Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

There is a lot of hype about Mother's Day. I grew up with it, and my husband did not. Honestly, he's not all that great about gift-giving on particularly set aside holidays (although he can be counted on for baked goods when asked in advance). So I tried to lower my expectations and had rather a shock.

I thought about the usual things or activities people do for Mother's Day: call, send a card or flowers, go out to eat, and the stereotypical making breakfast for mommy. Well, you know what? As a mother, I don't deserve all of that. And you know what else? My husband is simply amazing all the time. He makes me bacon and eggs for breakfast during fasting periods when I'm pregnant and need motivation to keep eating healthy, protein-rich foods and less sugar. He moves his schedule so he can be with me and the children. He cooks, does dishes and laundry, and works on the house and garden. He listens.

I, on the other hand, seem to be a compendium of faults from selfishness to short-temperedness (we'll just gloss over several here). No, he's not perfect either, but he almost always puts himself last. So on Mother's Day all I should expect is the little carnation handed out by a Sunday school student, just like all the other ladies in church.

With all that running through my head, I decided that Mother's Day shouldn't be about honoring me, but about honoring motherhood itself. I resolved to be with my children with more patience, to live up to my own expectations. I'm pretty sure I failed on that, like I do every day, but placing the emphasis on what I should be doing as a mother helped me have a wonderful Mother's Day.

I don't remember what exactly happened for breakfast, but I did let myself sleep in a bit (as evidenced by the state of the living room: the kids had no intention of sleeping in as late as I did). I got my own breakfast, attempting to take care of myself because I know I'm supposed to eat before Liturgy; even though I'm pregnant, I still feel guilty.

Teddy got stuck in a pew by himself for most of the Liturgy, as Lucia was, as usual, magnetized by her pew friend Presv. D., and Timmo and I had to keep going out and sitting until I was rested enough to return (which takes longer and longer these days).

I did get my pink carnation from a Sunday school student. Teddy positively glowed as he gave it to me in the hall (since I was too tired to go all the way upstairs).

There are plenty of bitter Mother's Day rants out there, but this isn't one of them. For Mother's Day, I got my family who loves me in spite of all my faults, and who are teaching me to love them and to be nearer to God.

(And I did remember to call my mother.)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Eternally pregnant

That's what it feels like, anyhow. The past couple of days have been especially tough. Last night we were at Teddy's soccer "game," but I hadn't taken the weather into account: 87°F and we were all in long sleeves. Fr. Peter had to leave after 15 minutes for vespers (he's the coach), so I had to bolster Teddy's flagging enthusiasm, amuse a whiny Lucia, and "run" after a Timmo who wanted everyone else's soccer balks (but not ours). I was proud of Lucia for telling me she had to go potty and holding it until we got there (double stroller, uphill both ways somehow). Came back to popsicle stickiness, ran into/over Timmo when he fell out of the stroller (not that he was fazes), and went to church and had husband bring out the cross for us to kiss. Thank God for the double stroller and that this was the only schedule conflict.

On the way, stopped at a light, I tried three times to turn on the air conditioning (pregnant, long sleeves, and supportive underthings, at 87°F in a van that had been sitting in the sun). This somehow turned off the engine and the light turned green.

This morning I wasn't really able to attend the Liturgy. I tried keeping up with the kids in the pew, but Lucia and Timmo were fighting over a candle during the epistle, so I took him and the candle out, and when Lucia came back to the narthex, I had her stay out with us. Brought them in for Communion, and out again after. Timmo figured out the sliding doors, and I still had no energy, so I just held him in what's left of my lap. Went down to get the diaper bag and made it to the back pew when Fr. Peter was handing out antidoron. Timmo came out of the narthex with paper towels and matches. Held him while Teddy put everything away. Fr. Peter got everyone into cars.

