Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter Candle

Happy Easter! Today was a big day. We had to get up early in order to have an Easter egg hunt and still make it to church in plenty of time for the 9:00 service. Getting the kids up wasn't a problem. They were so excited to see if the Easter Bunny had come and to go to church and hear the music and the Easter story. Church was lovely and we came back here and had brunch with friends. By late afternoon when I wanted to light our last candle, everyone was wiped out. Both girls were tired from being up early, they had crashed off all the midday sugar, and Alessia was working on a cold. So, I lit the candles by myself while the kids played near by, and then I read them today's story. Jesus has risen! Death is dead! It was actually a little anticlimactic feeling, but still lovely. We brought the Easter candle to the table with us for dinner and talked about all the pictures on it.

At the beginning of Lent I was a little worried about how to talk about Lent and Easter with my children. Reading the stories together gave us space and time each week to consider the meaning of Easter and Lent. Some stories provoked lots of questions and discussions, others didn't. And that was fine. Some stories provoked immediate discussion and others sat quietly in our minds and came back up later in the week. My hope is to read these stories each year with my kids, and I know our conversations about them will evolve as they grow, and as I grow. I've learned through this experience that the important thing is to teach my kids the stories of our faith, not a particular interpretation or analysis of them. The work of making meaning from those stories is something that we can do together, over time.

I want to thank Kate, our director of children and family ministries at Old South Church, for encouraging me when I said I wanted to observe Lent with my girls and for creating the amazing Holy Week candle holders and story cards that we used this week and will be able to use again and again.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week with the Kids

Last Saturday our amazing director of children and family ministries Kate invited families to join her at church to make candle holders for Holy Week. She also gave us a stack of cards with a story for each day. Some day we have been a bit rushed, squeezing it in between dinner and bedtime, but we have managed to read a story and light candles every day this week. I've given the kids the option of also adding something to our lenten table, and every day has been a bit different, Here are the highlights.


Palm Sunday is the story the kids were most familiar with having run down the center aisle of the sanctuary at church waving palms earlier that morning. We added our palms and palm crosses to the table.

Monday we told the story of Jesus chasing the money changers out of the temple. Since Kate left out the dramatic line "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers," we took the time to look up this story in a Bible.

Wednesday we told the story of Judas planning his betrayal. At church on Sunday, Alessia and Olivia had heard the story of Maundy Thursday. Alessia's comment was "Oh, Judas" while shaking her head back and forth. I don't know what they said about Judas, but obviously it made an impression. So we sat for a bit after this story. The other objects in our lenten table told the story of God's creation and God's love for creation. God made Judas too, I told Alessia, and God loved Judas too, even though Judas made a really big mistake.

Good Friday's story is a tough one. Personally I cry every year at church on Good Friday. Alessia read the story card before we sat down and at first she tried to avoid us reading it together. We read it though, then we wondered what to put on the table. I got one of the plastic eggs Alessia had been given at school. I asked Alessia if she remembed when she first saw the eggs in the incubator at school. It was a bit of a mystery what was inside, and it was dark inside. I told them that some people think an egg is like a tomb, round and dark inside. What happened after waiting a few days at school? "Pop!" Alessia exclaimed. (There's a mental image for you, eh? Jesus popping out of the tomb.) So now we wait a few days, I told them. Today is the sad part of the story, but we know Easter is coming. And off we went to paint Easter eggs.




Monday, March 14, 2016

A Box of Raisins - Observing Lent with my Girls, Week 5

This Sunday's theme was Jesus as healer and teacher. After last week's disaster, I decided to pick a familiar story. Alessia has a magazine of stories about Jesus that was given to her about two years ago. Both girls love the stories and know them well. So I suggested a story from that magazine about Jesus as a healer. Alessia picked the story of Jesus healing the blind man. We read it together and talked a little about how Jesus helped people and wants us to help people as well. I suggested for the lenten table that we trace our hands on a piece of paper to help us remember that we can use our hands to help others. Well, neither of my girls liked that idea. I said that was fine, that we didn't have to put anything on the table this week, or if they thought of something during the week, then we could put it on the table. I suggested that we spend some time looking at the things that were already on the table. We talked about them and replensihed the baptism water that had evaporated. After that, I thought the girls might scatter, but Alessia went back to the magazine. She opened it to the story of the loaves and fishes. I asked if we could read it and told them that I always love that story, because it is a little boy, a child like them, who offers to share his lunch. I told them that one of the ways we can help people is by sharing food, and I suggested that we put a box of raisins from church on the table. Olivia laughed, and we all agreed this was a good idea.

I really like the way the table is coming togeter. There is a lot to think about here, especially in how the different objects relate to each other.

