Posts Tagged ‘advent calendars’

AMonthOfFaves: Christmas Festivities

December 15, 2015


Christmas! It’s my favorite topic this time of year. And those lovely ladies hosting #AMonthOfFaves – Andi, Tamara, and Tanya – have asked us: What are your favorite holiday festivities? How do you celebrate, decorate, share activities and favorite holiday drinks and eats?

AdventCalendarI’ve shared some of my favorite holiday festivities already. We have the Family Advent(ure) Calendar, an idea I shameless stole from Firemom over at Stop, Drop, and Blog. Because the holidays are about being together and the excitement and all the joy of the season, I plan out a month of Christmas-themed activities, write them out on paper, and place them in a tree-shaped cardboard-drawer that counts down to Christmas. The girls – and the Xman on weekends – take turns opening the drawers to unveil our activity. We have a Christmas Candy Taste Test, go on Christmas Light Tours, make ornaments, watch Christmas movies, play story cubes but with a holiday theme for the stories we create, and all manner of things! It’s their favorite thing, really.

TreeOur tree! I like to put it up the day after Thanksgiving, but it really depends on when the girls are around. This year we tried to plan it so we’d have all three kids around, but then we got a last-minute offer from potential renters of Jeff’s old house, and they needed to be moved in right then, and they were awesome people who would really take care of the house. So we changed plans, which meant the kids decorated the tree apart – the Xman got it started, and the girls finished. The result is STUPENDOUS! All those combined ornaments make for a very happy tree! And we decided to donate my tree to the women’s shelter and use Jeff’s tree because it’s pre-lit. SCORE.

Then there’s the visit from Auntie Kim every year! SHE GETS HERE ON MONDAY, YOU GUYS!!! It kind of crept up on us this year, we’ve been so busy! Not that I’ve forgotten – I cleaned Gracie’s room this weekend and emptied the closet and basically made the room not only habitable, but actually enjoyable. (Yes, a whole bunch of scrap stuff is there, but now she’s not crawling over it and isn’t tripping over it like it’s a funhouse maze.) I knew it would have to be straightened before Kim got here and I was running out of weekends. But the girls forgot. And the happiness on their faces when they realized Kim would be home on Monday? Priceless!

Then there’s the Christmas Car Curse. I’ve blogged about it many times (but am too lazy to go find the links) because I’ve carried it forward from when I was little. My mom’s car would break right at Christmas, eating into the Holiday Fund. It happened every year, without fail, to the point that we created the name and laughed about it. Cause what else were you going to do? The Curse followed me to Tejas – I had windows fall into doors, tires blow out, fuel injectors fail… And this past week, Jeff shattered the back window of his SUV while moving the lawn mower to storage. He laughed when I found the upside: “The Christmas Car Curse has struck! You must really be part of the family now if the Curse included you!”

BookTreeFinally, there’s a new festivity: I heard about a friend’s friend’s Bookish Christmas Tree and decided I NEEDS ONE. So I went out and bought a mini-tree (on sale for $13, holla!) and started decorating it. It’s a bit bare for now, but I have plans, big plans I say! It will be delightful. I’ve already written opening lines from my favorite books onto wooden snowflakes so they can whisper through the tree. Next, I’m planning on crafty Harry Potter ornaments. Because I can. Mwa ha ha.

What are your favorite traditions and moments of joy during the holidays? Please share so I can borrow some of the best!

#AMonthOfFaves: My favorite things!

December 3, 2015


One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is start our Family Advent(ure) Calendar. It’s a fun way to count down to Christmas with a holiday-themed activity every night. The girls look forward to it even more than I do, for they are children and Christmas is their sacred holiday.

Everyone has their favorite activities.  The girls love our traditional first night activity: making paper chains to count down to Christmas. They love the Christmas AdventCalendarCandy Taste Test (I buy a bunch of candy marketed towards the holidays like ribbon candy, gingerbread flavored peeps, peppermint Kisses, etc.); the Christmas Light Tour we take in the car in our pajamas; making paper snowflakes and doing a snow dance. They love decorating the tree while we watch Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Christmas concert and the claymation specials. They love picking out toys to donate to Toys for Tots and making a night of it; getting teacher gifts ready; baking cookies and fudge for other school helpers and neighbors. There aren’t many activities they don’t love!

My favorites include picking out books at Barnes & Noble to donate and stopping in the cafe for hot chocolate (or a peppermint mocha). I love Christmas-y crafts, like tissue paper wreaths, felt Christmas trees, making ornaments from scrapbook paper, and writing lines from books onto wooden snowflake ornaments so my favorite authors will whisper through the Christmas tree. I like putting together Santa’s Village Legos and watching Elf while I wrap Christmas presents. And I love, love, love seeing what gets added each year to our Gratitude List.

