A tree for the birds

Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!


Our living room isn’t that big, and we really live in it. The few years we did an actual tree, we sort of enjoyed it, but also felt like it was a lot of work (and money, for the live trees we like), particularly since we always are away from home on Christmas.

My family has kind of a funny history with Christmas trees. When I was a kid, my notoriously cheap thrifty frugal grandfather would go out and get the tree on Christmas Eve, when they are practically giving them away. My brother and I would wake up on Christmas morning to find that a tree had magically appeared–fully decorated and piled with presents.

There’s also a story about my dad going out to cut a tree on his land and, being unable to find a sufficiently full one, he cut two, drilled holes in one, and filled it out with the branches of another. All was well until a guest at the Christmas party pointed out that the tree appeared to be two different species. Oops.

In later years, my dad sometimes chose to just cut a bit branch off of a deciduous tree and decorate it with twinkle lights and small ornaments. He called it “the yule log.” My mom went entirely the other way, getting a twenty-foot tree to go in the living room. Every year, it was an ordeal to get it in the house, and there were lots of jokes about it being a Griswold Christmas tree. In memory of my grandfather, we decorated it on Christmas Eve, usually with some family friends, and it was gorgeous.

In my husband’s family, they used an artificial tree. Each year, each of their four children added an ornament to the tree. The parents often did, too. When we in-law-children became part of the family, we started adding ornaments, too. Every year, my mother-in-law said, “I think we are going to need to buy a bigger tree next year…”

So we have lots of meaningful traditions about trees in the families where we grew up, but we felt like we were doing our tree “just because.” Because we were supposed to. Because our parents did. Because Carlos liked going to the cut-your-own and picking out a tree (the first time, when he was seven, he asked if it would be pre-lit). Last year, with a toddler running around, as well as some construction going on in the living room area until quite close to the actual holiday, we decided not to bother with it. Instead, we decorated a Christmas-tree-shaped juniper. We made birdseed ornaments with Carlos and strung popcorn (he got bored with the popcorn really fast). AND I DIDN’T TAKE ANY PICTURES!

So, here are links to other people’s tutorials on the stuff we did last year, and which we’re planning to do again. Our Christmas present…to the birds.

from Simply Stork

We strung popcorn and cranberries, but the birds didn’t touch the cranberries. They were pretty, but messy the next spring when toddler Silas found them. This year, we are just doing popcorn.

from Intimate Weddings

We made birdseed ornaments using gelatin and cookie cutters. I tried do more complex shapes, but they fell apart. I think hearts and stars are the best.

from Mom in Madison

The pinecone/peanut butter/birdseed thing was the most successful with Carlos. He didn’t have the patience for stringing popcorn. He also didn’t have much patience for waiting while the gelatin set for the cookie cutter ornaments.


APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next year’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)

13 responses to “A tree for the birds

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  2. The story about your dad drilling holes in the tree has me laughing. What a great story.

    I love your idea of the popcorn for the birds. I remember hearing about people doing that, maybe in an old Charlie Brown book or something, but I haven’t thought of it in years. How fun! Does it take long? It seems like it could be kind of tedious.

    • Stringing popcorn can take a while.
      *use button thread (ask at the fabric store). It’s a lot stronger than general-purpose thread
      *do 18″ lengths and then tie them together–better sense of accomplishment, less tangly.
      *make it part of some other activity, like a car trip or movie night. It’s really boring to just sit and do it.

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  5. First, thank you for sharing stories of your family’s Christmas tree traditions. I got some good laughs and smiles from them (my Dad also liked the Christmas Eve special tree discount!). I’m so grateful for your picture about the pine cone birdseed ornament — we’re definitely doing that with our cone stash. (I’d just googled “pine cone crafts” this morning looking for great things to do with them.) Happy holidays for your family and the birds too!

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