Celebrating Advent With Your Kids: First Sunday of Advent

A photo of our advent wreath last year, taken on Christmas Day. We have Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus surrounding the wreath with our red Christ candle in the middle.

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent.

I remember as a child having an Advent wreath at home. We’d light the candle(s) each week to mark the time leading up to Christmas.

It’s a tradition I want my kids to know and love.

Last year, I finally bought a small brass Advent wreath/candle holder for us. I had tried for years off and on to make wreathes. But with three small kids, I wanted something that was sturdy and safe. Our small wreath is perfect!

Typically, we gather after dinner and read an appropriate Scripture or Bible passage for the corresponding Sunday. We don’t get too technical or too content-heavy. We use our Nativity scene pieces to explain the Sunday (shepherds, angels, and so on). I’ve noticed my kids really learn and relate when they can see, touch, and/or hold a small object. Chris plays guitar and we always sing two or three Christmas carols.

If you want to observe Advent with your kids this year, doing something simple is perfect.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Four candles either in a wreath or even four small votives in separate holders will do. If you do want a wreath, buy it now at a Christian bookstore or order online. You can find one for about $20. Several years, I said I’d wait until after Christmas to buy one on sale. They never put them on sale. So, buy it now! Candle colors are usually three purple or blue and one pink. A fifth candle may be added in the center on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (last year we used a small red candle in a jar) to symbolize Christ.

2. Bible and/or a Children’s Bible. We love, love, love The Jesus Storybook Bible.

3. Music. A musician in the family is wonderful or even some CDs featuring beautiful Christmas music is nice.

Sample order of a Family Advent worship time:

  • Light the candle(s). We allow our kids to do this (when age-appropriate).
  • Sing a song.
  • Read the Bible verse/Bible story.
  • Ask the kids questions to engage them in the learning.
  • Sing a song.
  • Take prayer requests.
  • Close in prayer.

A very basic suggested schedule of Advent readings:

First Sunday: the prophets
Candle of Hope
read Micah 5:2 and light the first purple candle

Second Sunday: the angels
Candle of Peace
read Luke 2:8-13 and light the first and second purple candles

Third Sunday: the shepherds
Candle of Joy
read Luke 2:14-17 and light the first and second purple candles and the pink candle

Fourth Sunday: the magi
Candle of Love
read Matthew 2:1-12 and light all the candles

Christmas Eve or Day
the Christ Candle
read John 1:1-5 and light all the candles including the Christ candle

You may find all sorts of variations of this outline online. In fact, I’ll admit that our family’s schedule is an amalgam of things we’ve read and things we believe will stick with our kids. Tailor your Advent Worship time to your own family.

And a final word: Don’t fret if you haven’t “started yet.” You aren’t late! Just pick up with the appropriate Sunday. We usually do a “little something” about the Advent lesson on most nights of the week during a family worship time. We light the candle(s) every night because the kids love it.

If you’ve wanted to start a Family Worship time or you’ve wanted to re-energize the time you’ve observed in the past, Advent is a great season to bring the family together and focus on Christ.

I’d love to hear more about your Advent and Christmas traditions!

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My Christmas Shopping Complaint Against Toys ‘R Us


Dear Toys ‘R Us,

Do you KNOW how much money I have spent in your store and your sister store, Babies ‘R Us, since early 2003? Thousands and thousands of dollars, I tell you.

Do you KNOW how much money I would have spent in your store during the next–oh, say, six or eight years or so?

I’m not sure, but you’ll never know, either. Because of ten lousy dollars. Ten dollars, Toys ‘R Us. Because ten dollars is NOTHING to you, but it’s important to me.

I dutifully took the marketing bait this week, as I held onto the TRU flyer that came in my mailbox a few days ago:

This weekend ONLY! Friday night and Saturday morning ONLY! A sale. A sale that featured a $19.98 digital camera for only $9.99.

I thought that would be a perfect gift for our six year old daughter, who is obsessed with taking pictures but is not allowed to use my digital camera after she dropped and broke a camera of mine.

At $10, she can give it a try. If she is careful and enjoys photography, we may upgrade next year for a nicer camera. Heck, we may have even purchased it at TRU.

Today, the sale ran from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. It was 10:30 a.m. and I made a special trip to TRU for this camera.

