Monday, May 30, 2011

Quilt Update

With aching shoulders and burning eyes, I am thankful to announce that the quilt top is assembled. I forgot to take pictures of it after I fully assembled it and am too tired to get it back out, so here are two pictures I took of it mostly assembled. There are six rows laid out that are not sewn together. I had to do extra cutting and sewing since the last post to bring it up to a standard twin size.


Memorial Day

For all those who gave their lives (and limbs) so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do...




Julian R. Buzzett
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Service # O1102177
237th Engineer Combat Battalion
Entered the Service from: Florida
Died: 6-Jun-44
Buried at: Plot F Row 15 Grave 21
Normandy American Cemetery
Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Awards: Purple Heart

God bless all of the American servicemen, all over the world.

And for our departed servicemen, Memory Eternal!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Doll House Baby

The girls haven't had a baby for their doll house. So I made one.
Out of some mate-less girls' ruffled socks.

I hate the feet, but it would have taken more engineering than I was willing
to invest to do better ones. Oh well.

Can you tell this was part of a sock? Because it's knit, it is easily removable.
The neck is simple - just a little snip.

This was hard to make because the doll's head is so small.

Here she is with the dress on...

And now the hat.

It's made rather like regular babies' bonnets.

Fully dressed. Isn't she cute?

And here she is on her parents' bed in the doll house.

Beautiful Procession

Father posted this on his blog a few days ago. It's a procession on the feast (old calendar of course) of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Moscow in the Kremlin. They are going from one cathedral to another. I so wish we could experience something like this in our country. Those of you readers living in Orthodox countries: you are blessed!

Watch at least the first half. It's fantastic. (And good luck playing "count the priests" or even "count the bishops"!)

original h/t Ad Orientem

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We interrupt this broadcast...

Just a general announcement:

I dearly love many of you and have been trying to comment on your blogs. However, if you use Blogger (as I do obviously) then most of the time I can't log in to comment. This seems to be a problem lots of people are having and I'm still wading through the help-forum to see if anyone from Blogger has updated on what is being done to fix it.

In the mean-time, don't think I'm ignoring you. I'm actually dancing in little circles a la Rumpelstiltskin every time I can't log in. I'm assuming several of you are having the same problem with this blog, I don't know.

Let's hope they get this fixed soon.

[Update: I saw this suggestion on page 18 of the complaints about this problem (yes, I waded through 18 pages...) and tried it and it worked. If you're trying to comment and have to sign in as 'google profile' and it takes you to the sign-on page, when you sign on, uncheck the "keep me signed in" box. Then when you hit enter and it takes you back to the comment box, you will be signed in instead of 'anonymous'. This keeps you from going through the perpetual loop.]

Good for the Nigerians!

Some things to ponder:

From Life Site News:
NEW YORK, May 9, 2011 ( – In the wake of the release of increased population projections by the United Nations Population Fund last week, predicting the birth of the world’s 7 billionth baby in late October of this year, calls for measures to control the world’s population have surged.
Suzanne Ehlers, president of Washington-based Population Action International, called the new projections “a wake-up call for governments to fulfill the global demand for contraception.”

“In developing countries around the world, millions of women want to prevent pregnancy but don’t have access to contraception,” said Ehlers. “This impacts their health, their educational opportunities, and their ability to provide for their families.”

Ehlers advocates universal “access to family planning” for “healthier lives” and “protecting our planet.”

Meanwhile, Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, takes a different view. UNFPA’s claims of women demanding contraceptives are “simply not true,” said Mosher, adding that these women instead are “crying out” for better health care for themselves and their families.

“Their cries are ignored by the population controllers at the UNFPA and elsewhere, however, who are bent not upon saving lives, but upon reducing the number of people on the planet,” said Mosher.

Demographics indicate a world better off with population growth, cited Mosher. Worldwide income, infant mortality rates, life expectancy, education level, and caloric intake have been getting dramatically better since 1800 or when there was only 1 billion people on the planet.

“The UNFPA and other population control organizations are loath to report the truth about falling fertility rates worldwide, since they raise funds by frightening people with the specter of overpopulation,” he said. “They tell us that too many babies are being born to poor people in developing countries. This is tantamount to saying that only the wealthy should be allowed to have children, and is a new form of global racism.”
And also from Life Site News, from Nigeria: 
NIGERIA, May 25, 2011 ( – Just two weeks ago the UN predicted the birth of the world’s 7 billionth baby this October. Calls for measures to control the world’s population growth immediately surged, with some pointing particularly to Nigeria’s rapidly growing population.

Some Nigerians, meanwhile, are celebrating their growing population as the country’s greatest asset.

Chinwuba Iyizoba“We Nigerians are rejoicing,” said Chinwuba Iyizoba, an electrical engineer in Enugu, Nigeria, in a recent article for MercatorNet. “Africans love children.”

Despite warnings that Nigeria’s population could reach 725 million people by 2100, coupled with calls by Western media for population control in the country, the nation’s citizens will not buy the propaganda, said Iyizoba.

While the Western world suffers from the crippling effects of an aging population with fewer youth to provide care, Nigerian parents live in financial security provided for by their larger families. Elderly Nigerians, explained Iyizoba, have no social security in the form of pensions. Instead they are provided for by an “informal pension scheme” that consists in contributions from their children. “Having more children means a better pension,” said Iyizoba.
“The comfort of a small family is deceptive. Many young people in advanced countries are so spoilt by luxury that even the smallest setback feels intolerable,” said Iyizoba. “Euthanasia and birth control result from an inability to cope with suffering, pain and self denial. As one American lady said to me: ‘My biggest fear is suffering and I am so scared of pain.’ No wonder they have high suicide rates!”

