Sunday, December 11, 2011

Catching Up

I have really let time get away from me this semester as regards this blog. I'm sorry about that. I felt very inspired for awhile to write a post about the importance of supporting seminarians so that they can devote themselves to their required chapel attendance and to their private prayer lives, but I never finished it or wrote any other posts instead of it.

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

11 Months and Counting

For some reason, the fact that I am about to have a 1-year-old is taking some work to sink in on my part. When H. was this age, she was walking. That's what all her energy went into from about 10.5 months on. By the time she turned 11 months old, she loved walking so much, she wouldn't even crawl when it was the only way to get through a space! When K. was this age, she was communicating. She picked up on baby signs early and fast, and by 11 months she was saying lots of words, too. She was taking steps by her first birthday, but she just didn't seem to have any drive to walk. It was easier to crawl. I figured she'd put all the energy into communicating that H. had into walking.

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

Where Do Our Children Stand?

I'm sorry to disappoint any readers who may just check in here to find out updates about our family by once again straying from that topic to express my opinion about something, but this is something that's been brewing for awhile.

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

H. Reciting Poetry

One of the aspects of our life here at seminary involves our decision to homeschool H., who is now in 1st grade. Even though we wanted to homeschool before we came here, we figured I would have to work full time to support hubby and the kids would have to go to public school, as available. As it turned out, there was no room for her in the PreK classes in Yonkers when we first arrived, so that set off a chain of events that led to my working opposite hours of D., so that I could homeschool her instead. After that, we looked at the public school options available to us here and were less than thrilled with them, so we continued down our classical homeschooling path.

I said all of that to introduce her first public poetry recital. Here you go!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's That Time Again...

Time for our yearly newsletter. I'll post the jpg's here, but, as always, if you'd like a higher-resolution copy and don't receive it by e-mail already but would like to, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment here with your e-mail address, and I'll be sure you get a copy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Are You Really Telling Your Kids

I've never used a blog post to link to someone else's article before, but part of my immersion in this new way of thinking about food is that I'm now watching quite a few "foodie" sorts of blogs by Christians. One of them (Frugal Granola, what a name, right?) had this article that I just had to share because it so captures where I want to be with my kids.

Lydia begins:

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.

I want to be clear that I am so far from being able to "choose joy and gratitude" in my dealings with my kids that I can barely taste it. I much more resemble the italicized part up there, the muttering, venting, and sarcastic irritability/impatience. In quiet moments, I know that I am teaching my children much more by my actions than I do by any words I say.

God forgive me and have mercy on my children through me, a sinner!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summertime at SVS

No blog about a family's stint at SVS would be complete without a description of summertime here. As much as we may complain (God forgive us) about how busy seminary life keeps us during the school year, I'm beginning to wonder if that busy-ness is the only thing that keeps me sane. I say that because now, with all the 3rd years moved out or about to be, the new students not yet arrived, and many of those in between gone on vacations or internships, this place feels like a ghost-town. For example, we're the only family left on our floor, and the floor below us has one family left (with two kids, both younger than my older two). I'm not used to being able to get out and about much because we just can't during the school year, so I find myself puttering around the apartment somewhat aimlessly. I have a lot of things I'd like to get accomplished here at home, but I find it difficult to do them because of all the constant interruptions from my kids, especially the baby, who is almost never content.

One thing I'm almost always turning over in my head as I putter about is how to stay on budget for groceries. As I believe I mentioned on here, we were so sick for so long this past winter. I decided at the end of that time that I had to get us, especially K., healthier. One thing led to another and the end result is that we've really tried to change the way that we eat. We're still not where I'd like to be, but we're moving there. We're avoiding things that can be detrimental to our health and trying to incorporate things that boost our immune systems and digestive systems. Sometimes I feel like giving up because I can't do everything I'd like. Sometimes I feel like giving up because it's more expensive to eat healthily than to stock up on processed foods. Sometimes I feel like giving up because I want to eat something not so healthy for me or because my kids do. But I keep going because it's hard to go intentionally backwards on something you're convinced will help you be healthier in the long run.

Husband is working the same job he had last year, for which we are so thankful. He has also been able to borrow a vehicle to use for three out of the 5 days a week he works, so the girls and I can have the van if we need it. This is a huge relief to me, as Yonkers is not a very walkable place at all. Last year I found it very difficult to settle us into our new apartment/nest without being able to go places to buy the items we needed (or even groceries). I did get some much-needed exercise walking with the kids to the library, though!

We're going to try to get the older two into swimming lessons (another thing that's turned out to be more complicated here than it was in TX) and also try to do a little "adventuring" on D's one weekday off per week.

So that's summer for our family at SVS.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For Future Seminarians

Once again, I'm going to use this blog to host some information that I hope will be useful to future seminarians and their families. This is a packet that a few of us have edited this year, and is based on a packet we were given when we arrived here two years ago. It was so helpful at the time; I know at least my family couldn't have done without it. We hope the work that we have done on it will help it to continue in relevance and helpfulness to the new incoming students.

