Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Our daughter and her young children have been able to help her priest husband with the Holy Week services in their empty church...

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day, I cry out in the night before You.
Let my prayer come before you; incline Your ear to my cry!
-Psalm 88 (87 Septuagint)

She sent me this sweet picture of my little granddaughter reaching up trying to give Jesus a kiss at the end of the Bridegroom Orthros service last night.  

My granddaughter couldn't quite reach and called out, "Help me!"  Out of the mouths of babes.  

Or, as Mommy noted: "Sweet and profound".

Some of you celebrated Easter (at home) this past Sunday, but those of us who are Orthodox are currently observing Holy Week (at home).  

I've been watching and praying our Bridegroom services the past couple of nights on Youtube, which is our new-Coronavirus-normal for awhile.

Earlier in the evening, I had listened to an excellent podcast on Ancient Faith Today Live, hosted by Fr. Tom Soroka: "Holy Week Under Quarantine" - link here - with guest Dr. Nicole Roccas, author of Time and DespondencyI highly recommend the podcast and the book!

Dr. Roccas talked about trying to find positives about what we can do during this time of isolation, instead of dwelling on "what we can't do".  

She specifically brought up that this is a good time to acknowledge how we in North America (she lives in Canada) are very fortunate:  that our current inability to attend services and partake of Holy Communion is only an anomaly here, a temporary "new normal", whereas that privilege is an impossibility in many countries that are suffering persecution - or have suffered persecution in the past. She encouraged listeners that "Maybe as we grieve our inability to receive the Eucharist we can remember those around the world who are unable to gather in even the best of times."

Dr. Roccas' comments made me think of a book about a Russian priest, Fr. Arseny, which we read as a family years ago.

FATHER ARSENY, translated by Vera Bouteneff. A narrative comprised of encounters with Father Arseny, a former art historian and priest imprisoned in the Gulag. He became Prisoner No. 18736 in the brutal 'special sector' of the Soviet prison camp system. In the darkness of systematic degradation of body and soul, he shone with the light of Christ's peace and compassion. I wept, reading this aloud to our teens.  We all loved this book.

So. What else can we do during Holy Week?

-Spend time as a family while journeying towards Pascha at home.
-Go here to my past post with some ideas for quiet activities specifically for Holy Week.

-Listen to saints stories and Orthodox books for children read by Chrissi Hart, here on AFR's Under the Grapevine podcast.

-Decorate eggs: go here for my post, Why Eggs for Easter?
-Pray together and read the Psalms.

-Be thankful for smart phone technology such as FaceTime and Skype and digital live streaming on YouTube, which can bring us "virtually" to our churches and family and friends.

[Speaking of which, please share/forward this post. And if you're not a regular follower yet, please sign up on the web version of my blog for my emails. I am no longer on social media since I realized and embraced the fact that I'm pretty much a JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) kind of person.  My readership has been down as a result of my choice to leave Facebook and not join the Instagram trend. Thank you! I appreciate your taking time to stop by!]  

Friday, April 3, 2020

Sheltering with Angels, Bluebirds, Psalms, Stitching

I've got a SHELTERING-IN-PLACE GIVEAWAY for your kids, 
an Angel by my door,
Bluebirds nesting outside my window,
Psalms on my heart,
and Embroidery kits ready to start

Psalm 90:11 (Septuagint)  For He shall command His angels concerning you, To keep you in all your ways... 

We mainly come and go through our side door - seeing St. Michael the Archangel there reminds me to pray for protection for myself and others on the now rare occasion I leave my home.  Psalm 120:8 (Septuagint) The Lord will guard your coming and going.

Mommy bluebird getting her nest all ready. (The father bluebird is beautiful - just haven't been able to get a photo of him yet.)

I've been reading and cooking a lot, but wanted to do something beautiful and creative, so I ordered two small embroidery kits.

Check out my dear friend Krista West's site, Avlea - her Mediterranean Folk Embroidery kits are so lovely! (You may remember the past post I did about Krista - she is a priest's wife and very dedicated and talented ecclesiastical tailor.) 

I'd love to offer a SHELTERING GIVEAWAY for your kids today: A Child's Guide to Prayer

Leave your name and contact info at the end of this post with a comment telling me what is helping you through this time of sheltering-in-place. (And for those of you who may have trouble leaving a comment here, please feel free to send me an email: wendyb[spam]1963@[spam]sbcglobal.net)

Giveaway ends Thursday, April 9 at Midnight PST. 

