holidays

The Advent That Wasn't

Advent was a big part of my church tradition growing up. Lighting the candles in the Advent wreath each week to celebrate one of the shortest seasons of the liturgical year, the pinks and the purples of the candles and the priest’s robes a funny contrast to the Christmas-y reds and greens everywhere else.

Advent disappeared as I grew into my high school and college years, as I left that traditional church setting for a different one. Nobody talked about Advent anymore. I realized that no one talked much about Lent or the days in Holy Week either. The liturgical vocabulary more or less disappeared from my life.

Until I had children.

A couple years ago, I was listening to a podcast where the hosts discussed their plans to celebrate Advent with their small children that year. They had all sorts of plans, from daily Bible studies to activity books to baking treats to tie right in with the Advent season. It caught me off-guard.

Because it was October.

Yeesh, I thought, Am I supposed to be thinking about this already? Do I need to start an Advent tradition with my two two-year olds and baby? Am I already failing?

That year came and went. We didn’t do anything for Advent. Same with last year. And, admittedly, this one as well.

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I’m doing an Advent study with some friends this year. I’ve missed more days than I’ve kept up with. Still, it feels like a step forward. Most years it gets to the second week of December before I realize it’s Advent and I probably should have started on something a solid week and a half ago.

It’s not for a lack of caring about the season. The Christmastime is one of my favorite parts of the year, for the magic of twinkling lights, snow, and Santa just as much as the miracle in a manger we are all waiting for. And I can’t say it’s because I’m too busy in this season to stop and think about Advent. Outside the chaos of life with three small children, that is. Truly, I don’t feel we’re over-booked with Christmas activities or events, my gift list is usually under control by the beginning of December.

No, I think it’s because Advent often feels like just one more thing to DO, in a season where I would love to just sit back and BE.

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I read a post on the other day along these same lines, about the trendiness of Advent these days. It was comforting and spoke so strongly to my own heart.

Because the most important thing this Advent isn’t that we do a daily Advent-related activity.

It’s that the kids have been playing with their Nativity set and we’ve talked over and over the familiar story with them. (Playful embellishments encouraged.)

It’s that we’ve baked more than our fair share of Christmas cookies. It’s that we’ve delivered them to our neighbors.

It’s that we set up the tree and I let them hang ornaments wherever they dang well pleased. (Even if I re-arranged it all later so there were ornaments ABOVE the four-foot line.)

It’s that we’ve spent time watching Christmas shows together, all piled on the couch with blankets and snuggles.

It’s that they add a new sticker ornament first thing every morning to the paper Christmas trees taped to their doors to help them count the days until Jesus is born. And, yes, also the days until Santa comes.

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There’s another tug in my brain, (as happens with other traditions or the lack of), that says, It’s too late! You didn’t start an Advent tradition from their very first Christmas so you missed it! It’s too late!

That thought is, of course, utter bullshit.

The truth is I still have very young children, who, for the most part, won’t remember these early Christmases. The truth is I don’t remember most of my early Christmases, outside of a few moments here and there. The truth is it’s not now or never. We wake each morning to new mercies, new chances. And each year and every season as well.

There’s always next year. Or the year after that. Or maybe, never at all. Maybe we’ll just work on baking more cookies and sitting back to be still in this season of magic and waiting.

Life Lately

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Easter. Has it really come and gone already? Looking out the window it seems impossible (just leave us alone already, winter) but the gallon-sized Ziploc bags in my pantry filled to overflowing with jellybeans, chocolate rabbits, and pastel colors suggest otherwise. While we had a nice Easter, it also just didn't seem very Easter-y. I'd feel like we should have a do-over if I wasn't already burned out on holidays by this time of year. Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year's to Valentine's Day to Birthday Week to Easter is quite enough for me by now, and I'm happy to sit back and basically coast again until fall. Just yesterday Brooklyn asked me, "Which holiday comes next, Mommy?" and I thought for a moment before happily replying, "Mother's Day." I'll take it.

As for Easter itself this year? Less than two weeks ago and I don't have much to report. We dressed up, went to church, the Easter Bunny hid their baskets, Uncle Tyler hid a bunch of eggs, the kids gorged on candy and I bought tulips just to make it feel like the slightest bit of spring. Hahaha.

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Swimming lessons have commenced and you are looking at three little fish. With "Do we have swimming today?" being asked on the daily around our house, it's become the most highly-anticipated activity in our week. They've taken to the water with ease and you should have seen Nolan's enthusiasm for jumping into - and under - the water this week. (Unfortunately his attitude of no fear applies to water, as well. Great.) Just a few weeks in and Caden and Brooklyn have already progressed to using goggles (earned only by keeping their faces in the water to the count of "five bananas"). I may be projecting here, but maybe swim team will become our sport of choice? I'm all in just for the joy of sitting in the 92-degree heated pool area.

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We're into all things super heroes lately. We being primarily Caden, Brooklyn most of the time, and Nolan just because whatever his big brother and sister do must be cool. Batman, Batgirl, and Robin are the favorites (and the Halloween costumes for the year - or so they've told me and given the obsession lasts all the way to October) and Caden is rarely seen without his blanket cape.

"Mommy," he asked yesterday, sitting pensively on the couch, "Who is your favorite super hero? Batman or Batgirl or Superman or Elsa or Iron Man?" After further questioning, I figured out that Elsa is a super hero because she has a CAPE attached to her dress. Duh. 

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Have I mentioned the part where it's still basically winter here and everything is terrible? It's all anyone talks about lately. We're going on our sixth month of snow and cold and everyone is over. it. all. "Do you think it will ever warm up?" "Some winter, huh?" "Can you believe this winter?" " It's been a long winter" and "UGGGGHHHHH" (from the parents) have all become standard greetings around here.

