Monday, March 31, 2014

There and back again

Let's see... On Saturday, I got a full night's sleep and managed breakfast. My morning session (with a wiggly Timmo) was titled "Holding on and Letting go—sanity and sustainability in homeschooling." I missed about half of that as Timmo was going between me and Daddy and didn't want anything we had to offer. One of the things I did get from the session is a reinforcement of the idea that, no, we can't do everything we see That Other Person doing. It's not our job to keep up. We are in different seasons from each other. And, well, the rest of that Saturday morning was the season for me and Timmo to rest. (He crowed with delight to see his pillow, honestly.)

We all made it to lunch, and attempted to be on time to our photo session with Jocelyn Mathewes. I made sure the children were dressed and rebraided Lucia's hair. Didn't think so much about how wrinkly Fr. Peter's cassock (always) is or the fact that my favorite shirt may be a great color but isn't technically a maternity shirt and, of course, I could have worn black shoes rather than the sneakers which need to be replaced... but we were late. Lucia and I came into the lobby to find Fr. Peter and Jocelyn frantically mopping up someone's forgotten coffee which Timmo had found and shared with a couch.

Then she took us outside (which I didn't expect) and had us run around and do things. The children were okay for a while but then crankiness took over. The album of pictures to choose from doesn't have many which stand out as something I'd like to own, but even the ones which aren't all that great (from facial expression or some lack on our end—the shots are beautiful!) are still pretty funny. Also: I am a freaking Mountain. Just huge. (I can't stop laughing when I even think about one particular picture: Fr. Peter is holding all three of the kids and I still take up more than half the frame.)

After lunch I made it to half a session on field trips, then Timmo and I went and rested some more. Fr. Peter took the children and the Duplo blocks we'd brought to play with all the others in the auditorium while I went to the planning session for next year. It was interesting to see this aspect more fleshed out and to be able to offer my perspective as a first-time, new-to-everything mother.

Lucia dropped out halfway through vespers, and Fr. Peter took her and Timmo (if I recall correctly) back to the room, where she crashed and slept for the next 13 hours. This meant that I stayed and Fr. Peter took the boys to dinner at some mysterious place called the camp dining hall. There were such things involved as rain, mud, beans, falafel, and chocolate cake. (He brought back dinner to me and ate it when I didn't, as I tided myself over a little too much with bread and peanut butter.) I put the boys to bed and the husband went to the second keynote speech. Ah, well, at least Dr. Veniamin writes books so I can get at him that way, and it did provide fodder for the conversation on the trip back.

Sunday... was tough. We got up for Liturgy (some of us more than others). Fr. Peter went to see whether he could serve (yes, of course). I fed the children some peanut butter and bread, finished getting them dressed, went down the hall for orthros. Timmo has never been through an entire orthros, and decided that he wasn't going to start then: time to change his diaper as they started. We made it through most of the rest of orthros sitting in the front near the chanter's stand. Timmo was mesmerized when the three priests put on the rest of their vestments.

Liturgy was another matter entirely. I yielded to the pressure (okay, and the screaming) and went out. I herded children with Kh. Nicole (oh! blessed relief!), preventing small persons from departing by elevator, climbing the outside of the stairs, playing with the trash can, carrying off a prie dieu, setting anything (including selves) on fire with the candles, starting percussion ensembles with chairs... During the sermon both Timmo and Lucia kept shrieking, so we went to another area (behind a door)... where Timmo found a piano. And figured out how to open it after I closed the cover. I couldn't find a key, so that escape route was out for us after the discovery. Another mother put her baby to sleep in the stroller and stood guard on Timmo towards the end of the service so he wouldn't go into the chapel (he fits in places where I physically cannot, and does so at high speed).

After communion things were a bit better, but still wiggly, of course. Then there were trisagion (memorial) prayers for His Eminence Philip and Fr. Alexander Atty, then prayers for food and safe travels (I found out from my husband later). We stayed for the post-communion prayers, Teddy somewhere out of the chapel, Lucia right near me, and Timmo contentedly lolling on the floor with blessed bread.

In sum: we survived, and that's a victory. I was so grateful for all the support from the other people there. It wasn't the worst service, child-behavior-wise, but it was definitely wringing. (I only cried when Timmo stuck his fist in my eye and dislodged my contact and my hair got stuck on one of his buttons when I was taking him down from my shoulders and he had pulled off my headscarf.)

