Each year December rolls around and I get bummed that I didn’t plan ahead and create an Advent calendar – one with activities to do as a family and little random acts of kindness. I try very hard to keep this the slowest month of the year for our family. With homeschooling we definitely have the schedule flexibility to add daily activities without it feeling like a weight or one more thing to squeeze into the day. I want to take advantage of that flexibility, but don’t always do so well.

My biggest issue was I just forgot to make it happen or felt like I didn’t have the time to create one of those amazing Advent calendars I saw on some design website.

December arrives and in the past I’ve thought if we didn’t begin by the first day of Advent, well, all was lost.

This year I decided that is ridiculous. I didn’t need to let WHEN we start take away from WHY we were counting down the days.

So, last week (December 3rd) I spent an hour at my kitchen table putting stickers on tags and adding little activities for each day on the back of those tags.

12.15Advent-0112.15Advent-05I wasn’t sure where to hang them, so I just taped them right to the living room wall.12.15Advent-03Christmas Adam. Christmas Eve. Christmas Day got extra fancy with some tape because those are extra special days of celebration.12.15Advent-0712.15Advent-08When my kids came downstairs the next morning not a single one of them asked why the numbers started with “4”. The thing that I got hung up on in years past (not starting on time) was a non-issue for my family. I’m a slow learner.

The visual countdown is exciting, but so are the intentional activities for each day. When I picked the activities, I had my calendar on hand. For busy days, I picked simple things like, “have an epic ‘snowball’ fight with socks” and “research Christmas jokes to tell your grandparents.” On slower days, I chose things like, “buy hot chocolate and deliver to a Salvation Army ringer”, “make cinnamon rolls and take to friends”, and “pile into the car to go see Christmas lights.”

I did searches on Pinterest for “Advent Calendar Activities” and “Advent Random Acts of Kindness” for ideas to include.ย  I kept a printout for all the activities so I could look ahead or switch around the days if needed.

Our Christmas countdown cost less than a $1, took about an hour to make and we started it ‘late’….pretty much typical Campbell style!

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  • Amy@AtMulberryHill - I so LOVE this! I am a terrible procrastinator and what I don’t put off on purpose often gets left out for sake of time, but I made a similar decison recently. I like to begin personal challenges on the first day of a month, but this time, I told myself that it didn’t matter WHEN; only that I began. Just like you did! And no, kids never have our expectations.

  • Jenn - i love this
    i love that you did it even though it was late. i get wrapped up in the, well we didn’t start on time so lets not (idea as well) thank you for encouraging me to not care about the when but the heart of it all and that the kids won’t care either way. your tags are great. the wall you hung them on……..love it. what did you use to plank that wall, it hasn’t always been that way, has it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Elizabeth - I found your Christmas Planner from a few years ago on Pinterest but couldn’t get it to download. Is this no longer available? It is such a great idea for someone who has to plan ahead.

  • Emily - Last week, Jenny Rosentrach at Dinner: A Love Story (are you familiar with her blog/book? It’s quite enjoyable) talked about family dinners and how what we all really need is something “aspertainable” — aspirational + attainable. It’s my new favorite word and I feel it applies to your life and I am, as always, so grateful that you share with us. Happy Adventing!

  • Rae - Your ideas, Ashley! <3

  • Maddie Long - I love love love this idea! What are some of the activities that you used!?

  • Rochelle - I loved our advent calendar as a child but with my family now I get into the same mode that you did…busy, late start, nevermind… Thanks for the reminder (and motivation) to make this happen. The joy of Advent is a memory I want my kid to have too!

  • Byron - Nice! I think the biggest problem with these types of things is figuring out the activities. I’d be worried about stuff like โ€œbuy hot chocolate and deliver to a Salvation Army ringerโ€–you’ve got 5 kids after all. That’s some travel to find enough ringers! LoL!

