Advent: Why We Took Our Christmas Decorations Down

My family and I are starting some new advent traditions this year. As you may know, we are a Catholic family, and traditionally Catholics actually don’t start the Christmas season until Christmas, unlike the rest of the United States who start celebrating right after Thanksgiving. I grew up celebrating like the rest of our culture in the U.S., but recently a friend brought up this book to me:

Why change?

I have already been thinking of doing the season of Advent differently, partly because of being inspired by Kendra Tierney and other Catholic bloggers. So, even though my husband and I already spent a few hours decorating for Christmas the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to take it all down and focus on Advent.

Wait, what?

Yes, yes we did. And yes, maybe we are a little bit crazy. But that’s okay. Crazy and I go way back.

Fortunately, we don’t have a TON of Christmas decorations, so when we bring them back out on Christmas Eve it won’t be too difficult. But I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see the look of joy on my children’s faces.

For the home

I also plan to buy a kid-friendly nativity scene, like this one:

A friend gave me the idea of having Mary and Joseph travel around the house, on their way to Bethlehem, and then on Christmas Eve they will have made it to the manger and baby Jesus will be born. We made an Advent wreath using a Dollar Tree wreath frame and Dollar Tree greenery. One of my dearest friends bought me some Advent candles. We will be saying an Advent prayer at least once a week as we light the candles.

For the heart

My husband and I plan to go to confession during this time. We also are using this time to reflect on our vocations as spouses and parents and getting very honest with ourselves.

Unexpected Blessing

I’ve been wanting to live more liturgically in our home, and this one change we made with waiting to celebrate Christmas has had a trans-formative effect. This past week when I meal planned I check the calendar and I noticed two feast days – Saint Francis Xavier and Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I decided to celebrate! I planned for us to have takeout for Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we are going to have Fettuccine Alfredo since it is white, which represents purity.

Christmastide

On Christmas Eve we will go through our local Christmas tree lane and then put out all of the presents and Christmas decorations while our children are asleep. We will talk about the birth of Jesus and read some Christmas stories. We will attend mass either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. We will keep our decorations up for the next 12 days (or more). We will turn up the Christmas music and sing Christmas carols. We will have a feast with family and friends. The twelve days of Christmas we will have special treats, and watch our favorite movies (Prancer, It’s A Wonderful Life). Maybe we will even have a little Twelth Night Party.

So basically, we are going to do the things we always do, cook, bake, and read stories but tailor it to whatever part of Advent we are celebrating. We won’t be declining invitations to Christmas parties during Advent or anything like that. We will just control what we do in our home.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks

Radical Hospitality

8 Ways to Be an Everyday Saint

What are some special traditions you have during Advent? Please let me know in the comments below!

Balance In The Chaos of Family Life: Is It Even Possible?

chaos family balance

The Search for Balance

Family life is so chaotic, especially this time of year, but we are committed to learning how to balance “it all”.

My husband is a dad, Special Ed teacher, Grad student, singer, and runner.  I am a mom, blogger, artist, and walker. I also occasionally meet friends for coffee…by myself.  My husband and I go on dates from time to time, and sometimes have someone over for dinner. Our home is constantly one mess after another but it is simple to reset (due to organizing systems I have set in place) even though we have two kids and a dog.

In other words, we are busy. And though we don’t have it all figured out, I wanted to share some things we have found that help us achieve some kind of balance.

How We Do It

First of all, we embrace a “a progress not perfection” mindset. For example, if it’s 8 pm and it’s time for me to blog and the dishes weren’t done yet, oh well. That was all I could do today. I truly work on not beating myself up about it. Honestly, it’s a great lesson in humility.

Image result for litany of humility

I Put the Big Rocks in First

Here’s a story I heard at mass about how we should use our time, talents, and treasure. I learned you have to put the big rocks in more. What I mean by this is, we prioritize.  When I think about my next course of action, I try to think in terms of reality and not what my schedule says, (this is so hard for me) and do the next right thing based on my circumstances. So many things in life are important, but they are not urgent every single day. This quote helps me to  have peace when I didn’t accomplish as much as I set out to:

“Let God tend to the hopeless-looking things…You can’t get everything done in a day, nor can you get any part of it done as well as you’d like it; so, like the rest of us, you putter at your job with a normal amount of energy, for a reasonable amount of time, and go to bed with the humiliating yet exhilarating knowledge that you are only a child of God and not God.” – Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.

 

I Check My Emotional State

If little things are starting to bother me that my husband, children, or even dog do, it’s probably a red herring for the real problem: I’m in need of self-care. It could mean I need to eat something, take a nap, drink some water, call a friend, do some exercise, or do something creative. Usually, if I stop and think about what I need, and take action, I feel much more in balance. In fact, that’s the best way to know you have balance – check how you are feeling.

