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.