Many people are celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas today and what a joy! As the years pass and my children get older and older I really appreciate childlike things more and more. Seeing the joy in their faces as they await the feast, wondering what will be in their shoes, preparing gifts for their friends, are all things that I find my self experiencing all over again.
Many people know the story of St. Nicholas. He was from a wealthy family with his uncle as his biggest influence that taught him that serving his neighbor is most important. There are many stories of St. Nicholas and the story of the golden coins seems to be the most popular among Orthodox friends at least.
Celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas is always my favorite because it takes away from the frenzy of the holiday month with so much focus on gifts and what things we want or what our kids want and what our relatives want. The story of the saint is such a great example of what our focus and attitudes should be during this time of focus in the world on materialistic things. So early on in the December month and the holiday race to Christmas, it sets me in the realistic mind of Christmas. I try to capture that joy in my kids and see it through their eyes.
So today as we unwrapped our shoes and found our own golden coins, I saw the light and believe in my kids and tried to remain thankful throughout the day. What a season to be thankful and count our blessings! For the family and the love for the peace and the joy.
Hello friends! Today I wanted to share with you a little more about the Garden of the Theotokos curriculum and catechism for children. It has been really hard for me to incorporate catechism for my boys as part of my homeschooling, mainly because I feel there is so little time to get everything done. The church is such a part of our lives since we are in seminary, I always feel like I do not need to do much since the boys are living it everyday with their father being a priest. However, recently I was watching a YouTube channel of a homeschooling mom of 8 that is a Christian and got really inspired by her teaching and reading the Bible with her kids everyday and memorizing verses. Reading the Bible has been a big problem for me, simply said I do not do it often even though the Church provides daily reading schedule for us that are not that long. So this week I decided to start reading the Bible with my kids to at least start talking about Christ and who he was.
The Garden of Theotokos curriculum provides a really great way to introduce certain concepts. For example, the kiddos are still going over the days of creation and are on day 3. It seems like the kids are actually getting it and are enjoying the a Waldorf style of learning with this curriculum. I have also been trying to do the Sunday gospel reading lessons with my oldest son getting the lessons from the Antiochian archdiocese website and just doing the lesson with him separately. Since we are in seminary I feel like there is no consistency with Sunday school, we do not have a consistent parish we go to so this is hard, so I felt like it was up to me to have them learn about the gospel readings and this was the easiest way.
I like the little added activities attached to the gospel reading and questions they have according to the level of the child. For example, this weeks reading was about the man that stored up treasure on earth in Luke 15, the activity for kids was to take some toys and explain it as stuff and then do a small game trying to discern between scenarios if it is a treasure in heaven or earth.
Overall, this has been an interesting experiment but I do see more of a discussion in my house about Christ now. I am curious about what others are doing in terms of catechism for their kids? Maybe there is a great curriculum out there I am missing. Let me know in the comments below!
I just wanted to do a quick book review here for all those Christian moms out there following me. I have had this book for a while and recently reopened it again. This is not a book that is a sit down and read type. It has many different prayers for different areas of motherhood. What I love about this book is that at any time you can look in the table of contents and search for the prayers you need. I also like how they are not all formal prayers that we are used to and more on a personal request that I felt like are words given in a time when you don’t have any words.
There are also some stories of many beautiful Orthodox mother saints that I personally love reading because it constantly encourages me to look at someone that is a mother with many kids, that has finished the race. I will say that when I did originally get the book I did not think I would use it a lot but now with such little time left in the day I do find myself running to this book for short prayers very often. The book also has various Psalms after the prayers which I liked as a way to memorize them in relation to what I am dealing with at the moment.
Overall I am thinking about getting this book for a few of my friend for Christmas in hopes to encourage their motherhood journey. A copy of this book can be purchased on Ancient Faith Publishing website if you are interested.
Orthodox Christians celebrate the cross 3 times a year and tomorrow is one of those times. For our feast lesson we used the Garden of the Theotokos curriculum and made our own wooden crosses.
