Subtitled: An Obnoxiously Long But Hopefully Somewhat Helpful Post
It’s late this year, but somehow Lent is still sneaking up on me. I’ve just recently been combing through online resources, notes, files, and books to come up with a plan to celebrate this meaningful Lenten season. I thought I’d share a few resources, ideas, etc. with you and also invite you to share your Lenten resolutions or plans with the rest of us.
First things first: I’ve decided to embrace this idea of writing a note to a loved one, friend, priest, or even a casual acquaintance for each of the 40 days of Lent – and not an email but a real note with my handwriting and a stamp on the envelope. I plan on inviting my 6-year-old to write some letters, too. My younger daughters will be welcome to color pictures to add to our notes. We’d been having Pen Pal Wednesdays where Madeline (6) would practice her handwriting by jotting down notes to friends and relatives, but we’ve recently taken to having nature study on Wednesday mornings, and our pen pal tradition has fallen by the wayside. This will be a good way to ease back in to the art of writing old-fashioned letters – a gesture I’m bound and determined to instill in my children.
We’ll be making homemade pretzels again, but I’m going to try a new recipe. My future sister-in-law gave me a wonderful book called A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family Life and Faith by Evelyn Birge Vitz for Christmas, and it includes a delicious-sounding and simple recipe for pretzels. Danielle Bean shares it here. I highly recommend making pretzels with your children. Little hands love handling the dough and twisting it this way and that.
Speaking of recipes, check out my Meatless Monday recipes for ideas of what to serve on Fridays when abstinence is required. I’d like to add some more of our favorite vegetarian recipes, but I’m making no promises.
Our book basket* will be filled with special reading selections, including those Catholic Mosaic suggests. Here are a few selections we’ll be reading and/or narrating:
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Children’s Stations of the Cross by Susan Brindle, Joan Bell, and Miriam Lademan
I also highly recommend Michelle’s Stations of the Cross for Children, which she wrote herself. Good (and free!) stuff. There’s more on how I pray the Stations of the Cross with my little ones below.
The Three Trees by Abgeka Elwell Hunt
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Discussing how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly is a concrete example of how we, too, we have the power to transform ourselves during Lent.)
*Full disclosure: We don’t really make use of book baskets anymore because Mary Elizabeth kept emptying them and adding her own selections, which was driving me crazy. Now I just set aside the books we’re planning on reading for a certain week, month, and season on a special place on one of our bookshelves. I still use the term “book basket” simply because it sounds nicer than “designated shelf space.” :-)
More Lenten Clicking:
- Aggie Catholic’s Lent 2011 post (kind of like a Lented FAQs)
- Lenten Activities for the Family (This is a PDF document targeted to non-Catholics who wish to observe the Lenten season. It that has lots of ideas of how to celebrate Lent with your family and makes use a of Lenten tree in which children color pieces of fruit after they complete an activity such as “Practice giving one another a foot-wash. Talk a bit about Maundy Thursday when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and commanded them to love one another. The word maundy comes from a root word meaning ‘mandate’ or ‘command.’ Look up John 13:34-35 to discover the ‘new commandment’ Jesus gives.” The book is from 2009, but it’s still relevant.
- Pondered in the Heart Lenten Calendar, Merciful Cross idea for keeping track of sacrifices, Stations of the Cross grottos, etc.
What am I missing?
(If you have a Lenten post you’d like me to add here, please feel free to email me at kmwicker [at] gmail [dot] com or leave the link in the comments.)
I’ll also share this slightly edited, old post from 2010 that includes some other ways I’ve celebrated Lent in the past with my children. We’re definitely making our Lenten mouses this year. They’re always a big hit. (NOTE: Making these mice and tying knots in their tails for any good behavior you’re trying to reinforce/practice is a great way to implement positive parenting.) I’d like to make a crown of thorns this year, too.
