Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Colic Has a New Name

As I mentioned before, by 1 month of age, our previously sleepy baby had turned into one who cried almost all of her waking hours. At her 1-month checkup, the pediatrician said she either had just straight reflux or reflux caused by a protein allergy, and that most babies who, in earlier times would have been diagnosed with untreatable "colic," actually have one of these problems. Hers was confirmed by a test of her stool for blood, which was positive. The first course of action was to try prescription Prilosec for seven days. If the Prilosec didn't take care of her tummy pain, the doctor said I would have to go on a total elimination diet to get all potential allergens out of her diet, and will then slowly add foods back in to pinpoint the problem foods.

We tried the Prilosec and it did help, especially for the first couple of days, but even though I had decided to rid my diet of obvious sources of dairy at the same time, since that's the most common irritant for babies, as the week wore on, it became clear that something else in my diet was bothering her as the crying and spitting up increased again. That meant that I had to go on the strict elimination diet to try to get her to a baseline with no allergens and irritants and then try to figure out what would bother her as I added things back in. I have to mention at this point that I don't know if I would ever have tried this diet if our fellow-seminarian family had not just been through this process with their son and found that it worked. In the context of a well-child visit, through which our baby screamed, the doctor's sudden introduction of such an extreme method, without that previous exposure to the idea, would most likely have been dismissed by at least me, and probably by my husband, too. As it was, I was ready to do anything to help her feel better and stop crying all the time.

So I started out the next Monday morning eating only chicken and turkey; apples and pears; potatoes and sweet potatoes; and rice. The doctor said I could season with salt and pepper only and cook in olive oil. That was it. It only took a couple of days before I added sugar and cinnamon, so that I could have a rice-milk based rice pudding for breakfast. Then all I could do was wait. The doctor had said not to add any foods in until after 10 days, but I found out from my friend who had done the diet before that everything she had read said it takes 1-2 weeks for dairy to clear the mother's system and another 1-2 weeks for it to clear the baby's system. 4 weeks! 4 weeks of nothing but those 7 foods? Never eating out or eating prepared-type or processed foods from the grocery store? Eating nothing at potlucks or coffee hours? What had I gotten myself into? And all this with a crying baby who didn't seem to be improving.

After about 9 days I realized she was doing better and decided to add in some fresh fruits and vegetables that weren't likely to irritate her any further. So far so good. Then on the 13th day I had almost convinced myself that any improvement in her disposition was because of her maturation and not really due to my crazy diet. As a result, when the temptation came to eat a little bit of the apple pie I had made for Thanksgiving, but not eaten at Thanksgiving because it had butter in it, I ate a bit. I shouldn't have, but if I hadn't, I would have kept on wondering if all this diet stuff was necessary. That little bit of butter caused us two days of pain for our little one. On one of those days, we had to change our clothes multiple times because of her copious amounts of spit-up, which she hadn't even been prone to before the treatment process started. There's nothing like the terror of putting something untested or unapproved in your mouth because it's going to hurt your child. If it were just going to affect me, I might let little things slide by, but one look into her pitiful little face is enough to make me swear off whatever delightful thing to eat causes her pain. It's not easy. I really miss pizza most of all, but I'm not starving, either. I guess you could say this is my nativity fast.

Hopefully, she'll outgrow her sensitivities before she's a year old, likely by 6 months or so. We have another doctor's appointment next Monday, so we'll have to see how she's coming along weight-wise and if there's any other treatment that we can give her on bad days when I've tried something that doesn't agree with her.

So, for now, my days are filled with mostly holding her and not getting housework done. I spend entire church services in the basement parish hall, where I can't hear the service, nursing and burping her. It makes it hard to decide to even go to services sometimes!

Please continue to pray for us, especially for Laura. We will be traveling over the Nativity Holiday from Dec 18- Jan 4, so we ask you to pray for travelling blessings as well.

