Sunday, August 12, 2012

Growing Pains

It's easy to say one should begin in medias res, but when one is actually in the middle of things, it's hard to know where to start.

In the past couple of months, we have experienced quite a few changes and are expecting more.  My husband's father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and in his tests a brain tumor was found.  My husband was able to travel to Romania to visit with him before and after the surgery.  His father had been doing well, then took a turn for the worse, then is doing a little bit better (unable to move much of his right side, but able to hold a book with his left hand).  Please keep Tudor in your prayers.

We are expecting the birth of our third child in January.  On the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6), we felt a kick for the first time.

We will be moving from our current parish in Florida.  Whence?  We don't know, except "north," but that hardly narrows things down.  When?  We don't know, but probably in the next two or three months.

Our house went on the market on Thursday.

We've donated 19 boxes and three shelves' worth of books to friends, the library, and the James Joyce Society of Sarasota, and sold six bookcases (just now) via Craigslist.  A carload of miscellaneous things has already been taken to Goodwill.

The feeling of the house has changed, and my feelings towards it have changed, too.  It's much easier to pick up after myself and after the family because having one or two things out of place seems wrong when everything else has such clean (empty) lines.  (I'm sure there's some sort of spiritual lesson to be learned there on further reflection.)

On the other hand, it also feels as though we've been robbed: just a few books are left on the shelves, and much of the detritus has been taken care of, including my desk—which is still messy; we've only been cleaning for about a week.

I've had nightmares about a particular book (or several), and have woken up in the middle of the night, simply wanting those books back.  Getting rid of so many things at once has seemingly also awakened me to the very real idea that all these Things have very definitely attached themselves to me.  I'm not far enough away from them to not miss them yet, but at least I realize that they are not necessary to me, my family, or my happiness.

This blog is one year and two days old.  It started with the story of the young man who already followed the commandments of the Law, and then was told to sell all he had, give to the poor, and follow Christ.  The "selling all" part seems to be the easiest of all of those!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sleeping Room and Play Room

Because Teddy wanted Lucia during naptime or at bedtime, I decided last week that we'd try to rearrange the rooms so that one room (darker, cooler, and quieter) would be for sleeping and the other (brighter and noisier) would be for play.  After advice from several friends on how to help children share a room, and adjusting for Teddy not actually taking a nap, we seem to have reached a nice arrangement.  I am inordinately happy with both of the rooms, especially since no toys are allowed in the sleeping room, and there's still a mattress in the playroom in case parents need to lie down and be played around.

The former nursery, with curtains still drawn up to be away from the baby:
 Still has the changing table and nursing glider:
 And the playroom, with the large bookcase still to sort out, but plenty of bright sunshine to play in.
 Here is an example of the rest of the house, though:
We'll just leave it at that.

In other news, this week I mailed out four packages of things that need to get out of our house, and I'm quite pleased with myself for making the decision and sticking to it and finally getting those packed up and sent!  (Only took four months for the biggest one...)

We have a house inspection tomorrow morning for insurance purposes, so I need to make especially sure that the attic is accessible via the closets, and that I don't have to cry about the rest of the house.  (Not sure I will do or be able to do the second part, but I could at least try.)

I'm transcribing the third in a series of Orthodox Christian parenting lectures and was struck by the analysis of temptation.  I recognized myself when I wake up: I have definitely gotten into the rut of making the bad decision.  So I decided to set my alarm and wake up.  Lo and behold, I've done a load of laundry, prepared banana bread to give away and library books to return, went to library storytime, fed lunch to myself and the kids, and got an oil change for the car.  Not bad for one morning, especially when set against: eat cookie, read books and internet, and glare at children.  Now I'm going to go read TG a book.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week 6: Kitchen and Dining Room

It is to laugh.  I did not manage things like "organize dishes and pantry" or "vacuum refrigerator coils," but I did manage the dishes, although right now the kitchen is back to its usual mess... and then some, with eight packages of flour next to a cabinet, the honeycomb baking pan (still in its box) for LC's birthday on Thursday in the middle of the floor, and bananas everywhere across the counters.

I forgot the dining room was part of the assignment.

