Thursday, September 17, 2009

"So you want to live in Alabama"

Tip #1: Buy a weather radio. Plug it in. Leave it there year-round. Seriously, you won't know which thunderstorms are harboring tornadoes just by looking around. There are too many hills and trees to see anything coming. By the time you actually lay eyes on it, it may be the last thing you see. And granted, most tornadoes come in the spring around here (mostly in April), but there have been tornadoes in every month of the year. In the fall you can get them as spin-offs of hurricanes. Your area probably has tornado sirens. Take them seriously. Don't necessarily do as I do and run out and look up at the sky the instant it goes off. Or soon you'll have your children doing the same thing (like mine). My younger ones will ask excitedly, "Is that the tomato siren? Is a tomato coming??"

 [Time out for funny anecdote: When we moved to Pennsylvania to go to seminary, we got there just after Dormition (mid-August). The 2nd or 3rd night we were there we woke up out of a dead sleep to unmistakable tornado sirens going off. We bounced up and I tossed open the window and stuck my head out. It was about 50 degrees and clear: you could see stars. Father manually turned on the weather radio (Yes, we were there about 24 hours before it was unpacked and plugged in.) which had failed to go off automatically. We listened with bated breath while the computer-generated voice droned on about current (calm) weather conditions in counties we had never heard of. Still not willing to relax and go back to bed, we turned on the television and scouted around for local stations, searching for the inevitable meteorologist standing in front of a doppler radar screen plastered with red and yellow. Nothing. We discussed the unlikely possibility that the locals checked their alarm weekly in the middle of the night. Forced to give up, we headed to bed, still half listening for the light breeze to turn into a screaming maelstrom. The next morning we checked with one of the neighbors who explained that there being no local full-time fire station, the volunteers were called out - you guessed it -with a siren.]

Tip #2: Have a place in mind to take cover. Here's a good order of preference: Basement (in center or NE corner under something heavy-duty), windowless bathroom on 1st floor, windowless closet or other room on 1st floor, under a heavy piece of furniture and try to grab a blanket or something on the way there to cover up with if you have none of the above. Closets under stairs are good for this purpose. Some friends, newly arrived from California, panicked when they asked us about tornadoes and we nonchalantly started going through the above advice. When they said they didn't have a basement I asked about an under-the-stairs closet. They looked wildly at each other for a moment and then shouted that yes! they did have one. The wife said, "So THAT'S what that closet's for!" I managed to keep a straight face when I said that it was perfectly ok to use it for storage too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Back!

Well, that was an extremely long absence. I've upped my meds and feel back on track so here we go:

I'll be doing some catch-up posts in the next few days to get things like Ginger's birthday and such posted. For those interested, I'm hoping no news is good news as far as Noah is concerned. I'm sure they all still need your prayers though.

My current projects:

1. Baby blankets for one of my doctor friends (1st baby) and my sister in law (1st baby). The first I'm doing in large blocks of color, not too many alike. I had a lot of pink-toned squares thrown in the mix but she went and had a boy a week ago. I won't be including those. I get to do the pink for my sister in law. I won't include a description or pictures until she gets it so there will still be a surprise involved. I stopped on the way home to get a little bit more yarn. It is SO hard not to buy out the yarn section of Michaels! I was good and kept it to three skeins.

2. Math review. My other stop tonight included Books-A-Million. I got algebra/trig and calculus review books. Math was always my favorite subject and I'm appalled at how much I've forgotten! My college multi-D calc professor would be rolling in his grave. At one time he actually suggested I pursue a career in mathematics. Let's just hope I can bring back enough to teach my children. For now, I plan to thoroughly enjoy myself with some math "homework" every day.

3. Surviving at work. Actually, "surviving" is a bit extreme - it's gotten a lot better. My dear doctors are supportive as always. I've managed to cut down on my overtime.

4. Church school. This is our second year. I've never been a great elementary school educator - I prefer one-on-one to classes. Oh well. We have about 12 children now. I seem to have landed the little boys' class. They're 2 1/2 (yes, my Pickles who won't be separated from Mommy), 4, 5 and 6. I think we'll be focusing on the action-aspects of any feast-day or saint's life. Frankly, my main goal is to keep the peace.

