It's no secret that I love the holidays...once Halloween is over I'm all about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love the family time. The music. The lights and decorations. The smells. The Starbucks holiday drinks. The food. The treats.
But I love the traditions more than anything. I love having things we do annually that the kids look forward to and remember year after year. One of my best memories from growing up is our annual cookie decorating day my sister and I did with my grandma and aunt every December. After they passed away my mom took up the tradition for us and all our cousins. And now my kids get to participate, too. That's coming up in a couple of weeks and I'm already counting down the days.
This year had a first for us. It was our first year visiting a tree farm and cutting down our own tree. We've always had real trees, but typically we've gone to a tree lot and just picked from there. I've always wanted to do this and hope that it's something we do every year going forward.
Since this was our first year visiting a tree farm, I thought I'd share some lessons I learned along the way. Think of it as a public service message if you are considering doing this activity--especially with young kids.
1. You are not thrown into the middle of a forest and do not have to climb really tall trees to cut down what you want. I literally had visions of us needing to sign waivers. Like I said, I have never done this before and had no idea of what to expect. And apparently I forgot that I don't live at the White House or Rockefeller Center. So, in case you are like me and have never done this, it is exactly what it sounds like. A tree farm. Rows of trees of various sizes and types that you pick from. And no waivers were needed.
2. Dress your kids warm. I did this. They were snug and could barely move. Success. But...
3. Don't forget about yourself. I swear, sometimes as a mom I focus so much on the kids that I forget I exist. I mean, I forgot a hat. A hat! It's winter in Minnesota. You don't do anything--let alone visit someplace where you'll be spending a minimum of an hour outside--without a hat.
4. Bring cash. Most places are cash only, some take checks, but most do not accept credit cards. Luckily my step-father had mentioned this ahead of time so we were set. A family we were talking to while out on the farm was not so lucky.
5. Inspect the heck out of your tree before you start cutting. This includes making sure it's not claimed by someone else (some farms allow you reserve ahead of time), that it's actually a tree that's for sale (there are steep fines if you cut down a tree that is not for sale) and give it a general once over. Walk around the tree. Touch it. Look inside the tree. You want to make sure it's exactly what you want because once it's cut, like it or not, it's yours.
6. Have patience. The place we went to (which I highly recommend--Z's Trees in Cologne, just south of Waconia) had wagon rides out to the different areas for cutting down trees but it took a while to get on one (we went on a very busy day--the day after Thanksgiving). Finding a tree takes a little time and cutting down the tree is no easy task--just ask my husband. Then there's the waiting to get back to the main facility where they wrap your tree and you pay. Honestly, the whole experience went really smoothly, it just took a couple of hours (again, we went on a really busy day). Which was fine for 3/4 of my family. But...
7. If you have a child that needs a nap, don't choose to skip it for the sake of getting a tree. It will not end well.
Ok, that last one is probably a little dramatic. B did pretty well...but he was one wrong move, one wrong statement, one wrong look away from a meltdown. I felt like I was walking a tightrope with him...just trying to NOT set him off.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and one that we will be repeating. And if you are looking for a good tree farm, Z's Trees was great. Like I mentioned above, they offer wagon rides out to the tree areas and supply the saws for cutting. Once you are done and waiting for your tree to be wrapped up, you can go in their main facility and see Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy a cup of hot cider and have a cookie that Mrs. Claus just whipped up (well, those are for the kids, but if you're an expert sneak-eater like I am you'll be able to sneak in a bite from your kid's cookie--but not the one who's on the verge of a temper tantrum; it's probably best you don't even look at him).
Here are some snapshots from our adventure:
Do you have a favorite tradition this time of year?