Wednesday, December 31, 2008

GFCF shopping in Louisville KY

Well, after Eric's doctor visit a couple of weeks ago, we've slowly been switching the whole family's diet to GFCF (Gluten Free/Casein Free). Fortunately I have already familiarized myself with what this takes, since Bethany has herself been on the diet for some time.

If it's any encouragement, the expensive parts of GFCF come if one buys lots of prepackaged convenience foods. Cooking from scratch, on the other hand, saves money but takes time and energy.

Since I have kitchen helpers (teenaged daughters!) it's worth it to do things from scratch.

I'm very proud of Bethany. Yesterday she made GFCF graham crackers. We are getting much better at this. The thinner we roll them, the crispier they are! I think we'll be whipping out at least on batch or one double batch of these per week, as graham crackers have always been a favorite around here.

She also used some (icky to me) vegan cheez to make some cheez crackers, and now the icky vegan cheez is gone and we can buy Tofutti American slices and Mozarella slices, instead. Those are the best I've found, and they are GFCF. If any of my readers live in the Louisville Area: American cheese style Tofutti is in stock in the Kosher section at the Breckinridge/Hikes Lane Kroger, and the Tofutti Mozarella at the Amazing Grace Health Food Store, down on Bardstown Road.

Also to be found at the Amazing Grace health food store is Darifree milk alternative. We bought two cans.

Then we headed up to the Dixie Asian Grocery further up Bardstown Rd. to get rice noodles, and rice flour, buckwheat flour and corn or potato starch (can't even remember which we got). Bethany's done her research and basically said a 50/50 blend of some type of GF flour and a GF starch is what is needed, along with the guar gum, of course. I'm looking forward to using the rice wrappers that we procured at Dixie last week to make some pork and cabbage spring rolls later this week. Perhaps tomorrow.

At Walmart our Gluten Free/Casein free food choices focused on veggies, fruits, eggs and meat. We also bought some rice pasta, which they carry now, and some tea. Oh, and we bought our cod liver oil there, too. I'm having the whole family take a dose of that daily, as research indicates it's good for people on the Autistic spectrum. I bet it's good for anyone.

Then we headed over to whole foods for the Almond Breeze (we like the unsweetened plain), some dried cranberries, and some children's chewable vitamins that are GFCF and free of artificial color, sweetener and flavor.

For our sweetness these days we are seeking lower glycemic alternatives like stevia blends, sucanat, or palm juice crystals, or sucanat, and honey of course. To go over our GFCF homemade waffles I'm going to mix agave nectar and maple flavor and some water, bring to heat and then let cool. If it needs thickening, I'll add a bit of guar gum. It's lower on the glycemic index than normal pancake syrup, which can contain milk derivatives sometimes.

Well, the GFCF pizza I made with the Tofutti mozarella got good reviews by Eric, our picky eater, and he's also happy that I found Ore Ida fries to be GFCF. I could make my own, but I do have my limits.

This week I made a big batch of GFCF chicken nuggets and those are in the freezer, Bethany made up a bunch of waffles (sorry Van's, we won't be buying yours anymore!) and we froze those as well.

So you can discern our strategy for keeping it affordable.

Oh, and I almost forgot, as an alternative to Boost or Carnation Instant Breakfast, I found a chocolate soy protein mix that Eric can add to his Darifree. His ped said he needed those extra calories.

It's been a very productive day. I'm tired, and I still need to make a GFCF St. Basil's bread for after tomorrow's divine liturgy. (St. Basil's bread is like an Orhtodox equivalent to "Drai Koenigskueche"...has a hidden coin inside. Fun stuff.)

Wise Guys - Denglisch

This is what happens to a native language when you try to take over Europe/the world and then loose to the U.S. of A.

Wise Guys - Alle meine Entchen - Tekkno Remix

This just makes me really really happy!

If you don't know why, don't ask.

Techno Schlager - Dschinghis Khan

Weird German music from the seventies (yes, I loved Dschingis Khan when I was a kid) done up in Techno style....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

My First Sock!

Yesterday, I completed knitting my first sock! For many years, knitting socks seemed like an unattainable knitting goal, as turning the heel held all the mysteries of the unknown. Turns out it's simple, and a you tube tutorial gave me the confidence I needed.

This sock (and yes, I've started on its mate,) is knit in lovely 100% wool (Patons brand). My youngest daughter helped to pick out the bubblegum pink. And the pattern is from one of the links at

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thinking about the New Year

For the past several years, I've sort of been against forming any New Year's resolutions. I've managed to accomplish quite a bit without them, for one thing.

I think last year, I resolved to read the Bible, and while I did not complete that goal, I can definitely say that I read the Bible more often than I did the year I'm still building that habit.

So I've been thinking of goals and habits and what I want 2009 to include, and here's my list:

I want to build my already exisiting exdercise habit to include not just walking, but also some weight lifting again.

I do NOT want to diet, but I do want to continue working on merely eating healthfully when I am hungry. But officially, it's my new year's resolution to NOT go on any weight reduction diets in 2009. I'm scared, it's like taking the training wheels off.

I want to work on more creative ways of doing works of charity. My current project is learning to knit socks., and I need to put some snaps on the stuff I made for Goods for Girls and send those off. (hangs head in shame). I also want to make more pads for that projects.

Keep on keeping on with the Scripture study and spiritual reading.

Make it to Matins more often (I go on many days, but not every time the doors are open).

This means: Get to BED by 11 pm.

OK, enough.

Just to Clarify...

I'm Alana and this is my blog. The person in the sidebar with the blue frame that I am praying for is Michelle's mom. Michelle is a friend of mine and her blog is at I put it up there, not to confuse my readers, but because Michelle's mom is very ill and can use all the prayers on her behalf that she can get.

If anyone want's to pray for my own mother, that's fine, too. ;-) I'm sure she would appreciate it as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christ is born, glorify Him, Alleluia!


The Sheldahl Family

Lovely, Lovely Thift Store Haul

1 big tote basket perfect for my new hobby: Knitting.
Green blouse
Blue blouse
maroon mock turtle neck shirt
Lanz of Salzberg flannel nightgown for my daughter (pink!)
Flannel nightgown for me (green!)
Coldwater creek skirt in gorgeous green and blue colors that perfectly matched the green and blue blouses I found.
VHS tapes of original Star Wars Trilogy
DVD of Star Wars phantom menace
DVD of Spy Kids 2 (the kids begged)

Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Perhaps the local Goodwill isn't so terrible after all.

Could I please have a break??????--Updated

So, someone rings the doorbell at aproximately 4:30 this morning. WT?. Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rings again and I wake up enough to wonder if someone is really ringing the doorbell. I get up, but by the time I get my robe on, etc. and go to the door, no one is there. Must have imagined it, because who would be out pranking at 4:30 am on a very very rainy Christmas Eve, right?

Well, a bit later: Doorbell again. This time I send Wes.

It's our neighbor from upstairs.

He has a hole in his roof. It collapsed. (I'm thinking.....WHAAAAT????) Yup. Apparently, here in late December, Apartment management thought it would be a great time to schedule a roof replacement. Perhaps they had no choice as it was a big necessity. This I can understand and appreciate.

So I did hear the hammering and what not going on yesterday, come to think of it.

Well, long story short, where the roof was off has collapsed. I can only feel very very sorry for our upstairs neighbors. We only have water leaking in around our dining room light fixture and in various places in the kitchen. It is nasty, brown, smelly and makes me gag.

He has this very very relentless and heavy rain coming straight in to his apartment from the sky. I cannot imagine.

Needless to say we've ALL called the maintenance emergency hotline. No one has showed up yet, but perhaps sunrise will shed some new light onto the situation. (Har har.)

Instead of going to liturgy as a family, we are going to have to take turns. Bummer.

And I don't know if I'll be able to bake the bread I wanted to bake today, or put out the lovely Christmas spread I'd planned to have laid out for when we come home from Liturgy. I'll be really sad if one of us (me) has to miss the midnight liturgy to babysit a leaking ceiling.

We asked our neighbors if there was anything to do to help them, food, shopvac, etc. and they couldn't think of anything right now.

God have mercy.


As soon as it was light the place was crawling with people fixing the roof, finishing up our unfixed bathroom (remember the water lead/hot water problem?) and shoveling away dirt so that a major potential flood at our sliding door could be diverted. The people who work here really are great.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today is Christmas Adam

And tomorrow is Christams Eve. Get it? Bwahahaha. I heard that joke more than several times today. My kids made it up. They think they are clever.

So, all the good places in town to get a kid evaluated for Asperger's Syndrome/Autism spectrum issues are inaccessible because they are not in our insurance network.

