Saturday, August 28, 2010


          Instead of working on my “to do” list today I guess I was destined for a little detour.  Everyday this week Alex has asked for pancakes for breakfast.  On Friday, I made some whole wheat pancakes that everyone enjoyed and stuck to our ribs pretty well.  This morning after a restless night, Alex again asked for pancakes and I was not at all interest in doing any cooking.  However, if I must make pancakes two days in a row today it was going to be crepes.  Because crepes are more sophisticated for adult pallets.  I filled the adult crepes with leftover ratatouille and goat cheese.  The kids had syrup and whipped cream.

100_2739           Since the morning had already taken a strange detour into crepe making, I decided to do something else not on the do-list.  I already had to make a trip to the store to pick up a pot roast for Sunday dinner, so why not plan the week’s menus and pick up all the groceries too.  The rest of the morning, there was not too much of it left, I planned the week’s menus, showered and headed to the store.  But since I was going out, I figure I ought to run to Michael’s as well.  I needed some school supplies and supplies for my next Icon.  I figure that I will never get to it if I do not get the supplies now and it took me a couple of weeks to prime the last Icon panel.  Then the new baby will come and with home school…  

         While I was there, I saw some kid crafts that I had to have.  Apparently, today was going to become a sewing day.  I made little dresses for these dolls all afternoon.  This is old school Renee. I did not plan it out and the dresses do not fit very well, but I was determined not to have naked dollies.  I do not know what I was thinking, because Kristiana hates dolls.  In typical Kristiana fashion, she gave them the stink eye when she saw them.  But, Alex said that he liked them and would like to keep one for himself.  “Okay son, you can play with them, but I want you to understand that you need to share them with the girls.”

100_2743 100_2736          Later in the afternoon, I wanted to take the kids to the spray park to wear them out before bed.  But, all the spray parks in Waco have been turned off to conserve water.  When it’s hottest, they eliminate methods of cooling.  Some of us don’t have yards, Waco.  There are some poorer folks that cannot afford air conditioning.  A run at the spray park may be their only method of cooling down (I know it’s a bit overdramatic on my part, but it’s true.)  We went to the park shaded by trees and there were lots of families there.  It was still too hot for this pregnant lady and her Welsh honey.  We stuck it out for about 45 minutes and then told the kids we are going home, but we’ll fill up the buckets with water.  And that’s what we did.  Fortunately, this is an acceptable substitute for the kids.

100_2750100_2751          What a strange day.  Hopefully tomorrow and the next day, I will feel more like doing what I ought to.

Monday, August 23, 2010

By Lunch I Could Laugh

_MG_6431.CR2           This morning I asked Alex to get dressed so that we could go to the store.  He did not like the color pants I picked.  Normally I let him pick out his clothes, but this morning there were no other clean pants he likes.  He got sassy with me and told me, no, he was going to stay home in his pajamas.  Being the momma, I very sternly said that I was going to put a load of laundry on to wash and he better be getting dressed by the time I get back.  Of course, he let out another big sassy, no!  I gave him some consequence that I can’t remember now.  I went outside to our laundry room and he came sashaying after telling me how he was not going to get dressed.  I pushed him back in the door and said he had better get dressed and I went about the laundry. 

          When I went to go back inside and the door was locked.  It has a top inside deadbolt, which can only be unlocked from the inside.  I did not panic.  I sat down on the patio furniture and figured it would not be long before my sweet son longed to see me again and would come to let me back in.  So I sat, put my feet up and said some prayers—prayed for patience, prayed for a suitable punishment for this child. 

          After about five or so minutes, I peeked in and knocked.  Alex was sitting on the sofa and he giggled at me.  I asked him to come to the door.  He ran over giggled at me some more and then ran back to the sofa.  I sat back down thinking that if he thought I was gone, he would come after me.  But, as I sat there for a while I began to panic.  It was hot and I was in my pajamas still and there was no way to open the door.  I started to think that this looks really bad.  My temper started flare and I thought the longer he leaves me out here the more severe his punishment is going to be.

          I started to knock hard and ring the door bell.  I kept doing it.  Alex kept giggling.  Tears started to stream down my face.  I was so frustrated and he would not come to the door.  Finally, he recognized my distress and came to the door.  I told him to unlock the door, but he could not reach it.  He had been just tall enough to tip the bolt into the locked position.  But, once in the locked position he could not tip it back.