  • Four of the five elements - earth, water, and fire (does our breath count as air?)
  • Prayer beads, candles, and baptismal water as aides in our relationship with God
  • Food and drink as gifts from God and gifts to share with each other
  • The dirt, the water, the plant, and us as parts of God's creation


Monday, March 7, 2016

Observing Lent with my Girls - Week 4

The story this week was Jesus in the Desert. I was not well prepared this week. That combined with some recent bad parenting, and today was a disaster.

I wasn't completely sure how I wanted to approach today's story. When I opened our story Bible and saw that they had titled the story "Tempted" I had a feeling that this was not the best approach for us. Alessia knows how to read though and will correct me if I try to change or omit anything in a story. So I read the story which ends with the sentence "Jesus was happy that God was always with him, especially when he was tempted to do wrong." Aha, I thought. God is always with us. That is the message my kids need to hear at this age. I should have just closed the book. In this story Bible though there is a bit of a wondering question at the end of each story. Even if I try to skip it, Alessia generally insists that I read it. No printed word goes unread now that she knows how to read. So I read, "Practice saying 'No!' with someone. Have them tempt you to do something you know is wrong. Then say, 'No!'" I panicked. Alessia is very sensitive to the idea that she is bad. Rather than just closing the book or saying that was for older kids. I tried doing it in a light hearted way. "Alessia... Write on the wall with a marker... Noooo." Alessia ran away with her hands over her ears hysterically crying, and Olivia started sobbing. When I tried to calm Alessia down she tried to hit me and run away from me. Eventually I managed to pick her up and bring her onto the couch for a group snuggle with Olivia who was still crying. For several minutes Alessia kicked and cried in my arms. I shushed her and told her I loved her and I told her God loved her. Eventually everyone calmed down. I wanted to save the story, to tell them what I really thought of it. That God is always with us. I decided that we needed a break from the story instead though, and we just sat.

Alessia asked to watch a show, which was going to be our next activity anyway. She stayed snuggled in my arms and Olivia snuggled up against my side and we watch an episode of Peg + Cat. Afterwards, They ran off to play, and I went in the kitchen to make dinner, feeling pretty miserable. Olivia came in and told me that we hadn't put anything on the Lenten table. I didn't have anything planned. So I took two pieces of paper and wrote them each a note. I apologized for upsetting them and told them I loved them and God loved them. I told Olivia that if she wanted to put the note on the lenten table she could. She took Alessia's note and gave it to her as well.

Adam and I had a long chat while making dinner. Alessia is very hard on herself and even sees herself as bad. Adam and I were both raised by parents who were firm, and we parent that way, and with Alessia it isn't working. It doesn't matter how much we tell her we love her, she is internalizing the nagging and the stern words as indications that she is bad. So we are going to try a much gentler approach. I may think that a five-year-old shouldn't need to be told more than once to put on her shoes (and my three-year-old generally doesn't need to be told more than once), but telling Alessia over and over to put on her shoes because she gets distracted very easily and then finally getting frustrated is just leading to her feeling bad about herself. So if what I need to do is take her hand and walk over to the shoes with her and talk to her while she puts them on, then that is what I'll do. I have to say we tried this a few months ago, and it was working really well, and then we fell back into nagging and getting frustrated.

Tonight at dinner we ate in the dining room. We lit candles. One for dad. One for mom. One for Alessia. One for Oliva. One for Thomas, our cat. And One for God, because what Jesus really learned in the desert is that God is always with us.



Friday, March 4, 2016

Cut Paper Collage - story books and an activity

Every so often we pick some books based on a theme and then do a related craft activity. Alessia calls it having a "library program." Usually the theme relates to the subject matter of the books - winter, the ocean, etc. Yesterday I mentioned wanting to do some cut paper collage, and Alessia and I came up with the idea of using the artistic style of books as the theme of a "library program."

We chose books by Leo Lionni (Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse), Eric Carle (The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse), and Tomie dePaola (The Song of Francis). I also thought of using a book by Ellen Stoll Walsh, but I think I gave away our copy of Mouse Paint. We read through the books and talked about the differences between them. The artists used different kinds of paper - colored papers, painted papers, and papers with printed designs. Some of them cut the paper and others ripped it. We also wondered if the artists were inspired by the different designs and textures of the papers. After we finished with the books, I laid out a bunch of paper scraps. Armed with scissors and glue, as well as crayons and pens for adding details we worked for about an hour. Both girls were very engaged, and it's a project we will come back to.

Olivia said that many of the printed papers reminded her of fabric I used to patch the knees of her jeans.

Alessia was inspired by paper that had been pulled out of a spiral bound book. The little tabs looked like a castle to her.