Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I know it's been awhile, but I'm back...

So, while I was getting the girls ready for bed tonight my husband was searching the internet for an old Winnie the Pooh toy he received when he was three.  He found it, along with the entirety of the 1975 Sears Wishbook.  I'm already thinking about what we'll give the girls for Christmas, and his discovery threw me back to childhood Christmases.  I remember how excited my sisters and I were each year when the Wishbook arrived in the mail.  We would usually argue over who got to look at it first.  When my mother came home from work on that day, she would tell us to make our list.  Each of us was allowed to pick out $100 worth of presents.  Once the lists were made, we could tell Santa what it was that we wanted (from Sears).  There was always so much that I wanted.  I would spend long hours looking, and looking again, circling one toy, crossing out another, going back to it.  Eventually, I would figure out what it was that I most wanted.

This foray into the past inspired me with what I really want this year, and perhaps St. Nicholas will bring it to me.  When I was six years old, I had tubes put in my ears.  While in the hospital, I received two stuffed animals (a turtle and a cat) and the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Go Round game.  I kept all of them into my 20s.  My older nieces and nephews even enjoyed playing with the game.  I loved this game.  It was beat up and the cards were bent, but it still provided much enjoyment.  Sadly, I lost this game when my parents' house was flooded during Hurricane Katrina.  I spent a bit of time searching unsuccessfully for it online shortly after the hurricane in hopes of replacing it.  At the time, I had no idea what it was called and I failed to find it with keyword searches. Tonight, however, I found it fairly quickly, and once I knew the name, I found several buying options on Ebay.  Most are missing pieces, but not all.   So, perhaps I'll find a vintage game under my stocking this year and relive some of the childhood magic of Christmas, and I'll have a new game to play with the kids, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Saint Lydia's Book Club Article

Last night I received an email from Melinda Johnson inviting me to be a guest blogger on Saint Lydia's Book Club.  My first thought was "How exciting! I'm moving up in the world."  My second thought was "I wouldn't know what to write.  Maybe I shouldn't."  I had a third thought, though, and I decided to accept the invitation.  Even though it will be a few months before it's due, I've already started working on it.  I'd like to make sure it's good.  Somehow, it feels more important that it be just right than posting on my own blog does.  So, keep an eye out in February for my upcoming article in her Orthodox Writers, Readers, and Artists series.  I hope it will be worth the wait...

In the meantime, check out the article written by my illustrator, Sheena Hisiro.  She has included some of the pictures from Josiah and Julia in it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Chosen One

I chose the Lincoln Square.  Although it's a little baggy at the top because I'm a little flat in that area, overall I really like this dress.  The fabric is cotton with a slight satin sheen. I love the high, modest collar and calf-length flared skirt.  It was a big hit at church today.  I received many compliments on the dress and the shoes with which I paired it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Little Serenity

This is a little corner of our new backyard.  Not pictured is a lovely sitting area with iron gliders, chairs, and a wicker table.  It is such a nice spot to sit and watch the kids play with their new friend, who lives downstairs, and Gracie, the dog.  On nice days, we lose track of time sitting out there and enjoying the company of our new neighbors.  It feels like stepping back in time (and it should since these buildings are over 100 years old).

Even just looking at the picture gives me a sense of calm and peace...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little More Fall

Last week, I went to a frame shop to have a Chicago map poster framed, and while I was talking with the shop keeper, Caterpillar kept trying to get me to look at the fancy frame samples.  She thought it would be great to frame some of her artwork in a fancy frame.  So, after some time of her telling me how great the fancy frames are, and my telling her that we couldn't use a fancy frame right now, the shop keeper gave her a small fancy frame.

We discussed what to put in it.  She thought it should be something pretty and special.  The first thought was that she would draw a picture of humming birds, but after a bit she didn't like that idea.  I suggested a rubbing of fall leaves, but our leaves didn't offer enough relief to work well.  So, on our morning walk to the park today, Bumble Bee collected some pretty leaves, and we framed them.  Caterpillar has yet to see the result, so this may not be the final use of the frame, but I sort of like it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall is Upon Us

Fall used to be my all time favorite season.  I love the changing colors of the leaves, the brisk winds, wearing warm, cozy sweaters without a coat.  We're having some lovely cool weather with golden leaves today.  Since moving north, I've really relished the leaves which aren't as dramatic in Louisiana.  However, as much as I still love fall, I'm beginning to dread winter.  The snow is fun for a bit, and we do love to frolic in it from time to time, but when people don't shovel their sidewalks, it becomes difficult to go out with a stroller.  Plus, once winter comes it seems to stay forever, and I quickly get tired of putting coats on children and searching for missing mittens.  One year I bought several sets of mitten clips to keep mittens attached to coats (we've lost and found so many mittens, I could pretty much put a set with each coat.), but they've started falling off anyway.  So, as I think about all the fall activities I'd like to do, I am also dreading the next season.

I guess I must simply focus on the moment and enjoy this season, knowing that eventually we'll make it to Spring.  In that optimistic vein, here are a few...

