Saturday, August 30, 2008

Duped by the whole parish!

About two months ago, I received an invitation to "The Presvytera's Luncheon." I assumed that this was a typo, and it was supposed to be "The Presvyteres' Luncheon." I emailed the church secretary to ask what this was about, and she said that Presvytera Vasso was in charge, and that she herself did not have any other information to give me. What with everything else going on, I kept forgetting to ask Presvytera Vasso about it.

Presvytera Vasso had told me way back that there would probably be a shower for me, and that the whole parish would be so excited about this baby, that I should not buy anything, but should register: I could always buy things later. So one thought was that this luncheon would be some presvyteres get-together, but another thought was that maybe it was the baby shower. I told my husband about this, and he basically shrugged and went back to researching for the best stroller (or whatever) to add to the registry. Obviously not something he was terribly curious about—he hadn't gotten an invitation.

The Thursday before the Sunday luncheon, I called Presvytera Vasso and asked her what this was all about. She said it was to honor the presvyteres of the area. I knew that she had been made the representative for the Tampa Bay area. I planned to take notes and pictures and maybe submit something for the Metropolis presvyteres' newsletter, and made a note to make sure I brought my camera to church on Sunday.

Sunday morning, I dropped Fr. Peter off for his usual hour before Orthros starts, and went back home to wake up a little more and have some quiet time in my glider in front of our icons to say the pre-Communion prayers. (There are often cheerful, exuberant morning people in church before Orthros starts, and my more curmudgeonly attitude doesn't quite mesh with the humility I'm aiming for in preparing to receive Christ.)

During the announcements, Fr. James reminded people that the coffee hour would be in the gym today, as there was a special function for the presvyteres in the hall. I was glad I had brought the camera. I was a little tired, so I did my usual thing and sat back down in my pew after getting the antidoron (blessed bread). When things had settled down a bit (and my feet condescended to let me use them without complaining), I went to go read the post-Communion prayers aloud for Fr. Peter. (We have a somewhat open altar on the sides, so I can be just outside while he finishes the Gifts.)

Then he did three things which were odd. He asked me to wait for him (he was going to go to the luncheon, invitation or not—as priest, one is usually just expected). I was happy enough to sit down. When he came out from having put his vestments away, he indicated that he would be willing to go through the pews and pick up the bulletins which had been left behind. (I always get in trouble for doing this, with a shocked, "Presvytera! We have a janitor for that!" ... but I always figure it's my church, my earth ... I'm the kind of person who likes to pick things up and keep them tidy ... as long as it's not actually my job or my house, that is.) So that was weird, but I was a little tired, and didn't know what to expect in terms of tiringness of the luncheon, so I said we should just go over there. There is a little walkway from the church to the hall, connecting two side doors of each, and usually we go through the sides. (It's nice to hang out with the man who has keys to just about everything, especially when your feet are tired.) But then he said, "I'm too lazy to use my keys. Let's go around to the front." I shrugged mentally, thinking that it was odd that he referred to himself as "lazy," since he is anything but.

I am not quick on the uptake.

When the church secretary opened the door from the foyer to the hall and said, "Surprise!" and a whole crowd of people in a pastel-bedecked hall were grinning madly at me, my first thought was, "What does she mean, 'Surprise'? and where are all the presvyteres?"

As I found out, in my complete and utter stupor, the entire parish, including my husband, had been in on this baby shower for a two months. People were worried that Fr. James had given away the secret they'd been trying so hard to keep with his coffee hour announcement. In a parish of more than 700 families, they couldn't believe that I really was surprised. I still am, in fact.

I am completely humbled that they went out of their ways to arrange such a lovely time to celebrate the birth of this little one who is patently so dear to us all. Whereas before the shower we had clothing for the baby consisting of a onesie and a sample newborn diaper, we are now completely equipped to clothe and diaper Bunny for months and months.

Just for the gifts and cards received at the shower, I wrote 88 thank-you notes. Usually writing thank-you notes is an onerous task, but this time I was truly overwhelmed and humbled in gratitude, and finished them in just about a 24-hour period. (This did not include the three hours of listing the presents and going through the church directory (and to get addresses.) The church secretary had been kind enough to provide stationery and to ask the guests to address their own envelopes for the thank-you notes (although the latter was rather embarrassing to me, and several people didn't quite understand that they weren't supposed to enclose a gift inside or leave room for other information (like a stamp) on the envelope—but I wasn't the hostess of the party).