          So then I gave frantic instruction to go find something to stand on.  He meandered around his toys a little and made the “I don’t know” shoulder shrug.  I saw a little ride-on push car told him to bring it over and stand on it.  He did and finally let me in.  I was still crying a little. 

          Now it was time for punishment.  I was furious and wanted to really wallop his little hiney.  But, I have been asking myself recently, what if this were the Christ child?  Would I spank this child if I knew he was God-Incarnate?  How do I parent with love and gentleness while still delivering the gravity of the situation?  I explained to him what he did wrong and then I took away all his “good-boy beans” and told him he had to start over.  He had been earning beans toward a toy.  This caused him to cry.  Good, he should feel some pain about locking his mommy out. 

          I explained to him that I could not be a good mommy if he locks me out and that is why I took his good-boy beans, because he was not helping me be a good mommy.  Then we sat on the kitchen floor and with tears in his eyes he gave me the biggest hug and told me he loved me and he wanted me to be a good mommy and he wanted to be a good boy.  Then Kristiana sat in my lap too and gave me a hug.  Alex threw his arm around her too and said he loved her too.  Then I asked him to go get his clothing and get dressed so we could go to the store.  He did what I asked.

          At lunch I told my husband about it the whole ordeal.  He was shocked and amazed.  We both had a laugh about it.

(Photo Credits: Anne Black; This is our door and Alex is standing on a stool in this picture.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grateful Rambling From Big Momma


It really lowers one’s self-esteem when the “large” size maternity shirts stop fitting, and the baby has not dropped yet.  (35 weeks self-portrait – I’ve tried to wear the same pants in these pictures to give perspective on the growth)

I am one tired Momma.  35 days until D-day.  I cannot decide if that is an eternity away or any minute.  Most of the time I feel truly great for being this far along in pregnancy.  I am just really tired out by the end of the day.  But, I am trying not to complain about the little burdens of life. 

Coming back to reality from “stay-cation,” in which all of the household duties are upon me, including cooking, cleaning, nesting/organizing, teaching, diapers and more has been very tiresome.  My body really feels it.  I have no problem sleeping through the night these days.  I sleep even through the searing third-trimester hip pain.

I have been trying to be more aware of God’s presence (Ignation Style) and my role in relation to God throughout my day.  I have been trying to not complain about how tired or sore I have felt.  Because honestly, I really adore what I do and am grateful for it all.  I am only having trouble finding time and energy for it all.  Further, complaining does not take away my exhaustion.  Anyhow, I have tried really hard to not appear or act burdened.  However, the minute I am around my husband I unload my burdens upon him even when I have spent the previous twenty minutes counting my blessings and psyching myself to share this with him.  I have done much better with the children though.  I have been trying to not lose my temper and discipline them with gentleness.  Alas, I am flawed.  I can only ask for forgiveness.

The home organization project is slowly coming together little by little.  It still has a ways to go.  It may not all happen before baby Annie arrives.  I hope that it does though.  I would like to have a yard sale before she is born.

100_2725 Home schooling Alex has been good and fun.  We go through the lessons and for the most part he seems to be learning.  A couple of things that concern me.  He is a bit of a perfectionist and if he cannot do it perfectly, then he does not want to perform and he gives me a frown or a few tears and insists that I do it for him.  So I have been working on confidence building exercises.  As in he must try to perform the exercise in order to earn a treat.  He had a meltdown over drawing a face one day, so the next day he had to practice drawing smiley faces on his easel in order to earn his treat.  I held his hand so he could feel what it was like to draw the faces, then he had to do it on his own.  It went okay.  He has a bad habit of saying things are too hard and insisting on his parents do it even when we know he can do it.  The other thing that concerns me is that the curriculum exercises do not demand results.  I once read that preschool is about the process not the results.  However, I see kids going off to kindergarten knowing the alphabet and counting very well, even reading.  Obviously, somewhere along the way results must occur, so where does that leave us?

little kidder Kristiana has been hilarious/annoying lately.  Every time we tell her to stop doing something she says, “Why?”  It is a habit she has picked up from Alex.  We then explain to her why.  At her age, I am not sure she understands what she is saying or our explanations, but she seems to grasp a lot.  Also lately, we will tell her we are going to do something or go somewhere and she will say, “Okay!”  We hear “Why? and “Okay!” all day long around here.  It’s pretty funny, because she has almost comic timing.

