The Last Supper: One Last Holy Week Post!

This is one last Holy week activity I did at home with my daughter that I wanted to share, then I’ll be moving on to more ways to celebrate Pascha! (Please excuse my tardiness :)) Since I have been doing Montessori lessons with my daughter at home, I wanted to begin introducing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presentations.  To this end, I created a very simple version of the materials used to present the Last Supper (the figures are usually beautifully hand painted). In the atrium, this is one of the first Paschal presentations a child receives (after the Parable of the Good Shepherd).

I made Jesus and the apostles from wooden peg dolls and simple felt clothes, with belts cut from from felt and leather trim.  I shaped the chalice and candle holders from Sculpey-style dough, and baked and then painted them with gold acrylic paint (the candles are birthday candles).  The bread is sculpted from the same dough, though I ran out of time to make a diskos (or paten). The table is made from 4 wooden spools and some scrap wood I found in an inexpensive woodcraft kit from Ben Franklin.  The “upper room” background is cut from a cereal box, and I used a wooden box from Micheal’s to hold all the materials.

The smaller, handled box also came from Micheal’s, and was great for carrying the materials with us to church.  I did the presentation at home first, and though my  little gal was very interested, she asked to run off and play immediately after.  So it was even more moving to see her get the materials out later at church, and ever so carefully set them up one by one, and feed the bread and wine to each apostle. You just cannot underestimate how much those little brains (and hearts) are absorbing!

This is just one of the beautiful CGS presentations for Pascha;  you can read more about them in a Catholic setting here.  (However,  it is hard to do it justice in writing;  if you ever have the chance to observe in an atrium, please take it! You will be moved.)   For a wonderful introduction to how the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is coming to be used and modified for the Orthodox Church, please see here. I had the pleasure of attending part of my training at St. Athanasius in Santa Barbara, and got to witness firsthand  the amazing work that Seraphima and the other catechists have done to spread this amazing approach to Orthodox churches across the country.   If you would like to learn more, Sofia Cavaletti’s seminal book The Religious Potential of the Child is usually the best place to start. (Amazon has it intermittently, you can order it  here and here).  For a preview on google books, click here.

Ok, more ways to celebrate the 50 days of Pascha coming soon!


Preparing for Holy Week..

Pascha is ever so quickly approaching! Here are some easy activities to get ready for Holy Week:

This Holy Week Clock from The Liturgical Year for Little Ones is a great visual countdown of the days to Pascha.  All of the links for the coloring pages are included.

Or isn’t this neat- making a real working oil lamp, similar to those used in Biblical times, to illustrate the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  All you need is a bit off an old candle wick, some olive oil, and clay (you can use an air-dry clay like Model Magic, available at most craft stores, as well as Target & Wal-mart, I believe).  If you have a full-size oil lamp, it can be a great illustration of the parable as well (we have one I purchased very inexpensively for power outages, a similar one is available here).

In addition to the Palm Sunday set, I am also trying to make more little felt sets that my daughter can use at home, as well as  take to church. I just started this one for Holy Thursday, another one could be made for Holy Friday with a cross, tomb and stone, etc.  There are lots of possibilities, depending on your artistic skills-I’ll see how it ours go over! I plan to store them in these little pencil cases I found at Wal-mart for $1 apiece.

This last idea I wasn’t sure if I was going to link, since we are so close to Pascha, but I liked it so much  I just had to! Martianne’s family at Training Happy Hearts  decorates little baby food jars, pokes holes in them, and labels them “pray”, “fast” and “give”.

Martianne writes:

Last year, we made very simple jars for each of us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts with prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the Lenten season… Basically, we just made holes in the top of some jars and then created labels that said “pray”, “fast” and “give” along with our names.  We placed these on our Liturgical Table, and, nearby, we kept a jar of dry beans.  Nightly, we reflected on how we prayed, fasted or offered ourselves to other people, adding up to three beans to our jar in accordance with what we did.  Then, at Easter, the beans were “made new” by taking them away and replacing them with a sweet, long-lasting treat (lollipops, by the kids choice) to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus.  This simple daily activity really helped drive home the message to our children that Lent is a time to cleanse and prepare ourselves for the joy of Jesus’ coming through prayer, fasting and giving.
Isn’t that a sweet idea? Martianne also shares that this year they made one set of jars for the whole family, which I think is wonderful as well, as it can bring the family together in their efforts (and minimize that pesky sibling rivalry!)  And of course instead of lollipops, the beans could be replaced  with jelly beans, M&M’s, or whatever your children enjoy. Something to file away for next year!

A Lenten Centerpiece

I have wanted to share so many more Lenten ideas these past weeks, but things have been a bit hectic as of late. So here is one idea that I have implemented in our house and am really enjoying-a Lenten centerpiece (I’ve seen them referred to as “Lenterpieces” around the web!)