Things I'd like to do the fall:
1. Pick apples, but as all the orchards around here seem to use pesticides, I may try for pumpkins instead.  You can find farms and orchards around the country to visit here.
2. Sit in the yard with a cozy blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and friends while the girls run around.
3. Do leaf rubbings on construction paper with crayons or oil pastels.  Do other autumn crafts as well.
4. Bake an apple pie from scratch, including the crust (I always buy the crust!).
5. Watch the girls jump in a pile of leaves.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

I started to write about this day and had to delete the entire post because DH showed me that my memory of the days surrounding this attack was flawed.  I had indeed forgotten some of the chronology of events.  What I do remember still are the emotions that I felt.

I felt anger at the perpetrators for interrupting so many lives, including my own.  We had gotten engaged in the wee hours of September 10, 2001, and I had only a day to share my news and joy before this national tragedy struck.  I felt saddened for those whose lives were not only interrupted but ruined.  I cried alot hearing the stories of loved ones lost, lives that were forever changed, children who would never know a parent.  I felt anxious.  We had a friend who lived in NYC and worked in the financial district.  I tried to reach him as soon as I heard about the attacks.  It wasn't until early evening that I finally heard from him. He was okay, but shaken.  I felt confused, and even guilty.  The attacks were so overwhelming and senseless.  They tinged my happiness with devastation.  But my life would still continue while so many others wouldn't.

Although I had forgotten much and had not thought much about September 11, 2001 in the past few years, I still remembered some minute details, especially those from the stories of the United flight 93 passengers.  I remembered that one was a father of two boys and his wife was pregnant with their third child.  He was the one who said, "Let's roll" before the passengers attacked their hijackers.  I remembered that another man's wife had just had a baby a weeks before.  As I watched anniversary coverage on the news this weekend, I remembered these stories and more before they were retold.  As I watched the images of people in the windows of the World Trade Center towers and heard the calls to 911 dispatchers, all of those emotions that had lain dormant in my memory for ten years flooded back.  With them came tears that I just couldn't stop.  I cried again for the loss, and I cried for all that hadn't changed in ten years.  These attacks were supposed to be a wake up call.  We were going to change for the better, make the world a better place for future generations.  I cried because things seem worse, or just as bad, and not better.  I hope, though, that the world will still someday change for the better, and as long as we do still remember that day there will still be hope.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where is the Tooth Fairy?

We just moved a few houses up the street -- a more difficult undertaking than moving out of state.  We finally got everything into the new place in the middle of last week.  Then, last Saturday Yaya lost her seventh baby tooth.  I was busy unpacking and organizing things, but we were all excited when she showed us the tooth and hoped that there would be something special to go with tooth number 7.  She had no doubt that the Tooth Fairy would find her in our new home because earlier in the summer the Tooth Fairy visited her when she lost a tooth in Louisiana.

Alas, the Tooth Fairy is not as good as one might hope.  At about 6:20 on Sunday morning, I heard a cracking voice say, "Mom, the Tooth Fairy didn't come!" I was still groggy, but in the instant realization that I had forgotten to sneak in her room with a dollar, I said, "Oh, shoot!  She must have gotten mixed up because of the move.  Maybe she'll come during the day or tonight.  She's probably still looking for us."  I felt so dreadful to be the cause of such disappointment, but although Yaya was still tearful, she was willing to wait and see before loosing all hope.

We got dressed and headed to church, where she related her tale of woe to everyone she encountered. At the end of liturgy when everyone else went next door to coffee hour, I snuck out, ran to the toy store for a "so sorry" gift, and ran home to slip it and a dollar under her pillow.  I returned to coffee hour to find I wasn't missed at all, and when we all returned home later, Yaya was ecstatic that the Tooth Fairy had not only shown up and left a dollar, she had also left a locket charm that we had been eying for some weeks now.

And so all was well... until she arrived for the first day of school yesterday and a friend told her that "The Tooth Fairy is just your mom and dad."  Yaya vehemently refuted that statement, and all I could do when she looked to me was smile.  I wonder if she's going to be mad at me when she accepts the truth.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bad Mom Or Just Bad Chef?

I realized today that I am a bad example...

Bumble Bee was baking a pretend cake in her kitchen today.  She put on her oven mitts, opened the oven, and said, "Oh, no! It's burnt!"

Fortunately, I can make up for my faults by taking her to kids cooking classes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Income Gap Holding Back Economy

I heard an interesting story on NPR today about income inequality and its effect on the economy.  (Read it or listen to it here.)

It's the sort of story that makes my blood boil at the injustice and greed of the few, which is just accepted by the many.
...the current CEO of Dean Foods makes 10 times the amount the company's CEO did 30 years ago [he makes $10 million a year], the rest of the employees make on average 9 percent less than they would have in the 1970s, after you adjust for inflation.
So how do the employees feel about executive pay?
"They were resentful of it," says Whoriskey. "But for the most part, they were just trying to figure out how to get by. They honestly said they were just happy to have jobs."
People shouldn't have to be "just happy to have jobs," especially when CEOs are making more money than anyone could hope to spend in a lifetime.  People should have jobs that allow them to provide for their families and be happy.  It makes me even angrier when certain politicians are willing to risk our whole economy to protect the exorbitant earnings of such CEOs.  With that kind of money they can afford to pay a little more in taxes to avoid a government loan default.

