Oh, wait, it’s Advent again?

So Advent has snuck up on me, y’all. Which is kind of hilarious and kind of ridiculous, given my line of work. At work, I’ve been seeing Advent coming for awhile, but at home, I’ve been focused on Thanksgiving preparations (it was such a good holiday this year! I hope yours was, too!) and somehow overlooked the fact that I needed to get our Advent calendar up. Like, tonight.

I started a tradition when my kids were in kindergarten, of an Advent Activity Calendar – each day of the calendar held a slip of paper with a family activity for that day. It was a sweet idea, and the kids loved it. But let me tell you, the expectations have ramped up each year – the boys expect new activities. They like to be surprised. In other words, I can’t keep rehashing the same old ideas. But I am tired, y’all, and I don’t have any new ideas. I barely even have the energy to do the old ideas. Also, older elementary school kids have a lot more going on than kindergarteners do, and it’s a lot harder to fit special family activities in. But Tiny Dancer got out of bed tonight to ask me why the Advent calendar wasn’t up yet, and I realized that yeah, I need to get to work.

All of this reminds me to make sure you know that I have documented (somewhat) my previous attempts at this activity, so if you are tired and out of ideas, you can see what I’ve done in the past. And hey, if you have any great ideas of things I haven’t done, shoot them to me, okay? Because I have to fill 24 little mittens with ideas, and right now I have approximately two.

Smitten Advent Garland

Smitten Advent Garland

Advent Calendar Activity :: Day 5


Build a fort and sleep in it.

We’ve done this one every year, and the boys always love it. Little Buddha, our builder, has an eye for both engineering and aesthetics, and he had some new ideas he wanted to try out this year. We had several frustrating minutes during which we were all working at cross-purposes with each other, but we finally got it all sorted. This year, in addition to all their comforters and blankets, we added the pup tent I made them for their fifth birthday. They had a great time camping out in their bedroom, and it was another nice reminder for me at it doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to make an ordinary day a little bit special.

This activity is part of this year’s Advent Activity Calendar. You can find more Advent activities by searching the category “Advent Activity Calendar,” or by referring to the page “Advent Activity Calendar,” where I have tried to catalogue all the activities from 2009 until now.

Advent Calendar Activity :: Day 4

There are several reasons I do an Advent Activity Calendar each year. During this very busy season (and the nature of my work makes it even more so), it would be very easy to allow my many obligations to take precedence over spending time with my children and doing fun things as a family. I have found that even doing one little special thing in a day – even for only a few minutes – can make a huge difference in my children feeling greater family connection and having a better sense of this season as a special time that is not all about presents. I do include some special gifts and treats here and there, but I also try to include lots of opportunities for making, imagining, and giving. I feel like it grounds our family as a whole, and I think it gives my kids some things to focus on each day instead of only what they want for Christmas.

The Advent Activity Calendar has been a good thing for our family, and the kids have come to really rely on this tradition. But it’s not without difficulties. Finding time some days to do some of the activities can be a real challenge (and I have to plan really well to make sure I have baking/making activities on days when I actually have that kind of time, and some less-intensive activities on nights when we have lots of other things going on).

But the hardest part of the Advent Activity Calendar is dealing with expectations. The kids get really excited about certain activities, and that can lead to a sense of let-down when the piece of paper in the calendar holds an activity that doesn’t offer something that seems all that exciting. I try to have a few activities that involve focusing on people besides just themselves –  but those are the hardest activities for them to get excited about.

They did pretty well with it in kindergarten:
Day 5 :: Advent
This was Day 5, 2009, and the activity was “Tell each family member something you like about them.” This is Little Buddha telling Tiny Dancer, “I love you so much and you’re the best brother I could have.” Melts a mama’s heart.

But the next year, this happened instead:
Advent Day 8 :: Tell, draw, or write something you like about each person in the family
The boys (play)fighting over who gets which ornaments when I’m dead. Nice! This does not melt a mama’s heart, people!

But I still try every year to help them stretch beyond themselves, to focus on other people some, to think about other’s people’s needs. Sometimes before they open the activity for the day, I have to warn them that they might not be super-excited about it, but I hope they’ll do it anyway.

For Day 4 this year, I created a new activity (i.e., one I haven’t given them in the past four years), I feared they would be disappointed with it – “Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in awhile.” – and possibly even resistant. But much to my surprise, they both responded very positively to the idea, and that night, after homework, piano, dinner, and relaxing, they both sat down and wrote their letters.