From Ancient Faith Publishing, illustrated by Tara Pappas 

A Child's Guide to Prayer is a beautifully illustrated prayer book for Orthodox Christian children aged 5-10 who are just developing a habit of prayer. The selection includes morning and evening prayers, prayers during the day, at mealtimes, for family and friends, and prayers of and to the saints - along with Psalms to pray and prayers that have to do with communion and confession. 

All the prayers were carefully selected by priests and youth workers to ensure their age-appropriateness. 

The 120-page guide also includes brief instructions on how to pray, why we pray, and a list of different ways to pray. The book concludes with several blank pages for personal prayer requests.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Amidst all the "sheltering" and "distancing" precautions in answer to the Corona Virus outbreak, there seems to be the happy consequence of many families re-connecting and discovering closeness and the simple things in life.  

No sports, no schools or churches open, no eating out, no movie theaters, lots of parents working from home...we are all being forced to slow down a little and "live in the moment" as we navigate our new normal. 

Hopefully that means we aren't panicking and spending hours with the news and social media, but instead are taking time to talk, play games, pray and cook together, and read more with our families - appreciate each other, and find joy and beauty in the ordinary. 

It is not from external circumstances, but internal attitudes that sorrows and joys are born.
- St. John Chrysostom

And let's not forget those who are alone, infirm, sick, or unable to care for themselves.  They need our prayers, phone calls, cards, and letters now more than ever.  

I was reminded of this when my friend asked for prayers for her sister and niece, who are in separate care facilities and confined to their rooms.  She is trying to figure out little things she can do to help them through this difficult time of isolation.

Did you notice that today is the first day of Spring?  I think it's a great time to think about Spring-ing into Action!  I looked through my stash of Trader Joe's cards and will be sending some off to my friend's loved ones.  

Here are a few other quick ideas I came up with to help others through this time of temporary isolation. Please share yours!
  • If you have children who like to paint or draw, you could encourage them to [wash their hands well and] make cards to send out to local shut-ins. Start with your own neighbors!
  • Be a pen[computer]pal - you or your kids can send daily emails with family updates to any older family members or loved ones who are quarantined. 
  • Send a new mom, who may be feeling extra overwhelmed with being home with limited help, a pack of diapers, or a gift card, or have a meal delivered to her and her family from a nearby restaurant.
  • If you are healthy and not quarantined, check and see if your local food bank needs help packing up boxes for seniors or those in need.
  • Facetime, Skype, or send a video to a child in your life who would love to hear you read aloud a story.
  • Brighten a child's day with inexpensive activity books or little gifts you can buy online and mail (I recently ordered Star Wars Mad Libs for our grandsons and bath tub toys for our granddaughter.) Picture books, chapter books, stickers, hair bows, coloring books, and bath products are fun options.
  • Find child-friendly recipes that your kids can help out with; and then serve your family a special candle-lit dinner.
  • Send or drop off a beautiful live plant to someone.
  • Share a roll of toilet paper with someone.  I'm serious.  Not sure what the toilet paper shortage is about, but last week we nearly fell into the "uh-oh-we're-almost-out-of-TP-what-now" Category, until my husband discovered a big pack we'd forgotten we had in the garage!  I've now given rolls away to two friends, and we still have plenty.  They're relieved and I'm happy to have shared.
  • Listen to music, play the piano, scrapbook, garden, journal, read (especially the Psalms), try writing some poetry, get out and walk, have a family talent show.  Limit screen time, social media, and news.
  • Remember to SMILE - at your postman, your check-out clerk/cashier, and anyone else you come into (6 foot away) contact with. 
  • Pray. Everyday. For the whole world.

You may find my other posts helpful:

Family Read Alouds:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Lent is here, my dears!

And it is sweet. 

The singing of Psalms is like honey...It is the silence of the mind, and harbinger of peace.  For the psalms pray for the future, sigh for the present, repent of the past, rejoice in good works, and call to mind the joy of the heavenly Kingdom...It is the comfort of elders, an adornment for the young, and the maturity and perfection of the intellect. It teaches always to pray more attentively to Christ God, the helper and benefactor, who by the lips of the Prophet ordained these psalms.
~St. Augustine

This will mark the third Lenten season I have made a commitment to read the Psalter everyday, with a little help from this devotional book, Songs of Praise, by Sylvia Leontaritis. 

It's a perfect companion, either along with your morning cup of coffee or tea, or during a quiet evening after you've put the kids down for bed. 

If you want to make the Psalter a more integral part of your life - either on your own or as part of a Psalter group - Songs of Praise is the perfect aid. 