I have enjoyed reconnecting with folks here at home.  Tonight began the “Women of Grace” book study with my mom’s group.  I am really excited about it.  I foresee future posts about what I learn.

It’s been an eventful month for us.  We have driven back across the nation with cat and kids.  We have had to buy new tires, a new car battery, a new bed for Kristiana, a new laptop computer for my husband’s job.  These were pretty much sudden expenditures.  We knew they were coming, but not exactly when.  With a little financial planning we have survived these sudden expenditures.  Next up we’re having a baby!  Now we have to start saving to replenish the rainy-day (rainy-month) fund.

And the good news is that my husband’s job is stable for at least another year.  We have won the lottery again and we can breath easy for a little while longer.  I really cannot express both the joy and the tearful thanksgiving in my heart over this.  We have had faith that God will provide, but we did not anticipate the great abundance.  Our anxiety can rest a while.  Thank you for your prayers.  Glory be to God.  We pray that we can serve Him well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The First Day of Preschool at Home

My little student and his books for the day.  He called his books his “learning.”  He was very excited and happy to have Mommy as his teacher.  That’s my lesson plan on the right.

Today’s lessons included “God Loves Me,” and “All About Me.” Making handprints was a part of “All About Me.”  Then we went through the first half of Dr. Seuss “My Book About Me.”  The second half was not pertinent to my preschooler.  Alex and I read the book and Alex described himself as we went through.

In this picture Alex is painting a picture of Alex and God.  I wish I had taken this picture after he painted God.  God was a green, pickle shaped figure.  Then he painted the rest of his family in different colors.  Then he proceeded to paint brown over the entire picture.  I guess he shrouded his meeting with God in a blanket of mystery.


Here is our homeschooling supply cupboard.  Perhaps this does not look like much, but this cupboard was a disaster two days ago.

Alex was such a wonderful little student today.  It was fun for us both.  I did not expect for Alex to be so joyful, compliant and receptive.  We did this while Kristiana took her nap.  It took us a little under two hours to complete everything.  Of course, we put together a floor map of the USA, which was not on the lesson plan.  But it’s “learning” just the same.

We are two weeks behind the program.  I think we will be able to catch up in the next couple of weeks.  I expect we will get behind a couple of weeks when the baby is born.  Anyhow, first day down and so far, so good.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dormition of Blessed Theotokos

100_2707 Here is our Dormition Basket.  It’s a new tradition we are starting this year, along with another—crepes!  Like Easter, I placed the gifts of our feast table in a basket to be blessed after Liturgy today.  It is tradition to bless aromatic herbs, seeds and flowers during this time.  This is symbolic of healings and blessings received due to the Blessed Mother’s intercession.

Since the weather is hot, hot, hot, I put cold ice packs on the bottom and sides of the basket and then put a dish cloth and a blue altar cloth in the basket.  The contents for blessing were basil, cilantro, vine tomatoes, avocado, shallot, goat cheese and roses.

After church we hurried home and made crepes.  We adults enjoyed the contents of the basket stuffed in our crepes.  The kids had a little syrup and whipped cream.  Everyone gave the crepes two thumbs up and thus a Feast of the Dormition of Blessed Theotokos tradition was born.

How does/did your family enjoy this feast?

“O Mother of God, in giving birth you still preserved virginity; and in falling asleep you did not forsake the world. You are the Mother of Life and have been transferred to life, and through your prayers have delivered our souls from death.” Troparion of August 15th

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Think Before You Speak

Perhaps this is not something worth posting about, but I really cannot believe the things people will say to perfect strangers.  Since I am so obviously with child I have been getting questions about my procreations. 

When the children are not with me they ask, “Is this your first?”

“No, our third…”  All three are about two years a part.  No big deal.  Though challenging at times, aside from getting married, having children is the best thing that has happened in our lives.

If the children are with me, people usually call out even in passing, “Oh, well you’re going to have your hands full.”

I just reply, “Yep.” with a slight level of disdain.  Yeah, I do not really need folks to point out my hands are full.  I am quite aware that my hands are full.  My heart is awfully full too.

