Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sts. Peter and Paul

Joyous Feastday!

First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Smallest Deacon

I'll make sure not to relate this story to Pickles - he might follow suit!  Beautiful story.

Organizational update

I never really posted again about how my weekly organizational system was going.  Well, it's going fine!  It's such freedom to simply 'follow the chart' rather than wonder what needs doing most.  I've loosened up a bit about it too, so it's ok if the living room gets done a day later in place of a room that needed doing more, etc.

I've never had so much success with regular library trips either.  We're actually going every Monday.  I can tell that if it weren't 'on the schedule' it would have been missed several times because it's not much fun to drag yourself out with four kids in the middle of the day when the temperature is ninety-something when you'd rather be relaxing with a book.  Of course, the books must be fetched from the library...

The meal plan is going well too.  We're getting back on our regular three-week rotating schedule this week (with minor alterations since the fast doesn't end until tomorrow).  It made grocery shopping much simpler last Saturday.  Everyone is really looking forward to the poppy seed chicken tomorrow.

Sometime I'll sit down and make some alterations in the schedule.  Now that I've been doing it for a while I know I can't put "children's rooms" on one block of the schedule for Tuesday and expect that to happen.  I've broken it down into boys' and girls' rooms.  If anyone is thinking that the boys trash their room more, let me assure you that the girls do a pretty thorough job as well.

Anyone else made any changes to their schedules?

Abby Update

Thank you for your prayers for Abby.  Her fever is no longer a blistering 107, but it has bounced around and this morning they're back to the doctor.  I'm not going to post all of her updates here since her parents do a much better job. Please continue to pray for her as well as for Noah, a child with mitochondrial disease that some of you might remember me mentioning before.  He's doing poorly overall.  This is an ultimately fatal disease but we all wish for him to have as much time with his family as possible and for him to feel as good as possible.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prayer request

Please pray for Abby, almost five, who has an aggressive form of leukemia and is very sick right now - temp of 107 and in the ER.  Her parents and siblings are very scared.  Thank you.

Introducing Alex

Well, here we go.  The first named storm of the Atlantic season.  People ("experts") seem to be in agreement that it might, or might not, do some, or a lot, of damage via moving the oil around.  Now that's something firm you can stand on.

The thing that people miss is that once you have a storm in the Gulf, much of the surface is set in motion and there are unforeseen consequences.  Like oil where you didn't think oil would go.  If there's a big enough storm, it can turn most of the Gulf into a jacuzzi.  Ever wondered why the bubbles you put in one end of the tub don't stay there?

I think that the best-case scenario here would be one of no tropical disturbances in the Gulf this summer.  Show of hands: who thinks that will happen?  Everybody better plan on a direct hit and what they're going to do in that event.  Otherwise you're just hiding your head in the oil-stained sand.

On an extremely frivolous side note: being the storm-lover that I am, I am reveling in the fact that I'm significantly closer to the coast than I have lived in the last almost twenty years.  If it weren't for the oil, I'd be thrilled that we're heading into hurricane season!  (I'm incorrigible - don't even try berating me for this.  Grandpapa was a meteorologist and we all got the bug.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Favorite Adult Fiction

I’ve done a post on favorite children’s books every adult should read. Now it’s time for a post to include favorite adult fiction. These are some of my favorites, not to be confused with the Western Canon.

Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide books, the Dirk Gently books

Richard Adams: Watership Down

Jane Austen: Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice

Ray Bradbury: most anthologies like R is for Rocket and The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Arthur C. Doyle: The Lost World

Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose, How to Travel With a Salmon

Stella Gibbons: Cold Comfort Farm

William Goldman: The Princess Bride

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Ken Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next

C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, Till We Have Faces, The Dark Tower

Arthur Miller: The Death of a Salesman

Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind

George Orwell: 1984

Edgar Allen Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (etc.)

Gene Stratton Porter: A Girl of the Limberlost

Chaim Potok: The Promise, The Chosen, My Name is Asher Lev, The Gift of Asher Lev

Saki (H.M. Monro): any of the short stories

William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Cancer Ward

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels

J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooten Major, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jules Verne: The Mysterious Island

H.G. Wells: The Time Machine

P.G. Wodehouse: any of the Jeeves and Wooster or Psmith books

[I know I’ve left out lots, but there’s a limit as to how long I’ll spend working on a list like this when I have other things to do. Pitiful, but practical.]

