Category Archives: Faith

Blessed Feast of the Cross!

Today we celebrate The Exaltation of the Cross.

We harvested our basil plant this morning. Ethan was thrilled to discover and capture two grasshoppers. All the holes in the leaves were not so thrilling, but we managed to get enough nice ones to fill the basket.

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During Lent, Jilly’s godfather came down to deliver some of his beautifully crafted liturgical furniture to another priest. The kids all loved the simple wall crosses he brought down too.

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He told them he would send some “kits” so they could make their own. I saved our share of them because I knew they’d be the perfect activity to go with our Garden of the Theotokos curriculum for this day. Jillian and Ethan had fun gluing their crosses and painting them gold while Henry napped.

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It was nice to have some festal things to do as a family even though I was still confined mostly to bed to continue recovering from Peter’s birth.

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St. Silouan on intrusive thoughts

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“We must always remember that the Lord sees us wrestling with the enemy, and so we need never be afraid. Even should all hell fall upon us, we must be brave. The Saints learned how to do battle with the enemy. They knew that the enemy uses intrusive thoughts to deceive us, and so all through their lives they declined such thoughts. At first sight there seems to be nothing wrong about an intrusive thought but soon it begins to divert the mind from prayer, and then stirs up confusion. The rejection of all intrusive thoughts, however apparently good, is therefore essential, and equally essential is it to have a mind pure in God… But should an intrusive thought approach, there is no cause to be troubled. Put your trust in a God and continue in prayer. We must not be troubled, because that rejoices the enemy. Pray, and the intrusive thought will leave you. This is the way of the Saints.

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How we made Garden of the Theotokos work for us

One week ago we finished all of the school work I hoped to accomplish for the year.

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One of my goals for the year was to get a better feel for the Liturgical year and incorporate more of the saints and feasts into our family and school life. Despite mixed reviews from friends and other Orthodox homeschoolers I decided to give Children’s Garden of the Theotokos a try for the year anyway.

Like most things I’ve tried with homeschooling so far, I found myself not necessarily in love with or using everything laid out in the curriculum. However, I loved the overall concept of the curriculum and found myself using it as a springboard for incorporating other saints and feasts that we were interested in. After sharing some of my experience with a few friends, I decided to write and show pictures of what we did here in case any other Orthodox homeschoolers out there are looking for ideas.

I really liked the artwork and the stories of saints written for children in particular. We did not incorporate the music, circle time, or role playing into our school. I also thought the work during Holy Week was a little on the heavy side, but it was the only thing we did that week and as such was doable for us. I thought the Nativity vowel poems and the Christmas Feast projects were a little redundant. I liked the idea of keeping the artwork together in the Waldorf notebooks. There were only a couple problems with these: not enough pages in the Lent to Pentecost book and there were several projects (like the Nativity vowel poems) and feast days that did not have have a notebook or a place to be. We wound up starting a liturgical year journal in a composition notebook for these. This is also where we started putting some of the additional feasts that I decided we should cover.

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So, with the included Waldorf books (three), the Book of Days, and the liturgical year journal we wound up having five books for the whole year that covered our Garden of the Theotokos stuff. This year, I have already decided I just want it all in one place. I found some spiral bound sketch books (unlined medium weight paper) at Target and spent some time on the computer designing a cover for it that I just glued over the existing cover. I liked this idea of stuff contained in a book so much that we’re using it for science and history next year too.

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When I was doing my lesson planning last summer, I had looked at the liturgical year calendar to line up this curriculum, but I also looked for Saints or Feasts I thought were significant such as names I was slightly familiar with, that I thought we should at least talk a little bit about or do more. For some of these I was able to find children’s books from various Orthodox publishers or if they were well known enough (like St. Patrick) there were lots crafts or activities to be found on Pinterest. Some were also from our classic Old and New Testament Bible stories so I could always go to our copy of The Child’s Story Bible for those. If there was not necessarily a craft or artwork I could think of, I would look on the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Christian Education Line Drawing Resources for a coloring page or find an icon of the person or the event and print it out and along with the words to one of the hymns about it so we could copy a line of it for handwriting practice.

