Friday, October 30, 2009

Thanks Be to God

I just paid our bills this morning, and while bill-paying isn't usually something we think of as a cause for thanksgiving, I was so thankful to be able to pay our bills. I am first thankful to God (glory to Him for all things), but I wanted to extend that thank you to those of you who have supported us this month and at previous times as well.

In a way, it is a kind of blessing to not know from month to month who God is going to move to help us so that we can do things like buy groceries or pay our car note. God would still be wonderful if He did not do it. Our friends would still be dear to us if they did not give. Our family would still be cherished even if they did not help at all. We can only look a few days or weeks into the future knowing how things will go, financially and otherwise. After that, it's a fog - unpredictable, hiding what we cannot see, leading us in directions we cannot now imagine. It's the way I often idealize and say that life should be, but unless I'm forced into it, as I am now, I rarely choose to not know what my next step should be.

On a different note, would you please pray for our friend, Tami? She is expecting their fourth child and has strep throat. Her husband is a student here as well, and they are dealing with the double dilemma of her sickness and not wanting any of their children, who all stay at home with Tami, to get sick. Lord have mercy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kids in the Church

A couple of Mondays ago, all married students with children were required to attend a meeting on campus safety issues that the seminary both wants to hold and is required by their insurance company to hold. The main safety/security issues were addressed by Father Chad Hatfield. In addition to that, we were treated to the opportunity to hear Dr. Al Rossi speak a little bit about child development and discipline and Fr. Steven Belonick speak on children in church.

I was really nervous about having someone address us on the latter topic, because I have had my fair share of people telling me how I ought to be dealing with my kids in church; I figured that if it was going to be that kind of talk, at least I would not be the lone victim of such an attack, being in the good company of all the other students with children of their own. Father Steven must have anticipated that we would all be holding our collective breath, waiting to hear what complaints he would have for how we deal with our kids in church, because the first thing he said was that he wasn't going to be getting on to us and he knows how sensitive people can be about that topic. I was relieved to hear this, but then I wondered, what in the world is he going to talk about, if not that?

The answer is something that has really changed my life, in the least cliched and most practical sense of the phrase. Father Steven talked about how our primary responsibility, with regards to handling our children in church, is not keeping them quiet. (WHAT?) It is involving them in the services and teaching them, and this means that you must sacrifice your own desire to quietly, prayerfully participate in the services in the way that a childless adult can do for several years of your child's life.

He went on to give some other practical tips and items, but that first point of his is what I keep coming back to. Our parish priest back home in Texas always told us that having kids means that you don't get to attend to the services and pray as you might like to, but if he went on to say that what you should be doing while you're paying attention to your children is constantly working with them and engaging them in the services, I missed it. What Father Steven said was a news flash to me!

Let me tell you that, after having tried it for a week and a half, it is a lot more work to involve my children in the services than it was to just keep them quiet. My two-year-old, K., is more receptive to my attentions in that regard, so when I just have her (because my husband has H., the four-year-old), I hold her and whisper things to her like "Who's coming out of the doors now? (the deacon) "What does he have?" (a censer) "What's coming out of the censer?" (smoke) "What should we do?" (move up, then cross ourselves and bow when he passes by), and so on. H., being older and having become accustomed to being pretty well left alone during church services as long as she was quiet and not bothering anyone, seems to resent my new insistence that she pay attention and answer questions about what is going on. Most of her answers are, "I don't know." I think she'll come around, though. The hardest is when I have both of them in service because my husband is singing in the choir. I feel like the proverbial one-legged-man as I run back and forth between children, making sure that each is doing what she should be for the level she is at (standing at appropriate times, saying/singing the words to prayers she knows, watching what is going on, as well as generally being quiet and not bothering other people). I'm worn out after just a 45-minute vespers service!