When and how did we become so blinded that we started to believe that the greed of these ultra wealthy people is okay?  Here's a reality check for all those who say "This is America. One day I may be that wealthy, and when I am, I don't want to be taxed higher"... You are never going to be that wealthy, and even if you could be, the big question is should you be? My two cents says "no."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

It is impossible to skip Independence Day in Chicago.  Even if you avoid the crowds at the firework display on the Lakefront, you can't avoid the fireworks all around.  The sheer multitude makes you feel as if you've traveled back in time and are sitting with Francis Scott Key listening to a battle in 1814.  I know this is what the girls think is happening.  For years Yaya was terrified of this day.  She thought for sure we would die.  Her fear is still present, but she's gotten somewhat braver...

Indeed, the fireworks begin in the early afternoon.  By 3:00 you begin to hear them seemingly in the distance.  Pop! Boom! Pop!  You can't see them, of course, so it seems like a battle in the distance.  As the evening wears on, the frequency of the Pop! Boom! Boom! Whirrr! increases, but you still can't see anything.  The battle is nearing, but it's not here yet.  Then, the sun sets, the sky turns black, and you can feel the earth shake with fireworks.  The noise comes from every direction -- Pop! Boom! Boom! Whirrr! Boom! Pop!  And for minutes at a time it is continuous.  While a group on one corner sets up for the next round, another group a few blocks away is going full force.  Now you can see the displays, too.  They are indeed impressive and can be seen in every direction, but it is still quite frightening for my children.  They can look for a second, enjoying the color, but quickly fear of the noise takes over, and they seek refuge under the covers of their beds.

"...the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting through air..."  You can experience it all -- unharmed -- in Chicago on the 4th of July.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

(Re)Learning Math

Yesterday I was looking for some online math practice, and I found a site that I really like. It's called Math is Fun.  I plan to use it next week to help Yaya master addition and subtraction facts.  DH and I have been testing the Math Trainer for multiplication.  It is rather frightening how much one forgets after so many years out of school.  However, it is quite a testament to the efficacy of this trainer how quickly one remembers/relearns.  The program times you as you answer multiplication problems, giving you the correct answer if yours is wrong.  It suggests you do three 5-minute sessions a day.  At first there were a few problems I just plain got wrong, but within no time, I was remembering the correct answer again.  The biggest problem now is making my fingers press the numbers my brain is thinking...

The site also offers games, puzzles, and various types of math work (geometry, algebra, etc).  Yaya loves playing on the computer.  I plan to guide her to this site in some of our summer downtime to help sharpen her skills and peak her interest for next school year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Personalized Liturgy Book for Children: Toddler Version

There has been quite a bit of interest in the personalized liturgy book, so I thought I would share the first one I made, too. This is a much simpler version for the toddler set. Again will make a nice template for creating your own.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Roombas... Or Three

Back in 2006, DH gave me (or let me get) a Roomba robotic vacuum for our anniversary.  I brought it home and tested it out.  It worked great, but Yaya was afraid of it.  We decided to name it and call it our pet so that she'd feel more comfortable with it.  I suggested Rover because it's the perfect dog name.  Yaya, who was a huge Sesame Street fan at the time thought I said Grover, and so our first pet Roomba became Grover.  We loved Grover, and he kept our floors nice and clean... Until one day about 2 years later, he didn't.  He would start, move jerkily, and stop.  iRobot support told me he had a fatal wheel error and was irreparable.  They would let me trade him in to get a refurbished one for a mere $200.  I thought that was a bad deal, and just held onto Grover.  Despite the diagnosis, I was never able to "bury" him, so he's been sitting in our furnace closet like Snow White waiting for prince(ss) charming to revive him.

Grover and Elmo
Now, I had gotten used to having a pet roomba so although I didn't want to let go of Grover, I did want to get another one.  I searched craigslist and found a used Red Roomba for which I paid about $30.  This roomba needed a name, too.  Since he was red, we kept the Sesame Street theme and named him Elmo.  Elmo was a more basic model, but he got the job done, and we all loved him, too.  Bumble would even give him goodnight kisses when he finished cleaning and we put him down for his "nap."  Recently, Elmo started having problems.  I decided to try to fix him myself.  His initial problem was that he was bumping into phantom walls or thought he was approaching a cliff, so he would randomly halt and turn around.  I took his bumper off and thoroughly cleaned his cliff sensors. That helped some.  He was able to clean the entire kitchen, but he was still acting a little funny.  So, I gave him another check up and found that one of his wheels would not move.  Two Roombas, two broken wheels: the only thing to do was a wheel transplant.  DH wondered who I was and what I had done with his wife because I am not usually very handy.  In fact, I'm usually terrified of accidentally breaking something, so I just don't try.  This time, though, I felt I had nothing to lose...

Funny Guy
...Nothing to lose because I put an ad out on craigslist and freecycle looking for another Roomba, and someone had one she was willing to give me!  She hadn't used it in quite some time because the battery died completely and she didn't want to buy a replacement for $70 (the iRobot price).  I had a working battery so it was perfect.  When we picked him up, Bumble named him Funny Guy and wouldn't let us consider any other names.

