Monday, August 29, 2011

You Learn By Living

"The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
— Eleanor Roosevelt
You Learn By Living (1960)

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Disappointment on early work and pushing through

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.

We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

-Ira Glass

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Thursday, August 25, 2011


My daughter loves tigers. Specifically she loves white tigers, but since our zoo doesn't have any she manages to content herself with the regular orange variety. I had promised her a few weeks ago that we would go to the zoo again before school starts and make it to the keeper talk.  During the keeper talk, the tiger keeper talks about tigers and feeds them meatballs through a heavy duty chain link fence.  We made it in time, but the speaker was broken, so we just watched the tigers take meatballs...and I took pictures.
Look at how powerful his muscles are!
A discussion over who goes first.
She waits patiently for him to finish

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Over the course of this past  year (being that it was all four seasons) I spent approximately $100 on clothing for my three children.  Also, until a few weeks ago, did not purchase clothing or shoes for myself.
People have asked me how I managed this and I have been promising a blog post for awhile, so here it is...

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Last day of summer break

It went by too fast.
Last night we went to meet their new teachers. My oldest learned how to struggle with a locker. Old friends were seen, and last years teachers said hello to.  There was candy.

As with everything having to do with parenting, having them go back to school is bittersweet.  Summer was a blur of activity and I got nothing done that I wanted to, but the kids had a good time and I enjoyed having the time with them.  It is exciting to watch them go off into a new grade and have new challenges to take on, new friends to meet. Both boys will be playing violin in the strings orchestra, and I think I have them convinced to join the choir (they both are in that age where boys have beautiful singing voices). 

At the same time, it is watching them take on a deeper level of independence and a further realization of how short the time I have been given to parent them.  A privilege of time, really.  
So, tomorrow they go off on their new journey, and I begin the process of decluttering, repainting, cleaning carpets, and getting my house back into ship shape order.
Then next month I start back to school with a math class, philosophy of logic, and a psychology course...which will be my own adventure. 
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Problem...

with blogging consistently is that I don't have much to say. Summer days are filled with the rhythm of housework, keeping kids busy, many library visits, swimming, TKD lessons, cooking, avoiding cooking, gardening, keeping the chickens alive, keeping my brain alive, anticipating school starting back up and getting back into the classroom, planning fishing trips and wondering what equipment we really need, looking at my camera and thinking I need to take more pictures, trying to keep my head above water literally and figuratively. The sun feels wonderful, the heat I love more than any other year in memory.
(This post was completely gratuitous)
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Good Work

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips's new album is ravishing and I’ve listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say.
Dave Eggers

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Courage to Write

"Advising writers to go ahead and ignore their anxiety and forge ahead is like telling a ten-year-old who's about to get a shot, "There's nothing to be scared of." That kid knows better. So do writers." (from The Courage to Write-How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes)

I just started reading this book and am finding it tremendously useful. To be cliche',  writing is as essential to my life as breathing.
Even so, I love it and I hate it.
Getting the narrative out of my head and into print is freeing
Getting the narrative out of my head and into print is terrifying.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fireflies, photos and probable bad impressions

Last evening after getting the kids to bed I wandered outside because of the sky.

I stood and breathed and let my mind settle after a busy day. As the sun set further, the toads began to sing, then the jug-a-rum calls of the bullfrogs from the back ponds showed up. A high pitched squeaking with scrambling sounds came from the vicinity of the barn as the bats made ready for their nighttime exodus.
I stood and watched as the bats dropped out...they fall and swoop back up. Twenty one bats exited last night.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nighttime Adventures

Last night I went to bed late. Midnight to be precise. I was sort of ok with this, because 5 hours is the lowest amount of sleep I can get and still function semi decently. Emphasis on semi. Should I get 4 hours and 55 minutes, then it becomes semi indecently. Really, my mind just sort of implodes at that point.
Anyway, confident in a full five hours I pulled the covers up and started to drift off.
Mid-drift I heard growling, and snarling and thumping.
It came closer...
and closer...

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Without fail...

There is a phenomenon in my house that confounds me on a daily basis.  In fact, it is happening right at this very moment.
All three of my children were occupied, in separate parts of the house, everything was quiet and calm. I thought "Great! I have some ideas percolating in my mind, and I can get them out"

 I took my laptop into the kitchen and sat a the table, and sat down prepared to write.
The moment my finger touched the very first letter a giant fight broke out amongst the barbarians children. One wanted to do a Pokemon battle, the other one didn't. Apparently the one that didn't want to play promised yesterday that she would today.  This started a giant argument, and a third child got involved.
So now I am back to being referee, and talking to the upset child about why no one wants to play and suggesting ways that he might create an atmosphere that would be conducive to his siblings to want to play with him.

I am now clueless as to what it was I was going to write when I sat down.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011


This past week I discovered, experienced, etc....

~That things like this...
...Make my family and me laugh like lunatics.  The first time we saw it we turned around and tried to take a picture but the people who lived at the house were in their yard and staring, so I drove away.  The next day I managed to drive past again and no one was outside.  I considered taking him because I was imagining several awesome photo ops I could use him as a prop for, but I wasn't sure if he had bugs or anything so I left him.

