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Advent in Tawhero, pt 2

In case it’s not evident by my other Christmas-related posts, I loooove this time of year.  I really do.  I look forward to Christmas more than any other time.  Christmas brings up so many warm and fuzzy connotations for me.  If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I hate the consumerism of Christmas.  The stress.  The hustle and bustle.  The debt.  The family fights.  It saddens me that Christmas has been overtaken by all those things, and that there is nothing but a sea of Santas and Rudolphs to tell the Christmas story.

What I most want to pass on to my tots is the story of Jesus.  I also hope to instil in them the joy of giving, making things instead of buying when possible, caring for those less fortunate, and the importance of family.  But how to do it?  Enter our second advent calendar.

Sausage and Chip LOVED their advent calendars last year.  It was the highlight of their day.  I liked the idea of making an interactive calendar – one that has an activity each day.  If an activity a day seems overwhelming, fret not.  Advent should not be a time of busyness or stress.  The trick is to fill the calendar with things that you would do anyway.  In fact, spreading all those things out over 24 days is actually less daunting than a flurry of activity the week of Christmas!

As I’m doing a Buy Less Christmas, I made an advent calendar from some paper bags, scraps of wrapping paper, numbers printed off the internet, pegs and ribbon.  I think it cost me $4.  I’m stoked with how it turned out:

adventcalendar-totsintawhero

I’ve seen some cool calendars done in frames like this which I may do in the future,

but I’m going to hang our one on our mantelpiece (the joys of Christmas in summer) this year.

Here’s what my tots and I will be up to in the countdown to Christmas:

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree
  2. Make and send a Christmas cards to relative in the Netherlands
  3. Read the story of St Nicholas with Daddy
  4. Make a Christmas wreath with Mummy
  5. Put your shoes out for St Nicholas
  6. Give out gold coins to your friends today, like St Nicholas
  7. Donate toys and books you don’t want anymore to less fortunate kids
  8. Read the story of Baby Jesus with Mummy
  9. Make Christmas stars with Mummy
  10. Watch a Christmas movie for family night
  11. Learn a new Christmas carol (Te Harinui)
  12. Have a dance party to Christmas music
  13. Buy each other a Christmas present, and for a Birthright child
  14. Make a card and a present for your teachers
  15. Make wrapping paper
  16. Get Christmas photos taken at the museum
  17. Sing Christmas carols with our church
  18. Make gingerbread cookies and give them to our neighbours
  19. Make Christmas presents for the grandparents
  20. Make Christmas presents for the Uncles
  21. Take a trip to see the Christmas lights
  22. Make Christmas presents for your friends
  23. Make and deliver Christmas cards (and the presents) to your friends
  24. Call Opa, Auntie G and Uncle J in the Netherlands and sing them a Christmas carol

 

So that’s it.  Nothing complicated or earth-shattering.  I’m going to let the kids decide what gifts to make  – within reasons, and with plenty of suggestions.  Both will be given a small amount of money to buy the other one a gift, and to buy a gift for a child who is less fortunate.  I figure it’s a good lesson for them to go into a toy shop thinking about what someone else would like.  I’m pretty sure Sausage will insist that her brother really wants high-heel dress up shoes, and Chip will think his sister is dying to have a toy combine harvester, but hey, we must start somewhere.

What are you up to this Christmas season? Chime in below.

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Advent in Tawhero, in reverse

Is it really a year since my last Advent post?  Wowzers, this year has whizzed by for me.

DSCN8470

I have to share this pic again, it cracks me up.  Candles are sooo exciting!

I’m ridiculously excited to celebrate Christmas with my children this year as at almost 2 and a half, Chip will be old enough to understand what’s going on.

Like last year as we journey towards Christmas, we will read Christmas stories and talk lots about Baby Jesus, Mama Mary and Papa Joseph.  We’ll light our advent candles during dinner.  We’ll sing Christmas carols and dance like lunatics to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.  We’ll be in our church Christmas pageant.  We’ll do some Christmas crafts and decorate the tree.

This year I’m doing TWO advent calendars. (More on calendar number two in a later post.)

Advent calendar one is a reverse advent calendar.  You might have seen this idea doing the rounds on social media.  I think it is absolutely brilliant.  The idea of a reverse advent calendar is to put one grocery item into a basket that then gets donated to a food bank, or a family in need.  I am all over this idea as I want my children to associate Christmas with giving.  But let me just say that this calendar is also for me.  Last year I carefully stockpiled a whole day’s worth of meals and treats for a family that I knew really, really needed it – a grandma looking after 11 kids, bless her.  The look on her face was the best present I got.  So the reverse advent calendar is something I’m keen to get behind.

