Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our Lent Lapbook

When I began homeschooling my second grader last fall, I was looking especially for hands-on learning experiences. She had spent the previous year in a good school, but there was so much emphasis on workbooks that by the end of the year, she refused to read, write or attempt even the simplest math problems. She is a very active kid that needs to move constantly! 

I stumbled upon the Homeschool Share website and discovered the wonderful world of lapbooks! Lapbooks are hands-on learning books created by kids, sometimes with mom or dad's help. The cutting, pasting, coloring and painting was perfect for my craft-loving daughter. She also liked all the movable parts within the lapbook (sometimes there are wheels to turn, or flaps to open, or games to play.) So we created a variety of lapbooks while reading Five-in-a-Row books like The Story of Ping, Madeline, Papa Piccolo, and Lentil.

Then we moved on to creating lapbooks for special occasions. To prepare for her First Reconciliation last December, I purchased and downloaded The Sacrament of Confession Faith Folder from Lindy Meyer. Lindy's downloadable kit contained all the files I needed to make a very nice lapbook.  I simply printed out the files (alternating color and white paper). Then, as we discussed topics like The Ten Commandments or the different types of sin, I had my daughter cut, paste and color the related lapbook item into her folder. 

As a big fan of lapbooks, I was thrilled when I learned about Evann's Lent Lapbook on her blog,  Homeschool Goodies and Xhonane lapbook on her from Familia CatolicaI decided to borrow a few of their terrific ideas, plus add a few of my own, to create a lapbook that would not only teach her about Lent, but could also serve as a memory folder for my daughter to look back at when she's older.

Here are some photos of our lapbook:

Our lapbook covers (yes, I made one for myself, too!)

The inside of the lapbook

The inside of the flapbook contains our Lenten calendar, downloaded free from Lacy's Catholic Icing blog. 

The cover of the lapbook includes a coloring page image of Jesus carrying the cross and a title square that says "My Lent Lapbook 2011."  My daughter's also includes her Lent Journal (more about that in a minute.)


The left fold panel includes information about The Great Fast, which is what Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics call Lent. I included this because my daughter was born in Russia, so I try to periodically share some of the customs and cultures of her birth country. This printable was downloaded from Jocelyn's blog, The Whole Trouble Is.

There is also a rectangle box that says "I prayed the Stations of the Cross."  Underneath it is a little envelope with small cut-out pictures of a crown of thorns. Whenever my daughter prays the Stations of the Cross, she gets to glue a crown of thorns into this box.  Thank you, Xhonane, from Familia Catolica, for this awesome idea!

The right panel
The right panel includes some of my own printables, including a list of our Lenten sacrifices and a "Today I prayed For..." log (we write down who we are praying for each day; it's my sneaky way of getting my hesitant writer to jot down a name or two!). There is also a journal to write down our thoughts during Lent. (My daughter pasted this to the outside of her flap.)
We have been using our lapbook since Ash Wednesday, and so far it is working quite nicely!  I think my daughter enjoys the slight change in our "starting school" ritual; it gives her a chance to look at the calendar in another way and build the habit of praying for someone special each day.

I have a couple of free downloads for you, if you would like to add them to your Lenten lapbook.

Click here for the "Lenten Journal" download, and here for the "Today I prayed for...." log.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Free Game for St. Joseph's Day

I was looking for something fun to add to my daughter's workboxes on St. Joseph's Day (March 19), and discovered "The Handy Carpenter Game" on That Resource Site.  It's a free printable; you simply add wooden craft sticks, a clean and empty soup can and a permanent marker.   I love the fact that it teaches addition in a fun way, especially since my daughter has been resisting her math work lately.  To find out more about the game and download it, click here.  The game is near the bottom of the page. 

That page also has many other printables for St. Joseph's Day, including a mini book on St. Joseph, notebooking pages, trading cards and more. 

Thank you to the great people at That Resource Site!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On our bookshelf: The Song of the Swallows

As I mentioned in my earlier entry about St. Joseph's Day altars,  I've been fascinated with the miracle that occurs every March 19 at San Juan Capistrano Mission in Southern California.  On that day, a large group of swallows return from their winter homes in Argentina and begin building their mud nests under the eaves of the church on this historic mission site.  Previously, they would arrive in large groups (sometimes described as a "cloud of swallows"), but due to development in the area, fewer are returning to the mission church. (So sad!)

