Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It has been many many years since I've made a New Year's resolution.  Like most of us, I always broke the ones I made, so I eventually stopped making them.  This year Yaya came home from school with a resolution worksheet.  The children each made resolutions: one related to school and one related to home life.

Her resolutions inspired me this year.  Lately, I've found myself butting heads with children who argue with each other, refuse to clean their room, talk back, and generally test the limits in any way they can.  It all leaves me very frustrated and usually ends with me yelling at them in a generally fruitless effort to get them to listen.  And at the end of it Yaya calmly says, "Don't be so mad, Mom."

Well, starting today (I need the practice, so I may as well start a few hours early) my New Year's resolution is not to yell.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to break it in the first week, but rather than giving up completely, I'm going to keep trying.  This resolution will be a work in progress, and I'm hoping that by the end of 2011 I'll have it at least mostly in hand.  Then, perhaps in 2012 I can work on fixing some other flaw...

Whether you make a resolution to change or choose to continue with the status quo, I wish you a happy new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Trees Present

This year we put the tree in the front bay window.  I like the idea of it here, but it doesn't really work because the dining room area is too small.  I had to move the table to get a good picture of it...
I forgot to take a picture of the little one earlier.  It is in its usual spot atop the kids' piano.  The only difference this year is  extra tinsel... the kids didn't want any at first, but wouldn't stop adding it after I started!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CSN Stores $35 Gift Certificate Giveaway

The fine people at CSN Stores approached me recently about doing a promotional giveaway.  I figured there are always things that I could use but just can't justify buying "right now."  I suspect this is true for others, so I decided to take them up on their offer.  So, everyone who registers to follow me (or is already following me) between now and January 21 (that's one month) will automatically be entered to win a $35 gift certificate.*  CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be a chic leather briefcase, toys for the kids, or even cute cookware for yourself!  I was checking out the cookware this afternoon because I've been wishing for some enameled cast iron pots for sometime now, and they do have a nice selection.

*I am fairly low tech, so names of followers will be written on slips of paper.  Then, I'll have one of my children pick a name from a hat, and I'll post the name of the lucky winner on January 23.  Also, note  that this code will not cover international fees if you live outside the U.S.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sixth Sunday of Advent

Reader: The sixth candle is red reminding us that Christ, who came to Bethlehem and who will come again at the end of the age, comes to us now in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  He was born in Bethlehem so that we might ask Him to come and be born in our hearts.
Reading: The Coming of the Word; John 1:1-18, 6:52-58
Prayer: Lord, help us to make straight the way for You to come to us when we celebrate Your Holy Nativity.  Grant us Your grace so that we can be rid of our selfish pride and our many sins.  Grant us tears of repentance so that we may be restored in our communion with You.  Amen.
Carol (we get two tonight): O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Away in a Manger

I love Sarah McLachlan

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Remembrance: Archbishop Job

Today is the anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest.  The past few months have been full of reminders of him.  For most of the past year, I've tried not to think about him, but that's been hard to do at times.  Julia sporadically thinks about him and declares weepily that she misses him.  A feast passes or something happens at church, and we are reminded of the days when he was with us.

Over Thanksgiving weekend we visited some friends in Iowa and played a video that I took from Holy Week 2009 for them.  I have watched the video since Vladika's death, but I had not listened to it until that evening.  Listening to him chanting made it feel like he was right there, or that he would be walking into church again.  It was a miracle that I captured this video.  We had wanted to record Vladika chanting the 15th antiphon for years, but he sometimes refused to chant it out of humility. This year we managed to convince him to sing it, and I was miraculously able to video it (children were occupied or sleeping at just the right time --Bumble Baby started crying just after he finished--, the batteries lasted, and so did the memory in the camera).   Little did we know it would also be the last time he would chant it at Holy Trinity.

Below are photos of some precious moments we spent with Archbishop Job.  We continue to miss him dearly.

Palm Sunday 2006 Ordination of Subdeacon Gregory
Brookfield Zoo 2007
Brookfield Zoo 2007
Brookfield Zoo 2007 with Clifford the Big Red Dog
Pentecost 2007
Pascha 2009 Blessing the Baskets 
Pentecost 2009
Episcopal Tickle July 2009
Our  kids loved the tickles he offered with his prayer ropes.

Memory Eternal!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

She Just Keeps Going...

The girl who wanted to blow bubbles yesterday picked Dora sandals to wear today... AND she wanted to go to the still snowy playground in them. I put my foot down on the playground but let her wear them to the grocery store.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bubbles in Winter

"Bumble, do you want to put on your snowsuit and play in the snow while we wait for Yaya's bus?"

"Yes. Bubbles?"

"What? Bubbles in winter? But we can't play with bubbles because of our mittens. Let's make snowballs, instead," I offered as we headed downstairs. As we passed the mailboxes and I opened the front door, I heard, "Bubbles."

"Really? Why don't we play in the snow?"

"No! Bubbles."

"Okay, but I'll blow them and you catch," I said while pulling off my mittens and grabbing the bubble supplies from the top of the mailbox where I had left them as summer waned. I knew I should have put them away for the season...

So, we got to the bottom of the steps, and I opened the bubbles to pour a little in the cap. So far, so good. I dipped in the pink blow fish and blew the first bubbles at her. They popped on her mittens and stuck to her coat briefly before popping there, too. Wow! You can blow bubbles when it's below freezing. Who knew? Then, she asked, "I bubbles?" to which I replied, "You can't take your mittens off because your hands will be too cold like mine." Her response was "I try." So, I dipped the blow fish in the bubbles for her and put it between her mittened hands. As I suspected it was not very successful. I took it back, and blew but nothing happened. Then I noticed that the bubbles had frozen across the fish's nose (the wand). So, I learned today that toddlers like bubbles no matter what the weather, and the key to blowing bubbles in freezing weather is to be quick!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Panikhida for Archbishop Job

Just in case anyone in the Midwest, who doesn't attend Holy Trinity, reads this...