At the end of this week, I was as tired as I remember being at the end of previous Holy Weeks.  So I'm a little worried about this Holy Week, which has just started.  I am attempting the Holy Week boxes for the kids, and will post about that somewhere.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 5: Children's Rooms and Garage

I'd already gotten rid of the excess baby clothes earlier, thanks to a parish clothing drive.  (Didn't go through any of TG's clothes, alas, then or now.)

Didn't do much of anything, it seems, but I finally managed to finish the NSP newsletter and get it mailed/posted.

I fantasized about how to reorganize part of the garage so that the pool things would have a place to be stored (now that I've kicked them out of the laundry room and the pool, just down the street, is warm enough to be visited daily, at least by everyone else).

There's still enough room to park one car in the two-car garage (better than my childhood memories), but it's getting tricky now that we have large child-related paraphernalia in addition to projects.  Childhood-related: pack-and-play, tricycle, bicycle, small chair; Christmas decoration boxes; failed mushroom-growing project; debris from when my husband sanded and finished our new (from Goodwill) tv stand (mostly sanding belts all over), and pillows and a futon which have sat, sadly acquiring denizens, since we moved in and couldn't think of where to put them on the inside of our house.  Oh, and a giant wardrobe that was supposed to hold either gardening things or tools or something, and large planks of wood to cover the windows in case of hurricane.  I'm sure there are other things I trip over, but I can't think of what.

Maybe I'll make some time during this "kitchen" week to resolve at least a few of the issues.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Week 4: Office and Foyer

I was going to say that this is another week of having crashed and burned, but then I thought of the story about falling and getting up again:
Another brother asked Abba Sisoes, 'I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?' The old main said to him, 'Get up again.' The brother said, 'I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen.' The old man said, 'Get up again and again.' So the brother asked, 'How many times?' The old man replied, 'Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in that state in which he is found.'
 Or, what I wasn't think of but found first:
Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a righteous man falls down seven times'—that is, repeatedly throughout his life—'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov. 24:16]. —John of Karpathos
So I have not so much as filed a single paper this week; in fact, I've added to the in-piles... in how many they are as well as how high they are.

I haven't put pictures on the USB sticks my mother sent me (to send back to her) ... more than a year's worth since I've printed any pictures for her or for me (or at all).

We had to do the tax preparation two weeks ago, so that doesn't really count, even though I put it specifically on the list for this week.

I did contact the post office about the lost boxes of books, and basically nothing can be done.  (My mother asked me to follow up.)

I did manage to get clothing for Pascha and Holy Week ... if not everything I'd wanted to get, at least something possible for myself and the children.  Evidently TG likes vests and ties ... and barrettes.  How come the child I decide to put barrettes on pulls them out and the child I don't think to put barrettes on asks for them?  (Oh, well, at least her hair is growing longer so I can sometimes tuck it behind her ear.)

I figured out what kind of basket to get for TG (red, wheeled, saying "Radio Flyer" on the side, which I haven't gotten yet), and have some LMcQ pool slippers to put in it.  I even found a fun little egg-related craft to surprise my husband with via Pinterest.  No clue what to do about Paschal candles ... again.

What else has happened?  I've aged a year (25 now).

I've still not gotten the NSP newsletter out.  Although it was drafted by the 16th, it's been in the proofreading-and-approval state (and still is), so nothing has been printed, and it's supposed to be received before Pascha.

On Saturday, TG did an amazing job at our Irish dancing performance, dancing better than he's ever done, even though there were people looking at him.

I learned of the cancer and death of my friend's mother, all in one week.  I am grateful that my friend was able to travel from Niger to be with her family before her mother passed away, but hurt and angry at the death of this beautiful lady, who has epitomized and imaged what motherhood is for me from my childhood. Please pray for the repose of the servant of God, Anne.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 3: Living Room and Sunroom

Haha.  So my specific goals for last week included:

  • sorting books
  • clearing husband's desk
  • donate some lamps 
I sorted through the children's books and culled a few (maybe 20?).  Our parish has a lovely lady who wants us  (as a parish) to be more involved in the community, so she organized a clothing drive and bake-off this past Saturday and Sunday.  I'd told her earlier that I was going to participate in a consignment event with the kids' clothing, and she told me that I should just donate the clothes to the clothing drive.