I started telling my son about the miracle of the swallows when he was about 3 years old, and he asks me to re-tell it every year on St. Joseph's Day. One year, we found a perfect read-aloud book to match the story: The Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi.  It's a fictional story about a young boy named Juan who visits the mission and learns about the swallows from Julian, the mission's gardener. I especially love the book's simple illustrations, many which are in soothing pastel shades. The illustrations helped the book a Caldecott award in 1950.

Many libraries have a copy of this classic book, or you can pick up a copy of it from Powell's Books online. They have new and used copies starting at just $1.95.  Here is a link to the book on their website:  Song of the Swallows

If you are a homeschooler, check out Homeschoolshare for language arts, math, art and other activities you can do to accompany the book.

Praying the Stations with Kids: Part 2

Note: Last week, I shared some ideas on praying the Stations of the Cross with young children. Here are a few more ideas, reprinted from my article that was originally published on the Catholic social networking site 4Marks.

6. Make a game of it
I know that some people might not agree with this concept. It certainly isn’t right for every family. But I find that it works well with my daughter, who always needs to move a lot in order to absorb and understand things. I’ve set down some rules, however, to ensure that the game doesn’t become too boisterous and detract from the prayerful experience of the stations.

I purchased a beautiful set of prints from a Catholic bookstore. I put each print in different places around our house, then give my children hints on where they can find them. They must walk to the hinted location. When we have found the print, we discuss what we see in it, and what it means to us. Then we say an “Our Father,“ after which each child makes up a short prayer about the station. Sometimes we might sing a song, too. I will then give them a hint about the next location, and we will walk there and repeat the process. We do this as long as I can keep their attention. Some days we might only do four stations; other days we might be very lucky and do all fourteen!

On the 4Real Forums several years ago, there was a discussion about filling a shoebox with small items that represent each station. The children then take turns pulling the appropriate item out of the box before the station’s prayers are said. This link describes the items they use:

Others may opt to use the Resurrection Eggs, a set of 12 plastic eggs that contain little items symbolizing
Jesus’ passion and death. These are available from many Christian booksellers. 

7. Use votives while praying the Stations
Some families have successfully kept their child’s attention by using 14 votive candles. Begin in a room illuminated only by the 14 votives. A simple meditation or prayer is done for each station, after which a child extinguishes a candle. (Children love doing this!) The room is completely dark after the last station. This clever use of candles, light and darkness creates a lasting impression on children and adults!

For photos and more inspiration, check out Ruth's blog, Just Another Day in Paradise  or TracyC's Magnolia Cul-De-Sac.  (She has a wonderful way to display her stations of the cross prints, too!) also has an informative article entitled Candelabrum for Stations of the Cross.

8. Break it up and do only a couple of stations each day.
Although it is best to pray all the stations in one sitting, this may not be realistic with young children. Instead, consider saying one or two stations each day. It could become part of your evening prayer time. You will then cover all station in about a week. By breaking the devotion into smaller pieces, your children will retain more, too.

9. Do the online Stations with your children.
Here is one way you can use technology to build your child’s faith! There are many online sites that offer virtual stations of the cross. Here are two that I have used with my children:

Passionist Missionaries Stations of the Cross for Children

AinglKiss' Stations of the Cross for Kids

When we discuss the Stations of the Cross in the atrium where I teach, I like to show actual pictures of the  Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.  You can find them here:

10. Provide things for your children to do during parish devotions.
You can still occasionally attend the traditional Stations devotion at your parish with your young children. Just try to be flexible and realize that you may not be able to stay for all fourteen stations. When I need to take my children with me, I bring a small cloth bag filled with appropriate and quiet things to keep them busy. My bag includes a Stations of the Cross coloring book and books. Here are some resources:

Loyola Press offers a free downloadable book on Stations of the Cross.

CatholicMom has a downloadable coloring book.  Some of the drawings are rather detailed so bring along colored pencils instead of crayons!

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church also has free Stations of the Cross coloring pages.

11. Use Prayer Gems
I developed a prayer tool for my daughter called Prayer Gems.  I'll be sharing photos and a description of them soon on this blog!  So please check back in a day or so for more information.