Almost at home, some lady decides to turn left and was about a car's length away from me, heading for me and in my lane. She waved cheerily to apologize, and I made it home and had a hysterical fit in the driveway.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow night's youth game night at J's house. Also hoping to switch the thermostat to cool and have the 6'2" fellow wipe the ceiling fans and turn them on. (Why do the children say they are COLD at night!?)

Plenty to be thankful for, but I am a big wuss and trying to suck it up.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Crazy-busy day. Husband got an email saying, yes, he could have some 100 bricks for $10 after all, right before he was supposed to leave to get another priest and go off into the wilds of Wisconsin for a few days. So there are bricks in our backyard, which were my suggestion, but now I don't remember having a specific idea of what to do with them.

Then we went to speech therapy, where the swing was put to good use. Lucia has gotten beautiful /g/ and /k/ sounds, so her speech therapist wants to work on /s/ sounds and verbs. (This is one of the few shots without the boys in it: everyone loves going here as she is fun and the toys are fun, too.)

On the way home I realized that Teddy had outgrown his play shoes and there was soccer this evening, so I dragged the kids to several thrift stores in search of the elusive 10.5+, but came home with overtired everybody and a tricycle. (One of our two broke, and this one is a "high-seater like at M and G's house!" according to Teddy. When we got it home I noticed it said Radio Flyer. Score! But just out of curiosity, how come when I was little all the cool second-hand stuff was "boy colors" and now we have two floral trikes and a flowery helmet?)

So when I was on the phone with the husband asking whether I should get Teddy some (pink) soccer cleats (at least they were size 11 and useful, and Teddy was enthusiastic), he mentioned that soccer was cancelled for tonight due to high winds and upcoming weather.

Made pizza for everyone and got to the library almost at the very beginning of the movie (Fro- that one) for family storytime. They had chocolates and popcorn! (By the way, Timmo can say "chocolate" as well as "open." Quite disconcerting, but I, ah, "helped" him with that.) The few snippets I saw of the movie seemed kinda cute, but at one point Timmo was completely disinterested and we made a foray (half an hour?) into the actual library where he flirted shameless with a librarian and learned the words "uh-oh" and "ta da!" complete with hand motions, although he had to cue his audience a couple of times.

At bedtime prayers, Lucia was singing along with lots of "Christ is risen" with Teddy and me. (So we did it three times in English. And then the Lord's Prayer three times, too, and I got extra snuggles.) The dishes are clean in the dishwasher, the baby laundry is hanging up, and there are two baskets of clean laundry in the living room. The basement guy is supposed to come tomorrow morning, and then I hope we'll still be able to get to the art program at the library later. I've pencilled in "collapse and eat chocolates on the couch" for the afternoon, but need something for the little ones to do. Maybe we'll go shopping again and try another part of town for those blasted shoes. (Why, yes, I do have a two-hour nap and a further one-hour quiet time period written in my schedule daily for the week. I just don't have someone to tie me down and make me rest like I should.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bright Saturday

Today marks the end of the first week of Pascha. I think in many ways it's been harder than Holy Week. We've been trying to do too many things for too long. The basement has been waterproofed, my computer has been de-virused, we went to speech therapy once and soccer twice. Father's vestments have been dry cleaned (except he forgot the epitrachelion for one set and just realized that today). We went to Des Moines for vespers for St. George, and stayed in Cedar Rapids for services the morning of the feast. There were two swimming excursions, another vespers (with only Father and Teddy attending while the rest of us napped) and Liturgy for the feast of the Theotokos, the Life-giving Spring. Then we got to hang out with friends at a barbecue last night and a liturgical burning this morning. There was a city festival where I thought we could get the two big kids free bike helmets, but that part didn't pan out well. Teddy and I did get cake and ice cream and stickers and coloring books, and he planted some sunflower seeds (which we will try not to kill) and I got sunburned. I thought there was yoga, but there wasn't, so I ended up taking a walk of about half a mile before Father and the kids came back for me, which might not seem like much for people who are not shaped like the letter thorn ( þ ). My left leg was actually falling asleep for the last part. Then we went to vespers and the kids all seemed to have melt-downs, so after some help getting them in the van, we went home and I fed them and did the whole bedroom routine so that the baby laundry was done and they were in bed both before 8:30.

