Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All this and PIE?

Southerners like pie. Not that people from other parts of the country don't like pie, but we do seem to have the corner on it: Pecan pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, buttermilk pie, rhubarb pie; and that doesn't even get into the area of cobblers, which to me is just a rectangular pie with a top crust only.

I tried a new pie recipe Saturday (made it for coffee hour - there were at least four pies there) that I found on a friend's site. Now she and her husband are legitimate Southerners even if they defected to Chicago. One day I'm sure they'll come to their senses (: It would be nice to have our goddaughter a little closer (hint, hint).

Kelly adapted a recipe she found on the Whole Foods site and made it a lot easier - my kind of woman. Go to her site, A Day's Journey, to get her recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. It turned out beautifully and was QUICK. I think it probably took a total of 15 minutes (not including refrigeration afterward). Not too sweet, a little tangy, very light.

"You better eat some more of this good chicken!"
"No'm, I got to save room for pie."
"There's pie? All this and pie?"
"Now Neety, you know good and well we wouldn't let y'all go back home and tell folks we didn't serve you any pie."
-from Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South by Roy Blount Jr.

Things that Make Me Happy

British Humor: Are You Being Served?, Black Books, Keeping Up Appearances, Jeeves and Wooster, Yes, Minister., Monty Python, Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted

Reading - almost anything (no violence and happy endings preferred)

Being in the same room with Father

Fall days when the wind is blowing, the air is dry, it's not too cold, not hot and there are dead leaves about

Singing "Christ is Risen!"

Having a child curl up on my lap

Hearing or reading someone say that Innocent and/or Andrew were beautiful

A new book in the mail

Fuzzy pajamas


A perfectly clean kitchen

Cloudy days

Being under a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch

The smell of incense (good incense)

The smell of the beach house

Cicadas on a summer night

Watching airplanes take off and land

My children

Comforting someone else

Letters from friends

Long dresses

Listening to music - classical, liturgical, 80's, alternative


Looking at old photographs:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cake Convert

I am a total convert. I will never (fingers crossed behind back) buy a cake mix again for the purpose of making it into a cake. I have made many chocolate cakes from scratch - the fasting kind - and I have made several red velvet cakes from scratch (Father's favorite) and I may have made some other kind of specialty cake from scratch, but I have never, ever made plain, old yellow cake from scratch. Oy vey, what have I been missing!?

I had told Father I would make him a caramel cake for dessert Saturday and got the ingredients at the store to make penuche for the frosting, but as I was walking in the door with the groceries I almost slapped myself. (Fortunately I didn't because I had 40 lbs of bags in my hands.) I had completely forgotten to grab a box of yellow cake mix.

It actually took me a few minutes to realize I probably had the ingredients to make one from scratch - I had been thinking about putting it off and making it the next day after running to the store. You can see I'm not one of those natural cooks.

I looked online for things like "perfect, easy, yellow cake recipe" and wound up also having to designate "all purpose flour" since I don't have cake flour. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever bought cake flour. Anyway. I kept finding recipes that were anything but simple and contained ingredients I didn't have (although, shockingly, I did have buttermilk in the fridge...) I then went and looked in my handy dandy Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, the one that is falling apart. I'll pause a minute so that those of you whose eyes got stuck when you were rolling them so high can refocus on the screen. Better? Ok.

So I made it and it was fantastic. So much firmer than a typical box-mix cake and a wonderful flavor. I honestly hadn't thought it would make that much difference. Everyone loves it. I'll never go back. Here are a few pictures I just took (forgot about taking pictures in the process).

This is a long, thin slice. Notice how it's not falling apart. (Yes, I then ate it. Don't judge me.)

This is all that's left out of a 9x13 pan. Sorry, not artistic.

The recipe online is actually different from the one in the book (mine probably has more calories...) so here is the one I used:

BHG's Yellow Cake
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened (I used butter - 1 stick)
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 2 eggs [note: always make sure you have the required number of eggs before you start making the cake*]
In a bowl combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, margarine (butter) and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed till combined. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes more. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pans [I used 1 9x13 pan]. Bake in a 375 oven for 25-30 minutes [25 minutes for the sheet cake] or till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool thoroughly on racks. Serves 12.

 *To my relief, I had exactly 2 eggs.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

He calls them each by name.

 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. -Isaiah 40:26

While I know that my sons don't need forgiveness for their sins (they had no sins), I still wanted to have panikhidas for them. We had a panikhida the other night for someone and I had to sing because there were only a few of us there. I was paying very close attention to the words, thinking about Innocent and Andrew. Most of the prayers have to do with asking forgiveness for the person's sins and they would obviously not apply in their cases. I thought about why I wanted memorial services in church for them so much. The answer occurred to me tonight. I wanted to hear their names.