OK–never mind that I didn’t have time really for this today because I’m still up against my writing deadline. Never mind that I had to wander the store trying to figure out where the camera may be. Never mind that I really lost a good half hour of my life that I’ll never get back.

(All of those particulars have nothing to do with TRU, but I throw them in here to show just how annoying this whole scenario was. I didn’t have time for this nonsense today.)

I finally landed in the electronics department. Armed with the flyer, I approached the sales clerk.

“Excuse me? Can you tell me where I can find this camera?”

She looked at it. “Let me look in the back and check the computer.”

She was gone a long time. A very long time.

“Ma’am? We are sold out.”

“Oh.” I waited for a consolation offer. None.

So I piped up, “May I get a raincheck?”

“We don’t do rainchecks.” Um, OK.

“Well, may I have a comparable product for the sale price then?” I thought that was a reasonable request. Most stores (home goods, big box, electronics) will price-match and honor competitors’ ads. I was in their store. I would buy from them. In. Their. Store. Hey, even Kroger substitutes brands to honor a coupon!

“Hmmm. I’m not sure. I think you’d have to do it with a product that is that same original price.”

“Oh, sure. That’s fine. I’d just like a comparable product.”

“Well, let me check with my manager and make sure.”

“OK.” I was confident the manager would agree. Heck, maybe they’d even throw in some Spongebob stickers or a Dora lollipop for my inconvenience.

The clerk returns.

“She said, ‘no’.”

Stunned, I said, “OK.”

And I marched right out of Toys ‘R Us, determined to never return.

Uh, you know, we are only a few weeks into the Christmas shopping season. You know that I have options, TRU. So many options. And I’m confident I’ll be able to get a great deal on a digital camera on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or later.

And I have a blog. I am a mom. With lots of friends who have kids who play with toys and wear clothes and watch videos.

See, TRU, here’s the thing. Your keeping $10 just cost you thousands. Because had you honored my request, I would have bought a carrying case to go with the camera. And a huge chunk of my kids’ Christmas presents this year and next and the next. And birthday gifts and swimming pool toys.

And I would have blogged about how awesome you were to all my mom friends.

But now?

Not so much, Toys ‘R Us. Not so much.

Ideas for Stocking Stuffers

When my sister and I were in high school and college, we loved Christmas mornings. Our father would take it upon himself to stuff our stockings with lots of interesting items.

Laura and I would guffaw as we pulled out random items from the stockings: Marks-A-Lot jumbo black markers, rolls of Scotch tape, and packages of Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gum.

His idea of stocking fun was practicality and office supplies.

Whether because of genetics or environmental influence, I have adopted my dad’s stocking stuffer technique. I tend to gravitate toward practical items for my kids’ stockings, too. They love them! The items aren’t expensive; they are useful; and they won’t rot their teeth.

Things that will appear in my kids’ stockings this year:

  • toothbrush (characters)
  • toothpaste
  • stickers of their favorite characters
  • socks (favorite characters)
  • colorful or character bandage strips
  • pencils, pens, crayons
  • notepads, notebooks
  • hair do-dads
  • fingernail polish
  • lip balm
  • small bottles of Play-Doh, bubbles
  • Glow bracelets and other miscellaneous small toys

Great places to shop for these items:

  • Go to Dollar Tree now! I find that Dollar Tree is always well-stocked on holiday items at the very beginning of the season. That’s right now because of the early push on Christmas this year. Today I found some cute notepads and pens and those magic wash clothes that begin as a small square but grow once they are wet. My kids love those types of things; so much more useful than cheap toys and a lot healthier than candy.
  • The one-dollar aisle at Target is another fabulous place to find these types of items. I found the Slinky Junior toy as well as Crazy Eight and Old Maid card games there.
  • I have gotten lots of good deals at Big Lots in the past as well. I haven’t been there yet this year, but I will go. They tend to have well-recognized brand name items for a LOT less money.

Recent Photos

Catching up on photos of events this fall …

Halloween outfits: knights and princess. The kids loved trick-or-treating. The amount of candy they received was positively OBSCENE.


Visiting with Great-Grandmother (Mimi’s mother). Seth, Mimi, Spencer, Great-Grandmother, Susanna.

Breakfast with Santa. This annual event is sponsored by POTATO (parents of twins club). I love it. It’s so much fun, and the kids are always thrilled to see Santa.

From the moment we got to the breakfast, the boys were yelling at Santa, “Hi, Santa!”