Then I cried because I'm tired and ungainly and useless because I can't move and what am I going to do next week (and probably a bit because I had sunburn) and Father had to go out on another errand after staying for confessions after vespers, but he brought doughnuts and I had a restorative soak and it's all better because I get to go to bed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Living in the Resurrection

Now that we have passed through the rigors of Lent and Holy Week, our challenge is to live the Resurrection. I'm not exactly sure how to do that, but my heart has been happy the past couple of days, even as my body has basically hit me upside the head and told me to go lie down because, dang, walking around for five minutes is exhausting.

We had a lovely time at Agape Vespers and the following egg hunt. I am especially grateful to R after I just about collapsed in a chair in the narthex. I couldn't get downstairs to collect our things so we could go home, and a lady was asking Father for assistance, so I couldn't get his attention, and R made me stay still and drink two large glasses of water and generally fussed over me. Then I sat and emptied my kids' eggs into their baskets and returned the eggs with Mr. J's help so that I don't have to feel guilty next year for not buying plastic eggs to donate for the egg hunt. (Note to self: remember not to feel guilty next year.)

After a bath and a nap (which I'd done before the Resurrectional service and decided it was a lovely idea), we went over to E's house and played with her children and tractor (very important) and listened to the owl across the street and generally had a marvelous time. Her presence is so completely restful. Her house reminds me of being with my childhood best friend's mother. I would love to have that kind of affect in my home. Somehow the glorious mess of Holy Saturday seems charming in church but not in our own living room.
(An example of the Holy Saturday mess.)

Today we started having our basement waterproofed. The huge amounts of noise were annoying while I was working on next week's bulletin and related things, but immensely soothing when I tried to take a nap in the afternoon: I only was pestered by noises caused by people wanting me to do something. The hammering/drilling was actually putting me to sleep and I was sorry they stopped.

Then we went to Lucia's speech therapy. She is making excellent progress, putting words and sounds together more often and more quickly. Timmo, however, seems to take this as a personal challenge and is adding words almost two a day to his spoken vocabulary. In addition to last week's nani, amen, wi(s)dom, he's added open and mine, the latter just this morning!

After some time at the playground and another nap, we headed out to Teddy's soccer (and playground for me and the two littles so Timmo didn't steal all the balls all the time). After we came home, I rested while Teddy got a haircut, kids were bathed, sung, and prayed over and then put to bed.

Tomorrow we'll attempt vespers for St. George in Des Moines, a load of laundry or two, and trying to find the living room again, one sock at a time. It's a bit frustrating knowing there is so much work to be done, trying to stay in a resurrectionally-minded outlook, and not really being able to do much or for very long. (I am continuing to ignore the kitchen.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Friday

This morning we went to the Royal Hours of Pascha. Most of my time was spent in the narthex, but Timmo managed to get all the way through the gospel reading for the ninth hour. We did plenty of prostrations and censing ourselves. In addition to "amen," he has started to copy his sister and her new word: "wisdom!"

The unnailing vespers in the afternoon is a blur, but I was quite surprised that Timmo voluntarily crawled under the kouvouklion. (Traditionally children crawl underneath in the shape of a cross after the vespers service.) His big brother finally didn't put up a fuss this year, and I dragged Lucia through. But then we couldn't get Timmo away! He really liked it, and kept going.  It may not have been "proper," but after Lucia's earlier screaming it was nice to have all three children laughing happily together beneath the tomb of the Life-Giver.

The children and I stayed home from Lamentations in the evening. (Two services a day seems to be the limit.) The big kids got to watch part of a Chicago church's service and they tried to sing along. Teddy did pretty well with the Greek.

His prostrations crack me up.

He just makes me happy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is it supposed to be this easy?

