Monday, January 31

Festal Learning Basket: Saint Brigid...


Activities
Listen to the Audio of Dr Chrissi Hart reading The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare
Use recipes for Irish Soda Bread, Homemade Butter and Irish Pots de Creme from An Orthodox Kitchen
Create a Saint Brigid Cross using pipe cleaners
Add a vase of flowers to the icon corner and/or feast day table
Set out an icon of Saint Brigid

Sunday, January 30

In Color...






An Orthodox Kitchen...


The kitchen is the heart of the home for many families, so it is natural that on feast days of the church year, special meals are often planned. Some feasts have dishes that appear on our table each year without fail: Irish Soda Bread on Saint Brigid's feastday, fresh fish and the first thin spears of asparagus on Palm Sunday, red eggs on Pascha, and Christmas Cauliflower on Nativity.

For several years, I have been interested in bringing the celebration of the feasts from the church to our home. Not having an Orthodox Christian source for festal recipes has been quite frustrating... especially since there are a lot of books, websites, and blogs that other churches have dedicated to recipes for their special feasts (namely the Roman Catholic Church).

The end of that frustration is here! The parishioners of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church have put together a wonderful collection of recipes and ideas for the feasts of the liturgical year in their cookbook, An Orthodox Kitchen. This cookbook is organized from The Church New Year on September 1st to The Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15th and boasts such delicacies as Saint Martin Horseshoes, Wood Fired Salmon, Vegan Gingerbread, Saint Basil's Day Bread, Lark Buns, Flaky Sweetheart Crescents, and Fisherman's Pie. YUM!

It is enormously helpful to have a cookbook at one's fingertips that offers delicious foods and also takes into account the fasting regulations of the Orthodox Church. I hope that each of you will consider adding this cookbook to your collection!

Order your copy of An Orthodox Kitchen today!

The Upbringing of Children...

Amidst surroundings of wantonness and disbelief, the temple stands as a spiritual lighthouse, an island of sanctity for adults and the young. Its setting and its divine services have a special beneficial influence on a child. The candles, the icons and frescoes, the smell of incense, the singing of the choir, the sound of church bells - all leave bright impressions on a young soul. When parents bring their child to church often, he becomes used to it and learns to love its inspiring services.

The Orthodox faith is rich in feast days, magnificent services and noble customs, which produce a steadfast influence on Christians. Bring to mind Palm Sunday, Passion Week and the procession with the Holy Shroud, the Easter service (which no one celebrates as joyously as the Orthodox), our blessing of the waters on Epiphany, the celebration of the Holy Trinity with its abundance of flowers and greenery, the bringing forth of the Holy Cross, the blessing of the fruits of the harvest on the feast of the Transfiguration ... what a rich nourishment for the child's soul! For their children's sake, parents should make no excuses to skip church services.

The house of an Orthodox family is supposed to complement the holy environment of the temple. Of particular significance are common prayers, the beautiful corner with its holy images and glowing lamp, the first meal after Lent, memorial days, the blessing of homes and other religious celebrations. Because the religious upbringing of a child is attained not so much by means of the intellect as through feelings, children who attend church services and participate in family prayer become like a ploughed up field, receptive to the seeds of goodness, which in due time will bear fruit.

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The above is an excerpt from an article by Bishop Alexander (Mileant) that Father John has selected for the next Reading Group. Though it is geared toward parents, I think that it is an excellent read for all Orthodox Christians!

Saturday, January 29

Please Pray...


My cousin, Matthew, recently received his PhD in philosophy and accepted an offer from the University of Cairo to join their faculty. He unfortunately arrived almost simultaneously with the extremely violent uprisings. My aunt called my grandfather today with news from him and we found that he is ensconced in his high-rise apartment, unable to leave and trapped with limited stores of food and drink (as a foreigner, he can't trust the local water). He can see military and civilian patrols from his windows and hear the sounds and even sometimes the results of widespread violence. He, quite naturally, feels alone and has, to say the least, great trepidation.

Please, please pray for him and his safety. We are all so worried about him.

Famous Rapper Sings About Abortion...