Then we went back to the room and packed madly so we could check out before brunch and leaving, since they needed rooms for His Eminence Philip's funeral and other activities. The food during the entire stay was simply marvelous. We were sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people.

Then we drove home, deciding to avoid tolls, so we didn't go through South Bend this time, but south through Indianapolis. Again, Fr. Peter drove... until the last bit. With about 40 minutes to go, he spotted a rest stop and asked whether I would drive. Since he'd been driving for almost 12 hours (counting two stops for fuel with children-related breaks), I figured he would only ask if he was really tired. I did pretty well for the first few minutes, and then it was an agony to stay awake. I jerked awake going off the road at one point and then, boy, it was time for that audiobook (The Prairie Home Companion's Third Annual Farewell Tour). Made it through the highway part, but then there was a strange figure in the road, not quite standing or crouching, and I couldn't figure out what it was or what it was doing (was it moving or was I just really tired?) and the hair on the back of my neck started to rise up... and then I realized with relief that it was some idiot on a skateboard with no reflective clothing, in the middle of the street at midnight.

So then Monday was supposed to be a lovely day of children playing quietly and resting and me unpacking and getting things done and Fr. Peter getting back in the swing of things. Evidently I neglected to get that draft approved by the proper authorities. Teddy complained that his ear hurt, was running a temperature, napped until midafternoon, was diagnosed with an ear infection, and got his first dose of antibiotics this evening. Lucia played happily (despite eye patch) and then went to speech therapy and shopping with Daddy, getting in only a 15-minute nap due to further churchly errands. As a result, she was pretty cranky the rest of the evening. Timmo went to sleep for a morning nap and continued into his afternoon nap, skipping lunch entirely. Both of the littles went to bed early.

The middle of the living room is clear again (of laundry, Legos, and luggage), but there's not really room to sit on the couch, and I think we still have a dining room table but I couldn't offer you any proof.

I struggled through some volunteer work copying and pasting in Greek for Fr. Seraphim, and started an AFR transcript, but didn't get very far with either of those today. The email about our taxes was about twice what we'd expected, so that will curtail pretty much anything further and put more emphasis on my finishing as much income-generating work before the baby comes as possible. (We are still comfortably off, just not as far ahead as we had dreamed we'd be.) I don't mind all the work so much as people being sick, and, while I'm at it, I sure could use a new pair of feet and ankles.

I am looking forward to making a dent in all the things that need to get done... but judging by the things on tomorrow's schedule that probably won't be a large dent, nor soon. One thing in particular that I am looking forward to is writing thank-you notes (and having Teddy do the same, epistolary champion that he is) to all the lovely parents who took charge of the children's workshops at the conference. Both Teddy and Lucia had a superlative time.

I feel a bit shy about telling other people how much I enjoyed meeting them because I totally have crushes on them (and sometimes entire families) and I already feel like enough of a doofus. I had streams of people asking me whether I was okay and could they help with anything and even (just a father walking by) telling me I was amazing for driving so far and being pregnant. Did I really look as tired as I felt? Was there some secret mission I was the object of? It was humbling and rather beautiful.

Another thing that was lovely (sorry; running out of happy adjectives) to me is getting to see my children from someone else's perspective. Teddy was impressive in his behavior, Lucia was loved on from all sides, and Timmo simply delighted everyone (even if they were mystified by the missing shoe(s) theme at meals).

I didn't get what I thought I would out of going, but I am definitely grateful for what I received.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ascesis: struggle

Of those at the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference, we may have driven the farthest and I may be the most pregnant. I hope I don't come across to anyone (else) as the most complaining. I am still struggling not to compare myself unfavorably with everyone else, who seem to be able to walk (not waddle at an increasingly slower pace) and be patient with their children (mine aren't the only ones going haywire) and be pleasant to other people. I've kept myself to two minor meltdowns. (I guess not having my husband around helps because I don't know anyone else to bawl to, and he's got to take the kids to their workshops and then head to his own while I take a nap with the baby.

Maybe I just need more downtime. I missed the keynote speech for tonight, but took time to order things in our room and think about one of the workshops I'd attended (by Andrew Kern) about incarnational learning, which reaffirmed my idea that I don't necessarily need to buy a curriculum but I still need to change who I am (to become more who I am supposed to be) and how I relate to people (being more conscious of the divine image) in order to help our children learn and grow. One of the things he said was something about it being necessary to take up our kingship or queenship and shoulder that responsibility. We cannot shirk it; that's just not even an option. Since I was so tired I just wanted to throw up (I am such a wimp), that was especially hard for me to hear.