Nigeria and other African countries, concludes the engineer, may become world leaders in future generations. “They will [be] helping Europe and the US to fill gaps left by acute shortages of manpower. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a Nigerian father of five is the new head of the United Nations Population Fund. ‘A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity,’ says Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. I totally agree with him.” [emphasis mine]
And from LAF, which pointed me in the direction of these articles:
[Jennie Chancey] My family lives in Kenya, and I can tell you from personal experience that the majority of people here still see children as an asset and a blessing. When we are out and about with our children, Kenyans greet us with high-fives, thumbs-up, and comments like, “You are so blessed!” The only sour remarks we have received are from (sadly) Westerners living in Africa. I’ve been stopped by Kenyan women who want to tell me about the constant pressure they receive to stop having children from UN health clinics and organizations like Marie Stopes (founded by a eugenicist who praised Hitler’s ideas in poetry). These women tell me children are their future and their hope, and they are hungry for affirmation of this, as the message from the West is that children cause poverty.

It is wonderful to see Nigerians standing up to the utterly misguided “population bomb” propaganda from countries that do not even have enough young taxpayers to float social security and medicare for one more generation.


This video was shot by Ryan McGinnis, a storm photographer who has been photographing and helping in Joplin, MO. He has my favorite meteorology blog, The Big Storm Picture. This is exactly what the title says: a semi wrapped around a tree.

Friday, May 27, 2011

(Top) Ten List #2

Things I have done that I said I'd never do:

1. Hold my hand out for the baby/toddler to spit something out into - including masticated food.

2. Go to the store in flip-flops.

3. Give a baby a pacifier.

4. Change clothes in a moving vehicle (not while driving).

5. Nurse while in a moving vehicle (not while driving).

6. Text.

7. Say "ok" to cake for breakfast.

8. Live near Louisiana.

9. Get a dog.

10. Have a blog.

(Does anyone else use the baby's head to push their glasses up?)

A little visitor this morning...

Father had a little visitor this morning and snapped some pictures.

  We've had a visitor before but none have tried to take up residence in my thrift store bird cage!

I think he looks better than the current resident...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More on Children in Church

[I started to put this in the comment box of the original post and realized it was way too long...]

Sigh. It's hard to be a parent. That just about sums it up.

In the end we have to do the best we can, stepping back and evaluating occasionally (Have I gotten lazy about this? Have we slipped into this bad habit?), talking to our spiritual father, praying (yes, sometimes I forget), and trying to remember that on the last day we will be judged by God, not our neighbors.

I've been guilty many times of thinking, "My gosh! Would you LOOK at what that child is doing!", even though my child did it last week (or worse, will do it five minutes later). Yes, sometimes a child is being permitted to get away with outrageous behavior, but sometimes it's just something else. I try to remember to assume the best because unless I march up and ask, I don't know. Like I would do that. Maybe when I'm 80. (c;

Just to make everyone feel better (or smug, as the case may be) let me tell a short story:

We were at a slightly unaccustomed church for a few months one summer. We had a 2 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old and a 6 month old (or something like that). The baby was fine - slept. The 1 1/2 year old was the type that you could put down and she'd stay there. The 2 1/2 year old, however, was a holy terror. I took her out (taking EVERYONE) when I had to. One weekday during a very poorly attended service, she broke away from me suddenly and ran up and down the pews, shrieking with laughter. I tried to head her off but it's hard when there are so many pews and I didn't feel that I could launch myself over them. I thought, "God, let the ground open up and swallow her!" Eventually another parishioner headed her off and I grabbed her and took her out. Apparently she hadn't learned because the next day she did the same thing. THIS time, Father came out of the altar (2nd priest), snatched her up and swept her out accompanied by howls. She never did it again. However, she did other things. ): She eventually got better and is a model child in church and has been for years.
As a contrast, I've seen other children who were so still and quiet that it was unnatural. I felt pretty bad when I mentally lined my children up next to those. Actually, our second was so "good" as a baby (Babies aren't "good" - they're babies - but you know what I mean.) that I wondered if something were wrong with her. I had been assuming that her sister represented "normal" and thus this was was "abnormal". They just lived at different ends of the spectrum. Same parents, different children. It's life.
This has been rather rambling. I haven't yet addressed the "what to do when you're in church with absolutely horribly behaved children who are being allowed to get away with murder" question. If the child is behaving badly, but the parent is attempting to deal with it, say the Jesus prayer, give them a break, offer to help, whatever. Some new parents never had good parenting techniques modeled for them. Some remember their parents dealing with seven other kids. It does make a difference. If you have similarly aged children, model behavior. People watch more than you think they do. After all, aren't you watching them? I have seen this make a difference myself.
The hard one is dealing with a situation in which the parents are doing absolutely nothing to control their child(ren). I suggest talking to your parish priest before you say anything to anyone else. Talking about it to others constitutes gossip and you will probably stick your foot in it if you go talk to the parents in question. The priest can hardly be unaware of what is going on if it is really disruptive and it's better for him to talk to them than you. Other things you can do in the meantime? If you have a good handle on your own kids (and only then), invite one of those to stand with you. Consider it a blessing. Distract them by pointing out what is going on. Carry them around to the icons. Help them light a candle (not advisable with some kids). Kindly but firmly stop behavior like jumping, hitting, making loud noises. This is not a total fix because children will do what they're consistently allowed to do and they're with their parents 99.999 % of the time. However, it may demonstrate some techniques to the parents. I've done this a few times and it bought the church 10 minutes of quiet. It was something. One thing to keep very firmly in mind:
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  [1 Cor 13:1-2]
Don't let anger, frustration, irritation and impatience get in the way of loving. "An empty church is a peaceful church" - we don't want our churches to be empty.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Children in Church

I posted these suggestions for how to handle children in church on Byzantine Texas a few months ago. I've done some small revising and adding since then and figured I'd just throw it out there for anyone who is interested. If you have anything to add or suggest, please leave a comment! (c:

 [Disclaimer: I am not a paragon of parenting perfection (although I do like alliteration). I am probably guilty of breaking every one of these "rules" of my own devising a goodly number of times.]

1.   Have high expectations. They can do it. If you assume bad behaviour, you'll probably get it. (You'll get bad behaviour at times anyway, but don't shoot yourself in the foot.)

2.   Don't bring food into church. Nursing babies excepted. (: I haven't had a child yet faint from not eating for two hours. The older ones keep the communion fast. If you have a child who for medical reasons needs food every hour to half hour, then by all means feed them. Just don't do it in the temple.

