One winter morning Isabella woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night….

She had a great time watching the snow plows go back and forth on the street and in the parking lot of the ice cream shop. She was not so thrilled when we actually went outside. Unfortunately the snow turned to rain this morning so we don’t have lovely powdery snow for Bella to play in, make snowballs with, or help me to build a snowman…. just nasty slush. She whined while walking to the car, not liking the slush on her shoes. Can’t say as I blame her. I really need to go get her some boots for days like today.

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  • Melanie she might be old enough for something like this.  Get some gold, yellow or white yarn and cut it into maybe four inch lengths or so, give or take, to place in your nativity scene’s manger, or make a manger out of milk carton or buy a plastic one just for your daughter.

    Anyway… whenever she does something good (and that could be as simple as saying”please” or putting her dolly away or just taking a nap without making a fuss, you decide- she gets to put a little string down in the manger for Baby Jesus to sleep on.  Tell her you want it to be nice and soft for Baby Jesus.  Let her have LOTS of success! and lots of fun.

  • Thanks, Elena, it’s a great idea. I’ve seen other similar projects before and made note of them as possible Advent activities. Though I don’t think I’ve seen the idea of string and I don’t think I made the connection with making a soft bed. I like that detail. I think my sister-in-law’s kids do a similar manger activity, writing their good deeds on pieces of paper “straw” and placing them in a manger. But I don’t think Bella’s yet capable of that level of abstraction.

    Right now putting things away into a drawer, dropping a tissue into the trash, or placing toys into a basket, is its own reward. This morning as I was sitting in my favorite spot in the recliner she dragged the lap blanket off the couch and placed it in my lap. Because I always put it on my lap when I’m sitting in that chair. That’s where it goes.

    I do praise her when she follows my directions; but it doesn’t seem like the praise is much of a motivator.

    If she had older siblings who were doing the manger making, I’d certainly include Bella in the “game” but I think I’ll wait until she’s really able to appreciate the idea before we initiate that activity.

  • Melanie, I think you’re right about not comparing your traditions to those with older children—my oldest is 11 and we do a variety of Advent ‘activities,’ to the benefit of my younger two, but we weren’t doing most of them when my oldest was a toddler.

    And as fabulous as all the ideas out there are (and *believe me, I have most bookmarked or printed out!), they, too, can be overwhelming depending on your situation.

  • I agree about not stressing about Advent activities for toddlers. Our toddler doesn’t really understand all the things we do for the benefit of grade- and high-school-aged children. As Katie said above, he benefits. He notices that something is different. He hears the prayers. He understands that the manger is Baby Jesus’ bed, but he doesn’t seem too interested in putting in the hay. He likes to open doors and stick magnets on the advent calendar. He is learning about waiting his turn. When we get the nativity set out, I imagine he will enjoy moving the figures around and probably banging them together.

    A couple of years ago, my husband devised a hook in the wall to which we attached the tree by a wire so that this active crawler/climber wouldn’t pull it down. We also only put the felt or unbreakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree. It helps that we save the Christmas tree for the very end of Advent and usually decorate on Christmas Eve. That way, there are other more interesting things to be played with soon after the tree goes up.

    When our oldest was our only, we had an Advent wreath. When he was about three, we got a paper Advent calendar with a Bible verse inside each door.  Over the years, we have accumulated a lot of traditions.

    If you’re curious, you can take a look at the Advent post on my blog. It turned out to be a pretty long post.

    My intention was to record things for myself (sometimes I forget from year to year) and share ideas with others, but NOT to overwhelm anyone. Our oldest is 18, so we have been accumulating these traditions over 18 years. The Jesse tree didn’t really become a consistent Advent devotion for us until our oldest was in high school. Although sometimes I wish we had started it sooner because I see my grade schoolers enjoying the story, I know that these things come and stay when they are meaningful to the family.

    So I guess this was a long-winded way of saying that the things that are meaningful to you and your children are the most important ones to do. We’ve tried things that didn’t work out so well, and we didn’t keep them, or we changed them until they made sense for us. You will find yourself doing the same thing as your children grow and your family situation changes. 