Grover's Problem
Sadly, when we got him home, Funny Guy didn't work quite as hoped.  So, now I had to get busy on that wheel transplant for Grover.  I started by taking Grover apart.  I removed the bottom casing as far it possible, and then took off the right wheel hub.  With the hub removed, I instantly saw Grover's problem, and it was so simple I couldn't believe iRobot had claimed that it was irreparable.  His problem was merely a broken wheel drive belt.  I grabbed Elmo to begin removing his belt, but when I checked him again to verify which wheel I would be working on, both of his wheels were miraculously working again.  So, I set Elmo to run in the kitchen as a test, and I sacrificed Funny Guy to save Grover instead.  This may sound crazy, but I felt a little guilty about sacrificing Funny Guy.  I know he's only a machine, and we only just got him, but Bumble seemed to be attached already, and her fondness affected me.  Nonetheless, I began the operation and removed Funny Guy's wheel drive belt.  I transferred it to Grover and then closed up being careful not to pinch any delicate wires as I replaced the wheel hub.  Our one battery was charging from having been tested with Elmo.  When it was ready, I installed it in Grover and pressed start.  After years of supposedly being dead, Grover was alive and cleaning!

I'll remember not to believe iRobot when they tell me something is irreparably broken again.  I look forward now to the possibilities that await with two working Roombas to clean for me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Honey and a Good Cause

I suffer from extreme seasonal allergies, which can last from March well into November and are unhelped by allergy medications.  I'm also too chicken to give myself immunotherapy shots.  So, when I recently heard a story on the news about eating local honey to build up immunity and ease allergy suffering, I thought it sounded great!  I decided it would not be any more expensive than buying medicine, and it wouldn't have the possible side effects of drugs, so it was worth the shot.

My next step would be to find some local honey.  The news mentioned the Chicago Honey Co-op, so I started with their website.  Their honey is reasonably priced, and they'll ship it anywhere.  However, they won't let you drop by and pick some up if you live in the area.  For me, that wasn't a good deal.  So, I kept looking, and I found Sweet Beginning's Beeline Honey.  Two things persuaded me to try their honey.  Its price is comparable to the other, and in addition to shipping anywhere, they don't mind local pick up.  Plus, Sweet Beginnings is part of the North Lawndale Employment Network, which offers transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment.  They have an impressive impact on the community.  Their website boasts that the "recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4%, compared to the national average of 65%..."

When I went to pick up my honey, I decided to take the surface streets through the city because it was in the morning, and I didn't want to take the interstate and risk the traffic.  Now the North Lawndale neighborhood is not a place you'd want to get stuck.  The potholes are large and abundant, and there are numerous people lingering around the streets.  I'm not easily scared by rough neigborhoods, but as I drove westward and passed a block with 3 police SUVs and a bunch of people standing around, I thought This isn't a good sign.  I decided to take the interstate home when I was finished as well as the next time I pick up honey. 

When I walked into the Sweet Beginnings building, it was not what I expected to find.  What I did find was hopeful, though.  There were a handful of people in the open entry room.  A couple were on computers, a few were waiting in chairs.  It looked like a small scale employment agency, but I didn't see any honey.  A lady making photo copies near the door looked over as I entered, so I spoke to her, "I emailed about picking up honey today."  "Oh, yes, come this way."  I followed her into the next room that was bustling with activity.  One man was filling a box, a few people were busy on a computer, two others were doing something I couldn't really see.  The lady said, "This is our bee team.  They take care of all the honey and sales."  So, I repeated what I had told her, and they instantly knew who I was.  One lady when downstairs to retrieve the two jars of honey I had requested while a man grabbed a chair from the other side of the room and offered me a place to sit with Bumble.  Bumble took my money, and when the lady returned with my honey, she paid.  Then, everyone in the room said goodbye as we left.

I felt good about a purchase that I hope will help me, but I know is helping others.  If you like honey (or honey infused body care products), this is a company worth supporting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free Summer Kids Activities (Many in Chicago, Some Nationwide)

I am always looking for things to do with the kids in the summer, and I hate spending a lot of money for activities.  So, I've compiled this list to help out others.  It will certainly be most useful if you are in Chicago (or planning a visit), but a few activities are nationwide or mostly so.

1. For really hot days take the kids bowling for FREE! You can sign up at http://www.kidsbowlfree.com/ to receive printable coupons good for 2 free games per child per day.  It is nationwide as long as there's a bowling alley near you willing to participate.  If you live the New Orleans area, you're out of luck for now.  If your bowling alley doesn't participate, you might suggest that they consider it for next summer.  You will need to rent shoes (or buy a pair online if you plan to go often).  We went 1-2 times a week last summer, and the girls had a blast.

2. Parks and playgrounds are always fun, especially if it's not too hot.  There are tons of great parks in Chicago, and at Millenium Park there are free kid's activities all summer long.  The Family Fun Festival offers a variety of activities every weekday, including Wiggleworms interactive music, story time, arts & crafts presented by different museums, and music & dance performances.

3. Swimming! This is one we have not tried in past years, but we will be doing in a couple of weeks.  There are 77 public pools in Chicago that offer free swimming.  Click here to access a list of pool locations and hours.  Most of them have certain times for various age groups or family swim, and they offer free swim lessons for kids ages 6-12.  If you don't live in Chicago, check with your local park district about public swimming pool availability.

