We are still using the advent calendar that I put together two years ago. (Sidebar: I can't believe looking back that I managed to make that calendar and blog it in a semi-timely fashion, but oddly, right now I feel like times were simpler back then with a four month old, a two year old, and a four year old than they are now. Waylon is a handful at the moment, and most days the constant discipline is exhausting me. I don't mean to imply that I'm a hard-ass, because I'm not. Kid gets away with so much, and even pants are optional at this point. I'm just saying that maintaining any sort of consistency with him with basic rules like "don't throw stuff at people" requires a lot of work. Anyway, I also had babysitting help back in 2011. Also, believe it or not, even on a three day/week schedule, Georgia at age four was attending more total hours of school per week than she is now. I'm sure this is all some version of revisionist history in which I block out memories of around-the-clock nursing, getting puked on virtually nonstop, and having to laboriously put a baby down for catnaps like four times a day, but whatever. I am presently beat! And why no mention of June? Because June was easy in 2011 and is even easier now.)
BUT I DIGRESS. Back to the advent thing. The point is that I am still in love with our advent calendar, not for how it looks, but for how user-friendly it is. It's activity based, so no new toys or candy go along with it, except for the days when I really need to phone it in and just write "Eat a candy cane!" as our activity of the day. I haven't had to do that yet this month, but I can guarantee the kids will be disappointed if I don't eventually. That's the beauty of them still being young - they are ridiculously excited about whatever the card of the day says, even if it's just "make a snow angel". My biggest trick is that I use the advent calendar to write down things we'd do anyway, like buy and decorate a Christmas tree or hang twinkle lights in the kids' bedrooms.
I try to incorporate kid-friendly giving opportunities and a focus on charity a couple times a week, because I think that's a beautiful part of the Christmas season. Plus, the kids get asked so many times between Thanksgiving and Christmas what they want in the way of gifts that I figure its good for them to sometimes think about what other people need. We are so fortunate, and I know they can't fully comprehend that, but surely it can't hurt for us all to practice flexing our empathy muscles a little. Baby steps.
All of that is lead in to me sharing this uber-simple giving opportunity that I learned about at church and then made into our advent thing of the day, you know, in case you feel like doing it, too. I hardly know anything about this organization, but Companions Journeying Together has an Amazon wish list where you can buy books for moms or dads who are in prison and therefore don't often get to read with their children. I believe the way it works is that this organization audio records the parent reading the book, and then gives the book and recording to their child. Well, pull my heartstrings why don't you. Ugh. Can you even imagine?
What could be easier than telling your kids, "Today our service project is to help mommy shop for some books online!" Took about 5 minutes and the girls enjoyed it. Of course, it's your call whether you simply tell your kids that they're buying books for people who don't have any, or if you, like me, instead make the mistake of telling your VERY SENSITIVE children who are prone to separation anxiety issues that the books are for kids whose moms and dads are in prison. (Um, yeah, we got through the ensuing series of several follow-up questions without tears, but God, I am an idiot sometimes.)
Does anyone out there have other easy service ideas for 2/4/6 year olds? Our others include things like finding Salvation Army bell ringers to give change, taking canned goods and pantry items to donate, buying mittens and hats for a "mitten tree", and making cards and treats for a few of our elderly neighbors, but I am always receptive to new ones.
ETA: Dose of reality. We were about to pull into the Target parking lot to buy provisions for others today but had to abort the mission due to our own hunger and crankiness. Disappointing. Oh well, the best laid plans, right? So we shall bundle up and try again this afternoon when everyone is well fed and rested. Sigh. (Incidentally, the sun will set here today at 4:21. I feel like there hardly is such a thing as afternoon.)