A little less conversation...

>> Sunday, December 7, 2008

...a little more action.

This week I have been trying to heed Elvis' advice and apply it to Advent. Today is the second Sunday in Advent, my most favorite of all seasons. I know I haven't done much talking/blogging about how we are preparing our hearts and getting ready for Christmas. Advent is such a big deal to me that you'd think I would have said more. But in my attempts to maintain a sense of order to our family and be present with my boys, the tasks of doing Advent have precluded the talking about it. Here are some of the things we have been up to so far...

One of the things I am most concerned with this Advent season, in addition to teaching Lucas about the true spirit of Advent and Christmas, is to begin to establish family traditions that my boys will cherish and look forward to in the years to come. That motivation is behind almost all the decisions Hubby and I have made regarding activities and plans for this season. It is why we decided not to travel anywhere this year (that and the massive airport crowds this time of year). It is behind the books we are reading and the activities we have done so far to begin to teach Lucas what it means to prepare for Christ's birth and celebrate the waiting.

Every night, we accompany Benjamin Bear as he follows the star and journeys to see baby Jesus. Lucas is really into chapter books lately (the young reader books where there are less pictures and way more words) so this has been a special treat for him. This book is set up so each night's story is a new adventure for Benjamin until he finally reaches baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. There is also a little mini lesson (ie: faith can move mountains, God answers us when we call to Him, God forgives us when we are sorry, ...) at the end of each story. But the best part... every night he asks to keep reading. "Let's read one more!" And here is where we get to teach about the waiting, the anticipation. These are usually not a toddler's strong points, so I do let him look through the pages to see what stories are coming. I think that is part of building the anticipation. But he is learning, one story each night, and he gets excited when it is time to find out who Benjamin Bear meets next on his journey.

I have tried thus far to include Lucas in decorating our house and our tree. I am usually pretty particular about things like how the tree is decorated but I am trying to let that go and give Lucas the opportunity to get right in there and really help. I actually put the lights on the tree but I did let him try it and help with the ornaments. Hubby and I also told him that he got to put the star on the top because he is the "big brother" and he thought that was super-cool!

We joined some friends for a fun morning of gingerbread houses and a visit from Santa. Lucas surprised me and sat on Santa's lap. He asked Santa for "Thomas the Tank Engine" at my prodding (so cute that he said the whole name) and has since been asking me regularly what Santa is bringing him for Christmas. Hubby and I agree that there must be a balance when bringing Santa into the Christmas picture. It is hard to avoid since the images and songs and books, etc... are all around. And we don't really want to avoid it either since that is a fun part of childhood Christmas. Lucas loves to read about Santa and talk about him and he seemed to enjoy meeting him. But when asked what we celebrate at Christmas, he can say without hesitation that it is Jesus' birthday. He is learning about Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the whole story. And we are trying to teach him that although there are lots of other fun things about this time of year, the real significance comes in the real story. And he gets it, or at least is starting to.

As far as other festive activities, we are trying out some of the crafts in this book. We made the candy cane reindeer and plan to try a few more. This book is cool because along with each activity it has a story for you to read to help explain the significance and tie it back to Jesus. I made a nativity scene out of felt and he is having fun rearranging all the characters. We have an advent wreath on our table in addition to the one he helps light at church. We are drawing and painting and coloring Christmas pictures while listening to carols to get us in the holiday spirit. He calls "Away in the Manger" the "Stable song" and wants to listen to it several times a day, especially the Johnny Cash version thanks to his daddy. We talk about the story, we sing about the story, we color pictures of the story... he is such a sponge and I want him to know, really know, the real story of Christmas.

My favorite moment so far this Advent season came quite unexpectedly. I took the boys (by myself) to a college bookstore one evening to get a CD I wanted desperately. To say it was a disaster doesn't quite capture the moment. Lucas rearranging bookshelf's, a toddler's blood-curdling scream, a un-child friendly employee... getting the picture? But when we got back in the car, I put the CD in and Lucas and I drove around and looked at Christmas lights in the neighborhoods around our house for close to an hour. "Mommy, they have an Advent wreath on their door!" he said. So cute! We talked about how beautiful the lights were, especially in the snow, and how fun it is to see how other people decorate for Christmas too. We found one house with a huge decorated tree in front of their house (pictured at the very top of this post) and we drove past it many times. "That tree is so beautiful, mommy." And it was. But more beautiful was the smile on my little screamer's face and the moment we were sharing as we drank in the joy of a budding tradition.

I truly love this season. I love the waiting, the history, the beauty and joy that is found in the little things and tender moments.... With a few weeks left until Christmas, a hope we continue to teach the significance of Advent and enjoy the season. But if you don't hear too much from me, it is because I am trying to live it and feel it and not just talk about it.


Anonymous December 8, 2008 at 9:51 AM  

Beautiful! And that book sounds great. I swear I'm going to start planning next year as soon as this year is over. Every year I have hopes and then it sneaks up on us. Last year we had advent activities planned for each day, this year not so much. Beautiful traditions that you are starting!

Melinda December 8, 2008 at 5:58 PM  

Those are such beautiful pictures of your boys and the lights!

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