4. Movies in the Park. There are lots of options for different age groups at parks around the city.  The Karate Kid for older kids, Yogi Bear for younger one, and Jaws for parents.  This would be fun with a picnic dinner.  If you don't live in Chicago, your local movie theater may offer free summer movies.  You can check here.

5. Music in the Park: if you want a little more culture, try the Grant Park Music Festival.  This is another good one for enjoying a picnic dinner while listening to the wonderful performances of the Grant Park Orchestra accompanied by guest musicians.

6. Museums: All of the major Chicago museums offer free days throughout the year.  I am disappointed to say that despite the fact that Chicago Public Schools didn't get out until June 17, many museums offered their last summer free days in early June.  There are some, however, that will be having more free days in July and August.  If you live in the city, or are visiting residents, you can also check out passes for many museums from any library branch.  Target is also sponsoring free or reduced admission at museums around the country.

7. Lincoln Park Zoo is always free.  It offers traditional zoo animals like zebras, elephants, and giraffes, as well as the Fart-in-the-Zoo with cows, baby chicks/hatchlings, and a beehive (sort of).  There is also a community garden, and storytime on Wednesday and Friday at 9:15 and 10 a.m in the farm area.

8. Reading Programs: the Chicago Public Library offers a summer reading program for kids up to age 14.  After reading 25 picture books or 10 chapter books, kids earn a t-shirt.  Each week they present a book report, they are also entered in a raffle to win books.  If you're not in Chicago, Borders Books and Barnes & Noble also offer summer reading programs.  After reading 10 and 8 books respectively, kids earn a free book. B&N is only open to school age children, but even young children can do the Borders one.  If you don't live near either of those stores, here's a mail-in reading program.

9. Story Times:  Most of the Chicago Public Library branches offer story times.  You can search for events by branch.  Barnes and Noble also offers weekly story times.  Just click the "stores and events" link on the website to find one near you.  If you live near a Pottery Barn Kids, they offer story time year round.  As an extra bonus to theirs, you get a attendance book stamped every week and after 5 stamps it becomes a $10 coupon good on anything in the store.  They are also offering a reading program to earn a free book for reading their entire reading list (it's not very long).

10. If you have kids ages 8-12 and live near an Apple Store, they can do a free summer camp workshop where kids become filmmakers.  Mine are too young for this one, but we'll keep it in mind for future summers.

If you know of other programs or have other ideas, feel free to share them!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Easy Upcycling Craft (Denim Purse)

This has been a team craft for us between adult (or older child) and younger ones. We've made two types of purses from Daddy's worn out jeans --large purses, and pocket purses.

What You Need:
old, holey jeans
ribbon (choose a thick width for the large purse, smaller for the pocket purse)

sewing machine & thread
fabric glue
markers (or other decorating items)

Project One (Large Purse):
1. Cut off the bottom portion of the legs as high as needed to make a purse in the size you want.  The hem will be the top of the purse.
2. Turn inside out, and sew the cut edges together.
3. Cut a ribbon to the desired length.
4. Fold the edges under (to prevent unraveling), and sew to the inner side seams of the purse.
5. Put an art smock or old T-shirt on your children and hand them some permanent markers to decorate.  You can also cut out pictures to trace, and the kids can color them in.
Project Two (Pocket Purse):
1. Cut the pockets off the same pair of jeans (including the inner jean to which the pocket fabric is attached). You can either cut the top inner edge with pinking shears or cover the edge with ribbon to prevent unraveling.
2. Put fabric glue on the wrong side of one pocket.
3. Place edges of ribbon cut to desired length on the glued side of pocket and place the other pocket on top (wrong sides together). Voila, you have a purse with two small compartments.
4. Put an art smock or old T-shirt on your children and hand them some permanent markers to decorate.
Addendum: The larger purses are great for organizing small toys, carrying books & things while your out and about, and as gift bags for girls' birthdays. We attended a horse themed birthday party once, and Yaya decorated one with a galloping horse for the gift bag.  We saw it holding books in church the following Sunday.

You can also watch demonstrations from the instructional videos page.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day

No breakfast in bed for Daddy. It would be too messy for him. However, Daddy did get some cool coupons good for a card, dessert, dinner, and a day of Yaya being nice, as well as a father-daughter photo album with artwork by the girls. Not too shabby. We also celebrated with lunch at Crust. It was tasty, and the girls made some more Father's Day pictures while we waited for food.

To all the special dads who have enriched our lives with tickles, horseplay, and love: 

Happy Fathers' Day

And much love to my husband, my dad, my dad-in-law, Fr. Benedict, and Fr. Tom! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Personalized Liturgy Book for Children

Sometime ago I created a brief liturgy book for my toddler.  I filled it with pictures taken over the course of many Sundays.  Each page showed a part of the liturgy with what it is called (for example, "Little Entrance," "Gospel Reading," etc).  It was a big hit with adults and children in our parish.  Many people hoped I would publish it, and I did try.  However, Conciliar Press suggested that it was too particular to be of much interest to the larger Orthodox community.  I think they are probably right, although I think many people in the Diocese of the Midwest would like it.  Conciliar Press thought a better idea would be to offer a template for people to make their own books.  Nothing has been done through them to pursue that yet, but it may still happen in the future.