5. I would say homeschool, but Father is doing basically all of it. I'm in the position of saying "so X, what did you do in school today?" I still can't believe Ribby is in 5th grade. My gracious. Ginger's reading is getting SO much better. He can do Dick and Jane quite well now. Further updates on all of them later.

We had an Orthodox family move here recently from California. The wife has lived in California her whole life and is kerflummoxed by Alabama. Bless her heart. I'll do a post sometime on advice we gave them for surviving life here. Can you believe she had almost never seen lightning? She also wanted to know what grits were. Everyone always asks that. (It's CORN folks.)

Things are steadily improving at church. The new website is up and it's very nice. There are only a few pictures posted on the site at this time. We have quite a few more and are in the process of getting them to the web-master.

I need to go get cracking on that blanket or it will never be done. More posts coming soon, I promise!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Prayer Request

Please pray for Noah Estes. I have requested prayers for him before. He has been on a particularly bumpy road the last several weeks, enduring multiple hospitalizations. He and his mother are heading from one hospital to another today, possibly to receive another (devastating) diagnosis. She will have to give antibiotics and TPN on the road and her husband will have to stay with their other children at home. Please pray for peace for all of them as they are understandably frightened and exhausted.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making Do

I actually completed the project at the bottom of the page before this one, but am having the usual problem rearranging the photos. After I had done Flopsy's room, the older girls wanted something done to their room, so I sewed off and on for 3 days making everybody happy.

The older girls' room is in the finished daylight basement, so their window is a short one. I took regular sized long curtain panels and cut them to fit. After hemming, I sewed ribbon along the seams. I didn't have to do casings because I used the clip-on rings with a cafe rod. Very easy.

I then took the leftover curtain material and paired it with a cheerful seersucker print I have had around for a while to make pillows. I trimmed them with the same ribbon. I'd never made the bolster-type pillows before but they were actually quite easy. I cut a rectangle of the seersucker, sewed a shorter rectangle of the yellow fabric to each short side, folded the whole thing in half length-wise and sewed the long edges together. I sewed a narrow casing on each (yellow) end and turned the whole thing right-side-out. I threaded multiple colors of baby ribbon through one casing and pulled it tight, knotting it. After stuffing the resulting "bag", I threaded the same ribbon through the other casing and pulled it tight. Voila!

The first project was, as I mentioned, Flopsy's room. We had been given a very pretty comforter that was, shall we say, a little outsized for a twin bed. Ok, it was a king size. I hated to get rid of it but it was really unusable. I even tried it on our queen sized bed, but it was STILL too big. After a while, I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I measured it for a twin bed and cut off the rest. I ripped the seam on the bit I had cut off and removed the ruffle. Then I sewed the open side shut, inserting the ruffle as I went. You can't tell the difference.
I had all of this nice fabric left over (you can see it's contrasting) so I decided to make some pillows. I made one square one and had enough ruffle to trim it with. Then I made the cylindrical one, doing it more simply than the ones above. In fact, I recycled the batting from the comforter as pillow-stuffing. I still had quite a bit of material. I moved two antique chairs into her room and recovered the seats. And yes, I still have fabric left over. I'm thinking...

We had recently painted this room and the yellow is so cheerful. I can tell it will look nice in all seasons. You can see why I was so anxious to use this comforter! I don't know about the green curtains though. They look a bit strange from the street. I can't believe I managed to redo this room with one hand-me-down comforter!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Children's Books Everyone Should Read

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For one thing, there's not room. For another, I come with all sorts of biases. Some books I truly enjoy but have not included, thinking that other adults probably would not enjoy them. Some, that others think should be on the list, I haven't included because either I haven't read them or I did, but didn't myself like. Feel more than welcome to add your own personal favorites in the comments.

These are in no particular order. For some reason, I am lately unable to move pictures about on the page after I've added them.

Tom's Midnight Garden won't appeal to all, but it is a very well written, imaginative book.

