Every year as Advent begins, I resolve that THIS year is going to be different! THIS year we are going to slow down, ease up, and focus on the right things of Christmas! The First Sunday of Advent is the Church's "New Year's Day", so this is the day we make some of our family's "New Year's" resolutions. It's easy! Come join us!
The first thing we do is clean out the old to clear space for the new, both physically and spiritually.
Physically, I'm sure "Hoarders" is poised to show up outside my house any minute, so at least twice a year (Advent and Lent) I try to make a clean sweep and discard little-used or unappreciated things.
This year, the kids are getting in on the act, too! I've asked them to go through their closets and be brutally honest about the toys at the back, the ones they seldom or never play with anymore. Anything incomplete or in tatters goes in the trash. Anything intact and presentable goes to the Thrift Shop as a donation.
Let me tell you a little secret: I confess to surreptitiously "previewing" the kids' closets before I ask them to do this. Because, inevitably, at least one kid will poke his or her head into the closet and emerge thirty seconds later stating, "Nope! I'm good!" So it helps to have a handle on what's in there....and perhaps even do a little painful-but-necessary-pre-purging myself.)
Our other big physical clean-out item is clothing. With six children, we are the blessed beneficiaries of hand-me-down clothing from several friends. Hand-me-downs, however, can pile up fast! Statistics say you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time, and for us that's true.
For the children, I try to keep clothing of mostly complementary colors and simple or no patterns, so s/he easily can put together an outfit independently in the morning without looking like a circus clown. We've managed to pare the boys' wardrobes down to one light jacket, one heavy coat, two pairs of khakis (for church, etc.), a few pajamas, and about five or so each of pants, shorts, t-shirts, and polo shirts. That's it. Anything more becomes unmanageable, especially when you have three of the boys sharing one dresser.
The girls are a little more difficult to manage. There are just so many adorable and gorgeous outfits to be enjoyed! But, we're trying. For them, with so many "play" dresses and "church" dresses, we've turned all the hangers backward in their closet. If they wear a dress, its hanger gets turned around properly. If a hanger still is backwards by the end of the season, that article of clothing should be donated to someone else who will wear and appreciate it more.
Spiritually, our Advent clean-up is just as intense. I always redouble my efforts to be more consistent in our morning Bible reading and ensure that our weekly Handwriting practice from the Bible reflects verses pertaining to Advent, particularly the Sunday Responsorial Psalms and the O Antiphons.
We also like to read about our "Saint of the Day," which we glean from the book, Saints for Young Readers for Every Day
. My kids love hearing the saints' real life stories and we frequently locate that saint on the globe and remember to invoke his or her patronage throughout the day. The book comes in two volumes to cover the whole year and takes less than one or two minutes to read each day. You can order your copy here
Another easy (and free!) Advent practice for the children is Holy Heroes' "Advent Adventure" (you can sign up here
or via this link:
The Davison family's eight children provide 1-3 minute videos explaining or exploring the Bible and other themes relevant to the Advent journey. We usually put them on once everyone's seated for lunch. Again, it's a quick bite that can nourish all of our souls throughout the school day.
Lastly, we like to pray the "St. Andrew Christmas Novena
" (you can read about it here
) 15 times a day, but we break it up into more manageable recitations by praying it five times in a row, three times a day.
None of these practices is difficult nor time-consuming, but we find that consistency is our downfall. Even though sometimes the variations in our daily schedule are unavoidable, I'm hoping this year to manage it better and be mindful of returning to our spiritual center throughout the day.
Happily, when I do, things always seem to run better!
So Happy New Year! Decide what's right for your family. Dust off those New Year's resolutions and utilize the abundant graces of Advent to help you really make a difference in your interior preparations for the coming of the Christ Child! And if you're reading this blog, be assured that our family will be praying for yours!