Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Touching base

(photo is my hat from last year's New Year's Eve party.)
Good morning everyone. Busy, busy, busy around here, thus the lack of update. I am certain I am not alone in that, eh? Christmas was lovely, just lovely. We really scaled back the presents, and increased the festivities, and in my humble opinion, it was a huge success. No stressed out, exhausted moms, no greedy, overwrought children, no worried dad's about January bills. We had time for Royal Hours Christmas Eve, all the children were able to receive the sacrament of Confession that day, and then, later, the Vesperal Christmas Liturgy. The next day, all my family helped me stay away from the sweet stuff (blood sugar issues) by bringing delicious savory foods, and due to a freezer door not being shut tight, we had steak! Yum!!

Now we are preparing for a big party this evening, so we can send off 2008 with a bang, and welcome 2009 with a song. Once this party is over, I'll be able to contemplate a little more the blessings and challenges of this past year, and my hopes and prayers for the New Year. As they all are, this has been quite a year, and while it is easy to remember the difficult parts, I really want to dig deep to find the lesson attached to all the experiences. While events can be discouraging, and offer true heart ache, the real tragedy would be to experience all those, and then miss the blessing that is always attached, if one has eyes to see.

Just now, I was watching out the window and saw my three youngest children walking to the neighbors to play for a while. My eight year old daughter was helping the little two on the icy snow ~ one arm around the six year old, the other holding the four year old's hand. So very sweet, especially considering she wouldn't possibly be able to hold them both up if they slipped, she is a tiny little thing. But the extra stability and confidence she offered was enough, and the compassion and concern was evident, and they arrived without a fall. I feel inspired by my daughter's compassion, to offer stability and confidence when I can, and to receive it when offered to me. How else will I be able to make it through this next year with any hope for joy and peace?

And one last thing. I am approaching week 30 in this pregnancy, and as usual, it seems as if this is as large as I should get. Knowing that this isn't the case, and that there is much largeness ahead is still unbelievable to me, despite this being my eighth pregnancy. However, just the other day, a new friend walked into my house, looked at me and said, "Oh my, aren't you cute! Look at you!" Best remedy ever for feeling largish. Best ever.

So now I am off to take my cute self to the grocery store to prepare for this evening's festivities. Have a festive evening yourselves, and a blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Below is the Christmas Homily of St. John Chrysostom. Enjoy this beautiful reflection on Christmas and the joy Christmas brings. With this offering I also offer sincere prayers for each of you, for peace, health and happiness on this holy feast, and each day that follows. Blessings to you all, and Merry Christmas!!

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.

For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.

For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ¡in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant¢s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”

Friday, December 19, 2008

quick update

Well, that was short lived. Glucose test came back too high so the indulgence is over. Still trying for the eight pounder, though. What are the odds?

Quick Take Friday

Well, if it wasn't for Jen's 7 Quick Takes Friday, I probably wouldn't post at all anymore. It is a little disconcerting, though, how quickly the weeks are flying by. But, in honor of Friday, here we go:


The orthopedic surgeon was able to set my son's arm without opening it up and using pins. He is in a very awkward splint that will be nuisance for six weeks, but all in all, a very favorable outcome to the situation. More bright side, our son got to go the concert of the choir the older girls are in, the same choir he was in for 9 years. He also got to join us in decorating my mom's Christmas tree (a long standing tradition for us) and will get to go Christmas caroling tomorrow morning (he was originally scheduled to come home tomorrow afternoon). We are so happy to have him home!


I have been enjoying chocolate this morning, since my Glucose Tolerance Test was yesterday. I have been diligent in reducing my sugar intake, especially as the test approached, so now I have a little reprieve. My real reason for cutting back on sugar is to try to keep the baby under 9 pounds. I achieved that goal last time, as my baby was 8#15 oz. I am going for 8 pounds even this time, if possible.


Still getting my decorations up. Slowly. The anticipation builds. On the agenda today is decorating the tree, the front porch and building our Gingerbread house. I have cleared my schedule for the weekend (except for a caroling party Sunday evening), and intend to enjoy going nowhere and fluffing up my house a bit.


