• Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    Advent with kids: on the road edition

    Longtime readers will know that I LOVE all things Christmas. Advent is my favourite time of year. I enjoy all the things that this time of year brings, like carols and driving around to see the lights, nativity plays, going to church on Christmas Eve; all of it. My tree goes up on December 1st, and you might (okay, you will definitely) see me singing along to all those annoying Christmas songs that stores start pumping out in November.

    As a Christian, it is also a very meaningful time of year. I try to take time out each day to do a devotional, to re-read Luke’s gospel, to reflect on the gift that is Jesus.

    This year will be a Christmas like no other for my family.

    In less than two weeks, our belongings will be packed up, shipped to Wellington and put into storage. We don’t know how long for, because Mr G’s new job still has to find us a house to rent! We’re very fortunate that we can stay with friends in my hometown for as long as we need to.

    We are taking a much needed holiday between jobs – a break that includes a two week road trip around the gorgeous sights of the South Island, and catching up with friends who we’ve not seen in ages. So, for much of Advent, we will be on the road.

    It feels somewhat flat to not have a Christmas tree, the end-year-parties to attend, and no plans to make gifts for my loved ones (normally by now we are knee deep in ginger beer and other goody-makings). The advent calendar I made several years ago, will be gathering dust in storage. The nativity books we read each year will be boxed up.

    This year I have been super organised with getting my Christmas cards out and gifts for my December birthday friends, but I’m not making a single thing this year. Moving is stressful enough without adding a long road trip and Christmas to it, and I don’t want to add crafting or baking madly on Dec 23rd into the mix because of some self-imposed idea of what I should or should not gift at Christmas.

    As my kids get older, the more they are exposed to the world. Santa is everywhere. Gimme, gimme, gimme is everywhere. So I plan to keep on observing Advent on the road to help my children (and me) focus on the ‘reason for the season’.

    Here’s how we’re doing advent on the road:

    • I’ve bought a couple of chocolate advent calendars. One has Marvel superheroes and one has Toy Story 4. Because nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like Hulk Smash, am I right? Actually, they did have ONE solitary nativity chocolate advent calendar but it looked of very dubious origin and I don’t want to give my kids radioactive chocolate. Anyway, Buzz, Woody and Hulk Smash etc are light, and way more robust than the family advent calendar I created a few years ago. Hopefully the two calendars will make it to Dec 24 after being battered around in the car.
    • We’re still going to celebrate St Nicholas’ Day (Dec 5 or 6, depending on what country you live in). We don’t do Santa, but we do celebrate the actual saint who inspired the Santa myth. We’ll read a story about him (I must write my own because, trust me, there is quite a gap in the market for a well-written book on St Nick), and the kids will find some coins in their shoes when they wake up.
    • We’re going to ‘follow the star’. In a similar vein to Elf on the Shelf (which I despise, so I’m kinda ashamed to realise I’m doing something similar), I am taking the star from our Christmas tree with us. It’s light and doesn’t take up much space. Where ever we are, the kids can wake up to find the star hiding in plain sight, and follow it, like the Wise Men. We’re going to be staying in a dazzling array of places, but that twinkling, comforting star will be there too.
    • We’ve got a carols playlist. As I mentioned, I have zero shame belting out carols way before December, so why should the confines of my car be any different? For the record, O, Holy Night is my favourite.
    • We’ll read a bit of the Christmas story from the Bible each day. I also have a small advent journey game I picked up last year, for when we’re looking for something to do while we’re travelling.
    • I’m bringing the kid’s Christmas sacks with me, because familiar things are comforting.

    And that’s plenty. Now I see it in a list it seems like a lot, but they are all very simple things. Calendar, story, songs.

    We will be in my hometown for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to seeing our church family there, and their annual Christmas Eve family service. This will be our last Christmas where we are free to do what we want and go where we want, as Mr G will be pretty darn busy as a minister in Christmases to come.

