The Liturgical Year in Orthodox Children’s Books – First Quarter

As a homeschooler, I tend to borrow from a variety of educational philosophies: we’re fairly structured like Classical, read a lot of books like Charlotte Mason, and I’m not afraid to derail things when a learning opportunity comes up or a particular subject is really interesting and we want to pursue it more in depth like an unschooler.

In more of the vein of Charlotte Mason, I’ve been developing this list of books about saints and feasts that follows the Liturgical  calendar and decided to share it here. We are beginning to use this as the spine of our children’s educational program at our little Orthodox mission. I know there are other programs out there that are more popular, but I love that through these “living books” our kids get to know practical lessons for how the saints lived and interacted with the world.

I’ve broken the list down by month with the moveable feasts separated out. As we know, the Orthodox Liturgical year starts in September, so with that in mind my list starts at the beginning. While I have the list in a Word document and built into my smart phone calendar, tracking down all the links to buy the books and their covers takes a bit of time, so I am planning to put this list out in quarters with a post for the moveable feasts (Pascha) alone.

I’ve also been collecting little “t” traditions and craft/recipe ideas on several Pinterest boards for these saints. Please, please, please share more if you know of them in the comments. I feel like so much of this stuff is hard to dig up and find for us American converts. I also know there are other books out there and new ones being written all the time, so this is by no means the ultimate Orthodox children’s book list, just a beginning.

September

1 – New Liturgical Year
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts

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4 – The Prophet Moses
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts

St. Hermione
Women of Faith

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8 – Nativity of the Theotokos
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts

11 – St. Euphrosynos
A Boy, A Kitchen, and His Cave
St. Euphrosynos Pinterest Board

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14 – Elevation of the Cross
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
Feasts of the Cross Pinterest Board

15 – St. Niketas
My Warrior Saints

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17 – St. Sophia
Christina’s Favorite Saints

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20 – St. Eustathios
My Warrior Saints

22 – The Prophet Jonah
The Book of Jonah
Jonah’s Journey to the Deep
Jonah Pinterest Board

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25 – The Great Earthquake at Constantinople
And Then Nicholas Sang

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27 – St. Callistratus
My Warrior Saints

October

1 – Protection of the Theotokos
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
Feasts of our Lady Theotokos Pinterest Board

St. Romanos the Melodist
Sweet Song

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6 – The Apostle Thomas
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts

St. Kendeas
Under the Grapevine

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7 – Sts. Sergius & Bacchus
My Warrior Saints

14 – St. Kosmos the Melodist
Christina’s Favorite Saints

18 – The Apostle Luke
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts

20 – St. Artemius
My Warrior Saints

21 – St. Ursula
Women of Faith

26 – St. Demetrios
Saint Demetrios: The Myrrh-Flowing

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November

8 – Archangel Michael
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
Feasts of the Angels Pinterest Board

11 – St. Martin of Tours
The Life of Saint Martin
Martinmas Pinterest Board

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St. Menas
My Warrior Saints

15 – Beginning of the Nativity Fast
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
The Kindness Kids – An Alternative to Elf on the Shelf

21 – Entrance of the Theotokos
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
Feasts of our Lady Theotokos Pinterest Board

24 – St. Catherine
St. Catherine of Alexandria
Christina’s Favorite Saints
St. Catherine’s Day Pinterest Board

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25 – St. Mercurius
My Warrior Saints

30 – St. Andrew
St. Andrew Pinterest Board

December

4 – St. Barbara
Women of Faith

6 – St. Nicholas
Children’s Garden of the Theotokos: Treasury of Feasts
Jolly Old St. Nicholas Pinterest Board
St. Nicholas Center
The Legend of St. Nicholas

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13 – St. Herman of Alaska
North Star
Christina’s Favorite Saints
St. Herman of Alaska Pinterest Board

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St. Lucia
St. Lucy’s Day Pinterest Board
Lucia: Saint of Light
Women of Faith

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Sunday Before Nativity – Esther
Esther’s Story

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My kid didn’t do a lemonade stand for a “worthy” cause…

This morning when I checked my Instagram feed there was this ad: 


There are billboards up all over town promoting lemonade stands to raise money for cancer. Local churches have had similar things to raise money for clean drinking water, homelessness, and other worthy and holy causes. 

