Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Half

Well, folks.  I ran a half-marathon today.  10 years ago I recall running a 5 K and I came home destroyed. My muscles were so sore, I had to ice them.  I have come such a long way.  Today I came home and was tired.  But I took a bath, had a good meal and took a little rest.  Then I was fine again; cleaned the garage, visited with neighbors, tidied and vacuumed the house before bed.  Wow.  I feel really good about my current physical fitness.

I did well--as well as I expected I would do.  My husband could not believe I finished in precisely the time I expected.  The hills were much harder than I expected, but I hung in there.  This is where my husband thought I would crash and burn.

At 12.75 miles I just about lost all stamina.  I started to feel like all the stores were depleted and everything ached. Then I mustered enough strength to jog to the finish.  Part of this may have had to do with poor hydration.  I really hated picking up water because drinking it messed up the rhythm of my breathing.

When I finished I felt a little emotional, because I needed some nourishment.  But my stomach was in too much of a knot to eat.  I drank a sport drink and felt better.

I don't have plans to run further distances.  I feel running is really hard on the joints and I figure my joints and I have a lot of years left together.  I want them in good condition.  I do appreciate running, though.

My neighbor on the other hand, is a top athlete.  She finish fourth out of everyone (1200+ runners).  I think she was number one female.  However, she was pretty disappointed.  She's injured and felt she could do better.  I'm sorry she could not take full pleasure in her victory.  I understand that.  She knew she could do better.  But on the other hand, wow, take some pleasure in the fact that on a bad day, "you're still a winner."  She's so fast.  I'm in awe.

I was able to enjoy my new running pants from Lorna Jane this race.  It was cool this morning and these were perfect.  They also compressed a little so they were great support.  I also did not suffer chafing (except for my arm, where my phone armband rubbed).

I always wear one of my Adam Towler race shirts to the race and I started wearing my pineapple bandanna in honor of my brother.  This also makes me feel a little emotional at the end of a race.  Another thing about running is that since it can bring physical pain, I try to channel this into penance, say my prayers and give it to the glory of God.

A post shared by Renée Clayton (@claytonopolis) on

May God grant you many blessed years!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

Growing up my mom always told us we were Irish heritage.  She even insisted upon a family trip to Ireland to basically see the nation of our heritage. forward 8 years, I remarked to my aunt that we were Irish, and she giggled and said on your Dad's side.  She said something about being German and I did not really comprehend what she was saying because my mom had said she was Irish and French (French Canadian). 

...Fast forward to a couple days ago.  My dad has been working steadily on our family tree for at least 2 years now.  He started with his own family: his mom and dad, their parents and so on.  He has come as nearly as far as he can with public records available (about the 1820's).  But only last week he began on my mom's heritage.  

I was shocked at what came out.  I mean I was in a tizzy. My mom's family is not a little bit German.  Her family is very German and Swedish on her dad's side.  No surprises on her mom's side.  They were all French Canadian like she said.  However, she had led me to believe her father's side was Irish.  We have documented four generations back (she confirmed the names and places) and they are only German and Swedish.  

I keep asking her who told her that she was Irish?  Her sister seems to know that they are of German heritage and yet, my mom still wanted to deny being German and claim the Irish.  She insists there are some Irish relatives in there.  My dad has not been able to find them. (Although, I have since managed to get her to claim her heritage, begrudgingly.)

I think this is a case of my mom grew up in a time when Germans were not the world's most favorite people, but the Kennedy's were famous Irish Catholics, and everyone loved them.  So why not be Irish.

I can still claim some Irish heritage.  My dad really does have enough Irish great grandparents in his tree to claim being Irish.  He is also very English.  But it turns out I was chasing the wrong ancestors. 

I am very grateful my dad is documenting the family tree.  At first I was a little apathetic, but, I have enjoyed knowing my heritage.  

My dad also sheepishly wanted to tell my mom, she may not have any Irishmen in her family tree, but at least she doesn't have and petty criminals in her family tree like he does. 

Here is my little German-Irish girl.  I love these pictures, because anytime I tell her I am going to take a picture of her, she strikes a pose.  The poses she comes out with!!!  So great.

May God grant you many years

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Peg Doll Saint Exchange

Every spring for the last three years I have participated in a peg doll saint exchange.  I love this practice for the same reason I paint and venerate icons.  As I paint the chosen saint, I meditate on the lives of saints, on the holiness of my family, or just my relationship with God.

