Thursday, September 29, 2011

7 Claytonopolis Moments

1. Kristiana has nick-named our friends' new baby daughter, Foofa.  As in the character from the popular kid's show "Yo Gabba Gabba."  It was so funny when she first called the baby, Foofa.  She ran up to the baby and said, "It's okay, Foofa, don't cry." Foofa has stuck. Her Daddy now calls her, Foofa.  But really, aren't all kids a little, Foofa? Aren't they all a little Yo Gabba Gabba?

2.  One day I took the kids to the new park in our neighborhood (it's not totally completed--annoying) and Alex climbed to the top of a high structure.  He was looking off into the horizon and he said, "Mom, (pause) look at that booty."  Say what? Oh, he meant beauty. Well that's a profound thought from a four year old.  He was taken, for a moment, by how God's green earth met the blue heavens above. Yeah, I got a little choked up at the thought.  Life is "brutish and short," but also, life is Beautiful.  And that is what we strive for--to see God in everything and turn away that which is not.

3. Alex has been having anxiety and phobias about everything lately.  It drives us up the wall, because it is so frustratingly irrational.  He shuts down and starts crying and clinging and will not do what we ask.  He will not go into rooms by himself or darkened areas.  He had a total meltdown one day this week.  During the event he told me he wanted Daddy to come home, because he did not want to spend the day with me, because I was making it a bad day.  I finally put him in his room and told him he could go cry there until he was ready to get dressed and come have a haircut.  I called my husband and told him I thought we need to talk to a professional about this.  It's getting pretty serious.  Then I went back to Alex's room and he was still crying and talking about needing Daddy.  I told Alex that even if Daddy came home it would not be a good day, because only Alex can choose to have a good day. Daddy can't make you choose to have a good day.  Doing something you don't want to do, like have a haircut, does not make it a bad day.  You just do it and then choose to have a good day from then on.  A look came over his face and he stopped crying, got dressed, had a haircut and had a good day from there on.

Later when my husband came home, he took Alex around the house having him perform acts of bravery, like going into dark rooms by himself.  Alex was fine.  Alex was fine the rest of the day and went to bed well.  I asked my husband what we were going to do about his anxiety and Andrew said, "Nothing, he doesn't need help with it. He acts this way when he doesn't want to do something."  I disagreed. He was crying and shaking.  Andrew said, "He doesn't want to do it that bad."  Then I agreed.  Andrew tends to be right about such things.  So for now, my tactic is, "You choose to have a good day. You choose to not be afraid."  So far, so good.

4.  Why don't my kids sleep well anymore? My kids used to sleep well.  Now, we have the jack-in-the-box boy at bedtime (in, out, in, out); and the midnight screamer (Kristiana).  I'd like to say Annie sleeps well, but she insists on sleeping in my bed and I don't want her there anymore.  Then there is nap time.  No one naps.   Annie usually takes an hour long nap around noon and that is it.  She's too young to sleep so little.  I asked her doctor about it and his answer was, "Sorry, some kids aren't sleepers. She's within normal. She probably doesn't sleep as much because of having older siblings to keep up with."  Boo. I want all my kids to take two hour naps; go to bed at 8:00 p.m. and not wake up until 7:00 a.m. the next morning.  Is that too much to ask for? Yeah, maybe.  Why can't my kids fit MY paradigm? ;-)

5. I vented about the sleep issues on Facebook. I feel a little better--still sleep-deprived but better.  I think I am just going to put the girls in their rooms at nap times and let them scream and go find a quiet place to work with Alex.

6.  I feel so wiped out during the day with pregnancy fatigue.  But, then after the kids go to bed and I relax for a while I feel a lot better.  I don't feel near as tired and woozy.   I wonder to myself, is it the stress of chasing three small children?  I might need to work on this.  Perhaps, I need to get a little more organized to feel less stressed. Perhaps, I need Alex to stop jumping all over the furniture and antagonizing his middle sister…I'm a fixer. If something is not just right, if I am not 100%, I must figure out how to fix it, or make it even just a little better.  I could not possibly accept that I am just not going to feel 100% in the first trimester of pregnancy or any trimester.  ;-) Oh what will the Good Lord do with me.  Grant me patience and peace, Lord.

7.  Good news. Our new baby has a strong heart beat, looks healthy and the due date is May 11, which is my brother's birthday.  What a good day to be born.

How cute is this ultrasound? The midwife and I thought the baby looks like a gummy bear.

Baby 4



Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Year of Annie

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

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


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Inquisitive, imaginative and intelligent; walking and jabbering; has six teeth, four of which came in this week; she adores her brother and runs from her sister.  She has a sense of humor.  Most of all she loves to play with baby dolls.  She is a good eater and loves to play outside.  She's our girl and we love her.

Icon Writing with Kids - The Conception of John the Forerunner and Baptist

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari'ah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. AndZechari'ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechari'ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

And Zechari'ah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." And the people were waiting for Zechari'ah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."