Could we pay out of pocket? No, we could not. And out of network means out of pocket for the first $8000.00 dollars, and then they only pay fifty percent. I looked on line for this one really great place who doesn't take insurance at all, and they charge $150.00 for intake, $175.00 per hour for evaluation (three hour minimum for that) and $150.00 for the post-eval consult. That's $825.00 minimum and possibly more. That's just for the evaluation, not for therapy or anything like that.

I tried once to get the fee schedule from Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center, and they would not even give it out. They are not in our new network, either.

Surely we can go somewhere that is in-network, even if we have to travel. So I"m hunting. Perhaps there's a nice psychiatrist somewhere who will do the job.

And I've been reading, and I"m also pretty sure my 12 year old is firmly on the spectrum as well, as she very tyically fits the descriptions for female Aspieishness.

An interesting thing today: Twelve years old, mind you. She wanted to help me make fudge. This involved stirring the melted sugar/butter/evaporated milk mixture. So I got her started, then noticed she was not actually getting the liquid to move in the pot, so I showed her how to do it. I guided her hand for a few strokes to show her the figure eight pattern and the angle the wooden spoon needed to be. Then I let go, and chaos ensued in her stirring method. She could NOT keep the pattern going. I guided her hand some more, with verbal explanations of the method, and what I was doing (stirring the pot of hot butter stuff in a figure eight pattern...this should be easy, right?) Wrong. She could. not. do. it. We tried several more times. Lots of guidance. She tried, believe me, she tried. But she couldn't. Finally M gave up because her arm was tired, and I finished the stirring. Remember, this is a twelve year old we are talking about here.

Surely this would mean something significant to a psycho-neurologist somewhere.

I love my kids so much, but they aren't normal.

And whatever will I do?

Pray, I guess.

And what's the point of wanting a diagnosis? Well, it would help us get an IEP for special services we might qualify for through the public schools, it would influence the making of curriculum and college and career choices, and it might be the first step in bio-medial interventions. As we can afford them. And it would help me be a better mother, if I can have a better understanding of how their brains function differently from mine.

Would I want to fundamentally change my kids? No. Do I want them to learn social skills and life skills so that they can function and communicate? Yes. Would I like to maximize the nutrients going into their brains and minimize the harm? Yes.

So I can start on the homefront with the GFCF diet, cod liver oil and good vitamins, but I still think I'd like some medical backup.

Today I made GFCF graham crackers, and put the dough through a cookie press. They were really good. And lenten. And festive.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm just really struggling with depression right now/lately. Adjusting to living in a new town, even though we love it, doesn't help. Any change is hard and joy is counterbalanced by loss and grief. And it's the holidays.

Do I need medication? I don't know. I don't want to need it. There are always unpleasant side effects, and the cost. I'd rather spend the health savings account money on the kids. Depression is an on-going problem in my life and I'm rather ashamed of it. I ask God for help. More tears this morning. I'm horrible about staying on my meds when I am on meds, because of the side effects. They make me dizzy...horribly dizzy. At least Welbutrin does. Other meds have other effects. Blech.

For one thing, I hate winter. Maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder because I always get like this at this time of year. Long term readers of my blogs know this. Forgive me.

I'd love to go walking but when it's eight degrees outside, those walks would have to be short.

I really want to be a joyful person. I really want to be a grateful person, but all the joy and gratitude feels like it's on the surface, and underneath is just this huge pit of pain and angst and sadness in my brain and belly.

My thoughts tend to obsess about certain things like my weight, or what to wear and I get on these obsessive loops of despair. Most of my clothes are black, brown, gray and beige and I wonder if this is a symptom or a cause or just part of the cycle. Rather than looking "New Yorky" with those drab colors, I end up looking frumpy and depressed...because I am.

So, a random list of things I'm grateful for:

My sweet children.
The fact that I got to see my dad last week, who lives nine hours away.
My new nephew, born last week.
My husband, who is wonderful even when I don't deserve him to be.
My new apartment and the fact that it's big and is easy to keep clean.
New friends and old.
The adventure of getting to know a new city.
The wonderful pediatician we found last week who is very knowledgeable about Autism spectrum issues.
Health insurance.
My sewing machine (I'm dying to get it out and sew something soon.)
I'm happy that I learned how to make Artisan bread this past year, that it's easy and just like the bread I used to get from the bakery in Switzerland.
I'm grateful for the internet.
I'm grateful for those big boxes of frozen bonrless catfish pieces you can buy at the Walmart grocery.
I'm grateful for the chance to go to St. Athanasius Orthodox Church yesterday, but also grateful that I missed St. Michael's a little bit (our new parish).

Anyways, does anyone else struggle with depression?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I slept in too late to go to Divine Liturgy.
I had breakfast with coffee, bread and chinese food, instead.
When I walked over to my friend's house to pick up a pot I'd loaned her and to return a bowl she'd left at my house (it had Koliva in it that we ate up), I ended up chatting for a long time and eating my first ever bowl of Borsht (beet soup). It was good, which is saying something considering I heretofore have not liked beets very much.

Then it was home to cook lunch, sort some laundry (we call it wolf-packing the laundry because we pile it all on the bed and everyone grabs a basket and we sort it out and each of us folds or hangs up our own stuff).

Then I took the kids to the library, where I was hoping to settle in with a good book. Instead I spent the whole time helping kids find things to read.

Home again, and time to do some cooking: A big pot of chili with black beans and sweet potato, and some gluten free graham crackers. Those are very nice, and appreciated by all.

I'm very proud of my son. He's busy learning to try out gluten free foods and today he ate potatoes, a slice of tangerine (which he did not like), the gfcf grahams and corn grits as a successful alternative to cream of wheat for breakfast. He still is drinking milk and supplement powder (instant breakfast mix), so at some point we'll just have to go cold turkey on that.

I wonder if there is a GFCF instant breakfast mix that can be mixed with something like Almond milk?

Friday, December 19, 2008

If a Doctor says it, it must be true!

Well, I took E to a pediatrician today. He's been losing weight and not eating. Pediatrician said yes, he's definitely got Asperger's but he can't give that as an official diagnosis. For that we need to go to a psychiatrist. He recommended a few options.

And he told E that he needs the Gluten Free Casein Free diet. B is already doing it, so I decided to switch all our foods over to GFCF at home after the holidays are over. We can live with GFCF. Seriously.

Milk will be the most difficult for E to give up, but at lunch and dinner today he voluntarily stayed away from the gluten. That about knocked me over.

We are on the right track, and it's going to be interesting how it will all pan out.

Jesus says: "Do not worry." So, worry I shall not!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From the Little Mountain - Large Trailer

I finally got to see (and own) the video "From the Little Mountain" that the monks at Hermitage of the Holy Cross have published. It is a very good introduction to Orthodox monasticism, how it's done, what it's all about, etc. It takes the viewer through the year in a stunningly beautiful video. My only disappointment is that it is merely 30 minutes long. Perhpas all was said that needed to be said, and I'm simply used to films being longer.

I wonder what a non-Orthodox would think of this video, as the glimpses into the liturgical life of the Church would be a glimpse of the strange and unfamiliar.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Some Clarity

I was walking between the education/fellowship wing of our Church building and the part of the building that contains the nave this morning. It's a breezeway, and off to one side there's a little garden, with a cross shaped footpath, a bench and an outdoor icon of the Theotokos holding the child Christ.

The weather was mild, and I decided to stop for a moment there at that little shrine, and say a prayer.

A moment turned into many moments, and I stood there in the wind for a very long time, praying the Jesus Prayer. I did not get cold, even though it is December.

Soon tears were streaming down my cheeks and drenching my coat, and I had the keenest sense of my own sins. I could see them very clearly. Chiefly I am grieved over my carnality. My worldliness. I waste so much time on things that are not real and on things which do not pull me or push me towards heaven. I am a slave to my body and a slave to my carnal self and this carnal world in so very many ways.

And something inside of me snapped. (At least for today!) I just don't want anything but God and His heavenly Kingdom. Someone asked me what I want for Christmas, and I couldn't even say. I don't even want anything. Just to live the Gospel as best I can. And I fall down so many times.

I want to be dead to the world. Of course I cannot escape to a monastery since I am a married lady with a family. But I've been wondering: How do I live a spiritual life as a lay person? It has to start with prayer and the sacraments and being in the Holy Scriptures. And you know what, I am very weak. I find that it is a huge stretch to take the Sacraments more than twice a week. Like I'm spiritually too weak to do so. I need to be strengthened, and I need to build up those muscles.

I often start out on such a path with good intentions, and then I crash and burn because I do too much too soon, like a baby who wants to run but is really still at the cruising stage and who falls when he lets go of the sofa. But how to I grow into it so that I DO get to the point of having more endurance?

This has been brewing for a while now, and the head covering thing is a part of it. I know it is. Like, when I started covering last May, suddenly my prayer life went down the toilet and I had to rebuild it from the bottom again. Suddenly the spiritual life that I've been engaging in (such as it is) became more of a struggle.