While I was writing the thank-you notes, I found myself being grateful to the people who had written checks, not so much for the money, but for the fact that I could read the full name and address. A few other cards have come in the mail, and another was delivered by someone who couldn't attend the luncheon on Sunday.

Today's mail has brought another card, and, what I have been waiting for all week, the "cute" stamps my mother mailed on Monday so that I could use them with the thank-you notes. Guess I'll go find out how long it takes to write another thank-you note and stamp, seal, and mail 92 of them.

I thank God for such a community to welcome our baby.

Later: I had forgotten that we'd already handed out three thank-yous (via the church office). While I was writing the first dose of thank-you notes, my lovely husband was sorting through the gifts, like arranging the clothing into different sizes. He was the one in charge of sealing, and thoroughly trounced me as I tried to catch up with the stamps. Now we have three inches' worth of notes to mail (the post office closed an hour ago, dashing my hopes of getting them out before the long weekend). It was much more fun having him to help with things than to do it all myself; that always seems to be the case.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hopefully, this will be the last catch-up post on this blog. (There's two in line for the baby blog, though.)

Recently, my "nesting" skills steered me toward the kitchen. So I made kolaches*. I mistakenly thought we had enough cream cheese, but we only had 8 oz., and the cream cheese filling recipe I wanted to try called for 16 oz., which wouldn't have been a problem except that it's hard to halve one egg.

*The missing ingredient in the directions is the scalded and cooled milk, which I assumed should be mixed in at the beginning.

So, since I've been craving peaches and yogurt (not together), we had lots of peaches on hand. So I found a recipe online and halved it (after looking up how many peaches were in a bushel) and made my own peach filling from scratch. I used about half of it in the kolaches, but was confident that my sweet-loving husband would take care of the extra. (I think he ended up being more delighted with the extra filling than with the kolaches themselves.)

Things I learned: Even at a low temperature and for a short time, do not bake things on the lowest rack. You cannot completely clean off burnt peach filling from your cookie sheets. Extra egg whites can easily fit into the brownies you make afterwards. (I got carried away.) Scraping off the burnt bottoms of two trays of kolaches is well worth the effort. Toasting kolaches and covering them with ice cream is reward enough to the labor (and heat) involved in making them in the first place.

And now I have cream cheese.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Of course we'll have a washing machine!

(Catchy catching-up-related blurb here.)

My mother wanted to make sure she could wash her clothes at our house, to cut down on the things she was bringing to her first visit (of the three planned for this year so far), as she was bringing plenty of baby things from herself and from my older-middle sister, bringing things from her trip to Turkey and Greece, and from our house going to stay with her college friend who lives in Washington state. Oh, and then there was a hurricane headed for her house, so she also decided to take the Important Papers (titles, deeds, and whatnot—can't leave without the whatnot), just in case.

We had enjoyed our washing machine for just over a year (ominous warranty-free period should tip you off), and at the beginning of the week Tita* was supposed to arrive it stopped doing the fast spin at the end. That wasn't too bad, since it was just to get the water out, and the dryer would just have to work harder. But then the door started refusing to open. (As in, on separate occasions, I spent two 5-minute attempts, my husband a 5-minute attempt, and my mother a vain 20-minute attempt, trying different settings and persuasive tactics just to get our clothes back.)

*My father grew up in Brasil. He wanted his children to call their parents "Papa" and "Mamacita." When my older-older sister was little, she couldn't say "Mamacita," instead saying "Tita." I'm the third child, so it was already settled. Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking about my aunt, but that's just the way it is, yo.

Then my husband noticed a little ratty head peeking out from behind the washer one day. So we called the washing machine repairman, mentioning all these details. Fortunately, my mother was visiting, since we had an OB appointment during the time the repairman came. From what I understand, she got him to take off the bottom panel of the washing machine. Voila! Rats' nest! They'd chewed through the wiring that made it do the final spin. And then some other wiring, too. It would cost $100 more to repair the washing machine than we'd spent on it in the first place.

So my mother helped us buy a new washing machine (with a sanitary cycle specifically for things like diapers), *with* the Sears service agreement. (The salesman specifically said it was *not* an extended warranty, but better, since we'd also get yearly preventative check-ups.) And it's EnergyStar, which thrills my husband no end. We're still figuring out the Star Trek technology to use it ... and I've grown up enough to at least separate the whites from the coloreds. (It wasn't really an issue: all our clothes were old and washed enough that nothing would ever bleed again.) Two of the maintenance guys from church went to Sears with my husband and loaded it in their truck and basically delivered it for us, even taking away the packing material and refusing any sort of payment. (Just wait. We'll get them at Christmas. And until then with baked goods.)


