Monday, April 23, 2012

The Busy, Mischievous World Of A Toddler


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"What you don't want me to climb up on the patio table and knock your plants over?"

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"Get dressed? Catch me if you can!"

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"Wait Mom, I must try on every shoe in the house first."


"I just dragged this little table over to the counter so I could wash my dinosaur with this neat sponge. ROAR!"


"Must climb inside all things!"


Friday, April 20, 2012

Human Frailty

There are lots of characteristics that set humans a part from other life: our ability to love for love's sake; our ability to choose actions against our own nature; and how we live out our frailty.  This post is about frailties in my life right now.

I have said many a times that I do not suffer as many symptoms of pregnancy as other women do.  Now, I find myself stopped dead in my tracks.  It's not life threatening, at least not yet.  But it is excruciating.  The varicose veins in my legs have become unbearably painful in the past couple months.  I have not been able to fully comprehend the pain or how to deal with it until recently.

I have been such a healthy person my whole life, I kept trying to talk myself into not being a wuss about--I have tried to find ways to endure it all without making a big deal of it.  A lot of days, I really do not have a choice.  Our family need me to care for them.  Further, it is my opinion that one should not turn one's own suffering into suffering for others as well.  I know that I have not always succeeded at being that stoic who quietly suffers.  But, I guess sometimes you need to be a little vocal about things in order to honor the gift of your physical temple.

In retrospect, I have suffered from this problem in each pregnancy, but I did not know what it was until now when it became so visible from the outside.  I just dealt with it in the past as though it were just part and parcel of being pregnant.  But, it's not.  It's worse than that now.  Had I known that this was the problem I would have been wearing support hose through all my pregnancies.  Now it looks as though a vein stripping is going to be the path for me--at least that is what has been recommended.

Future pregnancies are not out of the question, but it is not advisable as this problem will reoccur and it will get worse.  I just have bad, weak veins in my legs.  I feel very emotional about this.  Even the thought of all this is a little unbearable as well, which is why I write about it.  I am not looking for sympathy.  I am just hashing through these very stirring thoughts that have haunted me this week.

I was prescribed support hose a month ago and I could not believe the difference.  It was a little hard for me to accept this at first, but since they really helped me get through the day without pain I got over it.  Monday this week, my hose ripped unexpectedly.  I thought I would survive without them since I only have three weeks left in the pregnancy.  But within a couple of days things were unbearably bad again.

I have noticed that the days I do not wear them I cannot get through the day without crying.  I was beside myself with worry and pain.  The hose cost $100 each.  I did not feel we could afford that.  I could not justify the expense in my head for a couple more weeks.  I knew it would take time for them to arrive.  My midwife said I should take them back to the medical store, because they should not have done that.  I did not think so either.

I took them back and they said that the product has a 100% satisfaction guarantee and they would replace them. Wow--great product.  Since, I will likely need these in the future I am definitely a happy customer and will be a repeat customer.  Initially they told me that it would take three weeks to get them because they had to complete their own inventory before they were allowed to order again.  I burst into tears there in the store and asked if there was something more they could do, because the pain was too much.  They said they would look again.  They found one pair of black maternity hose in a higher compression.  And relief was granted again.  What  huge answer to my prayers this was.  I was up early in the morning worrying and offering up emergency prayers for an answer to this problem.  I am always so humbled to receive such signs that Heaven really is hearing and answering my prayers.

So even though humanity is frail in a multitude of ways, we are loved by a merciful Creator.  He blesses us in many ways daily.

(On a side note, the men in my life have been so supportive lately.  I have to be very thankful for this.  Andrew has been helping out in every way he can and given me lots of time to do what I need/want to do.  It's hard to balance a full-time job and a nine months pregnant wife.  Alex has offered to help me with chores this week.  This is a big move for him.  I did not ask him to help at all.  A couple of times he has offered to help me so that I can have time to play with him.  Which I would much rather play with him, because it is fun and relaxing and usually means sitting on the floor, off my feet, and playing legos, or some other relaxing activity, or cuddling.  Tonight, he offered to help clean up the kitchen after dinner so that I could "do nothing" after he went to bed.  So sweet.  These are the moments in motherhood that make a momma proud.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Great Inventions of the 20th Century

It was an agonizing five year wait, but we finally decided it was time to bestow on our son original sized legos. This is one of the greatest toy inventions in history.  They are so creative and so well made and perfect for every kid.  We had to wait until we felt he was responsible enough to take care of a full set.  He has had a couple little sets, but this is his first big set.  I decided he needed something other than computer games to keep him occupied during the seemingly endless days.

