Monday, November 25, 2013

A Relaxed But Intentional Advent or; The Lazy Girl's Guide to Advent





Wow, its almost Advent! Its the most wonderful, er, prayerful and reflective time of the year!

But if you're like me and have a steady stream of awesome Catholic blogs in your reader, you know that it can also be the craftiest time of the year. And it can also seem like the time of year where there are the most saint days, the most activities, the most things you can do to expose your children to the wonders of the Church.

It's probably just me and my allergy to crafts, but I feel a little anxiety when I see how much some families do. I also know that most of these families are in a completely different stage of life than we are, they have children who can dress themselves! I'm usually keeping my head above water just trying to cloth 5 kids and throw 3-almost-squares at them. Any extras end up taking a toll on our day's routine and/or my mental health!

There are also a lot of challenges we can't change about this time of year.  As much as we want to experience Advent to the fullest ourselves, we're also the ones who have to meticulously coordinate every aspect of Christmas, (which happens at the end of Advent in case you didn't know). So we're caught between wanting to practice Advent, complete with not hauling out every piece of Christmas themed decor we own, but still having a long list of to-dos for the next month.

We all need to just take a breath. Relax a little. Maybe put an "Advent" shot of Bailey's in our coffee and calm-the-jesse-tree-down.

We can only do so much. But what will destroy the prayerful, anticipatory, and reflective attitude we wish to cultivate for Advent if there is too much busy-ness, freaking out about too many crafts and ideas, and forcing toddlers to sit through five hours worth of prayers. As moms we've got to plan and prepare our expectations as well as our activities for the season, and we should do so now so that not only are the kids not disappointed but neither are we!

What makes for a relaxed, reasonable, and hopefully prayerful practice of Advent (or so I've been told!) boils down to three things. One: get a good handle on all of what needs to get done for Christmas. Two: planning out even our Advent activities carefully, and Three: making sure we make our own spiritual preparation for Advent a priority.

For Number One I recommend doing as much online shopping as you can. I really can't get to stores often, and when I can its usually only for those life necessities like food, so instead of running around and being frustrated by my lack of gift progress I'm just ordering toys, books, etc online. It may cost a little more, I may not have checked out every possible toy selection out there, but its done and that's worth it for my time and sanity. It does require some thought in advance but its do-able. The Christmas food and such I'm trying to do a little each week to not make it too stressful, and I'm really only baking a small bit to create an illusion of a homemade Christmas! We're also not going to a ton of Christmas functions, but trying to keep to the ones either the kids or us parents enjoy the most.

Number Two - I'm making sure we only do a select amount of Advent traditions and/or activities, which can be hard because there are so many amazing ideas and activities on the internet, which I think is great! We have an Advent wreath and talk about preparing for Jesus and have done so for the last couple years. This year because the kids have progressed quite a lot in saying prayers, we're going to add praying each day the Advent wreath prayers from Lisa Hendey's book O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath. St. Nicholas day complete with shoe presents and maybe a small craft that the kids can do that won't kill me, is also a day we all enjoy observing. We'll also try to go to Mass for either the Immaculate Conception or Our Lady of Guadelupe and have a special dinner, but we'll talk about the saints days just like we always do and probably do some reading if we're lucky. Then I'm going to try to hold out as long as I can on the Christmas decorations. And that's it. I'm going to be relaxed and ok with that amount, I swear! I think the most important part of creating a home that practices living the liturgical year is the knowledge of what it means and what it spurs us to do spiritually. This really means talking about it, praying about it, and creating a noticeable difference between liturgical seasons in our homes be it through physical things like the advent wreath and no christmas decorations, through our food, like simple meals etc, and other traditions that appeal to the children's ages.

