First, a little mood music:
After 10 Lents with little kids, I've come to realize the truth about myself: I have a limited attention span. I can get away with overloading 3 1/2 weeks of Advent, but 4 weeks into Lent, "a little too much" falls into chaos. So, simplicity rules! After consulting the Zoomlians, we are doing 4 special things.
1. We will be making a big "Walking with Jesus" poster. This has been a big favorite for the past two years, and since it is focused on the Sunday Gospels, it's not too hard to keep up with. You just color in one footprint a day.
2. We will be giving up sweets, except for our Sunday Gospel Desserts. We'll eat pretzels and dried fruit instead.
3. We will choose something we'd like to improve about ourselves for our Vine and Branches.
4. We will save up money for Heifer International. If you've never heard of them, they give livestock to poor families around the world. You can buy anything from a flock of chicks to goats, to cows (or even camels!). The money buys not only the animals, but the training for the family to care for and breed the livestock, in an ecologically sustainable way. Even veterinary care is included!
Something as simple as a flock of chicks can save children from malnutrition (eggs are high quality protein) and give the family an income from the surplus eggs. Those chickens can be fed on inedible food scraps, don't take up much space, eat damaging insects and produce fertilizer. Each family receiving a gift of animals is required to give some of the offspring to their neighbors (and they have the same obligation), which really multiplies the effect of the gift..
I really like it that they've figured out what the specific needs are for each area, and it allows people to become self sufficient while helping their neighbors. (In fact, this is the exact type of foreign aid promoted by the Holy Father in his last encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, one that helps the poor to help themselves.) Anyway, we are aiming for the chickens (10 to 50 chicks for $20).
Everything else will be continuations of other things: We are reading the Gospel of Matthew. We will try to get to daily Mass more often. We'll probably say the Rosary more.
There will probably be some one shot things, too. Last year we were able to make and serve corned beef and cabbage to the homeless on St. Patrick's Day. I'd love to do that again (I've loved St. Patrick since we read St. Patrick's Summer!) .
Anything that doesn't require 40 days of follow through!
More Lent ideas here.