And for a treat: anyone who loves Mark Twain and detests James Fenimore Cooper will adore this scathing review the former did of the latter, focusing on The Last of the Mohicans. The knives are sharpened, the vultures are circling...

Liking Weather

"As well," he continued, "don't you like a rather foggy day in a wood in autumn? You'll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car."

Jane said she'd never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn't mind trying.  All three got in.

"That's why Camilla and I got married," said Denniston as they drove off. "We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It's a useful taste if one lives in England."

"How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?" said Jane. "I don't think I should ever learn to like rain and snow."

"It's the other way round," said Denniston. "Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Haven't you ever noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children--and the dogs? They know what snow's made for."

"I'm sure I hated wet days as a child," said Jane.

"That's because the grown-ups kept you in," said Camilla. "Any child loves rain if it's allowed to go out and paddle about in it."
-C.S.Lewis, "That Hideous Strength"

Children and Chant

(chanted - very loud)

"Bless the Looorrrd, oh my sooouuul. Blessed art thou O Goooddd. Bless the Looorrd, oh my soul. And all that is with me bless his hooolllly name. (pause) Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia....and-I-don't-remember-the-reeessst..."

Listening to children chant is wonderful.  All of ours started chanting before they could read so they relied partially on memory and partially on imagination.  Most of the time they would hold a book (upside down usually) in front of their faces and march around the room.  Ginger and Pickles improved on this somewhat by swinging a "censor" while they chanted.  Pickles dresses out completely: epitrachelion, phelonion, censor, blessing cross...  His technique is pretty good and he really, really likes making bows toward us so we will bow back.

Pickles especially has such a projecting voice that we joke we need to make him a deacon as soon as possible.  He sings in church with gusto, sometimes louder than the entire choir.  (c;  I woke up this morning to a rousing rendition of "God grant you many years".

Last night at vespers for the nativity of St. John, there were some key people in the choir missing so all of the children joined us at the stands.  It was a joy to hear all of those enthusiastic voices!  Ribby has also been joining Father at private vespers and matins, chanting good bits of it.  He says she's doing remarkably well.  I hope all of our children grow up chanting and singing well in church. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Enjoying Life

"Why should we need extra time in which to enjoy ourselves? If we expect to enjoy our life, we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at stated intervals when we can get time or when we have nothing else to do.

It may well be that it is not our work that is so hard for us as the dread of it and our often expressed hatred of it.  Perhaps it is our spirit and attitude toward life, and its conditions that are giving us trouble instead of a shortage of time.  Surely the days and nights are as long as they ever were.

A feeling of pleasure in a task seems to shorten it wonderfully, and it makes a great difference with the day's work if we get enjoyment from it instead of looking for all our pleasure altogether apart from it, as seems to be the habit of mind we are more and more growing into."

             -Laura Ingalls Wilder, "Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings"


Our garden is doing well, but was a late starter.  Friends have spontaneously filled in the gaps:

Monday, June 21, 2010

But who will take care of Fluffy?

(Seen on Ad Orentem)

This is hilarious: 
As the Apostle Paul describes in Thessalonians as quoted above, at some point in the future Jesus will come in the air, catch up the Church from the earth, and then return to heaven with the Church. This is known as the Rapture and it will be glorious. But what of our pets? Who will take care of our pets when we're gone?

You have to read it to believe it.  The thrust of the site is that they're setting up a network of non-Christian volunteers to take care of the left-behind pets once they've been raptured-up. 

I laughed until I cried.  Ask Father.  He said it was "19th century heresy meets 21st century obsession."

One of the funniest and most bizarre things: They're more concerned with taking care of little Fluffy than with the souls of those caretakers! 