Flipsyde is a group that has toured with Fort Minor, The Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg and on the Anger Management Tour. Two of their songs have been the theme songs for the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2008 Summer Olympics. It is good to see young and very talented artists standing up for the unborn.

Reposted from last January.

Friday, January 28

The Lessons of Roe: Thirty Years of Learning...


By Frederica Mathewes-Green

I was what the sociologists call an "early adopter" of feminism. Soon after arriving at college, in 1970, I knew that it was the religion for me. I had discarded the religion I grew up with, Christianity, as an insultingly simpleminded thing, but feminism filled the gap. Like a religion it offered a complete philosophical worldview, one that displayed me as victim in the center, a feature with immeasurable appeal to a female teenager. Feminism had its own gnostic analysis of reality, by which everything in existence was decoded to be about the oppression of women; it had sacred books, a secret vocabulary, and congregational gatherings for the purpose of consciousness-raising. It even had a habit and tonsure, in a sense; we didn't don wimples, but we cast off oppressive undergarments and shunned the razor.

I was the first in my dorm to become a feminist, which caused my friends some worry. I printed up posters, yelled chants at marches, and arranged to bring Ti-Grace Atkinson to campus as a speaker, one of the more interesting disasters of my life. But the real cause, of course, was abortion. Laws varied across the land; in my home state it was illegal, but friends could travel to New York or California to end a pregnancy. Unfair! We wanted all abortion laws everywhere repealed, because otherwise women were slaves. The bumper sticker on my car read, "Don't labor under a misconception. Legalize abortion."

When the Roe v. Wade decision came down, in January 1973, I was doing an independent semester in film studies and working in Washington, D.C. I volunteered at the flagship underground feminist newspaper, "off our backs," and was proud when the first issue I worked on included my review of a French movie. That same issue carried a long editorial about Roe. Mostly, we felt it was OK. However, the Roe decision says that a woman must have a medical reason to have an abortion at the end of pregnancy. That struck us as meddling. What do nine men in black robes know? Why can't a woman decide for herself whether to end a pregnancy, even in the ninth month?

Thirty years later, there are many things I regret about those years -- don't get me started! -- but chief among them is how shortsighted I was about the impact of Roe. What can I say, except that I just didn't know. I thought that women would only have abortions in the most-dire circumstances. I thought that the numbers of abortions would be small. I thought every child would be a wanted child. I thought the unborn was nothing but a glob of tissue. I thought abortion would liberate women. I was wrong.

Roe has taught us many lessons which now govern our lives in ways we can barely perceive. Instead of being one small tool for women's advancement, abortion opened a chasm, and a lot of unexpected things fell in. It turned out to be an irresistible force, because abortion makes things so much easier for everyone around the pregnant woman. Before Roe, unplanned pregnancy created many problems for many people -- the woman's lover, her parents, her siblings, her boss, her landlord, her dean. Abortion changes the picture instantly: Just go get it taken care of, dear, and it will be as if it never happened. Women were expected to do the sensible thing and save everyone else a lot of fuss and bother. Overnight, unplanned pregnancy became her private problem, a burden for her to bear alone. Abortion-rights rhetoric compounded this effect with terms emphasizing her isolation: My body, my rights, my life, my choice. The flip side of all that first-person assertiveness is abandonment. The network of support that once existed had been shattered.

To continue a pregnancy came to look like an insane choice, one that placed an unfair burden on others. Having a baby in less-than-perfect circumstances came to look like a crazy and even selfish whim. A woman in an unplanned pregnancy was not just permitted to have an abortion -- she was expected to. And that has made all the difference.

1. "Abortion liberates women." The initial argument about the time of Roe was that exercising self-determination was in itself empowering. This thesis did not stand the test of time. Before long it was obvious that women were choosing abortion in sorrow and distress rather than as daring self-expression. They usually didn't feel liberated afterwards, but a complex of numbness, sorrow, and relief.

2. "It's a woman's choice." The next argument was that, even if abortion isn't a fresh blast of emancipation, at least it's her own idea. But too often women themselves disproved this, saying, "I didn't have any choice, I had to have an abortion." Roe didn't add more options to a woman's plate; it made one option nearly inevitable, because it would be overwhelmingly attractive to those with an interest in keeping her life unchanged.