As a side note, my girls and I have been trying to color one ornament a day for a Jesse Tree (we still don't have a tree, but maybe next year). I wanted them to have a way to get into the spirit of anticipating Nativity. You can find out about the Jesse Tree here: http://festalcelebrations.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/jesse-tree-project-2008/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catching Up

There have been several times in the past few weeks that I've wanted to blog, but so far I haven't had much time. Who knows how long this post will take me to complete - it all depends on if the baby keeps sleeping or not.

I had a really good recovery from my c-section, far and away the best I've ever had, and a fairly relaxed first 3 weeks of the baby's life, emotionally speaking. This was due in great part to the extensive visit of my sister, who stayed from before Laura Louise was born until the end of October. At the point when everyone went home and back to work after I had my other two, I started trying to bring some order to my life, gain some control, and prevent evening crying jags by working on my babies' nap schedules. I made myself crazy trying to get them to nap at the same times every day for as long as the books said they should. I even said after the first one that I wasn't going to do that again, but the second one came along and I did it again. So I've resisted whatever urges I might have to check out the latest "get your baby to sleep" books out there. If I don't have a "should" to follow, then I can't follow it, right? I'm telling myself just to enjoy whatever naps she does take and not expect anything else.

The problem is, now that I am taking care of her almost exclusively by myself (sister has gone home, and husband is in seminary - 'nuff said), it seems like she has three states: sleeping, nursing, or crying. She literally cries 99% of the time that she is awake, unless she's nursing. She has actually made herself hoarse crying so much. It doesn't matter if I'm holding her or not, walking around with her or not, singing to her or not; she just cries. Her daddy and I have discussed the possiblity that it's reflux that's making her cry, but I don't know if that's it or not. Anyway, it's a good thing I'm trying to go with the flow otherwise, because all the crying is draining enough without expending energy trying to control how the day goes. Even still, the crying does wear a person down after awhile. Pray for me.

With the other two, especially the oldest, I've switched from a very structured homeschool schedule to what I like to call "guerilla homeschooling." We fit in a reading lesson while I'm nursing or holding the baby. We do math on the floor while the baby unexpectedly naps. You get the picture.

Another thing that's really helping me is that some of the mothers here have started an educational playgroup co-op twice a week in the mornings. This gives me a break from the two older ones so I can relax a bit, mentally. We'll see how it goes when it's my turn to participate in the teaching/supervision part! The administration here is really hoping to turn this grassroots effort into a full-fledged daycare/preschool, they say by next school year. I think it would be a real boon to the seminary if and when that happens, but I'm thankful for what we have now.

I'm going to be churched early, Lord willing, tomorrow, so that I can venerate the relics of St. Vladimir that are scheduled to come here the following weekend. My husband's dad and stepmother are coming to visit us this weekend for a few days, tand then about a week after they leave, his mother will be visiting us for Thanksgiving. While she is here, Laura Louise is scheduled to be baptized during the liturgy on Thanksgiving day! We are so excited to have that to remember each year on Thanksgiving, and blessed to have a fellow-seminarian and his wife as the intended godparents for our little one. They are pious, thoughtful, hospitable people with whom we feel we have a lot in common, and wish we had even more in common, when it comes to their virtues.

I think I'd better wrap this up and get some sleep while the getting is good. Pray for us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them...

We are proud to announce the arrival of our third little Wooten today at 9:00 a.m. at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, NY. Laura Louise Wooten weighed 8 lbs., 13 oz., and was 20 inches long. Mommy and baby are both doing fine.

Those in the area can visit them in the hospital, where they will be at least through Saturday. Whether or not you are in the area, we invite you to see pictures of baby and sign the guestbook at her birth announcement website.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Prayers Requested

We're in the final stretch of this pregnancy, which has felt longer than any other, even though I haven't particularly been in a hurry for it to be over. My c-section is scheduled for Thursday morning, so I humbly request your prayers for me and for the baby. I hate having to have another c-section, but I am so thankful that I can have one, because otherwise I couldn't have a baby at all. I'm also extremely thankful for the impending visits of my mother and sister, who will be able to help me out for awhile, since I already know how hard it will be to recover from the surgery.