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For some feasts we did something for it, but it didn’t necessarily work to put it in the book, like St. Sebastian which was one of our Kindness Kids activities during Nativity:

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St. Basil and the Vasilopita:

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Theophany when we went to Santa Maria and the beach:

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Overall, I really liked this curriculum with my adjustments for what I knew would work and didn’t feel awkward to me and we’ll be using it again in much the same way this year. I’ll probably start having Jillian do copy work instead of tracing for handwriting practice and some more advanced artwork. Ethan will do what Jillian did this year.

Edited to add: I have some Pinterest boards going that have craft and art ideas for various feasts and saints:

Let the little children come to me

Days to feast and fast

Martinmas

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Children have a way of sanctifying everything

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Once, after a Saturday of the Souls service while we were all sitting around eating kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc. that is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” John 12:24. The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead.), a priest told us of the practice in monasteries of having to do a certain number of prostrations for every grain that hits the floor, even accidentally. Then he added, “But don’t worry about the kids, kids are always doing prostrations,” as ours rolled around and did summersaults all over the church hall in between bites of kollyva.

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

As a parent and a Christian, it’s hard not to go through our days and activities without thinking about these verses in the Gospel of St. Mark. I think about them a lot lately.

We received Disney season passes this year as a Christmas present. This last trip my kids sang the Paschal hymns throughout the Magic Kingdom. Stephen said it was like they were going around sanctifying the whole place. That so much of Orthodoxy, he said he is finding, is about loving people (and loving kids especially) and if you can’t love them, then you are probably going to have trouble loving God too.

Then yesterday I found sidewalk chalk crosses all over the backyard. More reminders to seek God everywhere and always.

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One of our favorite Orthodox children’s books right now is The Boy, a Kitchen, and His Cave by Catherine K. Contopoulos about the life of St. Euphrosynos the Cook. Just after the climax of the story where the abbot of the monastery has met Euphrosynos in paradise and received a branch of an apple tree, there is this:

That Dawn at matins, the Abbot brought the apple branch with him and excitedly described his vision of Euphrosynos to the other monks.

“Dear brothers, I prayed last night for answers following our great discussion. And The Lord has answered my prayers.”

“What could that peasant boy possibly teach us?” said one monk, with some indignation.

“Brother, that simple peasant boy who cooks our meals and cleans our kitchen lives his life in the true spirit of Christ. He is content with all that is before him. He sees plenty in everything, even when he has nothing. He appreciates all the small things of his day–how well his spoon ladles our soup, the sweetness of a carrot. And he praises The Lord at every turn!”

“Yes, it’s true,” said the monk who had slipped on Euphrosynos’ soapy water. “Even when he spilled water from his bucket and made a mess, he thanked God for teaching him a new lesson. I was so annoyed with his carelessness, yet he was able to transform the mishap into a gift from above.”

“You see, brothers,” said the Abbot. “Our cook asks for nothing more than what is given to him. Everything in his life, each new day, is a chance to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is this not what Jesus meant–that God’s Kingdom is in our midst on earth?”

“I am convinced,” continued the Abbot, “that God has blessed us by bringing Euphrosynos here to us. It is we who must learn from Euphrosynos, brothers! God’s love knows no distinction of rank. Who are we to decide what or who is holy in God’s eyes?”

I don’t want to say my kids are on a level with St. Euphrosynos, or that they are not because both would be a judgement I’m not fit to render. However, like St. Euphrosynos, they and so many other kids do remind me of this favorite quote that has been an e-mail signature of mine for some time now,

“We’re always frowning, always pouting; we don’t feel like singing or doing anything else. We should follow the example of the birds. They’re always joyful whereas we’re always bothered by something.”
— Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

I want to be like my kids, the Paschal Troparion joyfully on my lips throughout my day, like Henry that sings the Vespers hymn Oh Gladsome Light to send himself to sleep, like Jillian singing The Angel Cried as she climbs a tree in some of our very best friends’ front yard, or telling me that the saints in icons look sad when she’s angry, or our boys that turn anything that jingles into a censor to bless our house and all the people in it several times a day, or a sweet two-year-old that says, “Mama, I picked a big clover for you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

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Logosmoi

Recently a few of my friends were discussing a book that has long sat on our shelf since nearly the beginning of our journey to Orthodoxy. I can’t remember who exactly handed it to us when we were asking questions of friends and others, but I think it may have been my boys’ godparents.