Again, you have to read it.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

[On the very slight off-chance that someone reading this may be confused as to where the Orthodox stand on the heresy of the Rapture: we reject it.]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

St. Symeon's Choir

Our home parish, St. Symeon the New Theologian in Birmingham, Alabama, has a phenomenal choir.  There is only one video available (that I'm aware of) and it is of limited quality, but you can still get the idea.  This is only a portion of the choir singing at the 17th Annual Ancient Christianity and Afro-American Conference in Anniston, Alabama.  It was sponsored by the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black and Met. Jonah was in attendance.  Alex Fecanin is directing.

St. Symeon's is making a CD later this summer and I can't wait to get one!  I'll be sure to post information about it when it becomes available.  If you go to the St. Symeon's website podcast page, there are selections from matins and divine liturgy available at the bottom of the page.  This is from 2008 and the choir has improved measurably since then but it's still beautiful.

Addendum: Admittedly this is hearsay but according to a parishioner who was there, Met. Jonah said that the music was the best he'd heard since he was at Christ the Savior in Moscow. (!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I watched this a few years ago.  People were passing it from one family to the next.  I never knew whose video it was originally.  Watching an entire movie in subtitles doesn't sound too attractive, but it is an unforgetable experience.

Watch it if you can.  Buy it, borrow it.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Martyrdom by Asceticism

From "Spiritual Awakening - Spiritual Counsels II" by Elder Paisios:

   -Geronda, how am I to feel martyrdom and monastic asceticism?

   -For you to understand a little of what martyrdom means, be prepared to accept even contempt with joy.  And if you want to feel a little what asceticism is, since you cannot fast for forty days as Christ did, fast at least one Wednesday, the day when He was betrayed, and one Friday, the day they crucified Him.  Those who desire to be martyrs out of love for Christ, but for whom there is no martyrdom, can express this burning love of theirs for Christ through a physical form of asceticism for the sake of those departed souls who are burning and need to find some rest.  As martyrdom is a festival, asceticism is also a festival, for one finds divine consolation by avoiding all human consolation.

Large Family or Sheer Insanity?

We are only a family of seven but we still get some looks when we go out.  There are the familiar comments:

 Are they all yours?
 You must have your hands full.

and the despicable...

Don't you know what causes that? (Is there really any polite response to that?  I mean, "No! Tell me!" wouldn't really be appropriate...)

It's not been that long ago that our family size was the norm.  When people with one or two children were pitied.  Now in recent years something called the "Quiverfull Movement" has come into vogue.  This tends to flourish primarily among evangelical Christians.  The Duggar family is the one people are probably most familiar with since they have been featured on television.  As Orthodox Christians, most families we know have at least four children, many have more.

Now before my mother has a heart attack reading this (smile), I have no specific plans to have nineteen children.  Frankly, I don't think that one's family size or anything that goes into it is a topic of conversation for anyone but you, your spouse and your spiritual father.  That being said, there are a few general guidelines.

1. First and foremost, children are a gift from God, a blessing!  Losing sight of that leads people into so many ills like abortion.

2. Reasons to limit family size or delay childbearing do not include waiting until you have a brand new three-bedroom house, two cars, an established career and a trip to Jamaica under your belts.  Now, I acknowledge that many people would disagree with this.  There's not really any point in arguing.

Beyond these general "rules" there is a continent of gray area that is, again, best navigated with your spiritual father.

We had our children one by one, unlike some families we know who had them like the animals on the ark - two by two (you know who you are!).  There are also families that acquire multiple children at once through the blessing of adoption.  Some things that we have learned along the way:

1. There is always room for another baby.  We've never had to put a crib in the back yard.
2. The largest expenses in the family do not change with the addition of one child or three. 
3. There is always enough attention to go around.  Remember that old saw: you multiply love, not divide it?
4. The older children love having a new baby in the house.  Usually they fight over who gets to hold it and I have usually had an audience every time I nursed the baby.  After we had number three, I never had to entertain the baby: the older children are delighted to pretend to trip and fall down 473 times to make the baby laugh while I get dinner.
5. It's nice to have children find out that the world doesn't revolve around them - personally.
6. As my spiritual father said once, "You don't know how selfish you really are until you have children." This is so true.  Children force you to grow up.

