we are counting down the days.  Our boys know they have 15 days of school before Winter Break, 24 days until Christmas, and 30 days until the end of the year, and 32 days until their sister moves to Spokane.  Western or Eastern Christian, or not religious at all, countdowns are on. Advent-ageious, one and all.

For our family, Christmas isn’t about the day, it is about the season.  Giving, receiving, experiencing the full effect of the holiday. Yesterday we joined two families and caravanned north to Camden Ranch in Elk, WA to cut down our own Christmas Tree.  The weather was cold and foggy but the scenery was glorious.


We were instructed to hike up into the hills and surrounding area and find your perfect tree.  Take a hand saw, cut down the tree and carry it down the hill.  The tree is tagged and loaded into a truck and driven back to the main barn at the ranch.  We follow on a hay ride.  The tree is condensed into a mesh bag and muscled onto the top of your vehicle.  We laughed and contemplated and hiked and shivered until we found our beautiful tree.

Our 8-year old insisted he would cut down the tree and managed about a 1/2″ cut into the trunk before his arm gave out and the others got a turn.  Eventually, TIMMMM-BERRRR, the tree fell over.

christmas tree 2013

This tree was no featherweight.  It took 5 of us to carry it down with our 8-year old leading the way, pointing out slippery slopes yet maintaining far enough of a lead not lend any muscle.

We sipped on hot apple cider while waiting for our tree to be bagged and loaded.  The sun was setting as we drove home, naturally spotlighting three cotton-tailed deer bounding through the meadow.

My husband is very scroogy, bah humbug when it comes to most holiday traditions.  Yet the entire drive home he commented how much he enjoyed this excursion to get our Christmas tree.  He enjoyed it so much he suggested we should plan to go to Camden Ranch every year.  Who is this guy having Christmas fun and setting tradition?    He even tolerated listening to hours of Christmas music to and from Camden Ranch.  Whoever he is, wherever he’s been, I like this new Spokane guy!

Today, for our first day of Advent, we put away our fall and Thanksgiving decorations and hauled out the Christmas boxes.  Our tree is massive, standing at 9’3″ but fits beautifully in our living room.

christmas tree

No lights or decorations yet and I realized tonight that the two uncarved pumpkins are still out on the porch.  Slight holiday overlap but we’re getting into the holiday spirit, one day at a time.