Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Counting to Christmas

I'm a big fan of Christmas. There's not much I don't like about it (except for maybe the excessive amounts of consumerism, but that's a post for a different day). One of my *new* favorite things about this time of year is creating new traditions for my boys, and for us as a family.

One of the things that I remember doing when I was kid was an Advent calendar. For my brothers and me, that meant hanging a new felt ornament on a felt tree every morning. Cute, right? Very. So cute that that was what I wanted to do for my kids. So the Christmas before Drew was born I bought an Advent calendar - a kit, made up of felt and sequins, that I would make for my children to countdown the days to Christmas.

Well. That was four years ago. And that kit? Well, I think it's safe to say that my grandchildren will enjoy it very much because that's how long it will take me to finish it!

I digress. Anyway.

In addition to wanting to do an Advent activity of some sort, I've also been very burdened lately with the concepts of gratitude and generosity. I don't know if it's just this time of year, having just celebrated "Thanks"giving, or if it's because I'm more aware than I have ever been about the depravity in the world. Whatever it is, it's weighing on me. I almost feel like God has this chorus of "Do something. Do something." running through my mind and my heart and my soul. I don't know how to explain it. I see so much need in the world that is dying (sometimes literally) to be met. I see how much I have and, unfortunately, how much more I think I need. I have been so attune to these values lately, and the burden to teach my children to not only be grateful, but to be generous as well.

So how do I do this? How do I begin to teach my children, especially at Christmas but also throughout the year and throughout their lives, to do something? To be grateful and to give generously?

Well, obviously through example. This is as much a teaching experience for me as it is for them.

How do I make it tangible? Especially to a three and a half year old and a 20 month old?

Well, thank the good Lord for the World Wide Web! There's a wealth of information online (shocker, right?) and in all my scrapbooking/crafting/mommy bloggers bloghopping, I've seen tons of new ideas for Advent (and a gazillion other things). And while I like to sew, I'm definitely a paper crafter at heart. And how wonderful to combine paper crafts, Advent, and doing something all in one! YAY!

The original idea for this came from Ali Edwards' post HERE. But the basic idea is to create an Advent calendar that prompts us to do something. That something could be a traditional holiday activity, like reading a Christmas story or baking cookies or making gifts. But a portion of our activities should also involve practicing gratitude (making a list of 10 things we are thankful for, pre-writing thank you notes for all those gifts we'll receive) and practicing generosity (emptying the pantry and taking goods to the food shelf, being someone's Secret Santa just because).

This is how I've adapted Ali's idea for our family.

I made these ornaments (from pretty Christmas paper, of course!), numbered from 1-24.

We have a small tree on our dinner table where all the ornaments hang.

Each morning, Drew will find that day's number, counting the days until Christmas (for example, today (December 1) he'll find #24 as there are 24 days left until Christmas).

On the back of that ornament will be our Advent action for the day, whether it be a fun craft project or an act of generosity. Then, sometime during our day, we'll complete our task together.

Some of our activities will take some planning, like making sure Santa will be at the mall when the ornament reads "go visit Santa Claus," or making sure I have all the ingredients for baking cookies. I want to be sure that all of our activities are do-able the day that Drew pulls the ornament from the tree.

My hope is that we can all gain a little perspective, and begin a life-long appreciation for what we have, as well as being acutely aware of how much we have to give.

It's a start, anyway.

And I'll admit that while I'm so looking forward to what the boys will learn, I also know how much it is going to teach me, as well.

{OH, by the way, I have four more days to fill! I've run short on please share, especially those that serve someone else in some way!}

{I hope to post our daily Advent actions, but you know how that goes. I'll post when I can!}

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