How We (Mostly) Baby-Proofed Our Christmas Tree

At the start of this year’s Christmas season (aka right after Thanksgiving) I wrote a post looking through some tips and strategies for helping Christmas trees get along with toddlers (or babies or small children), and we ended up taking some of those ideas into consideration when putting together this year’s Christmas tree. So for today’s post, I wanted to share a bit about what we did and how it worked out, which I’ll start off with a sneak peek of the end result:

The first thing that may jump out about this is that the Christmas tree looks pretty normal — at least in the sense that it isn’t barricaded by a child gate, and that it isn’t tiny and up out of reach, and that it appears to have the standard assortment of lights and ornaments. But beneath the sparkly normal-looking surface, this Christmas tree actually has some secret baby-proof features.

For instance, it’s super stable… Since even though our own cat is too fat and lazy to even jump a child gate, and didn’t give us any trouble with our Christmas tree last year, I’ve heard of other people’s (less lazy) cats toppling over full-size Christmas trees… and if a cat could do it, I’d imagine a toddler could do the same if they yanked on it the right way. So we picked up these big bricks from Lowe’s for $1.38 apiece and wrapped them like Christmas presents:

They each got a few layers of plain brown paper in addition to the wrapping paper, so the edges were pretty blunt and not brick-like at all by the end, and then they just sat inconspicuously on the edges of our Christmas tree stand looking like presents. With these in place, I’m pretty sure the baby and the cat could have climbed the Christmas tree like a jungle gym* all day long without making it even wobble too badly, much less topple over — which is no doubt a bit of overkill, but it made for one less thing to worry about.

*Not that we would want to encourage such behavior of course.

Then there were the ornaments. Last year, we picked up two large packages of inexpensive shatterproof ornaments, so we used those again, and this year we added to our collection with a few additional packs of shatterproof ornaments in various sizes. For securing them to the tree, we wanted to avoid using the pointy little ornament hooks, so I picked up some ribbon and tried making some bows instead:

Baby Proof Ornament With Bow

I think the bows ended up looking pretty nice, and we could loop them around the branch in such a way that the ornaments couldn’t be easily pulled off. The only drawback to using ribbon was how much of it you need — I was a little surprised to go through an entire spool of ribbon and only have finished three or four ornaments like the one shown above. So we ended up switching to some spools of cord we found in the Christmas aisle, which was a lot more reasonable in terms of the number of ornaments you could do with it. Here’s an example of one of the ornaments secured to the tree using the cord:

Baby Proof Ornament Secured

And lastly in the baby-proofing department, we decided to try out the jingle bell trick (as discussed in this post) for creating a built in “alarm” in case anyone tried to sneakily bother the Christmas tree. So we picked up a package of cute little red and green bells and fastened them to the bottom branches of the tree:

Jingle Bells (Baby Alarm)

Out of all the baby-proofing strategies we tried this year, this one was probably the most useless, since jiggling the branches alone wasn’t really enough to get any sound out of the little bells, you had to shake them a little more forcefully. (This may have been my fault for picking out the cute bell-shaped ones instead of the round sleigh bell variety.) And of all the things on the tree, these little bells turned out to be most easily mistaken for cat toys and/or baby toys, so in that sense the strategy may have even backfired a little.

But overall, we had a really easy time with Lillian and the Christmas tree this year. She would look at it, and point at it, and go over and ring the little bells:

Baby Reaching For Christmas Tree

But rather than spending hours in fascination trying to pull things off of the Christmas tree, she actually seemed to get bored of it pretty quickly. Here’s a picture of her blurring away to go play with something else after all of about two minutes:

Baby Crawling Away From Christmas Tree

So after all that, we could probably have gotten away with a lot less baby-proofing, or maybe even none at all, but it was fun playing around with strategies for turning the Christmas tree into an impenetrable fortress defended against the most determined of babies. Though of course at the end of the day, nothing beats good old-fashioned parental supervision (hence the “mostly” in the post title — I don’t think anything is ever 100% baby-proof.)

Anyway, here are a couple other quick facts about this year’s Christmas tree:

  • We went with a Fraser Fir this year, which was a bit of a splurge that cost around double last year’s $17 white pine, but the short needles were nice and soft (“not feeling like pointy murder” as Joe so artfully put it) and overall the tree had a great full look to it.
  • The Christmas tree shopping happened on the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it took us almost two weeks after that to get it fully decorated — it seems like we have so little time for anything these days!

And finally, here’s a view of our Christmas tree at the height of its glory (i.e. before it got all dry and droopy because we didn’t water it for ten or so days):

Baby Proof Christmas Tree

It’s sort of funny how the tree in the above photo is in the same position by the fireplace as last year, with the same lighting, except it seems to have about a thousand times more lights and ornaments — check out this post from last year to really see the difference. Just looking at the comparison makes me want to think up ways to make next year’s tree look even more different, just to continue the ongoing evolution of Christmas trees year after year.

Anyway, that’s the scoop on our Christmas tree this year! What about you guys — any interesting Christmas decorating adventures, baby-related or otherwise? Or any suggestions for what to add, change, or remove from the tree for next year? Feel free to share your thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday! We spent our Christmas Eve observing a couple of annual traditions, like watching A Christmas Carol with Joe’s family, and frantically wrapping presents while vowing not to procrastinate so badly next year.

Speaking of procrastination, I know I had a couple other Christmas-related things I wanted to blog about before Christmas rolled around (as hinted at in that last post) — but Christmas is here already and it appears time has run out! Though I thought I’d at least take this occasion to share our little family’s first attempt at a proper Christmas card:

2012 Christmas Card

Knowing how hard it is to get a good shot of all three of us, we actually went and had some professional portraits done, taking advantage of a November special at JCPenney Portrait Studios. It was a fun first for us, and Lillian was the star of the show with her generous smiles and easygoing attitude, though even with a month’s head start we only barely managed to send the card out to a handful of people at kind of the last minute. But there you have it — the official Hart family Christmas card design for 2012!

