Inventing our Advent

I really love Christmas. Everything about this time of year makes me want to sing and bake and eat and cry (mostly about living so far from the people I want to sing and bake and eat and cry with). This year I want to do more than play the part of a devout Christmas music junkie, I want to flood our life with so much Good Will fodder that next year my kids will be looking forward to a whole lot more than Santa. I want them to laugh and cry and eat and know that in our house, Christmas is all about Jesus and that means love.

I will state here and now that in order to make my Christmas Dreams come true my house has taken a serious turn for the worse. Yesterday I called Jason crying because there is no way I can do everything. I decided at Thanksgiving that I would focus on Christmas and sacrifice my housework if push came to shove. It has and let me tell you, my kids are loving the season but I’m having a hard time letting go of the little things.

I wrote a week or two ago about my grand Advent count down plansย (Action Cards included)ย and quickly killed myself off to get them up and ready before Dec. 1st . Here is the result. With four children I needed something that would hold enough candy for each kid every day plus an appropriate Action Card. I’m not out to build a manger, just give my kids things to remind them that Christmas is about way more than gifts.

My grandmother died about ten years ago and being the youngest and least important granddaughter I really didn’t get anything but a little end table. A few years ago one of my older sisters took pity on me and gave me a big bag of quilting scraps my grandma and great Aunt Edith had kept since the 30’s and 40’s. I’ve been hauling them around trying to decide what to use them for and I think I came up with the perfect thing: paired with my own pile of leftover projects I managed to sew 24 simple bags (5 hours after all the hot glue work) to hold our Advent treats and Action Cards. I can use it year after year and I kind of love it. After six days of Christmas cheer it appears my kids love it too.

Honestly, it’s amazing how easy it was to come up with really simple ways to remind my kids what Christmas is about. We’ve got a few more detailed activities in there, like hot cocoa under the stars which was a huge hit despite the rain, but it’s mostly really simple stuff.

But paired with June’s birthday events this week (home parties, school parties, decorating and sewing and crafting and KILL ME NOW etc.) plus the play on the weekend and all the other christmas prep work insanity flashing around me, I woke up this morning and just…couldn’t get out of bed. Harry and I had our mid-week play rehearsal last night and weren’t home until ten, and I haven’t sat down since last Thursday, so I closed my eyes and slept until 8:30. Rex had a doctor’s appointment at 11:00 and I really did mean to get Harrison to school. It just didn’t happen.

I felt it was my duty to broaden their educational experience and decided to teach them the fine art of playing hookie–complete with Happy Meals and a spontaneous trip to the movie theater.

But first, Rex’s appointment. The psychologist brought him out after his assessment and sat down with me, all four kids running circles around us in an attempt to get her attention.

“Well,” she said, “I have to tell you something.”

I braced myself for something really horrible. Here we were, breaking the law and me with my act half-baked (as usual) and I knew it was going to be something really awful. Oh, the stories Rex could tell on me.

“You,” she said, “Are a really good mom.” I looked behind me really fast to see who she was talking to. It couldn’t be me, wasn’t I just telling Jason yesterday that I should be fired?

“Rex was telling me all about your Christmas activities, and about his sister’s birthday party, and the stories you’ve been reading to him every night…thank you. Thank you for being such a good mom. I’ve met with a few kids today that had me feeling really sad. I needed this.”

I don’t think I ever needed to hear anything so badly in my whole dumb life.

I’m here to tell you that even though Level 10 Christmas might seem messy and over the top to many of us, even though the kids spill their hot cocoa all over the kitchen on their way out to the bonfire leaving a sticky, hot mess behind, and even though one of them regularly spends Christmas Story Time with her nose in the corner, it is, actually, totally worth it.

18 days and counting. Bring. It. On.


  1. You amaze me, and it’s time someone gave you the validation you deserve. Merry Christmas, my dear friend.

  2. So eerily similar to my life right now, except you got one step further than me with you advent calendar! I saw a similar advent calendar online and attempted to make it, but gave up and just put our service/think about Jesus activities in our Target advent calendar. And we’re running around every day, doing our activities, reading our Christmas books, singing our Christmas songs, decorating, talking about Christmas, trying to make sure we do a big focus on Jesus, and I just know it’s worth it too. In the midst of trying to make a memorable Christmas, I’m also making my daughter’s fifth birthday special — on her birthday this past Tuesday, at dance class with treats today, and with the most awesome dinosaur party coming up this Saturday! You’re living my life this week — only in Germany!

