Wow...it's been over 2 weeks since I last posted anything on here. We are past the mad whirlwind of baking, shopping, wrapping, and mailing--at least, we are for the most part--and so far this week has been a welcome change to the hectic activity of the last 2 weeks. I vow that next year I will at least finish stamping our Christmas cards by the end of November! Getting our cards out is the last major Christmas project (unless you count wrapping the children's presents, which will probably happen Christmas Eve...we don't yet trust them to leave gifts alone until the big day!), and I am working on those in small batches throughout the week. At 148 names, our mailing list just keeps getting longer with each place we move to!
One of the joys of this season has been having children old enough to remember Christmases past--their enthusiasm started the evening of Thanksgiving when we went to the Magical Forest Christmas display at Opportunity Village and hasn't waned since. We have begun two new Christmas traditions this year. The first is a special advent calendar we got from Desiring God ministries. It is burlap with velcro for placing the nativity figures on, one figure per day. It comes with a story written out that you read every day--beginning with Day 1, you read the first paragraph, then Day 2 you begin again and add the next sentence, etc. It is brief enough that the children's attention stays rapt, and they love shouting out the words of the figures we have put up on the calendar already, kind of like a fill-in-the-blank story. It's been fun to watch them progress from following my lead to following Charis (who could probably quote the whole story by now), and now the boys don't even need to wait for her before chiming in. They all, even Arden, shout out the words on cue! (Although Arden is about 2 beats behind on the more recent words, which is also very cute.) We do the calendar activity after breakfast in the mornings, and the kids always know whose turn it is to put up the day's figurine!
The other new tradition we have begun is the Advent Book. It is similar to the calendar in that the story begins from Day 1 every day, adding a new part at the end. The book has beautiful illustrations, with doors to open each day that reveal the illustration for that part of the story. The language for the storyline is beautiful and rich--taken directly from Scripture for the most part--whereas the calendar story is geared more toward young children. We gather on the couch after dinner in the evening to read in the Advent Book, and the children take turns opening the doors and turning the pages. This has become a treasured time as a family and helps us center our celebration on Christ, the reason for Christmas!