I could go on and on.  When people look at me with incredulity or pity, I smile and think about how delightful it is to watch puppet shows, magic shows and recorder recitals, be served with a bewildering array of plastic food, watch your child crochet or build something for the first time, come in a room to see an older child reading to a non-reader and (joy of joys!) hold your baby for the first time.  Now, a large family isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but a small one isn't either!

From Fr. Thomas Hopko:

According to the Orthodox teaching as expressed in the sacramental rite of marriage, the creation of children, and the care and love for them within the context of the family, is the normal fulfillment of the love of a man and woman in Christ. In this way, marriage is the human expression of the creative and caring love of God, the perfect Love of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity which overflows in the creation and care for the world. This conviction that human love, imitative of divine love, should overflow itself in the creation and care for others does not mean that the procreation of children is in itself the sole purpose of marriage and the unique and exclusive justification and legitimization of its existence. Neither does it mean that a childless couple cannot live a truly Christian life together. It does mean, however, that the conscious choice by a married couple not to have a family for reasons of personal comfort and accommodation, the desire for luxury and freedom, the fear of responsibility, the refusal of sharing material possessions, the hatred of children, etc., is not Christian, and can in no way be considered as consonant with the biblical, moral and sacramental teachings and experience of the Orthodox Church about the meaning of life, love and marriage.
In light of the perspective offered above, the control of the conception of children in marriage is a very delicate matter, discouraged in principle and considered as perhaps possible only with the most careful examination of conscience, prayer and pastoral guidance. The abortion of a child already conceived is strictly forbidden in the Orthodox Church, and cannot be justified in any way, except perhaps with the greatest moral risk and with the most serious penitence in the most extreme cases such as that of irreparable damage to the mother or her probable death in the act of childbirth. In such extreme situations, the mother alone must take upon herself the decision, and all must be prepared to stand before God for the action, asking his divine mercy.
The vast majority of us can't stand at a lectern and expound on the role of the Christian marriage.  What we can do is stop feeling guilty for fulfilling God's plan for our selves, our marriages and our families.  We can stop apologizing for the number of our children, or the desire to have many children. 
Ps 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Ps 128:1 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. 2 When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.  3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.  4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garden Update

Well, it's been a while since the last update.  The garden sure does look different!  The two weeks of rain we had gave it a giant boost.

First Fruits:

The okra are baby-stepping along...

This is hilarious, but I had to put the bush beans up on tomato cages last night.  They were sneaking into everything.

The children are really enjoying coming in every morning to tell me what they've found in the garden.

I love how the pole beans are trying to reach out and grab the okra.

In the front, the purple flowers were a surprise.  I still don't know what they are. 

From David: Hi, the purple flowers by your front steps are Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue'. It is a perennial salvia native, I believe, to Argentina. Brazil, Paraguay. It's also known as Blue Anise Sage. I have a large clump of it and had given some starts to the previous residents.

We were also surprised by the sudden appearance of some elephant ears and company.  The spanish bayonets were evident earlier.  I'm going to get a saw and cut them down sometime. 

The impatiens are not looking their best this morning.  The heat is getting to them.  Trust me, they looked lush yesterday.

I'm amazed by how tropical the front plantings look.  It was a complete accident.

My zinnias are growing steadily.  No flowers yet, but I started them from seed.  It was really exciting to see them sprout.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Multiple Choice

You hear a cry from the other room:

"Mommy! I see a bug!!"

Do you:

a) Scream loudly and run for the hills.

b) Capture the bug in a bug house, study the antennae with a magnifying glass, point out the difference between spiders and insects and look it up in your Guide to Insects to see what it eats while the children decide which prominent scientist to name it after.

c) Run for the bug spray and a flyswatter.


d) Say automatically while unloading the dishwasher, "Don't eat it."

I'll let you guess which one I am.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Attic Finds

My parents have brought me several family keepsakes over the years from my grandmother's house.  One of these was a large doll which no one could identify.  I could tell the doll was composition, had weighted eyes and talked, but beyond that I didn't have any idea.  There were no markings on the back of the neck (the typical place).  I was afraid the children would hurt her so I kept her in the garage.  Not in a box.  I still feel guilty every time I picture her perched up on top of a stack of boxes.  Oh well.