Recently my "toddler" having grown into an older voracious reader asked me for a new liturgy book.  So, I sat down and compiled a translation from various sources.*  Then, I brought my compilation to church and edited it while DH handled the kids during Sunday liturgy.  Now, after much labor, I have decided to share this one with everyone.  You can use the template I've created and tweak it with the translation used in your parish and pictures of your church family.  This one is very pink for a girly girl, but you can even change the color scheme.  I've ordered my copy from Shutterfly, and it should be here before Sunday.**  I can't wait to test it out and discover if it can hold the attention of an elementary student through a fair chunk of the service.

* The Divine Liturgy: An Abridged Text for Students by the Department of Religious Education (OCA); The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos; and http://orthodoxpathway.blogspot.com/p/divine-liturgy.html.
** The one possible sticking point to your own copy is that it can only be viewed and easily tweaked at shutterfly.com.  They do offer frequent discounts and coupons, though.  If you have more time, you could probably copy and paste into some other photo-sharing site or format.  Finally, if you do use it, I would be very appreciative of any donations for all the work I put in, but please use it even if you can't.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Evening Prayers

As we approach the Ascension and take leave of Pascha, I wanted to share a snippet from our evening prayer routine.  We are going to miss singing Christ is Risen!  The girls love singing this (They can even sing it in Slavonic.) and "The Angel Cried..." 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Childproofing Kiddie Style ...or on a budget

I've always been a proponent of houseproofing the kids rather than childproofing the house (although I gave into popular opinion and did some childproofing since I have children in the house who are not my own).  The other day Bumble found a rubber band and did some extra childproofing for me.  She put it on some cabinet doors, but she soon found there was a problem with this -- she couldn't open the doors with a rubber band on them and she couldn't get it off!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Let Summer Begin...

It's time to frolic in the grass.  The dandelions are ready for wishing.  Pick one, pick two, pick as many as little hands can hold.  Make a wish.  Encourage new growth -- there are many more wishes to be made.  When the wishing is done, it's time to relax and enjoy the first ice cream cone of summer!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keeping It Real Award

I'm so excited... my first blogging award!

There are so many people to thank.  First, thank you to my dear husband for having to serve in the altar, making it necessary for me to deal with the children on my own.  Thank you, of course, to my daughters for making it as difficult as possible to get through a church service.  Thank you to Holy Trinity Cathedral for having longer services than most other parishes. free smileys

Seriously, though, how nice it is to be appreciated.  I think it's great that Mat. Anna has created such a fun award.  What's even better is to know that there are so many of us out there trying to live a good life, stumbling along the way, and admitting our shortcomings thereby encouraging the millions (if only my readership were so large) of other women and men just trying to make it through daily life.

Although there are many deserving women to whom this award might be passed on, I think Mat. Anna deserves to be a recipient as well as the founder.  Here's to the many ways in which your blog inspires us to strive for the niceties of life while reminding us it's okay to be human.

Finally, I think this is an occasion for creating a new sidebar section in my blog...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

In fourth grade we had to memorize poems to recite before the class.  I learned two: Little Boy Blue by Eugene Field, and this one.  I can still largely recite Little Boy Blue, not so much If.  However, to this one I have turned many times over the years to check my progress in life.  Even after trying for 20+ years to reach "manhood," I still haven't arrived.  Sometimes I do much better than others, but I often slip and have to get back up again

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,

This I can do, I have done.  Most recently I conquered this obstacle when trying to get my book published.  Some friends and family doubted, as did I at times, but I kept trying.  It turned out I do have a some talent, even if only a bit.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

I can't do this one, and I may never do it.  I do wait, but usually I wait impatiently, hoping for the wait to end soon.  Sometimes it feels like the waiting will never end, but I really am tired of it.  I don't want to wait to buy a house.  I don't want to wait for my book to be released.  I don't want to wait to win the lottery.  Okay, so I never play it and will be waiting forever... I'm still tired of waiting.

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

This one I have down.  I can be fairly intelligent and offer wise words from time to time.  But on occasion I say something downright stupid or do something terribly embarrassing to humble me and remind others that I'm not all that great.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

I haven't mastered this one, but I'm working on it.  I do get excited by my triumphs, and I want to proclaim them to the world.  I want to proclaim my disasters, too, but they do get me down.  On the other hand, my innate timidity often tempers my excitement and the sharing of my triumphs, and my fairly optimistic personality does help me to stop dwelling on the misfortunes that life brings.  So, while I may not treat those two impostors just the same, I'm getting close.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

I'm not much of a risk taker, at least not when there is really something to lose.  I don't think I'll ever be able to do this, but I don't think I really want to either.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

I think that I can do this.  However, I can't do it on my own.  This is one point where I have to rely on God.  And there have certainly been times when it seemed like there was nothing left to hold on to, but somehow I did hold on with many heart-wrenching cries for strength and grace from above.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,