I am feeling really pleased about this, and that whole heart-melty thing is happening again.

Advent Calendar Activity Day 3 :: Make (and drink) hot cocoa (don’t forget the marshmallows!)

hot cocoa with marshmallows and sprinkles

hot cocoa with marshmallows and sprinkles

This activity makes an appearance every year, and I always include the part about not forgetting the marshmallows because the first year we did this, I didn’t have any marshmallows in the house, and the whole activity was almost a bust because of it.
Day 2 :: Advent
naked hot chocolate – no marshmallows, no whipped cream

Well, thank goodness I photo-documented everything that year, because that was the only reason I remembered to have marshmallows on-hand the second year. And I’m happy to say I haven’t forgotten since!

hot cocoa with marshmallows and sprinkles

hot cocoa with marshmallows and sprinkles

I was bummed that I didn’t have any candy canes around this time – I like to put them in the cocoa as stir sticks. I added some Christmas sprinkles, though, which seemed to make the first cocoa of the season extra-special. In fact, the boys couldn’t quit thanking me and telling me how generous I was. Win!

Advent Calendar Activity Day 2 :: Have a Wii game night


The boys have been begging for me to play video games with them. I really don’t like to play video games – if I’m going to be sitting on the couch in the living room, I’d just as soon be knitting (or spinning). I’m happy to watch them play, I just don’t really want to put my knitting down and play myself. But they really wanted it, and it seemed like a fun way to spend a little time together. They were SO happy to find this activity in their second Smitten.

It turns out that it is really hard for me not to multi-task, and playing video games with kids really does require focusing on just the one thing. It’s sad to me that I find it so hard these days to only do one thing at a time, so this was a good exercise for me, and the boys certainly did enjoy it (we played Wii Party). I had fun, too. (well, except for the fact that I’m the worst gamer ever)

Advent Calendar Activity :: Day 1

Day 1 :: Decorate the house

This is part of my slow ramp-up into the season. The boys helped me put up all our living room and kitchen decorations; we’ll get the tree later in the week (another Advent Calendar Activity). It’s actually feeling pretty sparse in here, but I do like seeing the words PEACE and JOY beaming at me each morning, as if they are half invitation, half command.

Advent Activity Calendar

One of my most popular posts, on here, on flickr, and on Pinterest, is my mosaic of our 2009 Advent Activity Calendar.

Advent 2009

I’ve continued the tradition of an Advent Activity Calendar each year (the boys wouldn’t let me stop at this point if I tried!), and I try very hard to document each year, so that I can remember the following year what works and what doesn’t. I haven’t always done a great job with the documentation (2011 I only managed to document the first 10 days or so), and I haven’t always managed to tag or categorize my posts appropriately. But because I know there are people out there who come looking for ideas about this sort of thing, I’ve consolidated what I do have in one place, creating an Advent Activity Calendar page here on the blog. I hope it’s helpful! I will continue to try to tag old posts accurately as well. For now, there are maybe 15 posts categorized under Advent Activity Calendar.

I am so SO glad I went to the trouble last year of knitting a Smitten Advent Calendar! It feels great not to have to make a new one each year, and I was so happy to hang this one up last night.
knitted :: Smitten Advent Garland

Of course, as you know, I did knit another Smitten Garland this year, for my dear friend Deborah.
Smitten :: done #knitting #mittens #smitten #adventcalendar
I had originally planned to knit a little bit on it all year, so that I wouldn’t end up knitting 24 little mittens all in a row. But in the end, that’s what I did, because that’s what I do. I got them in the mail to her on Wednesday, mailed 2-day Priority, confident they would reach her on Saturday so she could hang them in time for Advent. Sadness of sadness, though, the postal worker wouldn’t leave them without a signature when Deborah wasn’t there to receive them (even though I did not select the signature requirement). I am so bummed. But I expect they will get to her safe and sound tomorrow, and now every Advent after this she will be able to hang them on time!

Smitten :: all done but the seaming


Kind of wishing I’d seamed each as I finished knitting, but oh well – the knitting’s done, baby! Seaming each one only takes about 4 minutes – perfect for the breaks I’ll be taking between other work this afternoon and tonight. This IS going in the mail tomorrow and it WILL get to its recipient in time to hang for Advent. Yeehaw!