The idea behind a Lenten centerpiece, for me, is to be a great visual reminder of Lent at every meal, and every time I walk by our dining room table (which happens to be part of our living room as well).  I’ve found that just by placing an icon in an unexpected place, your eye will be drawn to it so much more than the others in your home which your eyes have become more accustomed to seeing.

Our centerpiece is very simple, as you can see: a purple silk runner with a lace ribbon, an icon, candle, empty bowl, and alms jar. The empty bowl is a reminder of fasting of course, for both ourselves, as well as a reminder of those who don’t have enough food to eat (The Catholic tradition has a wonderful Lenten charity effort called Operation Rice Bowl that inspired me in this).  The alms jar can be filled with ideas for the whole family to choose from each day-for some wonderful ideas check out Phyllis Onest’s “Lenten Bouquet” here. There are lots of other inspiring ideas here too). The icon can be changed out as to the appropriate day, and can be a wonderful conversation starter around the dinner table.  And of course the candle can be lit before mealtime prayers, and serve as a point of interest for little ones during quiet prayer time.

There are many more great ideas for Lenten centerpieces around the web, ours is definitely one of the more simple ones.  But I have already found that it is working in our home as a visual reminder to stay focused on Christ amidst the busyness of everyday life. And it was so sweet to have my three year old daughter tell me after breakfast that she had to move the “beautiful purple fabric” so she didn’t spill her cereal milk on it. This coming from a little gal who just recently experimented with drawing on the ottomans, and is prone to leaving a trail of toys, clothes, and crumbs wherever she goes!

Fun Food for St. Patrick’s Day!

This is my last post on St. Patrick’s Day, I promise! I’m working on an almsgiving activity that I am excited to share soon.  Until then, I found some fun green foods I wanted to share with you (i didn’t find any particularly easy, kid-friendly Irish fare that is fasting, though soda bread would be the classic option)..

How cute are these shamrock chips? They are made from spinach tortillas using a shamrock cookie cutter (I got mine for 99 cents from Michael’s).  You could dip them in hummus, salsa, white bean dip, etc..

Or how about a green fruit salad? Granny Smith apples, kiwis, avocado, and pistachios combine with a little mint, lime juice and agave (or maple) syrup for a refreshing snack. If there are picky eaters around, you could always put each ingredient in separate bowls and let everyone make their own. Recipe here.

To drink, how about  a green smoothie, made from grape juice, apple, avocado and a little spinach?  I haven’t tried it but I’m guessing you could sweeten it up with a little more juice or honey if needed.  See recipe here.  Another option could be limeade, homemade or store-bought.

And lastly, though not food-related, a cute little poem to add to your shamrock activities:

Just like the leaves on each shamrock I see,

there are three persons of the Holy Trinity.

First is God the Father,

then Jesus His only Son,

and the Holy Spirit,

Together as One.

Ok, that’s all for St. Patrick. More lenten activites, coming soon!

Celebrating St. Patrick

(Troparion, Tone 3)

O holy hierarch Patrick, wonderworker and equal of the apostles, enlightener of the Irish land, entreat the merciful God, that He grant our souls remission of transgressions.


Our Joy and Hope meeting is set for March 17 this month, which is of course St. Patrick’s Day! It will be a great opportunity to take this day back from all the  “leprechauns and luck” and use it to teach our children about not only a well-loved saint but also the Holy Trinity.  I’m excited to share some fun ideas over the coming days that you can use to celebrate the real St. Patrick as well!

First up, resources. We plan on reading St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons, for a brief introduction to the saint’s life that will appeal to our different ages. (Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola is another option). We are also considering reading Three in One: A Book about God, to enhance our discussion of the Holy Trinity (which will begin with a real three leaf clover/shamrock, of course!)  While not written by an Orthodox Christian, the book presents a  tangible metaphor (a tree) for the Holy Trinity without straying from Scripture. (I ran it by my husband, a seminary grad, who gave it his OK, which means a lot to me!)  We will do some fun cooking/craft projects relating to the Holy Trinity & symbolism of the shamrock, and end with learning/singing the hymns “Father Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity One in Essence, and Undivided” and  “One is Holy.  (We’ll also talk about where these hymns fall during the Divine Liturgy, to encourage participation at what will be the next day’s service).

Crafts/Games/Cooking Projects coming up next-stay tuned!

P.S. Did you know that Orthodox Christian Fellowship has some great resources on their website about “the real St. Patrick”? Included are the icon above (from the hand of Michael Kapeluck) , a supplication service from which the above Troparion is taken from, and Irish recipes. Though we often think of St. Patrick as a western saint, he was  born in 387 and died in 461. For more information about St. Patrick, a great resource is orthodoxwiki.

Candleholders-an oldie but a goodie!

