How it got to be December already is a mystery to me. Also a mystery to me? Why I decided six years ago to set myself up for endless pressured creativity and activity for Advent every year. But when my sons were in kindergarten, that’s exactly what I did, by creating an Advent Activity Calendar for them, with a slip of paper for each day with a family activity on it. I was such a gung-ho Mom back then. Also, my kids were young and seemed to appreciate any idea I came up with.
But my kids are in their first year of middle school now, and let me assure you that they no longer automatically appreciate any effort or idea. Also, I am tired and not very gung-ho.
And yet, my little men-children still want an Advent calendar. When I raised the possibility that perhaps they were too old for such a thing this year, they were shocked, scandalized, and horrified. What? Not do an Advent calendar? That is unacceptable. (It was basically the exact same response I got when I suggested they were maybe too old to go trick-or-treating.)
And that is how I found myself last night, hanging up the garland.
Those little mittens bring me so much joy, even though I’m now faced with the daunting task of coming up with 24 family activities that middle schoolers would enjoy. I’ve been working on a list, but if you have suggestions, I’m certainly interested to know what they are. Each year, I do some of the favorites from years past (making homemade marshmallows, for instance, is an absolute tradition at this point), but I also like to introduce some new possibilities, too. My ideal activity is one which engages the kids, is in harmony with the spirit of the season, and doesn’t wear me out. Pretty tall order, eh?
If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done in the past, you can click the Advent Activity Calendar tab above, or choose the Advent Activity Calendar category on the right side of the screen. I used to be way better at documenting our activities than in recent years (like I said, I’ve lost my gung-ho-ness), but those first three years have plenty of ideas you can use or build on.
And whether or not you are making an Advent activity calendar, I can’t recommend the Smitten holiday garland pattern highly enough. I’ve made two sets so far and could see more in my future someday (possibly handspun). These little mittens are so fast and so fun and so absolutely adorable. If you are looking for some instant gratification or quick gift, you can’t go wrong in casting on for a single wee Smitten (but you probably can’t stop at just one).
Sign, stuff, address and stamp Christmas cards and their envelopes. That could be four days right of activity right there! 😉
Idea: give Mom & Dad neck & shoulder massages?
Make cookies and deliver to an elderly neighbor?
Many years ago when I was in my penultimate year of law school, our 6 kids ranged in age from 4 to 13. I barely had time to brush my hair, LOL, what with working full time and everything else. One thing I did do right-at least for a period of time. Every Saturday, I took one of the six -alone- to lunch at a place of their choice (within budgetary bounds) and we’d take time to talk one on one. Perhaps you might put in that Advent mix one meal out with each of your boys separately just to spend that quality time in the midst of the holiday busy-ness?? I have twin brothers, and the temptation (one my parents fought) was to tend to group them together. This might help?
Enjoy this time-it’s exciting when your kids become more and more their own person. Not always fun, but definitely cool:)
What a delight :0) I never did an Advent Calendar but there are some traditions that my teen age sons will not forgo :0) enjoy this time fully…. mari
Are you kidding? My mother sent me an advent calendar (chocolate!) every year up until I got married in my 30s. There is something about it that reminds you of that magic from when you were small. But you’re smart to do this because what they really told you is that they want to spend time with you. How about exploring a Christmas tradition from another country (or one a week if you need to)? That can involve reading how it’s celebrated and making a craft or food from there. How about making French food for dinner or a French cookie and learning about Pere Noel? Or whatever your family heritage might be.
Your advent calendar inspired me years ago 🙂 We have a train that we put slips of paper into with activities written on them, and this year we have, per the middle schooler’s request: have a dance party to Christmas music, eat “reindeer droppings” for breakfast (favorite donut hole activity every year), doing a secret act of kindness on St. Nick’s Day (12/6), make Christmas shrinky dinks, buy and wrap gifts for a family we adopted through our church (a single mom who’s a teenager), search YouTube for new versions of old carols (the group Pentatonix is cool), and use Google to find out how another country celebrates the holiday (as per above).
I love this idea and every year when I read about it on your blog I give myself a dope slap and think “I should do this NEXT year!”
My oldest is in 4th grade and we’re getting glimpses of the middle school years. Hang in there.
As for advent ideas, I love the idea of homemade anything: marshmallows, hot chocolate, pizza, soup, cut-out cookies, cinnamon rolls. Our family could probably do an advent calendar based on making food!
Also, I’m an advocate of being outside as much as possible. When we get into a Sunday afternoon funk we will sometimes take a long walk in a nearby conservation park and it always helps lift the mood; even when the kids complain about going at firs, we’re always glad we went.
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One thing I’d love to do in a middle school Sunday school class is something I saw in a photo exhibit in New York: The Grios of Mali. Basically, children in Mali were given cameras and asked to photograph where they found God in their lives. My idea is that since by middle school almost every kid in America has a cellphone with a camera, have them photograph where they see God in their everyday lives. With a class, I’d love to print them and exhibit them for the parish, but I think this might be fun for a family to do on one day in Advent.
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Love, love, love. I am going to try the smitten mittens because I really need SMALL projects…otherwise I never finish!!