Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Countdown Begins

Hey! Didja look at the calendar today? Um...it's December 1st. You know, December--the month my children claim is the longest month of the year? The one where the days fly by and I have so many things to do that the first thing on my Christmas list should read "a clone of myself" so that I can get things done but done in a way that I want them done. And I wouldn't have to tell my clone how to do the things, because, duh! It's me!!

Yeah. Control freak? It has my name by the definition in the dictionary. (Okay, so I don't know exactly what dictionary you'd be looking at to find those two words together, but whatever. It's my blog, so I get to decide. See? Control freak again!!)

Anyway! (Also? You might find my name in the dictionary by the word "distractable." Just sayin'.) December first not only marks the beginning of the longest/shortest month of the year, it also marks the day we start our Advent countdown.

Several years ago, I wanted to find a way to do a little something special each day leading up to Christmas. I wanted to do this for two reasons: it would give us, as a family, a way to spend some precious time together during the season and it would give my holiday-hyped children something to look forward to each day while also letting them mark time for Christmas. I decided an Advent calendar was the way to go. And being insane somewhat crafty and cheap thrifty, I didn't want to pay a million-billion dollars for a calendar I could make myself.

I decided to make my calendar a series of boxes into which I could put a slip of paper. So you know, a calendar, but not in a really paper-like calendary way. (Huh. Spell check totally accepted calendary. I could've sworn I pulled that one outta the air.) This is what I came up with:

I covered match boxes with scrapbook paper. Then I made a list of activities we could do. Some are as simple as "read a Christmas book together" or "have hot chocolate with whipped cream" or "draw names for your Secret Santa." Others are a little more involved, like "Go downtown and see the Tree of Lights" or "shop for your Secret Santa." Some require no action on my part whatsoever--as in, "so a secret good deed for your Secret Santa."

Each year, I go over the slips and change them up as need requires. For instance, some years my kids have Christmas programs for school, some years they don't. And days that I'm free to take them shopping varies as well. Once the calendar is coordinated, I put the slips into the boxes and then put the boxes into a jar.

The kids look forward to taking turns pulling a box out each day and seeing what activity is inside. It also helps them have a visual reminder that Christmas is closing in as the boxes dwindle.

This is one of my favorite family traditions. I have tweaked it to suit our family and have added or deleted activities as interest or time has allowed. I also started out with a much simpler form, with just tags with the activities, but since I wanted something a little more permanent and durable that we could use year after year, this has been a good fit for us.

I know that things will change as the kids get older and we won't need the calendar or use it in the same way. I'm thinking that somewhere down the line, I'll replace the activities with scripture verses that tell of Christ's birth, but for now, I love our Advent boxes and won't change a thing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go make some slips of paper for our Secret Santa drawing because hey! THERE'S ONLY 24 DAYS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!

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