Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Wishing all of you a joyous Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nativity of Christ

My husband and I took our kids and my sister to a live Nativity Scene at the Creation Museum tonight.  We took our kids there last year as well.

I was thinking about it on the drive home - we haven't ever taken our kids to see Santa at the mall.  I just can't see spending $20 - $30 for them to get a picture with the mall Santa.  It does nothing for me.  But...I kind of like this new tradition we've established.  It's only the second year we've taken them to see the live Nativity scene but I wouldn't mind doing this every year with them.  1) It's completely free.  2) We are emphasizing where we want the focus for Christmas to be - on Christ rather than Santa.  (Although my boys do believe in Santa - we could debate that one but it was never really a choice for us since we adopted them and this was a part of them from the's not the worst thing in the world - but I do want to make sure they understand where the importance lies for Christmas)

It's fun going to the museum.  Volunteers dress in costume and walk around and interact with everyone who visits.  Roman soldiers are walking around.  A man stands at the entrance of Bethlehem for the census (taking information for the museum to see how far people are traveling to see their live Nativity scene - but we'll play along).  Once you enter Bethlehem, you're greeted with the market area.  They have hot drinks and gifts to buy from people in costumes.  Then you journey to the outskirts of town where you see the archeologist talking about the Nativity of Christ while Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus are sitting contently in the cave below.  (I think I preferred last year better because they had the shepherds and animals surrounding baby Jesus.  This year, I didn't see any shepherds but we went on a walk and saw one of the magi and many animals in the petting zoo.)

After passing by baby Jesus, then we walked through the trails in the garden enjoying all the colorful Christmas lights and watching the snow slowly drifting down on us.  It was a wonderful night spent with my family!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teaching My Kids About the Nativity of Christ

I'm spending this week on all things Christmas with my kids.  My main focus is, of course, on the Nativity of Christ but we are also spending time doing family traditions such as making cookies for our neighbors, singing Christmas Carols, and snuggling up on the couch with hot chocolate and reading Christmas stories.

I have warm memories of sitting on my grandma's piano bench while she played the piano and we sang Christmas carols together.  Singing Christmas carols with my kids brings back those special memories as a child with a dear grandma who has fallen asleep in the Lord many years ago.

I also have wonderful memories of making Christmas cookies with my mom when I was little.  She would let me scoop the sugar and pour it into the bowl.  Take turns stirring with me and then letting me scoop out dough and make balls to place on the cookie sheet.  I try to pass on these traditions to my kids as well - plus a few of our own.

Yesterday we were studying about Saint Joseph the Betrothed.  We were coloring icons of Saint Joseph. I even had my 15 y.o. coloring the icons.  Why?  Well, because she is a very visual-spatial child who learns best by hands-on activities and with pictures.  She is just like me - we think in pictures.  More on that another time.  :)  I expect age appropriate retention and learning from my kids.  I wanted my boys (7, 6, and 4 y.o.) to remember that Saint Joseph was betrothed to the Theotokos.  His job was to take care of her and baby Jesus.  

While I expected my 15 y.o. to know the difference between being betrothed and being married as well as greater detail about the Nativity of Christ.  Wikipedia defines betrothal as:

Betrothal (also called espousal) is a formal state of engagement to be married.

Historically betrothal was a formal contract, blessed or officiated by a religious authority. Betrothal was binding as marriage and a divorce was necessary to terminate a betrothal. Betrothed couples were regarded legally as husband and wife - even before their wedding and physical union. In Jewish weddings thebetrothal is part of the Jewish wedding ceremony.

We made a batch of sugar cookies for our neighbors yesterday as well.  They were so kind and mowed our lawn several times this summer while we were out of town.  I tried a new recipe and the cookies turned out phenomenally.  
Sugar Cookies:
3 cups of flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbs vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
powdered sugar for rolling out the dough

Mix all your wet ingredients together.  Then mix your dry ingredients into the wet mixture.  Roll out your cookie dough using powdered sugar.  Use your favorite cookie cutters and bake at 350 degrees for 7 - 8 minutes.  *Note: you need to use a non-stick spray, oil, or something on the cookie sheet otherwise the sugar on the outside of the cookies will caramelize and make it next to impossible to get the cookies off the cookie sheet in one piece.

