Snowman Christmas Party + craft

Snowman Christmas Party

I love snowmen.  They’re just so cute and fluffy and well, cute.  For the past two years, I’ve had a little snowman party for the boys and some of their cousins.  It’s always so much fun!! [Read more...]

ways to involve children in the nativity fast

20131112-113913.jpg

This morning I dusted off my Christmas binder and began to flip through the pages.  My heart fluttered at the sight of all the beautiful decorations, yummy recipes and sweet memories of Christmases past.  I began to add reminder notes for projects I want to do with the boys this year and scribbled a few new names onto my Christmas card list.  I can hardly believe Christmastime is almost here.

20131112-113837.jpg

The Nativity fast, or Advent, begins every year on November 15.   Unlike the start of Great Lent, the start of this fast gets lost somewhere among all the other fall activities.  This means we must make an extra effort to mark it as an important event in our homes.   Advent is also different from Great Lent because there is excitement in the air as we anxiously prepare for God’s greatest gift to mankind.

The Nativity fast is also a slightly easier fast because fish is allowed on most weekends and seafood throughout the week, yet it still ends up feeling more difficult, doesn’t it?  I think this is mainly because the majority of our friends and family are not fasting and are busy pre-celebrating Christmas with parties full of all of the things we are abstaining from.  So, I wanted to compile a list of some suggestions on how to make the holidays a little bit easier so we can continue focusing on the upcoming birth of our Savior.  

It’s so hard not to get caught up in the secular hustle and bustle of the season, but by guarding ourselves against all of that we take so much pressure off ourselves and that creates more room for the peace of Christ to enter our homes and hearts during this special time of year.

Below you’ll find a few delicious recipes to serve at this year’s Christmas parties and lots of ways to help your children prepare for the wonderful feast of the Nativity.

[Read more...]

Fall Favorites Swap {sign-ups}

Fall Favorites Swap

Fall Favorites Swap

Last year, we had a terrific response to our Christmas Tradition Swap but I thought I’d do something a little earlier since we also do the Orthodox Kid’s Ornament Exchange every year and the holidays are busy enough as it is.

I love everything about fall.  The sights, the smells, the tastes; anything even remotely fall-ish is okay in my book.   And I love swaps.  So, it only made sense to have a Fall Favorites themed swap to celebrate Autumn!

All you have to do is send an email with the subject line FALL FAVORITES SWAP to Sylvia{at}OrthodoxMom{dot}com with your name, snail mail address and some of the things you love.  Do you love to knit?  Do you have a thing for coffee mugs?  Love Pumpkin Spice Lattes?  Anything you can think of that you think might help your partner when picking out their swap items for you.  Also, if you are not an Orthodox Christian please just add a note letting me know that so your partner knows whether or not to include religious items. **Please be sure to put FALL FAVORITES SWAP as the subject to ensure your message doesn’t end up in spam.

You can send whatever you love about fall!  Here are some ideas:

Anything pumpkin, apple or acorn related, fall colors, scents, gift cards to a coffee shop with a note telling your partner what you like to order from there in the fall, a scarf, pair of fingerless gloves, favorite candle.

It’s entirely up to you.  The only thing I ask is you meet the minimum amount requirement.  It’s not fair for someone to put a lot of time and money into your package and receive something thrown together at the last minute that didn’t even cost the same amount.   The minimum amount is $20.  If you want to spend more, feel free but $20.00 is the least you can spend.  

I love these swaps for so many reasons, one of them being the relationships that are sometimes formed between partners.  I really try to match everyone up based on interests, so please tell me a bit about yourselves in your email.  It’s awesome to hear people tell me afterwards that they still keep in touch with previous partners.  Can’t wait to see who will be joining us this time!

The deadline to sign up is Tuesday, October 29.  Once I get all the info, I will partner everyone up and email you all of their info by Thursday, October 31.

Packages must go out by Friday, November 8.   It is a little rushed this time around because I was hoping to post this much sooner but couldn’t but it still gives us plenty of time to enjoy those fall goodies!

So, do you know what you have to do now?

1.  Leave a comment with your email address just in case your email doesn’t arrive in my inbox.

2.  Email me the info I asked for above by this Tuesday, October 29.

3.  Send your package out by Friday, November 8!

4.  Post your package on our Flickr group (which I will create soon and link it back to this post).

 

 

by death He conquered death.

resurrection of Christ

resurrection of Christ

Before we head into the kitchen to bake Resurrection Cookies again, I wanted to share this beautiful encounter between Christ and Adam when He descended into Hades.

We know that Christ was crucified on Thursday, and when His soul left His body, it spent three days and three nights in Hades.  We read in Matthew 12:40, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

We also know that St. John the Forerunner (Baptist) was not only His forerunner on earth, but also in hell.  This is why we see him depicted in some icons with wings.  Because after the second coming, St. John will take the place of Lucifer as head archangel.  Full story here

For those of you in the Psalter Group, you are definitely familiar with Psalm 24.  For those of you not in the prayer group, perhaps you recognize the following passage from the pre-communion prayers or simply from the book of Psalms.  But I think it’s really interesting to learn who was actually saying the words spoken of in the Psalm.  We read in that Psalm that Christ descended into hell “divinely, in warlike… lordly fashion.”