People also ask if we are done.  To which I reply, “We’ll see.”  I don’t usually take offense to this.  Everyone has their own beliefs on the matter and a natural curiosity.  It’s just natural small talk.  But personally, I really think, “None of your business.”  I mean what we are really talking about is a prudential, personal, perhaps spiritual, decision between a man and woman in the privacy of their bedroom.  Who are you to ask about how many and when?

I guess what really irked me recently was I thought I was in a safe environment in which I would not get these kinds of questions.  A woman asked me if this is my first and I said no that I had a three and a half year old son and a one and half daughter and this is our third child.  To which she replied, “Oh! Are you just getting it all out of the way at once.”  As if my procreating was too frequent and too much for her tastes.  Maybe so, but one shouldn’t assume everyone holds the same views on procreation as you do.  Do you think I walk around asking people what kind of contraceptive they use and then scoff at them when they give their answer?

My initial reaction was to drop my jaw.  Lady, did you just hear yourself?  Am I “getting this pesky thing out of the way?”  Is that what you did?  Do you view your children’s lives as inconvenient and you cannot wait for them to grow up?  Are those questions you want me to ask you?  But my audible response was, “No, kids don’t scare us.  We will see what the future holds.”  She responded by offering me her children.  I accepted her offer.  She was in disbelief that I would want them.

I know I am going to have to start getting used to this kind of behavior from the general public, since we have already achieved more than the average number of children allotted to the average American family.  I stare when I see a large family too.  I marvel at the parents skill in managing their family.  It’s quite a feat.  I will have to come up with some wittier responses to bold inquiries.  However, before you go asking people about what’s going on in their bedroom, think before you speak.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Time Passing Quickly

My pre-baby to do list is long (44 days to go), but we are settling back into being home.


  • Clean bassinette (kitty turned it into his bed for a while)
  • Clean out front entry closet and find yard sale items
  • Clean out master bedroom, hall, guest bedroom and utility closets for yard sale items
  • Clean out kitchen cupboards of unused appliances, etc.
  • Organize DVDs into a binder
  • Paint the kids' table and chairs
  • Massive pile of laundry and still growing


  • Put away a mini-van full of belongings
  • Emptied, vacuum and bisselled the mini-van
  • Massive menu planning and grocery shopping
  • Cleaned out the kids dressers: Alex and Kristiana are now sharing a dresser and moved the second dresser into baby room
  • The put newborn – six month baby clothes in the dresser and stored the rest of the kids clothes.
  • Took the kids out to the museum and the spray park (on the same day)

Just one day after arriving home we decided to buy Krisitiana a full-size bed.  She has been sleeping in a pack-n-play for four months.  I was starting to feel guilty she does not have a legitimate bed.  The first night she slept in it she was immediately scared and was out of it running into the hall three seconds after the lights went out.  We put up the baby gate in front of her door.  I laid down with her and she settled.  But, minutes later Andrew had to go get stern with her so she would quiet down. That night she fell out of her big bed three times.  The next night we put a bed rail on the side.  She was not at all scared and went to sleep without trouble.  At 2:00 a.m. I heard someone crying.  I went to go check and it was Kristiana.  As I slid onto her bed to comfort her and asked her what was wrong, not expecting an answer.  But she sobbed, “I poo-poo.”  In disbelief I went to smell her hiney.  She thought I was trying to lay her down and she said, “No, no, I poo-poo!”  Then I replied,

“Okay, let’s go downstairs and change your diaper.”  Kristiana was in complete compliance and calm.  After her diaper was changed she toddled out of the powder room, looked into the dark abyss and said,

“Turn on light.”

“No Baby, it’s bedtime. We have to go back to bed.”

“No, no, turn on light and play.”

I laid down with her until she settled again and then went back to my bed.  I was just so tickled that I had this full-fledged conversation with my 20 month old in the middle of the night that I had to share.  Further she did not give me a hard time about going back to bed.  Here is to hoping that there will be no more disturbances in the night.

I’m not the kind of mom to obsessively follow the kids around with the camera, so these are the best shots of our spray park visit, I obtained from a far off distance before the batteries died.  It was Kristiana’s first ever visit to the spray park, so I did want to commemorate it.  While I was at the museum today, I saw way too many moms toting around these massive, professional style cameras.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.  I mean it’s nice they want to capture their kids’ lives in a quality fashion.  But, my life is too complicated to have a camera that doesn’t fit inside my purse.  Further, do I miss out on participating in quality moments if I am too busy trying take a quality picture?

