I am by no means the “got it all together” mom, but what fun is there in that anyway? I have always loved the idea, though, of establishing a way for my family to recognize advent and start some traditions that will turn into solid, smile-bringing memories for my kids. As soon as the twins were born, I started trying, only to find how difficult it is to keep up with any kind of nightly activity in the busiest month of the year! I continued to try in my years as a single mom, only to find it harder in, what was then, the most exhausting month of the year. Now here I am this year with this mess of kids and a husband up for whatever my crazy decides we should attempt so….here I try again!
Two things were very clear for me before I even started to plan anything: I did not want activity to overtake the season to the point where I miss it all, and our main focus would be Jesus. To accomplish that first one, I wasn’t going to put anything on our schedule that I knew would be stressful for me. Baking anything with 7 kids is just not fun for me. I have this traumatizing memory of flour and sugar everywhere that just overtakes my ability to enjoy such an activity. The idea of taking our bunch to the ice skating rink always results, in my mind, with a visit to the ER=not fun. Sledding, snowball fights, and building snowmen is obviously out, and no, homemade snow so we can do it anyway does not sound fun. Don’t even get me started on that Elf. Despite not being a fan of the overall idea, I don’t want a reason to sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night while scaring my husband awake as I declare, “We didn’t move the Elf!” I am sure he appreciates that too. While I may not be a “got it all together mom”, he appears to be a “very on top of it” elf, and those two things just don’t match when it comes to believability. Another one that is out for me, at least for this year, is family Christmas pictures. I cannot begin to explain to you how much family pictures stress me out. By the time you get the last kid dressed, the first one has somehow already gotten a stain on their carefully selected outfit. By the time the last child’s hair is done, the first one has rolled around on the couch and has half of theirs sticking straight up. Then there are the moods-do you know how often all of our kids are in a good mood at the same time? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not often. One picture-that is about all we will get, if we are lucky! From the wedding day, we have one picture in which everyone is smiling, looking at the camera, and behaving. All the other family pictures exist for our comedic relief (you must zoom in on some of the awesome faces in the pictures below). I am not saying we will never again have family pictures done, but I’d rather not spend a day as a scrooge at Christmas time.
So what did we decide to do? Here is how we have embarked on our Advent…..ure. (Most of these ideas are not all my own!):
1. A Night Before Advent party! This idea came from Ann Voskamp’s blog. I LOVE Ann. God used her writing and encouragement to bring me up out of dark places many times so if Ann says it’s a good idea, I’m all over it! I decided it would be fun if it was a surprise for the kids. All I did was post a sign on the front door on November 30th for them to see while they came in from school. I thought it would be fun to keep a little mystery about it, but I underestimated the curiosity of my children. By about the 247th question about that evening, I was glad next year wouldn’t be a surprise anymore! That night after dinner, we all sat around the kitchen table. We had hot chocolate with all the goodies and talked about what advent means and why it’s something to recognize*.
I would love to report that this was a beautiful time of insightful answers and engaging conversation, but that is only what Pinterest wants you to believe! I do think, or like to believe, they learned something between the asking for more, the dead stares and the reminders to sit down and be careful with their lidless cups. After hot chocolate, we spread out to color the ornaments we would be using through the rest of the month. It was during this activity that the sugar began to kick in. Oh my, did that work fast! All jokes aside, I know the kids had a lot of fun.
2. Books! So sometimes I do like to act like I am the “got it all together mom”, like the night I sat and wrapped 22 books in Christmas wrapping paper. That is one of those ideas that you are super excited about in the beginning, wondering what you were thinking in the middle, and trying to figure out if the kids would even notice some weren’t wrapped as you look at the 5 more in front of you. I finished and got them under the tree! Each night, mom and dad pick someone to select a book and unwrap it. The books that are wrapped are a combination of fun and focused. Some are about Santa and snow days and decorating a tree, while others are about the Jesus and the real reason for the season. After we read a book, we read an entry in Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, talk about it, hang that night’s ornament on the tree, and pray together. An activity every night, totally doable! It is December 6 and we have already missed it twice. I know if I hold myself to the unrealistic expectation of making sure we do it every night, perfectionism will take over my advent. We do the best we can and that is all we can do.
3. Activities. David and I sat down one night and made a list of activities we wanted to do as a family. I started filling in the calendar first with unavoidable events-school programs, church events, prior commitments, and the night that not all of the kids would be home at the same time. Then was the fun tetris-like game of fitting our list of activities into the calendar. We got them all in there! Then I got a school email…so we erased and played the game again. It is all on there for now and there is an invisible grace covering the whole calendar that releases us from parent guilt if we just can’t make something happen. Because again-we don’t want to miss it all in the activity!
These aren’t the only traditions this new family will be attempting to kick off this year, but more on our unconventional Karaffa Christmas later. This is how we will spend our 19 December days that we get to be all together as a big, blended, beautiful, festive family!
If you want to follow our adventure through advent-both the good and the chaotic-be sure to follow on Facebook and/or Instagram! Links to do so on the right of this screen.
*If you do not know this word Advent that I keep using: Advent is simply a slowing down and taking time focus on Him. Advent looks to his coming: looking forward all December to celebrating the day He CAME and looking forward all December to the day He will COME. And receiving Him every day because He is HERE. Merry Christmas, friends!