Friday, December 10, 2010

Schrodinger's Coffee

I keep chuckling over this, so go read it yourself.

I'm really going to do it!

Since Mat. Anna keeps making it look so darn easy, I went here and ordered a bunch of supplies.  I will start felt ornaments for my Jesse Tree!

I have felt, embroidery floss, needles, assorted ribbons and buttons in the mail and it was only around $60 for the whole shebang.  While I have sewing-machine phobia, I've always sort of enjoyed mending seams and sewing on buttons by hand.  I'd love to have a hand project going here and there.  Maybe by next year we'll have some real ornaments for our Jesse/Advent/Whatchamacallit Tree.

So excited!

Sink Wall Love

Like Mother Like Daughter is having a linky party today.  We are beautifying the wall or windowsill or whatever it is that you have behind your kitchen sink.  I love it!

Mine used to look like this:

Boring, right?  I've wanted something up there for a while now—a specific something.  But I put it off because notice I use that space for drying large flat things like cutting boards and cookie sheets.  That pretty much covers up that little wall.

I haven't been using a dish drainer lately because I find that I empty it and put away the stuff even less frequently than I get rid of this pile.  At least when I get rid of this pile, I have the option of an extra square foot of counter space, which adds up in a Chicago apartment kitchen!

Notice the towel my stuff is drying on?  Go to this post on Kitchen Flow and scroll down a ways.  Leila does the same thing!   (I'm so validated!)

Mercifully, my iPhone camera is not high-enough quality to show how dirty the wall back there actually is.  And I'm not showing you the rest of the kitchen either.  I took some photos of it though... maybe I will show them to you when I have something clean to put with them!  Let's just say that since we added child three and homeschooling a kindergartener to the mix, I've been a little out of sync with my kitchen cleanliness.

I didn't have a chance to examine the "flow" in my kitchen.  It's a little odd since our dishes are stored in the dining room in the china cabinet to leave space in the kitchen cabinets for food since our pantry is our utility laundry closet.  (Whew!  That was a long sentence.)  And there's only one way the dishes can be stacked and flow which is not very efficient because of the placement of the stove and dishwasher.  But it's fine.  This is the most counter space I've ever had!  (Not showing you the rest of it, though, remember?)

I didn't even have a chance to clean the wall.  Shame on me, I suppose.

Instead, I made one change.  Just one!

OK.  Maybe that counts as two.  Although, I'm not sure that anyone else will put my cutting boards up there.  In fact, I think my husband actually moved one down from up there thinking it was probably an accident that someone balanced it up there and that it would fall if not moved.

The important change is that little framed Bible verse.  For a long time now, I've wanted to have various verses posted around my home that apply to the task at hand.  It's similar to what I've seen when our Orthodox priests vest.  For each piece they put on, a Bible verse (usually a Psalm verse) is prayed.  Naturally, the psalm that comes to mind when I am at the sink is this:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
~KJV, Psalm 51/50

I spent a little time reformatting a file I'd already made for another framed verse on the opposite wall.  I think I posted it here somewhere, but I can't find it, so I can't link to it (I think it's still in draft).

This is what I came up with:

(To save, click on the image to enlarge it, then either click and drag it into a document and print, or right-click and save the image and then insert into a document.)

I printed it, trimmed it, and framed it with an inexpensive black IKEA frame.  If you like it, feel free to follow the instructions above and use it!  I'd like to come up with a few more of these for other places in the house.  It's one way I can remind myself to pray throughout the day, especially during the less-than-exciting household tasks.

Thanks to Leila for the nudge to get this up there!  Go visit her post and see some more Sink Wall Love or join in yourself!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Intercede for us, Holy Nicholas!

A friend of ours has recently found out that their unborn baby has passed away at just over 12 weeks gestation.  His wife will have surgery today.  If you are inclined to pray for them, the baby's name is Nicholas.  Pray for him and for his Mommy and Daddy.

Our Baby Constantine's grave, St. Tikhon's cemetery

I know I am incredibly blessed to have (now) three healthy children here with me.  When we miscarried a couple of years ago, I was comforted by the thought that if I only ever had my two baby girls, that I would still be blessed and happy with our little family.  And as any regular readers know, God continued to bless us with another baby this summer.

But my heart goes out to those families who have to endure the miscarriage or death of their first baby.  To have your innocence shattered by the loss of your first child would be one of the most difficult things I think a parent could go through.  And the questions!  Why didn't my baby live?  Did I do something wrong during my pregnancy?  Will I ever be able to carry a baby to term?  Why wasn't I allowed to meet my little one?  Why me?

Any time I hear of the passing of an unborn baby, I am reminded of what my sweet doctor told me after my own miscarriage.  He mentioned that some women, for every baby they are able to meet in this world, they have several babies praying for them in heaven. How comforting!