Today we were talking about the Nativity of Christ and who was there.  My youngest (4 y.o.) was coloring the icon of the Nativity when he asked me, "What color do I color that dude?"  I responded, "We don't refer to Jesus as a dude."  I think it was mostly done to get a rise out of his older brothers and thrive off the giggles.  ~Sigh~  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching Our Faith to Our Children

I was reading a book and came across this quote that made me stop and think, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

For whatever reason, my mind immediately turned to teaching our children about their faith - not only the theology but the traditions that go with them.  When we don't teach our children about their faith then they grow up not practicing it and not knowing it.  How are their children suppose to learn it?  Orthodoxy is a very experiential faith.  It doesn't end when we leave church on Sunday.  We live it at home, at school, at work.

Do we have a generation that has grown up not attending church every Sunday?  Do we have a generation that puts sports before God on Sunday morning?  Do we have a generation that has forgotten what it is to fast?  Do we have a generation who has forgotten how to come together as a family and pray daily?  Do we have a generation who have not received instructions on some of the traditions of the church - making prosphora, kollyva, vasilopita, etc?  These questions (and many more) may or may not apply to you, your family, or friends - but they've left me thinking...if I fail to pass all this on to my children along with many other parents, will we create a generation void of so much knowledge, experience, and traditions of their faith?

Ahhh...the gifts and responsibilities of parents.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saint Nicholas

Today is my daughter Niki's name day.  May God grant you many, many blessed years to come!  I love you with all my heart!!!

One of my brother's brought this icon back for Niki from Bari, Italy a few years ago.  (The relics of Saint Nicholas were moved to Bari from Myra in 1087.)

One of my favorite websites is the St. Nicholas Center.  I visit it every year to re-tell the story of Saint Nicholas to my kids.  We explore the website and talk about Niki's patron saint and also the story of Santa Claus.  It is an invaluable source.

A tradition in our family is to attend Liturgy on our name days (if offered) and then celebrate with a special dinner, reading/talking about our saint, and eating a special name day cake.  Our focus is on the story we tell our children about their saint.  How can their saint be a role model for them?  How can they emulate their saint today?  Why is it important to strive to do God's will and not our own?

One tradition we have unique to Niki's name day is we put up our Christmas tree every year (for about the past 5 or 6 years) on December 6th.  Then we take it down on Theophany - January 6th.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Entrance of the Theotokos & St. Catherine

We were at grandma and grandpa's house for the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple and for my sister, Catherine's, name day last week.  We're back from our trip and we are catching up on our lessons about these two feastdays.

Our first lesson was on the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.  I told a little story to my 7, 6, & 4 y.o. about how the Theotokos was taken to the temple by her parents, Saints Joachim & Anna, when she was younger than they are now.  She lived there for many years and prayed to God each day.  Each of them colored an icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos.  I've never limited them to colors before when they are coloring but today I tried to guide them to use colors found in icons since icons are written in a very specific manner.  My seven year old asked me to find an icon on the Internet so he could try and copy the colors.  :)  My other two just wanted to color.  I took the pink crayon out of the pile.  :)

Justin coloring - Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple


We call this "Mr. Mouse".  It is a glove to help train beginning writers to hold their writing/coloring implement correctly by providing only two holes for your pointy finger and thumb to peek through.  You teach the child to put the crayon/pencil in the mouse's mouth and then color/write.  It works absolutely beautifully and does a wonderful job reinforcing fine motor skills!!!




Saint Catherine lived in the 300's.  She was martyred because she professed she was a Christian and would not worship anyone but God.