On Sunday, December 19, a Panikhida will be celebrated for Archbishop Job after liturgy (around 11:30AM) at Holy Trinity Cathedral.

I can't believe it's been a year already, but more on that later.

Our Advent Wreath Carols

So, I realized last night that I had only included a link for our First Sunday of Advent Carol.  So, I thought I would add the next four.  I've been trying out different versions, but these are the ones the girls prefer.

Second Sunday:

Third Sunday:

Fourth Sunday:

Fifth Sunday (This one is actually just one that I thought was "cool". I love Weezer, and I had no idea they made a Christmas album... until last night. This isn't my favorite version of the carol, but I do like it.):

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Advent

Reader: The fifth candle is purple reminding us of our need to repent before we can meet the coming Christ.  "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."
Reading: Preparing the Way: Mark 1:1-8, 14-15
Prayer: Lord, help us to make straight the way for You to come to us when we celebrate Your Holy Nativity.  Grant us Your grace so that we can be rid of our selfish pride and our many sins.  Grant us tears of repentance so that we may be restored in our communion with You.  Amen.
Carol: O Holy Night

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Visit to Santa Claus

Despite my not wanting to push the Santa Claus legend to my kids, when Yaya was three we somehow stumbled upon a Santa Claus in a suburban mall.  I can't remember what errand I was on at the time, but I hadn't expected to see Santa because it was rather early in November (or so it seemed to me).  Anyway, she spotted him and having read stories about him, she wanted to see him.  So, I acquiesced and every year sense we managed to get out to the suburbs to see him.  I am usually only willing to venture out there on weekdays and in the middle of the day because of the traffic and crowds that accumulate any other time.  Now that she is in school full-time, I told her she would have to write a letter to Santa (I still needed to know what to buy for gifts) because I didn't know when we'd be able to make it out there this year.  Well, that was terrible news and she seemed so disappointed.  So, I screwed up all my courage, and I hoped a little patience as well, and made the decision to venture out on this rainy Saturday afternoon.

The traffic and the crowds were indeed bad.  Yaya even asked me why there were so many people at the mall today.  But I as I listened to her talk to Santa Claus, I was happy about my decision.  This was the best mall Santa I have ever come across.  Yaya offered him crumbled up sugar cookies that she had just made in cooking class, and he very sweetly told her, "I love cookies, but I like them even better when they are all crumbled up".  Then, he asked her what she wanted, but then he also asked about her behavior in detail (Do you listen to your mom and dad? Do you pick up your toys after playing? and a few more), and when she admitted that she doesn't always do what she should, he elicited promises to try harder in the future.  At the end of their discussion, he made a special promise that made me smile from ear to ear.  "Don't tell anyone else, but since you've been so thoughtful and are trying so hard, I'm going to visit your house first.  That means you'll need to go to bed really early."  I can't think of a better way to make bedtime run more smoothly!  The only downside to the visit is that now she wants to leave carrots for Rudolph and crumbled cookies for Santa.  I hope for the sake of other cookie-loving parents she doesn't spread this tidbit about Santa to all the kids at school...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Trees Past... in Thomasville, GA

We were looking through old photographs of Thomasville, Georgia tonight.  Most were pictures of architecture, and we were comparing and contrasting with Google maps of current day Thomasville.  One picture in particular caught my imagination, especially after my post earlier this week about my past Christmas trees.  So, do check out this great Christmas picture from Thomasville, 1950.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Photo Ever


I took this photograph in 2008.   At the time everything about it seemed so perfect for a beautiful Christmas picture.  Archbishop Job, Subdeacon Gregory, and Reader Alex are processing into the church for Divine Liturgy on Christmas morning. The white vestments seemed all the more impressive against the white snow covering the ground.  And everything seems peaceful as a Christmas morning should be.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Trees Past

I've had this tree since college when we couldn't very well put a real tree in the room.  So, now it gets to be our funky tree.  It gets the big, colorful LED lights, and the Cotswold angel that I made after visiting Anne in Oxford.  I do love my fragile angel.  Her body is a wool spool and her hair is the wool; both were gotten when we visited a sheep farm there.  The ornaments on this tree are mismatched, made by tiny hands or given to us by special friends. The garland or tinsel is chosen year by year by the kids.  I'm loving this tinsel this year. We always set this tree up on or just before the feast day of St. Nicholas.

This is my tree.  This tree gets only white lights. All of the ornaments match and are red, silver, gold, or white, with the exception of two.  I hide a green pickle somewhere and put a pewter nail in the back.  This angel came from an antique store in Slidell.  She wasn't actually an antique, but she did remind me of the angel that sat atop my parents' Christmas tree every year of my childhood.  She has a porcelain head, gold fabric wings, and a mesh skirt.  When we stay home for Christmas, this tree gets set up on Christmas Eve.  That's our concession for not celebrating Christmas during the Nativity Fast.  When we plan to go out of town, though, I get to set it up earlier so I can enjoy it for some length of time.

Obviously, this tree is not in our home, but I was responsible for it.  This tree marked the first year that we stayed in Chicago for Christmas instead of traveling to visit family.  I was flabbergasted that Holy Trinity didn't have a Christmas tree.  It's such a pretty church, and it needed a pretty tree.  Of course, the reason it never had one was because it was actually quite controversial.  Nonetheless, I got the archbishops approval and we donated the tree.  Several other rather new converts donated ornaments and we the Saturday afternoon before Christmas decorating it.  We weren't allowed to turn the lights on except when "no one" was in church because it would be a fire hazard...  It looked amazing when the lights were on, though.  I remember how much fun the children had helping us decorate the lower half, too.