In the discussion, one friend thought there were some odd things in there, but that it still had some gems. I’d watched youTube video lectures and homilies by the author and really liked him so I wanted to know what was so odd in there. I zoomed through over half the book that afternoon (I never discovered the oddities myself). I’ve been thinking about the first two chapters ever since.

The book is Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God by Archimandrite Meletios Webber. Archimandrite means he is a monk that has been given the blessing to teach (or so said another archimandrite in a talk I heard last year). *Edit: I’ve been corrected and an Archmandrite is a heiromonk (can teach, serve as a priest) that is an Abbot of a monastery (but he no longer is which was not really the point of this post, but corrected anyway). I know from the youTube videos I watched in the past, that Webber is from England and has a background in psychotherapy. He discusses that a little in the book too.

The first two chapters of the book you can really tell Webber is in his element comparing and contrasting Western psychotherapy methods with Orthodoxy. It feels like it ends too quickly and the conclusion drawn too soon that where the limitations of psychotherapy are, Orthodoxy takes things to another level of healing and wholeness. The rest of the book is a primer on the Orthodox Church, explaining everything from the sacraments to the divine services. To be honest, I didn’t finish the book and probably won’t, having read my fair share of books that go over the basics of Orthodoxy.

There were quite a few quotes in there that were somewhat life changing and eye opening for me though. Many of them made conversations I’ve had with my father confessor in the past click in new ways and others shed light on struggles I have had connecting with other people, blogging, and oversharing (as silly as those last two sound as being life changing, trust me, they were).

So much of the difference between East and West seems to stem from the interpretation of the story of the fall, Adam and Eve. So many priests always seem to come back to this and Webber is no different:

Like almost everyone alive, the great teachers of Orthodoxy saw that the world is not a perfect place. God is perfect in Himself, but His creation, the world about us, has some obvious flaws. The Father attributed this situation to the narrative in the first few pages of the Bible that tells the story of our first parents, ‘the man’ and ‘the woman,’ Adam and Eve. Through a misuse of the freedom God had given them, Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise. We, their descendants, inherit and experience this state of exile with them until that moment when our participation in the life of Christ within the Church, and the healing that brings, leads us back to where we belong.

The way the Orthodox teachers look at the story of Adam and Eve is quite different from the way it is generally understood in the West. In the West, commentaries tend to emphasize the themes of disobedience, guilt, sin, and remorse, including a fairly heavy hint that the sin of our first parents was somehow sexual in nature–an attitude that would have enormous impact on the development of Western psychology many hundreds of years later.

For the East, by contrast, the story of Adam and Eve is, at its heart, a story of disintegration, fragmentation, and estrangement. The man and the woman–and the world in which they lived–were torn apart by their behavior, and vast gaps came to exist between God and man, between heaven and earth, between one person and another, between the genders, and finally within the human personality itself. Each and every person is internally fragmented and externally isolated from the outside world, right down to the ultimate depths of his or her being. Fragmentation within the human personality is observed essentially as the division between the mind and the nous or heart.

Webber expands on this theme of the divorce between the mind and the heart throughout the first two chapters. Explaining that this divorce is where much of our problems lie.

Western psychotherapy is often concerned not only with healing the mind, but also with encouraging patients to come to terms with their feelings and emotions. Moreover, at least in everyday speech, it is assumed that the source of these emotions or feelings is the heart.

In the East, we can discern another scheme. Here, the one thing that can be said of the mind is that it is divorced from the heart. In this fallen state, it issues a constant stream of logismoi, the torrent of ‘thoughts’ that accompanies our daily lives. However, in a less demonstrable way (the Fathers do not really talk about emotions), the mind is also the source of emotion and feeling. These originate in the mind as logismoi which are then felt, in a reactive way, in the physical body; these reactions are what we call feelings. Feelings then, in fallen man are as broken and unreliable as the thoughts that give them birth.

