So back to this advent business......
What is advent? It's the count down to Christmas. Right? Where we all buy or are given a Cadbury's advent calendar with chocolates behind every door. Right? Unfortunately this has become the association. There is enough sugar-filled rich food around at this time of the year without the need for more and what about the waste that is generated by those plastic/cardboard voids??
This year thankfully nobody bought my children a calendar. Miss P made one for the Little Lady in the form of unwanted items that she wrapped and labelled for each of the 24 days of Advent and for Small Boy she made a calendar with colouring activities and quizzes for each of the days.
Back in early November, the children hassled me for some kind of Advent marking symbol. They get my dislike for the chocolate numbers and now share/are brainwashed into thinking the same, so they set about looking for an alternative :-)
Pinterest. If you haven't yet discovered Pinterest then google it, it's amazing and perfectly suited to the likes of us creative folk.
Miss P found a whole host of suitable 'things' that could mark the days of advent that were just a little different. Of course in my busy world I didn't actually get around to looking until the first of December! Pinterest provided vast amounts of inspiration, 'cook mince pies', 'sing carols' etc. I sifted through the suggestions and then.........and then......I came across '50 random acts of kindness for kids'. Perfect! Just what I wanted. The perfect opportunity to embrace the opportunity to make a difference whist marking the days of Advent and having a little fun at the same time.
In my chaotic state, I hadn't got around to making any form of calendar or housing for my ideas, besides, I very much like to act on impulse and flow in the direction that each and every day takes us. So it was decided that our blue and white stripy teapot was to become the 'magical Christmas teapot for Advent'. Pinterest has some lovely printable templates so that you could write your own ideas on little decorated squares, fold them up and hide them away to be discovered. For those with even less time, there are even ready printed slips available.
So what ideas have I come up with so far?
Day1: Make bookmarks and send them to people without saying who they are from.
When you do a good deed for someone you feel good in the knowledge that you've made a
difference to that persons life.
One Small Boy watched from a distance whilst engaging in a useful pastime!
Day 2: Clear up litter from the area surrounding our house and our neighbours.
My children are human and you can imagine the reaction to that one! 'So who is that going to
benefit?' Exactly! They armed themselves with a bin bag and rubber gloves and collected a
whole bag of rubbish!
Day 3: Choose something nice for tea.
What could be so difficult about this one? Nothing at all apart from possibly complimenting
the choice of others. Amazingly everyone worked as a team and we shared lovely bread,
olives, cheese to name just a few things.
Day 4: Sit next to someone at lunch whom you don't usually sit next to.
It just so happened that on this particular day we were off to a Home Ed Christmas party at a
group we are fairly new to. This task was potentially fairly daunting but a perfectly reasonable
ask. It's brilliant stepping out of your comfort zone and each one of us (yes, even me)
seemingly effortlessly managed it :-)
Day 5:Take Santa out for tea and cake after work.
Hehe! This was rather a fun task. Out village Santa hasn't been too well in the past year and
needed two helpers to give him a hand at the annual bazaar. Miss P and the Little Lady were
more than thrilled to be asked, especially when I suggested that I make them costumes for the
occasion. The girls took to their roles like ducks to water and Santa himself was thrilled to be
treated to refreshments following his busy afternoon.
Day 6: Write a letter to Santa.
We actually don't 'do' FC ( I've talked about this in previous blogs) so this was really a
potentially silly creative writing opportunity. Nobody did it!
Day 7: Play a board game by the fire.
There is something really warming on a deep soul level about this one. Stopping for a moment
and actually genuinely tuning in to family life. The children love me playing with them
especially when I'm free from distractions. Try it sometime :-)
Day 8: Buy something for the food bank.
I myself am apparently living my daily life on the 'breadline' but I still manage to feed my
family. For whatever reason, sometimes people find themselves in a financially desperate
position and wonder where the next meal will come from. In Oxfordshire and many other
counties too, local churches and charities operate a community food bank where people
can turn in genuine times of need. The children each chose an item to donate.
Day 9: Movie night!
We hired a film on DVD from the library but you could just as easily watch one that you
already own or borrow one from a friend. We chose a Christmas film 'Magical Christmas'
it was pretty old and actually not great but it was still a super activity to do together and made
us appreciate better films!
Day 10: Give out free hugs
Again not something that the children felt thrilled to be doing but it just so happened
to be the day of another Christmas party. Two out of three children reported back that they
had hugged many friends!
Some people never receive a hug.........
Day 11: 'Wendy and Peter Pan' at the RSC in Stratford.
What a treat! We were fortunate enough to buy tickets for the understudy performance
and what an absolutely fab show it was. If you get the opportunity do go :-)
Day 12: Put up the Christmas tree...
Have you noticed how much earlier people have started to put up their decorations?
When I was younger my Mother in Law put her deco's up by the 5th Dec and that was
considered REALLY early. Now folk have adorned their homes in November!