3.   If they're getting bored, pick up the younger ones and slowly (and unobtrusively) walk around the periphery of the church or the narthex pointing out the figures in the icons, moving to the next when the novelty of the current one has worn out. Point out the various features in the church and the action.

4.   If you attend a larger church, don't stand in the very back. Wouldn't you be bored if all you could see were people's legs or backsides? (This assumes a church with no pews but even then it's better to sit where they can see the "action".) 

5.   If a child fusses beyond whimpering or brief crying, take him out. But don't make going out fun. Settle them down in a way appropriate to age and then bring them right back in. Stress "it's important for us to be in church right now." You might go out thirty times when you first try this, but it decreases markedly over a short period of time. If you have a church with a narthex (lucky you!) then you can probably hear and participate in the service from there unless your child is too loud. I have many times stood in the narthex with one or more children, pacing back and forth with a fussy baby and singing responses. If people look at you like you're crazy because you're singing "Gladsome light" by yourself, then let them. Your children will see that it is important and that you're not out there on a lark.

6.   Go to church. This sounds obvious, but if you limit your time in church to a Liturgy every few weeks or months, your children will forget how to behave from one time to the next. The parents' excuse is usually, "I don't come to church very often because they act out." This is reversing cause and effect. [Note: if they're sick, do keep them home. Not only will they get everyone else sick but they're likely to behave worse than usual and you'll be miserable.]

7.   I have allowed small "church books" (about icons, saints, the church building, the services) in church and allow the child to look at them quietly, sometimes pointing out the parallels between the pictures and what we're actually doing. Once the books become projectiles, they disappear. No returns. I have had no success with anything else because when they have "toys" they play. "Toys" have included 33 knot prayer ropes. They have good imaginations. (And it's a good idea to search little boys' pockets before church.)

Each family has to tailor suggestions like these to their own situations. Life with many small children (or one small child) can be difficult in church. No one will get it perfect. There are some days when you will just want to give up, strap everyone in their car seats and head home. I've done this at least twice. There are limits, after all. Perseverance has its rewards though.

Do not hesitate to ask for help from other adults (or even teenagers) in church. Most people will be afraid to volunteer their help for fear of being seen as interfering or critical, but will be happy to assist if asked. Sometimes this help may come in the form of having someone keep an eye on some of your children while you take the fussy one out. It is a good idea for children to form relationships with other adults in church so that they will happily go to them if you have to leave.

If you have any children you probably remember the day you switched from "Can't those people control their children?" to "Those poor parents. I was in their shoes last week." Spare a kind look and some encouraging words. They're probably feeling like they'll never be welcomed back. Make sure they know that's not the case. Be especially encouraging to families who are visiting an Orthodox church for the first time. They're probably used to nurseries and Sunday school for children during church and are panicked about how their children will behave. Also keep in mind that you don't know the whole story. If you have a family who is really struggling with the behavior of a child, there might be issues you know nothing about. In general, parents do not want their children to misbehave in church or be a distraction to others. Always assume the best and be kind.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”   [Mt 19:14]

**More on Children in Church**

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

[Call today Monday just for this post....]

Ok, I'm a ditz because after all of the flurry I actually forgot to post another "Keepin' it Real" Award yesterday. So sue me.

On the other hand, the delay did give me time to read a post by someone who is definitely keeping it real! So today's (or, ahem, yesterday's) award goes to:

Hop over to her blog and give this busy mom of a toddler and new baby some encouragement!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Joplin Tornado

On a more sober note, at least 89 people have been confirmed dead in Joplin, MO after yesterday's tornado. The pictures from the area are breathtaking and not in a good way. What made this tornado so bad is that it was slow moving (some are saying it "parked itself") and it went straight through town demolishing everything including the city's hospital. All of the patients were evacuated to other hospitals afterward but at this time there are no numbers known on the casualties at the hospital itself. There are a few videos circulating, some which were taken by tornado chasers, but the one that triggered an actual physiological reaction for me was this one, taken by someone in a convenience store walk-in freezer where people had retreated to what they hoped was safety. The darkness heightens the fear because all you can rely on are sounds, and the sounds are bad.

Please pray for the victims.

[Update: The death toll is now 125. The National Weather service has determined that this tornado was an EF5.]

I'm the humor.

Mostly a rerun from June of last year:

This is hilarious:

As the Apostle Paul describes in Thessalonians as quoted above, at some point in the future Jesus will come in the air, catch up the Church from the earth, and then return to heaven with the Church. This is known as the Rapture and it will be glorious. But what of our pets? Who will take care of our pets when we're gone?
You have to read it to believe it. The thrust of the site is that they're setting up a network of non-Christian volunteers to take care of the left-behind pets once they've been raptured-up.

I laughed until I cried. Ask Father. He said it was "19th century heresy [dispensationalism] meets 21st century obsession."

One of the funniest and most bizarre things: They're more concerned with taking care of little Fluffy than with the souls of those caretakers!

Again, you have to read it. Truth is stranger than fiction.

[On the very slight off-chance that someone reading this may be confused as to where the Orthodox stand on the heresy of the Rapture: we reject it.]

Excerpt from an article by Fr. Anthony Coniaris included in Father's bulletin yesterday:
A major problem with the Rapture is that it ends up teaching not two but three comings of Jesus—first His birth in Bethlehem; second, His secret coming to snatch away (rapture) the “born-again”; and third, His coming at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and to reign in glory. Yet only two not three comings of Christ are mentioned in the Bible. We have the clearest definition of this in the Nicene Creed when we confess that

“the Lord Jesus Christ…will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His Kingdom will have no end…. I expect the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the ages to come.”
There is no mention of a “Rapture”.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. It's very good.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sts. Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles

This is belated because the feast was yesterday but I just ran out of time.

St. Constantine (272 - 337) was an emperor of the Roman Empire and eventually refounded Byzantium with Constantinople (Constantine's city). He was the first Roman emperor to endorse Christianity and called the First Ecuminical Council (to refute Arianism). St. Helen (255 - 330) was his mother. She went on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land in an effort to identify holy sites, destroy the pagan temples there and establish churches in their places. She is credited with finding the Life Creating Cross (a good story, to be found here). [More about Sts. Constantine and Helen here.]

