Tonight Sophie and I went to get haircuts. At 6:42pm I received an e-mail on my phone with the subject line: “Dinner is going well.” I opened it and saw this:

And at 6:48pm I received another e-mail with the subject line: “Even better now.” And then there was this:

We’re having a rough week.

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket

Oh, Christmas Tree


This year we bundled up the kids and drove a few miles south to Hilltop Pines in Camp Springs, KY to cut our Christmas tree. Much like Neltner’s Farm & Greenhouses (a neighbor to Hilltop), this tree farm was super low-key—no Santas, no hot cocoa, no barn full of merchandise—just a saw, some dogs roaming about, lots of hills and lovely, $25 trees.


It was a beautiful farm.


But note the name: Hilltop. I suppose we should have assumed there would be hills to climb. Maybe we did but we didn’t really think about it, the logistics of it with three children, a sharp saw and a Christmas tree. In fact, when we started our trek up the hill, we still didn’t know how we were going to make it back down. We just started walking.


Up we went.


On the way, we posed for pictures. Sophie is annoyed in this picture because we were carrying the boys, and not her. She struggled up the hill and complained about tired legs. But the hill was so steep that if we put the boys down to walk—which they very much wanted to do—they simply fell backwards. Which, truth be told, was quite funny to witness, especially with all their winter gear on. But I feel guilty for typing that. I think, as their mother, I wasn’t supposed to laugh as much as I did when we tried to put them down and they both toppled backwards, down the hill a bit.



Along the way we stopped at a barn and watched a farmer feed some cows.



The boys loved this.


Another break for a posed picture. Sophie is much happier here, because we’re at the top of the hill. And yet this is when she decides she has to pee. We have yet to pick out a tree. It’s freezing. The bathroom is a Porta Potty all.the.way.back.down.

“Can you hold it?” I ask.

Sophie gives me a panicked look.

“OK,” I say.

I knew it would be impossible for one of us to handle both boys and the saw on the steep hill. So I agreed to take Sophie and James back down while Owen and Andy looked for a tree. Down, down, down we went, all the while me pleading with Sophie to hold it.

Have you ever tried to fit three people in a Porta Potty? Even when two of them are half-sized, it’s amazingly difficult. So difficult that I actually took everyone in and then brought everyone out, wondering if there was someone who could hold James for me before deciding that was crazy irresponsible. So back in all three of us went.

Sophie really had to pee at this point and for some reason that meant taking off her mittens, scarf, hat and winter coat. Before I could stop her I was holding all these items and James—and I still had to lift her on the seat. So I put James down. He immediately walked over to the urinal and started rubbing his hands all over it, while I just kept yelling “Don’t touch anything!” over and over. He, of course, just looked at me and smiled while inspecting this thing he has never seen that was attached to the wall.

Finally we emerged. I sanitized everyone’s hands, put all of Sophie’s winter gear back on and back up the hill we trekked.


Andy had (thankfully) found a tree.


The children approved.


We cut it down.


I carried both boys while Andy carried the saw and dragged tree on the steep part. And then, when the ground evened out, we all walked, much to the boys’ delight.


Sophie was thrilled with her candy canes.


The boys were thrilled with their muddy jeans.


Once home we realized how short our tree was—and yet perfect for the only place we had for it, a small corner in our dining room.


The kids helped test the lights. (And yes, that’s a hole in the back of Owen’s hair. We thought we’d start taking the boys to the local barber shop that Andy goes to, saving the nice salon visits with Nicholena for Sophie and me. The hole wasn’t the barber’s fault. It was the screaming, flailing child’s fault. The barber, who has been cutting hair in Fort Thomas for years and years and years, felt awful. But seriously, I don’t understand how the rest of Owen’s haircut turned out so normal looking, the way he was thrashing about. In fact, I’m surprised he didn’t lose an ear.)



We decorated. The boys undecorated.


Sophie put the star on top.


Despite everything, it was a beautiful tree. (But aren’t they all?)

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” —Larry Wilde

James’s First Haircut




Poor James. His first haircut was so different than Sophie’s. Andy and I drove separately as I was getting my hair cut and colored by the wonderful Nicholena (at Mitchell’s in Northgate if you’re looking for someone) after James had his haircut. But Andy had to get gas and then got stuck in traffic so I arrived ahead of him, with all three kids, by myself. I held Owen while trying to take pictures of James one-handed and keep Sophie calm. About three minutes in Sophie, of course, had to use the bathroom. So I took Owen and Sophie with me to the women’s restroom, leaving James with Nicholena. James did well at first, but then started screaming, not knowing where any of us were. So Nicholena graciously brought him in to me.

Andy finally made it (although he missed most of the haircut) and in the chaos I completely forgot to ask for a lock. So now Sophie and Owen have a lock of hair in marked envelopes from their first haircuts, and James does not. Even though he’s not technically the youngest, sometimes, I feel like it works out that way for him. I was so tempted to cut a lock of hair off the back of his head on my own, once home, but Andy convinced me not to. I’ll just save one next time. And James, if you’re reading this 20 years from now, I’m sorry.

“O, would ye know why thus I prize this little lock of hair,
Why thus I press it to my heart, and treasure it with care?” —Jane Ermina Locke

Owen’s 1st Haircut





Someday I imagine Owen twisting his head away from me, pleading me to stop running my fingers through his hair. But he can’t talk yet. And he doesn’t twist yet. And I love his hair. (Even when sticky with cereal bar in it.) It’s thick. And shiny. And there’s now enough of it that if you put him to bed too soon after a bath, he wakes up with parts of it sticking up and out and away. I realize that, to strangers, this simply looks like bad parenting. (Doesn’t that mother own a brush?) But I find it terribly endearing.

People started saying, “Have you cut his hair?” “His hair is so long!” “He needs a haircut.” (Andy, especially.) I ignored them. In part, because I loved his hair the way that it was. Shorter meant less material to run my fingers through. But also, in part, because it took so long for Sophie to grow her hair. I wasn’t used to a baby of mine needing a haircut so early, so young (and yet, he’s 1!).

Nicholena, who cuts my hair—and Sophie’s hair—carefully trimmed Owen’s shiny hairs as he sat on Andy’s lap. I took one-handed pictures, while trying to calm a tearful James in my other arm and convince Sophie that she didn’t have to go potty just yet (it was a different experience from Sophie’s first haircut).

He was so good. And when finished, he looked so much … older. More little boy. Less baby. But he’s not twisting away. Yet.

“Why don’t you get a haircut? You look like a chrysanthemum.” —P. G. Wodehouse