100. Theophany

We are preparing for Theophany tomorrow, and I’ve finally assembled a simple album of our baptisms and our godchildren’s baptisms (as well as weddings and churchings) to share with our son on Theophany and throughout the year. I used Fotor’s collage tool to assemble simple pages (one for each event) and then printed them on photo paper. I found the idea in Elizabeth White’s book. A second set was sent to godchildren and godparents – baptisms and weddings from California to Wyoming and South Dakota to Texas and Pennsylvania… It’s quite beautiful and touching to gather all of the memories into one special album!
My son has also been greatly enamored of drawing in and creating little homemade booklets the last few days. I suggested we do a Theophany booklet and he chose to draw grass (ie, basil for house blessings), an empty bowl, a censer, a bowl with water and ‘grass’ in it, and an altar cloth. It’s quite adorable. We may do another one of small paper icons pasted into a booklet. I’m astounded at how the new format of a booklet has ignited his desire to draw and then tell the stories of the booklets.
I’d love to hear any of your Theophany traditions and activities as well!

99. Hand Rolled Candles

On St. Lucia Day we rolled candles from beeswax sheets. While we mostly focused on St. Herman of Alaska on December 13, the candle activity seemed very fitting for St. Lucia Day (as well as for his recent bee obsession)! I was surprised at how much my son enjoyed it. He rolled numerous candles; all I did was cut the sheets of wax and place the wick for him. We gave the candles to his friends at church as Nativity gifts. Orthodox families can always use candles for their prayer corners! The sheets seemed a bit pricey to me, but they actually made a lot and were almost comparable in price to purchasing beeswax candles for prayer.  This could also be a good activity for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

98. Advent

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Oh, my, I intended to be much more organized with Advent preparations and traditions this year, especially because my son is now four and is more aware of the impending holiday on December 25. But a variety of illnesses conspired against us and made me modify my plans. Although everything didn’t work out, I’m happy with what we’ve fit in and think it has given us a good foundation for future years.
Fortunately, we were able to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and St. Herman of Alaska on December 13. Their celebrations tie in well with the season, St. Nicholas for obvious reasons and St. Herman because of the chance to use evergreen cuttings and talk about stars (he was called the North Star) and woodland animals. I overheard him singing his own song about St. Herman, improvising on liturgical melodies. It was quite sweet. (I will likely use the same basic idea for St. Seraphim of Sarov on January 2, given some of the similarities in setting and theme between the two men.) He asked about the reason for St. Nicholas giving gold coins to the girls, so hopefully the idea of charity is beginning to form.
I put up the Advent calendar at least a week late, but he didn’t notice. We made it last year out of a birch stick I’d carried around the country for a decade. The bags were simply sewn and contain figures from small wooden Nativity sets (found at Target) and Christmas ornaments. Mary, Joseph, and the infant Christ are in the last bags. I love how all the Nativity figures are lined up in a row with an angel waiting to greet them – one of those signs your kid is Orthodox!
He has greatly enjoyed having a simple paper chain to use to count down the days, perhaps because he gets to use an adult scissor to cut them off.
We also made ornaments together for an Orthodox children’s ornament swap. Despite his (sometimes) long attention span, I knew I couldn’t get him to make 12 ornaments entirely by hand, so he helped me pick out paper color and shape (oval, not square) for the Nativity silhouette cuts and then placed the stars on them. We’ve received our first one in the mail. He immediately hung it on the tree and asked the names of the children who sent it. What a sweet tradition!
And now we wait for just a few more days!