~My 9yo ds had his brown belt test yesterday and tested really well. Afterward his instructor, who is a very intense, always happy, upbeat positive man who commands respect came over to tell me how pleased he was. His conversation went like "I am so pleased with your son's progress!! He has achieved some wonderful accomplishments and his confidence is through the roof! He maintains eye contact well and speaks loudly.." Pause his conversation and I need to say here that he is talking and standing close to me, I have a pretty large area of personal space that I am comfortable with, and he was closer than that, and making strong eye contact, because that is what they do in TKD. NOT only am I uncomfortable with people standing close to me, I have a VERY hard time with sustained eye contact.  However, I figured this was not the time to let my eyes wander around, so I stood there and thought "keep eye contact, keep eye contact" and I have no real idea what he said past the part I paused a few sentences back, because it took that much concentration from I smiled and nodded and said thank you.
Awesome social skills for the win!!!

~ My kids are now old enough to handle all the furry beastie care, so I delegated tasks and chores to them, and told them that I am only taking care of my large dog, and they can take care of everyone else. They agreed and have been very diligent with their chores.

~When eating breakfast my daughter is prone to yell for me from upstairs to "come see something" I ask her to explain but she sounds panicky as she repeats herself. I go up and discover that she is brushing her teeth and whatever food she just ate is being brushed out of her teeth and this worries her.  I reassure her this is a  normal and good thing.

~ I haven't gone shopping for clothes or bought any clothes for a whole year.  Since my jeans were getting holes in them my husband suggested that I might want to buy new ones.  I went and relearned a few things.
1) If I am putting on a shirt or dress and cannot figure out which is the front then I should not even bother because chances are the shirt will look horrible.
2) If I have to struggle to pull a shirt or dress over my boobs then I shouldn't -with ridiculous determination- pull it all the way over, because it will be much harder to get off and I will wind up I with it stuck on my body while I do some weird panicked dance and debate if I should ask for help. The inevitable decision on help will be that I would rather die stuck in fabric then ask a stranger to help  me pull a shirt back over my boobs.
3) I remembered that buying a new outfit can do wonders for lifting a person out of feeling frumpy.

~I learned from my Dr. that I am  anemic which explains why I am always so tired and feel horrible and only get short bursts of energy.
I also learned that my cholesterol level is 145.  This made me super duper happy, because I remembered when I was 22 my cholesterol was 202.  My other numbers were perfect and she declared me wonderfully healthy...aside from being anemic.  (I haven't been to the Dr in over 4 years.)

~Unlimited wifi from Verizon does not REALLY mean unlimited.  Apparently, when you hit 5GB of usage they filter your usage so if you try to watch Netflix whatever you are watching will pause to reload every two minutes and a 30 minute show will take at a minimum twice as long to watch.  Now we need to ration our Netflix viewing.  Which is hard because my husband and me are completely addicted to The IT Crowd
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


~Writing brings one's various neuroses front and center.
  ~ this can be helpful because then they can finally be used
   ~This is not helpful because they make one aware of various weird quirks they have that they enjoy
being unaware of.
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Boys and dolls

I took the kids to Goodwill the other day and told them they could get something.  My oldest son, who will be 11 next month came up to me with a boy china doll and asked if he could get it.  I looked for a minute and probably made a face. He asked what was wrong, and I told him the doll was creepy.  My son shook his head at me, looked at the doll and informed me that he was very cute. I couldn't argue with that so I said yes. 

A few minutes later he comes back with a girl doll and told me that both of them would only cost $3 and he would like to have them both and call them Lysander and Lindsay.  He also told me again that dolls are not creepy and he really likes them.

We bought the dolls and the ride home he just held them on his lap.  At home he brushed their hair and fixed them up and put them in a safe place where he can look at them.  He thanked me for letting him get the dolls and says he knows that sometimes people might find it weird that a boy would even want a doll but he loves them. I thanked him for being himself and told him I admire his nurturing spirit and how what people might think does not bother him. 

He is a boy that has great empathy and a love of younger children. He told me one day that his favorite thing is when a baby looks at him and grins, it makes him feel warm and happy and peaceful inside. 
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taking a break...

From social media.
I realized that I had become dependent up on facebook for all my social needs.  Being an  introvert, I am ok with checking in on people, having a brief back and forth conversation and presto! my social needs feel fulfilled.  However, they really aren't, and it became an excuse for me to not pursue friendships on a deeper level, or to get together with people and so on.
(that hurts to admit, but it is true)

Another reason, my attention span has decreased to the  point of being more akin to the attention span one would find in a kitten on speed.  I fully blame FB. Why? Because I can log on, look at the updates of 100+ people and see all the interesting links they post which leads to a scenario like this:
(entirely loosely fictional)

Person's status- i made pork cheeks for dinner tonight
(my head thinking - what is that and where does one get it and do with it?)
go off and google pork cheeks, but while that is loading because sometimes my computer is slow, I look at someone else's update and see a link to something.
Person's status- I LOVE this site, check it out!! I love the tips on making a childhood magical and sparkly!
Me- OOOO! I should read that. So I click and look it over for a split second. Oh LOOK! beeswax crayons, I like beeswax crayons. They smell good. Then I search for those to find the best price.