3. "Women have abortions only in extreme circumstances." I believed this in those pre-Roe days, even though my friends were traveling across seven states to have abortions simply because they were in college and not married. That seemed extreme enough at the time. Pro-choice leader Kate Michelman has been credited with saying that Americans believe in abortion under only three circumstances: rape, incest, and "my situation." Under those generous criteria, the numbers of abortions has risen to over 40 million. About 3,500 each day. No one expected this.

4. "Men don't have to lose their careers when they're going to have a baby." Abortion seemed the perfect solution, allowing women to compete with men in the workplace by discarding pregnancies to keep in fighting trim. But we had accepted a false premise. Men don't have to lose their children in order to keep their careers.

5. "Men don't have any right to a say in her decision." Of course they do; a father has as much right as a mother to care for his biological child. But the majority of unwed dads, of course, greet this proposition with relief. Another way of phrasing it is, "Men don't have any obligation to be involved in her problem."

6. "Anti-abortion activists want to turn back the clock." Not true; whatever America will be post-Roe, it will not be what it was before. Rather, it's abortion that pretends to turn back the clock, by offering a woman the illusion that she can push the rewind button on her life and go back to the time before she was pregnant. It can't be done. Once you're pregnant, a new life has begun. That may have been a topic of debate 30 years ago, but not any more.

7. "It's just a glob of tissue." This was probably the biggest shock I sustained in my changing views of abortion. I really thought that the unborn was an unformed mass and not technically alive till some point late in pregnancy. A physician's pamphlet showed me a being that looked remarkably like a baby at six weeks' gestation, before most abortions are done. Even prior to that, when it looked more like a crawfish, it still was a human being. From the time the sperm dissolves in the egg it's alive and has a unique genetic code never before seen on earth, with 100% human DNA. It's a different shape, that's all. I'm a different shape now than I was at 8 or will be at 80. When did we start discriminating against people based on their shape?

8. "It's so small." When I first began to lean toward pro-life convictions, I had a hard time getting over how tiny the unborn is. How could something so little deserve human rights? I came to realize that that is an irrelevant, and even pernicious, consideration. Do children deserve less protection than adults, because they're smaller? Why would feminists advocate such a view? Most women are smaller than most men. Should a tall guy get to vote twice?

9. "Every child should be a wanted child." Now that Roe is 30 years old, every person in America under the age of 30 could have been aborted. Every child is a wanted child -- the unwanted ones were all aborted, to the tune of one abortion for approximately every three live births. So how come the rate of reported child abuse is so high? In the early years after Roe there were 60,000 cases of child abuse reported annually. Today there are three million cases reported annually, a fifty-fold increase. The reasons for this increase are debatable, but one thing's for sure, abortion didn't prevent it. Aborting "unwanted" children hasn't helped. Instead, it's taught us that an unwanted person has no right to live. A child might be wanted very much during pregnancy, and not-so wanted a few months later when she's crying in the middle of the night. But abortion has taught us that a child deserves to live only if her parent wants her. It's a bizarre principle for feminists to endorse, who were vigorously fighting on another front against the idea, "I'm nothing unless a man wants me."

10. "My right to control my body." When a woman realizes she is pregnant and doesn't want to be, she may feel understandably panicked. It can feel like her body has been taken over against her will, and she can block out any thought except the desire to get rid of it. As one post-abortion woman told me, "It's like looking down and seeing a tarantula on your arm; you don't stop to think that some people keep them as pets." However, it's not truly the woman's body that's at risk here. The unborn child has a right to control her body, too, and that must at a minimum mean the right to keep her arms and legs attached to her body.

11. "Women are full-fledged adults and deserve more rights than fetuses." Yes, this is true; adults have the right to vote and drive, and I don't think anyone is proposing giving such privileges to the unborn. However it's a long way from regulating rights that come with increasing maturity to denying the right to be alive. This is an abiding fallacy in abortion discussions, and both pro-life and pro-choice advocates fell for it. We both assumed that abortion concerned a conflict between the rights of a woman and a fetus. But in no sane culture are women and their own unborn children presumed to be mortal enemies. If continuing a pregnancy has become that unbearable, the problem is not inside the woman's body, but in a culture that is placing overwhelming burdens on her. The love between mother and baby is the icon of human connectedness, and when we complacently assume that one may want to kill the other, something has gone seriously wrong.