A whole cottage industry has sprung up for providing various means of babies' names in print. Some are written in the sand and photographed, some are painted onto stones, some are tied to balloons and released. If your child has died before birth then you will not have the hand print on construction paper with the child's name and “Happy Mother's Day” to pin on your wall. You won't be signing permission forms for field trips, you won't be typing about the cute thing he said in your letter to Grandma. Parents of miscarried and stillborn children already suffer the feeling that everyone has either forgotten their children or refused to admit their existence in the first place. Hearing and seeing the child's name is validating. Your child lived even if they didn't draw breath. He or she is a person with an immortal soul.

I haven't had a big interest in seeing Innocent and Andrew's names written onto balloons, the beach, or stenciled onto stuffed angels. I want to hear their names in church with the rest of the departed. Given that we commemorate reposed catechumens and given that unborn babies of Orthodox parents are considered catechumens, you would think that they would be commemorated and included when Memory Eternal is sung in church, but they're not. I don't know what the solution is.

Even if I can't change the practice of the Church (and I don't know that in some churches they don't already do that), I can encourage people to do this: Say the names of the departed babies of your friends and family members. There is some sort of misconception that if you mention the babies by name you are hurting the parents even more. I'm not saying that for someone out there this won't be the case, but I haven't met them yet. Everyone I know wants to hear their baby's name, wants to know that someone else thinks about them and acknowledged their existence. The sound of your baby's name is no less beautiful for the child having departed this life. 

(Originally published on Lost Innocents) 

20 Years

How long is 20 years? Long, if you're talking about the age of your child, short if you are talking about the age of your country.

What about the time needed to turn an entire country around? Impossible?

Obviously not. Russia suffered under Communism for 70 years, from 1922 to December of 1981. You may or may not know that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined. Of the approximately 70 million martyrs in history, 65% were in the 20th century. Russia contributed the majority of those. During those 70 years generations were born and died having never heard of the Orthodox faith. They were indoctrinated with atheism as the state religion. The population of priests fell to 200. Yes, 200 priests for all of Russia. 96,000 priests had been martyred, 600 bishops martyred. The list goes on and on.

What would that have been like? What would the typical 30 year old today feel about the Church? Until the age of 10 the Communists were in power. This person may or may not have been baptized, and if so, secretly (Putin was baptized secretly as a baby). This person's parents would not remember the church unless it were passed down quietly from their parents who would scarcely remember it themselves or not at all. Generations lost. You would think that Russia would be a lost cause when no one alive could remember the Orthodox church before it came under persecution.

But what did Christ say? "The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church." God never loses. Christians have died by the millions for the glory of God, but evil will never triumph. The prayers of those tens of millions of Russian martyrs sustained the Church. The priests who celebrated baptisms and Liturgies secretly sustained the Church. Saintly grandmothers whispering stories from the lives of the saints, stories from the bible to their wide-eyed grandchildren sustained the Church.

Look at these statistics:

Number of open churches:
pre-Communism:  55,173 churches and 29,593 chapels
Communism:  <500 churches
current: 30,142 churches

Number of open monasteries:
pre-Communism: 1,025
Communism:  18
current: 788

Number of priests:
pre-Communism: 112,629 priests and deacons
Communism: 200 priests
current: 32,059 priests and deacons

 No, twenty years is not long. But amazing things have happened. Is everything perfect? Well, of course not - we have to wait for Heaven for perfection. But the Orthodox Church in Russia is alive and well despite unbelievable efforts to exterminate it. May it continue to grow.

Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia pray for us!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Translation of the Relics of St. John Chrysostom


 The memory of this luminary of the Church is celebrated on November 13 and January 30 but, on this date, the Church celebrates the translation of his honorable relics from the Armenian village of Comana, where he died in exile, to Constantinople, where earlier he had governed the Church. 
  Thirty years after his death, Patriarch Proclus delivered a homily in memory of his spiritual father and teacher. He so enflamed the love of the people and Emperor Theodosius the Younger toward this great Saint that all of them desired that Chrysostom's relics be moved (translated) to Constantinople. It was said that the sarcophagus, containing the relics of St. John Chrysostom, did not allow itself to be moved from its resting place until the Emperor wrote a letter to Chrysostom begging him for forgiveness (for Theodosius' mother, Eudoxia, was the culprit responsible for the banishment of the Saint) and appealing to him to come to Constantinople, his former residence. 
   When this letter of repentance was placed on the sarcophagus, the sarcophagus became extremely light. At the time of the translation of his relics, many who were ill and who touched the sarcophagus were healed. 
   When the relics arrived in the capital, the Emperor, in the name of his mother as though she herself were speaking over the relics, again asked the Saint for forgiveness. "While I lived in this transient life, I did you malice and, now, when you live the immortal life, be beneficial to my soul. My glory passed away and it helped nothing. Help me, father; in your glory, help me before I am condemned at the Judgment of Christ!" 
   When the Saint was brought into the Church of the Twelve Apostles and placed on the Patriarchal throne, the masses of people heard the words from St. Chrysostom's mouth saying: "Peace be to you all!"  The translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom was accomplished in the year 438 A.D.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Andrew's birth story

I just finished writing and publishing Andrew's birth story on Lost Innocents. Such a hard thing to do. I feel like I'm coming up for air after having been underwater for the last 90 minutes. Poor little soul.