Here is a simple craft that I’m sure everyone has seen before: tissue paper-covered candleholders.  I had wanted to try something new, but ended up making these with my daughter today and re-appreciating how simple and easy they are! Despite the simplicity, they are still enjoyable for older children to make, and can be a wonderful lenten activity and addition to your prayer table/corner.  Lighting candles before praying and reading Scripture is both theologicaly significant and a great point of interest for children of all ages.  These little candles can also be a nice gift for grandparents, godparents, etc.

We used candles that I buy for our prayer corner from A.C. Moore for $1 apiece.  You can also usually find several different styles of tea light/candle holders at dollar stores, or you could use baby food jars or canning jars.  We tore up purple tissue paper into small pieces, and used watered down glue to adhere them.  (If you have it, Mod Podge works even better).  I also added some purple glitter to the glue for some added sparkle (so much less messy than adding glitter separately!) After they dried, we added a simple yarn bow, but you can use any kind of ribbon, raffie, etc, to finish them off. Simple but sweet!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day-two weeks late! I want to share some photos and activities from our recent Hope & Joy meeting. Though it is too late to use them this year, I wanted to add  them to the archive as a resource for the future.  I hope you enjoy!

Since we focused on St. Valentine last year, this year we decided to focus on love (surprise!), specifically Christ’s greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:36-40*    (We  chose to stop there and not read the entire parable, but to save that for a later date.  Since we are a small church, we invite even the youngest siblings to participate, from the littlest 3’s up to age 12.  So we strive to pare down our lesson to the most essential, and make the  activities accessible to everyone, since attention spans can be short on saturday afternoons!)

We started with a brief introduction asking what rules and commandments are (they tell us what to do and how to act, etc).  We asked if anyone could think of any rules they had read in the Bible (the Ten Commandments). Then we introduced the Scripture reading by saying that in the Bible, Jesus has told us the VERY MOST (emphasis here!) important commandment, or rule, about how we should live and act.  We shared that we can find Jesus’ words in different parts of the Bible, but today we will read from the Book of Matthew.  We then read the verses, and asked the children about what they had heard. (“What was the first most important, the greatest, commandment, that Jesus told the people? What was the second?”).  We then talked about the ways we can show God we love Him, and talked about who our neighbors are, and how we show love to them.  The children, of course, had wonderful answers, and we filled in the gaps when necessary!  We then segued to our activities by holding up a paper cut out of a heart, and asking the littlest ones what it was, and the older ones, what it made them think of.  We talked about the symbolism of the heart as one for love**, and that we would be doing some fun “heart” activities that would remind us of Christ’s greatest commandment to LOVE.


We started with painting these wooden heart frames, that I found at Michael’s for $1 apiece (you could also probably find something similar at A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, etc).  Michael’s is great because they are always offering coupons, which I take full advantage of!  (If the price is too steep for your larger group of children, you could also make the frames out of cardboard or styrofoam food packaging, cutting the hearts out beforehand with an exact-o knife.)  We told the children that there was only one condition to these frames: they could not be kept for themselves, but had to be given to someone they love!  It was so sweet to hear the children  share who (and why) they would give their frames to.


While the paint dried on our frames, we make some heart tortilla “cookies, similar to the ones pictured above.  I had seen this idea floating around the web, and thought it would be great to make something a little healthier that cupcakes or cookies (though there is a time for those, too!)  These are super easy to make-all you need are soft flour tortillas (any size), melted butter, and various kinds of colored sugar and sprinkles, of course!!  The younger children can use cookie cutters to cut out their hearts (we found metal ones cut better than plastic) and older children can use kitchen shears if they would like.  Then we brushed the hearts with melted butter using pastry brushes (or your fingers if you don’t have those!) and sprinkled with sprinkles.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like them.  Yum!

My 3 year old's paper plate version

Lastly, I found these neat  paper decorations (wind-catchers) at the craft store as well.  They can be decorated as simply or as elaborately as you would like- we used markers & crayons, but you could also use glue and glitter, torn tissue paper and doilies, etc.  We then glued a cut-out paper heart printed with the Bible verse to the very center-older children can write it out themselves. Since these decorations may be hard to find, I experimented with making one of my own out of a paper plate.  You simply cut a spiral into the plate, and as you get closer to the center, cut it into a heart shape.  Glue the verse inside in the same manner, then add a string for hanging. I took my daughter’s outside to photograph, and it twirled in the wind so much it was hard to photograph!

We sent everyone home with heart-covered pencils and chocolate-covered pretzel hearts 🙂

UPDATE: pictures of all 3 of these projects, coming soon! Thanks for your patience.

And here are some other easy heart crafts from the web:

Glitter Heart doilies

Doilies + glitter= easy and fun! see here.

Marshmallow pops!


So easy and yummy!   We made these last year, and used only water applied with our fingertips to make the colored sugar stick. If you use sprinkles you probably need the melted candy bark. Heart-shaped marshmallows work great, too! see here.


*alternatively Luke 10: 25-28, Mark 12:28-31

**With older children, you could also tie in the symbolism of the cross, with the vertical plank toward God and the horizontal plank to our neighbors.