And on that happy note, I’ve attempted to schedule this post to be published on Christmas Day at a time when I’ll probably be celebrating with family — so if it worked and you’re reading this, here’s wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy 2013!

Holiday Lights In Our Front Windows

Continuing the saga of Christmas decorating hijinks after last week’s post about our simple personalized Christmas stockings, today I want to share the only decorations visible from the outside (aside from the tree, which you can also kind of see) — the colorful lights we put up in our front windows:

Christmas Lights in Windows

We didn’t put any lights in the front windows last Christmas, so it was kind of a fun first for our house. Since we don’t seem to have any outdoor electrical outlets (something we might have considered when we had our whole house rewiring done, if we’d been thinking ahead) we just put the lights up on the inside, where we were able to use more of those clear removable hooks that were so handy for hanging the Christmas stockings above the fireplace:

Window Christmas Light Hooks

We also tried out some plain white lights first, thinking they would fit in better with our Christmas tree, but we ended up returning them to the store. Somehow with rigging them inside our windows, the white lights seemed kind of faded — it’s a little hard to describe, but at a glance they seemed almost indistinguishable from just having some lamps on inside.

So we went back for the multicolored kind, and I think the end result feels a lot more festive. And since the lights are on the inside, Lillian can see all the pretty sparkly colors every evening, and seems quite taken with them — she points at the multicolored lights one by one, babbling in baby talk and occasionally saying things that sound suspiciously like the word “light!”

Here’s a a wider view showing some of the other lights that have gone up all around us in the neighborhood:

Christmas Light Bungalows

Clearly we have a ways to go in the curb appeal department, but at least we’re not the only dark Scroogey house in a long row of houses with bright happy light displays in their front yards and bushes and windows!

So that’s part 2 of this year’s holiday decorating saga — there’s more to come, though with Christmas less than a week away we’ll see if I can actually get everything posted before the holidays are over!

First Time Meeting Santa Claus

Earlier this evening, Lillian’s daycare threw a little Christmas party for all the kids and parents, and there was a special guest — Santa Claus!

Santa Claus at Daycare

Okay, so technically I’m pretty sure it was actually the owner’s husband (or someone) in a Santa suit. Also, I should apologize for the poor quality of the photos in this post, since I didn’t have time to grab my good camera and they’re all taken with my phone.

All the kids got to sit on Santa’s lap, so naturally we wanted to let Lillan have a go. We didn’t know how she would react, and I’ve seen people post pictures of babies completely freaking out at Santa Claus — for some good examples, check out this amusing article featuring ten distinct “scientific categories” of kids being scared by Santa.

Lillian ended up falling somewhere into category #4 from the list: Slip Sliding Away. This was the only blurry picture I managed to snap before she squirmed her way off his lap:

Attempted Santa's Lap Picture

Although it didn’t seem like she was actually afraid — she ended up just looking impishly up at Santa from the floor, so maybe she was just feeling squirmy and restless.

Baby Looking Up At Santa Claus

Santa was a good sport about it in any case.

Santa Claus Looking Down

Baby Looking at Santa Claus

All the kids got little presents from Santa afterwards, and Lilly ended up getting a pack of crayons and a miniature coloring book — fun and educational, though we should probably be extra careful that she doesn’t eat the crayons or some such, haha.

Anyway, that’s the story of Lillian’s first time meeting Santa Claus! What about you guys — any stories of babies or kids meeting Santa Claus and reacting in interesting ways? Did you enjoy the top 10 article, or see any amusing photos or articles around the web lately? Feel free to share your stories or links in the comments!

Simple Personalized Christmas Stockings

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been busy decorating the tree, hanging stockings, stringing up lights, taking holiday photos, shopping for gifts, and otherwise being distracted by preparations in the lead-up to Christmas (which is now less than two weeks away!) So in an effort to bring some of this holiday excitement to the blog, the next few posts will take a look at some of our festive hijinks this year.

For today’s installment, I wanted to share the simple personalized Christmas stockings we hung above our fireplace. We didn’t hang any Christmas stockings last year, and while we probably won’t end up stuffing them with goodies or anything, it seemed like it would be fun to hang some this year just for decoration purposes.

So I picked up some plain red and white stockings from Michaels, and added our names in glittery paint across the top. Here’s how they turned out:

As the title of this post suggests, they’re very simple, and we didn’t add any other decoration to the classic red and white stockings. The names are written in a glittery silver dimensional fabric paint from the t-shirt section, which seems to stand out well enough from the white. And it may have been a bit reckless, but I just squeezed the paint straight out of the bottle like a pen instead of trying to plan or outline anything first — luckily there were no horrible typos made!

Christmas Stocking Crafts

The bigger question than how to personalize the stockings was how to hang them, since we didn’t want to damage the fireplace itself, so we ended up going with removable Command brand damage-free hanging hooks. They’re the clear plastic ones which don’t stand out much at all, and it’s nice knowing they won’t leave marks on the polished wooden mantel.

Christmas Stocking Hooks

All in all it was a fun, quick, simple little craft project — and having personalized stockings hung over the fireplace adds a little extra fun, festive Christmas vibe to the room.

And speaking of which, the above photo shows a sneak peek of this year’s Christmas tree, which has been a ton of fun to put together — but I’m planning another post with all the details there. Stay tuned for more holiday-themed bloggings to follow shortly!