One thing that this experience, along with singing in the women's choir, has revealed to me is that I am pretty clueless about the order of services. Maybe I've spent too much time being distracted by keeping my babies and children quiet to follow the services! I've been attending Orthodox services for 8 1/2 years now, so you'd think I would have picked up a little better on the various parts, but somehow, I haven't. I'm going to have to work on that. I think my friend in Texas was on to something when she was talking about making a book for her kids with photos of the major parts of the Divine Liturgy. I could use a book like that for myself (I mean, to show to my kids, of course :) ).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doing Well & Doing Good

Having just returned from my first confession since we came to New York, I've had opportunity in the past 24 hours for some reflection on our time here.

One thing we're enjoying in New York that we never could in Texas (for more than a day or so each year, anyway) is the changing of the leaves into their fall colors. Last Sunday we took a walk down the Bronx River Parkway Bike Path and really enjoyed the fall scenery. The girls collected acorns that were so thick in places that the grass appeared to be paved from a distance, and we got a look at some Canadian geese resting on their trip to sunnier climes.

The weather here has been in the low 40s, barely changing from midnight to noon for the past several days, just in time for me to start working openings at Starbucks. This means that it's not only pitch black when I get up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for work, but it's soooo cold! I'm so thankful for the change in schedule, other than that, though, because it means that I get my work hours out of the way before the girls really get going for the day, and then I get to be with them all day and evening. Some mornings my husband wakes them and gets them ready for Matins at 7:30, while others he lets them sleep in if he can (if he's not required to sing then).

My poor K. is sick again, this time with a stomach bug AND a respiratory affliction, and one of them is giving her a slight fever. She's behaving beautifully in spite of being sick, except at meal times, when she proceeds to smear whatever tasty dish I've prepared all over her hands or the table. She just won't eat much of anything except at breakfast. We're trying to keep her hydrated and hope that this too shall pass quickly. She certainly hasn't let it stop her potty-training efforts. After we first arrived in New York, I had put her back into diapers because she was having more accidents than not, and the amount of laundry and the cost to do it was overwhelming me. This past week, I decided to tackle the potty training full-force once again, and I think she must have been more ready than the first time, because she's doing great.

One thing I've been so excited about is that I finally found a nearby grocery store that sells more than just food (it has a pharmacy, etc.), and at decent prices. It's about a mile and a half from seminary, but I never would have found it unless someone had told me it was there, because it isn't visible from the road. It's in a shopping center behind another shopping center. Who knew? I went there today, having forgotten what I've been warned about trying to grocery shop on a Saturday, and drove around for about 10 minutes trying to find any parking spot at all. Yonkers' shopping centers look on Saturdays like anyplace else's look like on the day after Thanksgiving. It's crazy.

H. has had a development in her sense of humor just in the past week. She's started laughing at things just because they strike her as funny (not because they're silly or someone's tickling her, etc.). For example, tonight, K. was playing with some foam Disney princess accessories, and thought she had grabbed one with two birds from the Cinderella movie. She was singing to it, "You can't fly anymore," when H. noticed that the piece she had was not the two birds, but was instead Lumiere, the candelabra, from Beauty and the Beast. This struck H. as so funny that she laughed that great little kid laugh, the best kind of laugh in the world. It's impossible not to laugh myself when she does that!

K. has taken to requesting a censer of her own while we're in church, lately. We have taken various attachments off of our diaper bag to make her a pretend censer that she can swing around. This is not so amazing, because kids usually imitate what they see others doing, and the deacon walks past us swinging a censer twice during each daily vespers service. However, what is a little bit more impressive to me is that the girls trade the censer back and forth, and when they do, the one who takes it will kiss the other's hand. This is also something the priest and deacon do at church, but it's not close to where we stand and is a much subtler action. It makes me wonder what other little things they notice that I think they don't.

I'd like to include more here about a recent talk we attended by Fr. Steven Belonick about kids in church, but I think it will have to wait until next time. I've been awake 19 hours and it's time to go to bed.