1st Day: Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

On the first day of our twenty-five days, we put a new spin on our old tradition!  December 1st is typically the day we drag our old artificial tree out of storage and set it up along with all the trimmings. It’s the same tree Brad & I have been using ever since getting our first apartment together back in 2008.  It was a good tree but we decided to change it up, now that we’re in the land of pine trees, and cut down our own real scotch pine!  We were fortunate to be able to find a tree farm that went a bit beyond just cutting down our own tree too.  This was a special tree farm!  Santa made the trek down from the North Pole with Prancer and Dixon, there were pony rides, trolley rides through the farm with Christmas carols, and a petting zoo!  But, this is also Minnesota, it should have the same tagline as the show ‘Big Brother’: “Expect the unexpected”.  We heard a pretty monster of a storm was set for the first, so we switched up the game plan a bit and rushed out to get our tree the day before.

Decking the tree with Dingmans


  When we walked into Santa’s little cabin at the farm, Marshall quickly made his way to Santa’s lap.  He wanted to be sure to tell him everything he wanted for Christmas and that he’s been a good boy; he had just a flurry of gift requests- so much so that it was hard to keep up!
When you ask a four year old what he wants for Christmas, you better be prepared
  Once Marshall stopped to take a breath we sat Violet down on Santa’s lap as well to capture her very first visit with the big man himself!
Dingman kids’ 1st visit with Santa 2015


  Marshall reluctantly left Santa’s cabin with the promise of more magic to come.  It’s then that we brought him out to have a special ride in Santa’s sleigh!  Prancer & Dixon were on hand to give kids an experience usually reserved for Santa himself.
First reindeer sleigh ride


Marshall couldn’t stop smiling. (Violet watched the sleigh ride safely in her papa’s arms)



  If Santa was hard to say goodbye to, then our reindeer friends were even harder to bid farewell.  Luckily we had yet another special friend to see.  Marshall was fortunate enough to have the pick of the ponies and he was quick to pick the all white pony “like snow!” who was named Star.
Papa helping Marshall get a leg up onto Star


  Marshall was a natural riding the pony, this being only his second time, his body moved in unison like a true cowboy.


A Kansas City cowboy through and through


  Every stop was so much fun!  He couldn’t wait to get to the next one, surely this would be just as wonderful.
“They’re eating me papa, they’re eating me!”


  Then he got mauled by lambs and goats.  Brad had to try to feed them corn to bribe the animals away from a hollering Mads.
   Meanwhile, Violet had a stare down with a billy goat from the sidelines.
Bring it on ‘Rose’


Even a nearby goat joined Violet in the entertainment that is Marshall squealing in a mix of delight and terror


  We were finally able to pry the animals away from Marshall and moved on to the final stage of attractions: the trolley ride through the Christmas trees!
It’s “powered by Christmas carols”


  What was extra special about this tree farm is it being an all organic farm.  They don’t use pesticides, in turn sparing the waning bee population, because “why ruin the earth and harm the bees for a tree that will only be in the home for a few weeks?”.  Makes sense to me!  They also do not spray paint their trees to make them greener- which is a pretty common practice at many tree farms/ lots.  I appreciate that, nothing to interfere with the natural beauty and amazing pine scent!
The pictures don’t do justice to how tall and and full the trees were


There’s not a papa alive that cherishes their daughter like Brad does Violet


Naturally, Marshall had fun singing ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of his voice and wave like he was in a parade.  He’s a celebrity in his mind.


  After we got done riding through the farm on the trolley, which was powered with Christmas carols, we grabbed our vehicle and went back to the section we liked most from our ride with the tractor.


  Without even saying a word, Brad & I walked directly to the same beautiful 7 foot tall scotch pine.  It, of course, came with Marshall’s stamp of approval.
“This one!”
The Dingman men cutting down our first real Christmas tree


  Once the boys cut through the trunk Brad told Marshall they were going to yell “timber!” and push the tree over.  Marshall just got “the tree is going to fall over” out of that and he quickly ran and hid behind a small tree.


  After being reassured that the tree would fall away from them, he agreed to come push over the tree.


  With the tree down, we explained how you can tell how old a tree is by counting the rings on the trunk.  Marshall counted the rings and was surprised to find out that this tree is 15 years old.  The boys then carried the tree down to the SUV and Brad tossed the tree on top.
Yea, we went full Griswold on this Christmas
  At this tree farm, before you leave, you pull up to get your tree shook out and then bagged!  Marshall loved watching the machine shake and bag- he especially loved the shaker and shook along with it.


