Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent: The Advent Wreath

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

The Grinch that Stole Christmas or the “Grinchy old Grinch” as my kids call it, is one of my favorite Christmas stories. It combines the hustle bustle of Christmas with the heart of Christmas, “the little bit more”. Think of the 1st Christmas the excitement and joy of the birth of a new baby, such a huge event, in such a simple location.

As we approach the 1st Sunday of Advent like many I am planning what the next 4 weeks will bring to our home. With thoughts of decorating, shopping, and baking I am thinking of how to enjoy the excitement while still keeping the Spirit of Christmas present.

The Advent wreath is one way we try to keep focus on the true meaning of Christmas in our home. We started to observe this church tradition about 4 or 5 years ago. You may have seen an Advent Wreath at your church. Our wreath sits at the center of our dinner table and is lit each night as a reminder of what we are preparing for, the birth of Jesus. We replace our normal mealtime prayer with an advent prayer.

For those that are unfamiliar with an Advent wreath it is a symbol of the spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus. The wreath contains 4 candles (some add a 5th one on Christmas). Each of the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas (the 4 Sundays of Advent) an additional candle is lit to correspond to current week. This Sunday, being the first Sunday of Advent, one candle will be lit. Advent wreaths can be as simple as 4 candles in a circle or more elaborate if you like. Our first wreath my oldest daughter brought home form Religious Ed.  It was made of green foam with fake evergreen attached and candles pushed into it. Below is a picture of the one we made last year for our house. The traditional way is to have 3 purple candles and one pink. The first 2 weeks and the 4th week being purple and the 3rd week pink (to represent the joy that Christmas is close). Though any color will work, we’ve used all white at times, it’s what you are focusing on that counts.

The kids are always excited about the wreath and wait for their turn, sometimes not so patiently, to light or blow out the candle. So far we haven’t caught anything on fire. You can find advent booklets with bible readings or prayers that correspondence with the lighting of the candles or make some prayers on your own.  Remember this is a simple reminder, you don’t have to be fancy with your prayers or your wreath, just add that “little bit more” to your preparations.

I would also encourage you, if you don’t already, to take time to attend Sunday mass or advent services at your church. They bring focus and beauty to the season, and will make the Christmas service mean so much more for you and your children. 

 Our Advent Wreath
Advent Wreath
This wreath is made from an approximately 2 inch thick cut from of a log and wrapped in fake evergreen garland. My husband drilled holes in it for tapered candles to fit into. My sisters made a similar one last year but made holes big enough to hold a votive holder instead. Our advent wreath is simple but the beauty is the fire of the candle and each week that beauty grows with an additional candle lit.

This Sunday we are going to make an advent wreath in our religious education classroom. It will be similar, with fake evergreen and votive holders in the middle. We are going to use a mix of Elmer’s glue and water (to make a clear thin consistency) and paste purple or pink tissue paper to a glass votive holder. The picture below is what a finished votive holder looks like.

Good luck with your preparations. If you want some more information on advent or advent wreaths below are a couple of websites: (you can buy wreaths and candles here)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


     Every now and then everything seems to make me crabby and nothing seems to be going according to my plans.  After a few days I normally end feeling horrible for my selfishness. The end of last week was one of those times. I had been complaining for two days about any challenge I encountered. Then Sunday morning I arrived at Church to find out one of our choir members had received some not so good news on her health and my friend’s Dad had passed away. Then my guilt and sadness for each of them set in.
     When we went into Church later, she was smiling and singing the opening song in the choir. It was a real smile, the same big smile, a happy voice that she each week greeted us with as we walked through the church doors.
     The next day I called my friend who lost her Dad to see how she was doing. She answered the phone with her wonderful giggle and happy voice. I didn’t quit know what to say, except how nice it was to hear her laugh. She of course admitted she had shed tears for her loss and probably would do more crying, but knew her dad would want her to laugh too!
     Two amazing women, going through hard times but still living examples of love, kindness, and faith! Even in some of their toughest times they were able to keep a true smile and raise MY spirits. Isn’t that backwards?  What a lesson. It always seems at the worst times in your life God gives you the most strength. Maybe in those times we truly hand it over to him as we do not know what else to do except pray and have Faith.
….The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.”
This is from one of my favorite poems “Footprints in the Sand”. If you have never read it you should.  You can find the full poem at:
     I considered not adding any new goals this week since with Thanksgiving it would be pretty busy.  After Sunday, I knew I needed to make time to add at least one.  I needed a little reminder each day of ALL I had to be Thankful for.  God has given me many blessings. I am and will always be thankful for:  God, my husband, my two sons, three daughters, my parents and my husband’s parents, my siblings and husband’s siblings and all of their families, along with all the friends throughout my life. This week though I will try to think outside of the box to remember things I don’t always remember to give thanks for and give thanks to God for something different each day, this is something I learned from one of the ladies I spoke of above.  After all my 2 year old gives thanks almost every night for the time she got to stick her hand in the water fountain when we picked up the older kids from art camp. Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that we miss when giving thanks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Traveling with Kids

