“If we had a countdown timer on our lives, we wouldn’t waste a minute.” ~Paulette Sedgwick
I’m a big fan of countdowns. They build anticipation and excitement and make the waiting period interesting and fun. Last year during the holidays, I started a tradition that we are carrying on this year. I created a Christmas countdown board, inspired by numerous Pinterest posts I had discovered. Mine is not nearly as charming as I aspire it to be, but the boys don’t care about that sort of thing. One day, I aim to acquire this beauty to replace my simple foam board & envelopes. Or maybe even get really crafty and make my own. But this year, we’re keeping it simple. Each day the boys get to pull a card from the board and on that card there is an activity for the day. Some are as simple as little crafts I scored at Michaels for a dollar while others involve something more meaningful like listening to a Christmas story, via FaceTime, with my mom. The boys approach the board every morning giddy with excitement for what that day’s envelope will reveal. It makes the very simplest activity feel much grander than it would be otherwise. We also have a countdown candle we burn each night at dinner. (Though if you notice in the picture, we’re a little bit ahead of ourselves as one particularly hectic dinner to bedtime resulted in our forgetting to blow out the candle. Oh well.)
Since we are living in very tight quarters during the renovation, I had to be creative with some of our usual Christmas traditions. Given we barely have room for all of us to stand at once in the living room/dining room/kitchen, a tree was out of the question for this year. Instead, I found this simple tabletop tree that we painted and decorated together as a family. Even though I am missing the smell of a tree when I walk in my door, this sweet little replacement brought the boys a lot of pride as they were creating it and they have really enjoyed admiring it and adding to it.
Though we won’t have a real tree in our home, we have been lucky enough to be invited to decorate trees with friends. This afternoon the boys helped my dear friend trim her tree and they brought our homemade ornament to add to her collection. These are the simplest but sweetest ornaments to make. Using a package of clear glass balls from the local craft store, Big Brother collected and filled them with bits of broken crayon (as well as enjoyed cutting some crayons with scissors). With a hairdryer and a pair of gloves, we held the glass ornaments with the broken bits of crayon over the heat long enough for the crayons to melt. Once they melt, they begin to swirl around, painting the inside of the ball. The result is really beautiful!
In addition to the peaceful lantern walk through the woods we took with Big Brother’s Waldorf playgroup a few weeks ago, each year they also have an Advent Spiral Walk. This is a breathtaking ceremony which begins in darkness. A spiral path of greenery and nature trinkets leads to the middle of the circle with one candle burning and an angel awaiting each child to light their candle. As the children’s candles are lit, they slowly and carefully find their way back through the spiral until they choose a spot to leave their light. By the time the ceremony is complete, the room is shining bright with everyone’s light. It is a mostly silent event with the exception of soft humming by the adults. The kids receive no formal explanation of what or why we are doing this, but just the enjoyment of the moment, the quiet, and the light.
As the countdown is on for Christmas, so is the countdown to the darkest and shortest day of the year. It’s really hard watching the sun go down in the 4 o’clock hour these days. Slightly soul crushing. But I am so thankful for a supportive community of neighbors as we do our best to rally together during these cold, dark afternoons and make the best of it. It’s loud, hectic, and crazy to have everyone pile into one living room, but we’re getting through the dark afternoons together. Board games, Christmas movies, and pizza parties for the kids and a glass of beer and a chance to unwind, vent, and relax for the parents. I love every minute of it and feel forever grateful for this wild bunch. I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine getting by without them.