I love the above Fred Rogers quote.
It has completely changed the way I think about the holidays.
After one of the busiest weekends I’ve had in recent history, I have spent the last two days resting at home without a voice and the sorest of throats. This poses a little bit of a problem when one teaches children. After trying ESP, sign language/charades, and yelling with my eyes, I give up. My throat is too raw to speak and I have to surrender to my children making me tea and putting me to sleep to achieve their ulterior motive – do whatever they want. Whenever I lose my voice, I know it’s because I haven’t had enough time in silence. It never fails. I have used the last few days to really sit and iron out my intentions for December, the last month of the year.
One of the events that I participated in this past weekend was a lovely merrymaking event held by Paper Plus Cloth. I ran a mini workshop on how to make a tiny advent calendar for yourself to get you through the holidays. It had the theme of self-care and inner work. You ended up with a little notebook with a little pocket inside to hold 24 quotes/questions/prompts to help you stay grounded and present throughout the busy-ness of the season.
I have some leftover kits available for $2.00 for anyone local that is willing to pick them up from me or you can make this project with whatever paper supplies you have at home. (I love the clothespin because it keeps it closed in my bag.)
I created a small pocket inside with a piece of scrap paper and some washi tape. I cut out my prompts or quotes and put the strips inside it:
I tied some twine through the middle of the book and looped a small black tag I made with cardstock:
You can download all the prompts/quotes here:
As I taught the workshop, fully losing my voice in the process, I became acutely aware that I needed this notebook as much as anyone else. I needed to stop and look around me, and more importantly, to look at where I’ve been as this year is coming to a close.
I picked one of the strips for today, December 1. I pulled out the Fred Rogers quote. As I began to stress about not having our advent wreath of candles ready or my festive chalkboard drawing for the first Sunday of advent, I re-read the quote. My favourite holiday stories don’t include frantically trying to force a repeat of years past. I had to focus on the things that my children looked forward to every year which was our own family advent calendar and their love notes.
I have created family and individual calendars for my children every year for Advent for the last 14 years. I began with little love notes that I gave my oldest daughter in her lunch box when she went to preschool. In past years I made little envelopes that I strung across our mantle.
This year, we have our fabric tree up again with envelopes pinned to it. In each envelope lies a family activity – activities that we love to do as a family during the holidays and that celebrate each child. There are days when there is only a child’s name on the activity which means that they get to spend part of the day with just mom and dad. There are activities that have us helping others. One of the kids’ favourite activities falls on December 13 – celebrate the feast of St. Lucia and bake St. Lucia buns to distribute to our neighbours.
For the last 5 years, I wrote 120 love notes for my five children for Advent. 120. As much as I love doing these individual notes, I decided on a simpler approach this year.
They each made a mini notebook out of my extra kits. My oldest will use the adult self-care questions and quotes. The other 4 have special questions and love notes that I pre-printed. I cut those up and placed them in their inside pockets. Each day they will pick a prompt and add it to their little notebook.
I think I will surprise them some days with an illustration or a quote handwritten from me that they will find unexpectedly in their books.
This advent calendar activity is an important part of our family holiday story. It is probably the oldest tradition that we have in our family of 7 and one that the kids are certain happens every year. With my notes and my holiday prompts, I find out what’s important to them at this time of year. I am always surprised to read what they look forward to the most. They are excited about the little things – trimming the tree together, singing and dancing to their favourite Christmas carols, and baking cookies (the yummy ones).
We are about to take our usual homeschooling break in December so that we can enjoy the season. Enjoy every sip of hot cocoa. Enjoy making our presents to give. Enjoy looking back on our year together.
For the next month, I will pick a random prompt/quote a day and write about it here as I wade through the events of December and look back on a year that changed my life.
If you are local, let me know if you’d like a kit for the mini pocket book! It’s never too late to start the advent calendar! Email me: email@example.com