So here I am, but I see the next step in this obedience.

So how do I do this?

Well, for starters I need to clean up my reading. Less fiction. More spiritual stuff. And if it is fiction, it needs to be something elevating. I have a penchant for the most banal literature. God forgive me, I ought to be reading the Holy Scriptures, and spiritual things instead. What a wastrel I am.

Second thing that "goes in" to my brain: TV. I never actually turn on the Television set so it's easy to thing I don't really watch TV, when in reality I watch about two hours most evenings over the internet. Wes and I will get started on a series that is a few years old and watch episode after episode. Something that's meant for one hour a week, when it's taken in in a condensed form is not good. But the advantage is (if I will listen to the still small voice yelling at me over my shoulder) that all the gunk is concentrated and easier to discern. Of course discernment requires follow through in riddance. God have mercy.

I do OK on music.

I need to go for walks and pray the Jesus prayer. My body and my mind and spirit need the exercise. It's like killing two birds with one stone.

I need to be disciplined about going to bed early enough so that I can get up and go to matins. To be so close to Church and not take advantage of daily prayer services that can be prayed with the community is a sin. The reasons I usually turn off the alarm clock and roll over in the mornings have everything to do with staying up to late watching those dumb shows on the internet. Beyond that, I'm fairly consistent with Morning Prayers with the kids, since we do it to start out school day.

And at some point I need to beef up my evening prayer habit as well. It's there, but currently it suffers from brevity and a lack of oomph due to evening tiredness.

There's lots to do. People to love and a world to pray for. Much to repent of. How come I waste my time so often in vain pursuits?

Well, those are my thoughts tonight. God have mercy on me a sinner and keep my spirit safe. I did take a nice walk this evening. Prayer rope, Jesus Prayer, and all.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to have an Invisibility Cloak

1. Be a new person in a large group of people who don't know you.

2. Make sure those people know each other.

3. Act sort of like you might be on the autistic spectrum or sit near someone who does.

4. Wear a head scarf that covers your whole head and neck in a room full of protestants.

5. Enjoy not having to talk to anyone!

(We went to Bethany's band recital this evening. I'm glad she's in home school band. Really, I am.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've become one of THEM of those evil people who impose their music onto their blog readers. Hate it? Scroll down to the bottom to turn it off.

Don't worry, it's most likely temporary.

I Don't have to Pay for It, neener, neener, neener!

So, there was no hot water. It had been going on for a couple of weeks before we moved in, and it just got fixed TODAY. A month and eleven days later.

I'm not complaining. Those poor apartment manager people, they are the one's who've had all the stress.

Let's see:

Hot water not working in Building C. (C is for Cold in this example). So, they replace the hot water heater. This is a $5000 purchase. But the residents still don't have hot water. So they do a bunch of investigating and discover it's a slab leak. Yes, that's right. The water pipes run under a concrete slab. (We live downstairs in Buliding "C", and I like the concrete slab, by the way. It gives me warm fuzzies and makes me feel secure. There's just something about a house upon a rock...)

So the maintenance guys come to measure the temperature of the floor to try and locate the leak. I thought for sure it would be under our floor. It's so nice and warm on our bathroom floor. Like something from the ancient Roman baths. There MUST be hot water under there.

But no, it's our neihgbor's floor, they think.

Enter the new friend: Jackhammer. So I'm so glad, for about a week and a half, that my lovely tile floor is not getting jackhammered, but also sad for my neighbors whose presumably formerly lovely tile floor is being jackhammered.

And then the apartment managers decide they can't handle it, so they hire some contractors to do the work instead of the maintenance guys. So the contractors start to do the jackhammering next door. But soon, it's our turn, because for all the noise and destruction of neighbor's floors, the leak it not yet located. So, alas, our bathroom floor gets jackhammered. And still they can't locate the leak. So they are drilling in all our floors (the four master bathrooms are arranged like the squares on a foursquare game, in four apartments), and after a day of drilling and digging (Hi neighbors!, we could wave to each other through the hole in the wall, but we don't,) the plumbers have holes in the walls and floors and a nice swirling pool of hot water all around, but still no leak.

Finally they have to remove an entire cabinet and sink from our neighbor's bathroom. That was yesterday. But when I came home last night, there was no standing water in the heat-giving-spring-of-our-bathroom, but rather some tired wet dirt and pipes, surrounded by a gaping hole in the concrete. The toilet is sitting in our tub, and a wad of TP discreetly covers the opening to the sewer line.

But that room is not a sauna anymore (yes, it was damp and steamy from all the leaking hot water), and this morning, I took a HOT shower.

I'm so grateful.

And then today the doorbell rang.

It was the termite guy.

Guess what they found when they busted out the cabinet where the water had been leaking next door?

I reckon eventually I'll get my bathroom repaired.

Meanwhile, I'm feeling rather relaxed about the whole thing, because I DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR IT!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


-Stockings hung on the fireplace mantel,
-A Christmas tree with white lights,
-Early morning liturgy in the dark
-Candle light and incense
-Homespun choir with ancient melodies
-Catfish-n-onions, unexpected pastries,
-Phone calls from new friends and old
-Surprise visits
-Yarn that looks like pop-tart frosting with sprinkles when it's knitted
-Learning names and being welcomed
-A grumpy old priest with twinkly eyes and a smile (not so grumpy after all),
-"St. Nicholas" showing up looking remarkably like an ordinary bishop
on an ordinary day.
-Baking cookies on St. Herman's feast day (because he baked cookies, too, for his orphans.)
-Simple meals
-Baking bread
-Shopping trips
-Kozy knitting project
-Hiding out in the bedroom wrapping gifts
-Helping kids make homemade gifts for their siblings
-Shorter days and longer nights
-Beginning of winter and hope for sping
-Preparing for the Nativity
-Midnight Liturgy: Christ's Mass

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

This morning we went to liturgy. St. George's Chapel was packed out, and the choir was in rare form. Such a soprano section! (I want to join.) I cried whenever we sang any of the old familiar tunes that I know from St. Athanasius Church. I get homesick at those times, but a good homesick. The type that knows we are really all united.

We are getting our first sticking snow today, which was happening as we exited the Chapel. This thrilled the kids and they hopped around in glee on our way over to the fellowship hall for a small St. Nicholas Day celebration.

After a light lunch, all the usual goodies were proffered: Chocolate gold coins, an "appearance" of the saint himself, and a story about St. Nicholas' life. Then each child also received a small St. Nicholas Icon and a few kids got pretty light catchers with St. Nicholas on them.

The older girls got to stay for a bit longer and help out with the food pantry work that's done once a month, and I was glad for that.

My instinct is to bake sweet bread on this day, so I whippped out some gluten free cinnamon cranberry rolls and some lemon flavored yeast cake (not gluten free). It's in the oven and I'd best go check it.

Happy feast day to all.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Geeks Without Torture

After my last post, I owe it to you all to post the good things about home schooling my kids:

I like the fact that I get to be with my kids all day.

I believe they are getting a superior education at home than they were at the particular local public school where we lived.

Home schooling cuts down on bullying.

It enables me to find their weak points and work harder on those.

It's not one size fits all.

There is less pressure about grades, and more emphasis on actual learning.

I like seeing their natural curiosity get aroused and then helping them find answers to questions such as: How does nuclear energy work? What's a cold war?

...and then the ensuing interesting discussion about 20th century history, the environmental movement and whether it might be feasible to shoot nuclear waste straight into the sun.

I like their innocence and keeping them that way for as long as possible.

I like being able to impart my values, such as modesty, social conscientiousness and that girls are for something other than shopping and fashion and boyfriends.

I like teaching my kids how to cook and clean up.

I like that we have time each day for Morning Prayers, Gospel and Epistle, learning about the saint of the day and a lesson from a catechism book.

I appreciate the flexibility this form of education affords when certain persons might need a nap, down time, or whatever.

I like having the flexibility as a family to up and move or travel or have a feast day when its a feast day and not have to either miss school or miss Church because of a conflict.

Home schooling makes nerds into confident individuals who are not drones or clones, but rather proud geeks. (Imagine: Geeks without torture!)

I love not being a slave to the alarm clock in the morning (unless I want to make it to matins, which is another story all together and which I have not done so well on this week.)

I like that they can come grocery shopping with me and learn those aspects of domestic skills as well.

I like fun afternoons, and trips to the park and going fun place in the middle of the day.

I like taking them to the library and then coming home and many of us cozying up to a cup of tea and all to a good book.

I like having the input on curriculum, and on what sorts of field trips we take them on.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Hardest Job Ever

Oh. My. Goodness!

I don't often blog about home schooling for some reason. Perhaps because I don't blog much about my kids in general, but also perhaps because it's rather mundane.