It is necessary to make a clear distinction between thoughts that we have when we make an effort to think; thoughts that have us, which seem to emerge automatically; and thoughts that come from an altogether deeper awareness which we may call discernment or intuition… most people can recognize the difference between using thought and being used by a thought. The ability to think logically plays an important part in our fundamental role as God’s cocreators. However, the stream of automatic thoughts which almost all of us recognize in ourselves needs to be regarded with some suspicion, as, according to the experience of the Church, it originates from a mind that is broken, divorced from the heart. It is these thoughts, (logosmoi) of a person that eventually turn into passions–those behaviors that cut us off from God. They stand in opposition to passionlessness, which the Fathers envisage as a state on the path to spiritual healing. Passionlessness (in Greek apatheia) does not mean a lack of love or concern, as it tends to sound to Western ears, but rather a state of being unaffected by the passions as defined above.

The classical patristic expression of the relationship between thoughts and passions and the effect of one on the other is as follows: First of all, a thought comes to exist in the mind of a person, seeking that person’s attention and awareness. There follows a period of interaction, during which the person dabbles in the possibilities the thought brings. The third stage is consent, where the person voluntarily gives in to the thought–sometimes hoping to stop the process immediately thereafter, only to discover that once embarked upon, this is very difficult. The fourth stage is captivity, in which the person is dragged further and further from the way of righteousness towards spiritual destruction as a result of the thought. The fifth stage, the goal of the thought, is labeled passion; here the person is entrapped, and sinful action is inevitable…

…To the world at large, it would appear obvious that the mind is the dominant force in a human being, even to the point of identifying itself as the entire person. However, the teachers of Orthodoxy generally indicate that this is not the case, or at least not the whole case. As a result of the Fall, a definite and definable spilt has taken place between the body and the ‘person’ (however that is experienced), and a vast abyss divides the heart and the mind. For the Orthodox writers, far from being the answer to all problems, the mind of man is the place where most of our trouble starts, and the path towards sanctity entails recovering the sense of intellect not in the head but in the heart.

Where the divorce between the mind and heart is most evident is in the fragmentation of people, particularly those with recognized mental illnesses. However, Webber argues that one need not have a mind with that extreme of a diagnosis to experience the fragmentation.

In the field of mental health, there are a number of conditions that indicate the process of fragmentation in people in rather extreme ways. Schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder (now often called ‘dissociative identity disorder’), and borderline personality disorder are all examples of conditions in which individuals are obviously and seriously troubled by the fact that they are internally fragmented. More accurately, they are troubled not so much by their internal fragmentation per se as by the way they cope with it.

However, normal people also exhibit indications that fragmentation exists; it is not merely a problem for the mentally ill. Although generally fairly subtle, this phenomenon is the most obvious when someone loses his or her temper, a condition that happens to almost all of us from time to time. On becoming very angry, people often feel a change occurring within themselves, and it is not uncommon for such a person to feel quite different, quite ‘other’ than his or her normal self. Questioning such a person at that moment is often fruitless, since he or she is not ‘present’ to be questioned… The person who loses his or her temper actually experiences the world and events within it from a point of view quite different from the one he or she normally experiences.

Webber also explains why the mind is the way it is by mere function of what it was created to be in us. He says that the mind is not evil in itself, that it was created by God and is a crucial part of our functioning as human beings, but it is just broken because it is cut off from the heart.

Estranged from the heart the mind has set up an independent operation; it begins to act with a sense of independence which, if unchecked, ultimately brings ruin and destruction to everything it touches. Why is this process so destructive? The answer lies mainly in the way the mind is set up to operate. The mind is the great defense system we need to process all the information we receive. However, in so doing, the mind is self-centered, judgmental, and fearful of attack. It expects and assumes the worst from the world, from other people, and ultimately from God. Every detail in the universe is measured by the mind against its usefulness to the mind’s story of the self, the ego. The mind attempts to replace the real center of being, the heart, with a center of its own creation.

How this really plays out day-to-day Webber also chronicles:

…it seemed obvious to our spiritual teachers, just as it seems obvious in the modern world, that there is something broken about the way the mind works, particularly in those situations where the mind seems to have a life of its own. Unlike a computer, the mind does not have an ‘off’ switch. When we are not actually using it, the mind carries on under its own power, behaving as if it were in charge and issuing a constant stream of comments and challenges, almost all of which are of a negative character. As we have seen, the Fathers call this activity logosmoi, and although these thoughts are not evil of themselves (most of them start as simple speculations of the ‘what if’ variety), the spiritual experts maintain that all sin has its roots in this stream of thought.