    So now all you need to do for next year is set aside an hour to put your calendar together…(on November 30). ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Tracy - I did the same thing and started on Monday of this week. My kids are little and they don’t care when we count down, they just want to count down. I tried to incorporate kindness activities too, but put candy in three of them, just for fun. I love your ideas though!

  • AshleyAnn - Byron – it will just be one cup for one ringer ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jess - Hi Ashley, this works to capture the audio:
    1. you have to put the video on youtube (this can be done so it’s private)
    2) copy the link for the video and go to this site: http://www.youtube-mp3.org/
    3) It converts and you download the mp3
    warning..it’s in French, but it works :)
    I loved your advent calendar..and your thoughts about starting late.

  • katie voorhees - What a fabulously festive idea! Love the idea of adding acts of kindness!! BEAUTIFUL and clever advent calendar!!

  • erica - We do random acts of kindness as our advent each year, and I love hearing other peoples’ ideas – delivering hot chocolate to people standing in the cold collecting for others is a brilliant idea! A few favourites around here: my son put coins inside every gum/toy machine at our local arena, as a surprise for the next kid coming to check out the machines. We left notes and some cookies for our local janitors, thanking them for all they do – and the kids spent one lunch hour cleaning up for the janitors. We took on a task that was being avoided by a local teacher and spent our evening doing it for her, and this week we want to make gingerbread houses but with seedy crackers and cover it with all sorts of treats for birds, to put out in our garden. Have fun:-)

  • Karen - I just love the way you parent. Merry Christmas!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh, this is just wonderful! Love it.

  • Shauna - As per usual. You make me awe over your level of intention.
    You live life the way that makes memories.
    Here I am stressing over a bedtime routine.

  • Tobi Layton - We did the same thing this year, only minus the adorable tags (love it – and stealing it next year). I got tired of filling those advent boxes with cheapo trinkets that we don’t need. My three boys LOVE the advent activities. I have a suggestion for one: look at old photos (ours turned into “read old blog posts” and they were ROLLING at their younger-self antics and photos!)

  • Stephanie - What a lovely, simple idea. I plan on saving this for next year to do with my little man.

Five years ago a sweet mom, Angie Weldon, contacted me about her new etsy shop. She was selling headbands and clutches to raise funds for an international adoption. I shared about her shop on my blog not knowing how important and life changing her friendship would become to me.

Fast forward two and a half years and I flew to Pennsylvania to meet Angie and her daughter…with my younger daughter in tow. You can read about that trip and how our girls are tied together in an old post (click here).

4.9.13-10

A year later our families all met for the first time:

12.15InspireMe-09

We love the Weldons! I can’t believe how little they all look in that shot. A bunch of wild cuties being goofy.

As always that Weldon bunch keeps challenging and inspiring us. Recently the three oldest Weldon kids created a coloring book from their own artwork for a cause they are passionate about impacting. The coloring book is a family project, designed as a way for their family to be actively involved in giving to schools both local and abroad.

All proceeds from the coloring books go directly to these two great schools:
Neema Project – Empowering trade school for young girls in Kitale, Kenya
Windsor Christian School in Uwchlan, PA

12.15InspireMe-0112.15InspireMe-0312.15InspireMe-0412.15InspireMe-0512.15InspireMe-0612.15InspireMe-07My kids had fun guessing which of the Weldon kids drew each page. I am so grateful they have friends that use their gifts, even as young kids, to impact their world locally and globally. I’m excited that my kids get to see what their friends are doing and be inspired to look for ways to use their own gifts. It is awesome! The next edition will include artwork from other kids – my crew is already thinking about what they want to submit in hopes theirs gets chosen. I told them the Weldon kids will be fair and can’t just chose their friends ๐Ÿ˜‰

To order an Inspire Me Coloring Book click here

 

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  • Robyn B - I spy some “Best of My Days” lists being made. I hope you post the templates again this year! I’d love to make those for my running group :)

  • AshleyAnn - Robyn – Yep, hopefully I will have a post ready tomorrow or Thursday!