So I did get an entire trunkful of clothes out of the house, and that's without going through the adult clothes in drawers or any of Teddy's things.  So I have lots and lots of space in our closet (and fewer back-up plans, since I got rid of clothes that fit but I didn't actually like), but that means that I have to actually go and buy something to wear for Pascha, for me as well as for the kidlets.  And there aren't clothes scattered all over LC's floor!  Okay, there are, but those are only socks, shoes, hats, and other accessory-like things, because she took them out of the bag and ... decorated.  Everything else is sorted by size and in bins (too large and too small) and drawers (hooray! clothes that fit her and are seasonal are accessible!)

Today we had a clergy guest, so I basically just grabbed things all over the living room and put them in a couple of bags.  The floor is dirty, but all the things are encapsulated.  Now I just have to sort through them and put them away.  (And I found a box where I'd done that ... a few months ago.)  Oh, and we removed a piece of furniture which used to hold our TV.  (I think it was originally intended to hold a record player and records.)  So now we have to figure out how to get that thing out of the garage (even more in the way than it was in the living room, but we don't have to look at it as much) and over to Goodwill.  I feel really good about the living room.

This past weekend, our air conditioner went out, a little before close of business on Friday, of course.  We did what we could by cooling the house, opening things at night and going out during the late afternoon.  This morning we found out that the coolant is much too low, and a preliminary leak-check didn't provide any information.  *sigh*  We put in a new air conditioner when we moved here.

The NSP newsletter, hopefully my last, is in the proofing stage.  I helped finish folding and stickering the parish newsletter this noon, and I'm hoping that one of the ladies from the mailing committee will help me fold my newsletter, too.  Ancient Faith Radio still has a couple of podcasts that I've been assigned to transcribe, so I'm hoping to squeeze in even a few minutes a day.  I kinda wish I could transcribe all day, but part of the unwritten "lenten cleaning plan" is to be more attentive to the children.

This coming week is an assorted assignment: desk and office kinds of things (send pictures to my mother, make sure I'm registered to vote), the foyer area, and getting clothes and things for Pascha.  And I might try to make a non-dairy cheesecake for my birthday on Wednesday to share after Presanctified.  Or I might chicken out and go with banana bread again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 2: Master Bedroom

Well, this past week was mostly a failure.  There was a lot going on with deadlines and services and ubiquitous children.  (I thought there were only two, but how can they be everywhere?)

Nonetheless, I did work on a project that I hadn't started, but meant to, for several years: looking at the 8mm tapes with my father's video camera.  The unlabeled tapes, which might or might not have footage of our wedding.  There were several things in the duffle bag besides the camera and the five 8mm tapes: a wedding favor and program, a sock, camera stuff, three tapes that don't go with this camera (smaller than 8mm: one is an Irish session and the others haven't been opened yet).

One of the tapes was labeled, and has my grandmother talking about some genealogy and family stories.

One of the tapes has some Houston rodeo footage.

One of the tapes has footage of my father going through the house to catalogue things like books and music ... and lots of boxes.  There's even proof of the "great deal" on a cello he bought (broken, and nobody we knew knew how to play).

One of the tapes has my nephew in an elementary-school concert involving recorders.

And one of the tapes has the last part of my wedding reception, the part where my godbrother walked around asking for "advice for the bride and groom."  Some people refused to give advice.  Some people gave advice: "He's always wrong" or "She's always right" (funny, because it's really "He's always right, but it's still his fault" in our house).  Some people gave advice: "Don't take any wooden nickles."

And then my best friend from childhood (now in Niger) walked up to the cameraman and told him to just get footage of people, of the guestbook, of the children running around happily.  After she'd collected her thoughts, she told him she was ready to say something to the camera, and gave a beautiful discourse on how love in marriage should be based on forgiveness.

So even though I didn't get much more done than keeping the bathroom and laundry room mostly clean and attempting to stay on top of the laundry, I did manage to unearth a seven-and-a-half-year-old treasure.

My mother says she probably threw out all the other unlabeled 8mm tapes, and the man who had professionally videotaped our wedding (for free; nephew of the priest) hadn't given us more than a now-broken link to the first half.  What I wish is that I had my father's speech at the beginning of the reception, the one that made me cry so much I couldn't hear most of what he was saying.