"Just as wood causes a fire to flare up, and if we do not throw enough of it on the fire, it goes out, so also does it happen with the passions; that is, there are certain causes, which - if cut off - no longer activate the passions.  For example, the causes of anger are: giving and taking; wanting to do one's own will; taking delight in teaching and showing off to other people; and thinking oneself to be intelligent and wise.  If one cuts off these causes, the passion of anger is weakened."
-Blessed Abba Sergios

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sometimes you have to take your happiness where you can find it.*

Maybe we'll get severe storms. Goodness knows with a high of 76 in January we're ripe for some.

Afternoon update: Hmm... Slower moving than they thought:

Oh, and Carlyn, be careful tonight. You're in for some rough weather.

Morning update: Sheesh. It seems that every time we move, tornadoes are attracted to the place we left. Yet again, a tornado (around 4:15 CST) produced a damage path about a half-mile from our old house. We only had rain here, of course.

[*Allow me to put my usual footnote to storm stories: I am, needless to say, sorry for the people who lost their homes and businesses (and it appears that two people have died), but I have loved storms my whole life. Other than seeing a few wall clouds and some weak rotation aloft, I've never actually seen a tornado (waterspouts don't count). We used to joke that wherever we lived there was a big umbrella over the house because storms would inexplicably miss us or dissipate before reaching us. My brother is the only storm-lover in the family who is actually doing something about it by getting a degree in meteorology. The rest of us just run outside and look up hopefully when the sirens go off. I even love a good rip-roaring thunderstorm but they have been rather thin the last few years (at least at our house - see umbrella bit). I think you will find this sentiment common to all storm-chasers and storm-lovers: while we hate that anyone would be hurt or killed, if storms are going to happen anyway, we want to be there.]

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Attention all Star Wars Fans:

Get the popcorn and kleenex and prepare to laugh! My brother sent me this and I am still wiping away tears. We could only do the first 19 minutes but I can't wait to come back later and watch the rest.

This is Star Wars episode IV, but not as you've seen it before. People were asked to film 15 seconds of the story and all the clips were cut and paste together into the full movie. You have everything from stop-motion with Legos, action figures, animated cartoons, kids in costumes, paper bag puppets, you name it. [So far my favorite is the tabby cat who plays the Jawa.] (Back story here.)

Note: I have only watched the first 19 minutes so if you want to show your kids I know at least that much is safe. I (as usual) suggest previewing it to make sure about the rest before you let them see it. I have no reason to suspect anything but it's always a good idea.


"We are in need of much prayer and understanding, if we are to repel the various machinations of the Devil.  For sometimes he makes someone upset over nothing, while at other times he offers [one] a plausible pretext for thinking that he was right to be angry; and he suggests all of these things to the soul out of his hatred for mankind.  The man who truly desires to traverse the way of the Saints is a complete stranger to anger against anyone.  As St. Macarios the Great says: It is unbecoming for brothers to get angry at - or to cause anger in - another.'"
-Blessed Abba Sergios

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lost Innocents Updates

Two new posts you may not have seen:


I am going to try to write out Andrew's birth story in the next week - I think I'm up to it - and post it on Lost Innocents. I also plan to go through the site and do any updates, additions, corrections, now that I've experienced it a second time (with some differences this time around). I will add as usual: if any of you are willing to have your birth stories linked to or posted on Lost Innocents, or willing to have photographs of your babies added to the Photographs page, then please consider it and contact me. Lost Innocents is getting increasing amounts of traffic and is found by people searching for "11 weeks baby", "Orthodox burial for miscarried baby", "can I bury my miscarried baby", "miscarriage photos", "miscarriage grief blog", etc. Women have written and told me that they have been helped by seeing photographs of babies at the age theirs were when they lost them - particularly women who had D&Cs and who never saw their babies. This tribute to your babies is also a strong and silent witness to the beauty of life as people view the tiny, miraculous details of God's handiwork.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You want sprinkles with that?

What do you do when you suddenly decide to make a Lego cake for your son, but you only bought chocolate frosting at the store and don't have enough confectioner's sugar to make white?

You use sprinkles. 
Lots of 'em.

And use candles with colored flames.