I gave him his own corner in the playroom to keep out younger, irresponsible siblings.  He's been building since they arrived in the mail yesterday.

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In turn, we had to give the girls a very girly private space to play.  Not sure this is an entirely good plan as it does not promote sharing.  But, the younger kids are too young for this toy.

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Silly Girl - Yeah, she crosses her eyes and makes them go every which way to be silly.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Theotokos Garden - The Well-Spring of Life

"You make the grass grow for the cattle and plants for people’s work to bring forth food from the earth, wine to gladden their hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread to sustain the human heart." (Psalm 104).

Every spring I have the urge to plant.  This spring is no different.  I have begun this garden for Blessed Theotokos.  We are selling Marian Garden seed-packets for a fundraiser for my Mom's group.  So I wanted to plant these seed packets.  But, first I had to dig up sod in my back yard and prepare the soil.  I dug up this 4x9 bed by myself and tilled it.

It took weeks because I have been waiting for my husband to bring me soil and a tiller to complete it.  Finally, I dragged the rambunctious kiddie crew to the garden store by myself and picked up the supplies.  I was very frustrated and annoyed herding the chicks, running everywhere, and so were other garden shoppers.  But, the people who worked there professed having three and four kids themselves and they knew what it was like.  They could laugh with me.

Now the planting has begun.  I planted three banana pepper plants and two tomato plants, because I always think that good soil ought render food.  I am also planting flowers from my Marian seed packets: marigolds, blue forget-me-nots, and white shasta daisies.

I have asked my husband to build me a shrine box for the icon below as a Mother's Day gift.  I don't think it will happen.  We don't have wood-working tools.  But, I will find someway to put the icon in my garden. ;-) I'll post pictures as my garden grows.


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I had Alex take a picture of me working on my bed.

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For some reason Alex took a couple pictures of my belly.  Yeah, flattering--not, and I post it on the internet. It's a baby-belly update--36 weeks. Not much longer now.

I should mention that stranger's comments have changed from shock that I have so much time left to "You look awesome for 36 weeks."  
I do not know what the difference is in their heads, but I will take it.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pascha 2012

Whew. I look at how busy life has been in recent times and look ahead at how busy life is going to be with no slowing in sight.  I am wondering what if anything needs to be trimmed from my life.  I can see that perhaps, I need to be even more disciplined and have even greater fortitude.  This all stems from my inability to find a balance for all I wish to accomplish, including a simple Easter blog.  Yet perhaps, I need to remember how life pauses a bit for the preparation, birth and rearing of a new child.  It takes nearly two years, from conception to a year old, to come to a place where life is flowing again; and for us we have then begun the cycle again as soon as we are comfortable again.  I feel like we never reached a comfortable rhythm in life after Annie was born, but maybe after Lucy.

Here are our Easter memories from this year.  I did not take many pictures this year.  I have just been trying not to meltdown lately.  But, I feel like we were able to keep the spirit of the feast.

Baking Pascha Bread

Kitchen Helpers
Right from the start I regretted deciding to make the Pascha bread this year.  I had told myself that it would be all right if I skipped it this year.  I hate the mess and I knew I would be on my feet far longer than my body would agree with.  I also found that I did not have the patience for my little helpers.

"Alex, please stop putting your fingers in the flour and licking them!"

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Annie Throwing a Fit on the Floor

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Kids Everywhere

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Andrew was not around to help with the children.   He was working on our yard most of the day. (I really wish we lived close to family.)  Finally, Annie tossed the last egg I had on the floor.  I needed it for glazing the bread.  I threw all the toys out of the kitchen, begged them to stay out and borrowed an egg from the neighbor.  They tip-toed back into the kitchen giggling minutes later.  Ack, how can they be so adorable and aggravating at the same time!