I think these things are really sweet, don’t get me wrong, but I also think they take the fun out of it for kids that maybe just want to have a little fun money for summer, along with a heaping dose of mom guilt for not encouraging a better use of the profits. 

Let me explain. 

For a couple years now my daughter has been looking forward to being 7 and being old enough to go to a week long church camp held in the mountains about an hour south of our city. Her brothers’ Godparents used to send their own children to this camp and raise money for camp tuition with bake sales and lemonade stands throughout the Spring. 

Well, the summer finally came that she is 7 and my very long term goal oriented little miss (this is a kid that started planning her Brave/Scottish Games themed 5th birthday within days of turning 4), was all about this lemonade stand for camp thing becoming a reality. It became a daily topic of conversation that she would bring up back when it was still raining most days here. 

There were a couple things I knew about this idea of hers: 

  • we might spend more than we made
  • it would be a lot of work for me too

But I decided to go along with it anyway. My husband is a bit of an entrepreneur and I liked that spirit in her. It was something I wanted to encourage despite those things. 

After much discussion about the cost of the church camp along with the idea of her being away for a whole week overnight with almost no one we knew in a foreign place (our parish is small, three families, and while everyone that is Orthodox in California has pretty much run into each other in some way or another, I still didn’t know which parishes and kids would be there), we compromised on a dance intensive boot camp put on by her dance studio instead. 

So we’re not even talking a “holy” cause here.

Meyer Lemons were flooding the grocery store and we started buying, juicing and freezing the juice a week or so before our first prediction of 90 was on the forecast. 

Each of those bags of lemons was $3 at Trader Joe’s. It took two bags to make a pitcher of lemonade. We made 3 pitchers worth of lemonade that day. So it cost us $18 just in lemons. 

The night before the stand we went to the craft store and bought supplies to make signs and table decor. I probably spent $20 (and yes, dear husband, I know the actual Michael’s charge was for much more, but I also confess to buying more yarn that night). 

We bought cookie dough and other goodies from the warehouse store to sell along with the lemonade and the cold brew coffee I made. We’re talking another $20 or so worth of stuff.

The day of the lemonade stand came. My daughter and her neighborhood friends sold their little hearts out. We had a pretty steady stream of customers. One friend of mine even drove all the way across town and gave us a sweet $20 donation for her $2.50 worth of coffee, lemonade and cookies. 


I was proud of my daughter when people tried to haggle her down and she stood her ground on how much stuff cost. I was proud when, eager for another customer her and her friends rode bikes down the street to the mailbox when they saw someone walking over there. I was proud when they kept nagging the real estate agent that was putting up open house signs until he promised he would buy a lemonade and send customers their way. I was proud that they endured sitting there in 90 degree weather with mostly nothing to do. 

Still, when all was said and done they only sold about $80 worth of stuff. With our costs figured in, that means she really only made $20. 

I wonder if the lemonade for a cause people could just make a quiet $20 donation and let the other kids make their $20 profit with no mom guilt that it isn’t going to something more worthy or holy.  

My sisters and I had all manner of stands growing up. Selling pecans is one I remember in particular. We used the money for the ice cream truck all summer long. Nobody ever made us feel guilty about it.

Well, as for us, our cause may not have measured up to something more charitable, but important lessons in working, profit and loss, and sales were learned and I have decided not to feel guilty about that. 

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Last Dance for the Class of 2015

*It’s been awhile here on the old blog. Of late, we have been crazy busy with dance. I ran into my former boss at Target a couple weeks back and have been inspired to try writing again. While this piece didn’t make the cut, I thought I’d share it anyway because the show is so good and the directors, staff and kids at Civic have worked very hard. I am continually blown away by what they accomplish each time my kids get to play a minor part in the work they do.

The caps have been thrown, inspiring speeches given and diplomas handed out, but for a group of local graduates there is still one last act for the Class of 2015: dancing their hearts out for Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala.

The studio responsible for putting on The Nutcracker in conjunction with The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, also puts together a lesser known spring show which features all of their dancers from the tiniest preschoolers to staff members, the senior Class of 2015 amongst them, of course.

The first half of this year’s show is an original storybook ballet. In “Once Upon a Time,” a group of orphans can’t decide which bedtime story they want to hear and instead pieces of each of their favorite fairytales – Cinderella, Frozen, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast – are woven together.