Oh, gotta check my email.
Email - Lose a zillion calories with this workout!
me - Awesome! (check it out and it involves some barbaric looking exercise that I would never do)
Wait! Library!
Off to library web site. 
There was a book I wanted, what was it called? About decreased memory? Damn! What is that book?

Commence search on book about decreased memory, see a billion results
Olive oil helps memory loss. Greeks use lots of olive oil. How much is a vacation to Greece. Ok, nevermind. Does my school have Greek classes?  Look that up, and no. But they have Japanese. How much is a trip to Japan...wait, nevermind. Radiation and all that.  Radiation leads to looking up the Cold War and that leads to Russian history which leads me back to the mystagogy site about Orthodoxy.

look at time and realize family will be waking up in about 20 minutes and I just lost 1 hour to looking up nothing beneficial in the time I am supposed to be writing.
Ok, back to writing.
Sit. Stare. Blank Page. Scary Blank Page. Type something. Laugh at it because it is too lame.
click on FB icon to escape annoyance at my writing.
See an article on education.
Go to article...which talks about the effect of techonology on adolescents. Remember book about descreased memory, try to find it. Go back to library web site and reserve a bunch of Atlantic Monthly magazines.
So, by 7 am I have completely fried my brain doing nothing productive, but instead behaved in a way that makes me think of a hamster on a wheel. I have now overwhelmed myself with too much information about too many things, I am completely overstimulated and want to go back to bed.

That is why I am taking a break.
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Monday, June 6, 2011

Kid pictures

Gwen and Burrito

And for comparison- two pictures of all three kids. The top one is from their first day of school this school year and then one I took this morning of their last day. (almost last day, it is actually tomorrow)

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Any given Saturday

Took my husband’s blue French cuff shirt out of the dryer and noticed that it was too wrinkled and the collar too limp.  Out came the iron and the ironing board in the room that is supposed to be my office but has been taken over by clothes marked for donation.  The collar was curled under and stubbornly refused to straighten as a proper collar should.  After many minutes and much pressing the collar finally agreed to submit and lay pointed and true.
My husband told me one reason out of a million that he loves is that I notice things like his collar and fix them, so he doesn’t leave the house looking unkempt. 
He left for his sales calls.  I fixed the kids their cereal.
A blanket went into the washer because my son was wearing it around the house, causing it to collect dog fur.
The kids argued over who had to take the dog out, one son objected because he was only wearing boxer shorts.  The other pointed out that we don’t have next door neighbors. I pointed out the group of men working in the field adjacent to the house with their bulldozers and assorted loud machines. Oldest son said he never knew they were there.  I mentioned the smell of exhaust fumes coming in the windows, he shrugged and took out the dog.
I vacuumed the floors wondering how a small dog can drop so much hair.  I wondered about my attention span and lack of focus. I thought about the bit in a book I’m reading that addresses self doubt and her cousins talking to a writer while writing and making a mental note that they somehow appear even while cleaning-but never about cleaning.  The kitten and the dog began wrestling in line of the vacuum and I shooed them off.  My daughter began crying about an ant that could only move its antennae and not walk; I quickly picked it up in a Kleenex and flushed it.
She cried harder and told me I killed it.  I tried to explain suffering and that with insects it is better to kill them swiftly. She told me I was mean.  Later she asked me to get rid of a big hairy jumping spider on the curtain, I used the vacuum hose.  This did not make her sad.  
My son ate an apple and instead of it turning out the normal shape an apple does when eaten to the core, he ate it into a square.
I was given a note covered with infinity signs that said “This is how much I love you, your kid Gwen”

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I took last quarter off from school in order to focus on getting things done at home.
I didn't accomplish as much as I thought I would and I got rather uninspired. 

Over the summer I am taking a Sociology course, and then in the fall will take on a decent course load.  Between having the kids in school all day, and not taking any classes I discovered that I get MUCH more done when I have more to do. When Im not busy I get complacent. 
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Friday, May 27, 2011

The One Thing That Caught Our Attention....

The other night my husband and I watched "America The Beautiful"
It is a documentary on the beauty industry and various pressures women feel to conform to some ideal of what is considered beautiful.
A lot of the footage was about a 12/13 yo girl who worked as a model/runway model.  This girl was finding tons of work and designers loved her. 
Overall it was an interesting watch, but the ONE thing that really stood out to us was this girl and her padded bra issue.
Here is a girl who works in the fashion industry, where theoretically tons of pressure is applied for the girls to look a certain way, right?  The girl transfers schools and all of a sudden is crying to her mother that she NEEDS a padded bra. Her mother is arguing with her about this, and commenting on the girl using more makeup and wearing tight clothes.  It turned into a big, teenage girl crying mess.
Eventually the mom decides to homeschool her daughter.  Mom and girl go to London to find more modeling work and there is a scene with the girl going through her suitcase. She holds up the padded bra and said "now that I am homeschooled I don't need this anymore"

It really stood out to my husband that the girl who works in the fashion industry and is judged on her looks constantly felt MORE pressure to be attractive when she was in school.  He thought that was very weird. 
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And now for something completely cute....

