Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Calendar Brain Dump

Happy December all!  Hope this post finds you well and full of the joy this season brings.  So basically, it's time for a dump.  A big one.  You know I'm talking about a big ol' fatty brain dump, right?  What else?  Tee he he.  This here brain dump is all about advent calendars.  Enjoy!

When we got married, I remember thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate advent when we had a little buddy of our own.  We do celebrate advent in honor of Christ’s birth…and in gratitude for the gift that He is to us, and this alone deserves our focus and attention…our spirits overwhelmed with joy.  But as a parent, there is also a gift…a joy…that comes in celebrating this time of year with a little one in the house.  It’s magical, and I don't know about you, but I think everyone enjoys a little magic this time of year.

It truly is a precious gift to enjoy this season with Cooper, and seeing his excitement for this time of year melts my heart a little more each day.  He is four, and I am doing my best to treat this time of year with perspective.  I pray he will truly understand why we celebrate Christmas more deeply each year, which will in turn help him understand and deepen his faith in Christ.  I pray that the yuck of this world will not overshadow the great gift of Christ in his heart.  I pray he will enjoy the sweet anticipation of Christmas time, and the love and closeness it brings.  I pray we will make memories that will last into adulthood and bring him smiles and giggles for a lifetime.

So when it finally did come time to create a celebration of advent in our house, I actually was a little overwhelmed.  It's kind of my personality...decisions and decisions...where there's lots of exciting choices...we aren't great friends.  I wanted to do them all.  Ha!  Time for a brain dump.

Of course, I am by no means an Advent Calendar expert (as if I even needed to make that statement), but because enough folks asked me, I thought I’d just spill it...all the little tidbits and thoughts running through my head in regard to advent calendars...for kicks and giggles and future reference really!  Please let me add disclaimer is as follows:  my brain is mush…total and complete mush as of lately...who am I kidding?!...ALL.THE.TIME.  So I’m dumping the ideas that have stuck with me…through the muck and mush that is my brain...all the while knowing I’m unintentionally leaving out a bunch of great stuff that I've seen or thought of in the past.  Seriously.  But what can ya do?!  I may end up coming back to this post often...adding some goodies here or there...if my mushy brain remembers.

So here goes...time for the dumping!  

A few Advent Calendars standouts in my mind...

Christmas Countdown Drawer Unit
There is no denying that there is something magical about opening a drawer to find a little treat or surprise…knowing it comes each day in anticipation of Christmas.  So fun to do for sweet treats, an activity card for the day, scripture card, all of the above…lots of ways to enjoy this.


Little Gift Box for Each Day
This might be my favorite.  This could be a large cubby/shelf/box/something with 25 different compartments filled with 25 cute little boxes wrapped up festively.  If 25 boxes are too hard to come by (or if space is limited or for any other reason), just find one awesome box, make it look special, and fill it each night with whatever you choose…treats, scripture, activity card, a little gift, or all of the above.  I don't think I'm into buying 25 pieces of junk for my son each year.  That's not what I'm getting at.  But I think that having something to open...that looks special and festive...creates a sense of fun and whimsy...anticipation and joy.  It doesn't matter what's inside the box/es...that's up to you and your family.  But little boxes begging to be opened...they sure are joy bringers.

Paper Chain Christmas Countdown
Some write scripture or activities on the back of each chain link, so that as the little buddies wake up and tear off a chain link, they find the surprise fun for the day.  Fun and easy...this little craft could be in addition to your advent activities or just something totally separate.

Ornament Advent Calendar
With this, each day you remove the ornament from the corresponding day and add it to the tree.  Some ornaments could correspond nicely with a special activity for the day…like a music note for caroling, nutcracker for going to the show, etc.  I also think it would be fun to hang daily scripture on the number cards, telling the story of Christmas in little chunks leading up to Christmas.  


Scripture Advent Calendar
Each day leading up to Christmas, you read a scripture pertaining to the Christmas story.  Love, love this.  That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.  This could be scripture cards or tags…open up a special box with scripture and gift/ornament inside…lots of different ways to celebrate the Christmas Story.  With Cooper, I'm aiming to break down the Christmas story in bigger chunks.  I really want him to understand.  Maybe the "12 Days" leading up to Christmas?  Not sure...still trying to nail this down.  I'd love to do an advent scripture reading each night with him...but I haven't started yet.  Hmmm...seeking lots of ideas and ways to do this...looking forward to getting started.  Here's one example.

Christmas Book Surprise Advent Calendar
In this tradition, 24 Christmas books are wrapped up and placed under the tree to be read each day leading up to Christmas.  Each day/night, you open a book and read it.  I imagine you could wrap them up with scripture tags or ornaments attached to hang on the tree as well if you'd like...adding to the excitement.  So fun.  Actually, I am a Christmas book lover!  Love, love, love.  I’ve collected Christmas books for years, so we read a couple Christmas books almost daily during this time.  So instead of enjoying Christmas books as a part of our advent activities, I like to keep a big basket of Christmas books out in the open, so we can grab and enjoy throughout the month.