The stream of thoughts is negative because the mind dwells in a land of unrelenting desire and boundless fear, and it attempts to influence us to experience these two areas as our rightful home. Almost anyone who has ever lain awake at four in the morning listening to the workings of the mind knows what this feels like. Some people actually hear an almost constant stream of conversation going on in their heads throughout the day, encouraging them to want and need, to be afraid, to feel alienated and alone. Many people experience the mind as a commentary. Still others, though denying that they can actually hear anything, will quickly agree that it is a very difficult thing to keep the mind quiet. Any attempt at counting from one to ten without having an intervening thought (including those inevitable ones like ‘gosh, I’m able to count without having a thought’) will reveal just how difficult it is… Apart from anything else, the mind uses noise constantly to reassure itself of its own existence…

One noticeable way the mind works is that it rejects the here and now. This combines an undercurrent of negativity or dissatisfaction with a sense that the reality of God’s world is not good enough. Indeed, the motto of the mind, if it had one, might very well be, ‘Anywhere but here; any moment but now.’ It lives in an environment of constant complaint and discomfort.

When the mind looks at the preset moment, it sees nothing, or at least nothing worth considering. The present moment has no shape or form, so there is nothing to measure. Since defining things through labeling and measuring is the main task of the mind, when it comes to something formless, it simply ignores it. The mind prefers to work in the past or future, since these dimensions are both actually constructs of the mind’s own workings and thus the mind controls them. The present moment, however, is completely outside its control and therefore ignored.

The mind is the guardian of memories and fantasies, the past and the future respectively…

Unfortunately for the mind, the present moment is the only moment that is, in any sense, real. Moreover, in spiritual terms, the present moment is the only possible occasion in which we can meet God (or anyone else).

The mind attempts to be almost completely absent from the present moment–this is actually what we experience when we lie awake early in the morning. All anxiety, all fear, all disturbance come from memory or from anticipation, from the past or from the future, but not from the present. The present rarely (perhaps never) poses a problem; it just presents a situation.

In our society it is not uncommon to meet people who carry huge burdens of pain around with them, all of which exists either in the past (as unhappy memories) or in the future (as anxiety). Society in general and their minds in particular do not announce to them that carrying this burden is actually an optional activity. We are not our thoughts. The pain such people feel is real enough, but actually exists only in their thought processes and absolutely nowhere else. It certainly does not exist in the present moment, the only part of their life that is ‘real’ in all its dimensions. The present moment has many special qualities, but it is almost always full of joy. However, this joy, which is available to anyone and everyone, is for many people completely obliterated by the pain of the past or the future, urged on by the mind.

The movement of emotion further clouds the way the mind works as our bodies react to the thoughts the mind is producing. Whether felt physically as a tightening in the chest, a knot in the solar plexus, or stomach pains, or just vaguely experienced as a sort of cloud, emotions get our attention quickly. Unfortunately, they tend to be rather vapid, easily manipulated, rapidly changing, and often undifferentiated…

Today we have more time to dwell on our problems than our ancestors ever did. Our free time, whether in old age (now greatly extended) or simply between tasks, is dominated by a hundred and one distractions, often organized to take place one after the other. Thus, when we do get a free moment, the thoughts in our heads think that nothing is happening and want to move on quickly to something more pressing. This leaves us with a feeling of ‘lack of fulfillment’ which some people actually mistake for life itself, when in fact it is simply the chattering of the mind. It is no more life itself than the exhaust of a bus is the bus itself…

The mind lives in a realm in which everything that is known has to have an opposite. ‘Up’ must have a ‘down,’ ‘good,’ bust have a ‘bad.’ The energy of the mind consists in comparison: ‘I’ with ‘not-I,’ this experience with that experience, this word with that word. The mind sees everything in contrast, valuing differences and ignoring identity.

We may be forgiven for thinking that this is the normal state of things. However, it is worth considering that Jesus often used terms in a way that makes it plain that they have no opposites. ‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10). Here, as in other places, Jesus is not referring to life as the opposite of death. Nor, indeed, is He talking about life in any quantitative fashion; having life ‘abundantly’ has something to do with quality, not quantity. Quantity belongs to the mind. Issues of quality belong to the heart.