Added circle time song:
Before thy cross we bow down in worship oh master
And thy holy resurrection, we glorify.
For the lesson we talked about the resurrection icon and how the cross is really not a bad thing. I related the demons to bad guys and Hades to jail to make more of an image for them. We looked at the icon together and saw how Christ is pulling people out of this jail place and they are holding onto him to get out.
Since during the service we see red for the cross we changed our cloth to red and then made wooden crosses to process with while we sing our song for the cross. The wooden crosses are super easy to make. All you need is wooden dowels from your local craft store, hot glue them together and then paint them.
We also used string to tie the middle part together since it was a fun handwork thing for the boys to do. We chose red for the color and tried to mix it with orange for fall colors but it mainly just turned to red. This was a fun process and I will share with you how we tied it into our school story from the Waldorf Essentials curriculum later this week.
This week we started with the Waldorf Essentials curriculum and so far we really like it. I have to compile the teaching days into 2 days so we do our craft one day and baking day another. The reason why we do this is because of our co-op that takes a day and just schedules that work best for our family. We did bake the recipe that was suggested with peach cookies and it was a great big mess in the kitchen alright with kids trying to mix and touch every ingredient. Overall I enjoyed it and am seeing that my boys enjoy lessons as well if I hold the space and try not to just check something off the list.
Our co-op started the unit 1 study of the days of the week from the Garden of the Theotokos curriculum. We started with Sunday and since that is the day we go to church we put a chalice and a diskos on our page. We also talked about how God took 7 days to make everything and tried to talk to the kids about what their dads and moms do that is work and resting on the holy day. I mixed in circle time from the WE curriculum along with other finger plays and action rhymes my kids have enjoyed.
This week we have the Feast of Nativity of the Theotokos and used our peg dolls I made to retell the story. The cloth was switched to blue and the icon of the feast was put up. This was a great hit because the whole day we roll played the story, with either using the peg dolls or just acting out the story.
That was our homeschooling wrap up. Blessed Feast everyone!
Today I wanted to share our method of dying Easter eggs. This is an old Russian favorite, I used to always wonder how my grandmother put the designs on the eggs and this year I gave it a try.
What you need:
- Onion skins
- Flowers or leaves (fun activity with kids to find from nature)
- Baige stockings
Take your scissors cut the stocking into pieces that will fit the eggs inside and hold the flowers on them. Tie one end in a knot, put the egg inside and then put the flower on it, then tie the other end.
Repeat the process with the rest of the eggs and put them inside with the onion skins.
Boil the eggs in the pot for about 15 minutes or until you have reached your desired color. Once done remove the stocking and the flower off the egg and set to cool in cold water. Then tada…
Ready to get blessed by the priest after the Pascha Liturgy.
The boys really enjoyed this activity because they got to find the decorations to put on the eggs and then got to see their imprints on the eggs. “Ooooo wow” says my oldest son.
Next up to tackle for our traditional food is Kulich aka Easter Bread or Pascha bread. This one is a long process one. Will keep you posted.
How is your Easter prep going? Do you have any traditional food you eat?
Here is a Holy Week activity for everyone to try. This is a good way to teach kids about the concept of past, present and future using the events from the Holy Week services.
You will need to print out all the icons for the Holy Week services and laminate them. Using a board, divide it into three sections: on the left is the future, middle is the present and the right is the past. In the beginning of the week put all the icons on the left, as each day comes put the icon of the day in the middle with your child and read the scripture that goes with the Holy Week service.
Talk about the icon with your child, what do they see? What do they think the readings mean? Then the next day as you put a new icon in the middle simple move the old icon to the right on the past side.
Go to as many Holy Week services with your kids as possible for them to make the connection with the readings and the icons to the church. They will recognize the shift in the regular rhythm. Also, teach them the Behold the Bridegroom hymn or the Alleluia hymns that are sung in the church for the first 4 days.
Hope your Holy Week is gearing you up for Pascha!