I'm looking forward to being able to announce that the little one is here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New School Year Begins

This is an exciting time of year at St. Vlad's. The new students have arrived and been helped to move in. We have an incoming class this year that doesn't follow the typical pattern of recent years because it contains more single seminarians than married (exactly twice as many, as far as I can tell). The returning students are all abuzz with changes to curriculum and professors and such. For the first time, I will be taking advantage of the opportunity that spouses have to audit classes free of charge here by taking Kate Behr's Theology and Children's Literature course. It feels like a natural extension of my library science degree and my love of children's literature. I just hope I can keep up with the readings!

We just had a meeting of the women's group on campus, (which is comprised of wives of students, faculty, and residents, and women students) during which we planned out our social gatherings for the semester. That group meets every other Monday, and on the alternating Mondays, the St. Juliana the Merciful Society (formerly known as the Spouse's Program) will be meeting to help prepare us for parish life as clergy wives.

We are enjoying our new apartment immensely. It amazes me how much of a cloud I feel has lifted just from being in a larger space with more natural light. One nice thing is that we have a little nook designated for homeschooling that helps keep us neat and organized. My girls and I started the homeschool year at the end of July so that we can take a good-sized break in October when the baby comes and another one over the Christmas holidays. Now that the seminarians are back in class, almost everyone else who homeschools is back into the swing of things, too.

In addition to making plans for academic pursuits (papers due, readings to complete, etc.), church services, and social events, we've also been planning for visitors. We just had the honor of offering hospitality to our friends from Pennsylvania this weekend, and next weekend will have family visiting from Texas. After that, my mother and sister will be visiting from Kentucky in time for the baby to be born and to help out with the other two kiddos. I feel so blessed that my sister will be able to spend almost a whole month with us as I recover and we find our way back into family life with an additional child to care for. In November, we expect visits from my husband's father and stepmother, and then one from his mother around Thanksgiving. All of this is yet another reason to be thankful for our larger apartment that enables us to invite people to stay with us.

If you're looking for a way to direct your prayers for us (other than Lord, have mercy, which is always appropriate), please pray for God to help us set aside time amongst the busyness and noise to pray and seek silence. You can also continue to pray for God to provide for us financially as He wills. May He bless all of you as you begin a new church year and any other undertakings you may be planning at this time of year.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Request for Prayers

Please pray for our friends Anna and Justin, and their unborn son Leo. He was diagnosed with hydrocephaly and the prognosis is not very good. They have difficult decisions and days ahead. May the Lord have mercy on them and the Holy Spirit comfort them and guide their decisionsl

UPDATE from Anna 8/23/10:

"Leo born this morning around 1:00. Our little angel baby breathed on his own, and instills everyone around him with love and peace. Our hearts are calm and our wishes are respected. We are grateful for being given the chance to witness him to Christ. Thank you everyone so much, and we will let you know as things progress."

2nd Update - 8/25/10:

The family have made a little blog to update people on Leo's status, if you're interested: http://leoclement.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If anyone is interested, here's the family newsletter we just sent out (via e-mail - snail mail ones are still coming for the few that get them).

You can click on these images to enlarge them. If you'd like a better quality document, though, just send me an e-mail (or leave a comment) with your e-mail address in it, and I'll send it to you as an attachment. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Of Bounty and Thankfulness

This doesn't seem to be the right time of year for a post with that name (at least to Americans), but thanksgiving is always relevant and in season, right?

I have a specific reason (along with so many other ongoing ones) to be thankful this morning. Last night, I took a careful look at our finances and bank account and realized that, although we had enough to pay our bills (thank God) we didn't have any money left for groceries this week or next. I wasn't worried. I thought we might have enough in the house to get by, even if it wasn't on the most delicious or nutritious meals (macaroni and cheese, anyone?). Then August would come and we'd be able to buy food again. But just now, our neighbor downstairs, a wife of another seminary family, just knocked on the door and handed me grocery money in cash. She simply said, "That's what friends are for." I give thanks to the Lord for his provision, and to the person who gave, for her generosity. Glory to God.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Of Baby Registries and Being Far Away