  • Yes, as long as we keep a sense of perspective,  reading about what other moms are doing with their children can be an inspiration. However, we can lose that perspective and start comparing ourselves, especially focusing on what they do that we don’t and not considering that there are things we do that they don’t. If we do that, then we can become discouraged rather than encouraged.

    “What I do with her now will not come around again with younger siblings, so in a sense we have less time. (I’m not sure that makes sense?)”

    That makes perfect sense. If I knew that Bella was my last, I know I would feel more urgency, a desire to cling to these years. The very fact that little Sophia is currently kicking in my belly slows me down and reminds me that there will be time to dust off some of my treasured family traditions and to develop our own.

    Like you say, every family’s dynamic is different and even that changes over time. What works for you might not work for me, and what works for us this year might not work next. As much as I love reading all the mom blogs and the homeschooling blogs, I try very hard to remind myself not to dwell too much on possible futures. I store away ideas as possibilities. But when it comes to actually implementing them, I try to balance the ideas that excite me with the realities of who Bella is, what she needs and will benefit from as well as what I am currently capable of and what works for our family. One thing I want to be careful of is not imposing too much on Bella or pushing her too fast. I get so excited about things I’m afraid I could easily rip the fun out of them by making them into chores instead of games. I want to allow our faith to be a part of the fabric of our household life, not make it into a school lesson or a craft or an obligation that I feel I must accomplish. What works naturally for some moms might I think quickly become burdensome and therefore counterproductive to me.

    As you say, when you have several children you have to consider how what you do with one effects the others. I liked what you said about the “trickle up” effect. When small children get excited, it is rather contagious, isn’t it?

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about what works for your family and why, it definitely helps me move from comparing to appreciating.

  • Oh Melanie … how funny! I have looked at what you do with Bella and thought I was falling short! Thanks to you when we go to church we now always go and say hello to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary.

    You got me thinking about why I am doing these things with Little Cherub. Yes, you are right about having older children making a difference. Also, we have an odd family dynamic, with a big age gap and the likelihood – despite our brief hope otherwise – that she will be the youngest child. What I do with her now will not come around again with younger siblings, so in a sense we have less time. (I’m not sure that makes sense?) 

    As the two older girls are now in school it is hard to do as much as with them as I have in previous years and instead of the trickle down effect of a toddler picking up on what is done with older children, I’m hoping for a bit of “trickle up”. For example, I was planning to do the Jesse Tree readings with the older girls but realised it just wasn’t going to work out logistically, so I have ended up doing the Jesse Tree with Cherub – something I most definitely would not have done when her sisters were this age. This way the big two still get to see the Jesse Tree grow, Cherub gets to help hang the ornaments on the tree, and I read the stories from a beginner’s Bible more for my benefit than hers!

    The other big, big difference is that you and Dom are preparing for Christmas together. Bella gets to see the two of you sharing your own adult preparation. We are a mixed faith family and while my husband is very supportive of my raising the girls Catholic – how many Jewish husbands would take their daughters to First Communion classes every week for years? – our daughters never see that joint example. Faith can never be a seamless thing in our family the way it will be in yours. Also, we simultaneously celebrate Hannukah, so making a big thing of Advent, even with a tiny tot, helps to make sure we keep a balance. 

  • I wish I had been as wise as you when my poor eldest daughter was little. I did make the mistake of doing too much too soon and have regretted it ever since. This time round I am factoring joy into the equation.

    The problem with reading blogs is that they can be *too* inspiring. So many great ideas, and so impossible – and inappropriate – to implement all of them!

  • As far as not doing to much, thanks for attributing it to wisdom. There may be a little of that; but it might also help that my besetting vice tends to be laziness.

    I look at so many blogs and get exhausted just thinking about trying to do half of what some of these moms do. That looks neat, I think, but it also looks like so much work!

    The phrase from Charlotte Mason that most appeals to me: “masterly inactivity”!!! wink

  • Masterly inactivity has a lot going for it smile

    Remember that many of the “supermom” blogs reflect their individual strengths … for example some people find it easy to do lots of arty-crafty things that would be burdensome for others. Also you tend not to see what they *don’t* do – the science oriented people who do very little history, or the sporty families who don’t ever get to art or music, or whatever.