Every day in December leading up to Christmas, Jaden and Cody opened up a box on our Advent calendar. The box contained either a candy treat for them to eat (even right away after breakfast!) or a note telling them about a special activity to come later that day. Jaden and Cody showed much more enthusiasm about the Advent boxes this year compared to years past. They excitedly asked to open the boxes first thing in the morning (rather than us having to remind them in previous years), and they'd even talk about the Advent boxes throughout the day. It was so precious to see and hear the boys' excitement, and we loved having many excuses to create some family memories together in the busy month of December.
Cody and Jaden took turns opening the boxes each morning. This was the first year I thought about using clip art on my little notes to the boys, so they were actually able to "read" many of the notes they opened.
Some of our Advent box activities involved doing something together as a family at home (like game night by the lights of the Christmas tree) while others included outings (like going out for fro-yo). Here are some pictures of a few of our family activities:
Family Sports Day
This idea was solely Jason's, and it turned out to be so much fun! We started by playing 2-on-2 soccer in the front yard (Cody is depicted throwing in an out-of-bounds ball below). Although it may appear like photo-taking Mommy wasn't being a very active teammate, I did run around a bit and kick the ball to my partner. :) Not too surprisingly, however, whichever twin was on Daddy's team always seemed to win.
After soccer, Daddy designed a version of T-ball that involved hitting the ball and then running to just one base (marked off by a square of cones).
Finally, the boys practiced teeing off with golf clubs and wiffle balls.
Daddy is such a great sports instructor for our little guys!
Night in Bethlehem
Unfortunately, the church that Matt and Kim's family had always gone to in years past for this event-- complete with real camel and donkey rides-- was taking a hiatus on their Journey through Bethlehem night this year. Thankfully we found another church that sponsored a similar event. This new church set up several stations to mimic a small biblical village where kids could complete various activities. We attended the event with Matt and Kim's family on an evening that was fairly chilly for us Texans. (See, we DO wear coats and stocking hats on occasion here!). One of the first stations was a storytelling tent where this guy dressed as a shepherd retold some of the Christmas story.
Then, the boys tried their hand at some loom weaving.
Cody also made a money pouch by threading the top of this burlap circle. Jaden wasn't interested in this particular activity.
Both boys tried this game where they were supposed to toss a few rocks in the air, pick up new stones from the ground, and then catch the original tossed rocks. Neither Cody or Jaden had the coordination for this game, but Ian did quite well with it!
The boys' favorite station was the carpentry hut where they got to pound wooden dowels into this table full of holes over and over again. What a brilliant idea for these little ones! Cody, Jaden, Ryan and Nathan could have stayed at this station forever!
Towards the back of the "village," one station was set up like a stable, complete with an angel with the tips of her hair dyed green and a real baby Jesus (fully clothed and using a pacifier). Ha! I certainly don't blame these parents for doing all they could to make their baby comfortable. I was impressed they agreed to let their baby lie in the manger on this chilly evening!
We also got to hear a group of shepherds and wise men sing a few Christmas carols.
These two ladies gave out samples of food from Biblical times. The boys tried various nuts, dates, figs, pomegranates, and some other dried fruit.
At one of the last stations, the boys tried out some musical instruments, like drums and these harps pictured below.
While it was a bummer to miss the donkey and camel rides at the old church's event, we thought that this church provided a nice array of activities. Most of all, I appreciated having an Advent activity that focused on the true meaning of Christmas and having a reason to discuss Bethlehem and Biblical times with Jaden and Cody.
Breakfast in Bed
This simplest of all Advent box activities has to be one of the boys' favorites. Both Cody and Jaden started jumping up and down when they "read" the activity slip that told them they could have breakfast in bed. Typically, Jaden and Cody prefer dry cereal in the morning, so we had a very easy, non-messy breakfast experience.
Twice each year, our community holds a downtown German festival since so many of the town roots are German. We attended once last year and enjoyed it, so the activity was back on the Advent box list again. This year, Jaden and Cody were tall enough to try out a couple more of the rides which was exciting. We let the boys pick two rides to try out. They rode on this dragon roller coaster...
...and this spinning dog ride. They asked to go by themselves on both of the rides, so Mommy and Daddy enjoyed observing from the sidelines. (We also appreciated not having to pay the exorbitant costs for extra ride tickets!)
At the festival, we heard a few German musical performances,
posed by the fancy Christmas trees,
tried out a few snacks (like these yummy brownies),
and watched this high school German dance group perform. Their dances didn't seem all too complicated, but they were interesting enough to watch.
Many of the rest of our Advent box activities were done with Grandpa and Grandma when they arrived in town, so stay tuned for Part 2. :)