What does the future hold? The predictions I would have made 30 years ago turned out to be so wildly inaccurate that I offer the following with fistfuls of salt. But first I'd note that legal restriction of abortion is not on the horizon. The pro-life movement has not made efforts to pass legislation that would prevent abortion since the early '90s, when the Casey decision dealt a massive and discouraging blow. Legislation proposed since then has been like planting hedges, focused on clinic regulations, parental consent, and the like. These are not laws that protect unborn life. Pro-choicers view laws like these as dangerously "incremental," but that pays pro-lifers a compliment we don't deserve. Our powers of persuasion are not so great that we can lead a citizen who supports a parental consent law to outlaw abortion. In fact, there's a danger that these "incremental" laws will be all we get. The average citizen may conclude that the pro-lifers got a little, the pro-choicers got a little, and now everything is square. The situation may be analogous to the nation's liquor laws after the repeal of Prohibition. States passed laws regulating when and where liquor could be sold, but any adult who can read the store's sign can still buy as much booze as he wants.

Let's stay with that analogy for a moment. After Prohibition was repealed there was a vigorous backlash in which drinking was celebrated as fun and sophisticated. If you look at movies from the '30s and '40s you'll see a lot of stylish drunkenness, with the leading man stumbling and mumbling, and the leading lady clapping an ice bag to her hangover. It took several decades before people were able to admit that excess drinking causes a lot of pain. By the '80s it had become acceptable to decline a drink at a party; by the '90s cocktail parties had gone out of style. In 1981 the comedy Arthur was criticized for treating alcoholism as fodder for jokes -- a complaint that didn't occur to audiences in 1950, as they laughed at drunken Jimmy Stewart and his invisible six-foot rabbit in Harvey.

The cultural rethinking on drunkenness didn't come about because the Women's Christian Temperance Union had finally devised the right slogan to "win hearts and minds" to their cause. It came about because drunkenness hurts, and eventually that truth couldn't be ignored.

Abortion hurts, too. It is a classic example of acting in haste and repenting at leisure; before the fact it looks like abortion is the only choice ("I had to have an abortion") and the woman may want to get it over with as fast as possible, like slapping off that tarantula. There are a lot of long nights afterwards, though, when she goes through the day the baby would have been born, the anniversary of the abortion, the first "wanted" pregnancy when she feels her baby move, and all the years to ahead.

But how can she speak of this grief? It's supposed to be "private" and "personal." She expects people would say, "Look, it was your decision, stop whining about it." She may fear that voicing regrets will give fodder to the pro-life movement, whom she has been told is an enemy trying to oppress her. All the insistent language of privacy makes her feel that her grief has no place; it should not intrude on others and disturb them, it should be kept inside. Everyone else has forgotten that she was ever pregnant. It's time to get over it. So why does she still feel so sad?

My hunch is that as the abortion debate cools off, as the status quo settles further into place, the instant association of "abortion" with "hot, ugly argument" will ease. This will make it easier for people to think about without being thrown immediately into taking sides (presented usually as the cool, thoughtful people against the stupid, screaming people). And that will be a good thing, conducive to honest reflection. When women are no longer afraid of being stigmatized for voicing their grief, the grief can begin to come forth. We will find that there is a great deal there -- not just among aborted women, but among the fathers and grandparents of these lost children. Over 40 million abortions means a lot of grief. It may be something just barely held back, like a tidal wave. I don't know what will result when that grief begins to be expressed, and we admit that abortion hasn't done all the wonderful things we thought it would, 30 years ago. But, speaking as a pro-lifer, I believe there is reason for hope.

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for NPR's Morning Edition, Beliefnet.com, Christianity Today, and other publications.

Monday, January 24

Learning Basket: Orange...