It includes the full text of the Ancient Faith Psalter (with wide margins for note-taking). Each kathisma is followed by a reflection from popular Orthodox Mom blogger Sylvia Leontaritis plus several blank pages for journaling. Read, reflect, and journal your way through the Psalter and let its holy words sink into your soul.

How about a good Lenten book for your children?

childs-guide-to-prayer-ancient-faith__93948.1580830177.1280.1280.jpg (791×1000)

A Child's Guide to Prayer, by Ancient Faith Publishing, illustrated by Tara Pappas, will make a sweet addition to any child's library.
A Child's Guide to Prayer is a beautifully illustrated prayer book for Orthodox Christian children aged 5-10 who are just developing a habit of prayer. The selection includes morning and evening prayers, prayers during the day, at mealtimes, for family and friends, and prayers of and to the saints - along with psalms to pray and prayers that have to do with communion and confession. 

All the prayers were carefully selected by priests and youth workers to ensure their age-appropriateness. The 120-page guide also includes brief instructions on how to pray, why we pray, and a list of different ways to pray. The book concludes with several blank pages for personal prayer requests. 

About the Illustrator: Tara Pappas lives in the beautiful state of Wyoming, where she is a mixed media artist, illustrator, and stay-at-home mother. She has been actively making art since her youth, influenced by the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. When she is not creating in her studio, Tara enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and friends.

My orange tree is in bloom, perfuming the air.  Lent is sweet.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Crown and Braided Bread for St. Lucia Day

For a digital download of this cute Lucia crown, go here

Tomorrow is St. Lucia day, so I wanted to share a link for a paper Lucia candle crown you can download and make (go here) and some pictures my daughter sent of their Lucia bread baking day...

Celebrate by reading a book! Go here to my past post for Saint Lucia book recommendations.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Baking Gingerbread Cookies for St. Nicholas Day

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!  Did you know that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of - among other things, like sailors - bakers?  In many countries on this day it is traditional to give some kind of spiced gingerbread cookies to children, along with chocolate coins!

I recently bought a cute terra cotta cookie mold at Cost Plus World Market that I wanted to try out.  So Wednesday night I spent a quiet evening baking a new recipe I found for Soft Glazed Gingerbread Cookies to give away to godchildren and friends.  They turned out pretty well, and were a good precursor to the book I want to tell you about today!

The Baker's Dozen, by Aaron Shepard with illustrations by Wendy Edelson.
Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. He always gave his customers exactly what they paid for -- not more and not less. So, he was not about to give in when a mysterious old woman comes to him on Saint Nicholas Day and insists that a dozen is thirteen! The woman's curse puts an end to the baker's business, and he believes it would take Saint Nicholas to help him. But if he receives that help, will it be exactly what he imagined? This is a great way to teach young children about the the joy of giving, and about the life of St. Nicholas.

Read more about The Baker's Dozen and activities for Saint Nicholas Day on the St. Nicholas Center website, here

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Celebrating My Goddaughter's Third Birthday and Black Hair with Hannah Lee's Debut Picture Book!

My goddaughter Cecily just celebrated her third birthday, and I was so excited to gift Hannah Lee's cute rhyming picture book, My Hair, to her after our day at the zoo!

Allen Fatimaharan's warm and colorful illustrations are so fun. (And I have to mention that my goddaughter's mother had no idea I was giving her this book - the similar hairdos right down to the blue bows are a total coincidence!)

Like my goddaughter, the little girl in the book has a birthday to celebrate, and she has an important decision to make: how to style her hair!

My birthday's coming up so soon, 
I'll need new clothes to wear. 
But most of all, I need to know, 
How shall I style my hair? 

Joyous and vibrant, this picture book captures perfectly the excitement of getting ready for a celebration, as well as showcasing a dazzling array of intricate hairstyles.

Off we go to the hairdresser's.
To get it done professionally.
As for what style I choose,
You'll have to wait and see!

The little girl looks to her family - father, mother, sister, grandmother and others - for inspiration. There are so many choices to be considered and embraced...locks, corn rows, or a twist out? Braids or a high-top fade?

Which hair style does the little girl choose? Her Mommy has an idea. You'll have to read the book to find out what they decide!  

Oh, and here's my goddaughter's birthday hair - courtesy of her Mommy, not a hair salon...Happy Birthday to this sweet girl!

Meet the author and illustrator: 
Hannah Lee was born in London, where she still lives. She always loved books, but yearned to see more stories that featured children like her – so now she is writing them! 
The illustrator, Allen Fatimaharan, was born in Sri Lanka, but grew up in Southern India and France. Now living in the UK, he works as an illustrator and animator.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571346875
Number of pages: 32