So all those huge block quotes and such to say, that I basically realized that most of the time what I feel like sharing with the world on this blog or on Facebook is really my logosmoi–the torrent of internal thoughts that mainly centers on wanting and fearing–and so is much of what other people share and tends to produce the biggest reaction in me (where I feel like I MUST comment on that controversial thing that was said). I think my priest has kind of said this to me before, having followed my blogging and Facebook posts for a few years now, but I just wasn’t really understanding what he was saying until I read this book. In any case, whether we call it oversharing, being honest, being real, etc. as all the above points out, most of it stems from that fragmentation in ourselves and is actually not accurate interpretation, being honest or being real because “the mind is self-centered, judgmental, and fearful of attack. It expects and assumes the worst from the world, from other people, and ultimately from God. Every detail in the universe is measured by the mind against its usefulness to the mind’s story of the self, the ego.” I also realized another way my mind dominates is that I tend to be a big complainer, “One noticeable way the mind works is that it rejects the here and now. This combines an undercurrent of negativity or dissatisfaction with a sense that the reality of God’s world is not good enough. Indeed, the motto of the mind, if it had one, might very well be, ‘Anywhere but here; any moment but now.’ It lives in an environment of constant complaint and discomfort.” Again, this is my logosmoi talking. Yes, there are plenty of things in my life to complain about right now, but there are also plenty to be thankful and joyful about in the here and now and embracing that. Blogging for the most part is my way of doing this:

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One emotional day when I had to shut myself off from the Internet because it seemed like everything was offending me and I told my priest as much he said, “Ultimately these are all part of [their] logosmoi, why would you even want to go there?” Now that I have a better understanding of the logosmoi and the divorce between mind in heart, why indeed would I want to go there with any of my friends or family? Why would I want them to go there with me?

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Excerpts

Bits and pieces. A digest of things.

The week and week after my brother in law died, was such an odd and disjointed experience for me. As he lay in the ICU, his body shutting down after the injuries from his car accident, my sister by his side, we had homeschool park day and the next day we were celebrating Jillian and her best friend’s birthday. I didn’t know how to feel.

A total accidental capture that summed it up:

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When we were down there the day after he died, I felt mostly in the way. The kids needed to be able to play after long car ride. We went to the park near the hospital and hotel a lot while we were there. I lived on Starbucks coffee and their Protein Bistro boxes almost the entire time. Again I felt disjointed. How do I interact with my kids in the midst of all this?

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We all went to dinner one night. Ethan refused to eat his broccoli that he specifically ordered. My cousin Jeremy told him that he eats his broccoli and that is why he has big muscles. You should have seen how fast Ethan wolfed down that broccoli. Afterwards Jeremy said, “I can see that your muscles are definitely bigger.” Ethan was flexing and pointing to his muscles the whole night.

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——

Jillian has been in a funk lately. She even told me that she wanted to quit ballet. Then after I made her go anyway (we’ve already paid for this month’s lessons and I believe in finishing things out), she watched some of the big girls and saw all the Nutcracker costumes waiting for alterations and her mind changed. Some girls really want those big lead roles like Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Mama, I want to get bigger and do a good job in ballet class and then I can be a Bon-Bon in Nutcracker. That’s what I’m going to do.”

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Henry is really and officially out of the Pack n’ Play and crib. After the first climb or so he was too scared to do it again and the Pack n’ Play still worked for the last six months. So my kid that was easy to put to sleep and pretty much stayed asleep has become our worst sleeper. Out and about at all hours of the night with his new found freedom and all his night time necessities including drink, stuffed animals, blanket and pillow that he tries to carry with him to his new desired destination dropping them every few feet. I’ve wound up with a really, really fat lip this week because of his thrashing head in bed with me.

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—–
J & J

There’s a four year old boy that has the biggest crush on my daughter.

A few months ago we all got together for a movie in the park and this happened:

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He told his mom that she’s pretty, but that Jillian is prettier. He thought Jillian put that flower headband on just for him.

