Friday, May 30, 2008

From my Mother's Journal, 12/6/98

While cleaning up my room, I came across one of my many partially filled journals. I was thumbing through, and came across this entry, that coordinated nicely with my last two posts.

I wish somehow I could save the moments when we are all sitting together, the four beautiful children, laughing and busy, unaware of my very misty gaze. Where did these people come from? How did I end up in charge? All of a sudden my world is so large, so vast. I feel as if I have the universe in my hands. Each one of them is so unique, so dear, and right NOW they are so cute and pudgy and pink and soft and innocent and pure, it hurts to think of time passing. Too quickly, I tell you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Friendly Reminder

This is the last week to vote in the Eastern Christian Blog Awards. Please do go vote!

I'm not even close to winning, but if we make these awards a success, they may happen again, and get the Eastern Christian blogs more attention. I have enjoyed visiting the nominees. Good stuff!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wisdom for the ages, on motherhood, from a man, no less.

I received a comment on my last post from marianne that said:

Thank you so much for your perspective! We're expecting #7 and I am desperately overwhelmed. It's good to remember that at some point I will look back and miss these times.

And with that, I wanted to hasten to add to the mothers of young children, that even though I long for those days in theory, I wouldn't really want to do them all over again. It was achingly exhausting, to the point of tears frequently, and there was no earthly way I could do all I needed to do well. It was triage every day. Fact of the matter is, it is still triage every day, but now I am more used to it, and do not take it personally.

Here is a story to elucidate the point I am trying to make. Approximately six years ago, when I had six small children eight and under, every time I went out with them all I would either get the, "are they all yours", or, "you have your hands full", or the completely exasperating, "Oh how I wish my kids were still that age. Enjoy them, these are the best years!". My heart would sink. Really? Honestly? The best years? I can barely form coherent sentences, I haven't slept in three years, and I feel like every last nerve has put in it's two week notice, and these are THE BEST YEARS?? God help me, or take me now, whichever. Because that really depressed me.

Then one day, I had all the kidlets with me at the hardware store, looking for a Christmas gift for their dad. I was gritting my teeth, speaking softly but promising dire consequences to any child trying to escape or touching anything, feeling like maybe a pack of light bulbs would do so I could get me and this circus out of the store. A 60ish man (man, not woman, notice), walked over to me, and I thought, "Here we go, he's going to tell me we should get a T.V., or that he's staring at a million dollars of education in that shopping cart", or some other nugget of wisdom I had heard before.

He gazed into my eyes, paused, gave a slight, sympathetic, knowing smile, and said,

"These years are much better as memories."

Then he walked away. I think he was my guardian angel, because ever since that day, I realize that the cuteness of children can not be outdone, but Praise God that when we look back, the bad stuff fades. The good stuff sticks. And THAT, my friends, is why every mother with grown children long for the sweetness of the past. I don't think anyone in their right mind would do those years over again if the TRULY remembered what they were like.

So, please know that if I HAD to do it over again, I would probably be just as exhausted, but I would relax about the "little stuff." I would write down more about them as they grew, and I would ASK FOR MORE HELP.

Other than that, there is no easy way out of this parenting thing. I love the life I have now, and I think that much of my sadness is simply the acknowledgment that my life is passing. My time is finite on this earth, and my children growing up are a daily reminder of my life oozing out of me. The other part of the sadness is just that children are so very innocent and have such a pure joy about them. And try as you might, you cannot prevent that from being lost in your children as they grow up.

So to wrap this up, please know that I appreciate the overwhelm and fatigue of you moms with small children, and in no way am trying to guilt anyone into loving every minute of it. I appreciate that I have more time for other pursuits now, I appreciate my children as I watch their personalities unfold (sometimes more so than others), and I love getting to take showers uninterrupted.

But while you have the little ones, love them up, but good.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Turning Point

Well, it's official. I no longer have any "babies" in my house. My youngest, my baby, turned 4 this morning at 2:35am, and now she is a little girl, not a toddler, and definitely not a baby. And what a little girl she is. Confident, loving, bossy, vivacious and full of energy. Creative, funny, and very clear on what she wants.