St. Joseph's Day altars

When I was in Catholic school, St. Joseph's Day was a big event. Our pastor's patron saint was Joseph, so the school always put together a special show in his honor. Each class would perform a song, skit, poem or prayer about St. Joseph.  It was held on the stage in our school's gym.  Besides our pastor, the non-teaching nuns in the parish's convent were invited, as were the parents.  After the morning performance, he would hand out little treats to the school children and we were given the rest of the day off.  (The best treat of all for a school child!)

In high school, my family visited the Mission at San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, and we learned about the miracle the returning swallows.  Each year, swallows would return in droves to San Juan Capistrano on March 19.  The fact that they all reappear on March 19 was amazing, since birds obviously don't carry calendars!

For these two reasons, the feast of St. Joseph has always held a special place in my heart. Last year, I learned about another tradition associated with this holiday:  St. Joseph's altars.

I understand that this tradition originates in Sicily, although my husband --whose heritage is half Sicilian and half Italian--was not familiar with it. (Sadly, I guess it's one of the customs his family left back in the old country so they could become more Americanized!) I guess it began in the Middle Ages. According to the,  Sicily was suffering a drought and all of the crops were drying up and dying in the fields. The Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph, asking him to speak with God about bringing rain to the country. On March 19 (the feast of St. Joseph) it began to rain.  To thank St. Joseph for his help, the people filled a table with all of the different foods they had harvested, then donated those foods to the poor and hungry.

Over time, the tradition become more elaborate and the "St. Joseph tables" began including a variety of symbolic foods, including a bottle of wine to represent the Miracle at Cana, 12 fish to represent the apostles and bread shaped like chalices or crosses.

You can learn more about St. Joseph's altars by visiting the Virtual St. Joseph's Altar created by Evann Duplantier. Evann's ingenuous site also allows you to make virtual offerings to the table and to submit prayer requests for living or decreased family and friends. This year, my daughter and I will be making the 3D color, cut and paste altar which she has created and made available as a .pdf download from her website.  I'll try to post a photo of it after it's done.  In the meantime, check out Evann's Virtual St. Joseph's Altar!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stations of the Cross Quiz

Here's a fun quiz to take, or share with your kids, on the Stations of the Cross.  Thank you to That Resource Site for kindly sharing this!  If you have never visited their website, please check it out.  They have many free printables for homeschoolers and catechists.  I especially like their Montessori-style "Articles of the Mass" cards and their Life of Christ Timeline for Children

Here's the quiz:

Courtesy of

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival: March 6-13

I just discovered that RAnn of This That and The Other Thing hosts a "virtual get-together" of Catholic bloggers every Sunday. It's a chance to share some of our posts about "all things Catholic" during the last week.  I'm excited to participate in this get-together and "meet" some of the wonderfully talented and inspirational Catholic bloggers out there in cyberland!  I loved reading all of their posts and look forward to checking in every Sunday.

Here are my snippets from the previous week. 

- Super Quick Craft: Faux "Stained Glass" Saint Candle

- Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kids (Part I)

- Making a Sacrifice Crown of Thorns

- Our Prayer for Lent: The Litany of Humility (and a free downloadable prayer link)

Wishing everyone a blessed week!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Super Quick Craft: "Stained Glass" St. Patrick candle

Because I have a very bouncy and energetic daughter, I don't use real candles in my home. It's just too risky. So I was thrilled when the stores started carrying battery illuminated pillar candles; I could get the ambiance without the risk!  But $5-$10 per candle was waaaaaaaaay out of my budget!   So I was thrilled when my dollar store started carrying them, for only $1.  I've used them for a couple of months now and they work just as well as the more expensive ones.

Recently, I found a new way to use those unembellished candles:  I turned them into stained glass saint candles!  This is such an easy craft.  You will only need some pictures of stained glass windows featuring saint pictures, a window cling (available at office supply stores), a printer and a candle. 

I found some nice stained glass window pictures by searching for images on google.  Look for those that have alot of vibrant colors; they turn out the nicest.  For example, the one of St. Patrick above (on the right) turned out better than the one of St. Joseph (on the left).  Size the images to fit your candle, then print them on window cling material.  Allow the printed image to dry completely, then trim to size.  Remove the backing from the window cling and attach it to your candle.  Then turn on your candle -- isn't it beautiful??  (Wish I could show you what they look like when illuminated; my camera couldn't capture it!  But they glow, similar to the way a stained glass window glows when the sun shines behind it.)