There was still the rat problem. In the wall behind the washer and dryer, there is a ... pipe thingy. It's definitely large enough to let a rat in ... and we knew that a rat had leapt inside it to get away from the danger of my 6'2" husband. If we simply plugged it up, who knows how many rats would die inside, though? So, again with my mother's guidance, we bought sticky traps. A few hours later: two rats in the trap between the washer and dryer. My husband had the misfortune to be the dispatcher. We found that our Chlorox spray (bathroom cleaner stuff?) is good at removing rat blood from the garage floor. (I cowered in the house. Thank goodness my mother was here.)

My mother insisted that we check for future infestation *each week* which we thought was a bit excessive. Nonetheless, I put it on the calendar for each Saturday morning. When we replaced the week-old sticky trap (which had caught a ginormous spider and a huge lizard), we again caught another rat in a few hours. Then another one the next day. When my husband went to pay the rent check, he mentioned our rat problem. We had thought that we were on the hook for "infestations," but happily found out that that was for small things, and *they* would take care of things like rats and mice. So we had Bernie come out and set snap traps (we have our sticky traps out still, but not in the prime locations). He also filled in the rat-hole/pipe with steel wool which I'd bought. (Supposedly they aren't supposed to like getting it on their feet?) Now, naturally, none of the traps have caught anything. Which is dandy with me.

So my mother had quite an adventurous few days with us. The rest of the time, when we weren't making yet another trek to Target, she sanded and painted the frame of Great-Aunt Margaret's lounge chair, reorganized the linen closet, and, most importantly, organized my overflowing boxlid of photographs into tidy albums. And ate quite a bit of the peppermint ice cream which had been purchased with her in mind.

After Tita left, I was inspired enough with the whole organizing thing to re-do the rest of the hall closet, and later the pantry. Yesterday, NESTING took over in the nursery. (I was trying to accomplish the to-do list item "sanitize baby blocks"—the ones which had been my mother's when she was little—and I ended up reorganizing things.) The drop-leaf table is now tucked perfectly into a corner in the dining room, the two-drawer chest is also in the dining room (a bit tight, but now the spacing matches the rest of the house, and we don't use the dining room all that much, anyhow). The boxes of genealogy and music found a place in our closet, and the crib is set up. We have a plan for rotating the twin bed, moving the little bookcases, taking down the six-foot table (now that there's nothing under it! *Snoopy dance*), moving the dresser, and adding Papa's platform rocker from the living room. There's actually room for Bunny! Now we should probably think about buying things like sheets and clothing and diapers.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My first Greek Monastery

(Yes! It's more catching up, for your condimentary delight! ... Get it? Ketchup? Condiments? Har. Okay, enough corny parenthesis.)

Until July 29 of this year, I had only been to Romanian monasteries, including the beautiful women's monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, and the ones we visited in Romania, of course.

So after quite a few attempts at putting it on the calendar and then having to postpone, we called ahead and were encouraged to drive up to the Annunciation of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery near Ocala, Florida.

The grounds were quite spacious, resting comfortably in the middle of horse country. (Seriously, there are nothing but horse ranches and farms as you get closer to the monastery.) Since there are only three monastics (women) living there, Orthodox parishioners who live nearby come to help out with the grounds. When we were there, a lady and her two sons and a little girl were also there. The boys were out attacking the tall grass on riding lawn mowers, and the lady and her friend's little girl helped prepare some of the iconographic materials (by doing things like shellacking).

We didn't see anyone besides the two boys who were mowing when we first arrived, so we made our way to the bookstore on our search to find people. Since we had been spotted walking (or waddling) across the courtyard, we were greeted by the abbess (as I later found out) in the bookstore. She seemed to glow and was full of life, helping us look at things in the bookstore, and pulling out icons of St. Anna from the back when I indicated I was interested, even talking avidly about the state of the Church today.