(If at some future time, the file gets deleted from its host, please leave me a comment below so I can fix it.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

SVS Area Attractions

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. We were on the road for three weeks, visiting family and friends in Kentucky and Texas. It's good to be back!

Today, I'm going to post a list of places for "adventuring," as one friend calls it, in the area around Yonkers. Although our family rarely gets out and so has done almost none of this, it gives you a good idea of what's available around here. I'm hoping this list can help prevent future seminary families from having to re-discover all of these great places.

The List:

Mystic Seaport - Check out Mystic Seaport. Hands down the best thing you can do while here. Would make a great overnight.

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 CafĂ© 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:

Spend a morning in the city--see the NYPD police museum, grab a piece of pizza on a corner (lots of little cheap eateries around this downtown landmark)!

Take the Staten Island Ferry-free and fun for the kids to ride a big boat.

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.

Edited 7/9/11 to omit Scarsdale Library museum pass - apparently only valid for Scarsdale residents; also edited to change name of town from Coldspring to Cold Spring. Coldspring, NY is in the western part of the state and isn't the one referred to here. Oops!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Call Me Matushka :)

Today my husband was ordained a deacon in the Orthodox church at St. Sergius of Radonezh chapel in Syosset, NY. There were no major catastrophes to getting there, no potty training accidents or injuries among my children, and the baby slept for almost an hour of the service. That makes for a good liturgy in my book!

There was a slight hiccup in my plan to record the ordination via photos and videos, because our memory card was too full, but others took photos, so hopefully we'll get those soon.

In the Russian tradition, deacons' and priests' wives are referred to as "matushka," which means, "mother." Since the entirety of my husband's deaconal ministry is very likely to take place here at seminary, I had decided I wasn't going to take up that title. I'm not anyone's "matushka," in the spiritual sense, until we have a parish to speak of. Besides, here at seminary, you can't throw a rock without hitting some matushka or another, so it seemed silly to put on such a title.

What's funny about this is that Metropolitan Jonah called me up to the front at the end of the liturgy by calling out, "Matushka!" So there I went running. He then went on to tell me that I was now a matushka and, even though my husband was the one to walk around the altar, I had been given a ministry by God as well. He said that the name of matushka signifies what that ministry means. So, I guess I'm a matushka! :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trot, Trot to Boston Town and Other News

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.

Speaking of ordinations, there had been a hold on them around here with our bishop (Metropolitan +JONAH) on leave, so we were experiencing a bit of "hurry up and wait." We rushed to get all the paperwork submitted, etc. in January and then just had to wait until at least after Pascha to see what would happen. Just today we were told that D.'s ordination to the diaconate will not happen until the fall semester. We still don't know anything about possible placement after graduation, but we're taking one step at a time.

The next things we have going on are graduation and bidding farewell to so many close friends here immediately followed by a long car trip to (eventually) Texas. We haven't been back to our homeland ( :) ) since January of 2010 and we're starting to worry that they might forget about us! We're looking forward to seeing family and many dear friends we've missed terribly. We should be in the Fort Worth area June 1-7, so if you're one of our Texas friends, be sure to call us and come see us.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week

So this week, in contrast to any other Holy Week in my life that I can recall, is about staying home and preparing for Pascha (instead of being about going to church and preparing for Pascha). I have a 6-month-old who will not sleep anywhere but in her crib (for more than 30 minutes, sometimes only 15), which means if I take her to the pre-sanctified liturgies every morning this week, by the end of the week, she may have forgotten entirely what it is to take a morning nap. The evening services, called Bridegroom Matins, are each at 8 p.m., so that's after my kids go to bed. Husband and I are taking turns going to those (I attend the ones he's not required to sing at). I'm even further confined to home by the fact that he has to squeeze in 18 hours of hospital visitation in three days this week, so he has the car.

I told the girls that Holy Week is for getting our hearts, home, and baskets ready for Pascha. For our hearts: we're not doing school this week, they're not watching videos (our girls usually watch one 30-minute video per day), and they're not eating "sweets" (both to heighten their appreciation of them on Pascha and to simplify my life a bit, so I don't have to make desserts). So far this is all going okay. Of course, H. was excited to be off of school. Not watching videos has been harder on me than on them, because that's how I get a break from the demands of parenting each day. I did give in and let them listen to storytime online tonight. They've stopped asking for sweets more quickly than I anticipated, but I must have asked K. seventeen times to quit asking me to lick the beaters as we made Cheese Pascha today, so perhaps the sugar addiction isn't completely broken! It's interesting to see them fighting more with each other during this time with fewer distractions and more prayers. It must be similar to what God has to put up with as He watches us during Lent.