(Luke 1:5-25)


Everything about John's life was remarkable. What a wonder to mankind.  John's job was not easy, but so blessed.

I asked Alex if he knew what was happening in this icon. He said, "I think they are making a baby."

"That is correct, Alex. High five!" I guess he is beginning to learn the language of icons.  "And this man on the right is the baby boy they made, except that he is all grown up in this picture."  Then I received a crooked look from my little student.  Then I explained the whole story of how John the Forerunner came to be.

Conception of John  RC

Conception of John  Alex

Conception of John  Kristiana

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Blessed Growing Family

While I was still a working woman and I discovered that we were expecting a child (and then another child and another), I felt a sinking feeling, a feeling of shock, a feeling that things were out of my control.  I felt this way because I was working and I knew I would not be caring for my children myself and my already minuscule salary needed to stretch even farther with another mouth to feed and a husband in graduate school.  I knew that somehow we would make it work, but it did not stop me from feeling remorseful and tightly wound.  I always hated not being able to give 100% to my employer as well, because I needed to be with my infants.

With the news that we were expecting a third child, we discussed and determined I would turn in my resignation.  By this time my husband had secured full-time employment with benefits.  My shock of pregnancy turned to pure joy and awe.  Finally, I could look forward to spending endless days enjoying my children and raising them in the way of the Lord.

Now we are expecting our fourth child. This announcement is perhaps a little premature as most wait until the second trimester to announce.  However, that has never been our mode of operation.  We are ecstatic.  We cannot contain how we feel.  We also seek the support of our friends and family as they join us in prayer and hope along with us.  We are also proud to now be considered a large family--our legacy grows.  Yet, we do feel a sense that we need to tighten our belts.

I was grocery shopping and having a small amount of difficulty with my three little ones who are all under the age of five.  It is somewhat difficult shopping with three kids, but I feel most of the time I have it under control. I was thinking at the time that there was no way I was going to be able to shop with all my kids like this once there are four.  How would I keep them all contained and peaceful?  I will have to leave them home on a day my husband does not work, or go late after they have gone to bed.  This simply will not work.  Then a woman rounded the corner with five little ones in perfect order (I thought. I am sure she felt differently). Wow, thanks for putting me in my place, Lady.  I almost chased her down and thanked her for showing me how it's done and ask her about all the coupons clutched in her hand.  Sometimes the Lord shows you what you need to see.

I am sure I will have more updates as this pregnancy progresses.  So far so good.  I am battling first trimester fatigue like a warrior.  I am usually a big complainer in the last trimester.  But perhaps this time around I will finally learn the virtues of the Holy Mother, learn to dumb my gripes and have peace and patience.  Is it not amazing that our labors and suffering is what makes us grow, shine and blossom and finally, finally reach our full potential? Oh how blessed we are and what a journey we are on.

It feels good to have that off my chest.  Now, I can spill all the thoughts that are overflowing in my head. ;-)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Pooh Ponder

Poohs grand adventure the search for christopher robin special edition 20060428051327470 000

As I was reading the kids a bedtime story tonight, there was a little nugget of wisdom for Christopher Robin that left me pondering:

"'Pooh Bear,' he said, 'If there's ever a tomorrow when we're not together, there's something you must remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.'"

What wonderful advice for children and grownups alike.  When I think about all the things we fear and how debilitating those fears are, I think the great triumph of humanity is not that we walk upright--it is that we adapt so incredibly well.  We are so very good at adapting to our given situation.  When pushed by happenstance we are so good at finding our potential within.  If you read about past wars, you hear stories of human triumph.  Prisoners of war suffer torture and starvation and yet live to tell about it.  They live to experience the good once more.  Sometimes I think about what I would do if I ever lost my dear husband, God forbid, and as I ponder I remind myself that I would persevere.  And that is the point Christopher Robin is making.  If at first you think you cannot possibly survive, you cannot possibly go on, remember Christopher Robin's words, "You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."  This will carry you through.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Tell me you can look at this face and not smile.  I left the room for a moment and when I returned somehow Annie had gotten a hold of one of the other children's yogurt cup.  She was covered in yogurt, she was toddling around the living room with a trail of yogurt behind her.  She was just giggling and gaily scooping handfuls of yogurt into her mouth.  I had to laugh.  I scooped her up and put her in her high chair so that she could finish the yogurt.  It was quite a mess to clean up, but she was so sweet and enthusiastic about her treat.  The day just went down hill from there.

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Laud the Mom, Chesterton

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.  How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone?  No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute."

--G.K. Chesterton

Wow, if I ever forgot how important what I do is, this quote certainly brings me back to my senses. In fact, it inspires to be more than what I am.  Although, I think he forgot the bit about being head chef, accountant and bank manager and human incubator! But still, I think I have found a quote I can live by, at least for this time in my life.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Best Wishes Blessed Theotokos

Best wishes is a common salutation to a person on his or her birthday.  What does best wishes connote?  It conveys that one hopes the best for the birthday celebrant.  And what is the birth of Mary, but the greatest hope of the world.  So let us wish Blessed Theotokos the best and hope with her every day of our lives.