This is my parents' tree.  The angel is pretty new; the one from my childhood broke sometime around the end of my high school years.  The tree is always a fat one.  The ornaments are always mismatched and most are very old, the lights are big, colorful bulbs, and there is usually much more tinsel.  I think my mother must have decorated it alone this year because she's the one who has to undecorate it, and I don't think she ever really liked the amount of tinsel we used.  This tree brings back many memories, though.  My father would sit on the sofa while all the girls decorated the tree.  Sometimes we'd let him watch TV.  Other times he was forced to listen to Christmas music with us.  We were always loud, and at least one ornament broke every year.  Those were good times.

She Really Does Exist

By five o'clock this morning both girls were awake and harassing me.  Yaya was telling me that the tooth fairy left her a dollar, and she must be real because "you and Daddy were sleeping, and it wasn't me, and Sarah is a only a baby."

When I finally dragged myself out of bed at 7:15 because breakfast had to be made, I asked Yaya to be quiet this morning because I was exhausted as she, Bumble, and the tooth fairy had all woken me up during the night.

"What? You saw the tooth fairy?"

"Yes, she woke me up to tell me that you had candy wrappers under your pillow, and she doesn't want to see any sign of candy next time because she needs perfect teeth.  If she finds candy wrappers next time, she won't leave you a dollar."

"Will she leave me a blob?"


"She won't leave anything?"

"That's right."

"What did she look like?  What color was her hair?  What color were her dress and wings?  Did she have a wand?  What did it look like?"

"Her hair was blond.  Her dress and wings were white.  I was tired and didn't see a wand."

"Did she say your name or tap your shoulder?"

"I don't remember.  She just woke me up."

"Wow!  She really is real.  I didn't know that she really existed!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Tooth Fairy

Julia lost her first tooth today... FINALLY!  It has been over six months since she first imagined she had a loose tooth.  Now she really does have four and the first one fell out while we were eating breakfast this morning.  She took a bite of her toast and then said, "Ugh," and pulled out a tooth.  I gave her a high five and said, "I guess the tooth fairy will finally be able to come. You should put your tooth under the pillow now, so you don't lose it."

While anticipating the loss of a tooth, she has been "researching" and speculating about the tooth fairy. Some time ago she read an Arthur book in which D.W. tricks the tooth fairy (or so she thinks).  Julia tried to copy her, but we told her very clearly that the tooth fairy is smarter than that.  She didn't believe us. As her teeth got looser, she hoped she might be able to keep her tooth and get a present from the tooth fairy.  There was another book in which a boy wrote a note asking to keep his tooth, and he did. But just last week she found another book at school about the tooth fairy.  This one she told me says that the tooth fairy needs first teeth for fairy dust (I don't know what she does with the dust, though.), so now Julia was willing to give up the tooth.  I found this a little disappointing because this kid has traditionally been a very light sleeper, and I have been freaking out about how to get in, get the tooth, and a leave a golden dollar.

This afternoon when she came home from school, she said, "I wonder if the tooth fairy came yet!"  What?!  I thought she was expecting a nighttime visit so I very deliberately did not take the easy way out although Daddy and I both thought about it this morning.  Then, just before bedtime, she showed her "toothless grin" to Daddy while filling him in on her speculations about the tooth fairy, and just before retiring to bed, she told him, "You better not be the tooth fairy."

Oh great, now I would have to get in and out without being caught for sure.  It took me a couple tries.  I went in and started to feel around under her pillow, but she moved!  I ran out of her room wondering aloud, "How do parents do this?!" Back in for try number two... hand back under the pillow... ooh! it's grimy, and what's this? wrappers... she has candy wrappers!  I left again to throw away two mini peanut butter cup wrappers. Attempt number three... tooth, tooth, tooth, dollar... SUCCESS!

Now, I'll have to tell her in the morning that the tooth fairy found candy wrappers and told me she was disappointed.  Or maybe I'll try to sneak a note under the pillow from her.  I'm feeling pretty brave now!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Feast of St. Nicholas

After Yaya was born, I decided that I wouldn't push the idea of Santa Claus.  Instead, I wanted Christmas to revolve around Jesus.  However, I loved the idea of celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas.  Afterall, he is a great Christian role model...someone who loved Christ and his fellow human beings.  And not only did he help others, he is the foundation of the Santa Claus legend, so why not celebrate him instead.

So, when Yaya was not much more than a month old, I filled stockings for St. Nicholas day (we're germaphobes around here, so no putting anything into shoes).  For that first St. Nicholas day celebration, I gave her a short book on St. Nicholas's life, and Daddy and I got a book with an akathist to St. Nicholas.  I never know where to buy those chocolate golden coins, but every year someone brings some to church, so I can add them to the stockings, too.  This year I thought I'd put in golden dollars until Matushka Joanna brought me a small bag of the chocolate ones.  Then, I add tons of little trinkets to make children happy.

Of course, a feast day celebration would not be complete without going to church, and we usually do that, too.  This year we had to miss church because Bumble got sick last night, but we do still have that akathist to pray together here at home and the life of the saint that we read at breakfast.