I'm trying to let go of these might-have-beens.  I know what he was saying.  I know what his fingers said on his deathbed: I love you.  I just have to remember that I don't need all this junk to tell me that.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week 1: Bathrooms

In my Lenten cleaning schedule (almost completely copied from here, with a few alterations), the first week was bathrooms.  And then I realized that the linen closet and the laundry room sort of fit in with the things that were already in the bathrooms and the things that needed to be taken out of the bathrooms.  Either that, or I got carried away and the laundry room was really bothering me.

So did I "clean"?  Haha.  Well, a little.  But there were a lot of other things to take care of first.  I'm sorry if you think less of me for revealing these, but I'm proud of myself for finally doing them.

  • Disposed of expired medicine (as far back as 1998) which had been waiting around for disposal for several months in a closed plastic tub in our bathroom
  • Had my husband rinse the baptismal cloths which had been waiting around in a box for several months on top of the washing machine ... and the towels I'd lent for a young man's baptism last Sunday (he'd said he'd do it after LC's baptism last June, so I left them there for him...
  • Folded and put away three laundry baskets of clothing and towels (and then kept up with the laundry for the week, mostly)
  • Moved the drying racks into the sunroom because the master bath is so much friendlier without them that it makes my husband happy enough to remark on it
    • Started calling the erstwhile "Florida room" the sunroom because it sounds grand and I'm continuing copying Mat. Emily
  • Emptied the canister for both vacuums and washed the filter for the older which didn't work as well
    • This was The First Time the filter had been washed in the older vacuum which my husband had had since before our marriage 7-1/2 years ago.
    • The older vacuum still didn't work all that well, so my husband was involved later in the week and pulled out a plastic bag.  Voila!  Two working vacuums!  And neither smells that horrible old-dog smell!
  • Reorganized the laundry room (hey! there's the top of a washing machine in there! I can open the door all the way! TG has a place to put on his shoes without tripping the rest of the family!)
  • Took care (with husband) of two issues on our home insurance
  • Remade all the soap slivers into a single bar of soap, with inspiration from a friend (and more specific details from the internet)
  • Ordered, from credit card rewards, a Home Depot gift card for future projects, including installing some "sink front trays" (which a childhood friend had done three years ago, and I haven't forgotten the facebook photo) as well as some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers which will help TG get his crayons back (requirement: remove drawings from wall and door, window, and TV)
  • Cleaned out pipe before the U-bend (which I couldn't remove to clean) in husband's bathroom sink so that it would drain better
    • Oh.  Gross.
  • Washed car seat covers and vacuumed car (and emptied the full vacuum canister again)
  • Cleaned most of the master bathroom (everything except the shower), including dusting and reorganizing the bookcase, and reorganizing the drawers and counter
  • Took "after" photos:

Things I didn't do but meant to:
  • Take "before" photos
  • Clean the shower in the master bath
  • Clean anything in the guest/children's bathroom
  • Cull the bath/beach toys and towels in the linen closet
We also made it to all of the church services for the past week.  My husband has upped the services schedule to once-a-day during Lent (slowly acclimating the parish, which didn't have Saturday night vespers before), and the first week of Lent has plenty services anyhow (even if we don't do the Great Canon).

On Saturday morning, there wasn't a chanter, so I stepped in.  LC was crawling on the solea and screamed when she reached a socket cover.  I was confused, but chalked it up to her being picked up by Mr. Spiro.  Then, later in the service, TG touched it and started crying.  Mr. Spiro told me that he'd gotten shocked by it, too.  Between responses, I said we should cover it, and prevented him from moving a metal (augh!) planter over it; he got the bishop's mat instead.

After service, my husband grounded himself and got pliers and pulled out the prong of the plug for the light of the chant stand which had been missing for months and was completing the circuit for the metal socket cover.  So I relaxed my guard.  And that was bad, because there was a votive candle under an icon, right at ground level.  And, of course, since it looked like a cup, LC tried to drink it.  Fortunately, she's not all that good at it, and only spilled hot wax all down her front and her bare foot (which we cooled with some frozen prosforon, which is what we had).