Success, Despite Aggravation

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What's Pascha Bread Without Lamb Shaped Butter?

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Easter Egg Dyeing

I did not take any pictures of the kids dyeing their multi-colored eggs.  I was just trying to run interference.  Plus, once you have seen one kid drop an egg into a dye cup…Anyhow, after we were mostly done dyeing I asked the kids to come see, Mommy's red eggs.  Alex was fascinated.  He asked me why my eggs were red.  I explained it and then he proceeded to ask what each color of the eggs he had dyed meant.  So I told him what I thought they meant based on icon colors.  Then he said that we need a black egg.  So we spent over an hour dipping one egg into various colors.  That egg, we decided, represented Christ's three days in Hell.  Yeah, Alex is a pretty cool kid.

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Alex's Black Egg

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A Series of Baby Easter Basket Cuteness -
She ate everything in her basket instantly. She didn't have much, but it was still a lot in a short amount of time.

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The Claytons on Easter 2012 - We Made It and It Is Good


Friday, April 6, 2012

Journey to Pascha 2012

Palm Sunday

(By the hand of Kristiana)

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, 
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God. 
Like the children with the palms of victory, 
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of death, 
Hosanna in the highest! 
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.

Last supper  Kris

(by the hand of Kristiana)

Troparion, tone 8:
When Thy glorious Disciples were enlightened at the supper by the feet washing,
then the impious Judas was darkened with the disease of avarice,
and he delivered Thee, the Just Judge, to the lawless judges.
See, O lover of money, this man through money came to hang himself.
Flee the insatiable desire which dared to do such things to the Master.
O Lord, Who art good towards all, glory to Thee.

Konlakion, tone 2:
Having taken bread in his hand, the traitor secretly stretches it out,
and takes a price for Him Who with His own hands made man.
And Judas remained an incorrigible slave and liar.

The Crucifixion  Alex

(By the hand of Alexander)

Troparion, tone 4:
Thou hast redeemed us from the curse of the Law by Thy precious Blood.
By being nailed to the Cross and pierced with the Spear,
Thou hast poured immortality on mankind.
O our Saviour, glory to Thee.

Kontakion, tone 8:
Come, let us all praise Him Who was crucified for us.
For Him it was Whom Mary beheld on the Tree, and said:
Even though Thou endurest the cross, Thou art my Son and my God.

Today: I will make our Pascha bread and butter shaped like lambs; meditate and light incense. Tomorrow we will dye Easter eggs.

A little story: I brought the incense out on Holy Monday morning and set it on the counter.  It is a little glass mason jelly jar, filled with little white resin pebbles of incense.  In the past, I have done bean jars with Alex for Lent.  Whenever a child does something good you put a black bean in his jar.  On Good Friday you fill the jar with white beans.  Then tell the child that the white beans represent how Christ's sacrifice and death makes up for all the good that he did not do in his life.  All the sins he ever committed, Christ's death and resurrection overtakes them. Christ fills the rest of his life with good where he could not.  

So when Alex saw my jar filled with white incense pebbles he said, "Mommy, are those your sins or mine."

I replied, "Those are not either.  Those are prayers that we are going to send up to Heaven."  Then I lit some incense to show him how the prayers go up to Heaven.  We will light incense again today on Good Friday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Icon of Death and Life

Here are the three Icon crosses that worked on during Lent for our God-children.  They are based upon the San Domiano Crucifix. I wanted to do this crucifix because it is my intention that our God-children have a set of religious items by adulthood that will aid them in their faith once they are grown.  I want them to have icons of Christ, Blessed Theotokos, guardian angel and a crucifix, a Bible and a catechism.

I am not a wood-worker.  I have no tools, so I could not create the shape of the San Domiano cross.  I also did not feel I have time to do the whole SDC image.  But, I do like this image of the crucifixion.  I like this image because Christ is both crucified and also appears alive--Resurrected.  We are the Church of the Risen Christ.  This is important.

I plan to write three more of this Crucifix for others.  It was surprisingly more difficult than I had hoped.  I thought I might be able to do these more quickly, but the process and dedication to an icon is always daunting.

Here is the visual journey of this Icon: