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