She, of course, is thrilled to be four years old. It's about time, she says. But oh, my, as I sit here, watching the garbage truck coming to haul away the toddler bed we put at the curb this weekend, my heart is aching. No more cribs, no toddler beds. No little things. No high chairs, no potty chairs. There are no children in this house that use little things any more. She has a big bed (I'll download photos of the big bed later, along with others from her big day). She is an independent pottier. She dressed herself, and buckles herself in her car seat.

I remember longing for the day that I could say, "Everyone get in the car", and they did. When I could say, "Get on your shoes and coats", and they did. And that day is here. And I am more sad that I could have imagined.

Since the end of March, 4 of my seven children have had birthdays. I haven't had time to adjust to any of these new ages, but you will find them reflected in the sidebar now, in the "about me" section. When I began this blog, my baby was seven months old. I look back at the archives and am amazed at how my life has changed since then. I had been having babies regularly for 10 years at that point. While I was adding more children, my life was the same. While I had new people to love and care for, the tasks and activities were very recognizable and familiar to me.

Now, not so much. No babies. 3 teens (okay, one of the top three is 12, but you know, close enough). Not a chubby leg to be seen (except mine *snort*). Thank God there are still small enough children around here that I get a good supply of genuine hugs and kisses. But I see the writing on the wall. Even my second youngest isn't an enthusiastic kisser any more. There aren't even that many baby teeth left in this house.

I hate feeling this morose on a joyous birthday. I can't help it though. It's all going so quickly, and so much of my time is spent doing needed activities that distract me and exhaust me, and make my time with my family less in quantity, and quality. I mourn all the times I said "no" to my children when they asked me to read a book, because I had laundry to do, or dinner to cook, or the house to pick up, or weeds to pull. And yet, if I didn't do these things, we would be living in a hovel. I know I show my family love by caring for them and our home. It's just that the memories of all the laundry and shopping I have done do not warm my heart nearly as much as the memories of being with my babies.

I can still remember my oldest son, at three years old, sitting on my lap, and giving my spontaneous hugs, his little arms wrapping all the way around my neck, his cheek right next to mine. He still gives my hugs, but he is much taller than me now, and he stoops down to hug me, and he is careful with his hugs. The exuberant tight hugs are long gone with him. And my next daughter is 13, and she now gives delicate little hugs. Her sweet silly ways are settling down into more mature and adult behaviors. But I sure remember her 3 year old self, silly, uninhibited and so very gleeful. I won't go on through the list of all seven children and the things I remember about them, as that could get pretty dull to a non-parent, but I will share one common memory of all of them.

With the first baby I was completely caught off guard, and then with each successive baby I eagerly anticipated this moment. It usually happened at between two and three months old. I would be up in the wee hours of the morning, nursing the hungry baby. I usually nursed the babies in bed, but occasionally I would get up and sit in a chair while I nursed them. I wear glasses, with a pretty strong corrections, and would not wear my glasses while night nursing. So, there I am, sleepy, in dim light, everything a little fuzzy without my glasses, but looking at my baby, contentedly nursing away. Then the baby's eyes would open, and meet mine, and a look of delight would cross the baby's face, and a smile, almost involuntary, would erupt, a smile so big that milk would drip out of the mouth. That look would melt me and delight me, and literally feed my soul.

That look. That is the thing that I miss in my big children. They have all gone and grown up, and rightly so, but I am the same mom here. Eagerly looking into their faces, and willing them to know how much I love them. It is good, and right that the bigger kids spend more time looking away now. I know this. And I still have plenty of hugs and kisses around here, but it is slipping away. It is the greatest paradox of my life; watching these children grow up, and pull away, and knowing that by doing so, I am doing my job well. And it is breaking my heart.

(photo of my first look at my now four year old)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Until Later...

I'll be off line for a while. Right now the computer is more of a hindrance than a help in getting things done around crazyacres, so stay tuned, I hope to have much progress to report when I return.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

St. Paraskeva update

Updates ready for the St. Paraskeva's place!

In God's Time

I apologize for the lack of new material here lately. I just haven't had much time to attend to the blog lately. I also have let my daily walks slip, and I realize that is where much of my thinking and formulating of posts took place When I am here at the house, I am constantly being engaged by somebody (read: interrupted) and most of my unformed thoughts stay just that: unformed.