Our first time at the park day for the other group we are joining, he comes running up to his mom to tell us that Jillian is here! Then a few minutes later and thereafter we kept getting updates about what she was doing. At one point he says, “Jillian keeps saying she boot-ree. I don’t know what that is.” “Oh, she’s gluten-free, it means she can’t have wheat like bread or crackers.”

The morning of her birthday party his mom said he was adamant that he get her a gift. His dad suggested something like cookies or goldfish since we said no gifts on the invitation. “No! She can’t have that! She’s gluten-free!” His dad was totally bewildered that his son even knew this about her. They settled on a pink plastic necklace.

When we got together last week to make corn husk dolls, Jillian was sure to wear the necklace.

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We ate at Bob’s Big Boy one Saturday morning and while the experience was nothing to write home about, Jillian demanded that we take her picture to commemorate the occasion.

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Putting a music stand at kid height may have been one of the most genius things ever. Jillian stood and sung like the big girls flipping through her Children’s Prayer Book as if it were one of the Vespers binders the entire service (has never happened before).

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We have a lot of liturgical items around our house, including a processional cross in our garage. All of it is getting moved out this weekend as we start to share space with a local Anglican Church and our priest arrives. Yesterday Jillian noticed the cross in the garage and pointed it out to her cousin. I overheard their conversation in the back of the van.

J: See, Avory, that’s the cross with Christ that died on the cross. And we sing the Pascha Hymn, it goes “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
A: Oh, why he died?
J: He’s not dead anymore, when He died he went down into Hades and he brought out Adam and Eve because they disobeyed God and they were down there and they were the first ones He helped out of the tombs. It’s like the Pascha Hymn, I told you, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” Like that.

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Yesterday the boys were playing dress up in the morning while Jillian and I did reading and math. Henry is completely smitten with his lion costume and once it is on, he doesn’t want it off. Yesterday was no exception. Every attempt to get it off was met with wild and violent thrashing. I didn’t need another fat lip, this one is very nearly healed. We are involved in a new Christian homeschool group and we had park day and I know some people are super particular about Halloween. So I was nervous to take him to park day like that. It wound up being fine. On this particular day the battle I was willing to fight was another parent complaining about Halloween costumes than with my little lion.

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Cuddle bug.

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Sweet little love of a boy. So incredibly sensitive. My most emotional kid of the bunch.

Still needs naps some days. Still needs help getting to sleep (“I want you to lay with me” or “I want to lay in your bed next to you”) at closer to 4 than his official 3 years old. Late night climb into our bed snuggler too.

It will not always be like this: his sweet hand on my lap to help him fall asleep and know that I am close while I quietly knit in dimmed light.

A talk today with my husband about our parenting. How Orthodoxy is changing the way we view our kids and parent.

The huge difference not viewing them as “little sinners” makes when St. Augustine and the Western doctrines on original sin are not the barometer. How their acting out should not be seen as an affront and personally offensive. How that changes the way we love them, discipline them.

Our Orthodox curriculum has been perfect in this season because I feel like I’m an Orthodox preschooler/Kindergartener too. There have been so many little nuggets for me. When we were discussing the sixth day of creation this line hit me, “It is important for us to remember that God made every animal… When we hurt animals, it makes God feel very sad. He does not want any of his creatures to be hurt.”

The implications of that are huge! Take that a step further, we humans were not only made by God, but in His image. When that sinks in, really sinks in, how does that change how we treat one another, how we speak to one another, how we parent our children?

Maybe it doesn’t change anything. Maybe you are like me and 15 minutes after reading that you are speaking harshly to your Kindergartener because she doesn’t want to do the handwriting practice copy work part of the assignment that the above quote came from.

True story.

But maybe, just maybe, it is the first tiniest step to repentance, to change.

There have been many, many points in this parenting journey where I just wanted no one to touch me. Touch, any touch, hurt: Please no one else touch me for the rest of the day or I will have a big rage and tears filled breakdown.

I do know this, the trigger is usually my own selfishness. I want to accomplish something that 80% of the time is not even what I should be spending time on and I get frustrated because “no one” is giving me the space to do it.

That’s changing in me, if only just ever so slightly. I don’t know how. It’s miraculous really.

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So I’m going to soak up every minute of this sweet still-pudgy hand on my lap. It won’t be like this for long at all. I will miss it, this season of life, of this I am quite sure.

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