Sunday, December 11, 2011
The semester started off with a bang - really no time to warm up and get used to what the new "normal" routine for this year would feel like because we had some irregular, time-consuming events. First, I compiled all the information and photos for our staff/student directory here for the third year, second, I volunteered to coordinate the children's booth for St. Vlad's annual Education Day (Open House), and third, husband and little one and I took a trip to Miami to find out about a parish that's a possibility for us after graduation. I know how dangerous it is to live in any moment but the present, but I have to tell you that September was so stressful, my mantra became, "It will all be better in October!"
October did eventually come, and with it, the first birthday of our youngest girlie. We celebrated with a rubber-ducky-themed party that was so much fun. She celebrated by learning to walk a few days before her birthday and then by promptly getting her first ear infection. Otherwise, she was healthy and continued to be the biggest of the three sisters at her age.
In November, I finally felt I had a chance to figure out the level of energy it was going to take to homeschool the older two while keeping the toddler happy, cook meals, and keep our house presentable. Can't say I do it all all the time, but I've pared back extra activities (and, admittedly, increased my caffeine consumption) to try to make it all work.
One thing that happened here, which I missed in favor of letting the husband attend it, was a talk by Father Themi, of Australia, who is a missionary to Sierra Leone. We are blessed to have many good speakers here at SVS from time to time, but the campus was truly abuzz after his visit. It had an impact that I haven't experienced from any other event here, and I didn't even get to hear him speak! Just browsing his website (especially clicking on the button that reads "How Rich Are You?") changed my perspective on the world. I also happened to stumble across a movie called, A Walk to Beautiful, about Ethiopian women devastated by obstetric fistula. Perhaps that is part of the reason I never finished my post on reasons to support seminarians. I guess I felt that we all need to take a good, hard look at what we really need as opposed to what our nearsighted perspective makes us think we need.
Also in November, we took a trip to visit little one's godparents in their new parish down south. It was a joy to have spent two Thanksgivings in a row with them (she was baptized on Thanksgiving last year). They seem to be adjusting well to a life of ministry and really enjoying owning a home for the first time ever. It was a very nice, relaxing trip for us, and I sincerely hope to be able to return the hospitality that they showed us in the near future. I often worry about my tendency to center all my life, feelings, and thoughts on my life and my own little family, while I feel that my success in life is so dependent on my getting out of myself and connecting with other people. I've been advised time and again to make and keep the connections with other clergy wives while we're here at seminary because of how invaluable their support will be invaluable once my husband is in ministry. So, hopefully, this visit will be one of many like it in the years to come.
I don't think I've written much about the St. Juliana's Society (clergy wives' group) here on campus, but if I haven't, it's because there is almost too much to say rather than nothing to say about it. This semester we have been blessed to hear from a panel of adult children of Orthodox priests, a hospital chaplain and family systems therapist, an Orthodox nun on the topic of children in the church, and our campus pastor on the topic of prayer. Every one of these has been so formative and enriching. Finally, to wrap up the semester, we learned about making wreaths from live greenery collected on campus (yes, I'm there in the picture, with my head inside my wreath).
I also can't mention preparations for becoming a clergy wife without telling you about the wonderful parish that we are assigned to for pastoral formation as part of the third year MDiv requirements. My husband and I are blessed to be in a parish where the priest and his wife both take the formation of seminary interns very seriously and have years of pastoral experience to share with us. Our children love being in a regular parish again and are really enjoying weekly church school during coffee hour as well. We are so thankful for how the people there have taken us in, even though they know our time there is short (just one school year), and even though we are only the latest in a long line of interns from SVS.
My girls and I have been doing an Orthodox Jesse Tree this year, and I hope to eventually get pictures of that up here, but in case I don't (or don't do it before Christmas), I would like to wish all of you a blessed rest of the Nativity fast and a joyous Feast of Our Lord's Coming in the Flesh :)
Saturday, September 10, 2011
L. L., however, hasn't done either of those things. She does some baby signs, she says, "Pa-pa"... sometimes, and a few other "words." She has stood up a couple of times unsupported, but doesn't seem interested in walking at all, not even holding on to someone's hands. So I just kept thinking of her as a baby in the 9-month-old sort of stage, and was surprised to realize the other day that we had less than a month until her 1st birthday. Tonight I was spending a little quality time with her (while we stayed home from vespers because she's sick with a highly contagious virus), and I realized what I've missed by being so busy that I don't often pay attention to her for more than a few minutes at a time: her one focus in life right now is to figure out how to climb up everything she can see, and once she does that, she wants to climb back down. This child is a climber!