Joyous Feast!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reader: The fourth candle is white reminding us of God's desire to give us peace. It is not the kind of peace that people try to make because that peace sometimes fails. It is the kind of peace that comes from Jesus who is called the Prince of Peace.
Verse: Four candles before us burn, and we come to Him, the Prince of Peace; We ask in prayer for hearts to turn so love may grow and war may cease.
Reading: Psalm 4; Philippians 4:6-7
Prayer: O Christ, You are our Peace. You broke down the wall that separated us from God. Now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Teach us also to be peacemakers in our world.  Amen.
Carol: Silent Night

One of Those Mornings

Today I woke up and started getting breakfast for the kids, when Subdeacon Gregory walked out of the bedroom and said, "Did you make bread?"  "Uh oh.  I meant to do that last night, and I forgot."  So, with a little over two hours until I needed to get to church, I started baking.  The dough, however, did not want to cooperate and would not rise.  I rolled the loaves anyway, sealed them, and set them in the warm oven.  Still, they weren't rising!  I closed the oven door and declared them a loss while Gregory hoped that church would be empty because of the snow, and we could use a few little loaves that were frozen at church.  I walked to my room to get ready and said a little prayer, "Please make the bread rise; I don't want to waste it."  When I walked back to the kitchen a few minutes later, I peeked in the oven hoping for my miracle, and there it was!  They had risen, and I had just enough time to let them bake before Bumble and I had to follow Daddy and Yaya to church.  First, problem of the morning successfully solved!  Bumble and I walked happily to church through the snow, stopping to look at all the yellow spots; no stroller necessary!

Liturgy went smoothly.  Yaya and Bumble were both well behaved, and no one whined about stockings that kept falling down.  Then, we headed over to coffee hour.  I got juice for Bumble, coffee for me, and a piece of cake for us to share.  I sat her in her booster seat to get everything else situated.  Then, another little boy promptly spilled a cup of hot tea right on Bumble's hand.  She let out a wail, so I grabbed her, wiped off some of the tea, and headed to the kitchen to run her hand under cold water.  Then, someone suggested we ice it, but there was no ice to be found in the hall, so instead a few slices of frozen sweet bread, courtesy of Starbucks, was brought out.  Bumble sat very quietly with the burned hand on the table and the bread on top of her hand while I fed her cake and cranberry raspberry juice.  Her hand was red, but she seemed to be doing okay.  Then, she asked to sit on my lap.  A few minutes later she said, "Pee pee, Mama," as I felt my lap getting warm.  Ironically, a lady had been holding her in church earlier and asked me if Bumble was potty trained because she couldn't feel a diaper... I guess the trauma of the tea made her forget she had to pee.  So, I put on the spare diaper and declared it time to go home.  Since we didn't bring the stroller, though, I had to carry her all the way home so we could be quick.  She and I were, after all, bare legged and wet, respectively.  We did make it home, and I put Bumble down for a nice nap before taking a second shower of the day.

It was a rather rough morning, but with some extra grace on our side we seem to have made it through...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: My Self-Reflection

I was reading Mat. Anna's blog posting from which I stole my title (more here), and it made me think about my own harassing demon.  I get mad and yell.  I'm getting better about it with constant reminders from my husband and kids, but sometimes it is so hard to avoid.

One of my least favorite tasks, and one that I have to do a few times a week, is driving... to get groceries, to pick up Yaya from school, and to run the occasional random errand.  The crazy things I see people do when driving just, well, make me crazy.  In the last two days I saw two people fly around traffic in the left turn only lane, only to try to swing back in at the last minute.  When this happened yesterday a lady tried to get right in front of me, and this was after I had been sitting in traffic for about 30 minutes (a truck had gotten stuck under a bridge and backed everything up).  I honked my horn to tell her I found that unacceptable, and when she looked at me and started gesturing, I yelled back... But then I heard a very wise voice from the back of the car say, "Mama, no yell."  I stopped instantly at my two year old's request and apologized to the girls for yelling, admitting that it was a very bad thing to do and a bad example for them.  So, when I saw someone do the same thing (albeit in less traffic) tonight on my way to pick Julia up, I mentally noted how wrong he was to do it, and I let it go.

That's the key... to let it go.  I must constantly remind myself that most of the things that get me riled up aren't going to matter in the long run, or even in the short run.  And those that will matter are better dealt with in a calm, rational way.  It helps to have little voices outside my head reminding me, too, just as I remind them.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

Reader: The third candle is gold to express love. As we light this candle, let us recall the words of St. John when he said that, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, come into our lives to bring joy and peace." 
Verse: Now, three Advent candles burn to comfort aching hearts that yearn, beneath the sky or in a cell, that Christ will come with them to dwell.
Reading: The announcement to the Virgin Mary St. Luke 1:26-38
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to remember Your great Gift to all people at the season of Holy Nativity -- Your Blessed Son Jesus.  May His love enter our hearts now and always and flow out from us to all.  Amen.
Carol: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Today was probably one of the nicest Thanksgivings I've ever had, and I do enjoy Thanksgiving.   I has always seemed like a very comfortable holiday to me.  As a kid I always loved waking up Thanksgiving morning to watch the Macy's parade while my dad worked on the turkey and mom made the side dishes.  The house always seemed so warm and cozy in contrast to the people in New York wearing coats and hats on TV. 

So, even when I moved out on my own I kept watching the Macy's parade.  This morning after I put the turkey in the oven, the kids and I watched the State Street Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago's version) in the warmth and coziness of our home instead of on the cold streets of Chicago.  I worked on side dishes during commercials, and they colored and scribbled between balloons.  Daddy slept late.  By lunch time none of us had gotten dressed, so we had our feast in our PJs!  It was so great not to get dressed and to have an intimate family meal.  I usually like to invite a couple of friends over to make things feel "more festive," but today I found that I liked coziness of just the four of us.

