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

Advent

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

Housewifery

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!