The book The Feasts of the Lord tells us,

That Christ descended into the sunless prison of Hades with thousands, myriads, tens of thousands and thousands and thousands of angels.  Before He reached reached the gates, Gabriel, the leader of the heavenly host arrived to announce the coming of Christ.  He said,

“Lift up the gates, ye princes.”

And Archangel Michael cried:

“and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors”.

The powers of the angels said: “stand aside, door-keepers, outlaws”.

And the authorities: “break chains, break your chains…Tyrant outlaws, be afraid.”

Christ appeared in Hades and caused great fear, tumult and horror.  Whereupon the leaders of Hell cried out loudly,

“Who is this King of Glory?”

Then all the powers of heaven cried:

“The Lord strong and mighty.  The Lord mighty in battle… The Lord of the powers, He is the King of Glory.

St. Epiphanios describes wonderfully Adam’s conversation with Christ.  Adam heard Christ’s footsteps approaching, just as he had heard them in Paradise after his transgression and disobedience.  Then, he had felt trepidation and fear, but now he felt joy and gladness.  The repentant Adam cried out to all the souls:  “My Lord be with you all”.  And Christ replied:  “And with thy spirit.”  And Christ took Adam by the hand, raised him up, telling what he had done for his salvation, as well as for the salvation of the entire human race.

Just thinking about this fills my soul with joy and gratefulness to Christ our God, knowing that not only did He suffer and be crucified, even after death He continued to fight for our souls.  May we become worthy of His gift.

Many prayers to all of you for a joyous and blessed Pascha! I’m still a little early but,

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen! 

Christmas Party Ideas for Kids

snowman cups

This weekend we have some fun Christmas activities planned. One night we’ll be attending The Nutcracker ballet again. This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas traditions, even though the boys won’t be joining us this year. We took them to see The Christmas Carol the other night instead. Personally, I love the ballet and am looking forward to a night out with the girls this year. Last year, due to limited funds, we didn’t go see it but we had an awesome Nutcracker party at home. I just realized I never posted about it, so I’ll be doing that soon…

The next night, we’ll be loading up the van and heading over to a local farm that has a beautiful Christmas event happening all weekend. They’ll have Christmas carolers, different Nativity scenes set up and lots of hot cocoa and games for the kids. We can’t wait!

Before we leave, I’m having a little Christmas party at the house for the boys and my nephews. I’ll be making “melted snowman drinks” aka white hot chocolate in the slow cooker (recipe below), with snowman marshmallows (tutorial coming soon), and other treats. We’ll be exchanging little dollar store gifts among the kids.

20121214-140048.jpg

I really love this snowman punch bowl from Better Homes and Garden. I haven’t seen it in stores but am going to just add some window clings to my punch bowl. I found the clings at Target for $1.99.

Slow Cooker White Hot Chocolate

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 6 cups milk (I usually use whole milk or 2%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz pkge white chocolate chips (try to use Ghiradelli if you can – YUM!)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
  2. Heat on low for 2-2 1/2 hours or until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot.
  3. Stir well to blend.
  4. Enjoy from a Snowman mug on a chilly day.

I’ll be serving it in these fun styrofoam cups (minus the lids).

I’ll make up a plate of these snowman doughnuts that I made for Ace’s class last year (from Family Fun). You just buy a bag of mini powdered sugar doughnuts, add a smile and eyes and cut off the end of some baby carrots and insert as noses! So easy! Complete directions here.

We also made these for his class Christmas party last year and they were such a hit! The teachers and students just loved them. I dubbed them Florida snowmen for obvious reasons, lol. You can find the complete recipe here.

I’ll also be making little bags out of wax paper and filling them with red and green m&m’s. I found this adorable little poem on Pinterest and love little things like this for the littler children, especially. You just print out the story and glue it to cardstock and then staple it to your bag.

Here’s a smaller and more decorated version:

To download the m&m Christmas story, click here.

Hopefully, I’ll also have a fun Nativity project to post next week too. I’m planning on having DH cut me a few blocks of wood and I’m going to print out part of the Nativity icon with Christ, Panagia, St. Joseph and the star on Shrinky Dink paper. We’ll cut them and bake them and then glue them to the blocks of wood. I think the kids will enjoy making this little icon project. If I can steal a free moment, I might knit up a few swaddling blankets to glue under the icon of Christ. Hopefully this turns out as planned!! I’ll let you know!

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

All Aboard the Minivan Express! {free download}

Minivan Express Tickets

Every year we pile the kids up in our van and head out in search of Christmas lights.  I usually make hot chocolate and put it in their thermos cups.  We joke around and sing carols and talk about which houses we liked the best.  We always try to count how many Nativity scenes we see, even though sadly enough there are fewer each year..

