Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day and a Shamrock Craft

I’ve never really liked St. Patrick’s Day. People seem to just use it as an excuse to drink too much beer and pinch unsuspecting bystanders who made the unfortunate choice to not wear green on March 17th. This year, however, I’m seeing things a bit differently. You see, I just got back from my first trip to Ireland where I learned a lot about Irish history and who St. Patrick really was (yes, he was a real person). So this year, instead of eating green eggs in a drunken stupor, I am going to try and redeem St. Patrick’s Day for my kids.

Who Was St. Patrick?
First of all, Patrick is not really a Saint (you know, the capital “s” type canonized by the Catholic church). And he’s not even Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland and, when he was about 16 years old, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave (this was in about the year 405–a really long time ago). At the time, Ireland was a radically pagan place– considered to be about as far away from God as any place on the planet. Patrick’s grandfather, however, had been a priest. While Patrick remained in bondage in Ireland he clung to his faith and relied on prayer. Then, after 6 years, he managed to escape and return home.

When Patrick was in his 40’s, God brought him back to Ireland–this time as a missionary (I love God’s sense of irony!). Patrick had become intimately connected with the Irish people during his years in slavery and history tells us that one of his first converts was the very man who had held Patrick in captivity. Patrick went on to spend the next several years of his life preaching and spreading the gospel throughout Ireland. He was so successful in his missionary work that he turned the once-pagan island into one of the early centers of the Christian faith.

Legend has it that on one of Patrick’s missionary journeys through Ireland he came to a castle at the top of a rocky crag called the Rock of Cashel. I had the great honor of visiting the Rock of Cashel a few weeks ago when I was in Ireland:

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It was here at the Rock of Cashel that Patrick (reputedly) used a shamrock to tell the story of the trinity and then baptized King Aengus. Basically, the illustration of the shamrock trinity is that each of the leaves represents one of God’s persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While they are each separate and unique, they are all part of one whole.

As you look out from the Rock of Cashel to the Irish countryside, it’s easy to imagine what that day must have been like:

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For The Kids: Shamrock Collages
This week I told my 2 year old about St. Patrick. I told him how he was a man who lived a long, long time ago and that God used him to help other people learn about Jesus. We looked at pictures of shamrocks and I explained the trinity to little David using Patrick’s illustration. It was awesome!

Then the former-kindergarten teacher in me had to get crafty. We decided to commemorate our little shamrock “lesson” with a simple project.

I started by gathering an assortment of green things: scrapbooking paper, pom-poms, foam shapes, tissue paper and a large piece of green cardstock. I also put a dime-sized squirt of glue into a bowl with a Q-tip to use as a paintbrush:


I used a pencil to draw a shamrock shape onto the cardstock (heavy construction paper or cardboard painted green would also work), then I cut out the shamrock:


I sat David down at the table and gave him all of the green things I’d collected. He helped me tear the tissue paper into small pieces (this is great fine-motor practice, by the way!). Then I showed David how to use the Q-tip to “paint” glue onto the shamrock where he wanted to stick his green things. Whenever we’re using glue we use the mantra “just a dot, not a lot!”. David had a lot of fun picking out the decorations for his shamrock and sticking them on.


He required quite a bit of supervision and direction (put the glue here…ok, now pick out another piece of paper..ok, now put the paper on top of the glue…please don’t lick the glue…). In the end, though, his little shamrock turned out pretty darn cute! And the best part of all: we’ll have something meaningful to think about this St. Patricks day.


DIY Photo Collage Wall


*Note* Sorry about the poor quality of the photos in this post. There’s a lot of glare and weird reflections of me taking the photos in the pictures. Turns out it’s difficult to take pictures of pictures inside glass frames!

A few years ago I saw a kit at Michael’s for making your own wall-size photo collage out of picture frames. I loved the idea, but it was ridiculous how much money they wanted for a few picture frames and directions on how to lay them out. I knew that I could make my own photo collage for pennies on their dollar.

We have a really long white wall in our “Great Room” (not that it’s especially great, I just don’t know what else to call the space) that I thought would be perfect for this project. It definitely needed some sprucing up, and I love the idea of having our photos be the centerpiece of the room where we spend most of our time.

To make my photo collage, I started by finding a bunch of black picture frames of different sizes. I already had several that were sitting unused in a closet and I found a few more at Goodwill. If you want to purchase inexpensive frames, Walmart always seems to have a good selection (there are few things that I will actually set foot in that awful place for, and cheap picture frames is one of them). You could also collect frames in a variety of finishes and spray paint them all the same color.

Then, I got to play picture frame puzzle! I laid out all of my frames on the floor and moved them around in different arrangements until I had a set-up that I thought looked nice. I got some inspiration from websites online, but mostly I just had fun playing around with the frames. Once I had a design that I liked, I snapped a photo of it so I’d remember the layout and I started hanging the frames on my wall.

For those of you who are more precise with lines and angles and such, you could actually trace the frames onto a large sheet of paper once they’re laid out in your desired arrangement. Then transfer the sheet to your wall and hang it up with painters tape so you can see where to place the nails for each frame. I’m more of an eyeball-it-and-take-a-chance do-it-yourselfer, so I skipped this step entirely.

For the actual photos in the frames, I decided to stick with back-and-whites. I like how classic and elegant they look. Plus, I’m really a bit afraid of colors–I never quite know how to use them and I feel like too many colors can make things look too busy and “loud”. I chose photos that are meaningful to our family–they show who we are and where we come from. Every now and then I print off updated photos to replace old photos in the frames. Here are a few of my favorites:

Our wedding– This frame is in the middle of the collage, and it’s a great reminder of the love that started our family.

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Awkward family photo– This isn’t a particularly good photo, but I still love it because of the memories I have of taking the photo. This was the first family photo we had with all 4 of us “posing” for the camera. It was at a dinner we had at my parents’ house for my sister before she moved to California for her internship last summer. Jacob was about 8 weeks old and, if you notice, he’s naked in this photo. That’s because he was in his diaper explosion phase where he would ruin about 10 outfits a day. Right before this photo was taken he pooped on the 4th (and last) outfit that I had brought with us. His options were to borrow a dress from our friends’ baby girl or go naked–so, here he is, naked. Both boys are looking off to the side where some commotion more interesting that the camera seems to have been taking place.


Golden Gate Bridge– We had a 2-year stint living in the Bay Area while Jon was in graduate school. It was right before we had our first baby and it was a magical time in our lives where we both grew and learned so much. This photo of the bridge in San Francisco brings back so may great memories of our early marriage.


Babies on Bibles– We took newborn photos of both boys laying on Bibles. It’s neat looking at both of them when they were at the same tiny baby stage. I also love the symbolism of the Bible being their firm foundation.


Family Foursquare- This one has a picture of each family member (clockwise from top left): Jacob, David, our dog Bota (gotta include our first “child”), me and Jon. The photo of Jacob is the first time he smiled. The photo of David is a baby photo that I just loved so much I didn’t want to change it out for an updated one. The photo of me and Jon was taken on a family trip right before we got engaged–sweet, young love!


Family Rules– I ordered this wooden sign for us off Etsy. I had actually wanted to make my own sign, but then I realized that I have two young children and “want” would probably never actually become “made”. On Etsy I got to choose all of the wording for the sign and they did a beautiful job handcrafting it for us. The sign is made of wood and cost about $25 (making it the most expensive part of this whole project, but still a great deal if you ask me!). I actually ended up liking this sign so much that I bought one for each of our sisters this past Christmas.


Now I just need to come up with some ideas for the rest of my blank walls!