We are not the type of family to be galavanting all over the country doing exciting trips to the beach or the mountains or the Smithsonian and calling it all a big long field trip. Sounds like fun, though.

We are not the types to have our kids in a thousand different sports activities or music lessons. Quite frankly, we can't really afford that stuff. So I hang my head in a bit of shame over it all, and wonder if I am doing right by my kids. I teach them to play the recorder so they can at least read music, though.

But you know what? Home schooling my children is the most difficult thing I have ever done. Or probably will ever do. It's just hard.

One of the things that's hard about it is the detractors: The public school teacher lady at Church who gets that look on her face when the kids tell her they are being home schooled, or your friends who think you are crazy for doing something so difficult day in and day out when there's a nice shiny public school down the street.

And the grading is hard. Grading the kids work is not just about their work. It's also an evaluation of how well I've been doing getting them to learn, helping them to be organized, teaching them how to study or explaining math concepts. At the high school level, Wes has to explain the math concepts. I can no longer help there.

So we just finished up our first Quarter...well, I should say we tried to finish our first quarter and discovered some weaknesses and snafoos that will have to be addressed even as we plough into the next quarter's worth of lessons. Moving in the middle of all this did not help at all.

And I discovered that one of my kids hasn't been doing half her work. Yes, it's my fault for not giving her closer supervision and guidance. But it's also her fault. But what that means is that we have more work to do now. And it means I need to track her work better.

So, my head is spinning and I barely know how to do it all. Mostly the kids do their work independently. But then I have to check it, which takes lots of time. That's where I fall down on the job the most, I fear. That, and being organized, getting their papers graded and recorded. And teaching literary stuff ("What are this character's motives and feelings?"-- just doesn't fly with autism, you know?). I stink at figuring out how to get them to understand on a deeper level. Oh, and I also hate grammar, but I've learned TONS of grammar in the past few years. But that doesn't stop me from hating it.

Meanwhile, the laundry still needs attention, the kitchen is a mess. But at least because I was multitasking, there are beans in the crock pot and bread fresh out of the oven.

It all is rather stressful and difficult. Just thought I'd share, because most Home School blogs are all sweetness and light and educational adventures.

But would I change what I'm doing? Nope! Not for a minute.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

O Tannenbaum...

We put up our Christmas tree a bit on the early side this year. The kids were thrilled to spend an hour or so this afternoon doing that.

And we actually have a mantel and fireplace, so we got some stocking hangers and finally, at long last the heirloom stockings look like they have a home.

I'll post some pictures as soon as I can find where my oh so organized self decided the place for our camera would be. Yes, indeed, yours truly lost her camera in her own home.

We've been using the same ornaments for almost as long as we've been married, (every once in a while we'll replace the ball ornaments when they get too skeetchy looking), but the white lights we got this year (our colored ones were worn out and did not light up when we tested them) give the whole thing a more sophisticated look).

But as much fun as it is to watch the kids decorate the tree, it's more important to pray for the whole world, give alms and be kind to one another: kindred, friends and strangers alike.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Crab Cornbread Dressing

Make a pan of cornbread the day before. Let it cool, and perhaps even get stale.

Chop 1 onions,
finely chop 2-3 stalks of celery

Sautee these in margarine (or butter if you aren't avoiding dairy) until onions are clear.

add 1 veggie boullion cube

open 4 cans of crab meat and dump in, juice and all.

Let simmer until all is hot.

add salt, pepper and about 2 tsp of sage.

now crumble up the cornbread into a bowl

add the skillet stuff

mix thoroughly, together with 2 eggs (or egg replacer).

Transfer to 9x13 backing dish.

Dot very generously with margarine or butter.

Bake at 350 F. until golden and delicious looking.

This was good for Thanksgiving, but it would also make a nice dinner main dish for company or just family during winter lent.


Well, our relatives were not able to come to our house for Thanksgiving, due diahoweveryouspellit, vomiting, pink eye and ear infections in the kiddos. God have mercy.

Around here, some of us feel like we are coming down with colds or some such, too. And my back is really hurting today. It's been sort of hurting all this week, but today is worse.

I've also felt sort of Migrainy (I know that's not a real word) around the edges, especially yesterday, so I dropped out of the requisite Thanksgiving Day Scrabble game (Wes always wins anyhow) and took a nap.

The nap was nice, the food was good and some of us did take a nice walk around the neighborhood. It wasn't too cold. A very laid back sort of afternoon. My favorite thing about Thanksgiving: LEFTOVERS

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Look what I found!

"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own." Philippians 3:8-12

This used to be my very favorite Bible passage when I was younger. It's still way up there. I came across it this morning when I was reading through the Epistle to the Philippians, and there it was.

I recall reading it with grand dreams of valiant sacrifice when I was younger. Sort of my life dream verse. It's always easier to read stuff like this and project big "what ifs" into the future, of wonderful ways to serve Christ (tromping through a jungle somewhere, no doubt) than it is to read "have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him" and see the heartbeat of one's own life in those words.

Suffered the loss...I've had losses. Very real ones. And a very very outwardly mundane life. And I get to look at those real losses and count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ. And it's even in the midst of mundanity that this process can occur. And that is encouraging. Sacrifice for Christ does not always look glamorous or even noticeable. Sometimes it is quiet, often unnoticed and very often extremely hard for all it's ordinariness.

For is it not in the most ordinary of things that God meets us sacramentally? Bread, wine, oil, water. The stuff of life.

Perhaps it's the perspective of age. I'm not all that young anymore. Not all that old yet either, but certainly not all that young. Somewhere in the middle, I guess. And I can look back and I can look around and there's this perspective that all my great and wonderful credentials don't mean an thing when I'm standing before the throne of God. I can look at my life and the supposed smallness of it, and be content because it is in the moment by moment stuff where my salvation is forged in Christ.

Not that I've obtained this or am already perfect...

Where's the Turkey?

I have too much to do today. It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I have some cleaning to do for the relatives who are coming tomorrow, as well as some advance cooking to get done:

Cornbread, for the stuffing, and a gluten free/casein free pumpkin pie. And a pretzel pie*. Perhaps a GF/CF apple pie as well.

Oh, and I should make some cranberry relish. Must troll the web for a recipe. The kind with orange juice concentrate, which I have plenty of.

So, all that in addition to guiding the kids with the rest of their school work, and doing the vacuuming, dusting and bathrooms. Perhaps I should ask for the kids to help me, hmmmmm?


So I woke up this morning with a sore throat and all over body aches. Glory to God for ALL things, even this, then.

Menu for our feast:

Crab meat-cornbread stuffing (GFCF)

gravy from a jar (NOT GFCF)

GFCF mushroom gravy

mashed potatoes (GFCF)

Cranberry relish (GFCF)

Green beans with garlic and mushrooms (GFCF)

Butternut Squash bake with cinnamon and brown sugar(GFCF)

The above mentioned pies

Perhaps some gluten free dinner rolls, as well.

What? No Turkey? On Turkey-Day???? Well, actually it's not "turkey day", it's Thanksgiving. We can certainly be thankful without Turkey, especially since most of my kids don't even LIKE Turkey and we always have too many leftovers.

And here's a hymn to sing while doing my work:

We give You thanks, Christ God, for Your earthly gifts.
Do not deprive us of Your heavenly kingdom.
But as You came among your disciples, O Savior, giving them Your peace
Come also among us and save us!

*Pretzel Pie is just like Pecan Pie (my erstwhile pre nut allergy favorite) only with mini-pretzels instead of the pecans. It works remarkably well and has a nice blend of salty crunch with the sweetness. I'm doing the "Derby Pie" version and adding in chocolate chips.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Louie Giglio - Laminin

My less-than-glamorous Life

Alarm clock goes off. I'd gotten to bed too late last night and slept restlessly. Weird and unremembered dreams. (Which beats the way weirder and unfortunately remembered horrible dream from night before last where I kept finding my baby that I'd completely forgotten about, would take care of her for a few minutes then rush off again to do other things and utterly forget about her existence for several days...over and over again...BAD dream, but I digress).

So, too early I"m batting the alarm clock, trying to decide whether I really want to get up to take a cold shower and go to matins, or not. Not was winning. And then I was getting up for some reason, and decided to take a crack at Matins after all.

Made coffee, had a cold shower (long hot water due to a slab leak that the apartment people are working on), clothes on. Feeling fat. Looking fat, too. Yech.

Time to go, and the youngers wake up and want me to cook porridge before I go.

What kind of mother would I be if I rush out the door to go to prayers while my children are hungry?

So I make the porridge. They are grateful. By now it's ten after, but I'm only three minutes away, so I can get there late.

I head out the door. My oldest stops me. She wants to come, too. Still needs socks and shoes and coat. I wait. What kind of mother would I be if I rush out the door and leave a kid who wants to go to prayers in the dust?