Somehow my family convinced me to keep Burrito. It is absolutely awful having to keep this snuggly, always purring, feisty, TV watching, toilet falling into, feet attacking kitten. Sheer torture I tell you.

The resident housecats are not too thrilled about this new addition. The dogs have had different reactions. Leia wants to play...or eat him (not sure which)
Burrito wants nothing to do with her and stands his ground.
I think in this one he is threatening to claw her face off if she comes any closer.

With Daisy he is completely different.  They paw at each other, and Daisy lets him chew on her ears.  I took this photo of them playing together. After I took this Burrito began licking Daisy's face. I guess her doggie hygiene was not good enough for this kitten.
I also think Daisy wins "Most Patient Dog of the Year" award.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Car Conversations

"Hey Mom, can you be my substitute teacher? Come into the school and tell Ms. H to take the day off and then you can teach us!"
"No, Gwen. Mom can't she needs to graduate first and would need a degree in teaching"
"Well, Mom, go do that! "
"But Gwen, she isn't going to graduate in time to teach your class."
"Yeah, she might even still be in college when we go to college!"
"And then we can go to college with MOM!!"
"Hey! Mom! Remember when you were super interested in Psychology and Russian Literature? And all you read was books written by Russian people and big thick books about Psychology?"
"Yeah! And Add and I told you that you should be a Russian Psychologist!"
"What does a Psychologist DO anyway? Do they make people psycho?"
"No...the opposite"
" they help people work through irrationalities and my fear of stuffed animals in museums"

I  just drove and listened to my 3 children talk on and on......
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Building of Habit

It is said that it takes 30 days of consistent behaviour to build a new habit.  I can definitely say that waking up between 4:30 and 5am has become a habit, it happens without my alarm some mornings now.  If I don't get up till 5:30 it feels like sleeping in. 

The next habit I am working on for myself is sticking to a daily routine.  Everyday of the staying with it means that all the jobs I do during the day take less time, which is motivating.

I have been reading Charlotte Mason again. I love what she taught on education and the personhood of children. One of her many quotes about Habits
"One last word about habit--the point of training children to have good habits is so that they'll do things without being nagged or scolded. Then the mother isn't constantly chasing them down with a barrage of commands and reminders. She can leave them alone to thrive in their own way once habit has secured a boundary for them to grow in."
volume 1, page 134

With the children I have been having them work on building one new habit a week. The first one was to turn off lights when they leave the room. My family has a tendency to leave ALL the lights on.  It took a few reminders but now I am seeing consistent results.  This week it will be to put dirty clothes in the laundry bin and not all over their bedrooms.  
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

True Magic

This morning I was able to get into the garden beds and plant some seeds.  It hit me, like it does every year, how amazing and positively magical it is that from tiny seeds + dirt +water + sun, delicious, beautiful things grow. I went in search of a quote because I cannot even hope to get the words out of my head on this one..

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Many Thoughts

~ My 9yo was grumbling about having to come inside soon to do homework. I see his point- it is a beautiful day outside.

~ The developers came back. My windows are open and all day I have been doing my work to the sound of big machine engines, and the scent of exhaust.  When my children came home from school they stood and watched the felled trees being loaded onto a truck. My 7yo daughter yelled at the men "STOP! STOP! STOP! You are ruining nature!!" I was worried for a moment that she was going to run into the field and form a tiny human blockade in her distress.

~ Sometimes, because I spend so much time alone I find that I have forgotten social niceties.

~ 21 days left till the kids are done with this school year.

~ 21 days to research some science options for this summer to help my 9yo regain his love of science- which school has sucked out of him.

~That modern plumbing, heat, and a/c are marvelous things

~Never turn your back on a rooster and then push one of the hens out of the way. The rooster will take great offense and attack you...which will be surprisingly painful and feel like a hammer hitting your leg. .

~ Wondering what areas of my life I need to adjust further in my attempt to get rid of unnecessary excess so I have more resources and time to give.

~Unnecessary excess also pertaining to pride, impatience, and a multitude of other things. 

~ This article by Fr. George Morelli called The Hidden Devastation of Greed, mostly these bits:

"As I have noted in previous articles, care for those who cannot help themselves is not just a Judeo-Christian teaching. The Bhagavad-Gita notes: “Hell has three gates: lust, anger, and greed.” This echoes Buddha's saying: “There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.”

