Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Move over "Elf on the Shelf", make way for the "Sacrifice Manger"

What are those little nutty religious Petty kids up to now?

Well, let me just share...

Warning...this post contains religious content.  If you are looking for Elf on the Shelf ideas, keep scrolling, hit the back button, go back to Facebook.  Do what you need to do for the elf.  We are all about the baby Jesus here.

Here we are doing advent adventure in my bed because my plantar fasciitis is back with a vengeance.  Pay no attention to the background of the picture that I am calling attention to right now.  At least the clothes basket is empty.  The foreground is what matters. :)  Emmett and Carmen engaged in their Advent Adventure books!
Monday was a holy day of obligation.  I wanted to go to mass, but I just couldn't because my plantar fasciitis is acting up again.  I have to stay off my foot as much as possible.

By the way, if you have never had plantar fasciitis then I can explain it this way...

Nevermind...there is no way to explain the sheer misery that accompanies every single step from the moment you limp out of bed in the morning in order to selflessly and sacrificially take care of shorter people who keep asking you for things.  Moving on...

It ended up being a good thing that I stayed home because we were able to have a very productive religion lesson.   We watched mass broadcast on EWTN from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.  It was great because that was the feast day we celebrated yesterday. (well, a solemnity, to be exact. I actually learned something in Advent Adventure, too!)  It was the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

I am looking forward to taking the children there next week on a field trip now.  It was perfect timing to see the shrine on TV and learn about it.   Now, it will mean that much more to them when they see it.

The mass quizzes in the Advent Adventure books are great.  They really help the children focus on important parts of the mass.  One thing I remember as a child is that no one really explained to me what on earth (or Heaven, for that matter!) was going on at mass.  Therefore, in living my life over with my little offspring, I love watching mass on EWTN with them because I encourage them to ask questions.  We practice prayers, talk about the altar and who is doing what, etc.  For example, Emmett pointed out that a bishop was the main celebrant because he saw his little red hat.  Then we discussed how he is actually a cardinal.  Having children is a strange feeling sometimes because it is often like I can see that little person I once was through their eyes.

It is kind of like having an out of body experience where I am watching me from my own childhood perspective and making adjustments to my own parenting as I go. What?!  Read it again.  It make sense, I promise!

So, what all are we doing on our Advent Adventure?

  • Praying a decade of the rosary a day
  • learning how to pray the Angeles prayer
  • listening to stories about saints
  • making our Jesse Tree ornaments and watching the Jesse tree videos that go along with them
  • doing word search puzzles, cryptograms (ugh, I am not good at those!), mazes, mass quizzes and coloring pages
By far, however, the most beneficial and special activity the children are doing on their adventure is making a "sacrifice manger".  It looked so silly to me at first.  I thought, honestly?  That sounds like some kind of wacked out overly religious practice.  I thought this, until I saw  how the the children took to it and how excited they were to get started.  

The concept is that they think of little things to do each day that are little sacrifices to offer up to the baby Jesus.  Just imagine!  Doing something that you don't want to do for a good reason??  That is a sacrifice?  Well, we do those types of things ALL day!  Where do we sign up?  

I cut up simple pieces of yarn which serve at the pieces of straw to place in the manger.  One straw for each sacrifice.  Now, wait for it... here is the best part...all these pieces of "straw" placed in the manger add up to make a nice soft bed for the baby Jesus on Christmas day. 

That last part one more time:

All the pieces of "straw" placed in the manger add up to make a nice soft bed for the baby Jesus on Christmas day. 

Booya!! I bet you can't do that, Elf on a Shelf!!  You may be able to scare little children into thinking you watch them and report to Santa for that ever-so-coveted naughty and nice list, but do you ever actually teach them WHY they should behave?   That there is JOY in behaving, and actually, dare I say it, SACRIFICING for the good of others?  Um, I can't hear you.  I'm sorry, are you trying to answer my question? Oh wait, you are just sitting on the shelf.  I forgot.  

You sit around, you are fake and you stare.

So see how strongly I feel about the elf?  I used the word, "Booyah" with two exclamations points!

In all seriousness, I believe children have much more potential than the elf, and our culture in general, give them credit for.  If you are celebrating Christmas, why not teach them about St. Nicholas and have them do a sacrifice manger so you can really see their generosity of self and their true spirit of joy shine through?  
Aw, this is Carmen's (age 6) list of ideas.  She was so proud.  It was funny because she said that cleaning up her room helped noone. Ha!  

Emmett (age 7) kept his hidden the whole time that he worked on it and then presented it to us.  Putting John to bed is not going well, however.  John bats him away and yells "no".  To which I then yell, "Emmett! No one can replace Mommy! How dare you!"  

 One last word, here is an important picture from the front of the book that we must all pay attention to..

It's fun for ages 5-12.  TRUE.  and EASY on their MOMS, too.  NOT TRUE

LOOK, if you are going to do religion activities like this with young children, you need to be there to explain and support!  The word searches and cryptogram things can take the better part of a week if not supervised.  Not to mention, you run the risk of the whole thing just being busywork.  This book opens up the possibility for great conversations and family closeness if you give it your undivided attention.

I do say, however, that it is easy for moms because all the lessons are there for you to take advantage of and the videos are really cute! From what I hear, the Elf on a Shelf is a bit of work, so you may as well be more spiritually productive and go on the Advent Adventure instead!   The lessons are great springboards to discussion and there are cross curricular activities that involve writing and reading, as well.  So if you feel like you are spending a lot of time on it, then make sure you know you are covering other subjects simultaneously.  That is always a plus!

Lastly, buying the book is not necessary, in my opinion.  You can use all the free printables.  Having said that, I do like that we used the manger in the book for our sacrifice manger, but that is not a must.  Also, I love the convenience of having the book in hand and not having to print everything out. Lastly, I am glad I could help the website by purchasing some materials since that is how they afford to continue offering free materials and keep their mission going. That is a plus, too.  Oh, and you can't beat the added discounts they offer in the book.

In closing....

If you have made it this far into the blog post, then by all means, comment so I can say a personal thank you!

To those who have NOT made it this far in the post, may the beloved Elf stare at you all night from his shelf and whisper sweet nothings in your ear about your children's behavior.  Oh wait, nevermind. He can't talk.

He is fake, he sits around and he stares.

And now on to Day 10 of our Advent Adventure for the day.  We are enjoying a story about Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe since the feast day is on Friday and learning about Moses for our Jesse Tree ornament.

So whatever your adventure this season, may be it be a productive, healthy and happy one!


  1. Excellent post! I think people spend an awful lot of time and effort on the elf. Think of what would happen if we spent that time on teaching our children about Jesus ( as you are doing!). Thank you for sharing.

    1. Your comment came through! Thanks so much for reading. I completely agree with you. Even though there are so many well intentioned parents who do Elf on the Shelf and many cute activities that go along with it, there is still so much emptiness in the consumeristic culture that surrounds the holidays. I am trying to shield my children from that even more this year!