Many Years to all of our Helens (and Ellens, Elenas, Elenis, Elaines, Eleanors, Elinores, Yelenas, Helenas, and Ellas) and to all of our Constantines (and Costas and Guses)!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Morning Quilt Update

I haven't started back on it yet, but I did take some pictures:

Pile of completed squares

Some of the squares

Square before construction. You may notice I added some additional fabrics.
I wanted it to look more like an actual scrap quilt. See the navy and white gingham?
There are only two of those in the whole thing. I like little surprises. (:

Strips waiting to be put together into squares

Two Jedi knights

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quilting myself into a corner

I'm seeing cross-eyed, I'm in pain and my shoulders are permanently hunched over. I have thread bits all over me (and the floor). And I'm NOT DONE.

Remember that quilt-in-the-making that I was so excited about? Ha ha ha.

I got a little overenthusiastic cutting out squares the last two days and cut a LOT. Like 712 a lot. I sewed them all into pairs. Then I sewed two pairs together to make a strip of four. I did that for all of them. That's 178 strips. Then I stopped and pressed each seam. That's 534 seams. And didn't I mention before that I hate ironing?

Then I started sewing four strips into a square of 16 squares. I've done 23 squares and I'm done in. I have 84 strips left to make into 21 squares (with two strips left over). I'm done. Finished. Wiped out.

I'm going to bed.

Pictures tomorrow. Maybe.

Comfort Food: Banana Pudding

Ok, this is NOT my own recipe. Anyone who knows me well would know that it couldn't possibly be because I hate bananas. Yeah, you heard that right. HATE them.

However, I married a banana-pudding-loving man who really appreciated it when his grandmother made him banana pudding.

Well, I guess you'd suppose I bit the bullet and learned to make banana pudding like Grandma, huh?


But almost FOURTEEN YEARS after the wedding, I finally caved in and made him a decent banana pudding. I had to look for a recipe because all I could figure was that it involved bananas, vanilla wafers and some vanilla pudding. I did know that the vanilla wafers did the ring-around-the-bowl thing. Other than that...

So I found a recipe. It actually looked pretty good (if you took out the bananas - I know, ha ha). I ran it by Father who approved and made it for dessert the other night. It was a smash hit.

Taken from Open Doors: A collection of recipes from First United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Recipe by Laura Jackson Anderson:

Best Banana Pudding Ever

1  5.1 oz box vanilla instant pudding
1  8 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1  8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2  tsp vanilla extract
8  ripe bananas
1  12 oz. box vanilla wafers

Mix pudding according to package directions. Add whipped topping, cream cheese, condensed milk and vanilla. Using a 9 x 13-inch dish, layer sliced bananas, wafers, and then pudding mixture. Repeat layers. Cover and refrigerate.
--Serves 12

My suggestion is to mix the cream cheese, milk and vanilla with the pudding using a mixer. You'll never get the lumps of cream cheese out otherwise no matter how much you soften the cream cheese. This is RICH. What I want to do is make one tiny change: use sliced strawberries instead of bananas. Can you imagine how good this would be? [For the weirdos out there, yes, I suppose you could have strawberries and bananas... Sheesh. (c;]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guess what *I'm* doing!

After almost a year of staring at these supplies and doing nothing with them I finally got it out this afternoon. You know, I love, love, LOVE my new rotary cutter and mat. The cutting has always been my least favorite part of quilting. [Disclaimer: Dinner wound up being an hour late tonight because I didn't plan well and got carried away. Just in case anyone was feeling that "how does she do it all?" feeling. Answer? I don't.]

This is going to be a summer-weight blanket for a special baby girl. I've never crocheted in cotton before and it's different! I like how the pattern is coming out in stripes because of the variegated yarn. This was a complete surprise. [Another disclaimer: I'm doing about a row a day here. It's a sloooow process.]

A few more Reality Checks...

Ok, a few more. Just to get things started. Then I think I'll reach out every Monday and slap one of these on someone's back. At least it won't say "kick me!"

Soooooo, the next "Keepin' it Real" Awards go to...

Rebekah at Verdant Bents for her total lack of pretensions and admission to serving vegetables still in the cans for dinner...


Nonna at Nonna's Neuropoetry for always being completely honest...


Kelly at A Day's Journey for being especially brutally honest about what it takes to get two little children through Holy Week at a cathedral...


Michelle at Our Little Monkeys for her consistent doses of reality especially regarding adding a new baby to an already "real" house.

My hat is off to all you ladies who keep it real on a daily basis and don't mind letting the rest of us see your clay feet. Please feel free to reach out and tag someone else.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I can't believe I'm doing this but...

...I'm actually creating a blog award. Isn't that a hoot?

Inspired by my own post, and yes, I know how pathetic that sounds, I've decided to create the "Keepin' it Real" award. This is for bloggers who share glimpses of their real life even when it's not magazine-perfect. Not that you have to be that way all the time, just on occasion.

So, the first person to be awarded iiiiisss (drumroll please)...

Genevieve at Recovering Pessimist! (She may or may not want to accept this!) Feel free to copy and paste this award if you so desire, Genevieve.

[And, can you tell I'm new at this?? I forgot something important: if you are tagged with this award, please think of someone else to award it to!]

Reading Lists: the good, the bad and the ugly

Let me preface this by telling a story:

When I was a rising 7th grader, a friend and I went to a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore in the small town where we lived. I loved to read - constantly - and was thrilled to be surrounded by a million (more or less) books. I can't remember all of the books I picked up for a song, but I remember that one was Jane Eyre. I hadn't read it but I knew it was a "classic" that one was supposed to read. I took it home, started it, and hated it. I put it down and forgot about it. I was disappointed that I couldn't find it interesting, thinking that this denoted some lack of intelligence. I also developed the very mistaken ideas that (1) I had actually read it and (2) that it wasn't very good.

In the fall of ninth grade our family went on a short trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. I honestly can't remember why I decided to take this book along but I read in the car until it was too dark to see. Then I fell asleep. When we arrived, at 2 AM, I wound up without a bedroom (in a large family accidents happen). Not too displeased I settled in an overstuffed lazyboy with a new package of oreos and a large glass of milk. And Jane Eyre. I finished the book and most of the oreos at dawn. Then I went for a walk. [Note: when you're 13 you can do things like this.]