I'd like to think I could do this one.  However, if I'm going to be honest, I don't think I can walk with kings.  I can talk with crowds and not be swept up in immorality.  And I'm pretty sure I can hang on to the common touch.  But as much as I've always dreamt of being sophisticated, elegant, witty, and intelligent enough to walk with kings, I think I fall short... short according to my standards, at least.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

I am no where near to mastering this point.  Both foes and loving friends can and do hurt me from time to time.  I try not to hold onto the hurt for too long, but it's not always easy to release.  There was a boy from school, who tormented me from junior high through high school.  When I heard how bad his life was a few years ago, I felt glad for his misfortune.  A sure sign that I was still holding on to the pain he had inflicted.  On occasion, I still think about how mean he was, but I no longer revel in his misery.  It took quite awhile, but I have moved on.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Finally, this one I struggle with every minute!  I do want to live life to the fullest, but I have a problem with wasting time and procrastinating.  Some days are better than others.  Indeed, some minutes are better than others.  Sometimes, I just wish the minutes would slow down and give me a chance to catch up, use them fully, and enjoy them.

Here's to growing up and living the best life we can!

Friday, May 13, 2011

10 Things You Never Knew About Me

Let's start at birth.

1. I am the worst Christmas present my older sisters ever got.

2. In first grade, I smart-mouthed at teacher.  The class was getting water after recess, and the teacher was counting to 3 for each student's turn.  On my turn, I said, "I can count to three."  I didn't get any water, but I did straighten up after that.

3. I tried out to be a cheerleader every year from 6th grade on, and I never made it.  This is actually funny if you know me because I was...

4. ... so shy through high school that I would only whisper if called on in class.  In fact, the girl who sat in front of me in my history class seemed very smart because I would whisper the answers, and she would shout them out.

5.  Even into my 20s I felt like a child.  I've finally gotten over that, but sometimes others still seem to think it.

6. I am expert at burning food.

7. I don't want pets.  I worry about what would happen to them in a fire, and I don't want to have to wash my hands more often than I already do.

8. I don't care for gold jewelry.  It seems too flashy to me.  I prefer the coolness of platinum and silver.

9. My favorite scene from a movie is in French Kiss when Meg Ryan's character tells Kevin Kline's character, something to the effect of you'll be a lonely old man sitting in the corner of a bar saying, "My ass is twitching.  You people make my ass twitch."  I even laugh at my own impression of the scene, and you must use the gestures (smoking a fake cigarette) while saying it.  It's been too long since I've watched that movie.  I may have to sit down with it this weekend.

10. I unlocked all the achievements on Plants vs. Zombies by myself.  If you'd like to try it, you can find it at various places online.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Have a Head Egg... and other misunderstood words

My last posts on language got me thinking more about the class I took at Tulane on the history of language and its evolution.  That was an informative, useful, and fun class.  One of the activities that we did in this class was to create a list of "vulgarisms" (ways in which proper language usage is changed by popular usage).

There are dozens of ways for language to be vulgarized (there's one now: changing a noun or adjective into a verb).  One that DH hates is the insertion of a non-etymological consonant into a word, such as sherbert instead of sherbet.  Another one is the pronunciation of silent letters, such as the way many non-native English speakers say saLmon.  And one of my biggest pet peeves the misuse of prefixes like irregardless.  (Funny, the spell check feature on blogger fussed at me for sherbert, but it didn't bat an eye at irregardless!  I guess the language has already accepted that one.)

Anyway, what I was really thinking about when I began this post is what we termed in class "ignorant interpretation of unfamiliar expressions."  My title example was one that I used as a kid.  I often had headaches when I was growing up.  I guess the first time I heard the term, I heard head egg.  From then on, every time I had a headache as a child I would envision a fried egg on my brain.  I couldn't explain why that egg made my head hurt so much, but it did.

Today Bumble Baby asked for a "girl cheese sandwich" for lunch.  I said, "Girl cheese sandwich sure."  Then she changed her mind, "No, I want a boy cheese sandwich."  This isn't the first time we've used these terms, but I still find it cute. I'm probably a terrible mother, though, because instead of correcting her I've created a new sandwich.  The girl cheese is your typical grilled sandwich with buttered bread and cheese. The boy cheese sandwich adds thinly sliced apple.

I'll leave you with a few other examples from my class, and I'd love to hear yours.

Muddy Gras, Cars' Way (for the Causeway a bridge in Louisiana), Youth in Asia, doggy-dog world, Yawn Kipper, appleplectic, some roaches in the liver, sick as hell anemia

The Answer

All of the words in the list are (were) brand names.  Interestingly, scotch tape is still called cellophane tape in Scotland.  Of course, we can add band-aid, Kleenex, Tylenol, and aspirin to the list, but that would have been too easy.

Several years ago, I had a class on language evolution in which we discussed the various means by which languages change.   We used the term metonymy for the use of a brand name to refer to the generic product.  I always thought of it as a high compliment to a company that its product and name could be so popular as to become the default word for said product.  Apparently, this phenomenon is now being called genericide, a decidedly negative term.  And companies are spending lots of money on advertising to remind us that their product brand is just that.  A notable exception is that Microsoft is actively trying to integrate "Bing" into our common lexicon just as Google has done unwillingly.