So, I've spent the past 4 weeks away from my husband while he has dutifully worked to earn us some money and also packed up our belongings to move them to our "new" apartment. To give you an idea of the size of the previous apartment, it is now going to be leased to a single student, and it will be just the right size for him, I think. The result of my being here in Kentucky while all the moving action is going on in New York is that I have constantly pestered my husband with e-mails about free Craigslist item postings on things I think we might need for the new place. I am sure he is getting tired of this barrage of ideas, but I feel like I have to do something to contribute from here :)

We have had a really nice, relaxing time in Kentucky with my family, which was exactly what I was hoping for. I've barely had to fix a meal while I've been here, yet have eaten enough to keep my OB/GYN fussing at me about weight gain. The girls haven't been bored for a minute, between trips to the mall's play area to Dinosaur World, in Cave City, KY, to Beech Bend & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green, KY. We even made it down to western Kentucky to see my grandma and my other grandparents once. I was really hoping we could go back there again for the 4th of July, in fact, it's why I scheduled the vacation to last as long as I did, since all my childhood 4th of July memories are in Sturgis, KY with a picnic at my grandparents' home that always included homemade ice cream and then sitting in the backyard watching fireworks shot off from the Sturgis airport. They haven't had the picnic for years, as the family members who participated aged and/or moved away. The trees between their house and the airport have grown so tall that you can no longer clearly see the fireworks. But I was still hoping for Granddaddy Davis' homemade peach or banana ice cream. It just didn't work out with their schedule to play host to us this weekend, though, so we are making homemade ice cream today and have about three places to go for 4th of July tomorrow. Here's to new memories, right?

I would be remiss if I didn't say that today is my sweet K.'s 3rd birthday. We asked her yesterday what she might like for her birthday supper tonight and she said, "Just ice cream." When pressed to name a "growing food" for supper, she added, "Okay. Corn on the cob and ice cream. And that's that." I had to suggest pizza, and she graciously made that concession to some solid food for the rest of us :) Her pick of activity for the day is to play in the kiddie pool with the Dora & Diego toys she got for her birthday.

On an unrelated note, one of the other things I've done with all my spare time on vacation is to work on our baby registries for little L. L. We have one at Babies R Us for the rest of the main things we need, and another at Heavenly Hold for some baby-wearing items I would really like to have. We got rid of many things for babies when we moved to New York, and, if you follow my blog, you'll know that we haven't been able to retrieve some of the things that we did save from storage in Texas, so we are grateful for both the gifts we've received so far and any others we may be blessed to receive.

Happy 4th of July to everyone!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Momentous Day - Five Years Ago...

... I was about to give birth to my oldest daughter. In a way, it seems impossible that she could be five, that I could have a five-year-old, that my husband and I could have somehow navigated through five years of parenthood without imposing serious damage on any of the involved parties. In another way, it seems like that day five years ago is so incredibly long ago. I am certainly not the person I was when I gave birth to her (thank God).

If I had known as much about babies then as I know now (which is not to say that I know all there is to know, by any means) I would have known we were in trouble when my oldest started crying (and wouldn't stop) while we were still in the hospital. She cried almost the entire night after we brought her home, and the next night was not much better. From the previous childcare experience that I had, I knew that my favorite age was from 1 to 2 years old, and, when I was pregnant, I'd looked ahead at the birth of the baby with the fear that I'd have no idea what to do with a baby smaller than that age range. I was totally dismayed to find that my fears had been founded, after all. I remember crying and crying and asking myself and my husband, "Who thought it was a good idea to give me this baby to take care of by myself?" "What if I can't do this?"

I know this sounds like it's starting to be more a post about myself as a parent than my daughter, whose birthday it is, but I'm getting there. :) Fortunately, the answer to my first question was that it was God who had thought it was a good idea to give me this difficult baby. He knew that only she could give the the kind of formation I needed. She was a colicky baby, who turned into a happy, engaging older infant and early walker, who then metamorphosed into a toddler whose intelligence, sensitivity, and propensity towards high emotions often made her hard to predict and even harder to control or even to help her control herself. The older she got, the more it became clear to me that she didn't want to be crying herself into hysterics, but she just didn't know how to stop.

