Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Part 2

 I am clearly having issues with the new blogger format.  If anyone can give me any tips on dragging pictures, I would appreciate the help!!  Here are a few pictures of early December to backtrack.  We made a cardboard castle while studying castles.  We started advent with our doughnut advent wreath tradition.  We started the Jesse Tree telling the family history of Jesus from Adam and Eve through the Bible to the coming of Jesus.  We had snacks for some of the ornaments we put on the tree like Adam's sparkling cider for the story of Adam and Eve.
 We celebrated St. Nicholas day and started our Nativity with just animals this year.  For St. Nicholas day, the kids got gold coins (because St. Nicholas left gold in secret for people who needed money), candy canes for the bishop's crozier (because he was a bishop in the 500's).   They also got notes, sticker nativities, and a little play nativity.
We celebrated early with my family this year.  Here is Grace opening her gift from us which was a small diaper bag my talented friend made for her. My brother and his wife from San Diego were there, my brother and his wife from Charleston, and my sister's family.  One brother that just moved from Chicago to Seattle was not there but we skyped while opening presents.

These pictures are of the nativity at church which is too big to get a picture of.  Brianna is in front of the elephant and wise men.  The castle is slowly getting colored.  The girls were angels and Sam was a sheep at the Christmas pageant at church.  They always enjoy that. Before going to church, we went to Heath's parents for a Christmas Eve dinner and presents.  The kids have so much fun with their cousins.


We had a great Christmas this year. My parents spent Christmas with us which was a huge help and made it even more fun. The girls got a special Christmas visit from their best friends that moved to northern Ohio in October.

They got a cardboard castle from Heath's sister which has been hours of entertainment.

Brianna only asked for elephants this year and all 3 of her santa gifts were elephants. The kids were all kind to Santa this year and he spent very little on any of them. The most expensive gift was the FAO Schwarz elephant Brianna has which was only 24.99. Leah got a lego castle from my aunt and uncle. No one even knew that we have been studying castles in history this year.

Leah got this large duck, duck pillow pet, and fur real duck. This big duck was less than $15!! Alex got a lego tractor from my aunt and uncle.

Katelyn had been saving for this American Girl doll since the summer and finally earned enough to be surprised with her on Christmas Day. I didn't think she was going to have enough but we had a little last minute Christmas Eve money from Great Grandparents. All of the other kids emptied out their piggy banks and gave her some because they really wanted her to get it. Those moments make parenting so rewarding, especially when I didn't even suggest they help Kate.

They got some notecards in their stockings and Sam got a Playmobil St. Nicholas which he loves!!

Here are our pictures after Christmas Eve mass.

Sam didn't feel like posing but Alex did!

They also made cookies with Grandma.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Advent

Most people start to celebrate Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. Some love Christmas so much that they go up in October. The lights, trees, and decorations, go up. The kids start to make lists and wait, wait, wait for gifts. I love advent and many of the ideas that my friend Erin and I have found to help celebrate advent and stress that Christmas does not come until Dec. 25th. Somewhere the true meaning gets lost. We did a presentation at church last night but I thought I would share some of the ideas that all Christians can use to help the kids focus on preparing our hearts instead of just waiting for gifts.

No one knows exactly when advent began but we have early church documents around the 2nd century that list Christmas as December 25th. This was a time when Catholic Christians were still persecuted. The Council of Tours in 567 established advent as a time of fasting and preparation and the twelve days of Christmas from the 25th to the 6th on Epiphany (when the wise men came). The advent wreath came about in the Middle Ages. The 3 purple candles symbolize penance and the pink for joy, at the halfway point.

Some ideas for celebrating advent are:
1. The Nativity:
My friend Erin gave me this idea which we are starting this year. We put our nativity on the mantle with only the animals. Mary is on our TV cabinet with the angel as she tells Mary that she will have a baby. Joseph is elsewhere and will be visited by the angel next. The 3 wise men are on a bookshelf and will begin moving toward the mantle Christmas day. The shepards will begin moving the last week before Christmas. Baby Jesus is hidden and will be put out while the kids are sleeping on the night before Christmas or first thing Christmas morning. This focuses them first on Jesus before gifts. It also uses the nativity to act out the story.
2. The Jesse Tree
The Jesse tree can be a small tree, a branch, a poster board cut out of a tree. An ornament is placed on the tree every day except Sundays during advent. The ornaments can be bought or made. The kids make a small one for our tree representing each Bible story from creation, all through Jesus' family tree. The first ornament is a world for creation, the second is a man or woman for Adam and Eve, next, an apple for the fall of man, next, a rainbow for Noah's ark, this continues with a Bible reading and ornament every day. We have also started doing a snack to go with it. Adam's sparkling cider for the apple, animal crackers for Noah's ark, etc.
3. Sacrifice Manger
We put out a small manger made from Popsicle sticks, shoebox, or anything else that would work. The kids add a piece of yarn, hay, or yellow strips of paper for each good deed they do. This encourages good deeds and kindness and helps to put the focus back on preparing our hearts for Christ's coming. While we prepare our hearts, we also prepare a soft bed for Jesus, who will come on Christmas day. We have a little baby doll that we put in it on Christmas day.
4. St. Nicholas
The whole reason we have Santa Claus is St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in the 3rd century. He was known for his generosity and good deeds. Many legends surround him including one that said that a father did not have money for his 3 daughter's dowrys so they were to be sold as slaves. He did his good deeds in secret so different legends tell the story of him throwing money down the chimney or in the window with the gold coins landing in the stockings hung on the chimney or in the shoes laid out. St. Nicholas' feast day is December the 6th. He also looks remarkably like Santa Claus. The word Santa means "Saint". We celebrate by the kids putting their shoes out. The morning of the 6th they are filled with gold chocolate coins, money, candy canes (which look like a bishop's miter or shepard's staff and symbolize the white purity of a sinless Jesus and the red for his blood shed). We will be adding by putting out a kids nativity and a book about St. Nick.
5. For Catholics, there is a great free program called Holy Heroes Advent Adventure where the kids have 2-3 short videos explaining parts of the mass, activities to do during advent, and they act out or do on a felt board the Jesse tree reading for the day. There are also crosswords, coloring pages, word searches and more.

These were just a few of the ideas we had. I can't include the whole presentation. These ideas have helped our family slowly prepare and build anticipation so we are not tired of Christmas by the time it gets here. It also focuses them less on gifts and more on the true meaning. I will try to go back and add pictures to this as I can. I have learned all of this in the last few years and it has helped me and our family so much! Hope this helps a little!