You can change your candle for the different liturgical holidays. I printed images of St. Patrick, St. Joseph, the Blessed Mother, St. Francis, St. Valentine and Jesus on one cling.  I'll change out the clings to match the feast day.

What a quick and easy way to dress up your prayer table or family altar.

If you try this, please let me know in the comments section below.  I'd love to hear what images you used and how they turned out!

A freebie: great coloring pages and clip art from Dover Publications

One of this week's free sample
coloring pages
from Dover Publications
Today I wanted to share a wonderful resource for homeschoolers and crafters. Every week, Dover Publications gives samples of some of their books, available for free download.

If you aren't familiar with Dover Publications, they publish thousands of books on a wide range of topics, many which are great for homeschoolers and crafters. They publish books of clip art, children's activity and sticker books, craft books on subjects such as origami, musical scores and coloring books with hard to find images.

If you subscribe to their free download email newsletter, each week they will send you a link to get that week's freebies.  It changes each week. For example, this week's sample includes pages from these publications:

 - Butterfly Fairies Stained Glass Coloring Book

- Psalms Stained Glass Coloring Book (I'll be using this to teach the psalms!) 

- Artful Eggs from Around the World Stained Glass Coloring Book (idea: download the pages and include them in your Easter baskets this year!)
- Planet Earth Projects for kids
- My Garden Stickers
- Offenbach's Songs from the Great Operettas (musical score sample)
- Edward Grieg's Norwegian Dances (musical score sample)
- Knights and Samurai clipart
Subscribe to the free download newsletter on the Dover Publications website.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kids

I wrote this article in 2009 for 4Marks, the social networking site for Catholics. Unfortunately, 4Marks recently closed. This was one of my most popular articles on that website; it was even translated into Italian by a man from Naples so he could share it with his friends! I have updated it and will re-post it in two parts.

One of my favorite things about Lent is the Way of the Cross (Stations of the Cross) devotion. I look forward to each Friday and the chance to delve more deeply into the passion, death and joyous resurrection of our Lord. But with a young child in tow, I feel lucky if I am able to say even one repetition of “Because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.” My daughter is usually bored by the second station. Her “hide and seek” game between the pews is not conducive to deep prayer for me or the other poor souls who had the misfortune of sitting by us.

So I came up with a new strategy that would allow me to attend the Stations of the Cross and still maintain a somewhat peaceful, prayerful atmosphere for everyone around us. I know that other parents face this dilemma, too, so I thought I would share some of my time-tested techniques.

1. Attend “child-friendly” versions of the Stations of the Cross.

Some churches offer afternoon sessions for children. Although the basic story of Jesus’ passion does not change, the wording, music and prayers are designed to appeal to children. Our parish’s school children attend the devotion on Friday afternoons. My daughter, who wants to be “like the big kids in school,” tends to behave better at these devotions. So check with a parish that has a Catholic School and find out when the children attend. The other benefit is that your child will be more aware and less crabby (hopefully), than she would be attending an evening devotion.

2. Make a tour of local churches

If your child is not overly-stimulated by new environments, consider attending a different church each week for the Stations devotion. Sometimes a new environment will keep a child entertained for at least half of the devotion time. I especially like to attend the Stations at older, more traditional churches. My daughter loves checking out the statues, stained glass windows, beautiful altar and other artwork. If she is good, she can help me light a votive candle by a statue of her choice after the Stations devotion is over.

If you live near a larger city, you may find a church that offers a “Living Way of the Cross” procession, marching through neighborhoods and to various churches while praying the devotion and using costumed individuals to re-enact Jesus’ passion and death.. For example, in Chicago there are several processions held in the Little Village neighborhood, and one in downtown Chicago. Check with your diocese or archdiocese to find out which parishes offer outdoor processions. Then plan to attend -- it is a wonderful experience for children and adults.

3. Do a Stations of the Cross Walk Through Your Neighborhood.

If you live too far from a large city and your own parish does not offer an outdoor procession, consider taking a Stations of the Cross walk throughout your neighborhood. This article, published on the St. Anthony Messenger website, describes how you can use common things around your neighborhood to reflect on the messages inherent in each station.

4. Attend an outdoor Way of the Cross devotion.

Another option is to find a parish that has an outdoor “Way of the Cross” path or garden. Physically walking  the path or garden, which may use statues or shrines to mark each station, will help retain your child’s attention. You could walk the stations with your parish or alone as a family. Doing it as a family gives you the flexibility to tailor the prayers and length of each station to your child’s attention span.

