Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Advent Preparations: Part 1

There are several things we are doing around here to prepare for this Advent season.  For instance, we will put up our tree this Friday, instead of fighting the crowds at the mall.  We will have a slow morning and hopefully a slow day in the house together listening to music and eating left overs!

Then starting December 1st, we will begin our newly created Advent Traditions for our family.  Since I didn't grow up celebrating Advent, I've been learning from friends' families, from suggestions on facebook and Pinterest and just searching my heart and scripture for what is truly important.  Here, I'll just list out a couple of things I have done or will be doing this year.

1.  I sent out the 2nd annual email to Lucas' grandparents casting vision for what I'd like his Christmas memories to be about... family gatherings, learning to anticipate Jesus' coming, as well as not bombarding him with every toy a boy could ever want, but certainly does not need.  I gave them a few ideas I have for things that would be helpful and beneficial to him... some toys and some activities... if they felt inclined to donate to :)

2. I've created an Advent Calendar of sorts.  See this post for details.

3.  I stole this idea from this mom.  Because it's a good one.  I'm collecting a children's  Christmas book for each day of Advent.  Lucas will get to unwrap and read one each day.  I've found several at the library and several at Half Price Books.  You'd be surprised how difficult it is to find stories about Jesus rather than Santa, but they are out there!  It wouldn't be fiscally responsible right now for me to buy them all, so we may do a few repeats.  But since repetition of the story is what this is all about... he'll love it!  If you like this idea, the above listed blogger has a huge list of books on that link.  She also has a million more Advent ideas.  I've found a few others books: The Little Drummer Boy by Kristina Redams; Little Porcupine Christmas by Joseph Slate; One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson, Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield; One Winter's Night by Leo and Diane Dillon; The First Night by BG Hennessy; The Christmas Star by Igloo Books and The Christmas Story by Igloo Books.  Just use your own discretion when sharing any story that includes details not directly from the Bible... like the Little Drummer Boy.  But this book made me cry!

A few that I've found so far!

4. We will say our Advent Prayers each night.  When Lucas is with us, we will use this Children's Devotional called Welcome Baby Jesus.  I've never used it before but it looks fun.  We will light our Advent candles and all say things we are thankful for and things we sacrificed that day... like sharing a toy with a friend, or Daddy working longer than he wanted to so that the family will be provided for.  For each thanks and each sacrifice said, we will put a (yet-to-be-created/bought) trinket into a treasure box for Jesus for his birthday.

This all may sound like a lot.  It might be too much.  We will adjust as needed.  But I'm hoping to simply incorporate it all into our daily activities to help us focus our hearts and minds on Christ's coming.  And in the end may we all cry out in a deeper way... "Come Lord Jesus!"

My Advent Preparations Part 2: The Easy Peasy Advent Calendar

Since, I'm doing absolutely nothing to help prepare for the Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, I've been spending my time planning for Advent, "The Arrival".

Part II of this post will focus primarily on our Advent Calendar.

I've been searching and searching for the "appropriate-for-my-family's-needs" Advent Calendar and for activities to include in it.  When I say "appropriate for my family", I mean a lot of things.                  

1. Personality... I'm not the super, crafty, do-it-yourself-er who enjoys all that craftiness and I'm okay with that.  2. Time... this year we are stretched for time and energy.  I needed and wanted something easy and inexpensive.  Each of us has to find what works best for our families and for our own capabilities during these coming weeks.

So, here's what I found at Garden Ridge yesterday:

A big box!

That holds lots of little small boxes!

I didn't have to make a thing!  Well, except the numbers!

And all for less than $20!!!  I did print out stencils for the numbers.  Then cut them out and glued them onto the boxes.  I wish I had kept looking for more stencils online because soon after mine were complete, I found these.  They would have been quite a bit easier!

Now, I'm trying to compile a list of activities to be included into these cute little boxes!  I stole most of these from friends on facebook, Pinterest and Google searches!  Some are silly, some are very intentional teaching moments, some are simply about family being together.  I have ONE purpose in doing an advent calendar for Lucas and our family.  That purpose is to create longing and anticipation in our hearts.  The world ached and groaned for Christ's first coming.  I want to feel that.  And today, the Earth and all of our hearts tremble for His Second Coming. I want to be aware of the anticipation in my heart.  Advent means "The Arrival".  I want to wait longingly for his coming Arrival.  And I want to help create that for Lucas.  And together we'll pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."  Each day, as Lucas opens a box, he'll anticipate what's in it and what we are going to do that day.  Then I will talk about how every day, in that same way, we long for and expect Jesus to come for us.

With all that said, here's my list.  They are not quite in order yet and I have more than 25.  I'll arrange them best with our weekly schedule and move things around as needed.  If I stick to this 80%, I'll feel great about it.  And one thing to note: we don't do Santa Clause at our house.  Ask if you'd like more explanation on that, but notice I'm celebrating St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th.  And that's why some of my calendar boxes have Santa on them... but we call him St. Nicholas :)

1. Go to  Mozart’s for special dessert and hot chocolate.  It's a coffee/dessert shop on the lake and they have great lights up already!  