  This being Brad’s first year buying a real tree, he wasn’t 100% confident in his tying abilities so he kept an eye on it through the moon roof.  And yes, we may have had to stop at one point as we watched the tree slowly moving backwards on the roof and retie it.
“Ohhhh, it’s blowing back isn’t it?!”
Apparently Marshall didn’t trust papa’s tying abilities either. He kept a firm grip on the rope even as he watched movies on the way back.


  We still had to kick off December right though!  Last year we did the ‘forever falling snow’; this year we decided to do a ‘Christmas case’ full of holiday books and toys from past 25 day celebrations as well as having another snowy surprise for Marshall when he woke up in the morning!

Memories and momentos from Christmas seasons past.
Marshall’s bedroom door
Violet’s bedroom door
The snowboy & snowgirl surprises

The snowboy & snowgirl were pretty quick and easy for me to whip up.  I used: paper and wrapping paper scraps from my scrapbook drawer, edging scissors, painters tape, and regular scissors.  All things I already had on hand.  I love using scrapbook paper and old wrapping paper scraps as the prints and textures always seem to add a special touch of whimsy compared to solid color paper.  For the scarves I just did long strips of painters tape and quickly alternated patterns onto the tape- super efficient!

“Come look-it!’
“I love it! Look the scarf!”


“Yay!!  Christmas!”


Of course he picked the snowball shooters first.  His papa may have been egging him on as well (there’s a reason we had to have two after all)


Talking to Clementine Bell the elf at the north pole.  They talked about who some of their favorite people to talk to were (spoiler alert: he said his mama is!) and imitated reindeer.

One thing that I love about Marshall is how fun he makes doing these things for him.  As soon as he woke up he called for Brad and I to come look.  He just kept saying “Mama make this for me!!” and “Thank you!  Thank you so, so much!” he’s always so grateful for these fun surprises.  The whole morning was full of smiles and exuberance.  A perfect welcome to December!

Before long, though, it was time to get ready to head to school.  Marshall loves school so it wasn’t too hard to get him out the door.  The promise of more holiday fun could have helped too.

  After picking up Marshall from school, we headed over to the store!  We stopped to do our annual ornament shopping.  Every year, we let Marshall pick out any ornament his little heart desires.  We also pick out a picture frame ornament annually for our family picture- a tradition Brad & I started on our very first Christmas together in 2007. Of course, this year we also bought a very special picture ornament as well: Violet’s ‘baby’s first Christmas’ ornament!  After this year she will be able to pick out her own ornaments too.

So many options!  Jack Skellington, Batman, a firetruck, and a robot were all considered before he found his 2015 choice


A burger and fries with a heart that says “bff” between them


It pretty perfectly captures his goofy nature

Sure, one day we may have a perfect coordinating and manicured tree.  For now it’s a fun and pretty treasured tradition and we love having a tree that tells our family story.

Growing from baby to boy and showing what catches his eye along the way.
Officer Claus (’12), Helicopter (’13), Biker Santa (’14), Burger & Fries (’15)


A story that took three Christmases to go from deep sorrow to complete joy.
Loss. Hope. Violet.


And a story that quite literally shows the progression of college sweethearts turning into a blossoming family
(2015 will be added in a week)
  Finally, it was time to get back in and go home to put together our tree.  We let the tree set overnight to settle and kept the decorating for December first.
  Of course we also had to set up Marshall’s mini tree.  This year we decided it would be a perfect table centerpiece.
He loves getting to decorate his little tree however he wants


Adding the star


  Then the boys got down to business on the big tree.
The boys hung the lights while Violet looked on in awe


Our stockings! Brad & mine are from 2008; Marshall got an updated one to match his sister’s.  One day, when we feel our family is complete, we will get all matching stockings.  For now mismatched will do.


Violet was even decorated in the process
And other shenanigans ensued
He hung each ornament with such care



A tradition of ours, decorating the tree in pajamas and with cocoa. This year we made triple chocolate cocoa: hot chocolate with chocolate milk and chocolate syrup over whip cream


And of course, our dutch apple pie.  It’s not Christmas tree decorating without classic Christmas music, pajamas, cocoa, and dutch apple pie


Our kickoff to this year’s celebrations took some tweaking due to the weather- which in Minnesota is to be expected- but we still managed to have a pretty great December 1st.  We were able to add new memories to our growing collection, and see how far we have come.  This really is the most wonderful time of the year; I feel so fortunate to be able to find new ways to celebrate it with my little loves, as well as share old traditions with them.  Be sure to bring your sweet tooth tomorrow as we stir up some more fun!


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