After we said grace and began to eat, Yaya raised her hand and suggested that we should all say one thing we were grateful for.  She wanted me to start, so I said, "I'm grateful for all of you and my glass of wine."  She wanted Daddy to go next, but we had to come back to him.  Yaya was up next and was grateful for "my family."  Bumble smiled shyly at her turn, and said, "I grateful for my wawa."  Finally, we were back to Daddy, who very astutely pointed out that he was grateful not to be sneezing uncontrollably like me (I was having an allergy attack).

After lunch Bumble and I took naps while Daddy and Yaya played computer games.  It was a great day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Title Photograph

I thought I would offer some insight into my title photograph today.  I love this picture.  I'm not a terribly patriotic country.  I love the US perfectly well, but I'd probably be equally happy in a number of other countries if the fates demanded it.  However, when I took this photograph years ago it struck me as the epitome of American patriotism and all that is good about it.

It was taken in in the heart of the Midwest, in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, which by the way, seems to be the new Mecca of Hollywood filming  (I guess that metaphor may detract from traditional ideas of American patriotism... Oh, well).   Anyway, it has three key components that illustrate this patriotic flare.

1. A neighborhood playground symbolic of good old American family values.
2. The symbol of all patriotic symbols, the American flag waving in the autumn breeze. (I also just adore the fall colors and changing foliage of my favorite season - yet another reason to love the photo).
3. The Sears Tower standing tall in the background is a testament to the heights to which our society can soar.*
*Ironic footnote: Just last year a British company rented space and naming rights in the tower, so now it is known as the Willis Tower.  But some of us who believe that it is just wrong to rename an iconic building call it Big Willie (thank you, Mayor Daley, for the nickname) if we can't call it the Sears Tower.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Advent Wreath Prayers: 1st and 2nd Sundays

First Sunday of Advent
Reader: This first candle is green to remind us of faith, the faith we have in God that He will keep His promise to send His Son.
Verse: One Advent candle now we light to show the coming gift of light; bring unto our darkened sight the Light that’s from above.
Reading: The Prophecy from Isaiah 9:1, 5-6; 40:3-5; 52:7
Prayer: Gracious God, as the world that sat in darkness looked forward to Your coming, so we on this First Sunday light a candle to show our anticipation.  We want Your coming to our souls to rid us of the darkness of sin and pride.  Instead, light in us the flame of love and service to others. Amen.
Carol: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Second Sunday of Advent
Reader: The second candle is blue to remind us of the hope we have that Christ will come into our lives to bring joy and peace.
Verse: Now, the Advent lights are two, and our vows we shall renew, as pilgrims over field and stone, to seek the Christ and find our home.
Reading: The Promise from St. Luke 1:5-31
Prayer: Come, Lord, into our tired, sinful world.  Put a smile on our lips and joy in our hearts.  Take away our sadness so that we have hope in You.  Amen.
Carol: Joy to the World

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I'm not very good about remembering to pray more during the fasts.  I do, however, say extra prayers on Sundays as we light our advent wreath.  As a former Catholic this is a practice that I was loath to give up when I converted.  Fortunately, for me our first Orthodox parish had adapted the tradition for use in the Nativity Fast.  Because there aren't enough Sundays this year, we started praying with our wreath on this past Monday.  As part of the prayers each week, an appropriate Christmas carol is also sung (or in our case listened to).  I had made a CD of religious carols, and should have had them in my iTunes library as well, but for all that I could not find a copy of this weeks carol.  So, in a pinch, because our computer is in the dining room, I searched it on YouTube and played several versions.  Here is the one by Christianity Today that was most popular with the girls.  In fact, every time we sit down to eat Sarah asks for the "girl sing."

Tomorrow I may type up the prayers we say and include them as well... We'll see.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I felt the need to write tonight, but I don't really have much to share.  So, I asked for a topic and was given "Housewifery." Not that that is the correct term these days... This is a pretty good topic, though, because it's one that my husband and I are sometimes on opposite sides of.

From the time that I got pregnant with Yaya, I knew that I really didn't want to return to work.  I wanted to stay home, raise her, and keep her safe.  Now that we have Bumble, I want to give her the same advantages that come from having me home.  Sometimes the two of them drive me to the edge with their antics, and I scream and then feel bad.  Other times, though, they are the most delightful children, and I think we must be doing something right despite all the mistakes I know I make.  Good or bad, the one thing I know all the time is that I would much rather be with those two, struggling to teach them and raise them well than to be stuck in an office doing work all day that I could accomplish in a couple of hours.

When I began caring for other people's children while Julia was still a baby, my husband was appeased because I was contributing financially to the household.  There are times, though, when he laments that I'm not "more ambitious."  Sometimes I do wonder if he's right.  There are times when I feel like working mothers are looking down on me because all I do is take care of children.  It makes me a little sad and sometimes even furious.  I have a master's degree. I know French. I learned Braille in two months. I am educated.  There are certainly other things I can do, but my family is so much more important to me than any job.  I would rather work hard for them, than for an ungrateful boss who has no real stake in my well-being or that of my family. 

I'm a far cry from June Cleaver or the real life mothers of my elementary school friends whose homes were always immaculate when I visited.  But it is satisfying to see the finished product for just a moment when I get one room completely cleaned before the girls run in and pull something out. ;-)

Shortly after we were married, my mother-in-law gave me the book Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. I must admit I've not yet read it.  Since this is my chosen "profession," it may just be time for me to sit down and read it.  I bet it will give me some great tips for being a better housewife!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkins Galore!