I discovered two things: (1) I hadn't actually read the book before and (2) it was very good.

The reason I am telling this story is to illustrate a point. It does children a disservice to ask them to read things before they are ready. I was perfectly capable of understanding the vocabulary and sentence structures of Jane Eyre in 6th-7th grade, but I hadn't the life experience. Ok, not that I had it in 9th grade either, but I had more than I did earlier. I repeated this sequence with many books over the years. Fortunately, I figured out what had happened and after college went back and read a lot of the "uninteresting" books I hadn't liked in high school. The majority of them I liked. (There remains one exception: The Scarlett Letter. I still hate that book. Anyway.) Another good example is The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just wasn't ready for TLOTR in 9th grade. I got it in my head that it was "too hard". It's a good thing I married a Tolkien fan or I might never have read them.

I've looked at reading lists for various grade levels over the years since we've been homeschooling. Most of the time I feel positive about the lists, but there are some lists that just leave me appalled. Sometimes the books are too advanced  in the way that Jane Eyre was for me. Les Miserables in 7th grade? Are they really going to get much out of it? 

Sometimes the material is emotionally inappropriate for the age level. Some children can read Lord of the Flies without nightmares at the age of 10, but not many. Yes, I saw that on a fifth and sixth grade list. And Animal Farm? To this day I still tear up when thinking of the ending. What about Island of the Blue Dolphins? That was on my fifth grade reading list. I don't think it was a good idea at that age to be reading about a girl whose brother had his throat ripped out by wild dogs after they had been left alone on an island to fend for themselves. All of these might qualify as great literature, but if you read them before you're ready, they do more harm than good.

It is a shame that reading lists have become a status symbol for private schools and a point of pride for parents. I love reading and I want my children to love reading (and they do). BUT, I would much rather they read Pride and Prejudice for the first time at age 18 and fall in love with it, than read it at 12 and decide it's not so good and never pick it up again.


Today is the midfeast of Pentecost.

Halfway to Pentecost.

There is another halfway...

I would have been 20 weeks pregnant now.

I would have felt him kick.

He could have heard my voice.


I wouldn't have had to get the non-elastic waisted skirts back out to wear.

I wouldn't be looking at pregnancy loss sites daily.

I wouldn't be looking for a stone to put on his grave with his name on it.

I wouldn't understand the pain so many people have experienced.


I wouldn't even know if he were a boy or girl.

I would be looking at pictures my husband took of my belly.

Not pictures of myself crouching beside his grave.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart is also."

Part of my heart is in heaven.

But the rest of me is only


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This is AWESOME - made me tear up...


This is so comforting on days when I miss Innocent so much it hurts...

For the people of God, there is no such thing as distance, even if they be thousands of miles apart. However far away our fellow human beings may be, we must stand by them . . . . When Christ unites us, distances don't exist. When I leave this life it will be better. I'll be closer to you.

- Elder Porphyrios (+1991). From Wounded by Love
(h/t Seeking the Kingdom, entire post here)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A visit to the rectory

[Two nicely dressed women walk up the walk to a house in a small town. They bear in their hands a certificate for the "Matushka Blogger of the Year" award and a camera. They carefully step over the Legos on the porch.]

*knock, knock, knock*

-I'll get it!!!

-No, Pickles, you don't have any pants on!

-I've got him.




Are you Matushka Anna?


We're here representing the Association of Blogging Matushki and we...

-He hit me!

-No I didn't!

-Yes you did!

-Did not!

-Did too!

-Did not!

Boys! Get your shoes and socks on and go play in the backyard! Sorry about that.

Don't worry about it.

Would you like to come in?

[They come in, stepping over the Legos on the floor, and have a seat on the couch. On the coffee table are a Dover Math and Science Catalogue, Southern Living from March 2010, two matchbox cars, seven Legos, three broken crayons and a cashew.]

Well, as I said, we're here from the ABM and we wanted to present you with...

-Mommy...I need help on the potty...

Just a minute, I'm sorry.

[As they sit on the couch, they notice the mantle. There are the expected candles, anniversary clock, teacups and lace doily, but there are also two light sabers and a can of Fresca. One of them squirms around and after a moment, pulls out a hairbrush from between the couch cushions. They look at each other.]

Ok, I'm back. Would you all like something to drink?

Yes, that would be lovely. Water would be fine.


Yes, please.

[They follow her into the kitchen, stepping over the Legos in the doorway. One nudges the other and they smile at the open shelving stacked with blue willow and white china and glasses. As they take in the rest of the kitchen their smiles fade slightly. One particularly shudders at the dead flowers in the vase on the windowsill. A small child is eating a sandwich from a hot pink plastic plate at the table. He is wearing his shirt inside out.]

So what wonderful things have you cooked up in the kitchen lately? We really liked the recipes you shared and the picture of the quiche looked good enough to eat right off the screen!


(small boy): We had pizza last night! Mooommmmmmyyy, we're out of peanut butter.

(small girl): No we're not, Pickles is eating a PBJ.

No, Flopsy, we really are out of peanut butter, I'm sorry.

(small boy): So what is Pickles eating?

He's having a honey and jelly sandwich.

(small girl): Yuck!

[They leave the kitchen, glasses in hand. The ladies stop by the icon corner.]

What a nice icon corner!

Thank you.

I'm sure it's a lovely picture to see all of you gathered here three times a day.


Can we see your religious education materials? I'm sure they're extensive and creative.


Oh! Is this your music collection?

Yes, a good portion of that is Father's though.

Oh, I have this CD, I got it from SVS. Don't you have this one Sylvia?

No, I have it in Slavonic. Uh...are these yours or Father's?

Oh, ha ha, all of those are mine. Father doesn't listen to any of that.

[They look at the row of CDs with grim faces. One points to R.E.M. sandwiched between Simon and Garfunkel and Boston. Silently they weave around the table, carefully stepping over the Legos, back to the couch.]

So what were you ladies saying?

Oh, um. We just came for a little visit, you know, to see how you really live in your home, to see if it was like the blog...

