Oh well. I love this time of year and I'm just glad it's here. I was somewhat ahead of the game this time, though. I actually didn't pack away the advent wreath like usual. Every single year I say to myself, "Nancy, DON'T pack away the Advent Wreath...you'll need that sooner than any of the other decorations". And every single year, I pack it away. Then, I have to go digging through all six boxes and it's always in the last one I try! Not this time. Haha!....I just put on the shelf in my closet and was able to go right to it! Whew! That was a load off my mind.
There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate the season of Advent. I've spent hours reading blogs and visiting special websites. I've copied, bookmarked, and printed tons of ideas. I wish I had the time and money to try them all. The thing is, if I did try them all...or...did more than I do....I might miss the meaning of these special activities. It's taken me many years to realize that I can't do everything! I want our family to grow in faith and love as we anticipate the birth of the Savior!
As my kids get older, it's harder to keep them focused on anything but what's under the tree on Christmas morning. They are kids that live in a world that is very "me" focused and full of all the material things you could possibly dream of. As Catholics, it's my job to understand and teach my children that while we live "in" the world, we are not "of" it. Setting limits and making decisions ahead of time really helps.
Even as an adult, I can easily become overwhelmed. When I take my focus off of Christ, my 3 page list of things to get done...remains just that...things to be done. When I focus on EMMANUEL, God WITH us....I can then enjoy the preparation and the traditions. I still have my list of things to do, but I can do them with a sense of anticipation and a sense of purpose.
We do very few things for Advent...but they are meaningful and the kids love them. We added one new thing this year and the jury is still out on whether or not we will make it an annual part of our season. Here's what we do:
1. Advent Wreath: This is the second year in a row we are using real candles for our wreath. In the past, we've used a fabric one that worked just fine. We light the candle each night and read a short meditation. We've allowed Nathan the privilege of lighting it! It allows him to feel important as an up and coming "man" of the house and the girls look at him in "awe" as he maneuvers the lighter.
2. Advent Calendar: It's tradition in our family that my mother-in-law bring us an Advent Calendar.
While we love to open the window and see the symbol or read the scripture passage...there was always a fight as to which one of the kids was going to open the door. You've got to know that in my house EVERYTHING is a competition! So, to combat the arguing, I found these calendars on sale at Hobby Lobby! I bought 3 so that everybody had there own. As a matter of fact, these actually have pieces of chocolate behind the doors! I also bought one without the chocolate....just because I thought the picture was gorgeous!
3. Jesse Tree: This is the one thing that we added this year! I've always wanted to have a Jesse Tree but I've just never taken the time. About two weeks ago, I found a pattern for the ornaments that really looked easy and doable for me! Once I printed them out, added the backing, colored them and then got the laminated, it was easy. I found the pattern here. Since these pictures were taken, I've also punched holes at the top and used ribbon for hanging. I've decided not to have a separate tree....we'll just hang them on our Christmas tree.
4. Christmas Countdowns: Although the following little activities are technically "Advent Calendars", I call them countdowns because there is no scripture reading involved. These are just a couple of fun things that I've found through the years that make it exciting for the kids. The first picture is of a freebie from Simple Schooling. They are currently doing a series called "The 12 Days of Freebies". The second photo is of a magnet nativity scene. Each day you put out a new piece.
Another tradition we have is that we purchase a new family ornament every year! I usually get them at large annual Christmas craft show called Christmas Made in the South! This is the ornament that I chose for 2011:
We also love handmade ornaments. I made this cross several years ago. I bought a kit and as it turned out, these ornaments were much harder to make than I thought. So a dear friend finished them for me. This is the only one I made! And this year I found a coloring book with these stained glass looking pages. We used markers instead of crayons. I think they turned out nice!
Happy 2nd week of Advent, my friends!