Her little sister, K., was a welcome addition to her world. H. doted on her and wanted to hold her and kiss her, but I found myself constantly feeling torn between my extremely high-needs toddler and my newborn infant. I guess this is the same feeling any parent with more than one child feels, but I don't think I handled it very well. Somehow we all survived that period of time, and now the two of them are the best of friends. I think K. will turn out to have been one of God's greatest blessings to H. as she looks back on her life. Because of having to interact with someone similar in age and interests to her own, H. has to learn skills to help her get along. She's learned how to do things like distract K. with something else (when that was age-appropriate), how to wait until K. got tired of things, and as they get older, she's learning to negotiate for a turn at activities she wants that K. is doing (and vice versa). In her sister, H. has a playmate who doesn't just go along with all of her authoritatively-expressed schemes for play like so many of her friends do (yes, I'm saying she's bossy, very bossy). She has to figure out how to win K. over, and I think that's good for her.

Since my husband and I hope to homeschool our children for as long as we can, another of the aspects of my daughter that I get to be privy to is her academic life. In keeping with my expectations that the child of two academically-minded parents would be that way herself, I started trying to teach H. to read once she turned three. I spent the school year that year introducing her to one letter sound per week through a variety of means. We learned target words that started with that sound, memorized a poem each week that had one of the target words in it, read at least 15 books that had the sound or the target words in them (including nonfiction science and history books), we did outdoor observations, arts and crafts, and even mathematics lessons to reinforce the letter and its sound. We sang song after song, like "Eddie Elephant Eats Everything." You can see the photo album I made for her of our lessons that year on Snapfish. She had most of the puzzle pieces to begin linking sounds and reading simple words, but she just wasn't interested in doing it. That was okay. She was clearly a smart kid, but reading just didn't appeal to her yet.

Even while she was three, there were times that her emotions would get out of control, especially when she was overtired or hungry, and she would scream and scream and be unable to be reasoned with. I remember my husband taking her into a closet and holding her while she screamed her head off when we stayed the night at a friend's house to try to keep her from waking the entire household at 5 a.m. But these times when she "lost it" got less and less frequent. She was an incredibly fast runner (which I never had any inclination towards), always thinking of big ideas and figuring things out that didn't seem like they were on the normal 3-year-old level, and she was fiercely independent, learning to do so many things on her own (which you can imagine was helpful to me in many ways) but also challenging me on almost every point when asked to do or stop doing something. She was wonderful. She was still exhausting, too!

At age four, I began using a "real" curriculum with workbook lessons and handwriting work. This was where I saw her really take off. She loved getting the answers "right." I enjoyed seeing her learn pre-reading skills that were really going to help her. She had little patience for writing her letters, but we were using a curriculum that forced her to slow down. There were lots of read-aloud stories that even K. enjoyed. "School," quickly became our favorite time of day together. I wasn't even working on math with her, but it's already clear that that will be one of her strengths. She comes up with word problems on her own and solves them!

Between four and five, the major change I see in H. is that she is becoming more and more as a separate person from me. This is a painful (for me) process, yet I know that it is necessary. When I see her with her friends, she says things to them that reveal a thought-life that she doesn't share with us at home. It reminds me that she's her own person and that this process of individuation has only just begun. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide that process and help me teach her what she needs to know to do it wisely.

She is still a rule-nick, quick to point out any violation of rules to anyone who even suggests offending them. She often tries to negotiate her way out of whatever I ask her to do, but if it becomes clear that I'm not budging, then she does it. It's not as much of a struggle as it once was to get her to comply. She has the most beautiful smile and laugh. She is amazingly quick-witted, handling even my dad's jokester ways with a quick retort. She's so excited to learn to read that she's ready to start kindergarten as soon as we get back to New York. Before we left for vacation, she'd ask for her phonics textbook so she could just look at it (it has no pictures in it). She loves to climb on things and jump from high places and still loves to run. She loves going to church school, especially when she already knows the answers! I hope that her birthday tomorrow and the whole experience of being five are just as exciting for her as she seems convinced they will be. God bless my precious H. on her 5th birthday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Have New Apartment, Need Stuff (Here)

We found out about a week ago that we should be getting a 3-bedroom apartment sometime this summer. We are really excited about being able to do things like walk from the kitchen into the hallway without having to turn sideways and lift whatever you are carrying up over your head to avoid its colliding with the furniture! And, since the baby will live there until he or she is over a year-and-a-half old, it will be nice to have a place for him/her to sleep that is not our room.