You can listen to an interesting show on the topic on The Age of Persuasion with Terry O'Reilly.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers' Weekend

I get a whole weekend instead of a day.  Yaya came home from school Friday and was so eager to give me the gifts they made in school.  She had already told me about the coupons they were making earlier in the week.  As she told me what the coupons were for --give a hug, clean the house, make dinner, make breakfast--, I stopped her and said, "Make breakfast, I want to use that one tomorrow."  She love that idea.  She grabbed a pen and paper instantly to take my order and wrote bred with paska chees, stawbarrys, yougur, cofe.

Later, when Daddy arrived home, she accosted him with "Daddy, Daddy, you have to wake up early tomorrow at 7:00 so we can make breakfast for Mama, and she can sleep late!  We can use the bed tray I made!"  Then before going to bed that night, she told me, "Mom, shut your door tonight so Bumble and I can't bother you tomorrow."

Yesterday morning around 7:00 I heard Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, "Daaddy, it time to wake up!"  Yaya had sent Bumble to make sure Daddy was getting up.  I heard Daddy get up, and I lay back in bed and smiled to myself.  Outside my door I could hear the bumping, mumbling, and sometimes yelling that goes along with the girls' morning routine.  Not long after they were all up,  I heard Bumble repeating "Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen."  I don't know if she was trying to get Yaya and Daddy into the kitchen to or if she was just excited to be allowed in the kitchen making noise so early in the morning.  Whatever she her reason, Daddy calmly answered, "Bumble, you must quiet down."  It didn't bother me at all.  I knew I could relax and not worry about keeping the girls quiet so others could sleep.  At 8:00 they were finished, and my door opened letting in two bouncy girls and Daddy with the food.

While I ate, Yaya also gave me a card she made in school (she had shown it to me already, though).  It was a card all about me according to Yaya.  It said things like "My mom's name is Kelly," "My mom's favorite hobby is babysitting" (I had to explain that the real reason I babysit is to spend more time with my own children.), and "My mom's favorite food is green beans" (I probably would not have given that answer if asked, but I had to admit that I do like green beans, and I cook them all the time.).  It was quite a revelation of our relationship!

So, now it's Sunday, and to make it even more special it is also the Sunday of the myrrh-bearing women.  Somehow it seems just right that we should be celebrating both mothers and the women who first announced the Resurrection of the Lord.  So far this morning, I was serenaded with a "Happy Mothers' Day" song upon waking, and I've got a nice stepping stone made by Yaya, Bumble (and me...).  Other than going to church, I don't know if we'll do anything else today, but I'm sure I'll have a great day with all of my family.

Happy Mothers' Day to my mom, my mom-in-law, Mat. Anna, and Mat. Joanna!  We love you all!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Riddle

What Do These Words Have In Common?

scotch tape
kitty litter

hint: it has to do with language evolution.
answer to come...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Growing Up... or Maybe Not

I took Bumble to the park today, and she decided to try out a new part of the play equipment.  Today she wanted to climb up a curved ladder (you can see it next to the large slide in my title picture).  This is actually a pretty tough ladder because you have to stretch a bit to reach the next rung.  So, I held her waist the first few times she climbed it.  She'd reach the top and shout, "I did it!"  By the fourth time she wanted none of me.  I tried to hold my hands out just to spot her, not even touching.  What did she do?  She let go with one hand and swatted my hand away.  I was persistent, so she did this twice before I gave her a little extra space, and I thought Boy, she's growing up fast!

No more than 30 minutes later when we arrived home, she asked me "Where's fly?"  Yesterday, she had seen a large housefly on a planter near the front door and didn't like it one bit.  I replied, "I don't know where he is, but he flew away yesterday.  It's okay."  No sooner had the words been spoken than the fly swooped down from no where landing on the step just in front of us.  She shrieked liked a banshee and grabbed my leg.  I couldn't help but laugh at her reaction and think Well, maybe she's not growing up so fast after all.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Axios! Axios! Axios!

This weekend Archimandrite Matthias was consecrated Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest.  From an external perspective the consecration services went off without a hitch.  Behind the scenes a very loyal subdeacon had to save the day by returning to Holy Trinity Cathedral to pick up a trikiri & dikiri to bring back to Christ the Savior Church so the consecration liturgy could begin.  Then, it all went off without a hitch.

So, here are some photos from the weekend's events!

Profession of Faith and Vespers on Friday Night

Fr. Matthias being presented to the gathered bishops

"Hazing" by blessed water

The Holy Synod of the OCA

Consecration Saturday Morning
(This was a packed service and nearly impossible to see. These photos are courtesy of  my husband.)

 The Installation (and Dinner) on Sunday
The faithful gathering
The Holy Synod lining up

Arrival of Metropolitan Jonah

Vesting of the Metropolitan

Subdeaconal Ordination of Reader Gregory

Little Entrance

The Choir
The Epistle Reading
The Gospel Reading
The Great Entrance

Deaconal Ordination of Subdeacon Gregory

Communion of the Faithful

First Litany of Deacon Gregory

Presentation of flowers to Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Matthias
by members of the Sisterhood of Saints Martha and Mary

Someone had a long day!

If you'd like to see even more pictures, email me and I'll send you a Picasa link.