As I have mentioned before, I am really enjoying this pregnancy. But it is just now beginning to dawn on me that I will not be basking in the glow of pregnancy forever, and before long, I will have an actual, real live BABY in the house again. I am guessing the adjustment will be like riding a bike, we'll get right back in the baby groove after a 5 year gap, but I honestly can barley imagine it.


The third trimester hit me with a thud this week. This weeks midwife appointment included the glucose tolerance test, kick count instructions, birth plan worksheet. I shopped for two days to finish up for Christmas, and by the end of both days, caught myself waddling. My hips and tail bone are achy, and some of my middle trimester clothes don't fit quite a well. The other kids can feel the baby move now, and random strangers pat my tummy. That used to really bug me, but not anymore. I relish the positive comments. Pat away.


I have been deliberating over baby names. You all know we are having a girl. I was totally set on a name, but now I am thinking I want to keep trying out new possibilities. I want her name to be meaningful and attached to her roots, either through her faith or family, or both. This is one of my favorite things, and I guess I don't want it to be over too quickly.


And finally, I am going to wish you all a Blessed rest of Advent, and a Merry and lively Christmas now. I am not certain I'll post again before Christmas. Many Blessings to you all!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Broken Arm Saga Update

Just a quick update: We are off to the hospital for an out patient surgery on my eldest boy's arm. The doctor is hopeful that an external reduction can be done (setting the bone with out surgery). He will need anesthesia, and then if they can not get it set properly, they will proceed to the open reduction, internal fixation (surgery and pins). We are obviously praying for the former, rather than the latter, but what we really want is for him arm to be fixed.

For those who asked, he broke it playing rugby, after being tackled. So he is out for the year from sports.

I'll update later. Thanks for your concern and prayers!

Friday, December 12, 2008

7 Quick takes Friday

I really can not believe it is Friday again already.
Check out Jen at Conversion Diary for other participants.


I have a prayer request. My oldest son, the one away at school, broke his arm yesterday, and is having it reset today. The doctors haven't determined yet if an external reduction will work, and if it doesn't, he'll need surgery for an Open Reduction, Internal Fixation (ORIF), which in layman terms is surgery and rods. Sigh. Please pray that the external reduction works, and that he heals quickly.


Today is cookie day. We are going to make 4 different varieties, and attend a Cookie Exchange at church tomorrow. All the kids want to help, so this will be one of those projects that have the potential for extreme cuteness and warm, fuzzy memories, or extreme, tongue biting frustration. I think I will make one variety with sets of 2 children each, so as not to get too overwhelmed. One must acknowledge and act accordingly to one's limits, right?


Watching the kids all play together outside this week, making a snow fort, has been heartwarming. All 6 of the kids at home have been out there, making snow bricks with a Lego box, and assembling an igloo. One day I decided that was sufficiently educational to call it school. Or call it a snow day. Or whatever, I thought it was important and enriching, and thus, one of the many joys of home educating, these opportunities for sibling unity can be seized.


I have been cooking a venison roast in the crock pot for 20 hours. It is falling apart, and smells delish. I marinated it in apple cider, garlic and soy sauce for a few days first. We will eat it on rolls tomorrow, and hope everyone loves it. I am new at cooking venison, but a friend from church keeps bringing us free meat, and I can't just ignore it because I don't know what to do with it. So I am learning. I think. We'll see tomorrow.


About the concert last Saturday. My older girls sang at a concert that included a phenomenal community orchestra, a church choir, and combinations of all three. The theme was Baroque, and to witness Bach played with such joy and vibrancy made me realize again that LISTENING to beautiful music really is only half the joy. Watching the dance that goes on between the musicians and the music is energetic and thrilling. Watching my girls participate in such a beautiful event, with joy and skill and confidence, made this mother's heart swell with happiness!


I want to send out Christmas cards this year. I really, really do. I am getting more and more doubtful that I will, though, as this month flies by and I just don't see it happening again. Oh well...


Just heard back from my son's school. Looks like he will indeed need surgery, and the doctor there recommended that he come home today or tomorrow to have it taken care of here. Now we scramble to get him home, find an ortho, insurance details, and add an impromptu surgery into our already full week. Prayers, please. This is the first time anything like this has occurred in our family so we are treading on new territory here.

