On advent calendar day 9, I packaged up treats from my holiday cookie swap a few days prior and delivered them to our neighbors. This year, I bought Christmas-themed disposable Tupperware containers for the treats and packaged the cookies inside them. I placed our family's holiday card on top and tied it together with some baker's twine. Perfect.
Speaking of holiday cards, this was ours for 2014:
I selected photographs we'd taken this past October at our lake cabin. The day we took photos was pretty cold outside, but the kids were troopers and we managed to capture great shots with the beautiful fall colors in the background. It seemed like more people were into holiday cards this year, as we received more holiday mail than we have in the past. I loved it! It's fun seeing what cards our friends and family select and pictures from their past year.
Tory, Aden and I made salt dough ornaments on advent calendar day 10. Tory helped me mix the ingredients together, then each of the kids pressed their handprints into the dough before baking. I have a salt dough handprint from Tory's first year and it's one of my most cherished Christmas tree ornaments. It's amazing to see how much their little hands grow over the years!
After I had the handprint shapes I wanted, I placed the leftover dough and a few Christmas cookie cutters on a cookie sheet and let Tory (and Aden) go nuts playing, cutting and making shapes. It turned into a sensory activity of sorts, and they both loved it. Tory quietly sat and "made ornaments" for a solid 30-45 minutes. Score!
Really, I gifted Tory those dollar activity packs to keep her entertained on our flight to Nebraska the following day. We celebrated an early Christmas this year with my family as we planned to stay in Minnesota for the actual holiday this year. Advent calendar day 12's activity was a simple "celebrate Christmas" which we did that day in Nebraska and I'll recap our time there in another post.
As the month progressed, I fell off the advent calendar wagon a bit. I'd venture to say Tory, Aden and I did something holiday-themed each day, but there were less organized activities. Reading gobs of Christmas books counts as something, right? Some of Tory's favorite Christmas books this year were: Eight Jolly Reindeer, Georgie the Gingerbread Fairy and The Story of Christmas.
On advent calendar day 15, Tory painted the salt dough ornaments we'd made a few days prior. I set her up with a paintbrush and paints, got busy tending to Aden and came back to some of the ugliest ornaments I'd ever seen. Ha! Tory mixed all the paint colors together until the shapes were a blah brownish green color. Oh, well. She enjoyed herself, and that's that matters.
Andi's mom offered to babysit on advent calendar day 18, so Andi and I snuck out for a quick date night. The date doubled as a belated birthday celebration for Andi since we were in Nebraska on his actual birthday. I suggested we go downtown to check out the Minneapolis Holiday Market, so we did just that, then enjoyed a nice dinner at Vincent's across the street.
That following weekend, Andi, Tory, Aden and I drove around to look at Christmas lights several different times. One night we took an evening drive through the countryside at the lake cabin and a surprisingly few number of rural houses had light displays. Another time we drove around St. Paul's Rice Park after stopping by one of Andi's work events nearby. The lights were hard for Tory to see from her car seat though, so "going to look at Christmas lights" packed less of a punch than I had hoped this year.
I was wrapping Christmas presents into mid-day Christmas Eve and had two little assistants by my side helping me most of the time. My ideal evening during the holidays would be spent with a good show on television, a glass of wine and a boatload of gifts to wrap for friends and family, but for some reason I completely ran out of time this year and was forced to wrap presents in spurts when I had a few minutes to spare. The Christmas season was so busy this year -- why was it like this? Was it because I have small kids? We went to Nebraska mid-month? The cabin on the weekends? Whatever the case, there didn't seem to be enough time in the day to complete everything I had to do. So, I wrapped Christmas presents alongside my kids which is just about as relaxing as it sounds.
Tory was very sweet as she "helped me" wrap gifts. She colored on scrap pieces of wrapping paper and wrapped her own "presents" with pieces of tape I'd fork over. One evening as I rearranged presents under the Christmas tree I found some of Tory's "presents" -- open markers wrapped in pieces of scrap paper and taped closed -- hidden under there. Good thing I discovered them before all her markers dried out! Though, what a darling to make her own gifts for her family. I love where her heart is.
I hung an old Santa Claus advent calendar on Tory's bedroom door this year, and I'd venture to say it was her favorite thing we did all month long. There was no candy or prize associated with each day, or even an assigned activity -- it was simply a wooden candy cane we moved from day to day throughout the month. Each morning in December, Tory woke up and exclaimed, "What month is it?" and together we'd talk about the day (by the end of the month, she learned the difference between days and months), what numbers made it (i.e.: the 16th -- a 1 and a 6, the 17th -- a 1 and a 7, ... ) and counted how many days were left until Christmas Day. It's awesome to see Tory's mind develop and grow as she learned something new each day. And for Christmas, Santa Claus brought Tory a daily calendar so the fun can continue all year long.
So, I guess that's it. Another year's advent calendar activities in the books. We enjoyed a lot of fun holiday activities together as a family and individually with the kids so I'd call it a success.