Books
An Orange for Frankie
The Carrot Seed
The Sun Egg
The Big Orange Splot
Each Orange Had 8 Slices
The Orange Book

Activities
Mix Red and Yellow Paint Together to Make Orange
Taste Test Several Different Varieties of Oranges (Blood, Valencia, Navel, etc.)
Create Picture Entirely with the Color Orange Using Different Mediums (Orange Paint, Orange Colored Pencil, Orange Watercolor, Orange Chalk, Orange Crayon, etc.)
Have a Snack or Meal with Different Orange Foods (Orange Juice, Orange Sherbet, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, etc.)
Make Dried Orange Ornaments for the Birds

Broadcast of The March for Life...

The March for Life will be broadcast today on EWTN at 11:30 am EST. Metropolitan Jonah will be a speaker at the rally!

Sunday, January 23

Sancity of Life Sunday...


January 18, 2009

To the Venerable Hierarchs, Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

The Lord Jesus Christ emerged from the waters of Baptism, and heard the Word of the Father: "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Lord's word to each and every human being, to each and every being which bears the image and can actualize the likeness of God, is the same: You are my beloved. It is the very Word of God who, by His incarnation and assumption of our whole life and our whole condition, affirms and blesses the ultimate value of every human person--and indeed of creation as a whole. He filled it with His own being, uniting us to Himself, making us His own Body, transfiguring and deifying our lives, and raising us up to God our Father. He affirms and fulfills us, not simply as individuals seeking happiness, but rather as persons with an infinite capacity to love and be loved, and thus fulfills us through His own divine personhood in communion.

Our life as human beings is not given to us to live autonomously and independently. This, however, is the great temptation: to deny our personhood, by the depersonalization of those around us, seeing them only as objects that are useful and give us pleasure, or are obstacles to be removed or overcome. This is the essence of our fallenness, our brokenness. With this comes the denial of God, and loss of spiritual consciousness. It has resulted in profound alienation and loneliness, a society plummeting into the abyss of nihilism and despair. There can be no sanctity of life when nothing is sacred, nothing is holy. Nor can there be any respect for persons in a society that accepts only autonomous individualism: there can be no love, only selfish gratification. This, of course, is delusion. We are mutually interdependent.

First as Christians, but even more so, as human beings, we must repent and turn to God and one another, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. Only this will heal the soul. Only by confronting our bitterness and resentment, and finding forgiveness for those who have hurt us, can we be free from the rage that binds us in despair. Repentance is not about beating ourselves up for our errors and feeling guilty; that is a sin in and of itself! Guilt keeps us entombed in self-pity. All sin is some form of self-centeredness, selfishness. Repentance is the transformation of our minds and hearts as we turn away from our sin, and turn to God, and to one another. Repentance means to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean to justify someone's sin against us. When we resent and hold a grudge, we objectify the person who hurt us according to their action, and erect a barrier between us and them. And, we continue to beat ourselves up with their sin. To forgive means to overcome that barrier, and see that there is a person who, just like us, is hurt and broken, and to overlook the sin and embrace him or her in love. When we live in a state of repentance and reconciliation, we live in a communion of love, and overcome all the barriers that prevented us from fulfilling our own personhood.

All the sins against humanity, abortion, euthanasia, war, violence, and victimization of all kinds, are the results of depersonalization. Whether it is "the unwanted pregnancy", or worse, "the fetus" rather than "my son" or "my daughter;" whether it is "the enemy" rather than Joe or Harry (maybe Ahmed or Mohammed), the same depersonalization allows us to fulfill our own selfishness against the obstacle to my will. How many of our elderly, our parents and grandparents, live forgotten in isolation and loneliness? How many Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian and American youths will we sacrifice to agonizing injuries and deaths for the sake of our political will? They are called "soldiers," or "enemy combatants" or "civilian casualties" or any variety of other euphemisms to deny their personhood. But ask their parents or children! Pro-war is NOT pro-life! God weeps for our callousness.

We have to extend a hand to those suffering from their sins, what ever they are. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, save the one we refuse to accept forgiveness for. Abortion not only destroys the life of the infant; it rips the soul out of the mother (and the father!). It becomes a sin for which a woman torments herself for years, sinking deeper into despair and self-condemnation and self-hatred. But there is forgiveness, if only she will ask. We must seek out and embrace the veterans who have seen such horrors, and committed them. They need to be able to repent and accept forgiveness, so that their souls, their memories, and their lives, might be healed.