Kristiana splash park 100_2701

Word of the day: Massive ;-)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Sun Has Set, But Will Rise Again


Farwell Washington, Farwell Wyoming

I was once told that every good slide show/series of photographs ought to end with a sunset.  I have fondly thought of this as a charming and fitting notion…Our nearly three month summer odyssey has come to an end. 

After our vacation without the children, we visited briefly with our dear old friend Brother Gabriel.  We have not seen him in two years since he entered the Dominican Order.  In some ways, it was like old times—eating hot wings and playing games.  In other ways, we saw the man who we knew well blossom into much more.  It was always there, but had yet to reach full potential.

We attempted to catch up on sleep during our childless trip, however cursed pregnancy hormones and third trimester discomfort kept me from achieving full rest.  On our venture back Wyoming to retrieve our children we blew out a tire.  We ended up stranded in a stinky, sub par, expensively-priced hotel at the edge of the Crow Nation Reservation (What can I say, we’ve been spoiled on nice hotels).  We did not sleep well that night either. 

As we sat beside the road that twilight, feeling a little helpless and stupid, changing the tire—my husband changing the tire, his first time, as I read him the instructions from the owner’s manual (I’m sure it was quite a sight to passersby)—a nice, young, big and strong, Native American boy stopped and offered his services.  We had been fooling with the darn thing for a forty-five minutes and probably would have been there another forty-five.  The young man had the tire changed in less than five minutes.  I guess it doesn’t take a PhD to change a tire, just 220 lbs of young muscle.  It was certainly a God send.  We thanked him and offered him money.  He refused the money, but took the offer of my husband’s remaining 10 cigarettes.

We hobbled ten miles to the next stop, stayed the night and the next morning we drove 50 miles on our spare tire back to Billings, Montana, to have all our tires replaced at Sears.  There had been some discussion the previous morning whether our tires could make it back to Texas or whether we should have them replaced in Wyoming.  I guess the answer was Montana.  We kept a good sense of humor about it that morning.  My parents, who had already had our hyper-active rugrats 10 days, were not amused.

We spent one day in Wyoming gathering our things and tying up odds and ends, then we were back on the road.  We traveled for two days stopping in Salina, Kansas (BTW, Colby, Kansas has the best rest stop ever for kids.  There was a fenced in playground, ice cream, Starbucks, a convenience store full of car toys and more).

On the second day we really pushed it to get back home.  We felt an urgency to make it back at a convenient hour.  The deeper south we drove the more unbearably hot it became.  We began to wonder why we were returning.  We ate smoothies for lunch and big milkshakes for afternoon snack. 

When we finally arrived in Waco the children were overjoyed to see home again.  Alex let out an unexpected cheer when we turned the corner and our home was in sight.  The kids ran upstairs to rediscover their toys.  It was like Christmas.  But the happiest Clayton family member was Samwise the cat who has not stopped purring for days.  I guess he really missed having his own space.

The next morning after we arrived home, we all woke up late—very late for the kids—9:15 a.m.!  We felt achy and had massive headaches.  We took pain relievers and drank lots of water.  It was a bit of a confusing day.  Now we are back to the grind, sort of.  I cleaned out the “Claytana Van” early in the morning to avoid the heat.  It was quite an undertaking.  But, now it doesn’t smell like, well you know…I have begun my nesting.  I must reorder every closet.  Nothing fits in right anymore.  And there is going to be a new person around here soon who will need her own space too.  So on with it.  Perhaps I will post my progress later.  Cheerio for now!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Byzantine Catholic Wedding

1 a crowns

Marriage Crowning



Dance of Isaiah


Marriage Blessing

Blessing of the Icons

14 Icon Blessing

The Couple’s First Furniture

15 Icons


May God grant them many years in peace, health and happiness.

Quiet Respite – A Vacation Sans Children

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie falls

Snoqualmie reflection

 family ties

Don’t take our picture - Snickers 

Don't Take OUr Picture

The view from Icicle Ridge Winery – A wine tasting to remember


An impressively greasy burger and fries and an exceptional cherry pie – Twedes Cafe

Leavenworth, Washington