     “Get your honkers ready!” our second daughter yells as we drive down the interstate. To clarify, she is talking about her arm, and making the motion to get a semi truck driver to honk their horn. 
     I have fond memories of traveling in the car as a kid with my parent & 4 siblings from Colorado to New York.  We would watch for landmarks and state lines, play games, listen to the truckers on the CB radio, and watch a movie when it was Mom’s turn to drive and Dad rode back with us. Since Mom never liked hotels, the cost or the cleanliness, we typically drove through the night. As I got older these memories turned into taking turns driving the night shift with my sister and Dad. We drank pop and listened to songs over and over, until we finally learned every word.
     It’s a good thing I still love a good road trip as we now live 9+ car hours away from my family. People always wonder how we can stand being locked in the car that long with 5 kids. “You must pack a lot of movies”, they say.  The comment doesn’t surprise me as I see kids watching moves in the cars driving around town. DVD, laptops, IPods, DS games you name it, there are enough electronics to last days in the car without interacting with another person.
     Though we do pack our laptop for movies and the kids bring their I-Pods and DS games. We want them to remember more about the trips than just how many movies we watched. They each pack a travel bag, we try to follow the one doll rule my Dad had when I was a kid, but their bags are full.  They are excited to announce when they finish a book in one trip or to showing off sketches of what they saw out the window.  Once they spent the drive logging how many license tags they saw from each state. I was surprised at their dedication to the task. It wouldn’t be a true road trip if we didn’t have an argument about who touched who, many poorly timed bathroom stops, and “Are we there yet?” wasn’t asked several times, but those too someday will turn into fun memories. As a whole, our kids travel well, and we enjoy our travel time together.
So as you load up into the car this holiday season, pack a book, paper and pencils, music for your family to sing along, and play some good old fashion car games. Kids never get sick of slug bug or one eye, and even though someone once told me it was against the law, truck drivers will still honk. J  You might be surprised the electronics may never make it out of their bags.

 Some of our favorite games:
Finder:  Take turns suggesting something to find (one of our favorites is a water tower). Whoever finds it first, picks the next item.
Alphabet game: Find all the letters of the Alphabet on signs and license tags.
States: Trying to find all 50 states on license plates.
Share some of your favorites from when you were a kid, or some you play now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Habits: Focus Part 2

Many people have offered me advice on keeping my house and providing a good home for my family. All involved forming good habits. I have been open to these ideas but, as I have written before, have the tendency to jump to the championship game, forming in depth schedules that would result in the perfect home. Many plans only worked short term and some didn’t even make it past the planning stage. So I am going to try to continue to tackle this at a slower pace.

It's been amazing how 6 small goals have already made a difference in my Home and House. Our evenings and mornings were much calmer. Not to mention that someone could have shown up unannounced and I would’ve opened the door without first running around filling diaper boxes with everything that was out of place. Though, for now, I still reserve this system for the bad days. Just like you can’t tell a kid once to chew with their mouth closed and break the bad habit, I don’t expect after one week that good habits are set and bad ones broken. The paper piles may be gone, but likely will return to the list someday. For now I will focus on a few new weekly house goals. As a whole my main focus stayed the same. (You can view this week’s goals on the Focus page) Below is the outline that I will continue to follow, for now.J

Goals for a Better Home:
·         Personal Focus to better my relationship with God.
·         Get rid of distractions at key times of each day.
·         Add something that gives more of me to my family.
Goals for a Better House:
·         Start the day with a house in order, I have been told how well this works for years, why didn’t I listen sooner.
·         Start each evening with the house in order.
·         Work on week-long project(s) to better the house.

I eventually hope to move past the simple habits stage and start to produce more routines to tackle household jobs. I do have a few working schedules already but many things just happen when it gets so bad they can’t wait anymore or we are having company. I think developing these allow more time for my family. I want to be able to do the activity my kids and/or husband suggest without housework lurking in the back of my mind because I am continually behind. 

There are a few things I’d like to point out.  I want to clarify that each day if I check off all my goals I will not sit and watch TV. There is still plenty to be more to be done. My goals are for weekdays, which I forgot to mention before. Weekends are a whole different beast. Many Mondays are spent catching up. Most importantly as I have seen over my 13+ years of parenting these goals will adjust to fit different times in my life, and even different seasons.  As we all know if you have a newborn sometimes starting your day right might mean you were dressed and teeth brushed by 9:00. We are past this stage in our family, but our schedule changes a lot throughout the year. With 5 active kids we don’t always get to eat dinner as a family, so instead we may have a family bedtime snack. We need to be flexible, but always reserve time for the important things.  Everything else is up for negotiation day by day.    

PS How about those #1 ranked Kansas State Wildcats!