(One cake recipe divided into three loaf pans and six cupcakes. Easy.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“We must see to it that our pleasing of others always ministers to their good in some way, edifies them, adds something to their character, makes them braver, truer, happier.  The world is full of discouraged people, and we have power to say a hopeful word or do a kindness which will drive the discouragement from their hearts and move them again, with strength for brave, victorious, and songful living.  Love is the greatest thing in the world.  We are to see to it that everything we do and every influence of our life shall be for our neighbor's good.  We are bound so to live that we shall do hurt to none, but shall edify-  add something to the life of everyone.”                                         
-St. Alexandra, Tsaritsa and New Martyr

Monday, January 16, 2012

Music Monday: The Longest Time

I may have been born in the 70's, but I'm a child of the 80's. Musically speaking, that is. Eh, I'm over the shame of liking 80's music. To cheer myself up I've been sitting here playing a compendium of 80's hits and suddenly remembered one that wasn't even on the top hits list. I just played it, remembered ever word (I don't think anyone heard me singing...Father may be laughing his head off in the other room right now...) and loved every minute of it. Because I'm weird like that, I'm going to share it with you. The video is goofy but in a nicely goofy way.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Only just beginning

This is the mark of Christianity: However much a man toils, and however many good deeds he performs, to feel that he has done nothing, and in fasting to say, "This is not true fasting," and in praying, "This is not true prayer," and in perseverance at prayer, "I have shown no real perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains"; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, "I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day."
-St. Macarius the Great (4th c.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Month

Just checking in.

Andrew was born one month ago last Thursday. A month seems like a long time, but it's only a drop in the bucket. Tomorrow is one month since we buried him. I haven't been back out to his grave since that day. We'll do a memorial service for his 40th day on the 21st.

Medically speaking we now know that we will never know why he died. I have my suspicions but they will remain suspicions. The weight of guilt is heavy.

The children are doing fine. They enjoyed Christmas and Theophany. Pickles has stopped asking when we can take the stone off of Innocent to see how much he has grown. I think he figured out after we buried Andrew that Innocent wasn't coming back. That day was also the first time I really saw him cry over it. I guess it sank in. He has been fine since though.

I put the new family picture up on the side bar. I also added an additional family picture: one of all of our patron saints. It feels a little funny saying that we are a family of nine, but we are. For now, the icon corner represents the only place we are all together. Innocent and Andrew are a part of our family even though they never knew us.

I am not "back". I am still restricting myself to ten websites including email and the weather. This self-imposed electronic isolation is still necessary. (Although, yes, I answer email.) The grieving process this time around is a little different. Not quite so much shock, more loss of hope. I need to go through Lost Innocents to see if anything needs to be modified or added since this second loss. I haven't been able to do it yet, nor have I been able to write Andrew's birth story. Being in the proximity of newborns whether in real life or virtually is still monumentally hard.

We had an accident before Christmas: one of the children spilled an entire cup of hot chocolate over Innocent's memory box. The box itself is ruined although the contents were largely protected. The photo albums need to be replaced but the photos are fine. I purchased an identical box and put all of the contents in it. Now both Andrew and Innocent's boxes need to be painted and lined. Again, it's something I haven't been able to do. I need to remind myself that it took almost six months before I finished Innocent's. The ruined box is still sitting on my dresser. Throwing it out feels like throwing him out. I can't do it. I would feel ridiculous putting a ruined wooden box in the attic, but I don't know what to do with it. So there it sits until I figure it out. I was able to remove the rickrack from the perimeter of the box so I can put it on the new box. At least part of it will be the same.

I want to send out a big thank you to all of you who have prayed, sent cards, gifts, letters, email, and in one case a donation to our church in memory of the boys (I won't embarrass you by identifying you but I'll let you know that we are purchasing an icon of St. Andrew for the church with part of it). I really do have a number of thank you notes sitting by the desk but I can't seem to pull myself together long enough to address and stamp them. They will get to you eventually. [I actually found sympathy thank you notes at the store. I didn't know they made such a thing. I didn't get them. They looked gloomy.] All of the love you all has shown has been very supportive. This time around I have struggled with despair more than anything else and it has been a tremendous help to keep receiving little reminders that I am not alone.

A special little thank you to my sister Rebecca and my friend Michelle who surprised me by making these little ornaments for the boys. It was a huge help to be able to hang them on the tree with our other children's baby ornaments. When we took all the decorations down these ornaments went into their own little box. I will look forward to hanging them every year.

I will try to check back in every so often.

From Michelle

From Rebecca

Friday, January 13, 2012

For the healthiest living...

...trust the advertising.

Unbelievably, this next one is a legitimate advertisement. "So do yourself a favor. Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness."





You may not be able to read the finer print on this next one: "Mother knows Munchmallows are crammed with wholesome, energy-giving sugar. So it's ok by her when they eat them by the fistful."

source (and more)