In theory, one would think buying a Christmas tree consists of simply driving to a tree sale, choosing a tree, paying for it and then heading home with the tree to set it up.
Once you toss two young kids into that equation, you'll need to add a minimum of 97 steps to that theory.
You seem to think I'm joking. I'm not.
This is what it is really like to celebrate the holidays by selecting that very special tree for your family to decorate.
How To Buy A Christmas Tree With a Preschooler and a Kindergartener
1. On the first below-30-degree day of the season after two weeks of holiday travel and a husband M.I.A. due to the busiest work period of the year, select today as the day to surprise your kids with Christmas tree shopping when you pick the 3.5-year-old girl and 5.5-year-old boy up from school.
2. Tell them you have a BIG SURPRISE for them.
3. Bring them home, get them both to pee without totally removing all their clothes*, re-bundle them up and grab snacks and water, all while batting away screeches of delight and nagging inquiries as to what this surprise could possibly be ("Is Santa here? Are we getting a cookie? Are we going to the airport? Is 'Max & Ruby' on? Are we going to the Lego store?").
4. Get them back in the truck, buckled in.
5. Try not to go deaf during the drive to charity Christmas Tree sale.
7. Pull out camera, gloves, measuring tape.
8. Hop out of the truck, swinging open the back door with a made-up-on-the-spot-song about how HUGE a tree you're gonna get this year.
9. Look over your shoulder.
10. Realize it doesn't open for another three hours.
11. Get back in the truck.
12. Drive weeping children back home.
13. Unbundle them, placate them with another annoying episode of "Max & Ruby" in the family room for her, "G-Force" (for the 600th time) in the basement for him.
16. Wipe tears.
18. Beg for mercy and swear on your life they can buy the biggest damn tree in the place if they Just. Stop. Whining.
19. Wait three hours.
20. Make them pee (again).
21. Bundle them up (again).
22. Put them in the car with snacks and water (again).
23. Call friend to meet you there.
24. Drive to charity Christmas Tree sale (again).
25. Confirm they are open, finally cheering the kids back up.
26. Tell them you need two Special Helpers to pick the Christmas tree out.
27. Explain to 3.5-year-old that you can't buy the wooden sign in the shape of a tree or the tree painted on the side of the trailer.
28. Watch 3.5-year-old stomp her foot and pretend to cry over inability to buy trees that aren't actually tress until Old Dude who works there and has experience with ornery grandchildren distracts her.
29. Lose the 5.5-year-old amidst the trees.
30. Find the 5.5-year-old.
31. Ask for the tall trees.
32. Lose the 3.5-year-old while walking towards the tall trees.
33. Find the 3.5-year-old.
34. Quietly threaten both children that if they run off again, they will not get a Christmas tree.
35. Silently pray you don't have to actually follow through on this threat.
36. Feel a twinge of guilt asking two Old Dudes volunteering there to heave a couple 9+ foot-tall trees up so you can fully inspect the suckers** before choosing one.
37. Hear the sobs of your 5.5-year-old who is insisting he "HATE that tree" and wants one of the stacked and bound trees not on display.
38. Watch 3.5-year-old try to spear herself with a wrought iron tree stand.
39. Act all excited about the tree you have chosen in an attempt to round up unruly kids, asking Old Guys to hold it up to take a photo of the kids in front of it.
40. Watch the kids both start crying and yelling that they want different trees while running in opposite directions.
41. Tell the frightened Old Dudes "we'll take it" with a forced smile on your lips.
42. Watch 5.5-year-old stop crying quickly enough to maneuver himself behind the high school volunteers who are now trying to chainsaw the tree trunk and almost get himself hacked to bits.
43. Grab 5.5-year-old.
44. Lose sight of 3.5-year-old (again).
45. See friends coming.
46. Find 3.5-year-old when she dashes from behind a display of Douglas Firs to join her friends.
47. Finally see the kids cheer up when all four of them start making fun of you in unison.
48. Walk away from annoying kids to pay for tree.
49. Try not to pass out at the price of a 10-foot Christmas tree.
50. Distract kids with piles of leaves while high schoolers take foooooreeeeeveeer to tie the tree to the roof of the truck.
Oooh a fence! And dried-up leaves!! FUN!!!
51. Tell the kids "its time to get in the truck!" and watch 3.5-year-old refuse to go home with you.
52. Have no problem allowing friend to drive 3.5-year-old in her car back to your house because she's a pain in the ass, anyway.