We had lunch with the lady and little girl (one of the boys coming in later) in the guests' dining room. The nuns ate separately, but one kept coming in to make sure we had all we wanted. Boy, did we! There was fish, the most bestest pasta I've ever had, salad, bread, and feta ... and then brownies. Poor Fr. Peter suffered through his favorite summer treat: watermelon. We helped clear and clean, then went back to the bookstore to purchase things before vespers. We bought an icon of St. Anna, some charcoal, a box of wicks with wickholders (the lamp on the altar at Holy Trinity wasn't staying lit), and the book From I-ville to You-ville. We also bought a little pin of the Panagia, like the little pins which Orthodox parents affix to the clothing of their little babies so that they can have something like a cross, but without the danger of having something around the neck. I pinned it over my belly and the abbess laughed. Evidently this was new to her, but I couldn't wait to have something from the Church just for Bunny.

We had a nice little vespers, all in Greek, with quite a bit of consternation: Fr. Peter hadn't done weekday vespers with certain rubrics since seminary (where they evidently did things differently), and the sisters were used to doing readers' services (omitting the petitions and other parts which a priest does), but it all was smoothed out. After that, we left a donation in the box outside and drove home (about a two-hour drive) while I read the book. I am looking forward to taking Bunny when he can see and be seen, but I wanted to have a connection with monastic life sooner rather than later.

Maybe Bunny likes me writing about this, as I'm getting pushed around in various different ways as I write this. Sheesh! What's he up to, anyhow?

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Nursery Update

When we moved into this house, we picked our "master bedroom" because it was close to the bathroom with a bathtub. The other two rooms were the guest room and the nursery. Then the nursery was no longer needed, so we renamed them the green room and the pink room (based on the sheets we had for the double bed and the twin bed). The pink room was pretty much the junk room, and I felt I had achieved a great deal because all the junk of the house (excepting the boxes of china and other boxed inheritance thingies, tucked into closets, wardrobes, and corners) was contained in one room.

Then we needed a nursery again. In the junk room. So I plowed through. (When o-o sis came to visit, she helped quite a bit.) Fr. Peter refinished a wardrobe (which still needs a bit of work: there are no panels in the doors so you can see everything inside, and the doors don't stay closed unless tied shut), and I put all the office supplies in there to clear off the six-foot table so I could continue sorting things. I organized the books in the whole house, keeping the children's books in this room. I got all the paper files into the filing cabinets. I sorted through inheritances. (Why I felt the need to keep Grandma's unfinished knitting projects with and without instructions, I have no idea. But they are on hand in case of a knitting emergency. And in case I figure out how to knit more than a rectangle, assuming I remember that much.) And I sorted through the music boxes. And I shoved genealogical materials into filing cabinets ... and left the rest in boxes. And I sorted through my art supplies. And I sorted out photos, memorabilia, puzzles, baby things, and miscellany. (Pink bunny ears are rather difficult to categorize.)

Now I am down to two boxes of miscellany, about six boxes of music, several of genealogy, some extra photos (not yet in albums), puzzles, memorabilia, and baby things. There's an extra trunk-like thing with VHS tapes (we gave away our VCR before moving here) and audio tapes. There's a drop-leaf table. The bed is covered with a car seat, the box of knitting and other fabric things from Grandma, and empty boxes (in case I need them for sorting, I don't want them *all* broken down). The six-foot table is still up, holding the puzzles, stamp covers (I mean packages covered in stamps ... I used to keep them for my father and I can't quite bear to throw them out.), photos, baby things, and my "to file" pile; the table is covering the boxes of music and genealogy materials which won't fit into the closet. Other than that, there's a baby dresser blocking access to the two little bookshelves (and somewhat to the wardrobe), and there's no room to put up the crib until we can figure out where the drop-leaf table and the trunk-like thing can go.

As you may have guessed, I am much more enamored of talking about it and making lists about it rather than moving things out of the way. I'm pretty sure that the trunk-like thing will find a home in the living room, and the drop-leaf table in the guest bedroom. If I am exceptionally clever in cleaning out our own bedroom closet, there may be room for boxes in there, so we can take down the six-foot table (alas for such a lovely workspace) and have room for the crib, the dresser, and even some play space on the floor. Nevermind that I also want to bring in the two little cabinety things from the guest room. I guess I'll just hang around and wait for more of that "nesting" energy to come my way.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sisterly visitation

(Catching up is hard to do-ooh...)

My older-older sister visited during the first full week of July, driving down from Augusta, Georgia. Since I have two older sisters, to differentiate, the older of the two (who is also older than I) has hereby been designated as "older-older." In case you care.