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Along with a “calendar,” this time of year offers so many fun activities to enjoy…as a family or with friends.  Really, the list is endless.  If you just do a Google search or scour Pinterest…ask friends…think about all the things you already enjoy doing this time of year...think about what your community offers…look into giving opportunities…boom…there are a million ideas.  The nice thing is, you can tailor the activities to suit the needs of your family...and keep a running list to pull from each year.
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In trying to keep things simple (for my own sanity and because my arthritis is flaring up lately...which can make ordinary days feel a little overwhelming), the following are our plans and activities for this year’s advent calendar (included in a little drawer unit written on a card accompanied by a treat and an occasional gift)…amongst a huge long list of options that I hope to add to and draw from each year.  I left a ton of crafts and little projects out this year, just because there were literally SO MANY, and it felt like I was trying to squeeze in too much.  MORE JOY, LESS STRESS.  I want to celebrate this time and not feel frantically crazy (although I already kind of do...oops!).  I figure...I'll plan a few activities and crafts...and then add some more in if and when we have the time and opportunity to do so.  Yay!  Also, this year I am writing each little activity card the night before...making things flexible for changing plans when needed.  Also, I keep a printed December calendar (started in November) on a clipboard...written in pencil with important information so as to keep track of things and easily glance ahead or mix things up a bit (without having to go through the whole drawer unit moving around cards...can you imagine?!).  Helps so much!

Here we go!!!

Cooper literally ran to our room and jumped on our bed the morning of December 1st.  He had been counting the sleeps until "advent calendar" time.  He was so excited!  Seriously, I thought maybe I slept through December and woke up Christmas morning...he was that excited.  I will never forget it.  Melted my exhausted and sleep deprived heart.  So worth it.  Each day, we've got something planned...some days more eventful than others.  All in good fun.

1. Get and decorate a tree…Special Gift: new Christmas/wintery pjs to enjoy all season long!


2. Make a wish list...Although we don’t really push the idea of Santa…Coop has seen enough from shows, the mall, songs, and the like that the idea of Santa has stuck…and he insisted on writing a letter TO SANTA.  I’m letting it go, and will do my best to treat Santa tenderly…just smiling while Coop is having fun with the idea.  Here is a previous post I wrote in regard to celebrating Santa as a Christian.  It still resonates with me big time.  At the same time...DEAR SANTA, PLEASE MAKE THAT THREE!  ON GUARD!!!  LOVE, COOPER'S MOMMY AND DADDY

3. Make Snowflakes...a bit of a this activity held Cooper's attention for all of about 2 minutes.  Ah well.  I had fun!

4. Shop for our church’s giving tree...Cooper had fun choosing the canned soups!  Still need to find a warm jacket for a young man and wrap up a pair of sparkly TOMS for a dear Mom's wish.

5. Bake Something Yummy:  Zucchini bread…special request from Coop as of lately.
6. Christmas Craft...Reindeer Craft (LAST YEAR)
7. Christmas movie and popcorn…The Grinch (LAST YEAR)
8. Family Christmas Party with Gmama and Poppy...Special Gift: Red pillowcases to make Coop’s room feel Christmasy
9. Shopping in the Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision catalogs (LAST YEAR, AND AGAIN LAST YEAR)…Coop already had some funds set aside and some ideas from earlier this fall.
10. Bake cookies (LAST YEAR)...Special Gift: Cool Hot Wheels Superman racecar
11. Read the legend of The Three Trees and make up an art project to go with it…still need to finalize this…just making this one up...need to choose which version of the legend to tell.  Hmmm...
12. Cookie Swap (LAST YEAR'S)…Special Gift:  New cookie plate
13. Drive around to see Christmas lights
14. Hot Chocolate and Christmas movie…The Polar Express (LAST YEAR)
15. Lunch at our favorite family restaurant…possible Christmas shopping as a family (LAST YEAR)
16.  Silly Christmas hate pictures (LAST YEAR)…Special Gift: Christmas book
17. Special cookie for dessert…Coop will need it after his 4 year Well Child Visit…shots!!!
18: Bring treats to neighbors (LAST YEAR)
19. Visit real reindeer…Special Gift: Fun socks
20. Special Christmas outing in Seattle with family
21. Dinner with friends and a Christmas show
22. Make Gingerbread Houses 
23. Venture to Nana and Papa’s for a slumber party (I’m assuming here)…Special Gift: New Christmas books from his preschool Scholastic order
24. Christmas Eve festivities…Special Gift:  New Christmas pjs (LAST YEAR)
25. Merry Christmas (LAST YEAR)
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Praying you and your family are enjoying this season with love, laughter, and hearts of gratitude.

Big hugs,

PS - Now I remember why I cut way back on blogging.  After typing up this post, I tried to get up and was all hunched over and stiff.  Eeeek!  Yuck!  Sitting at the computer is not a strength of mine as of lately.  Whew!  Guess I better get up and start moving!

PPS - I'm sure there are lots of typos and run on sentences and all sorts of whackadoodle things going on in this post.  I'm letting it go.  Feels good.  Hope you can sift through it to find something helpful!

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