Once I receive the other saints in the exchange, I divide them among my children and put them into their Easter baskets along with Easter treats.

For this year's saint I have chosen is St. Alexander of Jerusalem.  We have decided that this saint is our son's patron.  We decided upon Alexander's name based on many great Alexanders, as we did with our other son and many great, Thomas'.

I'm not quite done, but I am getting close.

May God grant you many years.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On Being Uniform

Sometimes I try to solve my problems with uniforms...

Homeschooling is a tough job for mom.  Not only do I spend most of the day directing the children in their studies, but I also keep house and cook, and serve as chief financial officer, among other responsibilities. I also play the part of every person employed at a school--principal, counselor, art teacher, computer teacher, librarian, and most importantly spiritual director.  This job is overwhelming.  It's worth it, but it is difficult.

Sometimes problems arise like, disobedient behavior, disrespectful behavior, slovenly behavior, messiness.  I think that requiring the children to wear uniforms helps them be a little more serious.  It also helps with the massive amounts of laundry.  The time saved on laundry and getting dressed is better used on discipline and leisure.  Therefore, all around uniforms take the pressure off me as the head mistress of this household. 

Our homeschool co-op instituted the wearing of uniforms at co-op 4 years ago.  The parents decided any uniform would do.  This gave parents the options of buying uniforms at secondhand stores or inexpensive bargain store uniforms.  This was the catalyst for our whole family.

I was not wanting to do this in the beginning.  I had my reasons.  Mainly, I just couldn't be bothered.  My husband has always wanted our homeschooling children to wear uniforms.  He wanted them to look nice and be serious.  I protested because I had one kindergartner, two toddlers, and a baby. I exclaimed, "To what effect is he being uniform if there are no other children in uniform?"  Fair enough.  But when the co-op started wearing uniforms, and now we have a whole troop of our own, it now makes sense.  

I should have just listened to my husband with our one kindergarten aged child.  Wearing the uniform does send the message to a child that it is business time.  It's not time for sleeping (pajamas).  It's not time for church.  It's not time for play (soft tees and shorts).  It's time for learning.  We do not wear something distracting.  The clothing is nice yet plain.  

Last spring, I took away all my girls cloths except for the uniform, because they constantly left clothing all over the floor.  It remained this way for three months.  With good behavior, they could earn a couple play outfits.  Then I gave them all back in the summer.

My kids have too many clothes and toys.  One of our problems and blessings is that people give us bags of hand-me-down clothing.  We so appreciate this blessing!  The children enjoy the clothing people give them, and the receive so much.  It’s just hard because they have a hard time then paring down to only what they need.  

I want to take it all away and start over with just a few important things.  At the moment, I have neither the time nor the fortitude to do this.  The idea lingers in my head though and I am very tempted to do this over the summer.

But uniforms…Yes, we are always happier when we choose uniforms.

I bought these things on  I thought this would be an expensive alternative to uniforms.  After I bought undershorts and sweaters, it was really about the same as more expensive uniforms.  I mainly just wanted to try out the brand.  I do like the brand, but it's not as cheap as the secondhand ones we get.  I will definitely try out a couple more styles from this brand.  I'm just not that into buying kids clothes considering we have been gifted so many wonderful second-hands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In Memory

We visited a Civil War reenactment. The families there told us all about life during those times.


I love this little baby piglet. These are glory days I want to remember.
Mno Hya Lyta!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sister Fun Day in Fairy Land

It's Sister Fun Day today. Kristiana invented sister fun day back in January to cheer up Annie. Annie never thinks she is getting her due. Kristiana organized all sorts of events including a trip to Starbucks. 

Today Annie organized the day. But first mom dragged them to story time. This turned out to be a fun time because the Tooth Fairy came and handed out books and tooth brushes and cups.

Then off to the store for a toy, candy, chips and juice.  Then a movie at home. Sounds like fun to me.

Mno hya Lyta!

Sister Fun Day in Fairy Land

Monday, March 28, 2016

Christ is Risen 2016

We're on the road to go to Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine Catholic Church.

We've come to a point in life where our tastes are more defined. We cannot celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in any other manner than the Eastern way. It's too beautiful, it's too magnificent, it's too appropriate--fitting.

So we've packed up our village and our Easter baskets and we our on the road. We are pilgrims.