We have a few new things this year. We’re going to play Christmas Story Cubes (um, with regular story cubes, on the story has to involve a Christmas theme). There may or may not be a Christmas puzzle to work on – don’t worry, Kim: before you get here. And there’s a Christmas scavenger hunt involving stories behind Christmas decorations. (“Find Mom’s first Christmas ornament on the tree.” “This was the decoration Molly carried around the house when she was two.”) There may be a Snowman Marshmallow Roast around the firepit if the weather cooperates!

Those are just a few of the dozens of Advent(ures) we’ve had. It’s been fun watching our activities grow with the girls. We’ve moved from story time and reindeer hunting to design-your-own holiday Lego scene. It’s fantastic. And my favorite part of the holidays!

When Advent gifts go hilariously wrong…

December 13, 2011

You’re gonna love this.

So, Auntie Kim and Auntie Rhi gifted their nieces some of their old American Girl outfits (as they had previously done with their dolls). My instructions were to let the girls open them before Christmas so they could pretend they were fancy Christmas outfits. There was a nice dress set, a coat and hat, and shoes for each of the dolls. They were nicely wrapped in fancy schmancy American Girl garments bags and hung on hangers. I believe it was Auntie Rhi’s idea that I use them for part of my Family Advent Calendar.

Well, the girls opened them last night, after getting in late from a weekend with their Dad. We still owe Auntie Kim and Auntie Rhi a phone call, but I had to share this photo:

Apparently Felicity is a beaten woman who has escaped the clutches of some horrible, horrible person – naked, save for her expensive coat? (Hey! She’s YA-YA!) And Kit is playing her well-to-do benefactress who has rescued her. Clearly that is the only explanation. Ahem.

The girls say “Thank you!” for the presents, sisters o’ mine, and I say thank you for all the quiet time and lovely, imaginative stories I hear acted out!

24 days of happy.

December 2, 2011

Last year, I stole the idea of a Family Christmas Advent from the singularly beautiful and fabulous FireMom, who resides over at Stop, Drop, and Blog. Instead of counting down with candy (though we do that too) or with Advent calendars that deliver a toy each night (Lord help me), FireMom’s idea was to plan a holiday-themed family activity as they counted down to The Big Day. After all, Christmas is about spending time with those you love, yes? Yes! And so I shamelessly stole her idea.

Our Family Advent Calendar was a huge hit, if I do say so myself. Even Bee will tell you when she sees the red cardboard tree with 24 box-like compartments, “This used to have candy in it, but now we use it for fun stuff.” Don’t be fooled – Bee loves her candy calendar, too – but I love that she is learning what the focus of the holidays really is: having fun no matter what! (Damnit!!)(Ahem.)

This year, I’ve kept some of the traditions and favorite go-to activities: Making paper snowflakes, making paper chains, baking Christmas cookies, visiting Santa, assembling teacher gifts, going on Christmas Light Tours, making handprint wreaths and buying toys to deliver to Toys for Tots. A few days – like the nights the girls have dinner with dad – I’ve had to get creative. Those nights we sing Christmas carols or read Christmas books or watch a short movie, like Charlie Brown Christmas. During the weekends when I’m kidless, I have Mommy-only events like calling my mom to transcribe holiday stories from her childhood or elf-ing a neighbor. And I’ve scheduled a few new ideas this year, too. Like going reindeer hunting (not really! I bought blinking red noses and reindeer antlers to wear as we stalk reindeer in the park), and playing Holiday Name 5 (name 5 Christmas songs, name 5 things Santa has in his sleigh, etc), and making birdfeeders with pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed.

I hope we have as much fun this year as we did last year. I’m sure there will still be squabbling over whose turn it is to open the cardboard box and read the clue, but I’ve already discovered that kids tend to forget most of the arguing and just remember the warm, happy fuzzies. Who could ask for more than that?

And the best part of all: I left the calories there!

December 6, 2010

Yesterday’s advent activity: baking Christmas cookies with the girls, A, and a bunch of ex-in-laws I haven’t seen in ages! A bunch of sugar, a bunch of women and girl-cousins, and two giant dogs and an itty-bitty one – it was seriously the most fun I’ve had baking cookies in a long time. I love having so many people roaming around the kitchen; it’s how I grew up, so now it just feels like home.