It is entirely possible that I, too, have several unborn children in heaven keeping Constantine company.  I have no way of knowing whether we've had just the one miscarriage or if I've had a few very early ones too.  It is possible that I may have more in coming years.

What a heart-swelling thought: All the unborn children I have had or may have in the future are a great cloud of children praying for me, my own personal army of tiny saints, perfected and taken before the temptations of this world.  How we ache to meet them, but how they rejoice with our Lord!

Icon of the children being brought to Christ, located in a rock outcropping at St. Tikhon's Monastery

I thought it especially joyful and appropriate that these parents chose the name Nicholas for their baby.  Of course, the timing is right, being that St. Nicholas's feast day was on Monday.  But don't some of the hymns and prayers to St. Nicholas refer to him as a special friend of children?  Imagine him surrounded by our lost little ones, their heavenly surrogate grandfather praising God with them and leading them in interceding for us.

Holy Saint Nicholas, special friend of children, pray to God for us!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

I have the troparion to St. Nicholas running through my head.  But not the one you might think.

It starts out all right.  And it's in the fourth tone.
O Holy Bishop Nicholas
You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith
But then it gets a little odd.
You give us lots of presents.
Hmm... I guess the final line, though unorthodox (pun intended?), may at least be factually correct:
You are the most famous Nicholas in the whole world.

As you might have guessed, we caught one of the kids (Maggie) singing this version (chanting it in the third tone would be more precise) a while back.  We died laughing.  I think we'll work on what he's really famous for when the girls wake up.

See the feast day boxes from Orthodox Christian Craft Supply nestled behind their shoes?  Those will help.  Oh, and don't worry: Mommy and Daddy will help John with the contents of his shoes.

In case you were wondering, the correct lines to our translation of the troparion are as follows:

O Holy Bishop Nicholas,
You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith.
An image of humility
And a teacher of abstinence.
Because of your lowliness, heaven was opened to you,
Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.
Pray to Christ our God to save our souls.

Friday, December 3, 2010


On the way home from my parents' house on Wednesday morning, I actually drove almost the entire two-hours-plus trip home with no radio playing.  It was nearly silence.  My five-year-old was talking to herself in the backseat, my three-year-old had conked out early, and my nearly six-month-old gave the occasional coo or fuss—at which point, his awake sister would ever-so-helpfully start singing rather loudly and crazily, to his big-grinned enjoyment.  Total silence, it wasn't

I noticed that I hadn't turned on the radio about an hour into the trip.  A reflex twitched inside of me.  Reach for the knob?

It dawned on me that I was perfectly content with the lack of auditory entertainment at that moment.  Why not enjoy it while it lasted?  I continued on in that relative silence of my minivan, sailing along the highway, trees and farms whizzing by, thin eddies of dry snow swirling on the road in front of me, then breaking up as we flew through them.  Did they reform behind me?  I tried to glance in the mirror, but I couldn't tell.  My mind moved to other things now forgotten.  But the hushed momentum of the moment sustains me.

Molly has a great post up about silence.  During this busy, loud season, she's been reflecting on Fr. Hopko's list of 55 Maxims for Christian Living.  Her hushed words posted on her refreshingly simple online oasis sustain me too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kursk Root Icon in Chicago

I was first made dimly aware of this icon by Mat. Anna's recent post in honor of its feast day on November 27.

I say dimly, because I didn't think about it much until a few connections were made in my brain through various people and I realized that this icon is in Chicago.

My husband was planning to attend a Synergy meeting tonight, which happened to be at the ROCOR Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plains, which also happens to be the current stop for the Kursk Root icon.

The Synergy group was blessed to be able to view and venerate this holy icon.

Dn. Andrew and two priests spent some time trying to discern the names of the prophets depicted around the Theotokos.   King David and King Solomon are the top left and top right, respectively.  Isaiah, Moses, Habakkuk, Elias, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Gideon are the rest of them, but we don't remember who is who.

Can you believe that this icon is over 800 years old?  And yet this icon is not buried in a museum but is allowed to travel and the faithful are able to venerate it.  What a blessing!

(Thanks to Michele for the last two pictures!)

Sit! Stay!

They look so sweet.  Or are they planning something?

I've always envied those Moms who have managed to teach their kids to say, "May I be excused?" before wandering away from a meal.  Heck, I envy Moms who have gotten their kids to stay seated while chewing.  "Sit like you're going to stay there" is something that I say to my five-year-old at least twice a meal (both legs on the chair is a good start).  My three-year-old simply refuses to say anything on command.  And since we've tried on occasion to insist she say "May I be excused?" she now refuses to say any phrase that includes the word excuse.  Bye-bye spoken manners for a few more months. 