That's all for now.....


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More St. Nicholas

Here are a few more photos of my St. Nicholas collection. I have been collecting them for years. The large icon I wrote 6 years ago. Then small, silver icon was a treasured gift. I have an old candy mold, and a chalk statue made from an old candy mold, and a wax figuring made from an old candy mold. I have one from Russia, and one from Kohl's department store. I try to find a new one every year. These photos are from last year, because truthfully this year all I have done is put up the icons. I will be unpacking all the rest this week, so I can show you all more specific photos if you wish.

I have received a few of these as gifts, some I have found at craft fairs and thrift stores, as well as gift shops. Not all of them are St. Nicholas as Bishop. Some are St. Nick as early Santa, some are praying Santa's, and some are just Santa, but there is something about them that calls to me and makes me think of the real, true, St. Nicholas.

Thanks for asking, everyone, about my St. Nicholas'. I really enjoy keeping a look out for him wherever I am!
Click on the photos for a larger view, if you wish

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

We had a VERY busy weekend, but a very nice St. Nicholas Day. This year only six shoes on the hearth, since oldest son is away, but a box of goodies arrived for him that day.

We missed Great Vespers Friday evening due to illness and a choir performance, but we got anointed with St. Nicholas oil Sunday after Divine Liturgy.

This week brings more choir rehearsals and a big concert, a cookie exchange, as well as a church party. We'll be busy baking, singing, wrapping and doing school.

This past Saturday my older girls sang in a concert with a chamber orchestra. I hope to write a post soon about the joy of seeing beautiful music being performed live. I am still enjoying the thought of it.

So, many blessing to you all. St. Nicholas, pray to God for us!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Jen at Conversion Diary began this Friday tradition, and since I am truly uninspired, I am going with it this week.


After being woken up at 4:00am and not able to get back to sleep, my husband and I had an hour or two of conversation, followed by breakfast out at 6:00am. We were back before anyone even missed us here, although we did wake up the teens before leaving to let them know what we were up to. It was marvelously spontaneous.


Because I got such an early jump on the day, I have been crazy productive. Desk work addressed and finished, laundry attacked and over 3/4 finished, dinner planned and thawing, the rest of my Christmas shopping finished on Amazon, plus a few misc. school books I needed and had been putting off. Maybe the 17 cups of coffee I had at the cafe this morning is responsible? I don't know, but I'm going with it.


I have found 4 lost items today that have been driving me crazy for months. Months. I now have more space in my brain for useful things, rather than wondering where these items are. Yippee!!


I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins yesterday, using the pie pumpkin I had used for fall decor. First time in my life I actually used a non-canned pumpkin for baking. I felt thrifty and the muffins were yummy.


In all the turmoil going on lately, with the economy, terrorism, politics, the bottom falling out of my husband's industry while he is job searching, and this little gift of a pregnancy, I am feeling an unearthly calm. Sort of freaks me out, a little.


I hate how going to the midwife's office sucks every bit of joy out of pregnancy. I just wish I could skip that part and just have her there for the delivery. The entire attitude in the medical world about pregnancy is assuming dysfunction, and I always feel as if I have to prove to them that I am a responsible, healthy, stable individual who doesn't need such scrutiny. I feel bad for the midwife that healthy, stable and responsible patients are such a rarity.


And finally, I am so loving this pregnancy. The other seven were always a bit soon for my taste, and I had to work myself into the idea, and needed every day of the nine months to do so. This time, I am awed by the miracle, the unexpected joy, and the marvel of containing another human in my body. I am simply so delighted I can barely speak of it. And we are settling on a name for this baby, and that feels so awesome. My daughters have four names picked out and want to use all of them. It turns into a beautiful name, but a little unwieldy. We'll see what happens.

Thanks for sticking around for this. It was fun!!

(photo is of our ultrasound. I can't really make it out, either, but I know it's her)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Can't think of anything else today. Seems accurate sort of, in a way

You Are a Marilyn!


You are a Marilyn -- "I am affectionate and skeptical."