Like many parents, I love Christmas pajamas.  Usually, I give them their new jammies on Christmas Eve, but then they only wear them once before Christmas and even though they wear them plenty afterward, they sort of lose their magic, don’t they?  So, last year I wrapped them up and let them open them early.

So, this year I want to make it really fun and combine these two traditions.  Here’s my plan:

I asked my awesome sister-in-law Sveta, who is a graphic designer, to design “Minivan Express” tickets for me.  I printed them out, laminated them and am planning on hiding them under their pillows. Their pajamas are already washed and wrapped.

Tomorrow night before bed, I’ll let them open their pajamas and put them on and then I’ll send them off to bed.  In the meantime,  I’ll be making a giant thermos of hot chocolate and some popcorn (if I’m really feeling brave).  I’m going to string lights inside of the van and bring along a CD of our favorite Christmas carols.  Then, I’ll impatiently wait for them to come out asking what the tickets are for. Then, they’ll line up to get their tickets punched and we’ll drive over to our local Barnes & Noble for their Polar Express event, where there will be Polar Express themed treats and activities and most of the kids come in pajamas and robes.  It’s really cute.  Most B&N’s around the country are hosting their event on Friday (as in tomorrow), December 7 at 7:00 p.m.   For a list of participating stores, click here.

After that, our annual tour of Christmas lights around town will begin.  We’ll count the Nativity sets and I’ll read them stories from this book, it’s a Christmas favorite of ours.  The stories in there are good reminders of the true reason for the season and help us all keep our perspective.

I can’t wait!   The tickets are available for free and can be downloaded here and here.

If this turns out to be as much fun as I hope, I see the Minivan Express making another trip to the duck pond to walk around their giant light display soon!

Letters from Mommy <3

il_570xN.169169962

20121205-085321.jpg

boxes available from Unique Beaded Beauties

I’ve always been a writer. For most of my life my writing was limited to what I wrote in my diaries.  I’ve kept a diary for as long as I could remember.

When I found out I was pregnant with Ace, I noticed my entries were beginning to start off with Dear Baby instead of Dear Diary. I just instinctively wanted to write to the little babe in my womb. So, I bought a new diary, decorated it with scrapbook paper and I wrote all throughout my pregnancy. All of my thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams were recorded within the pages of that book. My hope was, that I would continue writing these long, heartfelt messages to him throughout his life. I wanted to record personal details of what happened at each milestone he reached.

And I did. For about six months, maybe. Those long heartfelt letters quickly turned into scribbles in the margins with quick, hurried notes like 2/18 crawled around house looking for mommy. 5/18 had solids for first time. {You can see a couple of pics of them here.}

[Read more...]

The RACK Project: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

RACK Project

Awhile ago, I saw this really awesome project on Pinterest.  It’s from the Tracie Stier-Johnson Photography blog and it’s called RACK.

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.

The project is exactly what it sounds like.  For 25 days before Christmas, you do one random act of kindness a day.  They can be as simple as paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop or taping some change to a vending machine at your local supermarket.  The point is to make an effort to do something nice for someone else. [Read more...]

St. Nicholas Day Traditions

St. Nicholas Day Shoes

Pretty soon, we’ll be polishing our shoes to leave at the front door for St. Nicholas to fill with goodies.  Can you believe we’re halfway through the fast already?

Every year on the eve of St. Nicholas, we go to Vespers and then come home and the boys “polish” their shoes and place them at the front door.  The next day, they wake up to find them filled with little candies and trinkets.  I always like to include an orange, peppermint stick and these awesome Gold Coins from Paidea Classics.   They’re my favorite because they actually say St. Nicholas of Myra on them and the boys love that.  They usually get one or two of those and a few regular ones.  Target always brings the bags of chocolate coins in their dollar section.

This is one of my favorite advent traditions.  In our over commercialized society, the celebration of St. Nicholas Day helps us to teach our children who St. Nicholas really is.  And that he is not a man dressed in red who drives an 8-reindeer-powered sleigh, lol.  It gives us the opportunity to talk about St. Nicholas’ incredible love of the Orthodox Faith; how he was imprisoned and defrocked (only momentarily of course) for fighting against the heresy of Arianism.  We can tell our children about his incredible generosity and the grace he was given by God that led ultimately led him to be known as the St. Nicholas we know today.  St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker who we celebrate on December 6, not December 25.  That day is reserved for the celebration of the Birth of Christ!

As our children enjoy their chocolate gold coins, we can tell them the story of the three girls whose father did not have enough money for their dowries and was going to be forced to sell them into slavery and how St. Nicholas secretly left sacks of gold for each of their dowries.   Or how he saved the fisherman from the stormy seas.

We need to make sure we are taking the time to teach our children about this great saint and are explaining to them why we leave our shoes for him and why he is such a holy man of God.

[Read more...]

how-to: using a prayer rope

close up prayer rope

In the first part of this post, how to: the jesus prayer, we talked about what the Jesus prayer is and why it plays such a vital role in our spiritual lives.  Now, we’ll discuss how to practice the Jesus prayer using a prayer rope.

[Read more...]