Our Eastern Church Spiritual Father Evagrios the Solitary warns us of the complexity of this passion. For example, it is possible that someone " pretends to be steward and a lover of the poor," but in their heart entertains "avaricious thoughts" and inflated "self-esteem." (Philokalia I). This spiritual perception underscores the need for all to be aware of the deep motives of their actions, even of those that appear to be under the guise of the virtue of generosity. As St. Isaac the Syrian (Wensinck, 1923) informs us, "...without the prudence of the heart...the godly man cannot refrain from showing his love, in the performance of manifest deed"

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Inner Tranquility

Our goal should be to take all that comes our way and make the best out of it for the sake of the spiritual struggle in which we are engaged.  We must strive to acquire the inner tranquility, and to this end even noise can become a good thing if it is met with the right thought.  What matters the most is handling a problem in the right way. We must face up to everything using good thoughts.  
When, in very midst of noise, you manage to reach inner tranquility, you have achieved something of great value.  If you cannot find tranquility in the midst of disturbance, you will not be able to be tranquil even in the midst of tranquility.  When inner tranquility comes to a man, everything inside him will be tranquil, and he will not be disturbed by anything.  But if he requires external tranquility in order to find inner tranquility, then, when he does find himself in such a place, he will want a cane to chase away cicadas by day and jackal by night, so they will not bother him!  In other words, he will be chasing away what in fact the devil is gathering.  What do you think the devil's job is after all?  His job is to create difficulties and to obstruct our efforts, until he has completely turned us upside down.

~Elder Paisios
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dinner Time Standoff

*Please understand I have never made food a battle and am pretty accommodating with my children's food preferences.*

That said.
My 9 yo has a thing lately about complaining about every.single.dinner that I make...unless it is pizza, chicken tenders or corn dogs. This is not run of the mill complaining, and no he does not have any underlying issues, sensory or otherwise that would cause him to behave this way or refuse the foods I make.

Last night I made honey mustard chicken tenders served with a rice pilaf with red peppers and kale (from Clean Eating magazine, recipe here). My 10 and 7 yr olds LOVED it. My 9yo took one look and said "Im not eating this. I want honey nut cheerios" He refused to taste it and went straight into whining.
(he loves honey mustard with chicken, he likes rice and red peppers and has eaten kale happily before)

This mama, who has a husband that is gone from 7:30 am till 10pm, and has dealt with many many many many many dinnertime issues, had had enough.

I calmly told him that this was his dinner, and Im not giving him anything else. In fact, we sat there, while I read a book, at the table for an hour and a half.

An hour and a half.

I stayed calm, I stayed rational. He wanted cookies for dessert. I nicely told him he would not be eating anything aside from his dinner.
He was NOT happy with me, and there was some growling and grumbling from him)
Eventually, when there was 5 minutes left till he needed to take his shower, and he saw that I would not budge. He tasted the chicken, and the pilaf and said "This is really good!" and scarfed it down.

There was no yelling from me, just a firm resolve that I am tired of this kids dinnertime shenanigans which I have allowed for too long.

Then after his shower he banned me from his room because he was making presents for mother's day.

Yes, he is my strong willed child...a gift in many ways to him...but not always so much for me.:grin:
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011


~cracking still warm eggs that I just collected from the nesting boxes into a bowl for the cookies I am baking for my children

~ a husband who may not fully understand my aversion to talking on the phone, but accepts it

~ a small dog that causes me to smile often

~ a card from a little girl declaring "Dear Mom, you are the greatest mom in the unavers and have a happy birthday" that she adorned with flowers and sunshine and a "Happy Sping" (yes Sping)

~ this memory that I discovered on an old blog of mine...

This morning the kids tumbled out of bed, ran downstairs, and said "Can WE go OUTSIDE!?" at the top of their lungs. It was about 7:30, I was just starting on my coffee...and I said yes..please. They ran outside to play basketball. Few minutes later my 7yo came in to tell me that my 5yo daughter made her first basket EVER and he was pretty proud of her. I was too.

I settled in on the couch with a book I have been reading by the Monks of New Skete called In the Spirit of Happiness. It is a book that I read a bit, pause, think, then go back to. During one of the pauses I glanced up and looked out my living room window. In front of that window is where our little apple orchard is. The kids had grabbed an encyclopedia, and climbed up into the largest tree to look through it together. It was one of those perfect moments....that my camera battery is never charged for. The sun was peeking out...the apple trees are in full flower, the grass is such a lush green, and carpeted with white petals. It was gorgeous, and sweet, and hit home for me just how amazing being a mother is.
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For the past few days I have had this lingering sadness that stays just enough under the surface of my awareness that I have been able to disregard it. I had a few people ask me what was wrong on Sunday while at Church. I was confused by the question and didn't think anything was wrong, aside from having broken my big toe. Today, when the kids left for school and the house was quiet I fully grasped the fact that I am feeling very sad.

I had to think on this for a bit because sadness is not something I experience on a regular basis.
Was it the weather? This cold, rainy, grey spring?
Slowly it occurred fully to me that Mother's Day is affecting me.  My kids have been talking non-stop about Mother's Day and daily my daughter has been giving me pre-mother's day cards that she has drawn and written.
I knew last year it would be a hard day, which is  why we actively avoided any place where I would have to watch mothers and daughters...we went on a chilly picnic and then I went by myself to see Clash of the Titans.

I thought this year would be easier, but I feel like I've lost direction a bit. Mother's Day and there is no Mother. My kids are looking forward to celebrating it, and my oldest son wanted to know the history behind it...which we looked up together and read about Greeks and Romans celebrating Rhea and Sybill, and then the devotion turning to Mary, and then to all mothers.