I Keep a Schedule

I have a Mother’s Rule, my daily schedule which I update on a regular basis. I view it as a guideline of which to live out my goals for my faith, myself, my husband, my children, and my work. I block out my time and leave plenty of margin for activities like meal times or bed times. I want you to know that I normally don’t complete every single thing on my schedule. I fail every single day. But that only makes me rely on God more. I am only human, after all. And life happens. And sometimes I get distracted.

I Reflect

I try to reflect on how I am doing in my vocation on a regular basis. Besides going to confession and doing an examination of conscience, I also think in practical ways how I could have been more productive or attentive on any given day and apply that to the next day.

 

I’m Learning to Surrender to My Husband

This might be one of the most important things that keeps everything in balance. I have to stop myself from trying to be super-woman and doing everything and controlling everything. I have to say “I can’t” and let my husband see my vulnerability and receive his help and gifts graciously. This is very hard for me, but this book has been life-giving for our marriage and family.

We Believe Our Marriage Comes First

If my children interrupt me, or my husband, when we are talking, we try to teach them to wait and say “excuse me”. We want them to know how to respect us and the bond we share. I set aside time each day to be available for my husband. Am I perfect about it? No, but as with any goal I have, I am more likely to get closer to it when I put it on my schedule. I try to write my husband a love letter every Sunday and we go on a date night at least once a month, we are blessed to have in-laws who are willing to do that for us.

We Use Technology to Help us Reach Our Goals

Sometimes my kids watch more T.V. than I prefer, but it is for the sake of my sanity. The rest of the time I do my best to involve them in chores and other activities. It’s all a matter of balance. I have an app on my phone that reminds me of certain habits I am working on. It helps me stay accountable to my goals and not forget to keep in touch with friends and family.

We Prioritize Every Family Member’s Health, Not Just Our Children’s

My husband and I have set up our home life in such a way that each of us can have some dedicated, uninterrupted time on a regular basis. This is for our mental and emotional health. For our physical health, I usually take walks with my kids or dance around with them. I try to keep track of what I eat on myfitnesspal. I don’t skip meals unless intentionally (i.e. intermittent fasting). I consider it my duty and responsibility to stay sound in mind and body for the sake of serving them. My husband goes on a run during his work day. I meal plan and do Walmart grocery pickup.  We take care of our spiritual health by praying, attending mass, and making it to confession as often as we can. We sleep trained our children so we would all be able to have adequate sleep. I take a quiet time each afternoon alongside my children. All of these things together help us manage the stress of such a busy life.

We Are Always Growing

My husband and I don’t stay stuck in a rut. While I am definitely the self-help junkie of the two of us, he is definitely committed to growing as a person. I’m always reading books, working towards goals, tweaking my routine.

I Protect My Peace

I say “no” based on the commitments I have in my schedule. I know what those commitments are because I have a schedule. I have already discerned that I cannot forgo quiet time without bankrupting myself emotionally. I say “I can’t”. (For example, I can’t do the dishes when I have a headache.) I let myself take breaks. After dinner, I go directly to the bathroom and take a shower. That way I get one before I am too tired to do it. I don’t ask my husband to watch the kids. I just say “I’m going to take a shower”. He’s smart. He realizes that means he will be watching them. And guess what? Everything is okay without me.

We Nurture Friendships

Recently, both my husband and I have set up a recurring meetings with one of our closest friends, he sees his friend on Wednesdays after we put the kids to bed, and I see my friend on Thursdays. We are also slowly becoming more hospitable and opening our home more often to friends and family for visits. I make a habit of reaching out to my friends, just to say hi and see how they are, even if it isn’t reciprocated 100% equally. The way I see it, if I miss them it’s my responsibility to say hi and not wait around for them to do so. I also accept that if I want to have a vibrant social calendar, I need to be prepared to be the one doing the inviting 99 % of the time, it’s just reality. We are all so busy and it is so hard to be intentional. I can’t make people invite me, but I can invite them! It’s not so much about what you get from social interactions as it is what you give.

We Do “Special Time”

We try to spend one-on-one time with each of our kids. It could be simple like just reading a book together, or going on an ice cream date. The idea is that each of our children gets some individualized attention so they know how special and precious they are. Do we do this everyday? No, but since it’s on our radar it happens more often than if it wasn’t a goal to begin with.

Even though we are busy, we feel as though we do have a sense of balance

So as you see, the way we make all of things work is both being blessed but also through being intentional. You can have it all, but you have to let go of perfectionism and you have to understand that all the things you want to have in your life may not happen every single day, but over time. You have to accept that most of the time, you will be off track and life will be a roller coaster ride with ups and downs, but when you have your goals set, you will still be going the right direction, and you will still be making progress.