Friday, November 22, 2013

A Family Advent Tree

Every year, the holiday season screams past.  School parties, work socials, family Christmases...the calendar gets so full, so quickly.  This year, Brent and I were determined to slow things down.  Our calendar has been cleared of all non-essential activities, all that remains are church activities and work functions.  We want the month of December to be all about our little family and truly enjoying the season.  Emma and Owen are at that special age where Christmas is still so full of anticipation and magic...we want to capitalize on that to ensure the holidays are filled with memories for them.

I kept going back to something I had read on Pinterest.  It was a little diddy that said something simple..."Experiences rather than Things."  My mind began to churn out Christmas season "experiences" that I thought the kids would enjoy.  Then, as luck would have it, I was working my way through Hobby Lobby and I spotted this tree.

I thought it would be perfect to hang our "experiences" on.  As another bolt of lightning struck me, I figured if I came up with 24 "experiences", it would technically be an Advent Tree.  Figuring out 24 things wasn't as simple as I had hoped.  Some were easy and obvious, others took some extra thought and google-ing.  Emma and Owen gave us their ideas of what they would like to do as well.  A kids idea of fun is usually much simpler and easier that what an adults idea of fun is.  Their main requests were to order a pizza and play games.

Even though we could have easily done this project without actually purchasing any supplies, I decided to splurge and spend $20 to have a little fun.  The tree was half price for $8, paint was about $9 and the 2 pieces of scrapbook paper were $.50.

We didn't have any green paint for the tree, so we picked up a test pot of from Lowe's.  At the same time, we got a can of spray glitter.  As we were approaching the checkout - I had an episode of pre-buyer's remorse - and asked Brent if we needed the paint and glitter, as we could use some sort of paint from home.  Brent then said some of the most beautiful words he has ever spoken...he said, "I don't care if we get the green paint, but I definitely want to get the glitter because all that glitters is gold."  My husband wanted glitter and I wasn't about to deny him.

Putting the Advent Tree together was easy.  Emma and Owen painted it, using a Q-tip to get into the tiny holes.

This is after 2 coats.

I used the two pieces of scrapbook paper and traced 24 circles out - then cut out each one.  Emma and I used a three hole punch to put a hole through each ornament  Writing out the tags was Emma's favorite part - too bad she got bored of it after 4 of them.

Meanwhile, Brent was hitting the tree with a healthy coat of glitter.  I lied, Brent lightly dusted it with wasn't enough, so I snatched the can from him and went a little crazy on it, all while yelling "MORE GLITTER!"  The looks on little Emma and Owen's faces told me I had taken it too far.  I guess less is more when it comes to glitter.

Kind of hard to tell the tree was originally green under all that glitter.  Yeah, my fault.

You are probably smart enough to figure out how to attach paper circles to a tree, but for those of you that don't have the mental energy to figure it out or maybe you are just bored and don't care how long I babble on and on about wood trees...I used a scissor and leftover ribbon.

Thankfully the tree already had holes in it because you are supposed to poke Christmas lights thru from the back.  I just threaded my ribbon through.  That step seems easy, but you try working around a three foot tall slab of wood while trying to thread tiny ribbon through even tinier holes all while two little kids are hovering, bumping and nosing around.  

And a quick little tie in the back keeps it from slipping through.

After some focused effort, we had tied all of the ornaments on.  And the results were NOT IMPRESSIVE.  My ornaments were so large that you couldn't see the tree anymore!  

See what I mean..  Where the heck did the tree go?  Fail.  

So we cut the ornaments loose and trimmed them down.   Looks better now.

Below is a list of the experiences we came up with.  We tried to think of things that we could all do together as a family.  Many of them we would have done, regardless of the Advent Tree, but we thought if we wrote them down and tried to tackle each one with intention, it would feel more special.

1.  Read daily Advent verses - I found a website listing an applicable Bible verse to read each day of    Advent which is located here.
2.  Watch a family holiday movie with popcorn and treats - this is Emma & Owen's favorite activity to do with us.
3.  Buy an Angel Tree gift
4.  Write a letter to Santa
5.  Deliver Angel Tree gifts - Brent is on the church committee in charge of this one
6.  Put together a new puzzle
7.  Go to Xcite to bounce and then order pizza - this was Emma's suggestion
8.  Visit a living Nativity - anybody know of one that is planned???
9.  Drive around to admire Christmas lights - Dec 22nd is the Park Ridge Luminaries
10.  Build a snowman - weather permitting
11.  Wrap Christmas gifts
12.  Work on the chocolate Advent calendars from Grandma Jo
13.  Build an awesome indoor fort
14.  Make cut-out sugar cookies and decorate them
15.  Make a birthday card for Jesus - to remind the kids that Christmas isn't just about Santa
16.  Visit Santa
17.  Make puppy chow - this was Brent's request
18.  Read "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
19.  Watch the Western Mall light show
20.  Make teacher gifts
21.  Watch the movie "A Christmas Story" - somehow I've never seen this!
22.  Family board game night
23.  Make homemade marshmallows - we're hoping to do this Christmas Eve
24.  Go sledding - again, weather permitting

We know that we won't necessarily be able to do one of these each day like you would with a traditional Advent calendar.  Our intent is to do the best we can to cross each of these things off the list prior to Christmas.  With our weekends freed up, we should be able to squeeze 3 or 4 things in over the course of two days.  What sort of holiday traditions are you hoping to squeeze in?


  1. Great idea! I crack up reading your blogs every time. The tree looks great!

  2. Awesome way to display it!! I just used card stock & made a little pocket for each day & put a slip of paper with the activity in it. ;) Still fun I hope!

  3. Cute! Love that the kids were so involved in the tree-making process. Y'all are going to love all those "experiences!"