Most of all, we must restore the family: not just the nuclear family, but the multi-generational family which lives together, supports one another, and teaches each one what it means to be loved and to be a person. It teaches what forgiveness and reconciliation are. And it embraces and consoles the prodigals who have fallen. In this, the real sanctity of life is revealed, from pregnancy to old age. And in the multi-generational family each person finds value. This is the most important thing that we can possibly do.

The Blessed Mother Teresa said that the greatest poverty of the industrialized world is loneliness. Let us reach out to those isolated, alienated, alone, and in despair, finding in them someone most worthy of love; and in turn, we will find in ourselves that same love and value, and know indeed that God speaks to us in the depths of our souls, You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased.

With love in Christ,


SIGNATURE
+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Saturday, January 22

Women's Group...


This afternoon was the first gathering of our church's Women's Group. We met at our house and the children played while their mamas got to know one another better. After an early dinner, we headed out to church for Vespers. It was such a nice time and I am so thankful that we are doing this! It can get pretty lonely being an Orthodox Christian mother (and priest's wife!) because life can be so different for us, and I think that these afternoons of fellowship will really rejuvenate us and help us to feel more and more like a church family.

Friday, January 21

Friday's Feminine Tip: Decorate for Valentine's Day...



Remember the banner I made for Sugar Plum's 4th birthday? We decided to use it for Valentine's Day. First, we used Sculpty Clay (Extra Light) and a heart shaped Linzer Tart cookie cutter to make the heart ornaments (I used a straw to make the hole for the ribbon to go through) . After they were finished baking, I hung them on red ribbon. Next, we took the green ribbons from the birthday off the banner and replaced them with the hearts. Voila!

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, January 19

Everyday Joy...




I'm savoring the everyday here... quiet before a storm of comings and goings.
We're listening to Enya, enjoying the gray and brown landscape on a foggy day, starting to bake bread again, and taking turns cuddling sweet Button.

What are you up to today?

Tuesday, January 18

Kate's Bridal Shower...





Learning Basket: Snow...


Books
Brave Irene
Snowmen at Night
The Snowman
Snow
Tracks in the Snow
The Mitten
The Hat
Snowy Day
Brambly Hedge Winter Story
Snowballs

Activities
Play in the Snow (if you have any!)
Watch The Snowman
Create a Snowman (Cotton Balls, Black Pompoms, Orange Paper Carrot Nose, and Glue)
Cut Snowflakes for the Windows using Coffee Filters and Muffin Cup Liners
Make Ice Ornaments

Saturday, January 15

Bridal Shower Favors...


Tomorrow is my sister's bridal shower! I am so excited! Here are the favors we found for the guests... pretty votive holders and a candle. My mom is doing the food and my sisters, Anna and Juliana, are working on the decorations. Now onto the games for the shower...

Friday, January 14

Things to Do Inside When You Can't Go Outside...


With a new little one in our house who cannot get sick (RSV is a very serious sickness for premature babies), our time outside has been limited this winter. Needless to say, our two older children quickly get cabin fever! To combat this, we have had to be creative with our days at home. Here are some of our favorite things to do:
  • Water Play - Washing dishes, playing with small toys, a tea set, and other little water safe items in a bathroom sink, kitchen sink, or the bathtub is a terrific way to play and learn. It is not unusual for our children to play in the tub every evening for half-an-hour to an hour after dinner... they have so much fun!
  • Arts and Crafts - Our daughter loves using art and craft supplies to draw and create. HERE is a list I created of some of our favorite supplies to use.
  • Music and Movement - The little ones love to sing and dance to any type of music I put on. A few months ago, a parishioner gave us a Casio keyboard that cannot only be played manually, but also came with a ton of instrumental music. We set it up upstairs and the sunny bedroom it is in is a favorite spot for the children in the mornings. They play lots of 80's instrumental music and dance and run around for as long as I can stand the noise!
  • Dress Up: We have a small trunk with lots of different dress up clothes. Sugar Plum nearly always dresses as a ballerina, while Little Man opts for his fireman costume.
  • Setting the Scene - Some evenings, I set up a little scene with a few toys to invite play. Laying out a basket of blocks or setting out the play dough things sparks the children's interest as soon as they wake up.
  • Reading - Library trips are a fun part of our week. We often go for story hour to a local children's bookstore for great books, activities, and playtime. It is great to have something to look forward to every week. I also try to read to the children frequently during the day.
  • Puzzles - Both Sugar Plum and Little Man love doing puzzles. I try to rotate them frequently so that they don't loose their appeal.
  • Cooking and Baking - Though it can get a little hairy to cook with little ones, it is worth the effort. The children really enjoy mixing, pouring, and creating their food. Remember, it doesn't have to be elaborate... making a sandwich, pouring milk, and cutting up fruit is a huge thrill for little ones.
What are some things you do with your little ones on days you have stay inside?