The “princess ballet,” as some of the seniors referred to it, with lots of tutus will likely appeal to little girls, said Jennifer Barnes, 18, a Liberty High grad that will play a stepsister in the Cinderella portion of the story (Cast C). However, she notes, “I think there’s something in it for everyone because there are so many different stories, there’s a lot of action to keep people interested.” Fellow senior studio member, Hannah Contois, 18, a Centennial High grad, agrees, “Even if you are not into princesses there are several other characters to identify with, plus the opening number and the second half of the show with jazz and tap, there’s something for everyone.”

If your child is into the Frozen craze, Contois will likely be a favorite as Elsa (Cast B). Annalee Fanucchi, 18, a Liberty High grad said, “Definitely younger kids are going to love this show because it has all the Disney stories in there and Frozen is really popular.”

Contois said she’s planning to dance the roll with “no regrets.”

“I’ve always seen the seniors each year and just brushed it off, but yesterday I think it really clicked for me that this is probably my last show so I’m really trying to put so much more into it.”

Giving it your all is just one of many life skills the seniors say they will walk away with because of dance. Fanucchi who will play Snow White (Cast B) noted responsibility, staying focused, and time management.

“Discipline. You have to be there every day, on time, in the proper attire. You don’t talk back,” added Contois.

One of the traditions for seniors during all four Gala performances is to exchange gifts and memories during the cast call just before each show.

“We share our favorite memories and we get to say our goodbyes. We can’t wear makeup before that because there’s usually a lot of crying,” said Barnes.

Since they have all been at this studio for 12-14 years, from the time they were 4-6 years old, the seniors all noted the studio is like a family.

“It is one of the things I am going to miss the most, walking into the studio every week and having people that you know support you,” said Fanucchi.

Contois had a similar sentiment, “During busy seasons I am there for about 25 hours a week with my friends. I’m closer to them than any of my other friends at school or anywhere else. It’s so cool that dance is what brought us together, but we found that we have so many other things in common. I know I can talk to them about anything and they will always be there for me and they will always be my friends for the rest of my life, we are just that close.”

Life skills and a second family, why these seniors say their advice to younger dancers is to stick it out.

“It’s hard to make it to being a senior. There were definitely points when I thought maybe it would be OK to not do the jazz company and so many classes, but it is so worth it, to be on stage with your friends and hear the applause and do what you love. So my advice would be don’t quit,” said Contois.

As to whether they will continue dancing, the senior class is a bit mixed. Barnes who plans to stay in town and to start out at BC in the Fall said she thinks she is done. Fanucchi will be attending Fresno State and be on the dance team there.

Contois, who is headed for the pre-Med program at UC Davis said, “It’s been such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it, not going more than a week without dance. So they (UC Davis) have a small dance program there and if I don’t do that then I will at least find a studio up there to take classes.”

*Disclosure: There were other studio members of the Class of 2015 that were unavailable for comment.

Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala
Bakersfield High School’s Harvey Auditorium, 1241 G St.
Tickets: Adults, $20; Students (7-18) and Seniors (65+), $14; Kids (6 and under) $5
Cast A: Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
Cast B: Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m.
Cast C: Saturday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
Cast D: Saturday, June 13 at 7 p.m.

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And here is what rehearsing for Gala has looked like for my little crew.

Ethan’s class gets to be little genies (Aladdin). The other boy mom and I sewed some pants because the original sequin pants were a no-go for the dads.
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Jilly gets to be a little fairy (Sleeping Beauty).
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“Notes” (where the directors go over things that need to be fixed and praise things that were really great) at the end one of Ethan’s dress rehearsals.
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Keeping a 9-month-old happy, not screeching happy, but also not screaming crying unhappy during hours long dress rehearsals for older siblings is a bit of a challenge. Luckily he’s easy and the fourth child so crawling on the floor of a century-old theater doesn’t bother me like it would have when Jilly was a baby:
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The theater stage is a lot bigger than the studio, so one of the first things they do for the first theater rehearsal is blocking without music so the dancers can get used to being more spread out.
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This was Jilly’s last dress rehearsal on Tuesday night. She’s so excited for the big show!
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Peeking through the wings at the contemporary piece’s rehearsal just before we left for the night after her last dress rehearsal.
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Children’s Book Review: H is for Holy

Like most homeschooling families, we love books and there are never enough shelves for all of them. So when a friend at Ancient Faith Publishing asked if we wanted to review a copy of the new book H is for Holy, we were all so excited and we of course said yes. We’ve been checking our mailbox every day waiting for it to arrive and yesterday it got here, yay!