A couple of weeks before Halloween, I bought two large pumpkins for the girls to decorate.  I'm too nervous to carve them, so I let them color them...  I figured we'd roast the seeds, make some pumpkin chip cookies (we have a great recipe from The Kids' Table where the girls take cooking classes), and bake a Thanksgiving pie with them when Halloween had passed.  A few days before Halloween, however, in Bumble's words I "spilled" Yaya's pumpkin.  Unbeknownst to me it had begun to rot.  When I realized it, I picked it up to throw it away, lost my grip, and it went SPLAT all over the living room.  I wasn't terribly worried about losing one pumpkin because I had gotten them dirt cheap at the fruit store.  Now, I'm thrilled it spilled because I am overwhelmed with pumpkin.  Just after Halloween I cut up Bumble's pumpkin.  It took over two hours to do it!  I pureed part of it and used the puree to make 3 batches of pumpkin chip cookies, and one large pot of Mexican pumpkin soup (some of which is still in the freezer).  Plus, I still have about 2 cups of puree and a medium container of pumpkin cubes to use, and by the way, I thought I would run out of pumpkin before getting to the Thanksgiving pie, so I bought one more small pie pumpkin.  Oh yeah, and Yaya took a field trip to a farm for school and came back with a souvenir pumpkin!

The girls and Daddy are already sick of the pumpkin chip cookies and the leftover soup, so I've been trying to think of ways to use the rest of the pumpkins. I did a search, and I am so thankful for the internet!  I never knew there were so many ways to cook with pumpkin.  And some of them don't use the traditional pumpkin spices (I hate cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc), and some of them are great for fasting periods.

So, here are some of the ideas I'm planning to try over the next few weeks:
pumpkin rigatoni
coconut pumpkin soup
pumpkin bean soup
pumpkin chili (I was thinking of ditching the meat & cheese and substituting veggie broth to use this one soon)
pumpkin brownies
pumpkin stew
pumpkin and peanut curry

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Conservative Turned Liberal?

I grew up in a fairly devout Catholic family, and I was always by far the most conservative of my sisters (and I have four of them).  I was the Goody Two-Shoes.  I never got in trouble... well, once in first grade I did get in trouble for telling a teacher I could count to three for myself at the water fountain.  That scared me enough that I was good thereafter.  When I was in high school and college, if a really faithful person was needed for prayers or something, my sisters turned to me.  I went to church regularly, I was "innocent", I was pro-life, I always tried to be good and to do good.  Basically, I believed what the Catholic church taught, and I tried to live by it.  Several years ago, I converted to Orthodoxy after a great deal of struggle and hurt.  I no longer believe everything the Catholic church teaches, but I still believe in God and everything the Orthodox church teaches.  I am still basically the same person I was then.

So, it has been a shock to find my family has turned ultraconservative and now labels me a liberal.  In the presidential election two years ago, I liked Obama's ideas, and I still do.  My family didn't.  They have wholeheartedly accepted the Republican platform.  So now, even though I still practice my Christian faith and struggle daily to live a Christian life, I am a "left wing liberal" because I believe that we should help those who can't help themselves and that sometimes government intervention is the best or only way to do that on a really large scale.

Why is it that my family and many others fail to see through the fear tactics and downright lies that the right wing is spouting?  For instance,  they really believe it when the right wing says Obama is a Muslim despite all the evidence to the contrary.  My family says "He hasn't gone to church since becoming President, so he must be a Muslim like they say."  The ironic thing about this argument is that most of them have gone years without attending church, but they still call themselves Catholic, not Islamic.

And why are even those who voted for the president two years ago now running back to the Republicans because the economy has not improved enough?  We entered this current economic crisis under years of Republican management, and Obama inherited it to solve.  The Republicans had eight years to let big business reap its rewards and hurt the rest of us, but after only two years in office Obama is now blamed for the problems and for not fixing the economy more quickly.  He has been trying and succeeding in part,  but at every turn he faces obstacles from Republicans in Congress.  So why does so much of the American populace thinks this is Obama's fault and that making the Republicans a larger proportion of Congress will fix things?!  Just before the mid-term elections, I heard someone (I believe on All Things Considered) comment that we were screwed and Obama has been slowly "unscrewing" us over the last two years.  Now it will be even tougher for him to help us...

Why are people so afraid of reforming a health care system (really an insurance system) that is so expensive and so precarious? Obama campaigned for health care reform, and he managed to deliver on it, but the right wing wants to repeal it.  Among their many arguments, they say that the reform will take away our choice of doctors.  Well, in the last five years, I've seen the insurance industry do that without any government intervention.  My husband has changed employers three times in the last few years, and each time we've had to switch insurance and doctors.  A little over a year ago, we decided to start using Unicare HMO when benefits choice time rolled around because the cost of a PPO was becoming too expensive as premiums and deductibles grew considerably each year.  Then, after 6 months Unicare pulled out of Illinois, and we had to decide whether to spend a fortune to return to the PPO mid-year, keeping our doctors, or use Blue Cross HMO and choose new doctors because ours didn't accept Blue Cross HMO.  We decided that financially it was in our best interest to use Blue Cross, and we found new doctors.  Just last week we received notice from Blue Cross that our doctors are leaving their network in January, so again after about 9 months we have to choose new doctors!  AGAIN!  Something about Blue Cross HMO makes it unpopular with doctors and hospitals, and limits, nay, makes it impossible for us to keep a doctor for more than a year.  There is only one really good medical system left on the Blue Cross HMO choices in Chicago, and when it decides to pull out, we'll be left with sub par health care if we stay with Blue Cross.  How is this a good system?  Not to mention that if Republicans had their way, if in this weak economy we found ourselves without a job or self-employed, we would have to choose to have no insurance or to pay unaffordable premiums for individual insurance.  Oh and we'd probably be rejected for individual insurance anyway because of pre-existing conditions.  I'd rather take my chances with Obama's reform.  Really.  I'd like to see it come to full fruition and see if it works before we repeal it and return to a system that clearly isn't working.