At the same time, I realize my fat pants are getting tight, so I need to get back to my walks for that reason as well. The most difficult part of "getting started" is, well, getting started. In my mind, I see myself out for a great hike, enjoying myself and my surroundings. In real life, the act of actually getting my self together and getting my trusty iPod ready, grabbing a bottle of water and setting off, well, for some reason that just seems to be very difficult to pull off. I need a kick in the kiester to get started. If anyone has words of wisdom and motivation for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

In the meantime, I have been gardening and getting some exercise that way. I used to have gardening as a solitary pursuit, but now that some of the kids are older, they are helping me. This is very good, as I get more done, but it does put a bit of a damper on the contemplative part of yard work for me. As my wise sister in law said to me once, "you always have to give up something good to get something good".

Too true, too true.

In other news, my icon class is finishing up tonight for the most part (the one we stared in the fall), and some of the participants will be continuing on with new icons. So, more pictures on the way. I still haven't finished my icon, but should be able to tonight. I just need to do a few touch ups and letters. I also am still working on the Samaritan Woman at the Well icon, and hope I will get that finished this summer. I would really like to do another Mandylion, on a smaller board, with the same color palette. Of course, I have 3 acres to garden, many children to plan next school year for, and lots of other regular chores like cooking and cleaning and laundry that keep delaying my icon plans. But, in God's time, I will complete the icon, and since my iconography is all for the Glory of God, I am satisfied with that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The voting continues

If you haven't voted yet in the Eastern Christian Blog Awards, the voting is open until the end of May. I am up against some pretty impressive blogs in the Domestic Church category. I truly am happy to be amongst their ranks in the nominees, but a few more votes wouldn't hurt my self esteem any, either.

Back to school now. Toodles.

In the May issue of Real Simple, which I received for Mother's Day, I came across this quote. While I am STILL awaiting time to rent and watch the cathartic movies, this quote gave me a plan B:

From My Mother's 15 Simple Rules:

2. When you're sad, don't fight it - accessorize it. Get some gin and cigarettes, then play Edith Piaf until the CD starts to skip.

Last night I searched iTunes for Edith Piaf, and stumbled across a album called "100 Classic French Songs". Here is the kicker ~ it was $9.99. Of course they are all in French (duh!) but are these songs terrific!! Some are sad, and and the ones that are not will go well with gin and cigarettes anyway. Actually, as most of you know, I prefer Maker's Mark over gin, and I quit smoking 2 years ago, but...

So I am off to begin the day, with French love songs bouncing around in my head, and thinking of taking up the accordion. Could be a worse way to start the day, eh?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Many years, love!

On top of Mother's Day and Pentecost, we celebrated our sixth child's birthday this weekend. He is six years old now. Due to the fact that I am busy, exhausted and trying like the dickens to get school done this year, I am reposting something I wrote about him last year. The picture of him in the train is when he was three. The other photos are from his birthday, when he got his requested "buzz". The child is easy to please, as he wanted a buzz for his birthday. So here is the reposted love story of this child.

This particular child was like a life raft for me at a very scary time. I will be forever grateful for him. Of course, all my children were well timed (not by me) gifts, each in their own way. But this life raft I am still holding onto, and so here is the rest of the story:

This is my sweet three year old son. He is a joy, and, I believe, a miracle.

It all began 4 years ago, when my dh quit his job, for ethical reasons. He had a healthy bonus coming, so to avoid conflict of interest, he quit prior to finding a different job. He also was getting fatigued in his chosen profession, and thought he might try something else. Didn't happen. Long story short, this ended up with our bonus tied up in court, with dh having no job, and us having to deal with all the ugliness of a law suit.

Then, on September 10, 2001, dh opened a business account with most of the money we had left, and started his own business, as the luxury of doing something else had vanished. Of course, we all know what happened on September 11th, and all the fear and grief that accompanied that grim day.