Oh! Well, what do you think?

We'll keep you in our prayers. Sylvia, we have a plane to catch.

Shop Updates

I've finally developed patterns for medium and small size blankets in addition to the standard ones I was already offering. These can be seen in the shop with pricing now. I'm also working on backing the small blankets with fleece and edging them with satin blanket binding. You can see a mock up of this at the bottom of the shop page.

Also, If you have photos of your baby with one of the blankets or bonnets, I'd love to feature them in the Gallery! I never use these without permission so even if you have posted them on your blog you may not find them here. These can always be posted without identifying information.

Something really funny that takes a lot of work to understand but is really worth it:

Ok, here's the deal. I want to share something funny but because most of you have probably never heard of any of the funny things in question I have to do some background explaining. Please hold your applause until the end.

There's this show, Father Ted, which is about some Catholic priests in a rectory on a remote island in Ireland. They're there for somewhat, um, rehabilitative reasons. Father Ted is a bit off, but the most normal of the bunch. Father Dougal is a total moron, but a very lovable one. Father Jack (who doesn't figure much in this bit) has a brain that has been totally pickled by alcohol. Nice.

For some inexplicable reason Ted and Dougal decide to enter the fictional "Song for Europe" contest in which contestants write and perform a song to represent their respective countries. They are going to enter the Irish preliminaries and some fellow (and rival) priests will be entering as well.

They think that writing a song will be easy and straightforward and, of course, it isn't.

Father Ted has a dream sequence in which he and Dougal star in their own music video. We always found this very funny, but felt like we weren't getting all of the jokes.

As it turns out, the melody they use for "My Lovely Horse" in the video (and plan to use in the contest) is deliberately plagiarized; they think no one will notice. At the contest they find out that it is actually a popular melody and at the last minute have to revert to "plan B" which is a really wretched non-melody. To everyone's surprise, they actually win the contest and will go on to represent Ireland. This is because the people hosting it are sick of Ireland always winning and now figure Ireland is a shoo-in to lose.

Ok, so this is funny and all, but why on earth am I explaining all of this? Well, we found out what jokes we had been missing. It turns out that the whole thing was a spoof on an entry in the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest (this is a real contest and has been held every year since 1956). The Swarbriggs (I swear, that's their name) entered the song "That's What Friends are For" as Irish contenders. Below, you'll see two videos of the Swarbriggs singing this song, once in the Eurovision contest and one in an early music video. First, the contest:

To see the start of the song see 00:51.
(Note the blue jackets with sequins.)

Next, the music video:

To see the "music video" portion of the video below start at 00:49.
(Note especially the "tossing the ball in the pool" bit.)

Well, If you've stayed with me this long then you deserve a medal.

Oh, and you can release your applause now.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Cross!

This was my Mother's Day present. I lost my baptismal cross at least 9-10 years ago when it was yanked off by a baby/toddler in Pennsylvania. I've had a substitute cross but never liked it. I picked this out last week and it was blessed after Liturgy today. Finally!

Good Blogging Advice

"If you want your sins to be 'covered' by the Lord (cf. Ps. 32:1), do not display your virtues to others. For whatever we do with our virtues, God will also do with our sins."

--St. Mark the Ascetic (The Philokalia Vol. 1; Faber and Faber pg. 136)


"... the passion for popularity brings such injury upon those it masters that it shipwrecks faith itself. Our Lord confirms this when He says, 'How can you have faith in Me when you receive honour from one another and do not seek for the honour that comes from the only God?' (cf. Jn. 5:44)."

--St. Gregory Palamas (The Philokalia Vol. 4; Faber and Faber pg. 308)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fun, Feminine, Frugal Fabric!

Cloth Napkins!

This is one of the few "feminine domestic" things I can claim I do regularly. We do not use paper napkins. I am a fairly recent (few years ago) convert. My previous reasoning had been: we have X children at the table and children stain napkins. Well, shoot, adults stain napkins too! So how do you do it?

Use colors and patterns!

I have seven different sets of napkins, enough for every day of the week (this was not by design, just chance). None of them are white or have white in the pattern.* And I didn't pay full price for any of them.

Some were hand-me-downs (some of those we've been using our entire marriage and they're still holding up), the rest I found at thrift stores. I have a set of eight Crate&Barrel napkins in summery colors that I found for $2. I found a set of four and another pair (different colors but same general idea) that look like the Provence pattern from William Sonoma. I think I paid $1.50 for those. You do not have to break the bank.

And don't feel like you can't put out cloth napkins because you don't have a full set of, well, however many people are at your table (and for some of us that's a decent number). There is nothing cuter than a table set with deliberately mismatched napkins, especially during the spring and summer. Make sure they really don't match. One of my favorite set of mismatches is composed of single napkins I found at thrift stores over the years. One has a bold peach pattern in orange on a variegated blue background, one is a blue, green and lime stripe, two are solid lime, one is blue and green get the idea. So don't just pass up napkins you find because there are only one or two of them. They'll be ten cents each!

For those who sew, what is more simple than hemming a square? One fantastic tip I've seen is to use fat quarters because they tend to come in groups of coordinating fabrics (and they're already cut to a good size). Look at the fabric remnant cart at the store and scoop up a pretty print to make into a few napkins. Only enough for two? If you don't want to mismatch them, save them for dinners for two!

And just to be fun, what else can you do with cloth napkins?

Turn them into quick mini-tablecloths or placemats for children.
Use them as bibs.
Use a plain lightweight one as an emergency scarf for a little girl.
Use a group of multicolored ones in a basket as a table centerpiece.
Keep the baby happy while you fold the rest of the laundry 
(he can throw them in and out of the clothes basket).
Substitute for a doily on an end table.
Use as a sheet for a doll bed.
Line a basket for rolls or muffins.
The uses are endless!

What are your cloth napkin secrets?

*Disclaimer: I do have one nice set of 10 white cloth napkins. However, I do not pull them out when I'm serving spaghetti to pre-schoolers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Here it comes...

Pray for those who are already flooded.
Pray for those who are about to be.
They'll open the Morganza Spillway in the next 24 hours
 and the diagram below depicts what will happen.
Lord have mercy!