Even later, but we go together.

At least we made it for part of the "More honorable..." bits, the epistle and Gospel readings.

Being there reminded me of why it's worth it to get up and go, though, too; A sparkling point of light in my darkness. So perhaps tomorrow when I'm tempted to hit the snooze button more than once and bury myself under the warm covers, I'll know better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today is a Hard Day

Oooof! We are just at the end of our first nine weeks, and I have set each kid the task of getting various assignments like vocabulary lists learned, book reports completed, quarterly tests taken. The loose ends must be tied up.

Unfortunately, this is the week when my slacker tendencies rear up to bite me in the butt. I've got some grading to catch up on, and the kids have some heretofore-unnoticed gaps in their school work to complete. My fault. Bad me. I should have been on top of things better. Live and learn.

And I'm a little worried about my youngest. She seems hypersensitive to EVERYTHING, especially sound. Noises bother her and there she sits, hyperventilating and making squeaking sounds and generally pitching little fit after little fit. It takes every ounce of self control not to scream and yell. I want to beat her butt but I don't. She hates it when I get stern, but if she only knew that stern is the current "nice version" of me, she'd be kissing my feet. At any rate she seems to have some sensory issues and it's driving me nuts. She can hear (and freaks out about) the TV if it's turned on with the volume on silent, says it's a high pitched whine. I believe her, because I've read of this before, but her reactions are annoying nonetheless.

And I'm in the middle of filling out forms to have my son evaluated for Autistic Spectrum issues, and seeing the questions makes me think I need to have an evaluation done on each of my kids.

This depresses me.

This one information dumps. That one monologues and has obsessions. This other one is afraid of her own shadow and seems to be having senory overload issues and panic attacks. None of them have social skills nor do they seem able to "pick up on them" as several miserable years in public school have already proved.

What the heck is WRONG with us??????

My entire life is spent walking on eggshells through I-have-senosry-issues or I'm-on-the-spectrum or I-am-mentally-ill land. Just me being normal sends the people around me over the edge and into melt down mode. On the inside I want to scream and rage and yell at people because they can be so gosh darned difficult-but I try to be patient instead. I try to control myself. But that's not good enough. Like the kids have e.s.p. or mind reading skills or something, they react negatively even to my attempts at loving guidance and self-control, since usually in those cases my voice gets stern and flat and commanding-better than raging screaming attacks, but I've not yet achieved that saintly peak of loving gentleness, soft spokenness and perfection. One of my kids, I can't even correct her (such as "you need to load these plates in the dishwasher this way so that they'll come clean) without a complete melt down on her part. "See, I'm bad! Everyone hates me!" Curled up on a ball on the kitchen floor.

And this happens multiple times a day. This is our life.

And so today is a bad day. Right now I think I want to explode. I bet a bunch of my kids want to explode, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Really really really missing St. Athanasius Orthodox Church today.

Took communion in our new parish. It's all fine. Just big and different and lonely.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Are the Chances?

We are finally coming up on the end our our first quarter in homeschooling this year. It has taken lots of time because of our big break to move. That's OK. I have until the end of August to get three more quarters done, and I know we can do it.

What this means for me, is that next week, in addition to getting ready for Thanksgiving, I'm going to help each kid tie up any loose ends on the school work front, and do some grading and organizing and make sure we have everything ready to send in to Seton. Then it will be the dread trip to the post office. Grading papers and doing all the "organizy" stuff are my least favorite aspects of home schooling. Morning prayers and slow mornings with a cuppa and a good book are the more beloved aspects of it.

But the paperwork has to be done.

People were busy taking tests etc. today, when B walked into the bathroom and discovered it was filled two inches deep in water. I knew maintenance was busy jackhammering next door to fix a plumbing leak that was in the slab. Oh joy. The water got into our place.

So I went over to the main office to let them know (for some reason I decided not to pick up the phone) and went home to shopvac the water. Maintenance came by and turned off the electricity to the bathroom outlets, and looked around to find where the water was coming from. Some water was leaking into the kitchen floor as well, so they moved the stove out from the wall and unscrewed a panel between the kitchen and bathroom walls. All was dry.

Going back into the bathroom, the maintenace guy found the problem: Our washing machine drain hose had come out of it's slot, and the water on the floor was from our laundry. Sigh.

More shop vac activity.

What are the chances that a flood would happen on the very day that maintenance is doing major surgery on the hot water lines in our building, but that it would be MY fault?????

Pretty good if you are me, I guess.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something for the Holidays

Please consider making a donation to Heifer International. This is an awesome organization. Rather than feed a family for one meal, this is a way to make a long term difference in the life of a family. It's amazing that what is a drop in the bucket for us Americans (even those of us who live on the bleeding edge of "tight") can be a life changing difference for someone in a developing country.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy Homemaker

I must say, I am enjoying being a "homemaker" now that I'm in a home that I enjoy living in. It's so much easier to keep clean now that we have a place for everything and everything in its place.

A quick tidy-up, and running the vacuum throughout the apartment does wonders to perk things up around here, and I MUST say I'm so very very grateful for my much larger kitchen and much larger refrigerator...well, much larger dwelling place in general....several hundred feet larger and we can all tell.

I'm just grateful.

It will also be fun to build a fire in the fire place come the holidays.

So what "homemakerish" things did I do this week? Well, aside from keeping things nice and tidy I graded papers for my home school and I make a batch of homemade bread which got rave reviews, even from my pickiest eater. And lots of soup. It's a good time of year for soup and bread.

Today I made tomato soup.

The one bugaboo about this place was that for the past two weeks there's been no hot water. At first the apartment managers thought it was due to a faulty hot water heater, but after replacing that, they learned it was due to a slab leak.

Since our bathroom floors were nice a toasty, the theory is that the leak was under there, and I fully expected to come home this evening and find a hole ripped in the bathroom.

Instead, I came home to a perfectly intact bathroom and HOT water. The leak must have been under our neighbor's slab, instead.

I'm glad, because I really like the charming tile on our bathroom floor. And now I like hot water, too.

I'm grateful, that's all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Aren't these cute? My oldest dd has been crocheting like crazy lately, and I just HAD to show these off.


This has been one of my favorite Psalms since my teenage years (a LOOOOOOONG time ago) and it jumped out at me during Matins this morning. Back in the old NIV days, it was numbered Psalm 63, but here it is in a lovely translation from the LXX:

Psalm 62 from the Septuagint

O God, my God, unto Thee I rise early at dawn.
My soul hath thirsted for Thee; how often hath my flesh longed after Thee in a land barren and untrodden and unwatered.

So in the sanctuary have I appeared before Thee to see Thy power and Thy glory,

For Thy mercy is better than lives; my lips shall praise Thee.

So shall I bless Thee in my life, and in Thy Name will I lift up my hands.

As with marrow and fatness let my soul be filled, and with lips of rejoicing shall my mouth praise Thee.

If I remembered Thee on my bed, at the dawn I meditated on Thee.

For Thou art become my helper; in the shelter of Thy wings will I rejoice.

My soul hath cleaved unto Thee, Thy right hand hath been quick to help me.

But as for these, in vain have they sought after my soul; they shall go into the nethermost parts of the earth, they shall be surrendered unto the edge of the sword; portions for foxes shall they be.

But the king shall be glad in God, everyone shall be praised that sweareth by Him; for the mouth of them is stopped that speak unjust things.

Monday, November 17, 2008

About the Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church

I'm cutting and pasting this straight from Wikipedia:

The Nativity Fast, is a period abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Christ, (December 25).[1] The fast is similar to the Western Advent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks. The fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively.

Sometimes the fast is called Philip's Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14). Some churches have abbreviated the fast to start on December 10, following the Feast of the Conception by Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos.

The purpose of fasting

Fasting with humility and repentance is believed to enable one to draw closer to God by denying the body worldly pleasure. Although the fast influences the body, the emphasis is placed on the spiritual facet of the fast rather than physical deprivation. Orthodox theology sees a synthesis between the body and the soul, so what happens to one affects the other. The church teaches that it is not enough to fast from food; one must also fast from anger, greed and covetousness. In addition to fasting, almsgiving is also emphasized.[2]

Fasting rules

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the fast traditionally entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days that occur during the course of the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November 30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Spiridon and St. Herman (December 12), St. Ignatius (December 20), etc. The Nativity Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.

As is always the case with Orthodox fasting rules, persons who are ill, the very young or elderly, and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting. Each individual is expected to confer with their confessor regarding any exemptions from the fasting rules, but should never place themselves in physical danger.

There has been some ambiguity about the restriction of fish, whether it means the allowance of invertebrate fish or all fish. Often, even on days when fish is not allowed, shellfish may be consumed. More detailed guidelines vary by jurisdiction, but the rules strictly state that from the December 20 to December 24 (inclusively), no fish may be eaten.