Nonetheless, when on Sunday morning I lost TG after the procession of the icons* and went from church to hall to church to hall to church, and found my (tall) husband who found him showing his icon (which I'd told him to take back to the chapel where we'd gotten it) to a lovely Romanian lady.

*Does everyone else automatically remember things that happen on a yearly basis?  We happened to have some paper icons in the diaper bag, but do other priests' wives need to be reminded of these things?  Other converts?  Or is it just me?  Holy Week is also a huge blank: I know lots of things happen, but can never remember, year to year, on what day.

Oh, and later he was attempting to run into the street when cars were leaving, so I was freaking out properly, but at the wrong time.  *sigh*

So, regarding this whole "Lenten cleaning" idea, I like that there's a definite ending point, in total and for each section.  I like that I'm allowing myself to step outside the "zone" and clean whatever I like (sometimes I avoid cleaning things that aren't in the "zone" even though they need to be done).  I also like that I have two presentable rooms in my house.  I'd just have to blindfold any guests for the rest of it.  Another thing that I liked was that I could tackle things partially: I had about a day and a half in which I did nothing at all, and for the past four days, I've read a book a day.

And, most importantly, I'm reconnecting with TG in our bedtime reading.  We cuddle and I linger and ask if he wants water or a song or just me.  I did this one night and focused on how much I love my little boy (which I've been having problems with), and the next day his behavior and my attitude were enormously improved.

This week will be the master bedroom, which will be interesting because it received the swimming things from the laundry room, a generous armful (or two) of books and magazines from the bathroom bookcase, and the "usual" mess, which includes old projects (seeing what's on my father's old video camera tapes, which may include our wedding which no one has seen yet), bad habits (I used to use drawers, but now clothes are just folded and piled up on a dresser or chest or suitcase), and good intentions (about a third of our closet is already-culled clothes which should be given away).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Clean Monday Eve

When we were at seminary, I remember Fr. Seraphim mentioning, "Nobody gets excited about Lent."  Ever since then, at the beginning of each Great Fast, I've thought about all the things I do look forward to during this season.

I do like the thought of lentil soup ... that other people make.  I don't think I've actually tried to make it myself, but I'm definitely looking forward to the fellowship meals after Presanctified Liturgies during Lent.

Based on Mat. Emma's post on her lenten cleaning plan, I made up a few lists and just now combined them into my own little aspiring plan for cleaning the house in Lent.  My first list was all the things that bother me and my husband—the binders that I've been meaning to send to a cousin, the stack of books which doesn't belong anywhere, the empty boxes in the garage that haven't yet been thrown away—all these things that get in the way of our living. And, of course, the dirt which probably underlies everything.

My second list was the weeks (by Sundays) of Lent:

  • Sunday of Forgiveness (today, which isn't technically in Lent, but it starts off the week)
  • Sunday of Orthodoxy
  • Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas
  • Sunday of the Holy Cross
  • Feast of the Annunciation
  • Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
  • Palm Sunday
And I realized—how little time I have to accomplish all these things!  Before, Lent had always seemed to stretch out forever until Holy Week and Pascha (and meats and cheese and milk and ice cream) would come to relieve us of this heavy burden.  Now (and I hope to keep hold of this idea), it seems like a blessing to have this order of weeks to examine what is under the roof of my house*—and this applies to the physical house as well as the spiritual house.  If I can't take responsibility for my own environment, how can I take responsibility for my spiritual health?  I hope that, as with fasting and prostrations and other physical practices the Church traditions embrace and teach, this exercise will have more than a physical effect, and bear spiritual fruit.

*cf. the prayers in preparation for Holy Communion: "As Thou didst not disdain to enter and to eat with sinners in the house of Simon the leper, so now be pleased to enter into the house of my soul, humble and leprous and sinful," and "I am not worthy, Master and Lord, that Thou shouldst enter under the roof of my soul; yet inasmuch as Thou desirest to live in me as the Lover of mankind, I approach with boldness," as well as Matthew 8:8.

So I'm getting excited about Lent.  I'm afraid, too, that it will be hard, that I'll yell and snap at the people I have been given to love, that I will grumble and complain about, well, everything, and that I'll fall away from the habits I should be cultivating which will bring me closer to God and the image of spiritual health.  Please pray for me.