When I was young, my cousins and I walked the Way of the Cross outdoor path in New Ulm, Minnesota. We did this independently without parent prompting or attendance. Granted, we didn’t spend 10 minutes in deep meditation at each station. In fact, we often just stopped for a few minutes and said a quick “Our Father” before racing to the next station Yet, despite our lack of deep prayer, we still reminisce about walking the Way of the Cross path!

Here is a link to the Way of the Cross path that we walked as children: New Ulm, Minnesota Way of the Cross

This website lists some of the outdoor Stations of the Cross gardens and paths in the world:

Waymark: Way of the Cross
5. Create your own Stations of the Cross devotional area.

By doing this, you can pray the stations whenever the mood strikes you, or when your child seems most receptive. Your devotional area could be indoors (for example, a long hallway in your home); or outdoors, (for example, a plot of garden that you have turned into a prayer path). Your devotional area could be as simple as mounted prints on an blank wall or as elaborate as little shrines strategically placed throughout your yard. Creating an outdoor Stations of the Cross path might be a fun family project for the summer.

I once read about a children's home in a third world country that developed its own stations of the cross. I was struck by its simple beauty. They made little crosses out of branches and positioned them throughout a field. The children then carried a statue of Jesus from station to station while meditating on the passion and death or Jesus.  Simple often resonates the deepest with children!

My next post will include more tips and techniques. Please check back!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sacrifice Crown of Thorns

I've heard about using a "sacrifice crown of thorns" during Lent from several different blogs and websites including Catholics United for the Faith and  Ten Kids and a Dog,  Most recommend making a wreath out of braided salt dough but my salt dough creations never turn out as nice as those pictured on other sites. In addition, I wondered if a salt  dough wreath could withstand the fluctuations of heat, cold and humidity in our garage, where we store many of our out-of-season decorations.
At the Dollar Store the other day I discovered a bleached vine wreath for only $1.  I immediately envisioned it as a crown of thorns with a bit of brown paint and some toothpicks. At home, my daughter (who has been bugging me to do a painting project) enthusiastically covered it and about three dozen toothpicks with brown paint. Voila!  Our wreath is ready for use starting today (Ash Wednesday).

This project was incredibly easy to do and required no artistic talent at all, so it's perfect for those who are a bit intimidated by crafts.

To use the wreath:  any time during Lent that a person makes a sacrifice  or does a good deed,  s/he can pull a thorn (toothpick) out of the wreath, with the goal of removing all thorns before Good Friday. On Easter, the wreath can be decorated with flowers.  We will be putting all of our thorns in a little dish next to the wreath.  Those thorns will be replaced with jelly beans on Easter morning. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Prayer for Lent: the Litany of Humility Prayer Ring

My daughter's enthusiastic response to last month's Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes prayer ring encouraged me to search for other litanies that we could incorporate into our morning  prayer.  The Litany of Humility spoke to me as the perfect prayer for Lent. It was written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, who was the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X.

As a close friend to the pope and an influential individual within the Roman Curia, it would have been easy for him to succumb to the temptations of power and prestige.  He prayed this litany each day before serving Mass to help him stay humble.  You can find out more about him here and in this Time Magazine article from 1929.

The prayer challenges us to seek an unassuming and meek life. It urges us to live modestly and without pretensions.  I will admit that it makes me a bit uncomfortable when I pray it. Its message directly contradicts the goals expounded by our secular world. It isn't easy to say phrases like "That others may be more esteemed than I..."  or "That others may be praised and I unnoticed." 

I created a prayer ring that my daughter and I will read each morning. The prayer's verses are color coordinated with two colors, making it easy for a homeschool mom and her child to do guided reading together. For example, one person could read the sections in purple while the other person reads the sections in dark magenta.

Updated  3/5/14:  You can now download a copy of this document for free on Google docs.  Here's the link:  Litany of Humility

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Louisiana inspired meal for Mardi Gras

Several Catholic parenting books that I own suggest having a Mardi Gras celebration with your family at home. It can be a time to eat something special from which you might abstain during Lent, like dessert or ice cream. Others recommend burying the word Alleluia, since it is a word that is not said or sung during Lent. (For ideas on this custom, see this earlier post.) Still others recommend having a party, complete with gold, green and purple decorations and perhaps a craft like mask making.