For our home: we planned to scrub the bathroom on Monday, their room on Tuesday, the living/dining room on Wednesday, and the kitchen sometime Thursday and/or Friday. They both pitched in and helped a lot on the bathroom. H. didn't want to stop even when it was time for snack! We have white bathroom floors here, and I'm not the best about keeping them spotless, but it sure does look nice for now.

For our baskets: the plan was to make Cheese Pascha on Monday (see picture above of it draining in the fridge), cinnamon tortilla chips on Tuesday, fill the girls' baskets:
and make our "bitters" (horseradish and beet mixture):
for the big basket on Wednesday, dye eggs on Thursday, and make braided bread on Friday. Then we'll assemble the big basket on Saturday, with red eggs, lamb-shaped butter (I'd like a cross mold, but didn't have time to order one this year), sausage and ham, salt and bitters, Shiner Bock beer (instead of wine!), braided bread, and a candle. As you can see, ahead of time I decorated the handle of our basket with red ribbon and artificial flowers.

Another strange thing about this year for me is that I've decided that the children and I will probably miss most of the Paschal Nocturnes/Liturgy service. Part of that is because of the baby, who is guaranteed to stay awake for the whole thing and be cranky; part of it is the extreme lack of space in our chapel, so that I would have to hold at least the baby the entire time, and my back just can't take it; and part of it is how the crowding affects the older two, who have no place to rest. Last year was, honestly, miserable, and I found myself shocked that the excitement and joy of Pascha did not override the uncomfortable circumstances. Pascha definitely did not arrive in my heart until vespers the next day. I say all of this, almost unable to believe that I'm saying it, because Pascha is not just my favorite feast or church service, it's not just my favorite day of the year, it's my favorite. Period. It's my favorite anything. I've judged people in my heart for not attending the midnight service because of their kids before. God forgive me. I just couldn't see how anything would be important enough to make a person miss Pascha. But missing nocturnes, etc. does not mean that I'm not celebrating Pascha. I'll celebrate it throughout the Paschal season; and when our circumstances change (kids get older, attending a parish with more space so they can rest, etc.), I'll return with joy to my favorite service of the year!

So, dear readers (if I have any), I pray you have a blessed Holy Week and joyous Pascha!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Petri Dish of Seminary

To tell the whole truth about life at seminary and not mention the germ-sharing aspect of things would be impossible. Last year, our relative isolation, particularly from other children (since we shared an outside door with only one single priest and the bookstore employees and there was no organized educational playgroup as there is now) protected my kids from a lot of the illnesses that went around. This year, with the move to our more spacious digs, we're in the Lakeside buildings, the campus hot-spot for, well, snot. Ever since we returned from our Christmas vacation, at least one family member has been sick, and it has usually been H. or K.

I don't generally take my kids to the doctor unless they have a fever that lasts more than three days or really strange symptoms I don't know what to do about. Yesterday, though, I broke that general rule and took K. in because she's just been sick so many stinkin' times this semester. The nurse suspected strep and took two swabs (one for the rapid test, one for the culture, if necessary). She was right. So I'm glad I took her, because even though strep clears up on its own in 3-5 days, without antibiotics, the infected person is contagious for 2-3 weeks (instead of 24 hours after antibiotics). It's starting to get warmer, so hopefully this is our last round with serious illness for this year. I'm praying for all of our health, because, of course, she was contagious for a couple of days before she had any symptoms. So far, H. and L.L. seem fine, thank God.

What's keeping us busy these days (other than doctor visits) is organizing the Post-Presanctified Liturgy Potlucks (hosted by a different seminary family each week and held in the church fellowship hall), hosting a Lenten recipe swap for the women's group next week, and all the usual things like keeping a teething baby happy and fed and figuring out when in the world to shop for groceries. :)

I think I'd better be off to bed now. Said teether has already cried twice tonight since we put her to bed, so who knows what the night may bring.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Calm and Controversy

Being in seminary makes it feel a bit more like whatever goes on in the national church more directly affects us than it did when we were thousands of physical miles away in Texas and many steps removed, organizationally, from Syosset.

The way most of us found out about Metropolitan Jonah's leave of absence was rather odd, as it came in a sort of end-of-panikhida homily that didn't actually say what in the world had happened, only that something had happened (assuming, perhaps, that we all already knew), and that rumors were flying around the Internet, etc. We were encouraged to stay out of the buzz and keep our minds on the coming Memorial Saturday, our Lenten preparations, etc. Unfortunately, I think the fact that most of those in the church at the time hadn't a clue what had happened, much less what was being spread around about it, only served to heighten our wonder and confusion.

Of course, we all went home and looked at the usual sources (, OCANews, and now OCA Truth), but although we now knew what had happened, it didn't clear things up much. We talked to friends or family who were present for certain events. We talked to each other. But I wonder how many of us did the one thing needful?

