Friday, December 23, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday: Fourth Week of Advent

1. Advent Report

This year, Advent was a full four weeks long, which is the longest liturgically that it can be. I felt that I was humbled by my limitations, realizing that I simply must plan for even less than I think is "small." Honestly, it now takes so much effort simply to run a home, cook simple meals, do laundry, complete minimal cleaning, and teach school for five children, that what I can add on top of that is just about nil. Below is my analysis of how Advent went in all its TRUTH. I'm keepin' it real, folks.
  • Lighting the Advent wreath nightly and singing "O Come, Emmanuel." I think we managed this three times all of Advent, and not for laziness, but for busy-ness. Halfway through Advent, Chris discovered a good substitute way to at least get the candles lit was to light them during the family Rosary each night.
  • Paper prayer chain. Instead of buying an Advent calendar and chocolates (which sort of undermines the purpose of Advent being penitential), I tasked my eight-year-old with making a simple, white paper chain with a prayer intention written on each slip of paper. We managed to tear open one link most days, and then had to tear open multiple links on other days. This was pretty successful.
  • Nativity scene. Yes, I put it out, so that was a win.
  • Filling Baby Jesus' creche with straws for good deeds done. I never found straw to put out, nor did I continually point out that a child had done a good deed and should go put a straw in the manger, so this was a big fail this year.
  • Making some sacrifices. My sacrifice was to use the TV as a babysitter considerably less and I achieved this. In fact, during the fourth week of Advent, we give up TV virtually 100%, so the kids felt that sting (although not as much as if their Grampa Neil hadn't been here to play so many board games with them!). That said, I don't think that any of the children stuck to any sacrifices, if they even committed to one in the first place, and that seems like a real loss to me. I think we as parents needed to require the children to make individual, concrete, simple sacrifices (not vague things like, "I'll be nicer" that can't be quantified, achieved, or remembered).
  • Opening the wrapped Christmas books each day and reading them. This practice had so much potential! The children of all ages absolutely loved seeing the wrapped books (all of which we already own and with which they are familiar), and anticipating opening one each day. Unfortunately, my plan did not account for a 17-month-old toddler who would dig through the books each day, get them out of date order, and open them at random when he wasn't supposed to. I also did not account for the fact that our changed routines has meant I've been doing hardly any reading at all in the evenings these last few weeks (which disappoints me so much, as it's a major point of connection for me and the kiddos).
  • Completing the "My Path to Heaven" at-home retreat. All this required was to do the meditations three times weekly, but I couldn't even stick to that schedule. The meditations are beautiful and profound, even though aimed at children (they're just as useful for adults). I plan to continue these meditations until we're done, even if it takes us through the celebratory Christmas octave and beyond.

Josey playing a game with Grampa instead of watching TV

2. Christmas Tree

We decorated the tree earlier than our normal Christmas Eve tradition this year (click here).

3. Music Recital

On Saturday, we participated in our annual Christmas music recital, which was successful for John (10), Mary (8), and Margaret (5) (click here).

4. Gingerbread Lane

On Sunday, we visited Gingerbread Lane at the Ballantyne Hotel (click here). This is a wonderful tradition for a large family because it is elegant, memorable, festive, and FREE.

5. Charlotte Christmas Village

On Wednesday, we visited the first annual Charlotte Christmas Village, which is meant to look like a German Christmas Village nestled amidst, not the Bavarian Alps, but the glamorous high rises of uptown Charlotte. (Of course, I couldn't help feeling a bit awkward and sad visiting our local German Christmas Village after the tragic attack at the real German Christmas Village in Berlin the very day before.)

The outing was underwhelming for the adults because, while the concept was charming, there were only about a dozen vendors, and we were virtually the only visitors at that time of day, which created an awkward expectation from the vendors all staring at us, hoping we'd buy something. I'm sure the Village is more fun during a festive, busy time of day (probably evening).

Oldest and youngest joyful sons

We did buy some delicious strudel, and the children had a grand old time simply running pell-mell in the large grassy center of the park.

6. Thursday: Cooking Day

After a week of various make-up music lessons, chores, and errands, on Thursday I stayed home to do Christmas preparatory cooking with my five-year-old who really needed some one-on-one love-time to help adjust her attitude, while Chris took the other children to Scottish dance.

I also ended up staying home from ice skating on Friday to do more preparatory cooking. There is no way I could manage all the hustle and bustle of Christmas outings plus actually prepare the home for the festivities. Increasingly I find that I must manage the home base.

7. Ice Skating

Joseph (3) skating with a good pal

Chris and Grampa took the four oldest children to the annual ice skating event with at least a dozen of our homeschooling families. (I stayed home to rest and do Christmas preparations.) A grand time was had by all, and Margaret (5) this year isn't using the blue skating assistant at all!

Chris' camera phone ran out of battery after he took only one photo, so I don't have a slew of glorious photos to share this year.

You know you're raising Latin nerds when your eight-year-old reports on the music at the event: "Mama, they even played Adeste Fidelis! But it was in English . . . I don't know what the name is in English."

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

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