Why do the Republicans want to continue tax breaks for the really wealthy, spend no money to stimulate the economy, and cut services to everyone else to shrink the deficit?  It seems to me that if you're really serious about cutting the deficit, you would end the tax cuts for the rich because it will save a nice chunk of change!  Yes, I do think the middle class tax cuts should remain because percentage-wise we're paying more and we need to keep more of our money just to survive.  When I have hundreds of thousands of dollars coming in every year, I really won't mind paying a larger share.  I suspect I could live nicely, save, and still pay the taxes.  Plus, those wealthy people are more likely to save their money than to spend it in ways that will truly stimulate the economy.  So, if you're going to try to cut the deficit right now, the way to start is by ending the tax cuts for the rich.

One more example of right wing extremism before I hold my tongue.  My husband and I were looking at some political cartoons many months ago, and we saw one that implied that public school education should be abolished.  My husband just looked at it perplexed, and then turned to me and asked, "Does anybody believe that?"  I had to tell him that just a few weeks ago while I was visiting my family, I indeed heard someone saying that.  Never mind that said person was a product of a public school education, and that for a democracy to work we need an educated populace!

Okay...  Obama campaigned for change, and he's been trying and sometimes succeeding.  Can't we put away our fear of the other and of change for just a bit?  Let's see where the change will take us before we run back to the status quo, to a system that favors the really wealthy and big business over the middle class and those who really need government help, our help?

These things have been bubbling up in me for awhile, and I finally had to release them.  I apologize if it offends or if it just seems rambling. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kids and Poop

What is it about kids and poop?  Every time Yaya makes some, she wants me to come see it.  She is usually worried that it doesn't look "normal," and I have to reassure her that it's fine.  Bumble wants to see hers every time, too.  She usually only does it in the diaper when she's sleeping (although we've had a few successes on the potty).  So, after cleaning her up, I have to open the diaper to show her the poop.  And she says, "Ooooh, yuck!"  Her favorite book at the moment is Oh, David! Each time we get to the picture of David sitting in a poopy diaper, she says "Ooooh! Poopy, David.  Fresh diaper!"  My kids are obsessed with this stuff.  Sometimes it doesn't seem normal, but then Sunday a friend was over for Yaya's birthday.  Just before her mother arrived to pick her up, she had to use the bathroom.  Almost as soon as her mom walked in, the little girl was calling for her to come look at her poop!  That felt so great!  It's not just my kids.  I'm not sure what the fascination is, but at least as they get older they'll know what their poop should look like, and if they really are sick, their poop may just help diagnose them!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Praying With My Hands (and Feet)...

I heard of "praying with your feet" indirectly from Mat. Anna Crawford's blog, and I do it often on Sundays.  For about a year now, I have been baking prosfora for our church.  I try to find a time when the kids are occupied so that I can bake prayerfully.  I always begin by praying that God might make a worthy offering of the bread although it comes from mine unworthy hands.  Sometimes He does...sometimes not so much.

Tonight I had my two children and two others with me when my husband reminded me that we need bread for tomorrow.  I had put the children down for bed about thirty minutes before he came home with this reminder.  So, I thought I would jump on the task immediately so as not to be up too late tonight.  I prayed. I scooped out my tablespoon of yeast, heated 1/4 cup of water to mix with 1 3/4 cups, mixed it together, added my teaspoon of salt and 6 cups of flour, and began to knead.

A few minutes into the kneading process three of four children were up.  I  had to stop to chase one perambulating baby in need of a diaper change, quiet a chattering toddler who was riling up her older sister, and calm said sister before kissing her goodnight again.  As I returned to my bread in the same way I return to liturgy after dealing with children, I was reminded that there are indeed many ways to pray and sometimes even without knowing it I do pray constantly throughout the day.  I pray with words when I ask or thank God for blessing my family and when we gather in the icon corner to say evening prayers (I can barely get my family ready and out the door in time as it is and never manage to say proper morning prayers), but I pray with my hands when I bake, and with my feet when I am about the business of raising my daughters as Christians to the glory of God (to the best of my ability and certainly with a lot of His Grace).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Goodness...

It is amazing what kids observe and remember, even the youngest ones.  A few months ago we went out with friends to brunch at an Irish Pub.  On the walls were several old Guinness ads, including one with the logo "My Goodness, My Guinness."  My older daughter who has become a reading whiz noticed the ad immediately, and she spent most of the brunch repeating the phrase.  It was cute at first, then got a little old, and finally we had to ask her to stop.

Just the other day I found a Guinness coupon in the paper, and I clipped to use for a party later.  Julia saw it on the counter and instantly recited, "My Goodness, My Guinness."  She remembered it and was delighted to have a new occasion to use it.  Even more impressive, my toddler was with me in the store when I decided to use the coupon because Guinness was on sale.  As soon as I started pulling the package from the shelf, I heard a small, "My Goodness" in the adorable lisp of a two year old.  I stopped and laughed for a second.  He sister was not around to lead her, and I had not realized that she studied the ad at brunch enough to remember the style, but there it was.