I think this year, after spending time with my kids, I am going to go see Thor and perhaps make a tradition for myself of seeing corny myth based movies because the odds of finding mothers and daughters at a movie like that on mother's day is not very high.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Menu for the week

Last night (Sunday) I made a Frittata with grated zucchini, goat cheese and dill and with it we had a salad with homemade ranch dressing made from greek yogurt, buttermilk, and assorted herbs. (looking forward to making it again in the summer when I have zucchini and dill from my garden, with eggs from my chickens. All I need next is a dairy goat)
Monday- Sauteed chicken cutlets with mushrooms and an edamame chickpea cabbage salad
Tuesday- Burgers with goat cheese, arugula, and other things with homemade buns, sweet potatoes and left over salad
Wednesday- (fasting day) burritos with rice, beans and guacamole from the Vegan Fusion cookbook and some vegetables
Thursday- honey mustard chicken and pilaf, and a salad
Friday- (fasting day) stir fry with chickpeas
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Demeter and Persephone

So in this pleasant vale we stand again,
The field of Enna, now once more ablaze
With flowers that brighten as thy footstep falls,
All flowers -- but for one black blur of earth
Left by that closing chasm, thro' which the car
Of dark Aidoneus rising rapt thee hence.
And here, my child, tho' folded in thine arms,
I feel the deathless heart of motherhood
Within me shudder, lest the naked glebe
Should yawn once more into the gulf, and thence
The shrilly whinnyings of the team of Hell,
Ascending, pierce the glad and songful air,
And all at once their arch'd necks, midnight-maned,
Jet upward thro' the mid-day blossom. No!
For, see, thy foot has touch'd it; all the space
Of blank earth-baldness clothes itself afresh,
And breaks into the crocus-purple hour
That saw thee vanish.
(From Demeter and Persephone by Tennyson)

Butterfly on the lilacs
Apple Blossoms
My army of tick eaters

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Sandwich that Dreams are made of....

I mean that literally.
During Holy Week I dreamed about a big platter of sandwiches, on a table, in the front of our Church near the icon of John the Baptist
horrible photo quality from my cell- but to the right of the arch is the icon of Christ, and next to him is john the baptist. That is where the sandwiches were. in case you wanted a visual
The sandwiches consisted of Swiss Chard and goat cheese on rosemary focaccia bread.
I REALLY wanted one when I woke up, but being Holy Week I was still fasting from dairy. So, all week thoughts of these sandwiches impeded my thoughts.

It is now Bright Week and there is no more fasting, and I have been eating lots of goat cheese. Today I had time to bake focaccia bread. I noticed that I was running out of white flour, so I had to make it half white and half whole wheat. I used the Rosemary Focaccia  recipe from Real Mom Kitchen.
It turned out pretty well. I was liberal with pepper, and will use more rosemary next time...
The cat really wanted to eat it, and was not pleased with me when I told her to go away.

While the bread cooled off, I sauteed rainbow (because it is pretty!) swiss chard in olive oil and minced garlic..and added a bit of pepper (because I really like pepper!). I cut off a wedge of the focaccia and spread both sides with goat cheese, and added the hot swiss chard on top. (mmmm...melty)

I am happy to say that it lived up to the precedent my dream had set for how delicious it should be.
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

And then he was 9....

I cannot believe that this little baby...
Grew into this boy....

Who has a streak of a wild boy...

So quickly......

Happy Birthday Elijah...or shall I say Eli the Brave, or Smartacus?
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Awake and Elder Porphyrios on beauty

This morning I tried to sleep a little later, yet still woke up at 5:30.  Last night we attended the Great and Holy Friday services of Holy Week.
The kids went to Church at 11:00 in the morning for their annual retreat. They had a wonderful time and baked Prosphora bread
At 3:00 we came to get them and all went into the Church for thee Great Vespers and the Apokathelosis, and after we went to eat dinner. The children were very excited and talkative. 

When everyone finished eating we ran through the rain to get back to Church for the Great Saturday services of Lamentations and the Procession of the Epitatphios.   That finished after 10:30 and we got home after 11.  The kids headed straight to bed, and I wrapped my son's presents, because today is his 9th birthday.

I have to stop and say that my kids did amazingly well with the marathon of Church services we attended this week. Last night as I listened to my boys sing the Lamentations and watched the smiles on their faces as they explained the services to me (because they remember from previous years) and helping each other keep their places in the Holy Week books, my heart nearly burst.  

