12/18/2014 12:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Christmas Tree Incident of 2014

This time of year is filled with lovely stories of families driving off into nature together in search of the perfect Christmas tree. One that's effortlessly trimmed and adorned with classy, yet meaningful ornaments. This, my friends, is not one of those stories.

No. In our family, driving a couple blocks to the local Catholic school to buy an extremely overpriced tree (for a good cause, of course) is about as much -- if not more than -- our family can handle.

There are a few challenges we consistently run into during this annual outing. One is getting our kids to wear appropriate clothing in the hopes that we might get a sentimental picture of the day we fought over a tree. Another is that my husband believes -- with absolute certainty -- that our living room is much bigger than it actually is.

Each year comes with a wild card challenge as well. There was the year my finger got stuck between the tree and the stand. And the year we carefully secured the tree onto the top of our new minivan only to discover that we'd tied the wonderfully convenient (well, 364 days a year, at least) sliding doors shut -- with the baby in the baby carrier still outside.

Yes, each year, our tree search is just the beginning of our family's holiday mishaps (assuming we haven't already massacred our gingerbread houses, that is).

So, this year, you can imagine our delight when we all agreed that the very first tree we saw was good enough "the one." I showed amazing restraint, and didn't snap a single photo during the three-minute process. And my husband showed amazing restraint, given the fact that this beauty was about half as wide -- and ful l-- as usual.

Due to the Finger Mangling Incident of 2009, we spent a few extra bucks and let the devoted volunteers at the lot nail a stand right onto the tree for us. And the rain held off long enough for us to get home -- with the tree still on top of the car, no less. Easy peezy peppermint squeezy.

But just then, the clouds gave way to the pressure. And so did I. In an effort to beat the downpour, I quickly tilted the tree so I could help lift from the top end. But rather than hearing thanks for my speed and agility, I heard a great big snap.

The wooden X that was nailed to our tree -- you know, the one with the sole job of making our tree stand upright -- was now a Y. And a Y (oh why?!) ...well, it doesn't do the job.

Not only did I stay unusually calm, I even chimed in with ingenious solutions like wood glue and questionable engineering maneuvers. And, if you ask me, I got bonus points for pretending not to notice that the tree was taller than our ceiling (though the three-foot scratch through the paint overhead was not nearly as subtle).


(Nothing a little snip won't solve.)

While ignoring me, my husband -- who totally knew what he was doing, of course -- turned the broken piece of wood around and jammed it under the stand. It worked.


A Christmas Miracle!

In celebration of the simple fix, he started stringing the 200,000 (give or take a few) mini colored lights -- which took him half as long as usual because the tree we grabbed fell in love with is long and lanky (as opposed to chubby and lush).

Come Sunday morning, our toddler woke up at the crack of dawn singing, "I'm so excited it's ornament day!"

But as we were stringing our garland, I noticed the tree was more wobbly than I was comfortable with. For a moment I envisioned it going down, and my husband's pre-marriage ornaments -- like the plastic Santa surfing on a remote control -- being the fortunate casualties of this unfortunate event. But then I remembered the beautiful glass ornament from Venice, and the ones with baby footprints from way back when we actually did that kind of stuff with our kids. You know, the irreplaceable stuff.

I could fix this -- I had to. For the good of our family Christmas, I'd sacrifice my hand weights to stabilize the tree. (I'm not saying I snapped the tree stand on purpose, but this was kind of working out in my favor after all -- no pun intended.)


(Yes, we did reconsider the proximity of the electricity to the water, as well.)

But a little wiggle confirmed my wimpy weights weren't doing much for the tree either -- it was still just as jiggly as my arms.

My husband looked at me and said exactly what was on my mind -- proof that, not only is what we have true love, but what we were thinking was quite obviously The Right Thing to do.

"You know," he said, "we could saw the tree off of this stand and put it in our other stand."

At that point, the only thing more obvious than the fact that this was the best idea ever, was that we would call our friend to help out. After all, he owed us. You see, awhile back, my husband helped him rent a jackhammer and rip into their driveway -- an equally bright idea. (There may have been a pipe hit in the Jackhammer Incident of 2012, but that's not an important detail to this story.)

As we were preparing, we couldn't help but be super impressed with ourselves. "You realize that what we're attempting is pretty much the same as yanking a table cloth off a table set with the finest china." True. After all, we weren't going to waste time redoing the lights or garland, so we had to be delicate. "I mean, I'm not going to say that it's the same as changing the engine on a plane while in flight. That would be too dramatic. But..."

So, you can imagine our surprise when our friend arrived and told us it was the worst idea ever. (Really? Jackhammer?)

Of course we talked him into it -- which I now realize wasn't because we convinced him it was a good idea, but because he wanted to witness the bad idea in action.

My husband went to work with his handsaw. Until he hit a nail. No problem. He'd just start over, a couple inches higher.


(Notice the direction he's getting from his helpful, loving wife.)

The good news was this gave him more time, not only to show off his manly strength, but to listen to my jokes while he was sweating his brains out. (Don't feel too bad for the guy, we gave him a break. You know, so our friend could take some photos of the madness.)


(Should we redo our Christmas card? Bedhead at noon is a lot more believable than our boys in sport coats!)

Fast-forward to the surprisingly professional cut and the rather uneventful lift from stand to stand, and our mission was accomplished. We got the tree into the just-right spot in our living room, and quickly came to the realization that -- drum roll, please -- it was no less wobbly now than when it was in the broken stand.

We continued to make adjustments in the hopes that we could get it a bit more centered and stable -- unlike us.

By 1 p.m., our tree was finally standing tall (from two out of three angles at least), and ornament day commenced. And -- despite our toddler's approach of casually hooking 12 ornaments to one little twinkle light on the bottom branch -- the only person who broke an ornament this year was, you guessed it, me.

While this tree trimming wasn't what any of us envisioned, there was a whole lot of laughter and bonding (not to mention sweat). Maybe we'll make cutting our own tree a tradition after all. (Then again, maybe not.)

What's your family's favorite holiday mishap/miracle?

A version of this post originally appeared on Using Our Words.

Amy Heinz is a San Francisco Bay Area mom of three and the writer behind Using Our Words -- a parenting blog filled with lessons she's learned (usually the hard way), laughs she's enjoyed (mostly at her own expense), and tears she's shed (this mama's got heart). You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.