the perfect tree

I was determined not to let Christmas completely get away from me this year. The last several years, it has seemed to be almost an afterthought, a source of much stress and last-minute frenzy. The holidays are an extremely busy time for family portrait photographers, taking care of everybody's family portraits, gift photos, and holiday cards. This year is no different - night after night staying up until 2am working, then waking up at 7:30 to get the kids up for school, and working all day. Not leaving much time or energy for family or holiday enjoyment. We have always gotten our tree from the small local lot, and it's been a cram-it-in-when-we-can kind of trip. Usually late in the evening, when it's dark, cold, and the kids are tired. We manage to put up the tree in our living room before the kids melt down and we send them to bed, despite their pleas to stay up and decorate it. This year, I wanted something more. We decided to take the whole day and head to a tree farm, and despite the frigid temperatures and dreary skies, we had a lovely time. Oliver insisted on cutting down our own tree. If it had been up to Michael and I, we would have selected one from the heated barn and been done with it. But Oliver insisted. And we obliged. And now we have the perfect tree, and a new family holiday tradition.

My promise to my family - from now on, I will make our family time a priority during the holidays. We will make time to cut our own Christmas tree, and to trim it the same day. To decorate gingerbread houses and bake cookies. To visit Santa. And be. Together.

I still don't feel ready for Christmas. I still missed some pretty important elements. I didn't get Christmas cards done. They've turned into New Years cards at this point. We missed the Macy's Christmas display. And Holidazzle. I wanted to do more baking for friends and family. Our packages for out-of-town friends and family have still not gone out. But I'm trying to forgive myself, and celebrate what we did do - decorate half of a gingerbread house. Wrap most of the presents before 3am on Christmas Eve. Spend a lovely day as a family getting the tree. Visit Santa. Bake and decorate two kinds of cookies. And make countless snowflakes together.

Happy holidays to you all!