  • Rae - Love these coloring books! What a great project!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Precious! Thank you for sharing this!

  • Rebecca W - so awesome!
    and, i spy “best of my days!!”

  • Carrie - What a great story. Thank you for sharing (I went to the old post). We brought our daughter home in 2013. Your blog was recommended to me and my daughter too was born with Cleft lip and palette. It was and still continues to be a great source of encouragement and inspiration (I took a snapshot course).
    Merry Christmas and God Bless! PS-I am about to invest in a good camera! So excited.

Capturing the interests of my kids is pretty important to me. Some of their interests change over the years, while others stay the same. Technology is also something I like to make sure I photograph. Technology is such reflection of time. When SnapShop students would mention how they tried to avoid pictures of their teens texting, I would try to encourage them to capture those moments instead.

Think about how fun it is to look at old photographs with phones on the wall and a hand piece for talking. Laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc….are all things that one day we will look back on in photographs and have such a different perspective on them than we do now.

My guys have been into creating stop motion movies. They can be entertained for hours, which is especially wonderful during the colder months! They’ve been using the Movie Maker app by Lego, it is super easy.

50mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/2.8

12.15stillshots-0150mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/2.812.15stillshots-0250mm, ISO 800, 1/125, f/2.8 ~ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/125, f/2.812.15stillshots-0350mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/2.812.15stillshots-0550mm, ISO 500, 1/125, f/2.812.15stillshots-0624mm, ISO 640, 1/100, f/2.812.15stillshots-0724mm, ISO 500, 1/100, f/2.812.15stillshots-0850mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/2.812.15stillshots-09

They asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told them I want a stop motion video of our family as Lego characters. It is going to be awesome!

As a sidenote, I was curious if anyone knows how to save audio from the Movie Maker app. They recorded themselves laughing and I can’t figure out if there is a way to just export and save that audio clip so I can have it. If anyone knows, please share!

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  • Heather - oh what a great gift that will be!! Curious, where did you get that mural of the forest (?) behind the bench?

  • diana - I definitely don’t have the patience for stop-motion movies. Just the idea gets me a little stir crazy. Very impressed with anyone who can!
    I agree about capturing technology, same with cars! Can be annoying at the time but love seeing in old pictures!

  • Emily - What a fun project! My boys *often* use whichever camera is within reach to document their lives (and their fingers…and the floor…and my crotch…they’re short ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and we just spent the weekend building the newest addition to our lego winter village set — so I see a fun project in the works! Thanks for the idea!

  • Kate - @Heather Ashley references the Forest Tapestry in her post about decorating the boys room. Its from Urban Outfitters http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=24264079
    I was inspired too and bought one :) Good quality, large and brings the outside in! Ashley, been a regular reader since before firecracker arrived, love your blog. The only one I read on a daily basis and always look forward to a new post. Love that you show all sides of life, foibles and all x

  • Elizabeth H - ohhh i LOVE this post Ashley!! My 12 & 14 yr old sons are SO enjoying the Lego app; they come up w/ the BEST movies. I truly treasure having their creativity documented!
    Their youth group hosted a “talent night” and they posted their movies! such fun!
    I asked them about exporting audio clips, and they don’t know if the app can do this…if you find a way, please post b/c I’d LOVE to have their audio too!!
    xo

  • melanie - Now I want to see that movie!

  • Richard - So beautiful and creative! Thanks a lot for sharing these pictures!

  • Candice Forte - We moved to Omaha and I am finally starting to come back to life! Loving reading your blog updates! Kids are getting so big and you are just as great a mother as ever!

  • Yusraa - Hi ashley! You can search in YouTube: lego movie maker stop motion, there is this video by cheep joke, they show you how to add sound. Hope it helps!

  • Suzanne - My son who is eleven loves this new app! Thanks so much for sharing!