On September 12th, I found out I was expecting my 6th child. This wasn't in the plan. This shouldn't have happened according to my charts. This just plain, old shouldn't have happened. Was I being cursed? Punished? How could God do this to me?? I mean, I live trying to trust God, remain open to life, yet could there be any worse timet to have a baby?: WHAT WAS HE THINKING??? This is what went through my head as I lay awake, night after night, and fought sleep day after day.

The pregnancy dragged on. I had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, had to switch insurance providers to save money, and therefore had to pay for the birth ourself. Meanwhile, dh's business is tanking in the post-9/11 stock market mess.

This is a really long story.

So I will skip most of it, except to say that God took the most exquisite care of us. We never had a need that wasn't filled. Somehow, we managed to go nearly two years with no income, and suffer no permanent repercussions. We found how many dear friends we had in our life. We found that our church was a refuge and a strength for us. We were able to turn to family for help without shame. And, we got our dear, sweet son, who couldn't have come at a better time. He soothed my soul, gave me joy, gave me the sweet simplicity of a new, lovely baby, at a time when the world seemed so complicated and dark.

People often assume that our seven children were a choice for us, you know, good for you, if that's what makes you happy, and all that. No, this really wasn't what I set out to do. I didn't have any desire for baby number 6, thought I was being punished, and was beside myself. When he was born, I realized that God did know better, and knew exactly what I would need at exactly the right time.

Now, things are better, dh's business is still surviving, we have another baby, and all the legal and financial mess is ancient history. And we still have this little precious boy, a gift, and a constant reminder to me of God's tender care.

(P.S. As an addendum to this old post, I can say that since I wrote this post, we have had more upheavals and hardships. More than I care to recount here, but even when we revisited the difficult times, this boy was a consolation to me, to know that my life is in God's hands, and the value of someone's very existance is worth far more than worldly, material satisfaction. How good of God to give me a living Testament to His love, one I can hug and kiss, and live with, and watch grow in love. God is good!)

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!
In honor of every self-sacrificing mother out there, here is a quote that hit me right between the eyes. Whenever I read this part of the story to my children, I pause. This is the answer to the unsettling hesitation I have about the costs of mothering. I see my body, so changed by the process of carrying and birthing seven children. I see the hesitation to endure whatever the future has in store. I see the fear of "losing myself" amidst the constant daily demands. I see the desire, and yet am fearful, of becoming real.


"What is REAL?" asled the Rabbit one day. Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
The only toy that was kind to the Rabbit was the Skin Horse. The Skin Horse had lived in the nursery longer than any of the others, and he was very wise.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens when a child loves you. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, you get loose in the joints, and very shabby."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse. "But when you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
The Rabbit sighed. He longed to become Real, and yet the idea of growing shabby was rather sad. He wished that he could become Real without uncomfortable things happening to him.

from "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams.

And I offer a sincere prayer of thanksgiving to the Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of Truth; Who is in all places and sees all things; Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life, for granting me the gifts of my children, and the many opportunities to become REAL.

And to all the Mothers reading, and to all the women who mother other people's children, and to all the women who care for others and give of themselves, Happy Mother's Day, and may God grant you many years in peace, health and happiness.

(adapted from Mother's Day, 2005)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Broken transformation

Every evening, I make it a point to be in my icon studio to catch the light show provided by the setting sun and a prism that hangs in my window. It lifts my spirits immeasurably to see the pure light broken, yet beautiful. I think of Psalm 50, "a crushed and humbled heart You will not spurn", and visualize my heart, broken, yet hopefully like the light that is broken, becoming a breathtaking spectrum of light. I pray that my heart will become something beautiful for God, even in its brokenness.

A view of part of my icon wall with the evening light show

A view of the wall to the right of the icon wall

The spectrum up close

The method by which the light is being broken and transformed (with wind chimes hanging outside, directly behind).

My favorite from the weekend

Over the weekend, the choir in which my kids are members had their spring concert. I took some posed pictures of them, then caught this candid photo of the girls helping the boy get his bow tie on. The candid photos are always the best!

Here is a posed photo, with the littlest singer included:

Pentecost is coming!

So, Pentecost is this Sunday. (Our Byzantine Catholic church is on the "new" calendar). As our family has begun to embrace the celebration of the Liturgical calendar more holistically, we have tried to take the celebration of feasts home with us after church. Could you all please share with me how you celebrate Pentecost as a family? What traditions do you have, from food to cook and share, to activities and even decorations. This is a BIG day, and want to to be bigger at home.

