01 Dec 8 Days of Christmas Guest Bloggers 2017: Natalie @livingbythepagewithnatalie
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The book community on Instagram, #Bookstagram, is both small and wonderful. I have loved following Natalie on Instagram and I’m excited to have her guest blog here today! Be sure to check out Natlie’s Instagram.
As so many do, we started an Advent Book Countdown several years ago for our crew as part of a family tradition to savor our Christmas picture books throughout the season.
I will never forget being knee-deep in baby and toddler mode, but insisting to my sleep-deprived parter in crime, my husband, that we just had to wrap 25 books right after Thanksgiving to be ready to display them for Advent.
Let’s just say that it took an extra cup of eggnog or two that year to muster up the energy to wrap. I always have visions of matching brown wrapping paper with red strings and cute tags…but more often than not it sneaks up on me…and I find myself surrounded by mismatched wrapping paper from last year and scrambling to tape on random numerical tags. Ah, tis the spirit, right?
But as most things with the Advent season, I find that my children care more about my heart itself, not the paper it’s wrapped up in. They don’t want my frazzled self to show up, the one that has Pinterest visions dancing in her head of matching jammies with the hot cocoa bar positioned perfectly in the background. Please don’t get me wrong, if you can pull this all off, easily and without stress, I tip my hot cocoa mug to you. I am finding that my kids just want their mom…the one who is relaxed, mug of cocoa (or coffee) in hand, ready for them on the sofa with a book, or four or five, in hand. Twinkly lights in the background a must. All the better to hide that mismatched wrapping paper, right? Wink.
Honestly, this is one tradition that we’ve kept. We’ve experimented with others here and there but have found the paradigm to what keeps Advent sacred (and sane) to us:
1) Less is more
2) Prepare Him room
3) Be the gift
Any invitations that pop up (which happen more often now given that the kids are active in their school, church, community, etc) are considered as a family, they just need to fit into that slot. Is this costing/taxing us more than necessary? Financially or emotionally? And does this allow more room for Christ, or less? It’s not to say that we don’t visit Santa, set out cookies, etc but it just means that we try to keep our focus on Him, our gifts on others and our schedules open yet protected for lots of simmering soup nights, family devotionals by the fire, cookie baking and of course, picture book opening.
When the kids were very young (i.e.: 3 under 4), many of the picture books were short and sweet, think along the lines of Duck and Goose It’s Time for Christmas. As the kids have gotten older, our Advent booklist has changed as well…they don’t all have to be nativity-focused, but ones whose themes include generosity, serving others, and belief in something bigger than ourselves. Since I still have a 3 year old at home, picture books where Curious George and Olivia and Pete the Cat do Christmas still reign, but we’ve made room for others: Annika’s Secret Wish, Apple Tree Christmas, The Little Fir Tree and a Certain Small Shepherd are some of our new favorites. But one that has stayed steadfast through the years is Sally Lloyd Jones’ Song of the Stars.
Song of the Stars is, at it’s essence, a nativity read aloud, but Sally Lloyd Jones does such a wonderful job of expanding the stage of Christ’s birth to include not only the stable, but the depths of the oceans to the meadows and prairies. I love the move from the macro view , the big picture, to the microscopic view of the little shed, the manger, which ends with: “Heaven’s son, sleeping under the stars that He had made”. Song of the Stars not the typical Christmas story, it’s one that beautifully depicts quiet, yet eager and joyful, anticipation of an ancient promise that is being fulfilled. The ‘speckled-egg’ type illustrations by Alison Jay add to the ethereal ambience of the Song of the Stars‘ poetic beauty. Song of the Stars was published in 2011, months after my 2nd son was born and I bought it that year as a gift to him. It’s an unique one in that it has crossed from baby/toddler book (it reads a bit like a lilting lullaby so even kids younger than 4 can enjoy it) to older child picture book status. I imagine Song of the Stars is one that will stay in our Advent Book countdown for years to come. May your Christmas be merry, bright and full of books!
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