The Eve of Nativity (December 24) is a strict fast day, called Paramony (lit. "preparation"), on which no solid food should be eaten until the first star is seen in the evening sky (or at the very least, until after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy that day). If Paramony falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the day is not observed as a strict fast, but a meal with wine and oil is allowed after the Divine Liturgy, which would be celebrated in the morning.

For the full article, click on the link at the top of this blog post.

Living the Gospel

Luke 14:12-15

Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.
13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"

So, what are YOUR Thanksgiving plans?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's Cooking?

Well, technically today was the first day of the Nativity fast, and as usual, when a fast rolls around, I like to post a few meal ideas and recipes.

I remember well the sense of "what am I going to feed my family?????" panic that used to overwhelm me at the beginning of a fasting period. It also seems like I used to spend loads of money to transition from "regular" to "fasting". This is no longer quite so true.

Part of it may be because we have a member of our family who is on a dairy free (and gluten free) diet, so we have lots of non-dairy or ersatz dairy items in our fridge already. This makes the transition easier.

So, for all you curious (the non-curious can just find another blog, I suppose), here's what's in our fridge:

Almond Breeze Almond milk (unsweetened) and we keep this stuff around
Silk Lite Soy milk
Silk Chococlate Soy Milk (I can get my picky kids to drink this with marshmallows or on plain cereal like rice crispies).
Tofutti better than cream cheese
Tofutti better than sour cream (we keep the tofutti around, regardless).
Boca Chicken patties
Fish Sticks
Canned Tuna
Canned black beans
tomato sauce
Vegan Cheese slices
shrimp ramen
lots of frozen and fresh veggies
apples, tangerines
pasta and sauce
canned tomato stuff (diced, sauce) for chili, soups, etc.
nut butters: peanut, soynut and almond (yay! allergies!)
variety of jellies
variety of breads, gluten free and regular. Ezekiel bread is WONDERFUL if you have need of more protein.
garbanzo beans (canned)
black beans (canned)
dried lentils
Dolmades (normally we have a giant can of these in the fridge but we ran out. I need to find an Middle Eastern food store here in the Ville. Or get a bunch next time I'm in Lex.)
Falafel mix.
taramasolata (caviar spread, good on potatoes)
corn tortillas
refried beans (to make bean "quesedillas")
non-dairy creamer.

OK, that about sums it up. Mostly. As you can see, I'm not very much of an ascetic.

Today was leftover chili with spaghetti, veggies and hummus, and pie (Yes, Mrs Smith pies are dairy and meat free!). And for dinner it was leftover pie and tuna noodle casserole.

This year, I'm really working on not snacking and not taking seconds, which is also a part of the fasting and fits perfectly with the NoS stuff I've been reading about. Perhaps by the time I'm an old lady I won't be quite so carnal about all of this, and I will actually have learned to pray more, as well.

My favorite way to cook during a fast is to throw some soup in a pot, and have some bread on the side. And hope there's leftovers so I only have to cook something new once a day. In other words: I don't' wanna cook much. And I like the simplicity of not dealing with meat.

The Nativity Fast

I found this wonderful excerpt over at Abide and Endeavor and I want to share it. It blessed my soul. I know the Lord is gearing up to really take me deeper this fast, and I am, by His mercy, prepared to humbly follow. Having said that, I'll probably do something really bad, but I'm in this place of liminality, having just moved, and I'm so aware of this being a key time for building new habits, being in a new place and a new town and all.

So here's the quote from Saint Nikolai Velimirovich:


With fasting I gladden my hope in You, my Lord, Who are to come again.

Fasting hastens my preparation for Your coming, the sole expectation of my days and nights.

Fasting makes my body thinner, so that what remains can more easily shine with the spirit.

While waiting for You, I wish neither to nourish myself with blood nor to take life--so that the animals may sense the joy of my expectation.

But truly, abstaining from food will not save me. Even if I were to eat only the sand from the lake, You would not come to me, unless the fasting penetrated deeper into my soul.

I have come to know through my prayer, that bodily fasting is more a symbol of true fasting, very beneficial for someone who has only just begun to hope in You, and nevertheless very difficult for someone who merely practices it.

Therefore I have brought fasting into my soul to purge her of many impudent fiancé's and to prepare her for You like a virgin.

And I have brought fasting into my mind, to expel from it all daydreams about worldly matters and to demolish all the air castles, fabricated from those daydreams.

I have brought fasting into my mind, so that it might jettison the world and prepare to receive Your Wisdom.

And I have brought fasting into my heart, so that by means of it my heart might quell all passions and worldly selfishness.

I have brought fasting into my heart, so that heavenly peace might ineffably reign over my heart, when Your stormy Spirit encounters it.

I prescribe fasting for my tongue, to break itself of the habit of idle chatter and to speak reservedly only those words that clear the way for You to come.

And I have imposed fasting on my worries so that it may blow them all away before itself like the wind that blows away the mist, lest they stand like dense fog between me and You, and lest they turn my gaze back to the world.

And fasting has brought into my soul tranquility in the face of uncreated and created realms, and humility towards men and creatures. And it has instilled in me courage, the likes of which I never knew when I was armed with every sort of worldly weapon.

What was my hope before I began to fast except merely another story told by others, which passed from mouth to mouth?

The story told by others about salvation through prayer and fasting became my own.

False fasting accompanies false hope, just as no fasting accompanies hopelessness.

But just as a wheel follows behind a wheel, so true fasting follows true hope.

Help me to fast joyfully and to hope joyously, for You, my Most Joyful Feast, are drawing near to me with Your radiant smile.

Prayers by the Lake

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Members of the Diocese of the South of the OCA have been so excited that Archimandrite Jonah Paffhausen was to be elevated to become the auxillary bishop in our diocese, to assist Vladyka Dmitri. About eleven days ago he was consecrated Bishop.

Yesterday, at the All American Council, he became the new Metropolitan! My first thought was: "But what about the Diocese of the South?" But what's good for us (I suppose I need to stop saying "us" since we've moved and are now with the Antiochians...) can be good for the whole OCA. Here is a humble man who just a few weeks ago was an archimandrite (head of a monastery), and now he is to serve the whole OCA.

The full story is at the OCA website, of course, and Ancient Faith Radio has some excellent podcasts. I particularly liked listening to the talk he gave a couple of days ago before his elevation. He seems humble and I don't know that he was necessarily expecting this. But I don't know anything. I'm just watching from afar.

It seems to me that His Beatitude looks shocked, though.

Let us all faithfully keep this man in our prayers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

But I've never even BEEN to Philly!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Midland
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I always wondered what I talked like since I did not grow up here, but English is my first language of Texas born and raised parents. I know I don't talk Texas and that I only fake Kentucky. But how do I really talk? Well, now I know. huh.

A Tip

One of my blog readers tipped me off to the No-S diet, which is entirely interesting, and very compatible with any and all Orthodox feasting and fasting guidelines. In fact, the principles are remarkably similar to things I've read that various Father of the Church have to say about gluttony and the like.

check it out at

Basically it is this: No snacking, no sweets, so seconds. Except for days that begin in S, which means Saturday, Sunday and Special occasions (Feast days in other words.)

Can I build these habits? We shall see. My hypoglycemic self may need a snack in the afternoon, but if it is a planned mini-meal, this would be a meal not a snack and would be a far cry better than what I've been doing lately, that's for sure!

Cozy Troubles

The problem with BIG LIFE CHANGES (imagine some sort of dum, dum duuuum background music here) is that they cause stress. Good stress, or bad stress, it doesn't matter. My subconscious inner psyche does not care. Stress happens and I EAT. I used to be in utter denial of this very obvious fact, and obsessive dieting in the between times has meant that I "only" tend to carry an extra 20-50 pounds on my tallish frame, depending on where I am on the pedulum. I'm sick of it: Both the compulsive over eating and the dieting.

Last year, when my daughter was in the hospital (and I happened to be in one of my dieting cycles, so the infractions became obvious to me) I woke up to the reality of my disordered eating. The compulsive stress related eating is disordered, the dieting obsessively is disordered, the whole cycling back and forth is disordered. Messed up. And I know I'm not the only person who struggles with this, and that is why I'm blogging about it.

So, when stress hits, I eat compulsively. It's like a part of me can stand back and watch myself do it, know I'm doing it, know WHY I'm doing it, but be helpless to do anything about it. At least I'm observing it. That's a step. Now I need to figure out what to do about it. The cycle must stop. And it must stop not just at the eating point, but also at the dieting point.

The temptation, after working like a beast to get things packed and finding myself over eating in the meantime; after moving and eating at too many fast food places for a few days; after working equally hard to get everything settled and still finding myself overeating for a week or so after the fact, is to go on another diet. But I don't want to do that.

