Sunday, December 30

The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage...

When I saw Dr. Laura's latest book in paperback on the shelf at Walmart yesterday, I snapped it up. Though I am only a few pages into the book so far (I am reading the Anne series after all!), I wanted to tell you all that what I've read is quite good! Here are a few excerpts for your reading pleasure:

"Chivalry is largely dead, and feminism is the murderer. It soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from and mystery of femininity and masculinity. The war between the sexes is an all-out war. Spouses more likely suffer from behavior that resembles sibling rivalry where there is compitition for resources and power verses "giving," and "sleeping with the enemy" where men are the "evil empire" and women are self-centered, complaining, and demanding rather than two folks who thank God every day for the blessing of their marriage partner and the opprotunity to live for something other and outside of themselves."

"People call me eveyday on my radio program with minor complaints, resentments, confusuion, and bitterness in their marriage. With all the different combinations and permutations of people and problems, there are three points that I always try to make:

1. Treat your spouse as if you loved them with your last breath - no matter how contrary to that you might feel at any one moment.

2. Think hard every day about how you can make their life worth living.

3. Be the kind of person you would want to love, hug, come home to, and sacrifice for."

And that is just from the introduction!

From Office Building to Church: Part Seven...

Though there is still quite a bit to do in the church, today was our first Liturgy there! I will continue to post pictures as we beautify the building more!

Saint Basil's Day...

In our church, we always have bread in honor of Saint Basil... Though his feast day isn't until January first, we celebrated it today.

Here is a brief article on the tradition:

One of the most beautiful and inspiring traditions and customs of the Greek Orthodox Church is the observance of Vasilopita. It is this annual family observance, together with many other traditions of our Church, which joins our Orthodox Faith and heritage with the history of the Christian religion itself.

The word Vasilopita is a compound Greek word which means the sweet 'bread of Basil'.

This age old tradition commenced in the fourth century, when Saint Basil the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.

This original event which happened in Cappadocia of Caesarea in the last half of the fourth century, is very much alive in our Orthodox homes each year on January 1st.

According to tradition, special sweet bread (in some areas of Greece, it takes the form of a cake) is prepared both in the Orthodox homes and in the Church community which is called Vasilopita. Sweets are added to the bread which symbolize the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usally added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives that portion of the Pita which contains the coin is considered blessed.

This tradition adds joy to the celebration at the beginning of the New Year, which everyone hopes will bring joy to all. Many Orthodox Christians enjoy the Vasilopita at home with their loved ones during the New Year celebration. The head of the family cuts the pieces of pita for all members of the family. Since Saint Basil loved the poor people, a special piece is cut for the unfortunate of the world, which symbolizes our concern for the poverty-striken people of all nations.

During the fourth century, one of the greatest Fathers of the Christian Church appeared on the spiritual horizon of the Orthodox Faith. His name was Basil and he was Bishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia (Asia Minor). He was born four years after the First Ecumenical Council held in the year 325 A.D. Saint Basil was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers of the Church (the others were Gregory of Nazianzus, his best friend, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa).

Saint Basil was the first person in human history to establish an orphanage for little children. He also founded the first Christian hospital in the world. His fame as a Holy Man spread like wildfire throughout the Byzantine world. He was considered one of the most wise and compassionate clergymen in the entire history of the Church. His Feast Day is observed on January 1st, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season. The Church, therefore, in respect for his many contributions to the Church and to mankind in general, combined the joy and happiness of the New Year with the glory of the birth of Christ, and the Epiphany into what is known in the Orthodox Church as the Vasilopita Observance.

The Vasilopita is a joyous observance, and it is a custom which should not be neglected by Greek Orthodox Christians in the Western world. It should be retained annually in the home and in the parish. It is a wonderful way to begin each New Year which God has given to the world. If you have been holding the observance in your home, congratulations! Please continue to do so. If you have not, hopefully this information has explained to you how to do it. We urge you to begin this year and make it a "family gathering" every year on Saint Basil's Day/New Year's Day, the 8th day of Christmas.