My oldest daughter is only five, so I don’t expect her draw a long list of sacrifices. However, it’s my firm belief that even the smallest children can begin their journey to the cross with Jesus during Lent. Here are a few ways I make this liturgical season come alive for my little ones (and I’d love to have others share how they approach Lent with their kids as well):
1. We give up sweets as a family except on Sundays and special saints’ feast days. I know this is cliche, but it’s an easy sacrifice for kids to understand. It’s also a good way to detox from all the sweets we scarfed down back in December. Now I consider myself an understanding mother, so I allow my children to savor their last treat on Fat Tuesday. (Who am I kidding? I NEED the last hooray for myself.) So on Tuesday night we’ll be eating ice cream for dinner. It’s our feast before the fast, and Madeline looks forward to it every year (I score some serious cool points for serving ice cream for dinner).
2. We have a tradition of making Lenten Sacrifice Mice. We tie a knot in each mouse’s tail for every act of kindness my children perform during Lent (without Mom’s prodding, of course). By Easter, the mouse should have a short, knotty tail. Since young children are tactile and visual, telling them to do good deeds or make sacrifices in honor of Jesus may not be enough. A visual reminder they can touch is helpful. Plus, you have to admit these little guys are pretty cute.
In the past, we’ve made two-dimensional, felt critters. This year I got a little more creative and helped the little ones in our homeschooling group make these mice. All you need are baby socks (now you have something to do with all those lonely socks that lost their mate), stuffing (you can find this at a craft store), googly eyes, pink felt, yarn, small pink pom-poms, and a permanent black marker. Let little hands fill the mouse with stuffing. Then tie a tail around the end to close it up. Allow kids to glue on the eyes, pom-pom nose, and ears, and draw the whiskers.
4. Last year we started praying the Stations of the Cross at home every Friday. Here’s what we’re doing to bring the stations into our home: I light a candle and then I read a brief description of each station, say a prayer, and finally ask my daughters to find an object from a small box. The small objects symbolize each station and provide something visual and tangible for the girls to hold in their hands.
I’m using the following objects to represent each station:
Pilate condemns Jesus: A red string (because Jesus’ hands were bound)
Jesus carries his cross: A cross made from two Popsicle sticks
Jesus falls for the first time: A Band-Aid (to remind us of how much Jesus was hurting when he fell)
Jesus meets his Mother: A rosary (to remind us of Our Blessed Mother, the pain she endured watching her son suffer, and that she remains close to Jesus even now and can bring our prayers, joys, and sorrows to him)
Simon helps Jesus carry the cross: A small piece of white felt with the letter “H” drawn on it (“H” stands for “help” and is a reminder that we should always seek to help others)
Veronica wipes Jesus’ face: A cloth with a drawing of Jesus’ face on it (here we discuss how we must reach out to others and see Jesus in all things)
Jesus falls for the second time: Another Band-Aid
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem: A tissue (to remind us that Jesus is always here to comfort us and to wipe our tears away)
Jesus falls for the third time: a cutout of my daughter’s hand made of cardstock (serves as a reminder for us to lend a helping hand to those who fall since we could not be there to lift Jesus up when he stumbled)
Jesus is stripped: A piece of purple felt (the piece of cloth represents Jesus’ garments. I chose purple since this is the liturgical color for repentance and preparation. We talk about how Lent is a time to prepare for the joy of the resurrection.)
Jesus is nailed to the cross: A nail
Jesus dies: A small crucifix
Jesus is taken down from the cross: A postcard of Michelangelo’s Pieta (we talk about the sorrow Mary must have felt holding her dead son in her arms and yet, she remained faithful, believing in God’s eternal promise)
Jesus is buried: A stone (to remind us of the sealed tomb that enclosed Jesus’ body)
Christ rises from the dead: A picture of our Risen Lord resplendent in his victory over death!
*UPDATE: My aunt, a former homeschooling mom whose kids are grown up now, shared this idea with me and I adapted it for my family. I was unaware that a father came up with this idea and his family shared it over at the 4 Real Forum. Here’s a link to it. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
The following books also have great ideas for celebrating Lent in your family as well as other liturgical seasons throughout the year. I own each of these books and reference them frequently.
Big Book of Catholic Traditions for Children’s Faith Formation
Catholic Traditions in the Home and Classroom: 365 Days to Celebrate a Catholic Year
Again, I’d love to hear how your family plans to observe Lent this year.