I realized that she loved to climb stairs, and that her love for doing so made it difficult to be anywhere near the ambo at church. And I noticed, of course, that her love of climbing has resulted in not a few spills and falls. Boy, do they make her mad! We had to remove the ladder to H.'s bunk bed because L. L. kept climbing up it and falling off backwards. We have to fold up or tuck away any step stools we use because she climbs those, too. I've noticed, more out of the corner of my attention than anything, that she can climb onto our coffee table and back off again. But what I missed was her drive, her determination. She is driven to conquer the next plateau - to climb up it and back down again - until she can do it perfectly. And if things don't go as she thinks they should - something shifts, she loses her balance, something hurts - she will let you know quite loudly that this is unacceptable.
So I sat on the floor tonight and helped my 11-month-old climb onto our living room armchair. When she slipped on her way up once and landed on her rear, I didn't let her sit there and cry. I helped her back up and told her to try again. I told her she could do it. It felt much more like a conversation with a toddler than a baby, which makes me proud of her but also a little sad to see the purely baby-ness go. Then she grinned her gigantic grin at me, and I thought of how, just when I think it couldn't get any cuter, it does with each new tooth. And I was excited to think of all the joys there are to come in her little life. So here's to many more months, L. L.!
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Take one troubling trip to an extremely un-child-friendly parish this summer, put a visit to the Monastery of the Transfiguration (which is beyond child-friendly) on the heels of it, and then mix it up with just reading this article, and you get one opinionated seminary wife!
After the first aforementioned visit, I was in turmoil for days. I knew that being in that setting turned me into Mean Mommy, and that I didn't like that feeling. I was practically sitting on my children to try to make sure no one wiggled, whispered, or did anything else to draw attention to herself. Keep in mind that this reaction on my part was not just due to what I personally experienced at his parish, but what I was told by a young couple we sponsored years ago as they entered the Orthodox church about their experience at this parish. They had been literally followed around by parishioners demanding that they spank their child and being told that the priest had spoken out about the children making noise, even in the parish hall. When we had been there before, we were asked to stay away from the side of the church where the choir was because noises from children were too distracting for the choir. When my toddler escaped my grasp once, I received an angry e-mail from a parishioner about how distracting her behavior and my ensuing attempts to retrieve her were (bearing in mind that I was in the back of the church, and the parishioner was seated up front).
Being the people-pleaser that I've been for most of my life, I swallowed all of this. I internalized it. I expected perfection of my children and bought into the expectation that these people obviously had that I should and would be able to control my children's every move. When I came to seminary, though, I began to believe in a higher purpose for my children's attendance in church than silent submission. I still stressed out a lot about noise and movement, but my focus shifted to trying to use our church time as instructional time and engaging them in the worship.
So a return visit to this parish where I felt my children were so unwelcome threw me into turmoil. Who was right? What were parents supposed to do? I knew in my heart that Jesus obviously loved children when He was made flesh and dwelt among us. His disciples tried to shoo the children away, but Jesus welcomed them.
Then we visited the Monastery of the Transfiguration, an Orthodox convent of nuns. I witnessed how they brought my children up to the kliros with them and let them sing (when they could), and gave them paper to write on. They made sure I had a comfortable place to nurse the baby where I could still hear the service. They paid special attention to the kids outside of the service, as well. I had a chance to talk to one of the nuns for an extended period of time afterwards, and I began to describe to her the things that were troubling me. It was during this talk, as each of the parishioner reactions I mentioned was met by her disbelief and disapproval, that I realized something. How prideful of those people to assume that if every child in the nave were perfectly silent and still that they, the adults, would not be distracted! I don't know about you, but even when my children are not with me or are behaving perfectly, I'm still totally distracted by my own monkey mind.
Let me be clear that I am in no way advocating that children should be allowed to run free in church or make as much noise as they want to. I get as annoyed as anyone when another parent allows his or her child to come over and start talking to one of mine. It is still my number one parenting goal that my children learn silence and stillness, especially in church, because I want them to be able to be receptive to the voice of God. But I want this for them so that holy things inspire in them a sense of wonder, not a sense of dreading the Mommy-monster who will freak out and smack them around if they forget to be quiet.
There are two issues that I believe are central to this topic of how children and their parents should be treated and what expectations we, as a church, should have of them. One is cosmic, the other is cultural. The cosmic one is simply a reminder that, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood..." (Ephesians 6:12). That's not to say that people who turn around and give parents dirty looks when their children make noise are somehow demonic. It just means that those people are falling prey to the temptation that ALL of us face to avoid living in the moment we're in, to avoid attending to our own hearts. I have more of a tendency to give in to this temptation when I read some spiritual book or scripture verse that really strikes me. The first thing I want to do is share it with someone. That sounds innocent enough, right? But what that does is distract me from meditating on those words, internalizing them, and living them. If I can just copy and paste those words right into my Facebook status, the burning they created within me dies down enough that eventually, I forget them.