I wonder if they will remember the ad when they're old enough to drink Guinness.  Probably not, and the more pressing reminder for me is that they absorb everything, remember it, and repeat it.  This is why I continue to struggle with my own imperfections and try to be on best behavior.  Like the kids themselves, I often fail, but I'll keep trying since I know how much they learn when I least expect it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Smile to Get You Through

I've been feeling pretty stressed lately... worrying about everything from money to children's behavior and other stuff.  There have been so many moments lately when I just can't help letting a few tears fall.  I keep hearing from people that a mother is the backbone of her family.  That she needs to be strong to get everyone else through the tough times.  But sometimes I just feel so weak.  Nevertheless, I force myself to smile at my daughters, at my husband.  I concentrate on listening to them, complaints and the occasional joy.  I know it helps the girls, and that if I want to give them a foundation on which to build future happiness, I must continue to engage even when I'm feeling sad and overwhelmed.  Lucky for me, if I focus had enough, it sometimes reflects back to me and picks me up a bit.

The girls really like to laugh and smile.  Yesterday we experienced a smile that made even Daddy smile back and almost laugh.  Sarah grabbed his leg when he came home from work, and while giving him a big hug, she looked up and smiled.  It was contagious and in no time we were all smiling for a little while.  This kid really has a way of doing that.  Just a bit ago, she made me smile again in a different way.  We were reading Goodnight Moon before nap time.  I read the first page ending with "...a picture of..." and Sarah finished it with "cow jumping on bed."  She's obsessed with Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.  It made perfect sense that if a cow was going to be jumping, he would be on a bed.  Really, who jumps over the moon?

Amidst all the worries I'm so thankful to have my family.  I do my best to support them all despite my weaknesses, but they surprise me and support me, too.  I can think back on so many occasions, even very recent ones, where each of them has done something to help me keep going.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Winding Down and Gearing Up

As summer is winding down, and I've begun buying school supplies for my soon-to-be kindergartner, I'm filled with a feeling of nostalgia and excitement for the future.  I remember this time of year well from my childhood.  I was always excited by the prospect of a fresh start that came with the beginning of each new school year.  I loved shopping with my mother for new notebooks, folders, loose leaf paper, and pens...  I've always hated pencils!  I especially loved the promised offered by a blank notebook.  There was so much to fill it with, and I always imagined that I would fill it with neat, clean notes.  My plans never worked out that way.  My notes were always a hurried scribble to catch what was important, and sometimes the unimportant stuff, too.  But I did well in school, and I loved learning, so in the end it didn't really matter that my notebooks were messy.  And there was always next year to try again.

All of my excitement for starting over and learning new things was tempered by overwhelming shyness and anxiety.  As happy as I was to do the preparatory school shopping, I was a nervous wreck the day before school started.  There was not a single year in which I got a good night's sleep before the first day of school.  I would lie in bed worrying that what I had chosen as my first outfit of the year would not be cool enough, or that the popular kids would tease me on the bus.  I also worried about not being able to live up to the standards I had set for myself, and of disappointing myself and my family if I didn't do well.  I was afraid of getting a teacher who was too hard because "failing" would make me look bad.

Yaya is already expressing her fear of not fitting in.  I have more hope for her than I had for myself in that area.  She was the popular girl in pre-K, and I suspect she'll be popular with the kids she meets in kindergarten.  My hope for her is that she is still kind in her popularity.  I've been instilling the notion that we need to be nice to kids who are not so popular and try to make them feel welcome by including them.  Most of the time she seems open to that idea.  She had to write a name poem to present on the first day of school. I really like the results, and she wrote it out herself.  She's nervous about presenting it.  So, in support of her, to show some motherly comradery I've written my own name poem.

It means working, struggling, loving.
It is the number 4.
It is brown like chocolate.
It is snuggling with the ones I love.
It is uncertain like a squirrel.
It is full of flavor like a spice shop.
My name is Kelly.
It means I am trying to do my best.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Dandelion

Today felt like an image day.  I've been trying all day to think of what to write about, but I seem to be at a loss for words.  I choose this photograph which I took about 4 years ago because it epitomizes a perfect summer day... bright and sunny, whimsical and innocent.

A bit of trivia: dandelion comes from Old French for dent de lion (lion's tooth).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On Raising Socially Responsible Children

There are many times during the week when I wonder how I am doing as a parent. At these times my daughters act out in ways I that make me question how well they are learning the lessons I am trying to teach them. But then there are other moments when they give me confirmation that those lessons are indeed being learned.

Yesterday offered one such moment. We went to Millennium Park to play in the fountains. I had packed a lunch, including snacks, for us, but I neglected to bring anything along for the homeless people we might encounter. I never have cash to offer, but I do usually try to have some food or boxed juices for them. As is expected in downtown Chicago, we passed several homeless people as we walked from the El station to the park. As we passed one man sitting quietly with a sign, Yaya said to me "Mom, I think that man is homeless." I replied, "I think you're right." Then she asked, "Can we give him something?" I said yes, and we stopped so I could dig through our bag to find our packaged snacks. We had two small granola bars. One was an extra I had packed to share with a friend who was meeting us, and the other was to be for me. I handed her the extra one, and she ran back to give it to him. It wasn't much, but he smiled and thanked her, and I could see how happy it made her. Then, as she ran back to me, the man yelled his thanks to me, too. I was quite proud of her. I think it's important for us a Christians to help those who have nothing, and she had learned the lesson. As we walked on, she added, "Mom, I don't think you should eat your granola bar. I think you should save it in case we see another homeless person." Needless to say, I didn't eat that granola bar.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Post

I have been unemployed since the end of May. I've avoided using the term until now, but I guess it's time to say. In that time I have spent days looking for new clients (I was running a small home daycare), looking for other jobs that would allow me to work from home and continue raising my daughters myself, and I've begun writing -- something I used to do often when I was younger, but haven't done much of since getting married and having children.
I thought I would join the millions of others now blogging and use this blog as a creative outlet, to give voice to my fears, aspirations, and views on a myriad of subjects from religion and politics, to domestic concerns and pressing social issues.