Currently, we go to church, get our blessed wheat and then decorate our family icon wall with the wheat (with nine people in the family, we get quite a lot), move the Pentecost icon to the center, and light candles, incense and put up flowers.

My sixth child turns 6 on Saturday, and Mother's Day is also on Pentecost, so this should be one happy household for the next few days. Today we clean, then tomorrow, the celebration begins.

Anything you can add to our Pentecost celebration would be most appreciated!~

(P.S. I did not write the icon in this photo, but I hope to someday. I have yet to do an icon with so many faces, but the time will come, God willing.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Contrast to the photo of the same birdhouse last fall.

Here is one way to tell warm weather is coming...

This is a before and after of my son, who was hot after playing outside and was ready for his annual buzz. I present to you, evidence of summer on it's way:


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The voting has begun!

Voting has begun now for the Eastern Christian Blog Awards. I had no idea there were so many different blogs. I look forward to checking out some new reading and getting acquainted with more Christians of the Eastern variety.

And as I am from the Chicago area, vote early and vote often!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I have all the entrants' from the "Beauty Contest" cards addressed. I will pop them in the mail later today. But first I am going to work out in my yard, pulling weeds, transplanting perennials and edging flower beds. I will try to take some photos to show the beauty of the great outdoors. I must get to the weeding, though, because I am about to lose the battle here if I don't get it done, and get the mulch down. I have learned through the years to say the "Jesus Prayer" with each weed pull. It turns an odious chore into many moments of grace and peace, and a visual reminder of what Jesus does for my soul.

I have tons of fun stuff coming up around here: A few birthdays (my little two are both getting a year older within ten days. The babies will be 6 and 4. *gulp*), Mother's Day (great times with family, lots of chocolate and girl time with the other mothers I know and love), an Opera to attend ("Tosca". Anyone familiar with it?).

So, beauty abounds around here.

Oh, yes, I made some FABULOUS chocolate chip cookies yesterday.
I'll share the recipe later. Yum.

Also, the dinner we had last night was a save, after noticing it was 5:00pm, and me without a clue what to eat. Found some sausage in the fridge, had spaghetti sauce and pasta, feta cheese and bruschetta. I browned the sausage (it was loose), boiled the pasta, added the sauce to the cooked sausage, dumped it all in a large baking dish (actually an old deep dish Pizza Hut pan I found at the thrift store for 1.99), added the feta and bruschetta and baked it for about 25 minutes. Delish, creamy, and satisfying. Yum.

(photo from last fall. I'll take the same shot today and you'll see the difference next post)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

And on that note...

Wow, thank you all for the suggestions. I had been having trouble setting time aside to actually watch any movies the past few days, there always seems to be tons of other things I *must* do around here. BUT...

yesterday I sprained my right thumb and can not use that hand very much today. This sounds like a God-given opportunity to watch some movies.

As far as the crying thing, the latest occasion to cause a few tears to make a break for it was during my eight-year-old's choir performance. The kidlets have a big concert on Sunday, but this past week they do community performances. I took my daughter to a retirement home/nursing home and brought along 2 other of my daughters. This is the youngest choir of the 5 in the organization, and the cutest. Their little voices are so sweet and light, and hopeful. The little ones sang an old show tune, "Won't You Sing a Simple Melody", and an old Spiritual "I Have a New Name in Glory".

The tears really started to pool up when I watched the dichotomy between the elderly in the audience lighting up when they heard these songs, and the little people with sweet voices so earnestly singing. Many of the audience were singing along, obviously being brought back to a different time. There was such a large gap between the audience and the singers in age and experience, grief and joy, and yet music, singing, was the bridge that pulled all the people in that room together. *Sigh*

The funniest part about the way this performance affected me was that this was the 14th time I had been to this nursing home with one of my children singing for the residents. There was something about this performance, the choice of songs, the reaction of the residents, or maybe just the fragile condition of my emotions that day. Either way, I think it was a grace that I was allowed to feel the effect of many human hearts coming together, with music as the glue.