Archamandrite Meletios Weber, in his book Bread and Water, Wine and Oil says that nothing can distract us except what we choose to be distracted by. He gives the example of the person singing off-key in the choir near us, but whether it's that or someone's child who keeps babbling or the crooked icon in the center analogion, if we decide to accept that that's just the way it is going to be, it can no longer distract us. This may sound strange if you have never thought of it that way before, but we are the ones who choose to be distracted. If you are used to a quiet office job or sitting in your house and hearing nothing louder than the ticking of your clocks, it may take a little more determination on your part to accept the "holy noise" (in the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemman) of little children. Trust me when I say, though, that that child's noise is louder to his or her own parents than it could ever be to anyone else. Out of all of my Orthodox friends who have children, from the one whose children could be mistaken for statues during every liturgy to the ones who spend half their time in the narthex because their children tend to be so energetic, I don't know anyone who is pleased with the behavior of their children in church. There's always another level we are striving for, and we don't need the disapproval of anyone else to make us aware of that.
The other issue that I mentioned, the cultural one, was handled so beautifully in this blog post, "Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)". In it, Rachel Jancovic points out the value (or lack thereof) that our culture places on children and how contrary that is to a biblical understanding. I liked this article so much, not just because I agree with her, but because Rachel found the words to describe a cultural attitude I sometimes find myself slipping into, or at least not defending my beliefs against. It is deeply embedded in our culture that motherhood should be a choice. That no one need have children unless they actively choose to do so. But I think, as Rachel says, that motherhood "is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for." She points out that motherhood is about laying down your life (your desires, your dreams, your ambitions) for someone else (your child(ren)), and our culture is afraid of death. It's a great article, and I hope you'll read it, but for the purpose of this topic, the part about how children rank below going to college or traveling the world or having lots of leisure time is key. Unfortunately, even though this is not a godly way to look at children, I believe it is so pervasive in our culture that it has even infiltrated the way many Christians view children. They are seen as burdens instead of blessings. I recognize that I may have to defend my children when I go to the grocery store ("Boy you have your hands full! You're not going to have any more, are you?"), but I shouldn't have to do it when I go to church. What we need people in the church to do is turn around when a child is making noise and instead of shushing or rolling our eyes at the parent, take a step back and help the parent. Show them, whether they be life-long Orthodox or first-time visitor, that in our church, we value children. We support you as you take up your cross, laying down your hopes, your ability to make more money and have more things, your ability to have a perfectly clean house, and your ability to stand still and participate in an entire Divine Liturgy. We're with you in this and we're going to help you in any way that we can.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
How I live my life speaks volumes to my children. The more I stumble along this path of choosing joy and gratitude, the more I see how the opposite can negatively affect the small people in my life. If I choose to live each day as a nuisance and a burden, I am raising them to do the same. I am stealing their joy.
I know that words have power, to build up or tear down. I know that the words I choose to tell myself can make or break my attitude toward life. But what about those words that just float out there for anyone to hear…and what of these children who listen to what I say all day long?
When I am cleaning up around the house and muttering about the mess, a natural byproduct of a house full of kids. When I “vent” on the phone to a friend about how my kids are driving me crazy. When I heap on sarcasm out of irritability and impatience.
While at home, I can feel that I should be able to “let down my guard” and let emotions rule. I forget that someone is always watching and taking notes.I leave it to you to read the rest of the article.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Stone Barns Center for Agriculture – A favorite more local place is Stone Barns Center - best cup of coffee and cutest baby piglets and best free range eggs in all of Westchester. Best gift shop, too. On the way there is a church with stained glass windows by Chagall.
Dobb’s Ferry - Dobb's ferry has some good ethnic restaurants and a go greenberry yogurt, and down by the Hudson there is a ship-shaped playground. They have a bike shop and a kids' consignment store. Check it out when you are going to the Hastings-on-Hudson farmer's market.
Farmer’s Markets - When you are going to the Larchmont or Mamaroneck Farmer's market (Mamaroneck has a favorite – Orwasher’s Bread!) don't miss playing at Harbor Island Park. They have playground equipment I've never seen before, a (dirtyish) little beach, and fountains for the kids to play in for a small admission. Boats galore!
Bronxville is right next door. Go to Il Bacio for Gelato, the little movie house for a movie, and there is a Starbucks with a Clover machine. Have the El Salvador. Lovely
Beaches: Jones beach, Fire Island (Robert Moses State Park)-- great day trips: advice, go during the week early in the morning- best way to avoid the crowds....about an hour....if you make it to fire island there is a lovely light house you can visit...bring your kites!
Camp in MA (north of Boston) & then spend some time in cape cod ...about 5 hours away & cape cod has PERFECT beaches for young children....SUPER gentle waves & worth the trip----the long island beaches are great but the waves are dangerous even for adults at times- not that relaxing if you have "runners" for children:)
One of the best investments you can make is children's museum pass @ Stepping Stones in Norwalk- you can use it to get in free to CMOM in Manhattan, Brooklyn Children's Museum, Staten Island Children's, & Long Island's....not to mention pretty much any children's museum anywhere in the states....very convenient!