I do have a request, though. If any of you readers out there are moving to St. Vlad's or the New York area this summer/fall and are starting out in or passing through the Oklahoma/Texas region, we would really like to share moving van space with you. We brought most of the stuff that we didn't sell when we moved here last August, but we didn't bring baby furniture and gear. That stayed in storage with family in Fort Worth. We would really like to have that here, but it's such a small number of boxes that it would really be MUCH more efficient if we could share a little bit of someone else's moving truck instead of renting our own and making the trip once again. We have a few boxes of baby gear, a crib, a changing table, and a bookshelf.

Hopefully it would be beneficial for the other family as well. I know we had extra space in our moving truck last year, and we sure could have used the money provided by someone for letting them use up that extra space to help us defray some of the expenses of moving. We would be willing to pay you for the extra length of moving truck/van you might have to rent, the inconvenience of arranging to pick up our load, and our share of the gas money. We're willing to take the stuff from Fort Worth to someplace nearby, like Tulsa, Shreveport, Little Rock, Amarillo, etc. if that's more convenient to where you are or to your travel route.

So I'm hoping to get the word out via my blog, and I've asked my husband to do the same on his Oh Taste and See blog, which is much more widely read. If you fit the bill, please contact one of us. If you know of someone else who does, we'd be ever so grateful if you would let them know about our situation. Thanks!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Annunciation: A Hierarchical Liturgy and Two Ordinations

Yesterday was a day of marathon church services rarely seen outside of a monastery or holy week. We were blessed here with a visit from Metropolitan Jonah, which was actually delayed, but nonetheless joyous. He was supposed to preside over the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening and ordain the Subdeacon Photius (Avant) to the Holy Deaconate. Then he was to hold Little Compline that evening and tonsure the Monk Christopher to the little schema, and finally preside over the the Annunciation Liturgy and ordain the Deacon Daniel (Talley) to the Holy Priesthood. His Beatitude's flight here was cancelled due to snow out West, so he did not arrive until the wee hours of Thursday morning. Because of this delay, both ordinations were done at the Thursday Liturgy and the tonsure was moved to Thursday evening. I can only imagine that His Beatitude must have been exhausted after a red-eye flight, a 2-hour Matins service, a 3-hour Liturgy, and another lengthy service for Little Compline. I, myself, did not make it to Matins or Compline. We thought the long Liturgy would be enough church time for t
he little ones.

Although there are ordinations here all the time, and I had attended a couple before coming to seminary, I have a confession to make: I've never before been able to see what was going on when we were all singing "Axios! Axios! Axios!" I guess I have Zaccheus syndrome or something. I remember standing on a chair at then-Bishop Jonah's consecration trying to see parts of the service. The thing about ordinations is that they are generally more well-attended than regular services, and I often find myself at the back of any given service taking care of my kids. This would be fine if I were tall or even of average height, but I'm not. So I sing along and sneak peeks between people when I can, and life goes on.

Somehow, the Liturgy yesterday was an exception, and I was able to see during Dn. Daniel's ordination that the priests would start singing "Axios!" after he was vested with each particular article of clothing. Cool! I know it's one of the most basic thing someone attending an ordination would know or remember, but I never saw it before. It was a glorious service (I love Annunciation anyway), and I'm thankful to have been there.

I'm sorry that I missed the tonsure yesterday evening. The Monk Christopher is now the Monk Kilian. I had to look that saint up last night on OrthodoxWiki! My husband said that, at the end of the service, when everyone went to greet him, they were instructed to do so by asking him, "What is your name, brother?" When he responded, "My name is Kilian," they were to answer, "May the Lord save you in the Angelic Schema." Wow.