"What she is, wonderful as that is, will be made more wonderful by her stainless and all-pure life; her generous 'yes' to God's will; her divine maternity; her own passion and glorification." (

Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to the universe;
for from you rose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God.
He took away the curse. 
He gave the blessing. 
By trampling Death He gave us everlasting life


As of late, I have been under the weather.  However, I have been impressed that despite I have managed to keep the household running.  Although, Mommy is not feeling as patient these days.  I need to pray about that one and I know just who I am going to pray to asking for intercession.

Today, I read the children the story of Mary's birth.  They did not listen very well. I felt deflated.  Then they attempted to color an icon of the Nativity of Blessed Theotokos.  No, I was not up to writing a large, elaborate icon with them.  They only colored half of it.  It's just not as fun without paint.

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Totally fed up with the children, I wandered to the pantry and pulled out a cook book.  Turned on my heel and blurted to the kids, "Let's make a birthday cake for Blessed Theotokos."  They immediately cheered.  It was fun.

After looking at some recipes and sizing up the ingredients we had on hand, I made the cake and frosting from scratch. This is my first from scratch baking success ever.  This is my first non-box cake ever. I guess Blessed Theotokos had pity on me.

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It was not a good day.  No one showed their finest behavior.  But, the birthday cake made the day end better.   Blessed Theotokos, we magnify you.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Daddy

I kept sweetly suggesting to my husband that we ought to get a climbing gym for the back yard so that our son would stop using our furniture to practice his gymnastics.  He has also been a climber.  He scaled the sofa at eight months old.  On Wednesday night, we all headed out to Home Depot to see what they had in the way of play sets.  I also wanted a swing set, because Kristiana could swing all day long.  On Saturday, I casually mentioned (nagged) to my husband that he should go get our neighbor and see if he would go help bring home the play set we picked out.  Then the guys spent the rest of the weekend putting it together.  Later, my husband posted as his Facebook status, "So much for a three day weekend."  So much for having Labor day as a day of rest.  But, what fun fruits of his labor.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Overpriced, Healthy Mac and Cheese

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I bought a copy of Cooking Light magazine last week at the grocery store.  On the front cover it had a Mac and Cheese Makeover.  Well I had to see this, because my kids love mac and cheese.  I love to find recipes that hide vegetables and make kid food healthy.  I did not know that mac and cheese had so much calories.  On purpose, I never look at the nutrition guide for such things that I know I am going to eat anyway.  Just so I do not have to eat it in guilt.  Sometimes, I think that just makes me eat more, because I am trying to restrict my portion.  The magazine said that the average bowl of mac and cheese has 900 calories. Yikes!  Whereas their portion has 390 calories.  So, I decided to make this mac and cheese.

The ingredients set me back a pretty penny.  However, I should be able to use some of them again.  I estimate the whole dish cost about $9.00 when a box of the store brand mac and cheese of similar portion is $2.50.

The recipe called for butternut squash.  That set me back $8.00, but I can use the other half of it for another batch (only $4.00 of squash went into the batch).  The moment I started to peel the squash I began to curse this recipe.  I detest peeling with a passion.  I do not even like to peel apples for a delicious apple pie or potatoes to mash them.  Butternut squash is a much more difficult subject.  However, I had a little kitchen helper who made light of the peeling and chopping of the squash.

The rest of the ingredients assembled quickly and I put it in the oven to bake.  The result was a phenomenally tasty "mac and cheese."  I am not sure that I did not eat a 900 calorie portion because it was so incredibly tasty.  I could not stop eating it.  The kids ate it up and asked for second helpings.  They never ask for seconds.  Alex woke up the next morning and asked to eat it for breakfast.  I will make it again even though it was pricey and more difficult than boxed mac and cheese.

With out further adieu, the recipe:

3 cups of cubed, peeled, butternut squash
1 1/4 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (yeah, I used whole. I don't believe in fat-free milk)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 T fat free greek yogurt (didn't use fat-free here either. I hate fat fillers)
1 1/4 cups shredded gruyere
1 cup grated pecorino
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
(I subbed in 1 1/4 cup ramano and 1 cup cheddar. Some of those cheeses are hard to find.) 
1 lb. uncooked cavatappi

1. Preheat oven to 375 F

2. Combine squash, broth, milk and garlic in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.

3. Begin to cook pasta.

4. Place hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper and greek yogurt.  Blend and let steam out.

5. In a bowl add cheese to hot mixture. Stir until completely combined.

6. Add cooked pasta to squash mixture and fold until the pasta is coated.

7. Spread mixture in a 13X9" baking dish.

8. Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes.

Bon app├ętit!