*OUR* Big Ol’ Oak

I wrote these words in August of 2010:

We’ve read that a white oak tree spends two hundred years growing, two hundred living, and two hundred dying.  Branch by branch, ours is dying. 
Over the years I have recorded my children sitting in front of this mighty white oak tree many times.  While my children are young and constantly growing, our Big Ol’ Oak saw it’s youth hundreds of years ago, long before we were born.  So now, as we thrive, it declines.  It seems that each time we visit, another branch has fallen to the forest floor. Nevertheless, the Big Ol’ Oak it will always be; champion tree in our neck of the woods.
I’m not sure that I can remember even the year that marked the first time Seth and Keats came racing in the house shouting that they had discovered an enormous tree in the forest behind our house.  I know they begged me to hike to it with them, but I am not sure if I went that day, the following week, or even the next month.  I am not sure how much time passed before I sat the boys down for a picture with “their” tree.

And though we’ve spoken of this ancient white oak tree as if it were ours for many years, it has officially belonged to three others during the time we have lived in our house.  The acreage it lives on has passed from landowner, to developer, and finally a couple years ago, to a builder.  We live in an expensive part of the country, and we never could afford to buy the land ourselves.  Early this year, Jonny sent the builder an email, asking what his plans were for the lot on which our tree resides.  He informed us that he would be building a house there this year.  Though our tree wasn’t directly threatened, our dreams of ever truly calling it ours would end.  It may sound silly, but I cried.  Jonny wrote and asked the builder if he might consider selling the lot to us instead, and he agreed to meet us on the land to discuss the possibility.

Last week, after all those years of hoping and waiting, and one mama’s pleas to a builder, not to build a house on the four acre lot next to us, but instead to sell it to us at no profit to himself, the papers were signed and the Big Ol’ Oak is officially ours.

We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, including four acres of forest, and one dear old white oak tree.

 

bigoldoakoriginal

(early spring 2007)

Big old oak 2009

(summer 2010)

Preparing for Advent and Christmas

Earlier this week, I gathered at a friend’s home with a group of ladies from my community to listen to our friend Margaret share her family’s Advent traditions.  I think this was my third time listening to Margaret give her Advent talk, and while the content doesn’t vary much from year to year, I still find listening to her speak to be the most invaluable way to get excited about Advent.  I’ve never met someone with more enthusiasm and contagious joy.  I always walk away feeling encouraged, and I daresay, ready!  I headed home that night in happy anticipation of the upcoming season, so ready to share it with my family again this year.

One piece of advice that Margaret always gives is to try to add no more than one new thing each year.  I don’t know about you, but if I try to add too many things, I end up doing far less and feeling like a failure.  I would also add that some years, you may only be able to do the bare minimum, subtracting traditions rather than adding them!  Last December, we had a new baby in our family, and we didn’t do as many things during Advent as we had in years past.  We still celebrated a very beautiful Advent and Christmas.  Of course I don’t know yet how this year’s Advent will go.  That new baby is a new walker now and he is keeping me busy, along with his brothers and sisters.

I do know that I will most likely spend some time clearing in the coming week: clearing surfaces and spaces, and clearing our schedule, as that seems to be the best way I know of preparing myself for Advent.

I try to gather some of our own Advent traditions here for you each year, and I would love it if you would share some of yours in the comments!

-We usually gather fresh greenery from the woods around our home to create an Advent wreath on the first day of Advent.  In year’s past I have ordered Advent candles here, though I came across another really nice option last week in this shop.

-Each year we choose a book or two that are meant to be read daily beginning on the first day of Advent, through Christmas day.  This year, my friend Ann sent me her beautiful new book centered on the tradition of the Jesse Tree, called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:  A Family Celebration of Christmas, and I plan to read that to my children each day.  We have enjoyed celebrating the tradition of the Jesse Tree in recent years, and I am looking forward to sharing Ann’s heart with my family.  I received another beautiful gift this week, a Mary and Joseph Journey to Bethlehem set from Sue Dow, and we will use these gorgeous handmade figures, along with our Advent spiral, to count the days to Christmas.  I ordered our Advent spiral here, years ago.  I bought brass candle holders and beeswax candles to go with it.

-I will gradually bring out our children’s Advent and Christmas books beginning on the first day of Advent.  (Most of our favorites are in the Advent and Christmas reading list in my sidebar.)

-I love this book of meditations for Advent through Epiphany and plan to revisit it for my own personal reading throughout the season.

-We will celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th with new wool socks, mandarin oranges, and a bit of chocolate placed in each child’s slippers.

-I will try to once again incorporate the O Antiphons into the week leading up to Christmas day.

-Some years I make a beeswax nativity.  You might bookmark that post to revisit early next fall if you want to make one, because this time of year you can’t always find the molds!  Beeswax ornaments are easy and fun to make as well!

-Here are some relatively simple Christmas crafts using felt and felted sweaters.

-Though I don’t always get the participation that I would like, I always set up a manger and jar of “straw” to fill for baby Jesus.

-Christmas for the animals is one of our favorite traditions.  In the past we have celebrated it on the 23rd of December, or more recently, on the day that I need the Christmas tree to leave our house.  I can’t live with it inside for as long as my kids can (our house is just too small to host a large tree for long), and it makes it easier on everyone if we go through the decorating process all over again once the tree is moved to the garden.  We decorate the second time with homemade bird feeders.

-Finally:  Last night I tried to choose an Advent calendar for this year.  My kids really look forward to a new one each year.  There are so many pretty ones!

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The girls helped me, and we ended up ordering this pop-up one: .

 

I would love to read what you are planning for this Advent and Christmas!