This past Monday I had my monthly interview spot on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air Show, and we talked about some of the Lenten traditions my family I embrace or have embraced in the past. I had every intention of putting together a post chock full of resources for Lent prior to the interview. When that didn’t happen, I told myself I’d cobble a post together on Fat Tuesday. Then the ice hit Georgia. We lost our Internet connection, and it ended up being a good day to cuddle and play lots of games of Uno.
So here I am on Ash Wednesday throwing some ideas out there. This year we’re not going to make our traditional Lenten mice out of mismatched socks (see picture below of our rodent friends from the past). I may end up doing this again for Thomas down the road, but we are using a jelly bean activity a friend told me about from Catholic Mom to encourage prayer, sacrifices, and alms giving this year because, let’s face it, candy motivates my 10-year-old more than tying knots in the tail of a mouse stuffed animal. For those of you with only littles in your house these mice are so cute and a great way to visually show a child what sacrifices can do. The mouse’s tail gets shorter and shorter with each good deed (from each knot tied), and you can talk about how your child’s soul is changing, too, as it draws closer and closer to Christ.
For those of you with some older children, you can try this jelly bean activity. My friend substitutes M&Ms. Different colors can be ordered on the M&M’s website. She also plans ahead and buys holiday M&Ms when they’re on sale. We’re using jelly beans and using this Catholic Mom article as our guide:
On Ash Wednesday we set out a glass jar for each child with a small copy of the jellybean prayer taped to it. We determined a behavior to go with each jellybean color (corresponding with the prayer). Each day the kids could earn a jellybean of any color they followed through on. They could not eat the jellybeans until Easter. The kids could not earn white jellybeans, these represented the Grace of Christ, which is a gift not earned ourselves. On Easter morning, the kids woke to find their jars filled up where they were still empty (lacking) with white jellybeans (Christ’s grace)
This is how we interpreted each color. You can make your own ideas based on ages and needs of your children.
- Red is for the blood Christ gave (each morning we chose something to sacrifice that day to earn the red jellybean. It had to be something they would have had the opportunity to have or do on that day)
- Green is for the palm’s cool shade (green jellybeans were earned for good deeds. It was a good dead to provide shade for Jesus with the palm)
- Yellow is for God’s light so bright (yellow jellybeans were earned for sharing God’s light through kindness to others)
- Orange is for prayers at twilight (orange jellybeans were earned for attentive behavior during bedtime prayer time and night time bible story)
- Black is for sweet rest at night (these were earned for going to bed good. we used blue though, as our kids are not fans of black jellybeans)
- White is for the Grace of Christ (these we could not earn as mentioned above)
- Purple is for His days of sorrow (we earned these through apologizing to anyone we hurt with our words or deeds that day)
- Pink is for each new tomorrow (pink jellybeans were earned when we forgave those who apologized to us for hurtful behavior)
During the course of 40 days the kids did not tire of this activity and have talked about how fun it was throughout the year.
Of course, the Easter bunny might not want to bring any more jellybeans for the baskets!!
I am using blue jellybeans instead of black, and I’m hoping for a heaping pile of blue jelly beans because I just know we will have nothing but calm, easy, and peaceful bedtimes for the next 40 days because the Wicker kids love nothing more than hanging out in the horizontal position. Yeah right.
I also decided that while we can’t earn God’s grace – and thankfully we don’t have to! – we open ourselves to God’s grace in the sacraments, so the kids get white jelly beans for going to Mass and for going to Confession (thanks, Betsy, for this idea!).
Also, each morning we will pick a family sacrifice in addition to our own personal sacrifices and if we fulfill it, each child gets an extra red jelly bean. This might mean a day with no electronics or we pray the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross as a family.
I’m excited about this Lenten activity, and I can already see the kids are, too, because their jars are filling up quickly. Now I just have to keep them, especially 3-year-old food thief Thomas, from stealth jelly bean eating.
In year’s past, I have done things like 40 Bags in 40 Days while encouraging the children to help me fill the bags with toys that they didn’t really need (this doesn’t mean broken toys they never liked; giving those away wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice, after all). I personally have loved writing letters for each of the 40 days of Lent for the past two years. My oldest daughter has decided to adopt this activity to make her Lent more meaningful.
My big Lenten resolution this year is to not buy anything for myself that is just for me. When my husband was still in residency, this was how life always was. I really had to watch our budget and penny pinch, but I’ve noticed that in recent months – now that we are finally arriving at a secure place financially – I’ll be at Target or somewhere and I’ll toss things into the cart that aren’t on my list because – hey, it’s only $10 for that scarf that’s marked down. Or I’ll see an item on Zulily that’s a great deal, and I’ll think to myself that I have to snag it cheap while I can. Or I’ll be buying The Gruffalo off Amazon for a birthday party gift for a little friend and will add a book to the cart that I’ve been wanting for our collection instead of just checking it out at our wonderful local library that is within walking distance of my house. But those $5 to $10 purchases add up, and so do those shoe splurges. And truth is, we still have monstrous educational loans from my husband’s many years of schooling to pay off, and I really want to revert back to my thrifty self so we can save more and give more. So my plan for the next 40 days is to not buy anything for myself – that includes things really only I consume like makeup or seltzer water, which only I drink except when certain children ask for a sip. When I shared my plan with my oldest, she asked, “But what if you run out of something you usually use?”
“I still probably don’t need it,” I told her.
Then I plan on looking at the past three month’s budgets prior to Lent (my husband keeps very detailed spending pie graphs) and determine the average of what I spent on myself during that time and give that amount to a charity like the Catholic Relief Service’s Lenten Rice Bowl or Food for the Poor since I hopefully did not spend that moula on me, myself, and I during Lent. I have some other personal plans and sacrifices I plan to do as well, but that’s the biggie.
Mary Elizabeth will be coloring this wonderful printable Lenten calendar that’s available for free over at Catholic Icing (along with lots of other Lent activities for kids and families). The countdown to Easter is particularly exciting for her because her birthday is on the same day this year. “So I’ll get cake AND Easter candy?” she asked happily this morning. Yup! Sugar binge, here we come in 40 days!
That’s our 2015 Lenten Plan, but here’s a list of some resources, ideas, books, etc. we’ve used in the past, plan to use, or dream of using when my life isn’t such a beautiful, chaotic mess.
I know I’ve missed some great stuff out there, so please feel free to share your own links and/or resources in the combox.
(Oh, and please forgive the funky formatting below. I’ve tried to fix it multiple times with no luck.)
Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
Welcome Risen Jesus: Lenten and Easter Reflections for Families by Sarah Reinhard
Magnificat Lenten Companion (it looks like the hard copy is sold out, but it’s available as an app)
Around the Web
Christ’s Journey to the Cross: Lenten Insipiration for Mothers (an old reflective essay of mine)
Lent for Little Ones (an old post of mine, but we still put to practice many of the ideas I write about, especially the Stations of the Cross for children and the box of objects to represent each station)
Recipes (including lots of meatless dishes perfect for Lenten Fridays)
Homemade Pretzels (we make these every Lent and have a simple dinner of pretzels, cheese, fruit, and milk)
Tofu Parmesan (don’t judge it until you try it!)