Teddy and Lucia seem to be having a blast, and Timmo enjoys himself as long as I am nearby ready to hold him as demanded. Everyone says nice things about them, which seems to be one of the nicest things about the day that I can recall. The food is excellent, and I like not having to worry about it or any dishes; also, my husband is taking care of all the laundry just about, which is wonderful. I've been having trouble sleeping due to sinus pressure, but the lovely hot showers help quite a bit. I guess I'm still not used to a more arid climate than Houston/Florida.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

St. Emmelia round one

We made it here after seven hours in the car. Very grateful for afternoon naps that get taken.

Lovely to see Timmo's godfamily here for Jocelyn Mathewes' photography exhibit.
Timmo was happy to see his godfamily, but enough with the holding!

There was a scavenger hunt to help us learn our way around. Ours was the last team to finish, and my feet are killing me, but I waddled around enough to be able to read the very confusing map and have a vague idea where I am relatively.

Seems like some sort of star-studded Orthodox conglomeration. I know so many faces and names whom I have admired from afar and online, and now I see them live and breathe, and be patient with me and admiring of my children.

Fr. Peter told Teddy we would wake up early, get dressed, and go down the hall to church (Presanctified). Teddy excitedly said, "Oh, yes!" Guess I can't be doing too badly.

Visiting home

It was late last night when we got to bed, and I forgot many things, including a blog post.

We drove from home to AFR headquarters and got to meet the Maddexes (including Molly Sabourin) who are just as nice in person as I imagined. Molly even took my picture for the AFR website, as they officialize me. I want their house! Everything seems tidy, beautiful,  and useful, giving a restful, welcoming feeling--including, of course, the people. (We came in with two banana-covered children, so the disparity was a bit marked.) They were also sweet enough to give me a pile of free new books to take with me, so I consider myself bound to them for as long as I can be useful to them.
AFR apprenticeship

Then eastward. We got to hear the last few minutes of the ND Glee Club rehearsal, and Dan Stowe still remembers my name! They sounded glorious, of course. I am so glad to have found Collegium so I could be in one of his choral ensembles. At that time it gave me a reason to live.

Didn't have time to see anything else on campus as we were supposed to meet someone before Presanctified at St. Andrew. (Last time we were in South Bend I didn't even get on campus, so I guess that is an improvement. I do miss Papa, though.)

At St. Andrew the children were cranky and wretched, but the parishioners assigned themselves to us (hooray for my nouna!) and we all survived. At the end of the meal afterwards the kids seemed happier but still tired. (Timmo had vaccinations the day before and I think he is teething, plus the trip.) Teddy seemed disappointed that Presvytera was not going to the hotel with us.

The motel was quick and easy, but a little after 5:30 I could not go back to sleep, so we meant to head out early, but instead had the pleasure of breakfast with Fr. George, Presvytera Elaine, and Mariam.

We have been promised a visit from Timmo's godparents this evening, and all seems set to arrive on time for the conference.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Today we learned that hydrangeas do not last well as icon decorations overnight. (They looked better than I'd feared when Fr. Peter texted me with this lesson.)

The kids slept in a bit this morning.

I got most of my things done this afternoon in preparation for the trip, except a nap. The evening preparations didn't go so well, so we are not packed at all, but the laundry is folded (except for the last load of the day which hasn't been started yet), and my husband's clothes are in the suitcase. Got money for tolls and laundry; paid library fines and bought two ripped apart books. (Someone's library privileges have been revoked for leaving books where his little brother could get them.)

Snuck in enough time for a shortish transcription for AFR and worked out a way to work on the AGES project while on the trip.

Plenty still to do for tomorrow, but also plenty to look forward to. Pray for my husband, who does most of the work!

Thinking of our littlest one, whom we never met, on this Feast. We will hear glad tidings of our child again in the fullness of time.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Answer to prayer

I have been struggling to love Teddy, and today he showed me that I need to slow down and really see how beautiful he is.

This morning we did errands to the south and then went straight to Lucia's speech therapy.
Lucia at her speech therapy. The sound of the week was /p/, so we worked on that.
She got the /k/ sound on her own and/or listening to her little brother.
We had three children running around: "Gok! Gok! Gok!"