Number Three: In paying attention to what I think my children are capable of I also have to come to grips with what I'm capable of too. My kids are pretty young, and just beginning to grasp the meaning of Advent and its importance which is exciting to see! But my younger babies still take up most of my time and adding anything extra to my day adds a lot of work. So I know I shouldn't be picking all the crafts, all the meals, all the feasts. I've got to remember that we teach our kids about Advent every year. I don't have to cram everything in one year, in order to fulfill the baptismal promises I made when I got my kids baptized! I'm also going to try really, really hard to keep up with my own advent preparation in trying to fit in some devotional Advent reading, and carving out time to keep up my own prayer. If you've still got just young babies take this Advent to prepare just yourself, with reading and prayer and anything you can fit in. That's great Advent preparation and will rub of on your babies now and in the future, trust me!

We've got to try and live not only Advent, but the entire liturgical year, not as something extraordinary but as seasons we live with the entire Church that are woven into our ordinary days. In being intentional in how we can best incorporate and practice the liturgical year we'll also be able to do it with minimal stress while growing in God's love.









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37 comments:

  1. First Haley, now you--and I was just thinking about simplification and how it would be so nice if I didn't need a car to get around . . . I've got to put together a plan for this Advent. The fall has been a hot mess! I'm not sure the list of things I have to do is going to shorten, but I want to get a better hold on it, trim the fat, if you will. Advent is a perfect time, so . . . thanks for the tips!

    Oh, and I wouldn't mind a copy of that book! c;

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  2. I am really looking forward to sharing some advent traditions this year with my kids, mostly because they are old enough (age 3) to know that something special is happening. But I am also glad for the reminder to keep things in perspective. After all, they are still ONLY 3. I bought a pop-up advent calendar from St. Ignatius Press and I hope to do something for St. Nick's Day on December 6. And I will most definitely be doing most of my shopping online. New mothers take note, your time and sanity is so worth the extra cost in shipping. Thanks for the tips!

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  3. I am in the process of preparing to move city but am also in the middle of some terrible morning sickness with my third child (which landed me on a drip for a few days!), so my new (liturgical) year resolution to introduce my three-year-old and eighteen-month-old to some of the saints and feast days is not going so well. I can barely move, let alone shop or cook. And so, this year, we are celebrating Advent with Mary and Joseph travelling through our house, into the car and onto the road (we're taking a week to drive across South Africa to our new home). After a 10 hour trip I hope to get the boys to prepare his manger. Jesus will appear on Christmas morning in the crib in the motel we are staying in on Christmas Eve (just outside an actual town called Bethlehem). Other than that we'll celebrate St. Nicholas day, even though my husband is out of town that week, and attend daily Mass as much as possible. I am really hoping to get to Mass on 9 December as it marks the day I was received into the Church three years ago.

    That said, I really would love a copy of Feast! so that when I stop with the vomiting and can actually think about food again I can prepare for the feast days, especially to get the children involved in the cooking.

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  4. Thanks for the good points Christy! I think we will be keeping it simple too, partly because I don't have any of our Advent or Christmas stuff here or any craft supplies, and partly because I just don't feel up to much this year. So we will do the Advent wreath, with a nightly scripture reading and prayer, and celebrate the feast days, and that's about it!

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  5. Thank you for a great post. This year we will be rolling our own beeswax advent candles, advent wreath, and jesse tree ornaments. I have two boys, 3 and 1, and this is our first year to make it count. I am excited to have my three year old participate and learn! I would love to win a copy of Feast! Thanks for the opportunity.

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  6. Lots of great ideas, and I am making notes for when our little one is born!
    I would love a copy of Feast! Especially because apparently, paypal refuses to cope with pound sterlings, so I can't even buy it!

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  7. I plan on doing some prayers around the Advent wreath with our oldest, who is 3. As well as we have some special books for Advent time that I will be pulling out. The Fisher Price Nativity Set is also a good addition to the toys at this time.I do all my shopping online, and do handmade gifts (like baking, sewing).
    Thanks for the reminder about keeping things in balance and bot going overboard!

