I mentioned that I have been pulling together all of our Advent activities. I say "activities" because not all of them are simple calendars. It is funny to me that we started out the first year with one simple calendar - the one I had growing up - and I worried it wasn't enough. This year we have that one and 3 more!
Last year, I talked with the twins a lot about how Christmas was Jesus' birthday. It didn't take long before they were wondering what we were going to give Jesus. It was a great question. We talked about options. We decided that what Jesus would like most for His birthday was for us to show others His love. Because this conversation came up in the midst of the December madness, the only thing I was able to pull together was making cards to send to the Grandpas and Grandmas at the nursing home. All year, I have been thinking of ways I could make this a daily project for us. I have seen Advent calendars where they do a different Christmas themed activity every day, and I thought we could potentially do a version of that. I have been looking online for ideas, working at keeping all of the activities within our budget, going over our December calendar to try to make sure we don't overburden ourselves during an already busy time, and trying to think about the conversations I want to have which each thing we do. In the end, I came up with something that works well enough for this year, but that I will probably want to tweak in the future. A lot of the days involve making gifts for the people in their lives - swim teachers, neighbors, friends. Some of the days involve doing something nice for the people that serve in our community - fire fighters, mail person, garbage people. Some of the days are service opportunities (like delivering for Meals on Wheels). Some of the days I wanted to get them farther outside their world - like buying something from Heifer International to send to kids in need.
Today we did the first of our activities - painting cards to send to (potentially wounded) soldiers. I saw something going around facebook suggesting that people send an extra Christmas card to wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Hospital. I thought that would be a perfect Advent Activity, and decided to look into it more. Turns out, that won't work. It was a good idea, but not actually organized. You can, however, send cards through Red Cross. Get all of the info here. Since they have to be postmarked by a certain date, I made that our first project.
Oh, and I won't blog about each day the way I did about the thankfuls. Mostly because this month is already busy, and I don't want keeping up with the blog to feel like an obligation. Partly because there is a fine line between "Here are things we are doing that you might be interested in doing too," and "Look at us, aren't we SO awesome?" and I don't want to cross that line. You will probably see pictures of days here and there as I tied, as many as I could into things we were doing. I will probably include a full list (and maybe pictures) at some point after the holidays (because this blog serves as our history/memory keeper, and I'm hoping this will be a memory we want to preserve). In the meantime, if you are interested in doing something similar, I thought I would share some of the places I got my inspiration (one of them is a blog where they did 1 service project a week for a year with their little children - so it could be a New Year's resolution in stead of advent...):
Teaching to Give
A Holy Experience
I know there were some others, but apparently, I didn't bookmark them (Doh!). But that is a great starting point :)
Also, I mentioned before that I had been trying to make it so that all of our Christmas wishlists were gifts that "gave back" in some way. I discovered that 1) there isn't a great central place where you can find things like this. 2) There aren't a lot of great ones for kids (and our Christmas wishlists tend to be only for the kids because Lucas and I don't want/need anything so we tend to opt out of gift exchanges). 3) Almost everything was over the price limit of the gift exchanges we do for the kids! But, if you are interested, here are the links I found (for young and old alike):
Lists of "Give Back" Gift Ideas:
Rage Against the Minivan - a great list of "give back" gifts!
Ecoki - another list of gifts that give back
LilSugar - A list that is kid specific.
Charitable Businesses that I Especially Like:
Ever After Clothing - the recipient of the gift gets to pick the charity that they would like the proceeds donated towards...and one of the charities helps abandoned babies in Uganda!!
Krochet Kids - this is the "Made in Uganda" specific link :)
Superhero Supplies - one of the most unique "give back" businesses I have seen!
SixtyFeet - An organization I love that is working in Uganda.
(un)Adopted - a ministry of our adoption agency.
31 Bits - beautiful accessories...and many are made in Uganda (do you sense a theme...)!
Charities/Charitable Businesses You will Recognize:
These aren't exhaustive lists by any means, but they will help get you started. There are other websites and articles that have lists of "Give Back" gifts (I finally have started to see the ones for this year, but you had to wait until Black Friday for them to come out...our wish lists were all due earlier). There are also a lot of other great charities/charitable businesses. These just happened to be a few of my favorites.