Tonight we go back to Church at 10:30 for the Paschal Liturgy and after the Liturgy and the Agape meal where we break our Lenten fast and eat meat (yay!!!!) we head back home. Usually we get home between 2 and 3 am.  This is why it is crazy that I only had 5 hours of sleep last night.
Naps will happen later today.
Please forgive all the grammatical errors within this post...I am rather foggy still.
Here is a quote from Elder Porphyrios that i came across yesterday and love.
“For a person to become a Christian he must have a poetic soul. He must become a poet. Christ does not wish insensitive souls in His company. A Christian, albeit only when he loves, is a poet and lives amid poetry. Poetic hearts embrace love and sense it deeply. Make the most of beautiful moments. Beautiful moments predispose the soul to prayer; they make it refined, noble, and poetic. Wake up in the morning to see the sun rising from out of the sea as a king robed in regal purple. [And then] go beyond this to give glory for all beautiful things so that you experience Him who alone is comely in beauty. All things are holy—the sea, swimming, and eating. Take delight in them all. All things enrich us, all lead us to the great Love, all lead us to Christ.”
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Thursday, April 21, 2011


I am not a morning person.
Some mornings getting out of bed feels like a major accomplishment, most likely because I stayed up too late the night before, unable to say goodbye to the day.
As I struggle to wake up and form coherent thoughts my children are miles ahead of me, especially my daughter. She wakes up and before her eyes are fully open the words begin to pour out of her mouth with barely a breath in between, so much she has to tell me after her 10 hours of being unable to do so.  I try to patiently listen and respond.

After some thought I realized that I did not want her mornings to consist of a half awake, desperate for coffee mother barely able to respond to her questioning and insights. 
I came up with a solution to what I was beginning to see as a problem.
The solution is I wake up at 5am so I have 2 hours to drink a lot of coffee, clear my head, do morning prayers, and read. This way, when everyone wakes up I am able to greet them with a smile.  We have precious little time together on school mornings, and it is important to me that the time together be good time.

It is not easy for me to get up at 5. Some mornings I hit the snooze button on my phone to get a few extra minutes, and then I wake up with my phone cradled in my arms like my daughter holds her stuffed animals in her sleep.
I make my way downstairs, hit the on button for the coffee maker, and take the dog out into the morning that is still night.
After a time I hear the birds outside begin their morning song, and Fairy the Rooster starts his daily crowing. Roosters do not always crow with the rising sun, they start when the world is dark.  I drink coffee, sit on the couch and am kept company by my little dog and orange cat.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Hymn of Kassiani and St. Mary Magdalene

O Lord God, the woman who had fallen into many sins having perceived Thy divinity received the rank of ointment-bearer offering Thee spices before Thy burial wailing and crying: Woe is me, for the love of adultery and sin hath given me a dark and lightless night; accept the fountains of my tears O Thou Who drawest the waters the waters of the sea by the clouds incline Thou to the sigh of my heart O Thou Who didst bend the heavens by Thine inapprehensible condescension; I will kiss Thy pure feet and I will wipe them with my tresses I will kiss Thy feet Whose tread when it fell on the ears of Eve in Paradise dismayed her so that she did hide herself because of fear; who then shall examine the multitude of my sin and the depth of Thy judgment? Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Deliverer of my soul turn not away from Thy handmaiden O Thou of boundless mercy.

 Hymn of Kassiani
According to tradition, during a dinner with the emperor Tiberius Caesar, Mary Magdalene was speaking about Christ's Resurrection. Caesar scoffed at her, saying that a man could rise from the dead no more than the egg in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red. Because of this, icons of Mary Magdalene sometimes depict her holding an egg. from this comes the tradition of dyeing eggs red at Pascha/Easter.

 And here is the the Hymn of Kassiani which is incredibly moving.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Work is a Blessing

I am in the midst of Spring Cleaning and trying to get everything done before Pascha. 
This is an excerpt from a book called Family Life by Elder Paisios the Athonite that I stumbled across today and found it a timely reminder on work and labor. Especially since I have been waking at 5ish before my family in order to clear my head and get focused before our day begins. I enjoy waking early, but I am still adjusting and sometimes the temptation for a nap is a quite strong. ;-)

—Geronta, in the old days they would say, “Better to wear out your shoes rather than blankets.” What did they mean?
—They meant, “Better to wear out your shoes by working than to stay in bed and be lazy.” Work is a blessing, a gift of God. It gives energy to the body, refreshment to the nous. If God had not given us work, man would have become idle. Hard workers do not stop even in old age. If they stop working while they still have strength, they end up suffering from depression; this is death for them. I remember one little old man in Konitsa, almost ninety years old, who worked continuously. He finally died out in the fields, two hours from home.
Besides, the state of bodily comfort which some people seek is never permanent. They may forget their stress for a time—have their food, their sweets, their baths, their leisure. But, as soon as this is over, they seek another form of comfort. They are constantly anxious because everything leaves them wanting; they feel an emptiness, and their souls seek to be filled. He who wearies from work, however, has a constant joy, spiritual joy.
—Geronta, what if you have back problems and aren’t able to do just any work?
—Fine, but doesn’t the back need exercise? Doesn’t work that exercises the back help? Listen, I’ll tell you: “If someone eats, drinks, and sleeps but doesn’t work, he starts unraveling; he wants to sleep all the time because his body and nerves slacken. Little by little he comes to the point where he can’t do anything. As soon as he walks a little, he falls apart. Instead, if he works a little and moves around, his hands and feet become stronger. Notice that those who love work don’t sleep much, and they don’t sleep from fatigue—they might not get any sleep for a time, yet they keep their strength: work has seasoned them, and they became strong in body.
Especially for a young person, work is health. I have observed that some pampered children become tough and seasoned when they go into the military. The military is good for them. Naturally, this happened more in the old days. Today they are afraid to push the soldiers, because with a little strain the veins are constricted and they suffer from nervous shock. I tell parents to pay someone to allow their children to work for them, to promote their health—this serves to give them a job they like, so that they will learn to like work in general. For, a young person who is energetic also has brains, and if he doesn’t work he will become lazy. Of course, when he sees others succeeding he is confused by his egoism and can’t take pleasure in anything. He constantly has disturbing thoughts and his mind is muddled. Later the devil goes to him and says: “Loser! What a good-for-nothing you are! So and so became a professor, and that other guy has his own business making good money, but where will you end up?” This makes him feel hopeless. If he had worked, however, he would have acquired confidence in himself, in a good sense of the word. He would see that even he is able to get along, and his mind would stay occupied on his job and free him from disturbing thoughts. That way it’s a win-win.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To Ponder....

