Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent Calendar

Y'all.. I am SO in the Christmas Spirit already. And yes, Thanksgiving is in 2 days. Yes, we've watched Christmas Vacation, The Grinch, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Christmas with the Kranks and The Santa Clause.. multiple times already.

Christmaholics Anonymous, anyone? *raises hand, proudly*

Last year, we got this super cute Advent Calendar from PBKids..

And I filled it with mini candy canes. (mom of the year) Despite big ideas of getting creative and making this wonderful, month-long experience for Cohen.... Talk about a sugar overload.. geez. Think it had anything to do with the fact that I had a very cranky, colicky 1 month old?? Yea, probably.

Fast forward to now.. two days before Thanksgiving. Well, Liam has long since gotten over his colic (Praise Jesus), and I'm back to my normal work 3, off 4 schedule. :) Except right now, I'm off 5! Woot, woot! So, I think I can handle a little Advent planning. 

I'm so pleased with what I came up with! Of course I scoured Pinterest and blogs to get ideas, but ultimately made up a bunch of this. And I will gladly share the files with anyone who asks! Tis the season!

First I made my adorable tags on PicMonkey. I use picmonkey until someone buys me Photoshop. :) (You reading this, Hector??)

Next, you gotta cut those bad boys out.

Then I affixed them to some shimmery gold scrapbook cardstock that I had on hand. I used tape, but I know there must be a better way. There just must. 

Now, I'm about to go into detail about each of our activities. Some are more self-explanatory. These are in no particular order. 

Also note, I did not want to go all through Christmastime with Cohen thinking it is all about "me, me, me". And I think as a kid, it's super easy to get into that mindset. We're doing lots of magical things with him, but I wanted a lot of these to not be about "something" for him. So lots are experiences, and activities for us to do as a family. And I'm excited to add in several service projects. We have to help him understand that it's a time of giving, not just receiving. I'll be reminding him as we open these "gifts" all month long, that they are symbols of the greatest gift that was every given. Christ's love for us. 

1. Make paper snowflakes - hang them up! -- I've seen lots of cute ideas for this on Pinterest!!

2. Make a blanket for Project Linus -- Project Linus is a great organization that gives handmade blankets to critically ill or traumatized children, birth to 17 years old. There's no deadline, they're always accepting, and lots of major cities have drop-off locations. 

3. Make a Gingerbread House! -- I'm not baking the structure. I'm sure I'll buy one at Target. ;)

4. Make a candy cane reindeer! -- Saw this cuuuute craft on All Things Simple blog. Can't wait, it's pretty adorable! And simple!

5. Donate food to North Texas Food Bank -- Really excited for this one. We have volunteered here before, but it was back before Cohen. Obviously, you can donate to any food bank near you. They're always looking for extra donations around holidays. Donating even $1 can provide up to three meals for a hungry person. One dollar. 

6. Visit the "12 Days of Christmas" at the Arboretum! -- I saw them setting this up a few weeks ago whilst visiting Pumpkin Village, and it looked amazing already! I couldn't wait to get back. It's from November 16th to January 4th. I want to go at night, of course, for lights... :) 6-10pm, Sundays-Thursdays.

7. Write a Letter to Santa -- Need I say more? Now, I'll have to actually pen this letter, but I'm hoping Cohen dictates a colorful plea to Ol' Saint Nick.

8. Go visit the Trains at Northpark! -- I've heard of this time and time again, but never gone. Cohen loves himself a train, too. This display benefits the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, which a lot of our NNICU moms and dads stay at, while their babies are in our unit! So I love supporting that! Schedule and ticket info can be found at the link.

9. Have hot chocolate and watch The Grinch! -- Where there are marshmallows, there also will be Cohen. And mommy. 

10. Make reindeer food! -- Saw this cute recipe on Domestic Simplicity blog. It's basically oats and glitter. How magical is that???

11. Picnic by Christmas Tree -- This one *should* be easy.. might involve some cleaning in the playroom, but easy. 

12. Wear PJs and go look at Christmas Lights! -- We have lots of neighborhoods around us that make it their duty to decorate and thrill audiences during the holidays. Can't wait! Highland Park in Dallas, Interlochen in Arlington, Vitruvian lights in Addison, Kessler Park in Dallas, just to name a few options!

13. Bake Christmas Cookies! -- Because...why not??? Christmas and baking? Yes, please!

14. Color Christmas pages with Mom and Dad! -- Here's a whole blog post, from Made to be a Momma, with coloring pages to print!! (FREE)

15. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots -- Cohen will love this one. What a fun project for him, picking out a toy for a little boy (probably!) and taking it to one of the HUNDREDS of drop off locations in the metroplex. Or, you can even buy a toy at Toys R Us and they'll just accept it there, and get it to the right people. Be careful where this one falls in your calendar, they need toys donated by December 13th!!

16. Make S'mores by fire! -- I think I already mentioned the marshmallow thing to you....

17. Give some time to Brother Bill's Helping Hand! -- We volunteered here, also, before Cohen was born, and I'd love to go back. I've emailed them, asking if they have anything available that would be appropriate to bring an almost-4 year old to. Hoping for crafts with kids, or something. We'll see! It's a Christian non-profit providing Education, Health and Essentials of Life programs to individuals and families in West Dallas. (they say that on their website) :)

18. Make Pancakes for Dinner! -- Cohen will totally go for this one!

19. Make treats for school buddies! -- Haven't found the perfect one yet, but Pinterest is your best friend for activities like these!

20. Take Pictures with Santa! -- We've done this the past two years, at Stonebriar Mall. Now we're kinda far from there, so we may try the Bass Pro Shop Santa!!

21. Paint a footprint Christmas Tree! -- Saw this precious craft on Pinterest.. of course.. I will use Liam's pudgy little feet to make him one, too! 

22. Popcorn and watch The Santa Clause! -- Another Christmas classic, and mama loves popcorn, so... Just had to!

23. Donate spare change to a Red Kettle! -- After Thanksgiving every year, at pretty much every grocery store and mall in America, the Salvation Army's Red Kettles are out! With their jolly volunteers ringing those bells, looking for change! I hear they like paper monies, too! ;) Another way to show Cohen that we need to give to those less fortunate. 

24. Buy gifts for an Angel off of the Angel Tree! -- I want Cohen to really get on board with this one. I hope we'll choose a boy close to his age to buy for (hey.. it's what I know!). You can click the link and find the 10 area malls that have Angel Trees. This is another time-sensitive project! Gifts must be returned no later than December 10th!! So put this one towards the front of your calendar. :)

25. Read the Christmas Story from the Bible! -- What better story to read, than the actual birth of Jesus?? That's where it all started, after all! I'm sure we'll either use his Adventure Bible or his Jesus Storybook Bible, both are great. 

I made two extra, in case one or another falls through.

26. Bake Cookies and deliver to a friend! -- Cookies again.. I know. But these are for a friend!

27. Make bubble Santa beards during bath - take a picture! -- This will for sure be on the calendar, like I said, these aren't in order. How cute will that be?? Need to find some sudsy bubble bath! Anyone remember Avon's bubble bath?? The best!

I don't think this is where Angel will stay, Hector just put her there when we unpacked Christmas boxes. But anyways, the cards fit perfect! With just a little strip of color peeking up!

How cute! I just can't wait for December now! I hope you found these ideas helpful, if you're trying to come up with some of your own! Remember, this season is not about "me, me, gifts, getting, galore.." It's a great time to give back to your community and show little ones what that means. 

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