We sat down on the couch together after ballet and I started to read with all three big kids crowding in to listen and see the pictures.

Would you believe that a couple years ago when we started looking into Orthodoxy that it was a children’s book we found to be one of the most helpful? It had a way of explaining things so simply rather than the sometimes heady comparing and contrasting of Orthodoxy with other confessions or the rich theology of the Church. H is for Holy is like that with little nuggets of simply put information about the Church, theology and icons woven throughout.

We especially loved all the beautiful artwork in H is for Holy. One of the things that was a bit of a disappointment about that primer book a couple years ago was the lack of beautiful artwork especially coming from a faith with a heritage of such beautiful artwork. H is for Holy does not disappoint in that regard. Bright colors and beautiful depictions of the church and icons fill the book from cover to cover.

I was caught off guard by the way my children responded to the interactive questions sprinkled throughout. Normally, getting my kids to respond to a question in a book or even in our schoolwork brings forth “I don’t know” or they just want to skip over them. As we were reading through H is for Holy, however, my kids were quick to point out crosses on our icon corner, recount Bible stories and all of the other directives we came across.

In the last six months or so I’ve been collecting some Orthodox children’s books both for use by our little mission parish and for our own homeschooling use. Quite a few have recently gone out of print (I found a great little stash at our favorite monastery this weekend), so I am really glad that publishers like Ancient Faith are still making great books like H is for Holy for our kids. This one is a keeper for sure. I even found J looking over it again all by herself this morning.

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Ethan and Peter

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Awhile ago we came here, soon after we moved back to Bakersfield, to do a hike with homeschoolers. Today, I decided to go back in search of green grass growing after the rains. When we bought our house on this side of town years ago, it was a wet year and the hills all around our development were green and rolling. It seemed like a whole other country and definitely not Bakersfield. The last few years have left things parched, dead, hot. This fall the rains returned and I am remembering why this area sold us.

We found ourselves next to the river with rounded boulders, the long green grass I was hoping for growing up in tufts between them, the fog rolling in just as golden hour brought the promised honey hues. It was magical and ethereal, like something out of a fairy tale. However, earlier this week my kids had a meltdown because we went to a park and *gasp* there was no playground equipment. It took them 20 minutes to get over themselves and realize that they could be having a whole lot more fun with the other homeschoolers playing tag. So after that experience, I did not exactly expect them to enjoy today’s outing.  And yet there they were leaping from rock to rock, making up a story about being wolf hunters and not wanting to leave even though it started to get cold and we had a birthday cake to bake.

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Today my Ethan is five. It doesn’t seem real or possible and yet here it is. This month is also his youngest sibling’s fourth month on earth.

Ethan has so many fun little quirks. I call him my little engineer. He always wants to know how things work, take them apart and put them back together. He is very sensitive and will wear shirts with tags inside out and hates pants most days (the colder weather is breaking him of this because he really hates being cold more than any other discomfort). His skin is sensitive and prone to outbreaks. His emotions are sensitive too, but in a less explosive way than his next in line brother. He is definitely a giggler though and often laughs his way through life. He goes through periods of loving to dress up. He wore his Beast (of Beauty fame) costume three days in a row this week. He even wore it to his sister’s ballet lessons. A few months ago he wore his Flynn Rider costume in much the same fashion. Yesterday it was traditional Korean birthday clothes. I made him change and wash his face for the photo shoot because I’m mom like that. He is a collector and today was no different, we brought home several clam shells and bottle caps. The usual hunt for the perfect stick was also on.

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Peter has rolls upon rolls that I could kiss all day long. They are so puffy and soft like clouds upon clouds. He is very vocal and he is starting to make a noise that sounds something like “Mama.” Or at least that’s what I think. He has the stub of a tooth and as such his cheeks and chin are chapped from the drooling. He’s still easy and sweet. He’s full of smiles and as delightful as babies can possibly be. He sleeps well and tags along on our day to day with ease.

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December 2014

This month has been marked by trips to the beach and St. Barbara’s Monastery with my Godmama, Peter being three months old, Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, crafting, glorious rain, opening presents, and church feast days.

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School days

I am definitely starting to feel the winter burn out, but am managing to press forward with school most days. Here is some of the stuff we’ve been up to on those days…

Edible DNA models:
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Stethoscopes:

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A field trip to the San Diego Museum of Man:

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