I got to catch up with my ex-sis-in-law Tee (the nice one, not the one who wishes me dead), and my nieces. I found out my nephew is playing in the only Texas marching band invited to the Rose Bowl (how freaking cool is that?!). I heard about the very grown-up poem my niece wrote that will be featured on family Christmas cards. And…I got to hang out with my Mom-in-law. She looked amazing. She is wheel-chair bound for now since she still only has limited mobility on her left side. She was very emotional seeing everyone and even made me almost cry a few times! And her memory isn’t quite what it was – she would forget she had told you a story and tell it again 20 minutes later. But considering that she has had two brain surgeries and a couple of strokes in the past two months, it was such a blessing to see her and realize that’s she is still Mom. She’s still her. Point of fact: after she realized I was there and gave me the very longest, teariest hug of my life, she asked how my parents were doing. That is typically Mom – more worried about others than herself. Quite simply put – she makes my heart happy!

It was so, so good to visit with everyone and watch the girlies decorate cookies (yeah, there was a bit of baking going on in between all the gabbing) and then having grown-up talk when the girls got tired of baking and went outside to play. Laughter and coffee and kitchen timers and the smell of cold leaves on your child’s hair – that is the stuff of Christmas magic.

A was surprised when I left without any cookies (except the two or three Gracie picked out for herself). I laughed – I didn’t go for the cookies. I just wanted to bake with everyone. I’m so sneaky that way!

A new family holiday tradition.

December 5, 2010

Everyone knows by now that I am neurotic big on family traditions, especially at Christmastime. We open family presents on Christmas Eve like my family did growing up. We have Chinese food for dinner on Christmas Eve whenever possible. We listen to many of the same Christmas records CDs. We adopt an Angel Family every year. And Santa leaves the girls’ big gift on the front porch in the front room.

But as much as I love following tradition, I also love finding new traditions to start here at Casa de Katie. I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs last week, and over at Stop, Drop, and Blog I read about FireMom’s new tradition of the Family Advent Calendar. FireMom cut out envelopes out of Christmas-themed paper and strung them up along an empty wall. Inside each envelope, which are numbered and count down to Christmas Day, is a holiday-themed family activity. The goal is to focus more on spending quality time together as a family during this season of rush, rush, rush! and sugar! and buy more presents!

I had to do it.

Of course, since I found the idea and all of its fabulousness the night before the advent calendar would start, I knew there was no way I would have time to make envelopes AND brainstorm enough activities AND pull it all together. So I cheated adapted the idea to what I had on hand: an old advent calendar decoration I had bought at Starbucks one year when candy calendars could not be found. (Heaven help my children if they went without candy calendars. It’s a wonder they haven’t been stripped from me with the level of child abuse they endure.) In any case, I figured I could use the advent decoration instead of envelopes. All I had to do was write out the activities on slips of paper and add them to the boxes.

I thought of dozens of activities; some will be changed and some days will have more than one activity as parties are scheduled and seasonal activities are announced. For instance, if I had known that yesterday there was a children’s holiday parade, I wouldn’t have double-booked us at the movies. Some of the activities I chose include: Decorating the tree, make paper chains to countdown to Christmas, buy and donate toys for Toys for Tots, shop for our Angel Family, bake Christmas cookies with their aunts and cousins, Christmas lights tours in our wagon, Make snowflakes – real ones and at, Elf our neighbors, make handprint Christmas wreaths to send to their grandparents, make teacher gifts, mail letters to Santa, draw Christmas cards, and many more!

The girls have loved our new tradition – and frankly, so have I. It gives us something fun to focus on besides the daily routine or running errands. I’m taking more pictures of the girls and that’s always a plus! Admittedly, it is a bit tricky some days. On days when the girls have dinner with their dad, the activity had to be something easy: singing carols on the way to school or reading Christmas books at bedtime. On the weekends they spend with their dad, I decided to still fill the advent calendar with activities that I can do on my own: meet friends for holiday drinks at Starbucks, wrap last minute presents, write out Christmas cards for family.

Here is the decoration I’m using for the calendar:

The Family Advent Calendar

And here are the girls during some of our other activities – decorating the tree and starting their precious candy calendars. [Fun little digression: When Bee first found the decoration for the advent calendar and I tried to explain it to her, she asked, “We put chocolate in it?” I tried again and she said, “How about we put chocolate in it?” She wasn’t even trying to be funny; she just could not wrap her mind around anything other than chocolate.]

First come lights, then comes garland, then comes 18,938,492 ornaments.

The infamous candy calendars.

Yesterday’s outing was visiting Santa at the mall. Bee refused to sit on Santa’s lap, despite the lack of a line. Sigh. But they were happy yelling “hello” and waving. And if they were happy with that, I would be too.


Hellooooooo Santa! We like you very much from waaaaay over here!

I am really digging this new tradition (as oxymoronic as that term is). I hope it’s something the girls look forward to year after year. And if I’m really lucky, I can convince the girls to stock the advent calendar one year with ways to spoil mom. Hey – I can dream, can’t I?