Children’s Lent readings

Hey everyone! Happy Friday!

Today I wanted to share with you some of our favorite books that we have been enjoying as part of our spiritual care with kids. All of these books you can get on Ancient Faith Publishing as well as St. Vladimir bookstore website.

Small books about Saints from Pontamitis Publishing

I absolutely love these books. They are very small and can be taken to church. They have stories about different Saints, they also have stories about major feasts, and as of now my kids love using it as a collectors item.

A Child’s Paradise of Saints

We mainly use this book to read a saint of the month for our co-op but I have learned that these are really simple stories of saints that can be implemented in our daily Saints readings. It is great because it is short enough for children to understand the Saints life and remember it.

We Pray

I really like the simplicity of prayer in this book. It explains what we play for and what the different prayers of the church are. I like to take it to church with us to explain what the prayers mean. It’s simple and gentle way to explain prayer for a child.

From I-Ville to You-Ville

This book is a chapter book that we are really enjoying so far. It is a story about a boy that lives in I-Ville full of different vices as peoples names. He goes to You-Ville when he meets a girl that lives there and she explains to him how people live in You-Ville and explains the different virtues as people. We absolutely love this book. I highly recommend this one if your child is able to listen to chapter books.

The Prologue by St. Nikolai

This book is my personal favorite for everyday reading. It has everything for the day that you need. Saints lives for the day, a contemplation, a reflection, and a homily. Depends on the day I either read all of them or I just read the contemplation or I just read the homily or reflection. This is great for busy moms and also a way to read one Saint with your children.

I hope you this list has been useful. Please let me know in the comments below what your favorite books have been this Lent?

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St. John of the Ladder

This Sunday in the Orthodox Church we celebrate St. John of the Ladder. He is a great saint of the church and during this time of Lent it is helpful for adults mainly to remember “steps” to heaven. How to explain this to kids?

Well the first thing to do is actually show the icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent to the children. It is easy to find online if you do not have it at home. There are steps in the ladder you can bring your children’s attention to and y’all about stools for example or a bunk bed ladder. Talk to the child about how ladders or steps help us get somewhere such as a top bunk or a stool can help you reach for things. Well in the icon it is the same thing since all the people are trying to get to heaven. But sure enough there are the bad guys all trying to get these people off the ladder. You can talk to the children about what can we do as steps to get closer to our goal which is heaven. Here are some ideas our kiddos came up with:

  • Do not be angry
  • Pray
  • Be nice
  • Share
  • Take turns
  • Take a deep breath and count to 4
  • No yelling
  • Go to church

Then talk to the children about the Cross and how powerful it is. How those pesky demons do not like the Cross and how they will get scared away and we can keep climbing.

Afterwards, have the children make their own ladder in their notebooks and then glue on people that are climbing the ladder. You can make the sun at the top with other bright colors or a picture of Jesus. Just some relation to the climb with getting to heaven.

What I ate in a Lent day

Breakfast: Oats, cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, dates, maple syrup. Topped with blueberries.

Lunch: leftovers and these yummy yummy nut butter balls that I can now make with my Ninja blender. (Is is bad to love a blender so much? Seriously this one piece of machinery changed my lent)

Dinner: Vegan chimichangas with lentil stuffing and the yummy cashew “cheese” sauce made with of course the Ninja.

Desert: Banana “ice cream” with cocoa nibs topping and coconut flakes.

Lesson for Orthodox Sunday

Alright everyone I thought I would share a short lesson about Orthodox Sunday that is coming up. Since Lent has started we have changed our alter cloth to purple. This goes in sync with the priest vestments in church. And now with Orthodox Sunday coming up here is a way to have a small activity of play to do in order for those little minds to get the “Lent journey” concept.

Start off by pretending to get in a boat. Have the icons at the end of the room. We are using each child’s patron saint and an icon of Christ. The “boat” is in the middle and ask the children/child to get on the boat and see what we need to do in order to get to the icons. How do we steer the boat? Who’s going to be the leader? Who is going to steer the sail? How are we going to work together to get to Pascha aka the land of Paradise?

After the time of pretend play for the kids have a short story about this time of Lent and how the boat is the church. We all need a leader who is the priest and we all need to work together and “row” and make it to the land of Paradise. This opens up a good discussion with kids regarding church. How can everyone work together? What does it mean to work together with our neighbors and friends during Lent? By prayers? Fasting? What does that look like in a family?

Talk about the icons that the boat is going towards. What do icons mean in the church and why do we have a patron saint? What qualities do the saints have that make them close to Christ?

Just some thoughts.

What’s in my fridge? Lent version

Here we are again… another Lent is upon us. So let us play the game of… what’s in an Orthodox moms fridge?

Fridge is mostly free of all dairy. Since we got a few days to go here we do have eggs and cheese for those breakfasts. I have lots and lots of veggies. I use a combination of different veggies pretty much in every meal. From eggplant to zucchini to lots of lettuce and cilantro. I also loaded up on sweet potatoes and mushrooms. I try not to use any fake cheese or fake butter or anything like that, I might later but the key is pacing yourself here people.

Along with veggies come lots and lots of fruits. I have loads of bananas cause I use them in smoothies all the time every day. Kids eat it for snacks and husband eats it with almond butter sometimes for breakfast. Apples are a great snack for me, the boys love this as a snack also. This year we are splurging in avocados for Lent. They make a difference with food tastes by a lot! The boys love eating avocados and love the food that they mix with avocados so you know… whatever saves me from a food struggle is a win for me.