Whom, then do I call educated ...? First, those who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgement which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action; next those who are decent and honourable in their intercourse with all with whom they associate, tolerating easily and good-naturedly what is unpleasant or offensive in others and being themselves as agreeable and reasonable to their associates as it is possible to be; furthermore, those who hold their pleasures always under control and are not unduly overcome by their misfortunes, bearing up under them bravely and in a manner worthy of our common nature; finally, and most important of all, those who are not spoiled by successes and do not desert their true selves and become arrogant, but hold their ground steadfastly as intelligent men, not rejoicing in the good things which have come to them through chance rather than in those which through their own nature and intelligence are theirs from their birth. Those who have a character which is in accord, not with one of these things, but with all of them - these, I contend, are wise and complete men ....
- from the Panathenaicus
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

I had to read this several times...and could probably stand to read it hundreds more

(Taken from "My Life in Christ" by Saint John of Kronstadt)

Value highly, and always preserve Christian meekness and kindness,
mutual peace and love, crushing by every possible means the impulses of
self-love, malice, irritability, and disturbance. Do not be disturbed
and angered, when anybody tells you a falsehood to your face, or claims
any unjust pretension, or speaks offensively, or boldly detects any of
your weaknesses or passions, the wrongfulness of which, through your
self-love, you did not suspect. Always first coolly reflect over what
your opponent says to you, as well as over your own words and conduct,
and, if, upon an entirely impartial consideration of your words and
actions, you find them just, then let your conscience be at rest, and
do not heed the words of your adversary, either remaining silent before
him, or showing him his error quietly, gently, in all kindness of
heart; but should you find yourself guilty of that, which your
adversary detects in you, then, putting aside self-love and pride, ask
pardon for your fault, and endeavour to correct yourself in future. We
are often angry with straightforward, frank people for openly
disclosing our iniquities. We ought to value such people, and forgive
them, if by their bold speaking they break down our self-love. They
are, in a moral sense, the surgeons who cut off, with a sharp word, the
rottenness of the heart, and through arousing our self-love, they
awaken, in the soul deadened by sin, a consciousness of sin and a vital

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bear With Me.....

Quotidian: occurring every day, belonging to every day; commonplace, ordinary. From The Quotidian Mysteries: ""It is a paradox of human life that in worship, as in human love, it is the routine and the everyday that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation."

I woke up this morning full of aggravation and irritation. My 10.5 yr old son was complaining about having to go to school an hour early for study group. My 7yo daughter snuck a piece of cake after being repeatedly told no. My husband needed me to pack his lunch. The dog was being obnoxious. 

Then everyone left (except for the obnoxious dog) and I was left in a quiet house feeling incredibly lonely. Thus began the quiet, snaking thoughts..."What is the point of being at home when your kids are at school?" "You are almost 35 without a single degree to your name." "Any housework will come undone, what is the point?" "Chocolate" "Why am I doing this?" and so forth. Thoughts full of doubt, incrimination, self-defeat and incredibly de-motivating.  

While washing my hands I glanced up to the prayer of St. Ephraim that I have pinned to my window frame above my sink. " take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness... " (Please!)

This internal struggle with myself against the quotidian, the daily things that never end- the cooking, cleaning, laundry, writing, rewriting, demands of children, needs of my family- push me to choose to become a better person...or not should I decide to dwell in the realm of laziness and be too faint hearted to struggle against my natural inclinations.

Church creates the same struggle within me. The term Liturgy translates as "the work of the people". When I go to Church each week it is work. I have to wake up early and dress up, fast beforehand, the Liturgy is long, there is a lot of standing-sometimes prostrations, my feet hurt, I get confused when it switches to Greek, I get really hungry- but eventually the other-worldliness of the Church and the joy of being with other people comes into focus. Without fail, every time I celebrate the Liturgy it dawns on me that thousands +  around the world are doing the exact same thing. We work together. The same yearly cycle. 

Housework offers the same opportunity for self transformation. It pushes us into the realm of self discipline and service.  Most of the things I have to clean in my house were not from me. But I wash laundry, clean and vacuum to make my house a resting place for my family. A place where they can come and relax and be refreshed, a place where we can practice hospitality and welcome friends.  The daily cycles are something to be accepted and a place to work within in order to bring order to ourselves and our surroundings.

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