Blue and Brown

It was a merry supper, and the two elder boys added much to the fun by tormenting the rest with dark hints of some interesting event which was about to occur.* Something uncommonly fine, they declared it was, but enveloped in the deepest mystery for the present.

"Did I ever see it?" asked Jamie.

"Not to remember it; but Mac and Steve have, and liked it immensely," answered Archie, thereby causing the two mentioned to neglect Debby's delectable fritters for several minutes, while they cudgelled their brains.

"Who will have it first?" asked Will, with his mouth full of marmalade.

"Aunt Plenty, I guess."

"When will she have it?" demanded Geordie, bouncing in his seat with impatience.

"Sometime on Monday."

"Heart alive! what is the boy talking about?" cried the old lady from behind the tall urn, which left little to be seen but the topmost bow of her cap.

"Doesn't auntie know?" asked a chorus of voices.

"No; and that's the best of the joke, for she is desperately fond of it."

"What colour is it?" asked Rose, joining in the fun.

"Blue and brown."

"Is it good to eat?" asked Jamie.

"Some people think so, but I shouldn't like to try it," answered Charlie, laughing so he split his tea.

"Who does it belong to?" put in Steve.

Archie and the Prince stared at one another rather blankly for a minute, then Archie answered with a twinkle of the eye that made Charlie explode again,

"To Grandfather Campbell."
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

*It's the arrival of Uncle Alec, "a brown, breezy man, in a blue jacket".

I didn't know that!

Our host has been down for the last 2 days so those posts and comments are temporarily missing. Possibly we will see them back up later today.

During that time I've found out some fascinating things about a friend that I never knew and never suspected. It made me realize that there are lots of things about us that people would generally never know because they just don't come up in conversation. I mean, hello, you usually just don't drop the fact that you used to sing opera in casual conversation! (That's not me, that's the friend.)

So here are ten things (if I can think of that many) about me that I never divulged here:
  1. I can't walk in heels higher than 1 inch. Seriously. I'll fall down. You can stop laughing now.
  2. I really, really enjoyed math in school - the last class I took was multidimensional calculus in my college freshman year and the professor told me I should be a math major - but I can't teach it to save my life.
  3. I have never been out of the country. I'd like to go to Wales.
  4. I saw The Shining at a party in ninth grade and had nightmares for two weeks in which I saw someone standing over my bed with an axe. That was my last horror film ever. [In 12th grade they tried to get me to watch Silence of the Lambs and I left after five minutes.]
  5. I used to play the piano until we had to get rid of it before we moved up to seminary. Wah!
  6. I can make a hut out of bamboo and palm fronds.
  7. I've never taught any of the children to tie their shoes. Father did.
  8. When I was sixteen I got behind the wheel of the family car, was handed the keys and said, "now what do I do?"
  9. The first time I met Father's family I had a sinus infection and probably bronchitis. He carried me out to the car (we were at college), drove me to his house and his mother put me to bed. I spent Thanksgiving weekend there except for dinner. I took a shower but had forgotten my hair dryer - and was meeting all of his relatives.
  10. I was in the "Miss ___" pageant in high school only because we had a tiny school and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel. When I came out wearing an antebellum dress, one of the little girls I babysat said, "Mommy, look! There's Cinderella!!" This was the highlight of my evening.
Consider yourself tagged! Let us know 10 random things about yourself and leave a comment here to tell us where to go (or stick them in the comment if you don't have a blog). Humor encouraged but not required. (c;

Thursday, May 12, 2011

O. L. D.

Is it the grey hair, streaking across the top of my head?


Is it the ominous creaking when I get up or down?


Is it the children asking if I used a telegraph when I was little?

 And I can't believe they really thought I did.

So, why then do I suddenly feel old?

I did NOT get carded yesterday when buying wine for dinner tonight.

(Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact that the proprietor and I
were discussing the various merits of veal marsala and chicken marsala at the time...)

Introduction to Fawlty Towers for the Culturally Deprived

For you poor, poor people who have not yet had the viewing pleasure...

Manuel is from Barcelona, a fact that we never fail to be reminded of during the course of every episode.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crocheted Scalloped Border Tutorial

Sts. Cyril and Methodius: not your average door-to-door missionaries

 Today is the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs and Equal to the Apostles. What titles! They were missionaries indeed, and today is a good day to talk about what mission work and indeed, what evangelism is in the Orthodox Church. 


"The brothers Cyril and Methodius are most renowned for the development of the Glagolitic alphabet that was used to bring literacy and Christian literature to the Slavs in their own language. With further development by their disciples it became the Cyrillic alphabet, which is now used by many of the Slavic peoples. However, the work of the brothers in translating the Holy Scriptures, the services, Nomocanon, and other Christian literature into Slavonic has been the greatest example of Orthodox missionaries bringing Christianity to the peoples of the world.

While events only a few decades after the death of Methodius seemed to destroy their work in Moravia, their work became the foundation of Slavic civilization in eastern and south-eastern Europe and provided the language footings for the missionary efforts in the coming centuries. It is this continuation of the practice of the Holy Apostles of speaking of Christianity in the languages of all the nations that Ss Cyril and Methodius are remembered as equal to the apostles. It is to this heritage that the revived Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands (Moravia) look as their origins." (Orthodox Wiki)

So, what is the biggest difference between Orthodox evangelism and Protestant evangelism? Well, for one thing, you won't find us knocking on doors. Byzantine Texas posted an interview with Met. Ambrose in Korea yesterday (how timely!) answering questions put to him by Protestants. Here is an excerpt:
On Monday 5 September, following an invitation from a Protestant theological school (postgraduate level) located outside Seoul, the Most Reverent Metropolitan of Korea, Fr. Ambrose, gave two lectures to 35 postgraduate students, all pastors. The lessons, within which the lectures were given, were on missions and the Liturgy. We have recorded the discussions for the most part that followed after each lecture and provide it below since we believe that the topics raised as well as the manner of their delivery of the Orthodox confession in Korea is of particular interest.

1st Question: What is your understanding of missionary activities in the Orthodox Church?