I'll come out of the proverbial closet and admit publicly that I've been seeing a therapist who deals with eating issues. A year of Weight Watchers and stumbling up against this reality that I have some deeper broken issues relating to food that counting points would never really cure pulled me in that direction and through a serendipitous (thank you, Jesus!) coalescing of finding a certain book at the library and getting a certain recommendation from one of my kid's physicians who saw me reading said book, I've been doing some hard work with a therapist. And it's time to go back after a two week break for moving.

I need to do this. But it's hard work.

I also need to keep certain things like red wine and chocolate chip cookies and taco chips out of my house. I need to get my husband's support because we sure do like to cozy up together at night after the kids are in bed with a plate of taco chips and cheese and some wine. Too many calories. The unfortunate thing is, where on his body it means perhaps an extra ten pounds at the most, on my body habits such as these lead to an extra thirty and climbing. Egads! Comfortable married people we are for sure.

And combine that with BIG LIFE CHANGES (imagine the music) it spells disaster for the belly-butt-b***s trifecta.

And the gospel reading at Matins this morning was "Do not worry about your body, what you will eat or drink or what you will wear..." and the epistle was "Do not let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink..." Which is very interesting. I know I'm hearing this though a slightly different lens then it's usually taken, but the thing that's different right now for me, is that I'm not panicking (yet?) and I'm not beating myself up or condemning myself or berating myself or calling myself utterly unlovable because of my disordered eating and my resultant less-than-perfect figure. Instead, I have a sober awareness but also a sense of God's mercy and peace that makes no sense. And it is THIS that convinces me that the cycle is beginning to be broken in my life.

Oh God, I pray that it is so! Because repentance and true change is going to be harder than swinging back into dieting mode. And that is what I want, is true change. Pray for me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Confronted by the Cross of Christ

It seems that everywhere I turn this past week or so, I'm confronted with the Cross of Christ. On election day, since we had just moved and I had desire neither to drive all thew way back to Lexington to vote, nor to cast my vote in favor of any of the dubious options on the ballot this year. I decided to pray the rosary instead. (My oldest laughed and said it would probably do more good anyways, and in a country that announces election results based on CNN exit polls instead of on actual counted ballots, I tend to agree, but I digress.)

So there I was, and it was Tuesday and my little "pray the Rosary" booklet had me praying the sorrowful mysteries, which is a meditation of the cross of Christ and the events surrounding his crucifixion and death. What a thing to spend time thinking about! I think we Christians so often take the sufferings of our dear Lord utterly for granted. I know I do. I glibly waltz into confession, trying hard to muster up some repentance, only to go forth and sin some more. Isn't that the way of it for most of us? It's good to spend time thinking of his wounds and how I caused them. God have mercy.

But there I was, confronted by the Cross of Christ on a day when our country was making an important decision and I had intentionally disenfranchised myself from the process. "Put not your trust in princes and in sons of men in whom there is no salvation..." I think that would make a good A-political bumpersticker. Perhaps in political type colors of red, white and blue...hmmmm. I digress again.d

And this morning during liturgy, while the gifts were being consecrated and we were all knealing, I was thinking of the Gospel reading we had heard: The woman with the issue of blood who boldly came to touch Jesus, and the Father whose twelve year old daughter was dead who came to ask the seemingly impossible of Him who would trample down death by death. The Father did not know that the situation with his daughter was that dire when he came, to be sure, and the blood-shedding woman, St. Veronica, did not know that He would she His blood for her when she had faith enough to touch his robe, but both of those events, it seems to me found their culmination in the Cross.

And there I was: thinking of my crosses. And wondering, knowing, hoping that such mercy as was shown to the woman and the dead girl and her parents could be poured out in my life, and on my family.

And a stubborn resolve took hold of me in that moment. If nothing else, the cross of Christ makes sense out of suffering in the world and his glorious resurrection offers us hope that there will be a day when the tears will be wiped away, and that there is a Kingdom that is not this one, and that all the earthly things MUST be set aside in order to see that.

Nothing else matters when confronted with the Cross of Christ. So, I'm wondering, how simple and how quiet and how giving would my life need to be in order to really focus on the things that matter most? Perhaps God is preparing my heart for winter lent...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Out Walking

B and I had fun exploring in the new neighborhood on foot this afternoon. The fall colors are so pretty and the leaves in some of the yards and on the sidewalks by them are so delightfully crunchy that I must command for all my blog readers who live in this hemisphere, and in places with autumn leaves: Go ye therefore and crunch in them, at least once before they are gone for the year!

We walked clear to St. Michael's and back, through the neighborhood, not on the busy main roads, because those are just too trafficky. It was a nice long walk. Theoretically only about two miles, but I wonder if it wasn't actually pushing three. Some of the neighborhood streets wound around a bit. The walk made me tired, perhaps because I ate too much sugar today, or perhaps because it's been a long day and I got to bed late last night.

I like walking in the fall; leaves, crisp cool air, all that. It's definitely my favorite season for walking. Spring is nice, too, especially when it's warm and breezy and I can finally wear a skirt and sandals again. Winter is delightful when it's snowing. Falling snow is magical, assuming I have on enough in the way of clothing. Summer is not a good time to walk. I do it, but I don't like it.

What's your favorite time of year to walk?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Glory to God for All Things...even the good ones!

It's so often that I write about my stresses and uncertainties and my sadness. Today I would like to say that God answered many many prayers.

Our thermostat was not working right, and I called the front office for a maintenance guy to come out. The lady at the desk said he'd come out this morning. Then I proceeded to start making calls to try and find a medical person to see my daughter. I've been praying for this need a great deal, as she really needs her meds adjusted. Unfortunately, with her type of illness, it's hunt and peck until we find one that works. So far we have not found a perfect medication.

So I called and bing! got an appointment for THIS MORNING, 11 am. Perfect timing. Hope she meets our needs. I'm glad B gets to see a woman, perhaps it will be easier for her to communicate with a woman.

The only thing that makes me nervous is the fact that the maintenance man was supposed to come and I started praying about that detail.

Well, the maintenance man came and left just as we were needing to walk out the door, and then we met the new health care person, who just so happens to work with the doctor B was seeing in Lexington two days a week and could pull up all his notes on her computer. Continuity of care!

And she was wonderful. And good at communicating clearly and compassionately and took the time to talk to B and make sure she understood her. Took the time to listen and start building trust. As we were leaving, B said "She was wonderful!"

Many many answered prayers today. Glory to God!

And now, I start praying that the new meds help B more than the old ones did. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy!

Going to the Chapel

For years I've been longing to be in a place where I could pop over to Church and pray Matins or Vespers daily. Not by myself, but with others in the Church. God has blessed me and answered that prayer, and it is so comforting and wonderful.

Even though I feel like a stranger in this city, when I walk into St. George's Chapel, and it's still dark outside and it is literally lit only by candle light and oil lamps, I am no longer a stranger. There is a deep human need to know and be known, and there at least I get to see the icons of my Christ, and the Theotokos, St. John the Wonderworker, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, and many others. Familiar faces, even though the ones in the flesh around me are still mostly strangers.

And familiar melodies, although to a different rhythm mixed with familiar lines and unfamiliar tunes, blend with enough insence to scent my yawns afterwards. Lungs full.

And it is in such a place that I am known and that I can know. Even after just a week the faces around me are becoming familiar and are becoming attached to names and stories and personalities. Knowing others, and becoming known is a process. Having a cup of coffee with others afterwards helps, too.

But there's this other aspect of daily prayers that I really like: The way it ties my day together, beginning and end. Not too long to be impractical: just thirty minutes at 7 am and thirty minutes at 6 pm, a nice frame to the day. And it's an extra support for my feeble heart, who surely needs it, for the private prayer life I struggle to cultivate.

It's a good thing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Makes me Happy

Inspired by Anna's list over at Veiled Glory , I decided to make my own "what makes me happy" list:

-A home with a maintenance man on call.

-ceilings that don't crumble and roofs that don't leak and walls without cracks in them.

-tile bathrooms

-tea pots with roses on them

-tea pots without roses on them

-lace curtains

-singing along out loud to the Christmas music at the store

-my kids singing along out loud to the Abba song that was being piped into the store at Kroger yesterday

-my new bedroom that does NOT also double as the computer room (in other words, it's PRIVATE!)


-popping over to vespers which is less than five minutes away

-hearing new music to old familiar hymns and liking it

-incense and candle light

-canted prayers

-icons of beloved saints popping out at you from unexpected corners of an unfamiliar nave

-old friends

-phone calls

-Wes coming home for dinner!!!!

Discovering Louisville-Part 1

Some people from Church invited us to share their Zoo passes with them on Sunday afternoon for a few hours. We had a delightful time exploring the Louisville Zoo together, and getting to know each other, too.