George MacDonald was a great influence on such writers as Lewis Caroll, C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien.

This is really a poem, but I'm including it anyway. I particularly like the illustrations of Kevin Maddison in this edition. It's pure fun.

Everyone should immediately put the Disney version of Mary Poppins out of his head. Disney is all very well in its place, but has the unfortunate effect of convincing people that they now know all about the original story and have no need to read the book. Bosh. Mary Poppins and its sequels are much, much better than the movie, which bears almost no resemblance to the book.

I was fortunate to find this one in grade school. I keep forgetting to get a copy for my children. They would love it. Delightful.

Half Magic is heavily influenced by the books of E. Nesbit, a fact that is actually stated within the story. It is the first of a series. I think the books by Edward Eager are much more obviously humorous than those by E. Nesbit, but I enjoy them all.

And we finally arrive at E. Nesbit. I've only pictured Five Children and It, but The Story of the Treasure Seekers is also wonderful. Both are the first in their series. The children depicted are very real and not condescended to.

These three tales by J.R.R. Tolkien are great bedtime reading (as, frankly, are all of the books here). Tolkien has developed an unfortunate reputation of being hard, and these books are a definite antidote to that. Roverandom is much more the children's story than the first two, but I like it none the worse for that.

I hope the sight of Bread and Jam for Frances is inspiring nostalgic smiles. All of the Frances books are fun. Gloria and her string bean (to practice on)...who wouldn't like that?

Aha, the controversial one. All I can say is that when I was a child, Little Black Sambo was a favorite read-aloud book in our house. I think it was an absolute favorite of my sister Rebecca's. I hear there are politically correct versions of this floating around. Mercifully, the original is still obtainable.

Beatrix Potter is seriously underrated. Today her corpus seems to be reduced to nursery decorations and bib mottoes. Father gave me the complete works of Beatrix Potter while we were dating. Obviously, we are well suited.

Two stories stand out as my favorites (and neither is Peter Rabbit). The first is The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan. This is classic humor, reminiscent of Shakespeare. I am almost incapable of reading it aloud because I can't stop laughing.

The second is The Tale of Ginger and Pickles. I could read this daily and never tire of it. If no one can muster the courage to go buy it, I may order a case of them and send them out as Christmas presents.

I didn't want to make this an interminable post, so here is a list of some more of my favorites without pictures:

My Side of the Mountain
Winnie the Pooh (really, read it - very funny)
The Narnia books
Alice in Wonderland (forget Disney)
The Hobbit
The Wind in the Willows (especially nice for summer)
The Borrowers (all five in the series)
Watership Down (more serious, but a great read)
The Cricket in Times Square
The Giver
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (hilarious!)
the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (so true to life)

Here is a list I found while writing this post. Someone else has been working hard making a more exhaustive canon.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4th 2007

I was looking through some Fourth of July photos from 2 years ago and couldn't resist posting a few. Pickles was such a baby! The photo on the banner is from that vacation too.

Look at these two! They were waiting for the fireworks to start. Father said it's like a Tragedy/Comedy mask...

Everybody lined up to watch fireworks.

Cupcake fest:

These were taken earlier in the day. So much for the lovely, winsome smiles I was hoping for. Everyone was almost in tears. Actually, Pickles WAS in tears.

This stands as one of my all-time favorite pictures:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

This is the first Fourth that I didn't have to work in the last 4-5 years. Yay! We took off after supper into town to go to an outdoor concert put on by the community orchestra/band. Ribby was less than thrilled that I took a picture.

There was plenty of room but I wish we could have been closer. The children really seemed to enjoy it (for the most part).

Sorry so blurry. They had an 8 year old prodigy from Virginia playing the coronet on a few pieces. He was amazing. He wore a white coat and a cowboy hat.