Answer: To start with, the term “mission” does not express the spirit of the Orthodox Church. We use it compromisingly because it has universal prevalence. Instead we prefer the term “witness.” The term mission, which derives from Western theology, does not exist in Holy Scripture, while the corresponding term, witness, is found many times. The teaching of the Gospel does not mean to say beautiful words about Christ but to give a daily witness of Christ with one’s words and with one’s silence, with works and by example. And if need be, if necessary, to martyr for Christ, namely, to spill one’s blood for Christ, as was done by millions of martyrs and confessors of the faith.
2nd Question: What is your opinion on proselytism?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church we consider proselytism a great sin because it does not honour man. It tramples upon the precious divine gift of freedom and debases man’s personality. Proselytism means to impose on someone else your beliefs by lawful and unlawful means, while confessing Christ means to struggle, to live according to Christ and to repeat by one’s words and life, the perennial “come and see” of the Apostle Philip to any well-intentioned “Nathanael” – your neighbour. The disastrous results of proselytism of the so-called missionary countries by Western Christianity, which we face to this day, I believe, does not leave any margin for the indefinite condemnation of the proselytising process.

3rd Question: What process is followed in the Orthodox Church for someone to work as a missionary?

Answer: In the Orthodox Church, the deacons of the Bible are not self-called but other-called. In other words, someone does not decide by himself to work as a missionary but is sent by the Church. Obedience to the Church is the only soul-saving route. If we remember, for example, the case of Barnabas and Paul, we see that the Holy Spirit chose them and the Church through prayer and fasting sent them to preach. (Acts 13:3) And when they returned to Jerusalem they informed the Church which sent them of “everything that God did through them.” (Acts 15:4)

This subject has great theological significance for the spreading of the true faith and for the unity of the Church. If everyone acts according to his opinion and desire, then the faith and unity of the Church is in danger.

At this point permit me to mention the following event: Once I flew from America to Greece with an American woman, a self-appointed missionary. When I asked her why she chose Greece for her missionary work, she told me that she admired the Greeks a lot because she knew a lot about their glorious ancient history, and that is why she had great zeal to Christianize them.

“Do you know what modern-day Greeks believe in?” I asked her.

“Of course, the twelve gods of Olympus!” she answered.

“Do you know,” I told her, “that 2000 years before you some other apostle, the Great Apostle of the Nations Paul went to Greece and preached Christianity? And that Greeks have had an uninterrupted Christian Orthodox tradition ever since?”
Such waggishness and much worse happens when behind every self-called missionary it is not the Church doing the sending.
 I have personally encountered this sort of ignorance. It is always so sad (and, to be honest, sometimes infuriating).

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt always puts things well so I am including an excerpt of his post on Orthodox evangelism to finish this out:

When we run from rejection, hatred, scorn and derision, we are no different than the disciples that fled the scene when it included crucifixion. But they changed. They were converted. We, too, must convert – be willing to die for the Faith – before we can evangelize. Now you might say, "Gee, that sounds a bit extreme." I agree with you. But the Faith is not something that we make up. The Faith is not something that necessarily soothes us. The Faith is a precious gift from God that requires ALL of us: mind, body, and soul. We may have to die many "little deaths" before the big one that terminates our earthly sojourn. For now, Christ calls us out of the world – He consumes us – and sends us back with fear of God and full of the Holy Spirit to bring in the harvest. We must die for Him to live in us. We must allow our pride to die; our greed to die; our wants to die; our wills to die; our dreams to die; our feelings to die – we must die. Death is the first step in evangelism.

Like St John the Forerunner, we must say of Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease" [John 3:30]. In taking up our cross daily we crucify our sinful selves only to be raised up to glory and thereby become co-workers with God for the salvation of the world. This is the promise, this is the mission. Evangelism begins with death. We are not to slay our brother for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, it is ourselves who must be slain. This is the Way of Evangelism.

In conjunction with the first step is the second: Prayer. We must spend time with God. Sure God is everywhere and available at all times. But we aren’t. Our busy lives usually serve up schedules where we know neither if we’re coming or going. We need to spend time just plain standing: Standing in the presence of God in prayer. This presence with God is Incarnational involving the Sacraments of the Church. It also entails time alone or with family in our icon corners.

The next step in evangelism is social. We have to be around other people in order to bring them the Good News. This, being in contact with people, happens each and every day in ordinary ways. The day’s fleeting moments are often unrecognized as evangelism’s finest hour.

Back when I was just starting out as a missionary priest, an experienced priest told me: "Pray God sends you people. Pray you recognize the people God sends you." Living this principle is much more difficult. Oftentimes I feel as if I’m responsible for "converting" everyone who smiles toward Orthodoxy. I get my hopes up when a new face darkens the church door. Too many times I’ve allowed myself to count unhatched chickens. This can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion.

We have to be present with God and present with others. The operative word here is present. If we’re not living in the present, we’re not residing in God. We reject what the French mystic, Jean Pierre de Coussade, calls the sacrament of the present moment. This "sacrament" God offers each moment. Yet, most of the time, we reside not in that moment, but in the past or future – the land of worry, doubt, fear, and concern. This is not to say that most of us have never tasted this precious sacrament of God’s grace. We have. However, this joy is often quickly discarded only to be replaced by our will: future, past, pride, sloth, worry.

This moment that God offers us is not an individual right. It involves personal relationships. It begs us to be the "God bearer" to the world around us. It begs us to recognize Christ in others. Living in the present necessitates love and forgiveness. For there is no other way for us to reside in the will of God than to be living, loving, and forgiving in the present moment.

We evangelize by:
1) dying to self
2) being present with God
3) being present with others

If we do these things we fulfill the commandments of Christ to love God and our neighbor. This sounds simple. It is simple. God is simple. For fallen humans, it is terribly hard. It is much easier to spout doctrine, judge our neighbor, be puffed up with pride – and hide.

Orthodox evangelism is not a matter of endless programs, workshops, revivals, audio and video tapes, etc. Like training wheels, these can be helpful, but they are not the end nor are they necessarily the best means. Christ said there is one thing needful. Remember St Seraphim: "Find inner peace and thousands around you shall find their salvation."