Friday, December 9, 2016

How (Not) to Flock a Christmas Tree

Ah, where to begin. I want to tell you about my day yesterday.

Should I start with when I got electrocuted?

Maybe when the Christmas tree fell over in my living room. Twice.

Or the part where I dropped a cinder block on my foot.

Or maybe we should start when I accidentally showed an entire preschool my butt.


Let's rewind to the very beginning of this story, about a year ago, when this woman slayed me with her unattainable fantasy Christmas house.

I've been obsessed with the idea of replicating every square inch, down to the last snowy pine needle, ever since. I've dreamed of the perfect flocked Christmas tree, blush pink ornaments, ribbons abounding, fresh greens lushly draped over the banister. I've dreamed of it for a whole year.

It turns out that 365 days is a long time for a dream to brew. Especially one of the variety that's going to cost more than just dollars. These dreams end up getting paid for in sanity, and yesterday my sanity took out a second mortgage.

The first step to realizing the dream was a flocked Christmas tree.

For those of you who don't know, "flocking" is the (rather poorly named) process of putting fake snow on your tree to give it that wintery wonderland feeling. Naturally I turned to the blogosphere for guidance, where I was warned of the terrors of the process. Psh. Warning brushed aside like yesterday's flocking. This dream would not die.

I have a very reliable and lovely faux Christmas tree. But it's not flocked, so it's dead to me now. It was relegated to the playroom, where the kids could decorate it to their heart's content. Still, I knew that some $800 designer flocked tree wasn't going to happen, so I convinced Ryan we could just buy a $32.99 real tree at Costco and flock it ourselves. (Which, yes, Holly, IS legal in Illinois. Eye roll.)

Three cans of Sno Blo and a hostage tree tied to my van later, the plan was underway.

It's been 10 years since Ryan and I have purchased a real tree. The last time we did, a fleet of giant bugs bore out of it and ransacked our living room. No really, I have pictures of Ryan posing for our newlywed Christmas picture holding a can of Raid.

Since then, real trees haven't really been our "thing." But they're unbeatably gorgeous! The smell! And so perfectly imperfect! I was really excited to redeem the real tree experience, and fully prepared for a little more mess than usual. First step, wrestle it into the house. Pine needles and sap everywhere. No problem. Next step, saw off the bottom so that it can suck up water. Sawdust, pine needles and sap everywhere. OK, we can do this. Next, set it in its stand in the living room and water it. Try to crawl under the tree and pour the water in without gouging your eyes out on a pine branch. Water, sawdust, pine needles and sap everywhere. Wait two days and recover from this experience.

Finally the fates converge- it's not too cold, too dark, or too windy, and I have a few hours of free time. It's time to flock the tree! It takes two of us to get it back out of the stand and carried through the house (water, pine needles and sap everywhere) and out into the backyard. We set it up in the stand. The wind blows it over.

We set it back up in the stand. Over the course of two hours I spray three light coats of flocking, getting more excited with each one. It's so pretty!!! All the branches are heavy with realistic looking snow. It's a winter wonderland tree if there ever was one! I'm so excited. I wait impatiently for hours for it to dry. Get sidetracked, finally look out the window- it's face down in the yard. My grass is now perfectly flocked...the tree, not so much anymore. It basically looks like it has a light dusting of baby powder on it. Or it's just a blue spruce. Commence inward crying.

It's now dark, and freezing cold, so even if I could run to the store to buy more cans of flocking and start over, it would never dry in time or survive the overnight wind. I had to just accept how it looked and bring it inside. Sadly, between squeezing it back through our back door and wrestling it into its stand yet another time, most of the remaining flocking flocked off. So the whole thing was pretty much an exercise in futility.

There's more. So, after taking another two (maybe four) days to recover from the (not) flocking, I finally got set to decorate. The boys were all out so it was just my daughter and me. We put on the Christmas music, the fireplace was glowing, we were unpacking ornaments and it was completely idyllic...finally! This is how Christmas is supposed to be!