The Louisville Zoo is a very nice place. My favorites are always the giraffes, for some reason. I just love them, pungent odor and all. I think it's the fact that they are so HUGE and yet so delicate at the same time. Proportion is everything. I also like the mysterious quality they have. When I was younger, I used to think that they did not make a sound, but I learned a couple of years ago from a NOVA episode (or perhaps it was a National Geographic show) that giraffes actually communicate on a subsonic to the human ear frequency over very long distances. Way cool.

The layout of the zoo is delightful, with lots of gorgeous plant life, exotic and domestic, and well placed benches, restrooms, and cafes. There's a petting zoo, and I think every goat in the place had to come and rub up against my cane. The zoo keeper said that they were scent marking it, and that they always do that with canes, walkers and wheelchairs.

The nice thing is, the zoo is pretty much a straight shot down Taylorsville road, very easy to get to from where we live. We'll definitely be going back, and buying Zoo passes of our own as soon as we can.

I can't wait to ride the wonderful old fashioned looking animal carousel the next time we visit. Perhaps I shall ride a carousel giraffe.

R.O.U.S. (rodent of unusual size)

The move could not have gone smoother. Many thanks to all who helped. The weather was perfect, everything was packed. People showed up and we loaded the truck, drove to Louisville, and there were five intrepid folks here to meet and help us from our new parish, plus a couple of old friends who followed us down.

So that first day started at 5 am and ended late in the evening, with unpacking the kitchen and every muscle and joint in my body hurting, but we got an incredible amount of work done. I think I was running on caffeine, adrenaline and God's grace.

The next morning, we woke up after sleeping like logs in our new place, only to find a RODENT in our kitchen. Wes' first thought was "Eeeeep, a mouse!" But then we noticed that it was not running as fast as a mouse. At first I was worried that there had been a stowaway in one of our boxes.

But we tracked the critter as it ran into the girls' bedroom and behind one of the beds. We shifted it, and caught the wee beastie in a shoe box when it ran back into the hallway. By now I was suspicious that it wasn't a mouse. So we got onto the internet and figured out it was a Siberian Dwarf Hamster. Clearly someone's pet. I'd always thought hamsters would be more easily distinguishable from mice by their size, but note the "Dwarf" in the title. This little fellow was rounder and cuter and had no tail, along with a distinctive T shaped stripe on his back.

It was early in the morning and we weren't able to roust our neighbors, so we gave the R.O.U.S. a temporary name, and a temporary home in a plastic container with sides high enough to keep him in. He kept trying to hop out, so we called him Hopko. Hopko got some water and a couple of triscuits to munch on while we went off to Church.

When we got home I knocked on the neighbor's door and a twelve year old girl answered. "Are you missing a hamster?" "Yes!" Big smile.

So our kids had fun petting "Hopko" for a while, and then we had fun returning him to his owner. And the R.O.U.S.'s name is Berry (or Barry...but I sincerely hope it's Berry, because who would name a cute furry rodent Barry?)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random Kerfluffle

I have the urge to write, but my thoughts are about as chaotic as my house right now. Our living room is an ocean of boxes with narrow little walking paths to get us to the chairs and couch.

My bedroom is the same. The kids' rooms, on the other hand are mostly empty. I guess their boxes wandered down to the living room.

Today, my goal is to similarly turn my kitchen into such a zone of chaos and pack up the remaining stuff that seems to spawn on my already packed desk and the coffee table. Oh, and sort out toiletries into suitcases and pack the rest of the bathroom. That stuff, I believe, will fit in one box.

Seriously, I'm THAT close. Wouldn't it be fun to bust a move and have it all done, and then take my kids to the movies this afternoon??????

I'm pretty excited about the move. I keep having anxiety thoughts, like what if we wreck the moving truck, or what if no one shows up to help us...or not enough people, that sort of thing.

And I'm sad about leaving all my friends and everything familiar. I don't normally battle my way though rush hour on Wednesday nights to make it down to Vespers, but last night I did since it was an Akathist for to the Saints of North America and we prayed out on the land. I was in the car for more than an hour coming down, but it was worth it. The sunset was glorious, and I got to make my last confession with Father J. That was really sad, but I'm glad I got to do it outdoors on the hill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 God wills.....

Well, after my brilliant report this morning, today, I'm slow to launch. The last bits are the hardest, including getting the laundry sorted, and deciding what to put in suitcases and what goes into boxes and doing the same in the kitchen. I bought paper plates.

I went to Kinko's this morning to fax some medical forms to a new doc for my daughter, to expedite getting her seen hopefully next week. Wes had spoken on the phone with someone from there two days ago to get their fax number. So I spend eighteen dollars plus on a long distance fax, only to get a call while I'm in Walmart telling me they are NOT taking new patients right now.

Mega Grrrrrrr.

But I need to say instead: As God wills. I have been praying that we can find the right care provider for my dd, and so perhaps this is part of how it will work out. We need some divine intervention, what with our "make phone calls until we find someone taking new patients and who takes our insurance" method of going about this. It is difficult, at best. Nerve-wracking, self-pity inducing and grief causing at worst. I try to be calm and together.

So, I'm at Walmart and I get that phone call, and it sends me for a loop. I gather the few items I need today, such as paper plates and beans to put in a crock of chili. Oh, and FELT to make DONKEY EARS for an impromptu Sunday School play being held out on the land our parish has bought (future site, blah blah blah) TONIGHT. This was billed as a "last hurrah to say goodbye to the Sheldahl kids." Balam's Ass. I have to make Donkey ears. Fortunately for me, the hot glue gun is in an open topped tool box on the back porch and not buried underneath mounts of cardboard and tape like most of the rest of my possessions. But still. This is NOT what love feels like to me. As God wills.

And once I get out to the parking lot, I realize that I FORGOT THE FREAKIN' SMART BALANCE MARGARINE, which is a small thing, really, but a thing we really need and (oh the irony!) the very item I originally went to Walmart for. So I trundle down to my car, wishing fervently I had a handicapped sticker for it, since it was at the bottom of the lot and by now my legs were dragging (fibro thing), unload my groceries and trundle myself back into the store. Wouldn't you know the margarine lives at the very back in the dairy section? More steps from my daily limited amount being taken. Energy drain happening fast.

But I survived.

When I was complaining the other day at Church about how achy the fasting makes me (fibro/hypoglycemia thing) a brother said to me: "As God wills." I felt gently corrected and decided to take it to heart, and try to make this my prayer: "As God wills." And to do so joyfully. Especially when things aren't going my way or my legs aren't working right or my daughter is not doing well. I'll still try my best though, in all things. As God wills.

A Day Ahead of Schedule

I sort of have it laid out in my mind, what needs to happen prior to the big move on Saturday.

And surprisingly, this is Wednesday, and my list is short. Everything is packed except for clothes, towels, and kitchen...oh, and a few last items in the living room that will likely get dumped into a box labeled "Misc." late Friday night.

Today I need to pack the clothes. That involves folding some laundry and sticking some hanging things in the wardrobe boxes, a few items in a suitcase, and boxing up the rest. All the kids clothes are in big rubbermaid totes already, so that's automatically done.

After that, it's just the kitchen, and let me tell ya, I think I can pre-pack most of that as well. Not having much to eat in the house is helpful. Seems I'm making daily grocery runs for random things we run out of like smart balance margarine.

Last night I emptied the big freezer the rest of the way and unplugged it, so a bit of spray and wipe action and it will be set to go.

So I guess I'll be twiddling my thumbs come tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, we drive out to Louisville to sign the lease, take possession, and put toilet paper in the bathroom and beer in the fridge. Perhaps we'll make it to the DMV and the library.

Feeding people amidst all this chaos is rather interesting. Especially with B's GFCF diet.

So, that was an exciting and insightful post, wasn't it?

Monday, October 27, 2008


I think it happens in stages. Perceptions get distorted and for a while, before you are very far down the slope, you still know that the distortions are distortions. That the voices aren't real, but you hear them anyways, and at first the voice is your own voice and you don't know if it's your own thoughts or what. (And the irony is, that it ALL is...). That for instance your hand doesn't really have a face on it, but it seems like it, anyways. Or that the sofa or church pew is not actually projecting your thoughts at you, but it seems like it, anyways.

And its a twilight zone of trying to cope, while you are still on your way down that slope into being totally out of touch with reality.

And everyone around you is normal, and you are huddling under a table...literally.

Of course, I don't know for sure.

I'm just the mom.

Please pray for us. We are moving this week and my daughter is NOT doing well. Do we run to the doc here, or do we expedite getting her seen by someone ASAP in our new town???? Both?

O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on her. And on us. I pray that she NOT need to be hospitalized. Amen.

And now I take a deep breath and remind myself that worry is NOT a superpower.