Cold Spring- favorite favorite favorite village in the Hudson Highlands- an hour north, the drive is along the Hudson w/ beautiful views.... You can get on the train in Dobbs Ferry and take a GORGEOUS ride down the Hudson, then get off at Cold Spring and walk everywhere. Lots of hiking in the area if you are up for a hike (Appalacian trail, to name one), adorable main street, restaurant "the Depot" next to the train station, & a park in the middle of town with a FENCE & TONS of toys residents leave out for community use...(imagine Lakeside or the ND playground..... Kids have a BLAST there & you get to sit & sip coffee & have some time to talk:)... There’s also a great French restaurant, LE BOUCHON, with French Bistro fare. Best steak frites around and 8 kinds of moules! Also, Coldspring is not too far from Wappingers Falls if you want to make the trip on a Sunday & go to church there...(we LOVED the parish there when we visited)
Greenburgh Nature Center. Very close, nice hiking. If you pay to go into the manor house kids get to pet Chinchillas & hedgehogs & snakes with the naturalist....otherwise free
Central Park. Enough said! Spray parks EVERYWHERE in the city- go in for a day, pack your picnic & your suits & have fun! Riverside park is also lovely & a favorite spot for us! (where You've Got Mail was filmed, if you remember it!)
Stamford Nature Center- about 45 minutes from SVS- they have a working farm that the kids love as well as a GREAT "nature" themed playground complete with a giant log you walk through to get inside...
Multiple pick-your-own farms upstate- Fishkill farms is a good experience, but there are lots!
Muscoot Farm- another working farm, also about 45 minutes north
Rainbow Ridge-- yet another farm
Kenisco Dam- 15-20 minutes up the BRP; very nice playground & HUGE paved walking circle that is flat-hard to find around here!!
Wave Hill –A spectacular 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx, Wave Hill's vibrant landscape is one of the most beautiful spots in New York City. The gardens change with the seasons and their Café is a great place for a cup of tea or coffee with a baked good, soup or salad. Free Entrance all day Tuesdays during off-peak months (November–April, July & August), 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Tuesdays during peak months (May, June, September, October), and on Saturdays free 9am to noon year-round.Free Parking is down the hill on the right. They have free shuttle service. 675 West 252nd Street; Bronx, NY 10471-2840 (718) 549-3200
Pack a lunch and go to the New York Hall of Science in Queens. This place is amazing with lots of indoor and outdoor stuff to do for the kids and adults will find it interesting as well: http://www.nysci.org/
Take the Staten Island Ferry-free and fun for the kids to ride a big boat. http://www.siferry.com/
The Zoos here are amazing. You can get a zoo membership for the whole family, and that gets you admission to the Bronx Zoo (huge and full of the most unusual and usual animals), Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and the New York Aquarium.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
We just spent the weekend in Boston (well, Brookline/Jamaica Plains) for the ordination of hubby's "godson" (D. was his sponsor when he was chrismated 5 years ago) to the diaconate. He's a soon-to-be graduate at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. It was a joy to be present for this event, as well as to see the beautiful campus and tight-knit community at Holy Cross. Many years and axios to Deacon Michael and his family.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the paper.
5. Read it for the last time.
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.
Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.
A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)
Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.
Can you stand the mess children make? T o find out...
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.
Time allowed for this - all morning.
Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.
Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.
You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.
Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.
Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.
This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!
Sunday, January 2, 2011
To start off this new year, I'd like to begin with two items that present the pros and cons of some of our experiences so far. The first is a list of the five best things about living in Westchester county, and the second, the five worst things:
5. Trader Joe's. 'Nuff said.
4. Autumn is beautiful (remember, I came from Texas, where fall lasts about one weekend).
3. Bronx River Parkway walking trails.
2. Bagel shops and amazing bakeries around every corner.
1. Proximity to New York City (you can walk to the train station from campus).
Now for the worst:
5. Winter lasts too long for this southern girl. I want to get out my spring clothes in April and be done with it.
4. This is not an easy place for a newcomer to adjust to. You can probably find anything you might need nearby, but without knowing the right local natives to ask, you are not likely to ever find the right store.
3. The grocery stores tend to either have cramped aisles and unattractive fixtures or be very expensive. It's almost impossible to buy all of your groceries from one store in one trip.
2. It is really expensive to live here - gas, groceries, household supplies, electricity, and everything else cost more.
1. It cannot be overstated how difficult it is to find your way around here. I never thought I'd be a GPS-user, but Westchester county has converted me.
So there's your first installment in my newly-resolved more-about-seminary blog!