Maybe I'm doing something wrong or have the wrong expectations, but this year's Holy Week isn't as bad as I had feared, at least so far.

This morning we celebrated the Eucharist with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, and everything went pretty well. Timmo and I came home, and he didn't even wake up when I put him down for a nap straight from the car. Teddy and Lucia went shopping with Daddy for most of the things we'll make on Holy Saturday as well as things we're just running out of, and roses for the crown for tonight and rose petals for Holy Friday's Lamentations. He brought them home and put things away and everyone at least rested if they didn't actually nap.

Then about two hours before tonight's service, my husband looks up from his researches on decorating a crown with roses and says in an alarmed fashion, "There's the icon of the crucifixion for tonight." So he went to the church to get that icon as well as another icon (to get the floral pins out), get more flowers (first place didn't have any good ones), grumble about traffic (it has seemed especially bad this week, including this evening's "Let's merge onto the busy highway starting around 20 mph" driver right in front of me), and finally get enough good flowers (he has good taste in these things, we think) for the icon. Then he came home and wrangled food into the children and clothes onto them, and took them upstairs so I could murder flowers with pins in a hasty manner and then just about snatched the icon (the crown having already been taken out to the car as soon as it was finished) and vanished, leaving me to finish the wrangling job (okay, so it was mostly me waddling around trying to find my shoes and sunglasses and realizing that the rest of everything was still in the car).

Here's basically how tonight's service went: change a diaper while husband starts service, prayers and hymns, first gospel in the narthex, prayers and hymns, (repeat for four more gospel readings including a poopy diaper), go downstairs to put baby to bed, come out to chastise and feed oldest, go upstairs and get to be in church for gospels 8-10 (maybe?), unhappily find another poopy diaper by feel, and come back up for some closing remarks by husband, then venerate the cross with a little girl who won't and without a little boy who just fell asleep. (I had the service on my phone thanks to Fr. Seraphim's Digital Chant Stand, having loaned out my Holy Week book, but even then it was easy to lose my place, and I realized I could have stayed upstairs so the baby and I could have watched the cross procession, but he had just started settling down...)

I don't really feel like I'm able to pay attention to the services much if at all, but I think I might be yelling less. I do feel like I have my Holy Week blinders on. Everything is streamlined and focused on getting to church (at least physically). Does everyone have enough to eat? Does everyone have something to wear to church? (Yes, since they don't actually take clothes off at night, just at mealtimes if they can't eat neatly yet. All three children are asleep in their church clothes, and Teddy has inexplicably added a sleep mask* to his nighttime attire.) Is there a path through the living room to get out? Are there enough clean diapers? Are they put together? Do we have time to lie down and rest? Is there enough energy to get anything above minimum done? (Above minimum tasks for today included picking up a piece of toast on the living room floor and tossing it outside for the birds; starting a load of laundry (I'd like clean socks for tomorrow); and getting more than half an hour done on AFR transcripts.)

*When Daddy opened the door for Timmo to come out this morning, Timmo didn't even give him the time of day: he went straight for the sleep mask which was right outside the door, started censing with it and chanting (mostly "Aaah"), and bam! prostration! (This kid does not bend his knees, just puts his head on the floor.) I guess he's absorbing something from all these services. Tonight we were mostly in the narthex, and he was censing away (everything is a censer: pillowcase, bead necklace) and heard "ages of ages" and carefully intoned, "Amen"—his first, to my knowledge.

Teddy had earlier made a connection between Judas selling Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and Joseph's brothers selling him for 20 pieces of silver. (He really likes his Joseph book, a beautiful discard from some library that I found.) Then today he asked about Jesus' purple robe when talking about the procession of the cross in preparation for this evening's service.

I don't know what Lucia is picking up yet, but she seems to know what's going on in all the services, prompting me to get up or sit down or kneel. She even was ready to stand for the twelfth gospel pericope this evening.

So even if I think I am not paying attention to the services, I am certainly deriving the benefits of attending.