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by Karen Legge

Genetically Modified Christmas Squirrels

That special time of year is beginning to tease us with the twinkle of lights.

The nights are dark and the heating is ramping up. Malls are dangling their baubles and wares in the path of shoppers. Christmas is on its way – in two months.

Despite Hallowe’en and Bonfire night having barely been put to bed, I’ve decided to be on it this year. With Harry being the ripe old age of two, I get the feeling he will show a little more interest in the whole razzle dazzle of the season if not quite understanding the concept. Although disgracefully early, shops are beginning to stock Christmas decorations and I am determined that this year, my tree will be ‘department store chic’. There are a few issues with this though that I feel I need to explore.

Theme. Step through the doors of John Lewis, Myers, Saks or whichever swanky store you are represented by nationally and you will be hit by the beauty of co-ordinated colours, delicate lights and thematic genius. From entire Nutcracker suites to giant candy canes, the best stores are a visual treat in their meticulous design.

Last year I decided I would break out of the mould of simple gold baubles. Living on the edge of the forest, I decided to introduce some woodland wonder to our slightly tired-looking tree. It was late in the season so I jumped on the inter-web and went about ordering some sparkly forest critters.

My first port of call was ‘The Range’, a discount shop that fully embraces all things tinsel. A couple of hedgehogs, some gold wire stags and some little, gold squirrels were put in the online bag. I was mightily pleased with my purchases, until they arrived. What I thought were delicate little furry forest dwellers were massive, genetically modified and hideously glittery beasts that would cause nightmares if they tried to steal your nuts!

Size is everything. These were the size of a small mammal

My advice to you. Always try before you buy! Avoid shopping online for decorations unless you want to cause childhood trauma. This year I have managed to source some more natural looking creatures first-hand, as well as some delicate, gold acorns and mushrooms. Let’s face it though – the squirrels will be going back up for comedy value. People won’t be queuing to visit our Christmas Dreamland but it will be a little more exciting than a few gold baubles.

Animal Interference. Let’s be fair – a tree with dangly bits, lights and sparkles is like a kitty-cat soft play. Each year, armed with a tiny water pistol, I fight the endless battle of trying to remind them with a cheeky squirt, that the tree is not to be messed with (whilst trying to avoid soaking the electrical sockets). Inevitably this is what I get:

Yes, that is an overweight Iris, snuggled halfway up our fake tree, bending all the hinged branches out of place. And yes, she was quite comfortable up there. Away from her bullish brother, Arnold; away from the pokes and prods of a one-year old. Alas, there is now an Iris-shaped hole where she once sat.

I suppose he could be described as an animal – with the current terrible twoness it’s a fairly accurate summary at times – but there’s also toddler interference to consider. Baubles are just too tempting to leave on the tree. Unfortunately I can’t really use the water pistol to remind Harry to leave them where Mumma has artfully placed them (or can I…) but I know it will be on on-going challenge to stop him from destroying my creation. There will be no chocolate Santas being hung, that’s for sure – they wouldn’t survive past breakfast.

This year we have retired the tree, thanks to Iris’s remodelling and sagely, I bought a new false tree in the post-Crimbo garden-centre sale for half price. No real tree I hear you cry – let me reiterate, cats-playground-toddler – it’s a recipe for twenty-four hour vacuuming to cope with the shedding!

Handcrafted Goodies. My final issue with Christmas home dressing is a tricky one. I love Harry more than life itself but he is no Terence Conran of the homes world. I have my theme; colours are cemented and designs are limited, but I know he will come back from nursery with some ‘special’ bits he’s made with bog rolls and tissue paper. Even I am guilty of killing an hour on a Saturday decorating some wooden shapes with paint and glitter glue. I have to support his artistic development and celebrate his beautiful crafting – but on my tree? Really?

We need some kind of compromise here. Harry-craft and department store chic are just not a happy marriage but I must celebrate his efforts (or those of Kirby Jo and Elle at the nursery as they painstakingly glued on the tissue paper to ‘Harry’s’ giant bauble). Simple. We will have two trees. The sitting room will house my enchanted forest and the playroom will be home to all the tat I have been forced to buy to stave off meltdown (namely the glittery trains) and all of Harry’s artistic endeavours.

I know many of you have been looking for alternative Christmas entertainment this year for your little people. If you’re tired of Santa trains and Elven grottos than once we hit advent I’ll make tickets available to visit the Genetically Modified Christmas Dingly Dell. Move over John Lewis – there’s a new display in town (insert laughing emoji).

When did your little people start taking an active interest in Christmas? Any design tips or tree security advice you are willing to share?

Written by Karen Legge for her blog, The Unyoung Mum.
Follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.
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