The children are digging into their Easter baskets and getting chocolate on their church clothes. (Gasp!) Before church! Normally we make them wait until after Liturgy, but we had some little ones who did not understand and they wouldn't have seen their baskets until 8 hours later. It was not a great parent move.  We will figure this one out for next year. 

And Confession - I may have forgotten one bar on the three bar cross I put on the Pascha bread. Life's a little messy right now.  But we're still in the game.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
By death He conquered death and to those in the graves He granted life...(even to those who are messy and imperfect, so long as they LOVE God, and repent, and have hope.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Put on Christ

Our little man was Baptized, Chrismated and received first Holy Communion.  We are so happy for him.  We are also grateful for his Godparents.

It was the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  So it was an extra long liturgy with Baptism and Icon Procession.  Our priest spoke of how in a way when a person is Baptized he becomes an icon of Christ.  He is meant to act in the image of Christ and be full of His grace.  It was a beautiful homily.  I wish I had been calm enough to take in the homily better.  Further at this point I was busy huffing the chrism oils on my baby's head. He, he, he. It smells so good.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Just Tighten It"

My husband and I love the scene in the movie, Knocked Up, when the main character is confronted by her bosses about her pregnancy.  They are in full support of her being pregnant (Pro-life message, people love new life, life is good), but the bosses also make it clear that since she is on camera, after the baby is born she needs to " just tighten it."  That's the comic relief: be big and pregnant and all that goes with it, but then afterwards take care to "tighten it," her body, back into it's former shape.  I am in the that phase now, "Just tighten it."  The baby was born two...almost three months ago and I started thinking about getting back into shape about three weeks after baby was born.  But, it's a slow road.

Ultimately I have several motivations here:

1.) Clothing fits more comfortably when my body is "tighter." I am all about comfort for me :-)
2.) I like to feel strong and capable.
3.) I like to feel well and healthy.
4.) When I am strong and healthy, I think I am a better wife and mom.
5.) Mind, body and soul all need to be well.  I am not well, if one of the three areas are lagging.

I have been having a pretty difficult time getting the scale to budge, although the tape measure has moved down.  I was pretty weak returning to the gym.  All the muscles went totally slack after the baby.  I could hardly lift any weights and the gym childcare does not take babies until four months of age, so my workouts are on borrowed time from my already overtaxed husband. Fortunately, my muscles have tightened back up pretty quickly and I am almost back to lifting heavy again.  Now I have to take off the pounds.  I am trying to find the best way to do that without sacrificing the milk supply for the baby.

I am keeping track of the things that are making a difference.  Of course there is no replacement for hard work and diligence.

So far what is working:

1.) Prayer - I always say, one has to give it over to God.  Give all your works over to God.  Everything is pointless without Love and Beauty: God.  I also recognize that I am not the Master.  I say to Him, "I cannot do this if You do not will it.  Please, help me.  Lord I give this over to you."
2.) Water - it's the life of the body.  We're 70% water!  We need to sustain that.  As soon as I started drinking those 64 oz. of water a day, I started losing weight.  It's a good way to force your body to release fat.  It also helps to release toxins.  Since I am nursing I don't want to release toxins into my milk, so I need to drink lots of water to release the bad stuff into my waste.
3.) Journal - Keep a food log with calorie values.  Calculate the calories you burn each day.  I like this calculator.  Then you have to keep your calorie intake 500-1000 below your base calorie intake. I have been using the fitbit food log, because it's a really quick, easy app.  But, I also like the Atkins app because it shows carbs, fat and protein consumed at a glance.
4.) What you eat matters - A ton of green leafy salads are important to weight loss. They are low-calories, low-fat (watch the salad dressing - bolthouse yogurt dressing is my fav), high nutrients, high fiber, and fill you up.  Although, I don't think it is necessary to choose high nutrient greens always.  Iceberg lettuce is cheap, tasty, high fiber, and will fill you up. Just add a protein for sustained energy.  Add healthy fats too like olive oil and avocados (in reasonable quantities like a quarter of an avocado per meal).
5.) Detox - I found that detox smoothies help jump start fat loss.  They are full of water and rich in anti-oxidants. They can also be high in sugar, so be aware.
6.) Track it - Tracking workouts with a fitness tracker helps me stay motivated and see if I am pushing it as hard as I can.  I am finding, I can always give more.
7.) Exercise - Well, just do it. I feel like it all helps: walking, running, cycling, weight-lifting.  My best combo is high-intensity cardio three days a week, alternating with weight-lifting two days a week.  I am a big proponent of keeping weight-lifting as a part of one's exercise regime because having strong muscles helps one perform better in cardio exercises and also helps in avoiding injuries like throwing one's back out, or knee and shoulder problems (Just don't over-train, either).