2. A new Christmas coloring book

3. Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2

4. Make Christmas cards for Friends and Family 

5. Make a card for our mail person 

6.     Celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th; Buy a gift on the Any Baby Can Wish-List  and deliver it to them

7.     Make and Decorate Cookies- deliver them to neighbors and the mail person with cards

8.     Order a pizza and watch a Christmas movie together; make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes

9.     Feed the ducks at the pond and go to our church’s Christmas party

10. Make a Christmas Ornament and take Christmas Pictures at school

11. Make “goody” bags for the homeless and pass them out from our car

12. Make a Ginger Bread house

13. Have a tea time

14. Make a card for someone who doesn’t have a lot of family around and invite them to come to one of our upcoming activities with us

15. Go see the lights on 37th Street in Austin and go to across the street to Amy’s ice cream

16. Lower our heat for a day and pray for those who don't have heat at all.  

17.  Make a pine cone bird feeder to feed the animals around us.

18.  Make paper snowflakes and hang them in our windows.  Check these out: Easy ones for kids

19. Ride the MetroRail and meet a family member or friend downtown for brunch and/or the Children's Museum.  Annie's is my favorite!

20. Make a ginger bread house or a ginger bread nativity

21. Go to Trail of Lights with family!   Trail of Lights Schedule!  The 21st is Caroling night! Begin building our nativity set by adding the angel.

22. Make a full traditional breakfast and play Christmas music.  Add the wise men to the nativity

23. The Element Express!  See here for this fabulous idea!  Add the animals to the nativity.

24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.  Add Joseph and Mary to the nativity.

25. Remember It’s Christmas Day.  We have a family who loves us, and Jesus has come for us… He is the most important gift of all.  Add baby Jesus to the nativity.  Open gifts and spend the day celebrating with family.

Other activities:
    1.     Take family photos
    2.     Make the house smell like Christmas
    3.     Make a list of things you are thankful for
    4.     Go get warm donuts at Krispy Kremes
    5.     Find Mistletoe and hang it in your house
    6.     Buy a stranger’s coffee or meal
    7.     Finding things in your home to give away to charity
    8.     Write a note to someone you appreciate
   9.      Singing carols together with family or friends

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I read Twilight! There! I said it!

Yeah, I did!  And it turns out, I'm learning, you probably did too!

Gotta say, I was a little late to this Edward Cullen party.  I just read the books about 6 weeks ago.  And, it only took about a week to read ALL FOUR books!

This summer, I got on a novel reading kick and was searching for mindless entertainment.  Life has been pretty crazy lately with lots of stress and intensity.  So, I wanted escape... albeit somewhat healthy escape as I've already tried the eating-too-much/drinking-too-much escapes and those just lead you to places you don't want to go.  When I began asking around for books to read, it turned out almost all of my girlfriends had read the whole Twilight series!  SECRETLY!  And they LOVED it!

I will admit that I had previously watched the first two movies following all the hype about this beautiful vampire.  I wasn't all that impressed.  Even with Robert what's his face.  And the acting in the first film!  Gag!  I was seriously offended when someone asked me if we named our son, whose middle name is Edward, after the books.  Uh, no.

But, I'm blogging about it now because in all honesty, reading Twilight has changed my life a little.  Before you laugh at me, let me explain... in numbered paragraph form:

1. Like I said, life has been really tough lately.  All in the last few months: I had surgery, my grandmother passed away, my husband changed jobs, I potty trained my 2 year-old (uhhm, I have a 2 year-old. That's on the list too.), and last but certainly not least, we lost 2 babies.  This summer goes down in the books for us... as ruthless and entirely harsh.  Maybe I'll write more about that later, but for now, I just want to write about Twilight!  Twilight, along with several other fiction trilogies, was the perfect escape from the emotional and physical turmoil of a hard season.  I mean, Twilight alone contains: a silly and completely unrealistic love story, a fantastical world of beautiful vampires and imprinting werewolves, fights of good-vs-evil, and in the end a pretty good "everything's going to be okay."  It was just what I needed!

2. Through learning that my girlfriends had covertly read the books, I also learned that  they are all, again secretly, pumped about the new movie coming out in November.  A few of them even keep up with whether Robert and Kristen are still together or not!  Who knew!?  Let me clarify:  We are all 30-something Christians, mostly stay-at-home moms.  I figured it was only teeny bops out there reading this stuff.  And, truthfully, I had a little judgment in my heart for the non-teeny bops who had read it.  So, I was snobbishly reluctant to buy the first book.  But I have now seen the light. Therefore, in order to pursue greater purpose in my relationships with my friends (wink), I have organized a movie marathon so we can all be ready for the release next month of Breaking Dawn Part 2!  Hey, I've only seen the first two films. This just seemed the best way to catch up!  And I get to hang out with some women I love... enjoying some silliness, a little wine, popcorn, chocolate and Jacob taking his shirt off!  In conclusion, Twilight has scratched the surface in deepening my relationships! (wink, wink)

3. At the end of the Kindle version of the books is a transcript of an interview between another author and Stephenie Meyer, Twilight author, in case you didn't know!  I never read these things at the ends of books, but for whatever reason, I read this one.  She is (or was) a stay-at-home mom of  three young children.  She didn't consider herself a writer and had only sporadically written a few things casually.  One night when her youngest was barely one year old, she had a dream.  Her very detailed dream was the scene between Edward and Bella in the meadow... yeah, the one where he sparkles like diamonds in the sun!  She woke up from her dream so intrigued with the story that she just had to know what was going to happen between these two.  That morning, before swim lessons and while knowing she should have been doing other things, she sat down to write out the story.  Three months later, the first novel in the series was written in its entirety.  For some reason, this story really inspires me.  To know that another mom out there, found the time... made the time to follow a dream.  In her case a literal dream, but you know what I mean.  And whether you like the story she wrote or you make fun of it, you've gotta give the girl her props!  She's written four New York Times bestsellers and got 5 movie deals!  This woman is now a multi-millionaire. Way to go Stephenie Meyer!  I think you rock a little bit!