Other than that the goings on around here have been: a major wind storm that knocked down hundreds of trees and caused us to be without electricity for 2 1/2 days; a round of nice, sunny weather that had all the kids on campus running around like crazy and all of us thankful to be out of doors again; a Lenten retreat in the midst of the warm weather, where Fr. Joseph Honeycut of the Orthodixie podcast was our speaker (you can listen to the talks on his AFR podcast); and, unfortunately, a cool-down in the warm weather (the high today is 39 degrees).

The little girl that I watch during the day got what they thought was tonsillitis, was prescribed amoxicillin for it, and then broke out in a rash all over her body. This was determined to be an amoxicillin allergy and lasted for several days, went away, and then was replaced by a bright red, lacy rash only on her face with no other symptoms that the doctors couldn't identify. Any moms out there have bells ringing about that description? It turned out to be Fifth Disease, which she would have been contagious with before the rash showed up and was probably what caused the symptoms that were attributed to tonsillitis. Neither of my kids seem to have gotten it, but it does pose a danger to pregnant women, especially in their first trimester, since it can be passed on to the baby in-utero and has been known to cause miscarriages. I can have a blood test to find out if I had it, but I can't really see what good that would do, since there's no treatment for it or anything anyone could do. I think leaving it in God's hands is about all that I can do. Pray for us, if you would.

Tomorrow, Lazarus Saturday, our kids will supposedly march in procession with palm branches in anticipation of Palm Sunday, so the girls are very excited. We were asked on Thursday to bring a dish to the brunch that will follow the Saturday Liturgy. Apparently this is done here every year, so no one felt the need to warn us newcomers! :) Another puzzling thing is being told that fish and dairy are acceptable inclusions in the brunch dishes, when Saturday is a caviar, wine, and oil day. I don't mean to gripe on this subject, but it always seems odd to me when the local church does not help us keep the fasts that the Church prescribes.

For the next week or so, we'll be attending services as we can and trying to figure out how Pascha is done around here. Apparently the food one brings in one's Pascha basket is not actually to be eaten at the post-service meal, which is all provided by the refectory's Chef Nat. We've seen on the community service lists that people are needed to help make pounds & pounds of Cheese Pascha and dye eggs. Does that mean we don't bring our own? We don't know. But whatever it is, it will be Pascha, and it will be glorious!!

The following week we are planning a visit to the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA with another St. Vlad's family. I am really looking forward to this visit, as I have been there before alone, and have long wanted to introduce my family to the love, warmth, and peace I found there. If I don't blog again before then, Blessed Pascha to you all!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is This Lent?

That is the question someone asked me last year when a series of traumatic things had happened in her life during the first part of Lent, and it struck me as odd because I had been so consumed with the Lenten season. It would be like asking, "Is this winter?" while surrounded by 12 inches of snow.

Now I understand, maybe, what she meant. This Lenten season has been more filled with colds than church services, nausea than fasting, and listlessness than ascesis. My father confessor told me it's just a different kind of Lent for me, and as such, it, too is a gift. So far I'm having a hard time seeing it that way, perhaps because it seems like much less of a choice than my other Lenten endeavors have been.

First, I think I may have taken on too much at the very beginning. Before my morning sickness kicked in, I volunteered to compile the student/staff directory that has been overdue since the fall AND be the "go-to girl" for the Wednesday evening potluck dinners after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. The first was hard work, but rather quickly over. The second will continue until the end of Lent, and we're now in our second week of having no one volunteer to "host." Guess who hosts by default?

This is the second weekend (not in a row) that I've spent mostly resting or in bed. My husband has been gone both times, which shows the remarkable self-entertaining abilities of my children. They have been fantastic, but I know they can't wait for Papi to come home tonight (me either!)