My imp

I see the Family Meal as a special time.  It is a bastion of culture in our easy-going society.  There are generally expected rules of decorum, which, even if you violate them from time to time, you probably wouldn't if "company" were there, or at least if you were having a "special meal" of some kind.  At the very least, you probably have a vague idea of what I write.

Sorry this is so blurry—hand-me-down iPhone and all.  It's the outdoor chapel area at my in-laws' church in Ohio.

It is also one area of life that I feel like I have mastered.  I can cook.  I can set a table properly. (And I usually make an effort to—more often than I think sometimes, because my three-year-old surprised me this morning by getting her own silverware and putting them in the proper places!  Score one for Mom.)  And honestly, I don't have to think about it the way I do cleaning up the kitchen or doing the laundry.  My Mom is a great cook and always puts dinner on the table, and I can't imagine life any other way.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Just what is so funny to this child?  She usually has this expression on her face.

Don't misunderstand: (1) I do put a lot of thought into it and (2) I am certainly not perfect, nor do we have six-course meals every night (some days, more than one dish at the meal is just too much).  But I plan menus, pour over cookbooks, and have many opinions on the Weekly Menu idea.  I also, start cooking too late, neglect my crying baby who wants to nurse now in order to finish cooking a dish (he can eat when the rest of us do, right?  Well, sometimes....), etc.  I don't have some streamlined, very clean, elegantly running kitchen.  But dinner always manages to happen.  (Can't say the same for cleaning up the kitchen or laundry, although, now that I think about it, those things happen often enough that I need to stop beating myself up over it.)

Don't blink. Don't even blink.

Back to my kids sitting at the table.  Up until the very recent past, it was enough effort for me to get them to try something on their plates that I wasn't about to worry too much about how long they sat at the table.  They are five, three, and six months, after all.  However, if I want to get them to sit there sometime in the future, it follows that I do have to start sometime in the present.

My husband had a thought (he's clever about things like this).  What if we had them stay until most of us are done eating (let's be honest here: I'm the one who takes the longest—and of course we're not going to expect them to stay as long as us boring adults keep talking) and then we sing a hymn or prayer and let them go?  Andrew had gotten in the habit of doing this in the St. Tikhon's Seminary dining hall.  Once most people are finished, they stand and sing a hymn of thanksgiving.  We could do the same thing, and we had just the hymn to use.

Sometime back, Andrew's father composed a table grace to use at family meals.  Our brother-in-law set it to a familiar western hymn and typed it up.  Conveniently, we have a framed copy hanging in our dining room.  Once in a great while, it has gotten used as our family's prayer before the meal. 

We prepared the kids during some meal (might have been something as boring as a weekday lunch), telling them we wanted to sing a song when we were finished, so they needed to stay at the table until then.  There was very little resistance.  They like to sing, so they were intrigued.  Once the meal was finished, we stood, faced the framed sheet music, and sang.  We repeated the performance at dinner.

The simply worded hymn was a hit!  The kids even began singing it to themselves during the day.  For some reason, they think they need to stand on their chairs to sing it. (It is probably because Maggie wants to see the music, but Susannah just does it—and it makes me giggle to think of some stranger looking in at our post-dinner ritual of standing on our chairs and singing.  Maybe I'm imagining the adults doing it too.)  Now they have even started reminding us that we need to sing!

We don't always remember to do it, but any time the kids are wandering off well before the rest of us are finished eating, we casually remind them that they need to stay until we sing, and they come right back.  There might have been the occasional "I-don't-wanna" but it has been minimal and relatively subdued.  And they are getting the idea that we stay at the table together for a meal.  We don't stuff our faces and run off with a mouthful of food.  (Although, at one time, I considered sitting at the table just long enough to stuff their faces an accomplishment.  Progress, not perfection.)

I'm finding with this and some other behavioral things, that it's easier to wait a little longer than I'd like for my eldest to get these concepts.  If I wait just long enough for her little sister to catch up, I'm not singling out Maggie.  Instead, I am just showing the kids what their responsibility is.  Of course their standards won't be adult standards; they will be tailored to fit children.  But they will be on the spectrum of forming them into adults.  And it won't be a huge surprise later.

Kishler Family Table Prayer
(to the tune of Immortal, Invisible)
We thank thee, Dear Father, from heaven above
For Thy goodness, Thy mercy, Thy kindness, and love.
We thank Thee for family and friends so dear,
And all of the blessings that we enjoy here.
© Robert Kishler, 2000

The Author, Grandpa Kishler, with the latest grandkids (not both mine—could you imagine??)

Please see Leila's post The Reasonably Clean Kitchen starts with rules for the kids for more great ideas on this general theme!
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