Thursday, January 13

Three Babies at Play...

Overheard...


Papa: "Little Man, if you don't back away from the tv, I am going to turn it off."

Thirty Seconds Later...

Mama: "Little Man, did you hear Papa? Move back or we will turn off the tv!"
Little Man: "Papa is tricky. Papa is tricky like a fox."

Sunday, January 9

The Matron of Honor Dress...

Here is the dress that I finally decided on for my sister's wedding. I found it on etsy at a shop called Lirola. I was very excited that the dress could be customized to my figure... mainly I wanted longer sleeves and a little more length in the skirt. I also selected mysterious blue as the color for the fabric. I am really excited about getting the dress in the mail and will be sure to let you know how it fits! Now onto to finding red shoes!

Saturday, January 8

The Blessing of The Atlantic Ocean...








We joined the neighboring Orthodox Church for their Blessing of The Atlantic Ocean. It was a long but exciting day!

Photos by Lee Gregory

Friday, January 7

Friday's Feminine Tip: Winter Wardrobe...

Tee Shirts in white, heather gray, charcoal gray, heather black, and navy blue


Corduroy trousers in camel and spice brown

Red wool pea coat (mine doesn't have a hood)

Handbag

With the addition of several skirts, a fleece jacket for chilly mornings, and some yoga pants for cool and rainy days at home, this should work well for the winter. I have the majority of these items from past seasons (the only things I purchased were the tee shirts from Gap Tall on sale... I told my husband to forbid me from buying shirts from anywhere else. They are never long enough from other stores and my wrists and lower back hang out at the most inopportune times). My sister's wedding is coming up in February, so I will be upgrading my dress shoes to red mary janes which will be fun and the dress that I chose for the wedding will be able to be worn on other occasions, so my church wardrobe will improve considerably.

On my wish list are: tall dressy boots (which have been on my wish list for years! I have never found the right ones), loafers for everyday wear, tights, and a few new skirts. I'll be keeping my eye out as the stores start to have sales.

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What does your winter wardrobe look like? What have you added this season? What are your favorite pieces?

Wednesday, January 5

The Unborn Paradox...

By Ross Douthat

The American entertainment industry has never been comfortable with the act of abortion. Film or television characters might consider the procedure, but even on the most libertine programs (a “Mad Men,” a “Sex and the City”), they’re more likely to have a change of heart than actually go through with it. Reality TV thrives on shocking scenes and subjects — extreme pregnancies and surgeries, suburban polygamists and the gay housewives of New York — but abortion remains a little too controversial, and a little bit too real.

This omission is often cited as a victory for the pro-life movement, and in some cases that’s plainly true. (Recent unplanned-pregnancy movies like “Juno” and “Knocked Up” made abortion seem not only unnecessary but repellent.) But it can also be a form of cultural denial: a way of reassuring the public that abortion in America is — in Bill Clinton’s famous phrase — safe and legal, but also rare.

Rare it isn’t: not when one in five pregnancies ends at the abortion clinic. So it was a victory for realism, at least, when MTV decided to supplement its hit reality shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” with last week’s special, “No Easy Decision,” which followed Markai Durham, a teen mother who got pregnant a second time and chose abortion.