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  8. Read yours after reading Sarah's post on Advent. Love it! So grateful for all of you! And, this book sounds wonderful! Especially since food is something that speaks my language! Definitely putting Haley's book on my wishlist! As for a a small to-do during advent is placing a small nativity under our tree. Baby Jesus is kept till Christmas while dear Mama Mary and St. Joseph "travel" around our home till they arrive at the manger. Every day I'm hoping my oldest will go looking to see where Mama Mary and St. Joseph are in their travels (we'll be placing them in somewhat visible places for our toddler to find).

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  9. I really need to simplify this Advent Season too! I did get an early start on buying Christmas gifts back in September, but then got stuck on my husband's, and my Mom's gift wasn't available until next week, and so all I got done was my daughter's gifts. I thought it'd be great to get it all done early so I would be shopping around during the crazy busy-ness of Advent while being 8 months pregnant...

    As for what I'm actually going to do to celebrate Advent is get an advent wreath and pray with it every day. Other than that, I'm going to take your advice on not trying to teach my 18 month old everything there is to know on Advent, and give myself a break since I'm still working outside the home full time...I think what my family and I need this Advent is for more intentional time together so there's more quality to our time.

    A new liturgical cookbook would be a great to help us in this season of Advent...especially on the busy days!

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  10. We will be making our own advent wreath and praying special prayers each day. Thanks for the opportunity to win the feast book!

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  11. Oh we're still at the point of just trying to survive the season with tiny ones- with a special celebration thrown in for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which happens to be our wedding anniversary.

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  12. Christy, these are great points! It's so easy, especially as a blogger, to compare ourselves to everyone else. But that's hardly the way to have a prayerful advent.

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  13. I have a new babe due in January so I am planning on taking it a bit easy this year also. We are planning on a lot of cuddling up and reading various Christmas books with the kids.

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  14. We have an Advent wreath and do a Jesse tree. We'll read books and just be together. I'm planning a lighter month in our homeschool. I'm anticipating a simple, calm (as calm as it gets with 4 boys at least!) Advent.

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  15. We're doing a Jesse tree, the easy way. Print out a picture for coloing and read the Bible Story. I think we're also going to do an advent wreath, but again, it's very easy.

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  16. Great post, Christy. I'm definitely the lazy, I mean, simplistic type of mom ;) And alllll of my shopping is going to be online this year; I've finally learned my lesson!

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  17. I love this post because it rings close to home for me. My boys are 3 and 1 1/2 and I keep feeling the pressure to do everything I read/see/hear other families doing for Advent. It's just not realistic and will drive me mad! We'll Make a noticeable distinction between Advent and Christmas through our decorations, do a couple "crafts" if they work out, and try to celebrate a saint's feast day. The boys will experience St. Nicholas and the shoe treats for the first time this year and now that I've read this post I'll be adding some much needed prayer and spiritual preparation for myself! Thanks for a some inspiration to just cool it a little and not go to crazy town with all of it!

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  18. We are just doing the advent wreath this year.I'm going to try to read the little blue book devotion.

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  19. I am going to try to make a Jesse Tree for my sister-in-law's family - and then NOT do one for us until post-Christmas and we'll have itt next year.

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  20. I have yet to unpack many of the boxes when we moved...including the one that has the Jesse tree ornaments in it... and now I have a one month old on top of a two year old and a four year old. So... Advent will be DECIDEDLY simpler this year.

    Advent wreath? Check.
    St. Nicholas candies in the shoes? Check.
    Mexican food on Our Lady of Guadauple (aka My Husband's Birthday)? Check.

    That's about it. If there are presents under the tree, clean laundry in the dresser come Christmas, I'll consider this Advent to be win.

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  21. Calm-the-jesse-tree-down! Love it! :) I made a very simple Advent calendar to help us keep up with the Saints days as well as remind me of things I want to do with my kids during Advent (books to read, songs to sing, etc.), and that's about it. Oh, and of course our wreath.