  3. I love this story! Love the cute advent bags. I totally followed your idea (added a few of my own) and wrote the advent ideas all down on paper strips and put them in our Santa candy jar. We draw one out each night. We’ve sang Christmas carols, worn red and green to school, delivered treats to neighbors, re-arranged the nativity set….looking forward to those mugs of hot chocolate under the stars (with FOR SURE rain!). Thanks for the ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

    BTW, is that a flocked tree I see in the background? It looks gorgeous against the dark wood of your windows. I needed to hear this story too. I sometimes think it’s not working, all of the readings, prayers, sending kids to corners too often, little touches I try to incorporate, glad to hear it worked in your world. Maybe it’s actually working in mine!

    Have a wonderful day.

  4. Those bags are cute! and Annie, your an awesome momma. Thank you for reminding me that my kids won’t care if the house is clean, but they will remember reading stories and spending time together.

  5. dear annie valentine,
    I love saying your whole name in my head as I write. If I had more children I would be tempted to name one annie-valentine. I wouldn’t let any one convert it to a shorter nickname! But I am done having kids- and after last nights fiasco- advent day 6: making gingerbread houses with the sister missionaries- I swore there would never be anymore Christmas either! I mopped several cups of candy nerds, broken peppermints and powder sugar off the dark hardwood floors and wondered how everyone else does this with a CHRISTMAS song in their heart!? I loved your post today. I loved your post on the advent action cards when you were planning it. I loved seeing the finished product and the story about grandma- I cry nearly every time I read your blog and I am so greatfull to have a relate-able message that is still inspiring pop into my mail box every-so-often.
    I wrote to you – some similarly complimentary note- a few months ago… we were expats in Switzerland 8 years ago- remember me? Anyway what a shock when last week Pilatus (aerospace company in Lucerne CH) called and asked my husband to come back for a few years!!! I can’t announce it to all my friends yet, since we are still in negotiations, but I am nervous and excited- ANXIOUS! What a surprise!?!? Perhaps we can meet sometime:) I am sure it will give me plenty of content and (I suspect at first) a little more time to blog. I would love to write daily but I am so behind- killing myself to make it all happen:) Merry Christmas from Charelston sc, soon to be CH.

  6. Wow! How awesome is that to make someone’s day & have them make your own? YOU ARE a Rock Star! And seriously? How can one go wrong when we put the Savior first & teach our children that priority? Good luck later cleaning but for now? Just enjoy your family & the season.

    Merry Christmas, Annie

  7. It always catches me off guard when someone comments on my mothering. It is direct line to my heart, after all. So glad you got some bolstering right when you needed it. I think I will make a note for MY advent action card tomorrow….”Compliment a mom”.

  8. I LOVE those advent bags!!! Way to go! There is nothing better than hearing someone compliment your mom-skills!! Especially someone who really KNOWS about good mom-skills! Congrats!

  9. Annie – It’s been a long time since I’ve read your blog, but every time I do, I feel like I’m just catching up with an old friend! We have also made our advent for Christmas. It’s the one month of the year that I create a checklist to make sure I’m being a “good mom.” The kids cry, I get frustrated because the “magical moment” I’m trying to create doesn’t quite turn out as planned, but we’re making memories, so I keep plugging along. This was a great post. It’s good to know that your efforts are worth it. What a neat story and what an awesome therapist to tell you you’re doing a good job. We all need pats on the back like that. Enjoy the rest of your month! Merry almost-Christmas!

  10. Love your advent calendar…so creative!
    …and you are a great mom, it must be so wonderful to have someone tell you that when you need it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • annie valentine says:

      Kiersten, today I was thinking of what an awesome mom you are. I’ve always thought you had about the luckiest kids on the whole planet and thanks to you, I make a big deal about displaying kid artwork in my house. Thank you for your wonderful example to me all those years ago when I was just learning how to be a mommy. You’re amazing.

  11. This is awesome. You are awesome. This post had me tearing up at the end.