97. Beehive!

IMG_9972v2 Bee eggs, larvae, pupae, worker bees, drone bees, and the huge queen bee!IMG_9980v2

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My son’s fascination with bees beegan this spring and summer when we often saw them buzzing around our flowers in the backyard. We’ve been reading The Saint and his Bees and The Beeman recently.  One of the few good things about me being sick the last week has been having more time to stay home and putter in my pajamas with my son.  Using a small cardboard box, I filled it with the toilet paper rolls I’ve been saving (knowing I would eventually find a good use for them!)  We glued the rolls together side by side to create our hive and honeycomb.  Then we used craft sticks (the egg shaped ones were from Easter clearance), pipe cleaners, beads, and more to create bees in various stages of the lifecycle.  He especially loved making that queen bee! I lost track of how many pipe cleaners and beads were wrapped around her.  The craft sticks are the perfect length to pop into the honeycomb and easily take out again. We used yellow glitter gold for a bit of honey and gold wrappers from St. Nicholas Day coins as more honey. I also found bee lifecycle charts and 3-part cards at Trillium Montessori.  Now we’ve been talking about how beeswax is used to make the candles at church and I’m dreaming of a candle making session…

96. St. Seraphim of Sarov Snowglobe Ornament

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After making the little snowy tree mason jar doodads that are everywhere, I decided to make something similar using the plastic ornaments that are available at Michael’s. They pop open for a person to put all kinds of fun things inside of them and will be safer to mail across the country than glass jars! I started with forest scenes for my Black Hills family, and pine trees with a small bird perched inside of them in memory of my mom who passed this summer, and the natural progression from that was to do a little scene from the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov, of course.  I used floral moss to create a base, glued in the little trees (also in the ornaments section at Michaels and JoAnns), created an icon stand from red cardstock and images taken from an old catalog, and added a small toy bear, as well as fake snow.  I carefully glued the items into each half (with small dabs of hot glue) before putting the halves together and adding ribbon and birch bark stars.  Taking a photo of the reflective round surface proved to be the biggest challenge.  I hope to do another one of the life of St. Herman of Alaska and perhaps a few others. Now if only I could acquire his spirit of peace…so much more difficult than whipping up crafts with my glue gun!

95. Thanksgiving Mail

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Are you like us, thousands of miles from your family during the holidays? Even if you’re not, it’s hard to resist doing a few Thanksgiving crafts: turkey cards (cut on the Silhouette – I finally figured out how to use it, only a year after purchasing it on cyber Monday!) with a note inside telling our loved ones how thankful we are for them, and a collaborative mother-son hand tracing fall tree for the grandparents. And we do have so very many things to be thankful for: the basics (which so many around the world don’t have) of clean water, a safe place to live, enough food, relative health, stable employment, good friends, visits with family, and so, so many more that my heart nearly fills to bursting when I stop to think about it. Happy Thanksgiving!

94. Shoebox Time (& Child Sponsorship)

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It’s amazing how much you can fit into a shoebox when you really start to think about it! Advent (a time of preparation, including giving to others, before Christmas) for Orthodox Christians begins on November 15. Operation Christmas Child collection week begins right after that. It’s great timing to talk about what Advent means for us.
I was surprised by how seriously my son (three years old) listened when I explained to him that we would be purchasing gifts to send to children around the world who may not otherwise receive any gifts. He was full of questions about why they might not have gifts if we didn’t send any.I love having a way to give back that is on a level that a child can understand. I love that it’s tangible, that he can see toys and art supplies being shared with other children instead of just being purchased for him.
Just for some ideas, I’m sharing our list. (I’m one of those clearance-crazed ladies who strolls the end caps of Target throughout the year and stashes everything in a box until Christmas time.) In our box: socks, underwear, tights, toothbrush/paste, soap, washcloth, school and craft supplies, a small teddy bear, small toys, hair bows, and to be added, combs, a little hard candy, small sewing kit, small tape measure.
Related to this topic, we are so happy to be able to be involved with child sponsorship through World Vision. As my son becomes more and more interested in geography, I’ve finally put up a map at his level with the locations of our sponsored kids to help him make the connection. He sees me writing letters for them, and he sees the letters and drawings that they send to us. It’s powerful stuff. Having the map up where I can see it often has been a huge help for me as well, helping me keep their needs and the needs of children like them in the front of my mind. I want my son to know that, while he is blessed, part of being blessed is giving back.
I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts with Operation Christmas Child and sponsorship!