 Ginger really gets into music. He likes to play all of the instruments and he dances like a combination of Mr. Bean and Elaine from "Seinfeld". [note: Apparently he and some other children got up on stage during the Melkite food festival and danced to the music (while visiting friends). We didn't see it, but we heard he had everyone in stitches.] Sorry the picture is so shaky: the combination of inexperience and laughter made it very difficult to hold still.
video video
They did a medley of Glenn Miller songs. After a few moments three couples got up to dance on the sidewalk nearby. They were pretty good!
They wound up with "Stars and Stripes Forever" with a guest conductor (chosen by lottery from the crowd). We all clapped with the music then packed up to go see the fireworks. We only had to walk about a half of a block.

It was a most enjoyable evening and the kids are all tired out (and in bed). I hope everyone had as much fun as we did!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shopping for a Skirt

Oh my. I found this linked on one of the sites I frequent. I laughed until I cried. Man, this sounds so familiar. I hate shopping for myself.


"I went out to buy a skirt."

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Joyous Feastday! [I'm actually posting this on 6/11 because I didn't have time to download the pictures before we left for the beach.] We decorated the church with flowers and green branches for Pentecost before Vespers. Vespers was sparsely attended but was a lovely service. It will be many years before we have all of the robes and cloths in the full array of liturgical colors. We've started with red. Consequently, only Father has green...

I made the litya bread using a recipe I found on the Internet. I used the same recipe for vespers of Ascension, but I didn't like how it turned out so I tweaked it this time. Much better.

This is the first time we've used the fans for the gospel reading. It really looked nice.

And of course, the kneeling vespers after Pentecost liturgy. I sneaked a photo during one of the kneeling prayers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

urgent prayer request

Sorry for the hiatus folks, I have a lot to post including pictures but it won't happen tonight.

I'm posting to plead for your prayers for Noah, a toddler with mitochondrial disease. He's very, very sick right now and everyone is very frightened for him. Thank you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bright Monday

Yesterday near the end of Agape Vespers, the skies opened up and it poured. I got drenched getting stuff and kids into the car and shivered during the 45 minutes back to my mother-in-law's house. Part of the fun: I discovered that while I had been loading everyone up, Pickles had climbed in the driver's seat and rolled down the window. Ha ha, Mommy.

Father had a sixth grade Sunday school class from a local Methodist church coming to hear about Orthodoxy last night at 6. Apparently, this was the best time for them. I was to get everyone packed, fed and loaded and meet him at the church at 7 to begin the 2 hour ride back home. Fortunately it stopped raining while I loaded the van. Normally I would have checked the weather radar but I was pretty tired (and sleep deprived), short on time, and just wanted to get home. Besides, the rain had stopped and the weather earlier had been only a rain event so I was Unsuspecting.

I started 15 minutes late and called him on the road to let him know we were coming. He said that a crazy person had stopped by the church as the class was leaving and told him that he was a top government assassin and had a microchip implanted in his forehead. After a bit of prayer and money the man was persuaded to go away and Father locked himself in the church. Just a few minutes before we got there, I looked off to the south and saw a nice grouping of mammatus clouds amidst the lightening. I was excited (it's been a while) despite the sure knowledge that we were going to be heading in that direction within 10 minutes. We got to the church, Father hopped in his car and we headed off. Over the phone we discussed that he needed to stop for gas. I wanted to stop at our usual place, just on the other side of the Tennessee River, but he said he was pretty low and so we stopped very close to the church. I got out of the van when we stopped and as I did, I could hear the tornado sirens starting up. I looked around. It was pouring and pitch black. The guy in the convenience store had no knowledge of storm location so we called Father's mother. She checked and said that there was a tornado on the ground at Lacey Springs. Lacey Springs is just on the other side of the river... and has a really nice, inexpensive gas station.

We got back in the cars and drove North for about 5 minutes and pulled into a parking lot, listening to the local radio while waiting for it all to pass. There was quite a lot of tornadic activity in the area, all the way South. We drove slowly South, listening to the radio all the way and managed to drive just behind the main storms. It took us 2 1/2 hours and I had a splitting headache when we got home, but I'm VERY glad to be here despite the four hundred loads of laundry to do today.

The children slept through the whole thing. Fifteen minutes before we got home, Ribby woke up and asked:

"How come it's taking us so long to get Papa from church?"