Marilyns are responsible, trustworthy, and value loyalty to family, friends, groups, and causes. Their personalities range broadly from reserved and timid to outspoken and confrontative.

How to Get Along with Me
  • * Be direct and clear
  • * Listen to me carefully
  • * Don't judge me for my anxiety
  • * Work things through with me
  • * Reassure me that everything is OK between us
  • * Laugh and make jokes with me
  • * Gently push me toward new experiences
  • * Try not to overreact to my overreacting.

What I Like About Being a Marilyn
  • * being committed and faithful to family and friends
  • * being responsible and hardworking
  • * being compassionate toward others
  • * having intellect and wit
  • * being a nonconformist
  • * confronting danger bravely
  • * being direct and assertive

What's Hard About Being a Marilyn
  • * the constant push and pull involved in trying to make up my mind
  • * procrastinating because of fear of failure; having little confidence in myself
  • * fearing being abandoned or taken advantage of
  • * exhausting myself by worrying and scanning for danger
  • * wishing I had a rule book at work so I could do everything right
  • * being too critical of myself when I haven't lived up to my expectations

Marilyns as Children Often
  • * are friendly, likable, and dependable, and/or sarcastic, bossy, and stubborn
  • * are anxious and hypervigilant; anticipate danger
  • * form a team of "us against them" with a best friend or parent
  • * look to groups or authorities to protect them and/or question authority and rebel
  • * are neglected or abused, come from unpredictable or alcoholic families, and/or take on the fearfulness of an overly anxious parent

Marilyns as Parents
  • * are often loving, nurturing, and have a strong sense of duty
  • * are sometimes reluctant to give their children independence
  • * worry more than most that their children will get hurt
  • * sometimes have trouble saying no and setting boundaries

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More jammies and food.

The hardest part of the day... getting dressed.

I am now 6 months pregnant, and my clothes are beginning to resemble pajamas. Everything is stretchy, baggy, long. So what is the point?

I do have one very nice pair of corduroy maternity pants with an expandable waist band. I am only 3 button holes from the end now. What are the odds that I am only going to use one button hole per month until the end? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Next hardest part of the day ~ eating my healthy breakfast when the kids are all having waffles with butter and maple syrup. I did nibble on the remains of my youngest daughter's waffles, but really, that is not the same.

Then finally, pregnant or not, the final most difficult part of the day is coming up with dinner. I have standbys that I use regularly, and they are fine. But some one always says, "(Misc. standby) AGAIN?"

So, I am going right now to conquer number one, I already conquered number 2 (except the nibble, but nibbles don't count).

Any help with number 3 from anyone? Anyone? Otherwise, it will be vegetarian chili, AGAIN.

(I totally acknowledge that if these are the most difficult part of my day, I have a pretty sweet little life. I do. Totally.)

Update: As I conquered difficulty number one later, I found on the other side of the nice corduroy pants another elastic band with 6 more holes. That makes 9 more total, and that just may be enough!! YAY.

Just to be clear, I even find myself pathetic at this point, so don't feel badly about it ;)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An update

Finally, a few updated photos over at St. Paraskeva's place. Go check it out. Here's a little taste:

My Advent Icon

In this icon, which I wrote 3 years ago, Mary is shown with "He whom the heavens can not contain" contained in her womb. An important note, taught by this icon, on the role of Mary, the Theotokos, in our lives. In this icon, her hands are lifted in an "Orans" positions, or praying position. Christ's hands, even as he resides in the womb, are lifted in a blessings position. The distinction is clear, the Theotokos prays for us, Christ Blesses us. Mary intercedes for us with her prayers, Christ redeemed us. Mary is a creature, a pure and marvelous creature, Christ is God. Quite a lot of theology in this icon, isn't there?

what is getting my through these days

My favorite "healthy food" now is a parfait I make for either breakfast or mid-day snack. It goes like this:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Ezekiel cereal (sprouted grain cereal, similar to Grape nuts, but more protein dense and more easily digestible)
1/3 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon pumpkin butter (from Trader Joe's. Any jam works, though)
a smidge of cinnamon
a dash of vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts.

It is fabulous, delicious, filling and nutritious.