Friday, December 11, 2009

More Traditions

One thing my kids really love about this season is that we get to pull out some special things that are put away the rest of the year, namely The Polar Express. They watch it once every day, no kidding. It's like something they have to check off their list of things to do!

I bought some really cheap Advent Chocolate calendars from Trader Joe's. I haven't made a fancy Advent calendar yet for our family. Someday that will happen. But I've learned to be content with the $.99 version. It's better than nothing, and it certainly does the job of building anticipation.

I'm terrible at crafting. I can sew (usually, though recently I've wondered if I can even do that). But crafting, well, it just doesn't work for me for some reason. I've got to go get my supplies, which means fighting a line after searching endlessly for the one little thing I need. Then either it's the wrong thing, or I've spent so much time planning and purchasing that there's not time to complete the project before I lose enthusiasm over it. I've been trying to collect basic supplies throughout the year. I've been reading craft blogs, drooling over many projects, and bookmarking my favorites. Maybe there's light at the end of this tunnel? Because I really, really want to get good at this handmade thing. Anyhow, one of my goals is to craft some decorations this Christmas without having to go out and buy stuff. I feel a little accomplished that I've made a simple wreath out of a coat hanger and some fake berries I had (it's not gorgeous, but it's better than nothing). Today the kids and I made Christmas trees with pasta and cones made from paper bags and newspaper. I will paint the trees gold (when I can get to the store to buy more paint!). That may or may not happen this year, snicker, snicker. We did do those salt-dough ornaments. Wow, I feel accomplished this week!

Epiphany is like a breath of fresh air when I think about all that I could be stressed about between now and December 25th. We follow in the Church's tradition of making Epiphany (the twelfth day after Christmas) a very special gift-giving day. So if I don't have all my handmade sewn gifts ready by 12/25, I have 12 more days after that to get them done! Yay! I have been enjoying my time with my sewing machine very much these days. There has been a lot of ripping and picking out, but it's still very meditative and energizing to see projects take shape. One of my goals this year is to have several handmade gifts for my children. I will post pictures when all are completed!

All in all, I am enjoying this year's Advent season more than I ever have in years past. I feel like I've made some headway in figuring out what's necessary and what I can leave out. Time is like money--it's begging to be spent, and it's very easy to waste. I love spending my time on my family, seeing their chocolatey faces after they've sipped a mug of hot cocoa with me, singing their favorite songs with them, loving on them as much as I can. I could have the most beautifully decorated home or elaborately wrapped presents. But I don't, and I'm fine with that. I have a baby to cuddle with, and 4 more tender-hearted kids begging to sing Psalms with me, praying beautiful prayers over simple meals, growing into the kind of people that I wish I would have been at their age. God is so very good to us.

Making Memories

One huge advantage of having lots of children is that it forces me to come up with ways to make things simple! I don't have many opportunities to get out in the hustle and bustle of shoppers, which is definitely a good thing. If I do go out, it's usually with at least one kid in tow, so there's not much time for last-minute decisions. Pretty much everything has to be planned out ahead of time, which saves me from impulse buying. And of course, all shopping has to be timed just right since I have a nursing babe! Home is definitely where I love to be.

So I thought I'd share some of the things we are doing in our family this season to continue or begin traditions that we hope our children will cherish and pass on to their own families someday. All year long I frequent my favorite thrift store (yes, singular; I don't make time to make the rounds of all the ones we have around here). I have collected some really great books and toys that will become Christmas presents or things to be used throughout the Advent and Christmas season. One such book is Jotham's Journey, a storybook for Advent. Little did I know when I spotted it on the shelf what a huge impact it would have on our observation of Advent. The book is divided into different chapters for each day; it also tells you which candles to light and gives a great meditation at the end of each chapter. The story is full of suspense and excitement. I can't tell you too much--you'll just have to read it for yourself. I would have bought this book at full price had I known about it. I can't believe I got it for $.69!

We have such a long way to go in developing family traditions, but God has brought us to a very level place in our lives, a place where I feel I have so much more than I ever had in the way of meaningful celebrations, a place where I feel like I can think and plan and not feel pressured to do things like everyone else.

Thanks to our good friends Toby and Jenny, we have adopted a sort of outline of the weeks of Advent. The first week, we reflected on Fruit, specifically the fruit in Eden, Adam's fall, and Jesus as our bread and wine each week at His table.

The second week (which we are in), we have been thinking about Exile. We have gone meatless this week as a physical reminder of our own personal exile in the past (there have been months that beans were all we could afford!) and of the exile that much of our world is in spiritually and physically. Some people give up music for this week; others may choose something else. It's like a mini-lent, where we are not yet making merry but instead looking forward to the promised Redeemer. It's not supposed to be a "happy" time yet. Anyway, my menu focused on different countries each night this week. And we tried to remember to pray for the respective countries each day. One day this week we made salt dough ornaments. The kids tasted the dough and discovered it was very yucky! I used that to remind them of the unpleasantness of exile. It's not a place we love to be, for sure.

The third week is the week of Light. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do besides hang Christmas lights and light candles; maybe something to do with the Star. But it will be nice to have an exodus from our week of exile!

The next week (4th week) we will focus on Gifts. I am going to take my kids Christmas caroling (hopefully!) as a small way to give a gift to people we don't know. I plan to have our presents wrapped and out so we can look at them. And then it will be Christmas, the long-awaited Day when our Savior is worshiped as Emmanuel, God With Us!

I decided that this year I am going to try to spend less time in the kitchen on Christmas Day. It can become such a tiring day when you're trying to go all-out all by yourself, and the kids need you just as much as any other day. It's not conducive to a good attitude or a very reflective celebration. There are lots of wonderful pre-made options that still make a festive feast. I am going more for taste this year as opposed to quantity. So I have some nice cheeses and meats, as well as a pre-cooked roast that is still above and beyond our normal budgeted meat allowance. I also have some seafood, which is never hard to prepare. Along with a nice wine, and maybe a couple other easy sides, I think this feast is going to really be special and low-maintenance. I really want our children to appreciate good tastes, and to understand that God commands us to be extravagant merry-makers!

That's all for now. Maybe I'll add another installment in a day or two.