Sunday, December 8, 2013

Celebrating Advent (and a Birthday, Too)

Wow!  As I downloaded this week's photos from my camera, I realized it had been a full, but mostly snapshot-free, first week of Advent.

Focused on living our faith, enjoying our annual traditions and regaining a better rhythm of life, it appears that after last Sunday, I totally forgot about capturing most memories on film.  Luckily, many remain in my heart and in my mind and even more, I pray, will be fondly recalled by our children in years to come as they choose their own ways of weaving Advent into everyday life.

Starting the Week and Starting Our Days

Sunday was a fantastic feast day, filled with the 10 Ways We Celebrated the New Liturgical Year, which I shared about last week.

Since then, we've been weaving Advent into each part of our days, beginning shortly after we wake up.

In the morning, after we complete our Five Before Breakfast, we eat breakfast together and, then, enjoy reading Faith and Life chapters, participating in Holy Heroes free Advent Adventure,  and discovering what our "preparing our hearts and homes" mission for the day will be by taking a link off our Advent Chain.

Our Advent Chain

This year, making our annual Advent Chain included Nina and Luke cutting the paper strips for it; Nina counting out 24 of these; all three children sharing ideas about how we might prepare our hearts and homes for Jesus; Luke and Nina doing copywork to write some of their ideas onto strips; and me finishing up with writing the rest of the ideas the children dictated before assembling and hanging our chain.

Using the chain has meant that each morning one child takes a ring off the chain.  Luke reads what it says and we all work together to try to make whatever is written on the paper strip happen throughout the day.  If we succeed, we "graph" the strip on our hallway wall in our "Did It!" column.  If we did not, we try again the following day and, then, put it up in our "Not Quite" column.

Through doing all this, the children focus on faith, virtues and fun, while also getting in some gentle language arts and math skills.  Whoo hoo!

Holy Heroes Advent Adventure and Jesse Tree Ornaments

Each morning, we've also been enjoying Holy Heroes free Advent Adventure.  What fun it is to observe the children as they watch the videos, pray with the audios, color the free printables, chat about what they are learning, and, of course, laugh at the humor of the Holy Heroes Guides.  We are so grateful for the generous ministry the Holy Heroes family provides to us and so many others.

We are also grateful for all the bloggers who share free printables online.  This year, Nina chose a free printable from Tired Need Sleep to color pictures for Jesse Tree ornaments, while Luke and Jack both chose the one at Life Your Way.  (Admittedly, we have yet to cut out these ornaments and to put them on individual branches as trees, but since process is so much more important than product in our home, we are okay with that.)

Handwriting through Advent

After all this, we move onto simple home and health tasks and, then, either lessons or outings for the rest of the morning.  

As a part of our lessons, Luke and Nina have been teaching Jack to write his lowercase a b c's, with a little help from the TV Teacher's Alphabeats, which a local homeschooler kindly passed onto us.

After focusing on one of the letters with Jack, Luke and Nina further their handwriting practice doing copywork or writing sentences about corresponding words taken from our past Advent Alphabets.  So far, I've been able to put together two letters' worth of playing cards for us to use for memory match, Go Fish, sentence cloze challenges, art study and copywork.  I am hoping to get together more!

Baskets of Books and Every Day Altar Gang
Afternoon always begins with lunch and an eagerly awaited next chapter of The Jesse Tree, followed by countless picture books, rest time (when we are home), free play, more chores, more lessons or more outings.  And evening wraps up with dinner, intentional family time and more books before bed. (Or sometimes just going with life time!)

Every day, at least once, the kids also listen to Altar Gang He's Coming!, which they have now memorized and often act out.  

Movie Night, Family Adoration, St. Nicholas and Holiday Happenings
photo credit: Lumen Entertainment

Extra special seasonal times this week included curling up on the couch together to watch Lumen Enterainment's Skiff & AJ's Fantastic Voyage.  While this is not an Advent or Christmas video, we decided to start our Advent family movie nights with this favorite of our kids because it is a pro-life adventure, and, therefore, is easily tied to conversations about baby Jesus and about the value of life (one earth and eternally!)  Plus, it is just plain fun!

Then, on the day when the kids' Advent Chain link said "Go to Adoration as a Family", we let the children stay up late so that when I got home from work we could all head over to a local Adoration chapel together -- Mom, Dad and the kids.  Nina was so pleased there to pray the rosary there.  Luke prayed mostly through drawing his take on the Christmas Story. And, Jack, he prayed a little and, then, asked Mommy and Daddy to take turns walking him about outside, before finally asking me to just take him to the car so he could listen to "Skiff and AJ" until Daddy and the "big kids" were done visiting Jesus.

Friday, the kids were psyched for a quick St. Nicholas feast day breakfast of GFCF toaster waffles and "gold" juice (both favorite treats for them), along with readings and prayers, before heading  off to join some homeschooling friends for stories and crafts.

On the way home from the St. Nicholas celebration, I smiled a I heard the children chatting in the back about why St. Nicholas is so cool and what they want to do to be like him.  I smiled even wider later in the evening when Nina decided to secretly hide the Santa chocolate-turned-St. Nicholas that she had made in Daddy's car as a surprise for him.  Love that girl!

And love that we were able to cap our St. Nicholas celebrations off by joining in Mass  and a chance for me to go to confession at a friend's parish, where we were also all anointed with with Myrrh from Bari, Italy.  (As I understand, the myrrh continuously exudes from the bones of St. Nicholas and is collected once a year on May 9, the Feast Day of the Transfer of the Relics from Myra to Bari.)

Then, yesterday, we honored Nina's request for a special holiday family time by going to the Pine Hills Annual Holiday on the Green, where, among other things, the children marveled at the ice sculptors as they worked (and asked a lot of questions of them!). And, of course, we all took a photo with one of the folks that spreads the spirit of St. Nicholas' generosity.

It was quite a week of weaving Advent season activities into everyday life, and this week promises to unfold in similar ways -- starting not only with celebrating the second Sunday of Advent today, but also with celebrating Luke's eighth birthday!

Please join us in saying a prayer of thanksgiving and petition for our oldest:


We thank you for the gift of our eldest son and for all the loving, learning and growth we've shared together over these past eight years.  We ask that you continue to bless us with many years together to come and that you remain ever-present guiding Luke to grow in wisdom and stature.  We ask you to help Luke make a fruitful First Reconciliation next week and to be strengthened by his First Communion in the spring.  Please be with all of us as Luke continues to develop, helping us help him be open to your Spirit.  May Luke always choose You and, in doing so, may he fulfill whatever it is you call him to do.  With great thanks, we pray.

What Advent traditions do you enjoy and how do you incorporate them into your regular rhythm of life and learning?

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

*As always, we thank you if you choose to click through the Amazon and Holy Heroes links in this post to make a purchase (or do so with other affiliate links on this site). Doing so does not cost you anything, but it may help us earn a small percentage of your purchase price to continue training up our children. Thank you!


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