Obviously if you want the recipients to enjoy it at Christmas you’ll have to donate your basket before December 24th.  We’re going to hold on to ours until our local food bank re-opens, as the after-Christmas period is a super-busy time for them.  Many people go all out for Christmas Day, and get caught short later.  If you need ideas as to what to put in, here are some tips from my time working at a Soup Kitchen:

  • Nothing you wouldn’t eat yourself.  If you haven’t eaten that jar of quince paste or pack of kale chips lurking at the back of the shelf, they probably won’t want to either.
  • Tinned tuna, salmon or chicken, and beef jerky are always greatly appreciated for a important protein boost.
  • Buy items that go together e.g. pasta and pasta sauce.  Nothing is sadder than chowing down on plain pasta because the rest of the cupboard is bare.
  • Canned vegetables (especially the cans with pop-up rings so no tin openers are required)
  • Beans, rice, noodles etc
  • Toiletries: tooth paste, tooth brushes, deodorant, tampons, nappies, shampoo, sunscreen, moisturiser, razors, pain killers (some places can’t dispense these), bug spray, vitamins, loo paper
  • Socks and underwear
  • Muesli bars, fruit roll-ups, snack packs of crackers and cheese, chips etc 
  • Treats, because life on the breadline is pretty grim

I started gathering items to donate in November, but you could start even earlier so you’re not faced with a bill for 24 cans of baked beans all at once.

Do you like the reverse advent calendar idea?  How do you give to others at Christmas?

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Non-Toy Christmas gifts for toddlers

I know Christmas is still a wee while away but toys, and the way they seem to take over your house when you have kids is a subject dear to my heart.  I am not anti-toy.  There are many wonderful toys out there which become cherished possessions.  I myself still have my Belle doll (Snoopy’s sister, who had a dazzling array of outfits, complete with a hole for her tail) that my Mum saved for me.  Heck, I still love Belle.

What I hate is how many toys kids have today.  It’s crazy.  I am constantly fighting the flow of toys in my own house.  In fact, I swear they breed, because one day Sausage held up a toy that I’d never seen before in my life.  Despite being selective as to what toys my children have, I still find myself culling them every few months and donating full-sized bags to charity.

I think it’s really hard for the older generation in particular to understand that children today are drowning in stuff.  People my parents age were lucky if they had a train set and a doll.  Childhood is very different now.  Toys are readily available, often cheap (and nasty, so they break within seconds), and it’s just the done thing to give them as gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

Today many children have so many toys that their parents have to devise cunning rotation systems, so the toys aren’t all out at once.  More and more children have entire rooms dedicated to their toys.  The ‘rise of the playroom’ is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed of late (When I was little, I knew one other kid who had a ‘rumpus room’ and boy was I jealous of them!).

If the toys are breeding at your house, and you want to stem the tide, here are some non-toy Christmas gift alternatives for the toddlers in your life.  And if you’re an aunt, uncle, grandparent or friend, you might find these ideas more appealing than braving The Warehouse toy section on Christmas Eve…

  1. pyjamas
  2. bathrobe
  3. beach towel
  4. sleeping bag and torch/flashlight
  5. trip to the movies
  6. trip to the ice cream parlour
  7. pony ride
  8. pay class fees for a term e.g. ballet, kindy gym
  9. clothes
  10. shoes
  11. a special one-on-one outing somewhere really cool
  12. garden tools/gloves/seeds
  13. birdhouse and binoculars
  14. photo album all about them
  15. quiet book
  16. tool box and real kid-sized tools
  17. art easel
  18. noticeboard to display their artwork
  19. duvet cover
  20. dress up clothes
  21. jewellery box
  22. hair ties and hair clips
  23. poster/art for their bedroom wall
  24. magnifying glass
  25. their very own box of chocolates(!)
  26. calendar
  27. sunhat
  28. swimsuit
  29. tent
  30. lunchbox
  31. piggy bank
  32. wallet or purse with a few coins in it
  33. wooden name sign for their bedroom door
  34. toddler couch (my kids have one that was inexpensive which folds out into a bed)
  35. cutlery set/plate/bowl
  36. drink bottle
  37. hairbrush and hair ties
  38. suitcase/travel bag (ones they can sit on are great)
  39. clock (weary parents love gro clocks)
  40. first aid kit
  41. And my favourite, books

 

This Christmas give gifts that last, that children really need, and that get them out and about exploring the world.