I didn't realize that she came primarily to WORK. (This is usually the case in my family, but I'm more often the one pressed into labor. "Oh, you're here. You can start with the fridge and then there's some laundry ...") So o-o sis carted nursery furniture* from a parishioner's house in her giant beast of a car (not quite an SUV, but it made it with everything in just two trips). And she attacked the weeds in the car.** And I can find things in our hall closet. (Dang, we have a lot of light bulbs.) She inspired me to keep going on things around the house, too, after she'd gone, so the paperwork in the nursery is all in the filing cabinet (or in a pile of things "to be filed" which I am getting to, five items at a time), and the miscellany has been reduced to two smallish boxes. (I mean, really, how do you categorize pink bunny ears, old marching drill charts, and commemorative pins from the Atlanta Olympics which I visited with Papa?)

*It's a full suite of nursery furniture. White. Matching. All because their little girl got her "big girl" furniture. These people will be on our prayer list for years to come. The glider and nursing stool are set up right under the fan in front of the prayer corner, and Bunny just loves rocking throughout our home Parakleses.

**Update: My husband pointed out that she removed no weeds from the car, and did not use the car to attack the weeds in the yard. When do I get my brain back, did they say?

All in all, o-o sis and I had a much better visit than I had expected. Except that she liked buying me things. Edible things. I *kinda* went over my calories-per-day quite a bit. I did stabilize after she'd gone, though, being careful to not try to *lose* weight at this point. (I mean, there's Blue Bell in the house, so that would just be silly.)

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Clergy Family Retreat 2008

(Another catch-up post.)

During the third week of June, we participated in the second annual Clergy Family Retreat of the Metropolis of Atlanta, held at the beautiful Diakonia Center in South Carolina.

We were so blessed to partake of the calming atmosphere and the indescribably wonderful company. I enjoyed meeting new clergy families and seeing friends once again. We were also blessed to have avoided several episodes which befell others: a broken leg, a bitten hand, and drastic sunburn.

I still can't believe I made it all the way on the three-mile hike to (and back from) the falls, as pregnant as I was and with all those fallen trees on the path (to climb under and over!). I loved going all together for ice cream (though I didn't care for the miniature golf). I liked going in the canoe, especially since I didn't fall out, and the little snake head was a comfortable distance away, and I missed seeing the turtle. I liked swimming in the lake, too, and I still don't know which of us was more startled: me, or the water spider who crawled over my arm and then took of, Jesus-walking on top of the water. (Hey, it's an Orthodox retreat center.)

I liked sitting and talking (and especially listening) as we waited, watching the lake and the children playing nearby, smelling the delicious smells from the kitchen. I liked the lazy afternoons with arts and crafts, listening to my husband and another priest talk about people and parishes, passing along ways to serve the Church and the people of Christ with love.

I loved seeing little Theodosios, the youngest visible participant (almost a year old) and looking forward to next year with our own little Bunny.

The fancy dinner wasn't quite my cup of tea, but I had a marvellous PK assistant who made a pizza just for me as well as making me hot chocolate (properly, with milk), just out of his own goodness. I had fun singing with my husband and Presvytera Mari some of the songs from our "Deacon's Singers" days. Hopefully, we'll be more organized next year and get Fr. Grigorios involved as a bass to have all four parts.

One of my favorite parts was having daily services in the tiny little chapel with its icons inside and open windows to the outside, all shining forth and visibly singing God's beauty in His creation.

I think it's funny that I keep looking forward to next year's Clergy Family Retreat almost more than giving birth to the baby at this point.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

VBS 2008

(Trying to get caught up on some blogging about summer events...)

Holy Trinity had its Vacation Bible School in the second week of June, and I volunteered and was drafted to be in charge of the music and dance segments. I hadn't realized what earworms those songs could be. (We used one of those VBS kits, so it came with cds and a dvd for the dance moves.) I learned that some of the bigger kids like to do their own dance routines (and the GOYA helpers helped them with some choreography), that John Rosemond's philosophy actually works, and that pre-K has not caught onto the "Duck, Duck, Goose" idea just yet. I mean, they get the whole walking around and patting heads while saying, "Duck, duck ..." but when they're selected, most of them just sit there. Or when they are motivated into actually running, they just keep going, or if they are encouraged to sit down, they go right back to "their" spot instead of the spot of whoever picked them. Very amusing for the coordinator people. I didn't feel like I did very much (being in charge of the remote and mustering a cheerful aspect for reviewing the "dance moves"), but most everyone seemed to have a good time.