Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent Rocks, Bits of Running, and Meaningful Advent Activities With Kids

I'm not sure this day could be going much better. I haven't felt this much like my best self in what seems like forever and it is so nice to be here again after quite a long stretch of off months. I have marathon training to thank for so much of it. There is something about working towards a goal and having a training plan for something that give me such a sense of satisfaction and drive for the rest of my life. The endorphins and fitness that come along with it are wonderful perks too.  

 After going to bed last night with my hopefully soon-to-be no more friend called Motherhood Guilt that still shows her ugly head from time to time (I know, I know, I'm still working on getting rid of this stupid anxiety and guilt that creeps up after especially crazy and unraveling types of days...getting better actually and it has helped to be reading and listening to more and more of this awesome lady, Brene Brown), I woke up early enough to have some alone time to get my thoughts straight before I woke the kids up.  And although things were a bit rushed since I waited until 7:30 to wake the girls and get them dressed, fed, hair brushed, lunches made, tooth fairy note written found, shoes on and out the door for school by 7:55, I was EFFICIENT (Gosh, I love efficiency!) and ON MY A GAME!  Feels good.  To make things even better, my more than energetic and demanding bundle of POW WOW three year old slept until almost 8:30 and all I had to do was wake him up, hand him his breakfast, dress him, find his show and tell and get him to school by 9:00.  Things went smoothly, there were no melt-downs and I could see my positive outlook and attitude being absorbed and reflected in full force.  Amazing how when we are on our best behavior as parents and have positive attitudes about our day, our kids seem to respond in much the same way.  They really do mirror us so much of the time.  

Before picking my daughter up from kinder at 10:30, I had time for my 7 mile easy run.  I left the heart rate monitor at home and I just ran.  Happy. Easy. Clear headed and positive. And I felt like I had a new pair of legs or something.   Every time I glanced down at my watch I could see my mile splits in the low 8's and high 7's.  In fact, 5 out of my 7 miles ended up being in the 7:40's and 7:50's and felt like the same effort as my high 8's the other day when I came home feeling heavy and slow.  This has left me with a smile and even more motivation to make the rest of the day a good one.  

Advent/Christmas Focus
One of the things I had a chance to fit in after my run was to get a start on some non-traditional advent activities.  My oldest daughter is now seven and I've yet to do anything with advent.  No advent calendar.  No Christmas countdown.  It always sounds like a good idea but I never get around to it.  But every Christmas I think more and more of how I want Christmas to be for my family.  I want my kids to grow up remembering Christmas a so much more than just getting presents under the tree on Christmas morning.  I want them to think of giving, family memories, and LOVE.  Yes, I want this to be their focus all year round but I've always wanted to find more ways to incorporate some special activities focused on these things.  So, this year I was determined to come up with some sort of advent activities that are about doing things for others and together...focused on giving, love, and family.  

One thing I came up with when brainstorming and hearing about your ideas that some of you shared was the idea of advent rocks.  I know, I really seem to love using rocks for activities and memories with my kids like here and here. Hey, rocks are free and paint is plentiful around here so it works for me.  

My idea for Advent/Christmas rocks:

  • Gather some rocks from the yard
  • Kids paint rocks
  • While kids paint the rocks, we brainstorm a list of character traits or qualities that we strive for:  Love, Joy, Peace, Thankfulness, Patience, Helpful, etc.  
  • Once rocks dry, I write these words on the rocks and put them in a bowl
  • At dinner time we will do a few things with these rocks during the month of December.  One idea is to have each person take a rock without looking and then talk about how they might have demonstrated that quality or maybe an example of where they saw someone else being a good example/reflection of that trait/quality.  
  • I also thought that we could just take one rock out in the morning, then talk about it over breakfast before school and try to make a goal to be conscious of being more _________(loving, kind, caring, helpful, brave, etc.).  
We will see how this goes.  I'm excited to try it out!  Here are some other ideas we have for our advent activities (a lot of them are already things we do anyway):  

  • Visit a nursing home or homeless shelter to volunteer.  I'd like the nursing home visits to be a regular thing.
  • Buy two $10 subway gift cards to give to people who are asking for help on the street corners
  • Buy groceries for a special person we know who could use it.
  • Go to a cello concert as a family (Portland Cello Project).  
  • Write letters to neighbors or special families in our life (spread this out over a few days). I'd like them to focus on writing very heartfelt letters where they give specific things that they are glad for about the person they are writing to.  
  • Bake cookies together.
  • Deliver cookies and letters to special friends
  • Take the school office workers coffee or treats
  • Take the teachers their favorite Starbucks drink
  • Watch a holiday movie as a family and make it special with popcorn, treats, blankets, jammies, etc.
  • Make gingerbread houses
  • Have kids act out the Christmas story
  • Use the double jogger and single jogger to take the kids to see Christmas lights in the neighborhood with hot chocolates
  • Christmas Rocks/Advent Rocks
  • Have our annual cookie decorating party with family
  • Send a letter/gift to the parents of a friend of mine that just died not too long ago.  I'm sure they could use so much comfort right now.  
  • Find someone's porch to sweep or lawn to rake.  
  • Read Christmas stories and then play Charades using only the characters from that book.

 Do you have any special traditions for Christmas or Advent that would be good for putting more focus on loving/giving of ourselves to others and creating more family memories?  

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  1. Love these ideas. I'm struggling big time with Christmas this year particularly with the gifts. It's hard to lean the focus on the real meaning, especially time with family friends, giving to others and enjoying the holiday In and of itself (cookies, cards, movies, pretty lights etc.). Hope you are well Amanda :-) enjoy the holidays!

  2. I volunteer at a rehab center - it's very rewarding! I One tradition I started about 11years ago, was buying a cup of coffee or soup for the person outside the market, freezing, but volunteering to help collect some change for Red Cross or Salvation Army. Their surprised smiles are so worth it, and they always act like I've done something unbelievably incredible - when actually, that's what they are doing!

  3. Just wanted to talk for a second about motherhood guilt. My Mum gave me some really good advice about it when my kids were young. She said that when it hit her she told herself that she was doing the best that she knew how at that time and then she'd let it go. I've tried to follow her example (even though I do tend to overthink the 'best' part). It allows for imperfection.

  4. I just read a cute idea - giving $5's to college students studying for finals in the library. We have a million of those in our college area and I know plenty of starving students who'd appreciate a Starbucks!

  5. So glad you got your groove back mama :)

  6. So glad you got your groove back mama :)

  7. Rocks! Perfect idea for you guys celebrating Advent.
    You really got a great list of activities brainstormed there for service/acts of kindness too :)

    Smiling about your run- the freeing feeling of running easy and effortless. I am excited to get out and run again. Reading about you running happy makes me look even more forward to it.

    Love the photo! You must be my only friend whose children are always busily entertained with paint and rocks in a nice clean home. I might have to steal your idea. :)

  8. Great post Amanda. I do not blog much anymore but always come back to read my favorites and your blog will always hold a very special place in my heart. All of your posts are so well written and inspiring. I could not agree more about the effect of a mothers attitude on they're children. It is so incredibly important to be positive and reflect on positive qualities rather than negative. Wonderful perspective on that topic. I also love the rock idea! I will have to share that with my sister.

    Have a great weekend!

  9. Can I join your family for the month of December? It sounds like you are going to have SO MUCH FUN! Nice job being intentional!

  10. Love your advent ideas - especially the rocks!

  11. Great ideas! Sounds like you put a lot of work into being a mom. I know a lot of people who just breeze by. Keep up the hard, but rewarding work!