When we moved the rest of the things from the old house, the girls wanted to bring the doll inside instead of putting her in storage.  Flopsy took a liking to her so I said she could keep her in her room as long as she were careful. 

This morning they brought her to me.  The doll had fallen and the "skull cap" part of the head with the wig attached had been knocked off.  I noted that the head wasn't exactly broken, but had separated on an old join line.  They pestered me again to find out the name of the doll.  I got online.

It took a while but we've finally figured out who she is.  She's a 1922 (approx) Madame Hendren doll called Dolly Reckord (or link here).  This is a talking doll but I had long known that she no longer "spoke".  After a bit of research I realized it's because she doesn't have one of the many "records" that was manufactured for her.  I think the mechanism itself would need a little repair (new spring?) but all of the parts are intact and movable.  The most amazing thing is the paucity of crazing (the little cracks in the finish).  She doesn't look 90 years old (I should look so good at 90).  She has some minimal damage to the tips of some fingers and that's it.  Her wig is original and is real hair, although frizzled.  I can't really find any pictures of this doll in original clothing so I don't know if she's wearing it.  The jumper's back construction is rather odd and seems to be deliberate so as to fit around the talking mechanism.  Certainly it's a perfect fit. 

The girls all want to send her to a "doll hospital" but I think I'd rather have her appraised first.  Repairs can actually decrease the value.  Of course, I think she might like to have the top of her head back.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I love to gather old linens I see at thrift stores, garage sales, etc.  I especially like hand-embroidered things and the feel of old linen is heavenly.

I've managed to collect some things that have been in the family for a while as well.  For some things I know the history but most are consigned to that vague "long ago" era when women knew how to embroider, do needlepoint, quilt and hemstitch. 

My maternal grandmother's mother was apparently quite a seamstress.  She made my grandmother's wedding dress amongst other things.  It's so small (she was petite) that it fit my sister when she was 13.  None of us has managed to wear it!  I wish I had a picture of it.

For some of these things I have plans in mind, but for others I simply revel in the uniqueness and fold them away.  The quilt top that was found in my grandmother's attic will be turned into a proper quilt one day when I have room to set up my quilting frame again.  The needlepoint may turn into a couch cushion.  Napkins and tablecloths I use whenever I can. 

I don't know if I'll ever finish the "child's apron".  It's actually one of two - maybe someone will have twins. (Don't worry Rebecca.  I won't send them to your sons. (c; )

I haven't been terribly successful in teaching my girls to sew.  Ribby can to a point, but gets frustrated.  The others are scared of the needle.  We're doing better at crocheting.  Ribby learned how to follow a pattern today and made a granny square.  Flopsy is still doing long chains, but her stitches are pretty even now.  They've all just become interested in quilting and I spent an hour the other day paging through a pictorial guide to American quilts with them, explaining the patterns and techniques.  Maybe we'll try hand quilting next...

Is anyone else learning how to do some sort of needlework or passing it along to their children?


...Does anyone know where I can buy (on-line presumably) a black lace triangular head scarf?  I had one before we moved and wore it almost constantly.  I loved the way the lace (stiffish) would keep it from sliding off my head.  Since we've moved I can't find it.  Yes, I could probably try to make one, but I really don't feel like bothering with it.  In any event, I don't have anywhere to buy the black lace.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The children have always been more into drawing than painting.  This is mostly my fault, since painting is messier (although I doubted this many times when getting crayon off the walls).  After we got furniture moved (again) we had a table on the porch.  It's a glass top table, so perfect with paints.  The girls settled down out there in the 90 something degree heat to work on watercolor.
I paged through a book of watercolors with them and gave them a little instruction.  They're still trying to draw with a paintbrush, but I plan on working with them this summer.  Maybe as school work finishes we'll gradually start a series of art lessons.  Flopsy is wanting to work on a braided rug and Ribby needs some more advanced instruction in crocheting.  I spent a very happy summer many years ago at Sewanee, getting my arts credits out of the way all at once: Music 101 (the easiest class I have ever or will take) and Theater 101 (way out of my usual comfort zone but a good choice).  Summer is a good time for this.