In our family, the kids look forward to our "Pancake Tuesday" celebration on Mardi Gras. (You can find out more about it here.) But this year, I wanted to also have a bit of "Mardi Gras" fun and perhaps do a short geography lesson on New Orleans.

Our Louisiana inspired supper last night included Jambalaya, a salad and a Mardi Gras king cake.  It was a relatively easy meal to prepare!  You can find Jambalaya mixes in the rice section of many grocery stores; simply add shrimp or sausage and cook for about 20 minutes on the stove.

I discoverd this Kings Cake mix at my local Cost Plus World Market.  If you don't have one in your area, you can also buy the mix online at New Orleans Showcase website or the Mardi Gras Outlet website.

It makes a great tasting cake!  The box has alot of information about the traditions of the Mardi Gras cake, including the symbolism behind the green, gold and purple colored sugars used to decorate the cake.

The mix also includes the obligatory "plastic baby." The person who finds the baby is pronounced king of the celebration.

Finally, we added to our celebration by adding some New Orleans themed music. I played the Sounds of Bourbon Street CD, which can be purchased immediately in MP3 format from Amazon. (They also sell it in CD format.) Here is a link to it on their website:

Sounds of Bourbon Street

How do you celebrate Mardi Gras?  Have you found a way to mix the secular and religious aspects of the holiday?  I would love to hear about it; please share your ideas in the comments section!

We're celebrating Pancake Tuesday tomorrow!

The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is a big day in our house.  Every year we celebrate "Pancake Tuesday."  It is one of the few times each year where we have pancakes for supper. But these are not just ordinary pancakes.  Instead, the kids are invited to go "all out" and embellish their pancakes with a variety of toppings, including chocolate chips, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, bananas, whipped cream, a variety of jams and marmalades, peanut butter, Nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread), nuts, chocolate sprinkles or any colored sugars we may have in the house. We usually only serve maple syrup during the year, so to make the day special I'll add a blueberry, strawberry or apricot syrup.

After the decorating is finished, everyone casts their vote for the creation that looks the most delicious. The winner's name is added to our perpetual "World's Best Pancake Chef" plaque. She or he can wear a special chef cap for the rest of the meal. In addition, the winner chooses the meals we will have for the upcoming week. (This is also my sneaky way of teaching them how to plan nutritious meals!)

Here is a picture of our "World's Best Pancake Chef" plaque:

 Each year, I add the name of the winner. It is displayed in our kitchen for the remainder of the year.  The kids like to reminsce about the contest and its winner throughout the year, plus plan their creations for next year's contest.

Burying the Alleluias

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium where I teach, the kids are invited to color slips of paper that have the word "Alleluia" on them. (All of the alleluias are written in different type styles to encourage creativity.) We bring out writing materials not used during other times of the year, like gold, copper and silver markers, which they can use along with colored pencils and regular markers. The older kids are invited to write their own alleluias. 

The results are quite beautiful!  The kids take alot of time and care in preparing their paper alleluias.

We then put them in a special jar and bury them in the ground outside the church (weather permitting) or put them in an empty space under the tabernacle in the church.  They are removed during our special Liturgy of the Light ceremony on Holy Saturday.

This custom could easily be adapted to a home.  The FullHomelyDivinity website suggests decorating and burying an egg on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday).  I like the idea of giving another purpose to those plastic easter eggs that are filling the shelves of the dollar stores right now.  You could write "Alleluia" on the eggs using a glitter glue pen.  I think I would also include a little surprise in the egg -- perhaps a Bible citation relating to Jesus' resurrection or a chocolate shaped like a lamb or butterfly.

Although we use paper alleluias in the atrium, I like the idea of creating something more permanent and reusing it every year. In her blog By Sun and Candlelight, Dawn uses wooden letters, which she painted in bright colors. She "buries" her letters inside a plain wooden box embellished only with a small cross.  Alternately, Ruth (who writes the blog Just Another Day in Paradise) painted her letters and storage box gold. How exciting it would be to uncover that box on Easter!

Be sure to explain to your children that we do not use the word "Alleluia" during Lent because it is a word that signifies abundant joy.  During Lent, we practice sombre remembrance of Christ's suffering for us, so using the word would not be appropriate.  If you need more background on this medieval custom, check out this link at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Patterson, New Jersey website