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  22. Love your post. We have 3 kids ages 6 to 3 and one on the way. On top of that we have early Christmas celebrations (not our idea!) that are putting a kink in my Advent plans. I am a bit stressed out, but determined still to have a meaningful Advent. We will have our wreath, do a simple Jesse tree and celebrate St. Nicholas day and maybe one or two more things. Thank you for the book give away!

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  23. Love this! We're planning on doing the Advent wreath with a little reflection and then making it a goal to cut down on social media. But I think we're also goign to focus on relaxing :-)

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  24. This is so great! I don't like the "do an activity every day" of Advent because really, who has time for that when we're trying to get ready for Christmas and, you know, prepare our hearts for Christ? We'll do the Advent candles, get the nativities out, do the Advent calendar countdown (which is really a fridge magnet nativity - a new person/animal each day til Christmas) read some Christmas stories... and that's as far as I've planned. Maybe a couple of little crafts, hopefully something for St. Nicholas day, but who knows.

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  25. Jesse tree, st.Nicholas, advent wreath prayers (short). I have a 2 year old and a 7 month old. Anything is a win :)

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  26. With no kids (until April!), we're trying to start some Advent traditions that we can keep up as our family grows, but that are also grown-up enough to not seem silly this year when there are no kids around. For now, that will probably just mean lighting the Advent wreath, praying the St. Andrew novena, and maybe sneaking some chocolate into my husband's shoes on St. Nicholas Day.

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  27. "We all need to just take a breath. Relax a little. Maybe put an "Advent" shot of Bailey's in our coffee and calm-the-jesse-tree-down." Awesome! Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. To answer the question... I plan on doing just that - pass the Bailey's please!

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  28. Love this! We'll do a simple manger fr Jesus, made from sticks we find outside, and during advent we'll fill it with cotton balls as we learn to love one another :)

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  29. Great post! I need to hear that other moms are just doing simple things too. We're also doing an Advent Wreath and some good reading for me. The Bailey's would be great, if I weren't pregnant!

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  30. We are definitely working on simple this year as we are expecting our third in December! I am planning on an Advent wreath, an Advent calendar and celebrating three feast days--St Nichloas, OLG, and St Lucy. Of course, if baby arrives during any of these, our plans could change. :)

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  31. We like to hit up the library for books on the various Advent time saints (Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy, St. Nick, etc.) and my boys adore the O Antiphon blocks we made last year.

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  32. christy, awesome post! i feel more mindful of advent approaching than previous years, and actually have some not-last-minute-ideas planned out for the kids (planning ahead, who woulda thought?!). my gal must feel the anticipation because today in the van she asked, "how many more sleeps 'til advent?!" oh, and we do have plans for crafts! (hope that didn't make you sneeze). i kind of see each year's advent building on the last as i choose which activities/rituals/traditions to keep, and which to say "we'll pass". we'll also be trying to simplify by making each other simple and thoughtful gifts this year, in hopes to get away from consumerism.

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  33. We have an advent wreath & we just got a magnet advent calendar, so each day the kids can add a piece to the manger scene. Also ,this year we have the opportunity to celebrate St. Nicholas Day at our church. One of the ways I'm going to try to be more calm this year, is by putting the tree up early. I know this seems counter-intuitive but the tree is a lot of work! We spent two (calm) days decorating it and remembering all of the fun decorations and where we got/made them. Now that's done and I feel like my Sundays in Advent are already going to be less busy. I guess we'll see what actually happens....

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  34. We keep it simple: advent wreath with nightly prayers and lightening the candles. We get a tree, etc. after the third weekend of advent to mark the joy. Poinsettias and door wreaths go up earlier due to fundraiser-sales, but I think those add to the advent 'mood' in the household.

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  35. I have a Pre - Christmas box with our Advent wreath, calendar and Christmas book in it that we pull our after Thanksgiving. The Avent calendar is a felt manger scene that the kids can put together... This year I need to finish the last 5 pieces!

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