52. Get 5.5-year-old in truck.
54. Watch high schoolers climbing all over car, seeming unsure of what they are doing.
55. Offer to help.
56. Be told: "I totally know what I'm doin', man."
57. Contemplate the meaning of being called a man, yet again. Make New Year's Resolution to not get mistaken for a man the new year.
58. Accidentally give the high schoolers the $20 bill instead of the $10 bill when tipping.
59. Curse under your breath in the car about the over-tip.
60. Have 5.5-year-old with apparent Super Sonic Hearing ask what that word meant.
61. Tell him it was an accident, "we don't say that word."
62. Have him tell you "but you just did."
63. Change the topic.
64. Drive home, down to one kid.
65. Open garage door remotely, almost pulling in with a tree on your roof.
66. Slam on breaks so as to not crush newly-purchased tree or garage door trim.
67. Park car in driveway, wait for friend to meet you there.
68. Go directly into the house for wine with your friend, I mean, to let the kids play.
69. Eat, drink, play, drink, eat more, chat, let the kids play more, ooops did we almost finish that whole bottle of red wine?
70. Break out some serious gingerbread man decorating skillz.
71. See that it's time for your friend to go home, down the block.
72. Ask her to watch kids for a minute.
73. Walk out to the driveway with shears in hand.
74. Cut off the ties on the tree, climb up on rear bumper and yank with all your might and 160 lbs. of Pure Aggravation to get tree off truck's roof.
75. Wonder whether the tree actually weighs more than you.
76. Be glad the driveway light isn't working so none of your neighbors can see you making an ass out of yourself in public (again).
77. Drag tree into the garage.
78. Send off your friend.
79. Bathe kids, dress kids, read to kids, kiss kids, tuck kids in.
80. Soak up the silence of the house for exactly 30 seconds before getting back to business.
81. Get tree stand and floor mat from the massive piles of holiday decor loaded in guest bedroom.
82. Set up tree stand and floor mat in family room.
83. Go back to garage.
84. Drag 10-foot tree by yourself through the garage, up the steps, down the hall, through the kitchen, down the step, to the end of the family room.
85. Take a deeeeep breathe and heave the tree upright into the stand all on your own.
86. Do all sorts of funky yoga-esque poses while turning the mile-long tree stand screws into the tree so it doesn't fall through the bay window/into the fireplace/onto your frail and exhausted body.
87. Shove the tree into the center of the room, cutting off all the netting.
88. Tentatively poke at tree a couple times to ensure it is stable.
89. Water tree.
91. Sweep more.
92. Remember how much you hate pine needles.
93. Sweep again.
94. Take a shower, scraping off the sap on your hands and pine needles in your hair.
95. Pull out all the tree lights then decide Screw This, it can wait til the morning.
96. Watch TV.
97. Go to bed.
98. Wake up pretty darn sore.
99. Shower, prep breakfast, get the kid's school backpacks ready, lay out their clothes, write down your To Do list.
100. Get the kids out of bed.
101. Crankily rub aching lower back while following the kids downstairs to the kitchen.
102. Be stopped in your grumbly tracks by their silent awe*** as they first see the Christmas tree all set up.
103. Almost get knocked over when hit with two running hugs from two totally delighted kids.
104. Grin genuinely ear to ear thinking about how much fun this is.
105. Wrap half a dozen strings of lights around tree without falling off ladder, through bay window, into yard.
106. Let the kids hang a big box full of ornaments you love dearly and have had for years, barely cringing whenever (yet another) one crashes to the hardwood floor.
Kids can play with fragile pointy things, right?
107. Crank up the Apple TV iTunes Holiday song mix you created and dance while your little elves put their finishing touches on the most beautiful tree you've ever seen.
108. Even if all the ornaments only go about 1/4 of the way up.
No one looks up there, anyway. Right?
109. Forget about the sore back, the sappy hands, the mild hangover, the pine needles, the lights that need to be hung outside, the shopping list, the enormous Christmas To Do List hovering over your head, and the general state of disarray of the house around you and only see a the sweet rosy flush of excitement on the two most important people in the world as they bask in a simple joy of the holiday season.
* Why must kids get naked to urinate? Why?
** The trees, not the Old Dudes.
*** Since the kids are rarely silent, this lack of noise momentarily confuses you.