Keeping the kids occupied, particularly Nolan, is my main challenge lately. At the beginning of the cold, I was eager for the chance to hunker down and be cozy. Let's snuggle up with blankets! And read books! And watch movies! And drink hot chocolate! And play with Plah Doh and build block towers and create art and do all the indoor things! Six months later and I'm burned out, I have no new ideas, we've gone to all the indoor play areas one billionty times and the TV has come to the rescue with more and more frequency. We. just. need. to. be. outside.

Don't let the photos above fool you. The train track and the Play Doh didn't keep that kid occupied more than a hot minute before he was over it and onto other things. I'm sick of looking at my house, I'm sick of toys strewn everywhere because the kids are bored to distraction, and I'm sick of trying to come up with new things to do. No one should have to parent three kids under the age of five through six months of snow and cold. This rant brought to you by: the longest winter EVER.

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In other news, we're on day 11 of Whole 30. So far so good. I guess. I still miss cream, sugar, pasta, rice, ice cream, and most other dairy products. Anyone who tells you otherwise or says "You won't even miss ______!" is a lying liar. I do miss those things. We have actually discovered some truly tasty recipes (such as the chicken fajita bowls pictured above) and I'm sure some of the recipes and changes will stick with us. But I can't wait for day 31 when real cream and sugar is going straight back into my coffee. Dairy-free creamers taste like lies and just aren't the same.

One nice change for me is a significant change in the amount of bloating in my body. As in little-to-none. I didn't even know I was bloated before, I just thought that was how my stomach looked after having three kids. My stomach area feels completely different now, in the best of ways. I was surprised at how soon I noticed that change, too, really only five days in. Otherwise I've felt mostly the same, thankfully avoiding the raging sugar-withdrawal symptoms that others warned me about. 

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Nolan calls buttons "butts". It's as hilarious as it sounds. "I push the butt!" "My turn to push the butt!" "My butt!" "I want to push the butt!" "Push this butt!" Etc. Insert all the laugh-cry emojis here.

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All these two want is to play together lately. All the imaginative play. Give them a couple of dinosaurs, Barbie dolls, or Moana figures and they're all set. Or sit back and watch the epic tales that ensue as they send their dinosaurs off on a spaceship where it meets up with an airplane, and the pilot loads every figure in existence in our house from Olaf to farm animals to all the Little People onto the plane, and then Elsa flies to the rescue (because she can fly with that cape, obviously) because they all get stuck in outer space, and afterwards they fly home to eat candy and go to bed because it's clearly time for nigh-night after such an exhausting day.

Life Lately (Halloween Edition)

 
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"Halloween is my faaaave-or-it day," Caden has been saying for weeks. The hype of costumes and candy is right up his three-year old alley. We 've been talking about knocking on doors and saying "trick-or-treat" and, yes, all the candy they'd be getting for days on end. It was the twins' third year out so they combined their collective knowledge to explain it all to Nolan, since clearly at 3 1/2 they're old pros now.

We decorated pumpkins over the weekend. Paint, googly eyes, sparkles, and glue. We went all out. Caden was surprisingly more meticulous than usual, while Brooklyn requested every color of pink that existed. Nolan was basically done before we even started, and I'm not sure whether more of his paint ended up on his pumpkin or his body (or possibly in his mouth).

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But this Halloween was C-O-L-D. My weather app read 33 degrees as we were getting all bundled up to go out (because apparently the cold does bother Elsa a bit, after all). Except for Caden. He refused a winter coat, insisting that "Then I won't be Kristoff", so I layered a pair of sweatpants and an extra long-sleeved shirt underneath his costume, convinced him that Kristoff did indeed wear mittens, and sent his winter coat along for when he realized it was literally freezing out. Except he didn't. An hour of trick-or-treating and he didn't put that coat on once. Now that's commitment.

His costume was maybe the warmest of the bunch, and he's spent the past three weeks confusing everyone with his description of boot covers, ("Know what? You put the boots on first and then the shoes on underneath!"), which has been as integral an answer to the question, "What are you going to be for Halloween?", as the simple one of "Kristoff".

It was Nolan's first year to join the trick-or-treating fun, a fact I just realized right this very second, as I'm so used to the trio they are; our very own Williams gang. He was traumatized upon leaving by a teenager in a unicorn onesie, complete with ginormous unicorn head, but seems to have resigned himself pretty quickly to being pulled in along in the wagon in the dark and freezing temperatures. Probably thinking, for the umpteenth time in his 20-month long life, "What on Earth are these fools doing with me now?"

Caden's face in the photo at the right says that he's as sick as anyone of Elsa upstaging everything with all that "Let it Go" business. 

They arrived home, buckets full, after nearly an hour. We told them they could dump out their candy and venture out again but they were content to stay in. Really, why go back out into the cold when you're carrying a candy feast right in your very own hands?

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There was a strange juxtaposition this year, as the news out of New York broke right as we were getting ready for our Halloween festivities. I was dishing up pizza and cutting apple slices as I told Tyson what I had only just read. Of course, there wasn't much time to dwell on it -- besides the mind-numbing thought, "Again?!?" -- as we transitioned quickly from dinner to costumes to photos to begging for and giving out candy. There was a tension, and a weariness, yes, again, as I chatted up trick-or-treaters and refilled the candy bowl, and thought of our own joy and families who were experiencing tragedy instead.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that we still have ALL THE CANDY. What the heck, guys? I ran out of candy in about an hour a year ago. Since our neighborhood has grown in the past year I thought I learned my lesson and stocked up with 50% more this year, and instead became desperate and was ready to beg people to take it after two hours with our lights on. I know it was cold, but this is Minnesota, guys. I'm not sure exactly what this means for our Halloween candy-buying situation next year, but if you need a Halloween candy fix, say, sometime next June, you know who to hit up.