Today during our co op we are getting ready for Pascha!
Using the Catechism of the Good Shepherd program we did our Liturgy of Light presentation. Since here in seminary we really do not have the space for an actual atrium I have to modify my lessons and include a craft for the kids whenever it is my turn.
We gathered in the class today and all the kids were excited to be back since we have had sort of a hiatus for a while. The energy level was high and I knew it was going to be a sort of strict teacher day. We had the altar set up with the purple cloth first and remembered our church colors song and purple for preparing and white for celebration.
After the song I switched the altar cloth to white and put the big Pascha candle on it with flowers and the Good Shepherd icon. We talked about how Jesus walked on this earth and he said many things but one thing He said was that “I am the light of the world” as I said this I lit the big Pascha candle.
I then called out each child by name and gave them their own blank candle and we learned the Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen greeting for Pascha. Then we processed with our candles 3 times singing the Christ is Risen troparion. Afterward the children sat down and I called each one by name to light their own candle from the big Pascha candle. They stood there for a little bit as we turned off the lights and saw their candles light up the room.
For our craft we decorated the Pascha candles with puff paint and put ribbons on them so the children can use it for the Pascha service and the procession. It was a joy to see their faces light up.
What you can do at home:
- Make your own Easter vigil candles
- Get puff paint from Joanns or Michael’s
- Dye Easter eggs together
- Make a Easter basket for the priest to bless after the service
- Buy fresh flowers for the house
Hope this is helpful in your Easter preparation.
Alright everyone, Lent has been kind of crazy. All the focus on internal work and spiritual readings has left me exhausted. Every Lent there is always something to push you, either with kids or health, there is always some struggle for Lent that comes your way.
New York has not been kind to us Californians with the weather this Lent either. First there was a snow storm that left a brand new huge patch of snow and now there are non stop showers. Cabin fever is real. The community here seems to be non stop sick so we have been avoiding all people, making it harder to just hang out with the kids all day.
Spring weather always seems to show up at the right time around Pascha/Easter. Last year Pascha was in May, way different than the Western calendar but the weather seemed to still go with the Lenten season. It was in the 30’s until end of April last year. This year seems to be the same. As Holy Week will be soon upon us it is already in the 50’s creating hope for glorious Pascha sunshine.
As I sit and contemplate the spring and try to gear my thoughts towards the end of Lent, I leave you with this thought from St. Nikolai Velimirovic:
Contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:
- How all of nature trembled when He gave up the spirit, as though to protest against this criminal act of the race of men;
- How the earth quaked, the sun was darkened, the rocks were split, the veil of the Temple was rent, and the graves were opened.
Today is Cheesfare Sunday for Orthodox Christians everywhere. That means Lent is officially here. We all have a special service to start the event titled Forgiveness Vespers. We all line up and face our community and ask each other for forgiveness. I personally love this service as it’s the perfect start to the Lent and the main focus of the season. Now is the time for reflection, quiet, peace, prayer and service to ones neighbors.
Every year as Lent rolls around I get sad about all the meat and cheese we will miss but joyful also because it cannot come at a more perfect time. I stand there and face the people I go to church with first. The priests that work so hard. I ask them their forgiveness and they as me for mine in return. My friends and neighbors follow. I know that I need to ask them their forgiveness because at some point during the year I did have bad thoughts or even said mean words against them. Lastly, I stand before my husband, I look into his eyes and ask him to forgive me for anything that I might have offended him for. He asks the same of me. We bow to each other and forgive one another.
It is such a humbling experience to go through every year. I walk my overly tired kids back to the house and I try to keep my peace as long as possible. My sons loose it and I loose it on them. Bam. My peace is gone. I blame myself. All the wrong thoughts come into my head. My husband walks in and calms the storm.
As I sing my goodnight song to my oldest son I know what I have to do.
“Buddy, I’m sorry I was angry just now. I will try to do better next time. Will you forgive me?” I say to my son.
Blessed Lent everyone.