I finally got the hint after a week of the children commenting 'Oh look! They've got their
tree up'...hehe, it's up!
Day 13: Learn to play a Christmas carol on an instrument.
We have several musical instruments in our house yet no one really plays them, so this task
was a bit of fun and had the whole family for one evening as 'budding musicians' :-)
Day 14: Make a movie
There are apps available on phones and tablets these days that make putting a movie together
relatively simple, you just need a bit of imagination and the desire to actually make the
movie. I left the children to work this one out for themselves and if you saw my FB share
you may well have witnessed the finished result. Give it a go, it's fun!
Day 15: Out for dinner at ASK Italian
This little treat tied in very nicely with a trip to see a light show at the Physics
department at the University. We are so lucky to have such amazing facilities
right on our doorstep. Our little trip to ASK following the show proved to be the perfect
'opportunity to make a difference'. On our way to the restaurant, Small Boy found himself
a stick (as you do). It didn't seem appropriate to take said stick into the restaurant so I
suggested we propped it up against the wall in the entrance porch. Whilst we were busily
chomping away on our tasty dinner, a tramp cycled by; belongings on his back with a snood
over his head. He passed the window and then turned around and passed again stopping near
to the porch. Of course, he had taken the stick! Small Boy was furious and launched into
'Scrappy Doo' mode of 'Let me get im'. We used the opportunity to think about the man
and his situation and the possible reason behind his taking the stick. Once we'd finished up
we headed back towards the bus stop and there outside Sainsbury's was the homeless man
in question. He was clearly a little merry on Christmas spirit and was singing carols! We
needed a few provisions so popped into the supermarket and in doing so purchased some
Matchmakers to take to a friends house the following day. Once at the till I suggested
perhaps giving one box of the Matchmakers to the chap. Well, you can imagine the response.
Small boy was far more interested in giving him a fist and piece of his mind and the Little
Lady refused to acknowledge the man due to his drunken state (thus prompting further
discussions as to the possible reasons behind his intoxication), Miss P agreed. So
leaving the two younger children at the bus stop (with a friend who we then met), Miss P
and I hand delivered the treats.
We were staggered and stunned by the number of people homeless in Oxford at this time of
year. How can it be that so many people don't feel they have a place to call 'home' or family
and friends to turn to in their time of need? I'd love to organise a 'pop up soup kitchen' or
'friend at the table' set up where by these people could gain some love and encouragement
to carry on.
Day 16: Phone someone and tell them you love them
Not difficult but only two of us did this......
Day 17: Make a hamper for someone and deliver it.
An 85 year old neighbour benefited here; having lost his wife earlier this year this will be his
first Christmas alone. The children enjoyed choosing and giving thought to things that may
bring a smile to his face and may be simple to prepare. So soup and finger foods were a good
choice. Finding a suitable box, cutting it to shape, wrapping it and filling it were all
thoughtful activities and brought joy to myself and the children and then delivering it too.
Unbeknown to us all, the poor chap had just come out of hospital following a three week
stay. He was tired but obviously touched by out actions.
Day 18: Jump in the car and go out and see the Christmas lights.
People seem to have toned down the 'cheesy' lights this year and gone for subtle delicate
decorations instead. There were still a few out there though who had gone to town. It's great
Day 19: Make pomanders with oranges and cloves.
Miss P was taken off to London to see the Nutcracker and the younger two and I had a
photo shoot today so no pomanders were made. Perhaps we'll combine them with
Day 20: Make a gingerbread house :-)
We cheated and bought a ready baked house that just needed assembling and decorating.
It's great that the children have finally reached that stage in life where they can read and
and carry out instructions by themselves; whilst also working as a team. We'll share the
finished house on Boxing Day.
Day 21: Bake cookies for friends and neighbours.
We do this every year. It doesn't cost much and feels good. Baking, wrapping and giving :-)
Day 22: Meet at a cafe for hot chocolate with friends.
There's a new cafe in Enstone called 'The Art Cafe'. It's run by a friends husband and is
certain to become our new 'cool' place to go!
Day 23: Read a book together.
My eldest is now 15 but still enjoyed sitting and listening to 'Father Christmas' by Raymond
Briggs. It's a comic strip book with few words but perfect to animate in your own way.
Day 24: Christingle service and further Christmas stories.
It's become a tradition to attend the local carol and Christingle service on Christmas eve.
Once we returned home and had eaten, I read once again from a little book called 'Star of
Wonder'. It's a gem of a book that's been on my bookcase for years and is packed with lovely
snippets of Christmas wonder (all the best bits) taken from a host of well known classic
tales. The children happily listened for an hour or so before making their way up the wooden
hill to the land of slumber.
The children and I have thoroughly enjoyed thinking beyond ourselves this advent, it's been a lot of fun and I know that our actions have made a difference to peoples lives.
Of course random acts don't have to be reserved just for Christmas.........:-)
Merry Christmas to you all :-)