And then the tree electrocuted me. One of the lights was missing its bulb, but still managed to be completely live. The first time my hand hit it, I thought I had gotten a prick from broken glass. It was a sharp sting but barely noticeable. I made a mental note to repair that bulb. The next time my hand nicked it, I reeled back screaming as a huge jolt surged through my entire body! That was my first experience getting electrocuted, and I have to say, it's not that cool. We proceeded to hang the rest of the ornaments with the tree lights OFF.

Which is a good thing, because when the tree FELL OVER a few minutes later, water spilled all over the floor and the dangling light cord. So I'm guessing my number had been called for electrocution that day one way or another.

The collapse was totally my fault. I'm used to decorating a fake tree, which is sturdy and not evil. So, when I put ornaments on only one side of it, it doesn't fall over. Turns out with a real tree that hates you, you can't do that or it will crush you and your entire family. Noted.

As I struggled to keep the tree upright, I sent my daughter running for twine that I could tie to the tree to anchor it. Anchor to what, I had no plan. She got the twine, I tied it to the top, then I had her hold it up (not my best parenting moment), while I searched for an anchor.

Cinder block! Naturally! We have them on the porch holding up our planters. In my hysterical rush to save my daughter's burdened, tree-supporting arms, I ran through the house with the cinder block (totally covered in spiders, webs, dirt and all kinds of ick from living in a porch planter all summer), and somehow didn't trip and fall with it. That was the good news. The bad news is, once I had it tied to the tree, almost ready to set it in place and declare victory, the twine snapped in half, so that the cinder block fell on my foot instead, while the tree fell the other way onto my daughter. So if you're keeping score:

Times electrocuted: Two
Family members hit by falling tree: Two
Feet crushed by cinder block: One
Ornaments shattered in carpet: Roughly one dozen
Carpet saturated with tree water: 3 square feet
New spiders in residence: Innumerable
Expletives uttered in front of minors: ZERO, for which I (and the Holy Spirit) deserve massive credit.

I am proud to say, we recovered. First we sat and stared at the pine needle/ water/ flocking/ broken ornament stew on our carpet and contemplated walking away and getting chocolate ice cream. But instead we told ourselves to Woman Up. Eva and I found some sturdy ribbon, anchored the tree to that cinder block and showed it who was boss. Then we waited for Ryan to come home and rescue us. OK, fine! I admit it! I am not a feminist! He swooped in like a knight in shining armor on a carpet shampooing steed.

And now, my tree looks like this. It's gorgeous. It's everything I hoped it would be. I even sprinkled some bags of fake snow on it when it was done, and found blush wrapping paper from Sugar Paper so that the gifts (some of them fake) could coordinate with the ornaments just so. You'd never know all the blood, tears, and grossness that were required to make this happen. You'd never know that behind that beautiful facade, a ribbon anchored by a cinder block is the only thing holding it up. And as a blogger with a conscience, I felt it my duty to tell you that sometimes decorating comes easy. And sometimes it nearly kills you. Multiple times.

What's that? The butt story? Ah yes. Well, that was just some totally unrelated icing on the cake, but fitting considering it was earlier the same day.

I came home from dropping off my little one at preschool, and Ryan, immediately noticing a GIANT hole in the back of my jeans, said, "Um, Laura, what is that?" With trepidation I turned my rear toward a mirror and yep, about a 6" gaping gash was stretched across my right cheek. Apparently it had split sometime earlier in the day and somehow (how!?!?!?!) I hadn't noticed. And no, my choice of undergarments for the day did NOT *ahem* provide coverage.

Clearly this was an unheeded warning that I should have gone straight to bed and tried again at life another day.

He feels my shame.

Merry Season!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. OH my! I not sure I will try the frocking but thank you for a great laugh! Your tree is beautiful!

    1. Haha, thank you so much Kathy! Yes, I'm not sure it was worth it...but at least it made for a great story!


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