Fr. Peter had to go straight to church to deal with the door and the locksmith, so I had the three kids who were having lunch at two o'clock as well as getting all the groceries in and put away. So I took a nap. (Let's just pause for a moment, because it really was a beautiful nap.)

So I noticed some movement, and there was Teddy at the doorway looking at me. I really didn't want him to need me to do anything that requires either speech or movement, so I asked, "What do you want?" and the reply was a simple: "I was going to kiss you when you were asleep." And I got a hug, and held his hand and closed my eyes. He stuck around, but didn't seem all that keen on just standing there, so I said he could come around and lie down next to me.

Then I figured I should say something, because I didn't want to just lose that lovely connection, of just liking him. I asked, "What was your favorite part of today?" and he said, "Having a balloon." (We went to a store for the first time ever and each child got a balloon on a stick.) Next question: "What was your favorite part of yesterday?" "Communion." It still floors me how important this is to him, just simply and viscerally. I don't know how to recover my conversational footing, so I asked, "What are you looking forward to?" and he replied, "Getting my balloon back."

I've been really praying to have the lightly-held connection between us get reinforced, and today it was. I am so grateful for his sensitive spirit. Sometimes—most of the time—that is hard to remember.

We also got permission to leave for our road trip a day earlier, splitting a 12-hour drive into two days, meaning we get to see some dearly beloved people for more than a fuel-and-stretch stop and still getting to our destination hours late. Of course, now that means there is less time to get everything in. I meant to do laundry today...

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Sunday of the Holy Cross

Busy day again.  Father got stuck with a lock that wouldn't un this morning, so I came in and attempted to arrange daffodils around the cross.

During church was still a struggle, but I think there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Timmo was wiggly but attentive during the sermon.

Coffee hour was nice. Timmo crashed in the office and Teddy asked me specifically to play the new board games with him, so I basically opened packages of game pieces and watched him make up his own rules for Parchesi and Chinese checkers.

Vespers at St. George seemed brief, as I spent most of the time chasing children.  Got to hold a relatively new baby, which was sweet. Teddy held Timmo up to kiss the children's icon, and Lucia hung out with the big sisters of aforementioned baby. I took pictures but don't know how to put them up while blogging from the phone.

Then my friend H from third grade called and we talked for two hours! I am so glad she puts up with me, as I am horrible about calling but love to hear from her.

More busyness awaits this week, so more tomorrow if I don't forget.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Full day including baptism

This morning I got a few hours of work on the AFR site reorganization done, and then the rest of the day was pretty full. Lucia and Timmo were fascinated at little ZJ's baptism. Then there was vespers, much of it spent in the narthex, but when I told the littles it was time to go kiss the cross, Timmo went to the little wooden crosses on the icon-stand and kissed them.

At the reception afterwards, I got to sit for a long enough time to connect a bit with Kh. M and Kh. I and R (who made me a sugar-free cake for yesterday's birthday). J and F also got me a card. I love it here, and am rather sad to leave even for a weekend.

Friday, March 21, 2014


After reading Aidan's Song, I thought it would be nice to sort of keep a journal for a year, and since my birthday (today) was coming up, I put it off until now... when I can't really think of anything to say.

Ah, well. As the sundial says, "I only mark the hours that shine."

This morning I woke up and got out of bed on time and did pretty well on the first part of my morning routine. I got to wear a new maternity shirt that I got on yesterday's rare thrift store shopping trip all by myself (Goodwill and Salvation Army.) My lovely husband even printed out my birthday Half Price Books coupon so I could go in soon after they opened and get the books and movies I'd put on hold the evening before.

I've been looking forward to a gift for myself that my husband and I decided on: a year's worth of participating in the Support A Mission Priest program through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. I also girded myself and called the Catholic Worker House in town and went by with a few bags of donations that I'd been meaning to give them.

I got to decorate the icon for this evening's Salutations (my second attempt at decorating an icon with flowers).

Didn't get to spend as much time in the actual Salutations service since the kids needed me, but I was still able to be nice to people afterwards, getting to meet a young Scotsman visiting friends in town. We exchanged greetings and enthused about the new Orthodox monastery on the Isle of Mull. (Yesterday was the feast of one of their patrons, St. Cuthbert.)

Not going to get to bed on time again tonight, but I'm doing better with my little Lenten disciplines spreadsheet than I had been without it. Perhaps I'll look back on this and laugh, but I really did start out the day deciding that I'd be grown up and do things I ought.