    As our time in Pleasant Point comes to an end, I am mostly feeling surprisingly chill about the move. I’ve whizzed through my to-do list, and have only got fun things like farewell parties, and not-so-fun things like defrosting the fridge left to do.

    May your own journey towards Christmas be a joyful and peaceful one.

    x Angela

  • Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    A Simple Advent

    Long-time readers of mine will know that I love, love, love Christmas.  While I’m not quite Buddy from ‘Elf’, I I enjoy Christmas as much as my children do, only I’m not motivated by presents.  It’s not just the day itself, but all the little things spread throughout December that add to my sense of anticipation and joy.

    Things like decorating the tree, prepping the advent calendar for my kids, singing Christmas carols, making gifts – and my all-time favourite, looking at the Christmas lights.  

    I also enjoy revisiting the story of Jesus’ birth.  The weird, fantastical, miraculous birth that changed everything.

    As evident in the shops where the nativity is all but swept away in a tsunami of Santas, reindeer, and elves, it can be difficult for Christians to find time for quiet contemplation in a culture that tells us to shop ’til we drop; and that we absolutely MUST end the year with some sort of Christmas party if you are a part of any sort of group at all. 

    Terrible things will happen if we don’t have a Christmas work do!  The world will cease to exist if Little Johnny doesn’t get to sit on Santa’s knee at his third Crimbo party of the season!  Have you even lived if you haven’t handmade your own ugly Christmas sweater?  

    I go on about this every year.  I’m essentially Gollum at Christmas time:  I loves it, and I hates it.  It is a deeply meaningful religious celebration for me, and I hate what it has become in my culture.

    This year I have gone into Advent even more mindfully than before.

    This is our first Christmas as a ministry family.

    While you and your kin are enjoying a leisurely day, my husband will be conducting two services on Christmas Day, and is expected to put in an appearance at a combined church Christmas Eve service.  We’re also supporting friends who are hosting a community lunch for locals here in Point.  We will have family staying with us.  Christmas Day will be anything but quiet.

    Knowing this, I am more careful than usual with what I say YES to.  Mr G was away at his studies when we put up the tree and danced like lunatics to carols (The upbeat ones, obviously.  One cannot boogie to Silent Night).

    He missed out on the excitement on our children’s faces as they came down to breakfast and saw our Advent Calendar was up and ready.

    Actually, our kids are lucky – they get two advent calendars this year.  The one above was made by me a few years back.  The children get a chocolate and a piece of paper with something they will do that day – which is always stuff we would do anyway: like choosing things to donate, making a gift for their teacher etc.

    Normally we wold keep things simple with one calendar, but then we found this beauty put out by @home&church.org.nz this year.  We gave one to all our Sunday school families, and I hope they are enjoying it as much as we are.

    The Advent Tree by @home&church.org.nz

    The detail is incredible, the characters friendly-looking, and it includes simple devotions the whole family can do together.  What could be more simple for harried parents?  Made from thick cardboard, this will be a family taonga for many years to come.  You can buy them at The Warehouse, but the trees are all sold out on the @home&church.org website.

    I myself, start off the day with a short devotional, snatching a few minutes of quiet time to think and pray.

    Prior to Advent my kids (and Sunday school) made these simple Advent Candle wreaths I found on Pinterest.  Even a group of older boys took time and care making theirs.  Each Sunday in Advent they flip a flame up to light the candle of peace etc.  You can find them here.

    We’ve been to see The Grinch at the movies, and believe it or not, a real family highlight has been the four of us watching the Christmas season of Nailed It on Netflix!  

    Still to come is going to see a pantomime, and driving around to see the lights.

    As the ‘Minister’s Wife’ I have repeatedly had several church people come up to me and say ‘we should do x event for Christmas’ and try and leave it with me!  Nuh-uh.  I’m always happy to support events, but if people really want to do something, they need to make it happen, not me.

    Simple Advent.  Say yes to the things that bring you joy, and biff all the rest.

    Wishing you a very merry – and hopefully peaceful – Christmas.