By Guest Blogger Kelly Hines, author of the blog Southern Fried Children

I blame it on the tree.

Of course, I caved. When the artificial tree that had been trucking along for the last decade finally gave up the ghost on Friday, and the Husband made his proclamations about substandard trees, he said to me – “I can get us a tree for fifteen bucks.”

I told him if he could find a tree stand for free, he was welcome to get a live tree.

Saturday morning, he and the children went off to retrieve our tree, which would be – no doubt – some back lot model. Fifteen bucks, I was not expecting much. Two hours later, we stood back looking at the first live tree we’ve had since we’ve had children, and even I had to admit –

kelly1It is a glorious tree.

I undecorated the artificial tree and started stringing lights on the real tree. I would repeat The Husband’s words many times over the next two days – “It will take an hour, tops.” Three hours, a trip to the drugstore and an extension cord later, the lights were finally done.  Fake feathers and orange flowers don’t lend themselves to a true tree, so I packed them away and decided to get creative.

The next morning, I popped two huge bowls of popcorn and the girls and I got to stringing.

Predictably, Katie did about 10 inches of garland and declared herself ‘done’. Julia managed about three times that, and Henry just came in and threw popcorn all over the kitchen. Somehow, I didn’t even mind that my house looked like this all day.


And when everyone else had gone on to more important things, I sat, stringing popcorn. I didn’t mind. And when my hands cramped up, I stopped and made ornaments.

People, I do not craft. I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know if it was the smell of the pine tree or the sap on my fingers, or if the Husband had slipped some Christmas crack into my coffee. But I really got into it.

I made these:


And these:


And, because I felt we needed a new topper, more in keeping with the new spirit taking hold, I made this:



I used a children’s art book from the 1950s, because I loved the illustrations and the little bits of color. I folded and taped the pages together into a circle, then stitched the center together. I SEWED. Twice, in one day, if you count stringing the popcorn. I used the falling off cover and a couple of clothespins to secure the back and attach it to the tree.


Every year, the pile of presents grows larger. Our annual Christmas Eve party gets more extravagant. My stress level gets higher, and my Christmas cheer gets decidedly lower.

This year, the present pile is much smaller. We decided against the party – partly due to time and money, and partly due to the fact that we found ourselves focusing too much on THE EVENT, and too little on our family. We have spent the past several months making a concerted effort to live more simply, and the past few days is the first time I have felt the difference.

One week before Christmas, and I am not stressed at all. One week before Christmas, and I happily sat stringing popcorn in my pajamas all day long. That stupid tree is making me feel all warm and fuzzy and Christmas-y.

I hate it when the Husband is so very right.