We pray each day that God will confirm and strengthen [His church], enlarge and multiply it, keep it in peace, and preserve it unconquerable by the gates of hell forever. What I think we need to do now is to keep that prayer on the tip of our tongues and not let all the buzz distract us. Pray for our primate. Pray for our synod. As Met. Jonah is known for saying: do not react, do not resent, keep inner stillness.

A blessed Lenten journey to all of you. Forgive me, my brothers and sisters. God forgives and I forgive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weather Phenomenon and Other Stuff

Yesterday I had the very strange (to me) experience of a day where the temperature reached 50 degrees, and it was appropriate to go outside in just a light jacket, yet there was nowhere for my children to play that wasn't covered in snow. I've never lived anywhere (that I can remember) with such persistent snow, able to resist days and days of temperatures above freezing. Apparently the snow's presence didn't take other parents by surprise as it did me, because they just sent their kids out in snow boots and waterproof pants to enjoy the sunshine. My girls did eventually dig in and start playing, but they returned home rather soggy as a result!

In other news, my husband has received permission from the faculty council here at St. Vladimir's to petition the Metropolitan for ordination to the deaconate. Among other considerations, this has thrust us once again into the world of liturgical vestment buying, with the purchase of a riassa (or outer-cassock) likely to be necessary soon. His ordination to the deaconate (and, God-willing, the priesthood) is something we've been looking toward since we came to seminary, but it is nonetheless an occasion to soberly recall that, even though our lives are not our own now, this truth will be more evident in the coming days. The step towards the deaconate is a step away from being able to do what we want when we want to - whether that be go on vacation or go out to dinner when there are nightly services scheduled. It is a blessing when situations in our lives help us remember reality - and even more of a blessing when we accept this reality and it leads us to repentance and peace - but it is neither easy nor a given that we will accept it.

Today is my maternal grandfather Robert's 87th birthday. Pray for him, if you would. Blessings to all of you as we begin to prepare for our Lenten journey.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Outing to the Aquarium

One of the positive things I mentioned about living here is the proximity to NYC. We don't get into the city much at all, but we do have zoo/aquarium passes that my parents have gotten us for Christmas this year and last year. The aquarium is in Brooklyn, and you can see Coney Island from the parking lot. For those with any knowledge of the geography of NYC, that means it's really, really far from where we live. It took us 50 minutes to drive there this morning, and much longer to drive home a) at 4 p.m. with more traffic and b) with our GPS for some reason directing us into all these neighborhoods and side streets, even though we'd arrived on only highways and major roads. Manhattan often does make our GPS wonky (where we appear to be spinning in circles on the map even though we're actually sitting still at an intersection, or when it recalculates 17 times while we're slowly driving down a street), but we weren't in Manhattan and it wasn't acting wonky; it just wanted us to take the slowest possible route, apparently!

So here are some photos of us at the New York Aquarium.

At the cafe, after peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from home. See the mess?
This is H's reflection in the tank of some really tiny jellyfish.

LL was not very impressed, but she was cute!

The sharks were H's favorite part. Did you know that sharks and rays are related?

Climbing on this walrus statue was K's favorite part.

We figured today would be the last day for awhile when we could undertake such an outing. I'm certainly not going to take all three of them by myself, and DB puts his nose back to the grindstone tomorrow, starting with three choir rehearsals, a choir trip, and then classes beginning again on Monday.

He will be working on a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) unit this semester, requiring him to be at a local hospital roughly 25 hours a week this semester, in addition to his other classes. I anticipate this semester's schedule to be quite a stressor, especially when you consider that Great Lent will be in the middle of it, bringing with it so much time required in church. Other stressors are a young infant, homeschooling H, and (of course) never quite knowing where the money to pay each months' expenses is going to come from. I know that God never gives us more than we can handle (with His help), but I have a feeling that this semester is going to push the edge of that and feel very unpleasant. Unfortunately, I'm usually right about the things I dread. Pray for me, a sinner.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lessons to Complete Before Contemplating Parenthood

I found this on my October 2010 birth forum on babycenter and I laughed so hard, I thought I'd share it with you!

Lesson 1

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.

Lesson 2

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.

Lesson 3

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.

Lesson 4

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?

Lesson 5

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.

Lesson 6

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.

Lesson 7

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.

Lesson 8

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.

Lesson 9

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.

Lesson 10

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.

Lesson 11

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

New Year's Resolution Re: Blogging

This blog is supposed to be about what it's like for our family at seminary, but I've been reflecting lately that I've so far mostly blogged about our family life, but not so much specifically about what it's like to be here at St. Vladimir's. While I regret that I missed some fresh impressions of SVS and living in Westchester county when we first moved here, my New Year's resolution is to try to include the kind of experiences here that someone might find valuable, or at least amusing, if she were to find herself in my position as a seminary wife.

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!