Alright on to my pantry. So yes I have a food processor and it helps with making my own sauces but I am not one to soak the beans in my fridge so the pantry is a place for my pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. There’s cashews in there and trail mix for a nice snack as well. Yes that is a big box of espresso in the back. I’m a mom of three.

That pretty much covers it all for now. My boys are fairly young so I am not going to make them fast but so far they do eat the fast friendly meals for dinner. My oldest son was never a meat eater to be honest ( potential monastic? Hmmmm) this is just the start though. Everyone that’s fasting always comes to this point in Lent where all the veggies and all the fruits and all the fake stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I will try to do a “what we ate” kind of post sometime soon and then later on in Lent so we can all see the persevering difference.

Reflection: spring

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:

  1. How all of nature trembled when He gave up the spirit, as though to protest against this criminal act of the race of men;
  2. How the earth quaked, the sun was darkened, the rocks were split, the veil of the Temple was rent, and the graves were opened.

Homeschooling: Lent

Here are some things that I try to do different for my family during Lent. We do have books we read throughout Lent some are pictured above. 

In the Candles Glow– Great story about a girl that says prayers in front of candles. Great illustrations. You can get it through Ancient Faith Publishing.

Saint Herman of Alaska- He is one of our favorite saints and this book is a favorite for kids showing them his life and devotion to prayer. This one is from SVS press

Monk who grew in prayer- Wonderful book about the hours of the church as prayed by a monk.

Joseph and his brothers- we found this one at the monastery I believe they are on Ancient Faith Publishing also.

Orthodox kindergarten- This book is great for 2yr olds, it is a lot of simple things that the child can identity in the church and different icons also. This one is from Ancient Faith also.

We are getting Pascha Passports this year here is the link:

https://lenten-embassy.myshopify.com/collections/lenten-journey-for-the-family

It is affordable, a great teaching tool and beautiful!

Most of my teaching will come from the Good Shepherd program. Our first presentation will be on the altar and then I am mostly going to focus on Jesus’s life throughout Lent. Using the geography presentations, the Good Shepherd presentation, Annunciation, then Holy Week. More on those later. 

I just wanted to mention a thought on simplicity. With kids, less is more, some parents feel like they have to do all these things for the child to “get it” or understand the importance of Lent. I get it, because it’s important to us as well. However, sometimes choosing less activities and simpler ones can make a world of a difference in how kids progress things. In a book Religious Potential of a Child, the author has many examples of kids having that want of a connection to their Creator, with many examples of kids with no knowledge of God having that yearning. In terms of simplicity and teaching I try to think about that and think of opportunities for living discussions not only activities. 

How are you doing Lent with your kids? 

Reflection: Forgiveness 

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.

“Yeah mama.”

Blessed Lent everyone.

Food: Lent


Let’s talk food and Lent. This blog is for all those people out there that have Great Lent some what on their minds. Yes I realize that it is Meat-fare Sunday this Sunday but before you know it Lent is going to creep in with all the extra services. In order to not loose my own mind with kids and husband that’s going to be traveling I thought I’d start planning earlier this year.

So for those of you that do not know about Lent in the Orthodox Church we give up all meat and dairy until Pascha/Easter. I believe the Catholic calendar with Easter is the same as Orthodox so we will be sharing in the celebration. This year my husband is also traveling a lot going to different parishes all over the East Coast here for the extra services. So enough of that let’s plan…

Lenten Pantry List

Dairy substitute 

  • Nut milks such as coconut or almond

Proteins 

  • Dried beans such as garbanzos and black beans (also get canned versions for quick prep sometimes dried beans take a long time to cook)
  • Cashews, almonds, walnuts
  • Quinoa 
  • Nut butters

Egg substitute 

  • Chia seeds
  • Stores have egg replacement nowadays 

Grains

  • Oatmeal 
  • Rice
  • Pasta

Fats

  • Vegan mayo
  • Avocados
  • Olive oils
  • Coconut oil for cooking 
  • Sunflower oil

Flavor Enhancers

  • Salsa
  • Curry sauce 
  • Dijon mustard 
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Soy miso
  • Enchilada sauce 
  • Pizza sauce 

So you got your pantry stocked what to do now? Plan meals with them. There are a lot of vegan recipes out there online on Pinterest or with recipe books. Find a recipe book that works for you. Not the most popular one but one that works for you. Look at the list and see if it’s honestly doable for your family. If you have homeschooling on top of meal planning and a crazy complex recipe that might stress you out. Choose easy meals that you can do for service days and then rotate them for each week like good ol pasta and sauce. Also veggie pizza is a good one. Have your recipes ready.

Make a meal plan for the week for the month, all of Lent if that is what works for you. I personally make weekly meal plans. I look at all the services I’d like to attend, plan the meals around that. Also make extra batches and put them into the fridge for lunch or starters for the next day. If you go shopping with your kiddos know where your beans are in the store, know where your vegan stuff is so you don’t have to wander the isles with crazy kids. Save your sanity. I went to the store the other day and just looked at where this stuff was that I would need to buy later.

Lent is for our spiritual benefit. It’s not about the food and crazy prep time. With a little bit of planning it could be a lot of stress off your shoulders. 

Blessed Feast!

Blessed Fest everyone! Today marks the day that our Lord and God and Savor Jesus Christ came into Jerusalem to be crucified. This Feast always makes me ponder how the people that welcome Him as a king later were the same people that said “crucify Him!” Here He is, the only sinless one. Final stretch. Time when we might as well be spending the night at church because of all the services and preparation for Pascha.