I still have a long way to go to be back where I was before the baby.  It can be a little frustrating.  The new little man in my life is totally worth it.  Say a prayer for me: amongst all these challenges I face on a day-to-day basis, pray that I persevere with love, kindness and Christ's peace.

Mno Hiya Lyta!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Denying Temptation

A Great Lent Reflection

When Christ went into the desert he was denying the temptations of the devil. The things that the devil used to tempt Christ were corruptions of the flesh: falling to one's appetites and lust for power and importance.  During Lent we deny our flesh luxuriant food. We deny not food which sustains us, but the extraordinary food such as meat, fats, sweets, alcohol.

We can also deny ourselves things that make us too self-important like social media and T.V.  These two things can deprive us of mental and physical rest. They can also deprive us of purity and spirituality.

In our denials we are capable of more. We can be more tuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit. We can pray more. We can spend more time serving others in our family and community.

We are praying more. Reading more (family read aloud). Learning more about God's holy people. And we're eating differently.

I often feel that Lent is a relief from the weight of indulgence. Lent is a blessing, a gift.

Mno hya Lita!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Scout Sunday

Alex belly-ached this morning about having to put on his cub scout uniform and go to a different church. His parents extolled the virtues of wearing a uniform, being part of a pack and being cheerful even when you do not feel like it.  We managed to coerce him into sucking it up. But afterward he admitted it was kind of cool.  I told him that it was okay. We understood that it was not comfortable but we knew be would appreciate it later.

In other cub scout news, Alex won the pinewood derby with his TARDIS car. He and daddy plotted all year about what it would take to win. Their research and planning paid off. Alex also won "best paint job." This is his second year in a row. So we were all particularly proud of the two years of best paint job.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Peg Doll Saints

I have wanted to do this peg doll saint exchange thing for a while.  So I simply organized it this spring.  It was so appropriate too because I went on a glut of learning about various saints over Lent.  It was very inspiring.  

While we look at the saints and see that they lived great lives, they are also possible lives.  People often think, I could never be a saint.  But, the more you learn about the lives of saints you see they were just ordinary people with proper devotion to God, and then one day, by heavenly grace, they had a mission, and the accepted it.  So with proper devotion, maybe someday you too will be in that number. 

I tried to look up online to see if there were any particular method to painting the peg dolls.  There is not.  Just get some craft paint and some fine bristle brushes (0, 3/0, 10/0) and get to painting.  I bought Wal-mart brushes and had no complaints.
  • I will say that the saints turned out better if you do some planning.  
  • Look up Icons of the saints.  I say specifically Icons because Icons have a lot more symbology that can be used to express the saint you are depicting.  
  • Draw a little picture of the peg doll to plan out the look and symbols.  
  • Then draw it onto the doll. 
  • I started with skin and faces.  It's just my thing.  It feels friendly if there is a face.  It's an Icon thing to begin with the eyes--the windows to the soul.
  • Then I blocked in the garment and symbol colors one by one.  
  • Then I added details.
  • Done.

I used the wood color for the skin on my St. Paul. But, the varnish darkened the wood color.  
So for the rest I used paint for the skin.

 I enlisted help, because this guy wanted to spend more time with me this evening.
Help is awesome.

As you will see, there's no perfectionism here.  I figured that these little people are for little people.  I would feel badly if I put all sorts of effort into the dolls, making every detail perfect, only to have little hands destroy them.  So I kept it fast and loose.  This also works because I don't have a lot of time to paint these days. 

Here are my saints that I made for the kids:

St. Paul, the Apostle
(See how dark the wood became after varnish)

Blessed Theotokos

Christos Pantokrator

St. Basil, the Great

St. Bernadette

St. Veronica
(I wish you could see the lovely folds in her veil)

St. Patrick 
(I wish you could see his curly staff on his side in this picture)

St. Peter, the Apostle

And here are the rest we received in our peg doll saint exchange:

The Sacred Heart of Mary

St. Zita

Bl. Mother Teresa

St. John Paul II

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Claire

St. Martin De Porres

St. Pio

St. Therese, the Little Flower

Oh when the saint go marching in!
Oh how I want to be in that number!

Now I'm exhausted just looking at all the saints.

Mno Hiya Lyta!