Last weekend, I took my husband and older daughter (aged 4 1/2) to the subway station so they could ride into the city and see an El Greco art exhibit. Younger daughter and I stayed home, and I wasn't sure older daughter would handle it well, but she did. The exciting part of the trip (for her) was getting posters of two of El Greco's "icons." The exciting part of the trip (for me) was getting stuck in the heavy, wet snow while trying to parallel park on the street when I went to pick them up from the subway station. Believe it or not, in New York City, I was rescued by two young guys who appeared with shovels at the moment of my distress, who offered to dig me out for free. It seemed so appointed, so I let them!

The next day we visited a parish in New Jersey that had sponsored us for the St. Nicholas Project at Christmas (sent us some gifts). We wanted to thank them personally. It turns out that we were there on their priest's first Sunday back from a hospital stay, and he actually had a visiting priest celebrate the liturgy. People began recognizing us from the pictures I had sent them of the girls opening their presents, and by the time we got downstairs for coffee hour, we were literally besieged with greetings and hugs and kisses. We almost never made it to our seats! When we did, we had to move right away because the priests wanted to chat with us. I was trying to engage in that conversation while keeping one eye on our girls, but I soon found that I had nothing to worry about on that front, as friendly parishioners stepped in and talked with them, later giving them paper and markers to color with, and eventually they even played hide-and-seek with the Matushka! It was the warmest welcome we have ever received in a parish, hands down. They even had the thank-you letter and pictures I sent set up on a three-panel display board in the coffee hour hall area.

Other than that, I guess we're plodding along. Pray for me, a sinner.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Just wanted to share a song H. sang at the end of morning prayers the other day. It was spontaneous, so I'm not sure I recorded exactly what she sang, but it was something like this:

The Lord is my Shepherd,
We are his lambs
He always takes care of us

When we sleep
He never goes to sleep
He watches me all through the night

He is our light
When He shines on us
He wakes us up

I especially loved the part about the Lord never sleeping and watching us through the night. I would do well to remember His presence like that myself.

On a lighter note, singing wasn't the only proclaiming that H. was doing this week. We told her on Thursday that she was going to have a new sibling in October, and she has made it her personal mission to inform everyone on campus that "My mommy has a baby in her belly."

I know it's good form to wait until the end of the first trimester to spread the good news, but we wanted the seminary community to know because they are our support group, and it sort of ballooned from there. I'm finding it a little ironic that the girl's name we have picked out is partially in honor of my maternal grandmother, and when I told her this evening that we're expecting, she gave me my first negative response I've had the whole time. It reminded me that it does look a bit crazy, to someone who just looks through practical eyes, to have a baby while the breadwinner is in seminary and unable to bring in any income, because babies are expensive and having one usually puts the mommy out of commission for at least awhile where she can't earn money either. I'm glad I'm not around a lot of people who only think like that right now too. I'm around people who think children are a blessing; the more the merrier; and if God sends you one, it has to be the right time. So thanks be to God for this little apple-seed-sized bit of life inside me.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Famous! (Not Really)

Just wanted to give a shout out to the women's choir here at St. Vlad's (and to myself, indirectly, since I'm a member of the choir :) ).

You can read about us and hear clips from the service we sang in November at theSt. Vlad's Website.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thank You God for...

I can't remember exactly when we started doing this (sometime in 2009, I think), but one of the parts of our family prayer rule for morning prayers is to pause and have each person say thank you to God for something. I started it as a way to involve both girls in the prayers in a way they can understand (they already have assigned parts to sing) and stress the importance of gratitude.

At first I was impressed by the fact that H. often expressed thanks for things like icons or the cross, and then I became concerned that she was just putting on a show and wasn't really digging in to find something she was grateful for. I liked K. (who was at the time less than two years old)'s thank yous for food or going swimming. They seemed more concrete, more like things a small child would be thankful for.

Over time, even K.s thank yous started to include mostly religious themes, and this morning, as I listed to her thank God for Saint Columba (whose icon card she was holding at the time) I realized just how appropriate those kinds of statements of gratitude are. There we are, standing in our icon corner, surrounded by crosses, prayer books, oil, holy water, the Bible, and images of holy people. Of course the girls would be thankful for those things and what they represent. They are living only in the moment and place in which they find themselves and they are thankful for it. Glory to God for that!