MTV being MTV, the special’s attitude was resolutely pro-choice. But it was a heartbreaking spectacle, whatever your perspective. Durham and her boyfriend are the kind of young people our culture sets adrift — working-class and undereducated, with weak support networks, few authority figures, and no script for sexual maturity beyond the easily neglected admonition to always use a condom. Their televised agony was a case study in how abortion can simultaneously seem like a moral wrong and the only possible solution — because it promised to keep them out of poverty, and to let them give their first daughter opportunities they never had.

The show was particularly wrenching, though, when juxtaposed with two recent dispatches from the world of midlife, upper-middle-class infertility. Last month there was Vanessa Grigoriadis’s provocative New York Magazine story “Waking Up From the Pill,” which suggested that a lifetime on chemical birth control has encouraged women “to forget about the biological realities of being female ... inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect.” Then on Sunday, The Times Magazine provided a more intimate look at the same issue, in which a midlife parent, the journalist Melanie Thernstrom, chronicled what it took to bring her children into the world: six failed in vitro cycles, an egg donor and two surrogate mothers, and an untold fortune in expenses.

In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.

Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption, and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.

And lives are what they are. On the MTV special, the people around Durham swaddle abortion in euphemism. The being inside her is just “pregnancy tissue.” After the abortion, she recalls being warned not to humanize it: “If you think of it like [a person], you’re going to make yourself depressed.” Instead, “think of it as what it is: nothing but a little ball of cells.”

It’s left to Durham herself to cut through the evasion. Sitting with her boyfriend afterward, she begins to cry when he calls the embryo a “thing.” Gesturing to their infant daughter, she says, “A ‘thing’ can turn out like that. That’s what I remember ... ‘Nothing but a bunch of cells’ can be her.”

When we want to know this, we know this. Last week’s New Yorker carried a poem by Kevin Young about expectant parents, early in pregnancy, probing the mother’s womb for a heartbeat:

The doctor trying again to find you, fragile,

fern, snowflake. Nothing.

After, my wife will say, in fear,

impatient, she went beyond her body,

this tiny room, into the ether—

... And there

it is: faint, an echo, faster and further

away than mother’s, all beat box

and fuzzy feedback. ...

This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

Tuesday, January 4

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

Two of our parishioners called late this afternoon to see if we were available for some ice cream cake before bedtime... Yes, please! What a fun way to end the day!

Living and Learning: January...


Faith
The Twelve Days of Christmas
St. Basil’s Day
Theophany
Sanctity of Life Sunday
The New Martyrs of Russia

Homemaking
Take down Christmas d├ęcor
Re-arrange rooms a bit
Revamp winter menu plans
Clean car
Declutter and organize linens
Create a shopping list for needed linens
House blessing
Shampoo downstairs carpet
Christmas photo album
Update framed photographs around house
Update Button's baby book
Buy and fill out calendar/planner
Thank you notes
Wash all of the linens on each bed

Baby
Rolling from Back to Front
Switch Clothing to Six Months

Themes
12 Days of Christmas
The Nutcracker
Snowflakes and Snowmen
Red

Rituals
Prepare three warming meals a day - focusing especially on breakfasts
Begin baking bread again

Special Days
+Grandma Joyce (7th)
Poppy Chick (9th)
Grandfather James(11th)
Auntie Juliana (15th)
AA Milne’s birthday (18th)
Full Wolf Moon (19th)
Popcorn Day (19th)

Learning
Practice Being Still and Quiet during Prayers and Services
Learning the Trisagion Prayers - "In the Name..., O Heavenly King, Holy God... Holy God 3x's"
The Sign of the Cross for Little Man
The Blessing of the Atlantic for Theophany
Tidying up Toys after Play
Clearing the Table after Meals
Nature Table Scene
Book Basket
Watercolor Pencils
Cut Snowflakes
Fold Window Stars
Make sculpty clay ornaments for gifts and decorations
Lacing Cards
Memory Game and Puzzles
Encourage imaginative play by not over-scheduling our days
Winter felt board
Inside Hide and seek
Feed birds
Polish wooden toys together
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