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Before kids, Advent and Christmas were so hurried for Hubby and me. We both worked full-time and sometimes we would get the tree up and decorated just days before Christmas. I felt like it was just pure chaos and it wasn't that enjoyable for me.

Over the years we've learned to slow down. Again I attribute this to being able to stay home with the kiddos. Last year during the first big snow fall I was able to bake cookies all day. While Hubby shoveled snow, Boogie played in it, and our sweet Bug was still taking two naps and she slept most of the day. I made a ton of cookies last year.  This year for the first time ever I actually have my Christmas cards ordered and in hand. The Christmas letter is also written. I've sent out the first batch on Monday and I'm looking for time in our busy schedule to finish addressing and stamping the rest.  Next year, I'll create a database and all I'll have to do is print out address labels (I hope!). I've already set out one of our Nativity scenes and once Hubby can get the others out of storage I'll put up the rest. On Friday we'll go out to cut down our Christmas tree. Again, the earliest we'll have ever done it!

I'm really learning to love and appreciate Advent. It is a time of preparation. It's a time for us to get ready for Christmas. I love the anticipation and how the kids talk about celebrating Jesus' birthday.  While the kids are aware of Santa, and Boogie is more aware of him because of commercials and the information bestowed upon him by his preschool classmates, the big guy in the red suit isn't why we celebrate Christmas.

While Christmas is usually chaotic for us with parties to attend, gifts to buy, family to see, cards to send out, cookies to be baked, and decorations to be hung, for some reason this year I'm at peace. I'm making a lot of my gifts this year and I don't feel the need to run out to the stores except to get supplies (baking or crafting). I also have the internet at my fingertips to buy things that I think of and now I'm getting better at looking for deals so I'm not running around town trying to find the best one.  I feel like I'm getting a better handle on the time that I do have and getting more done around the house and the errands and chores to be done.  I also have good friends to chat with and celebrate with for various reasons and even in our busy schedules we are able to find time to catch up.

My favorite part of celebrating the Christmas season is celebrating with family.  Every year we go to my SIL's house for her annual Christmas Eve Open House. Hubby's great-aunt used to do this every year when she was alive. She would host with good food and people would stop in and catch up. L. has kept up the tradition and all of the family arrives, including our extended relatives. Hubby's parents have 18 grandchildren and all of the kids do a cousin gift exchange. I love that my kids draw names and are excited to shop for the cousin they picked. The adults have started a fun white elephant gift exchange. The whole afternoon is filled with fun, laughter, yummy food, and great company.  Afterwards Hubby and I go to the early Christmas Eve Mass where we get to see most of the nieces and nephews sing in the children's choir. We go home, put the kids to bed and finish wrapping presents. And for me, no gift wrapping is complete without watching "A Christmas Story." I could probably quote the movie line by line by now. Then Hubby and I snuggle up and watch Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" and head to bed.

I think Advent might be my favorite part as we prepare for Christmas.  I'm learning to appreciate the anticipation and the preparation. I love sharing this time with my kids and I love the insight they bring when talk about the Christmas story (Mary and Joseph, not Ralphie and his family).  Tonight I'll bring our advent calendar and the kids will begin to hang each of the pieces up every night. I can't wait!