An Update on our Little Man...

He's coming home on Monday!!

Saturday, December 29

From Office Building to Church: Part Six...

Aside from getting cleared to have Liturgy in the new church on Sunday, the big job yesterday was the staining of the wood on the Iconastas. I love the rich color!

Friday, December 28

An Update on our Little Man...

The feeding tube is out!!

From Office Building to Church: Part Five...

Yesterday's work at the church focused on the Iconastas... I think they are doing a great job, don't you? Fr. John will be staining the wood today while the other guys put in the doors with panic bars, the carpet and ceiling are finished, and inspection takes place. Tomorrow is moving day and Sunday will be the first Liturgy, God Willing!

As if We Needed Yet Another Reason Not to Vote for Hillary...

Bonnet Tip - Biblical Womanhood

Thursday, December 27

A Homecoming Outfit for Our Little Boy...

I ordered it yesterday afternoon... I just love neutrals!

An Update on our Little Man...

When we went to the hospital to visit our baby boy yesterday, we were thrilled to find him in a crib rather than his incubator! Happily, he is able to regulate his own temperature now and can be free from life in a box. He is also now officially over his birth weight at 4 pounds 3 ounces and is eating by nursing or bottle-feeding (pumped breast milk) mostly - though he still gets a few tube feedings when he's extra sleepy. We seem to still be on target for January second for his homecoming... I am literally counting down the days!

Saturday, December 22

An Update on our Little Man...

Our baby boy is doing so well! He has been gaining weight, fighting jaundice, and learning how to breastfeed. Unfortunately, he is not home yet (we're hoping for January second) but we are very happy with the care that he is receiving in the NICU. Please continue to keep him (and us!) in your prayers. It is very difficult to not have him home.

From Office Building to Church: Part Four...

The accomplishments at the church this week were numerous. The grid for the ceiling was completed, the recess lighting was installed, the Icons arrived for the Iconastas, walls were painted, carpeting was laid, doors were hung, and trim was nailed in! Hooray for almost being done!!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving...

When we were expecting our first child, one of my friends from church offered to give me her Medela breast pump. It had been given to her from a working mom who used it briefly and then was offered to me since my friend never had any breast feeding issues. I reluctantly took it thinking that I would never need it and tossed it into the back of our closet.

Can I just tell you that it has been the single most used baby item we have? Between both of our preemie babies, I have worked this thing within an inch of it's life! I am so thankful for this pump and am so glad that the motor hasn't worn out! As much as it has been helpful, I hope that I won't have to use it if we have a third child someday!

From Office Building to Church: Part Three...

Here are some photographs of the work that had been completed at the church as of last week. At the time that the pictures were taken, all of the drywall had been finished and the electrical wiring was complete! I'm off to phone Fr. John to remind him to take pictures of the work they've been doing this week!

Friday, December 14

Our Birth Story (not for young readers)...

It is still so unbelievable to me that our little one is here and his arrival was so bizarre that I almost cannot find the words to explain what happened.

As some of you know, I have been having braxton hicks contractions for several weeks. While my doctor was not too concerned, she wanted to monitor them if they went for longer than three hours. On Sunday morning, I woke up with bh contractions and was able to help them go away by drinking some water. That afternoon, they came back, so I called the on-call physician and was told to drink more water, rest, and come to the hospital for monitoring if they continued for longer than the three hour limit. When they stopped, I went on with our day.

When Monday rolled around, things were fine until dinner time. The bh contractions returned again and didn't seem to stop when I drank water. We called the doctor and she told me to come in for monitoring. Despite being on the monitor for about 30 minutes and feeling the contractions the whole time, nothing was showing up! The nurse examined me and told me that nothing was going on and that we should go home, keep our 32 week appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning, and spent the rest of Tuesday on bed rest. Feeling like an hypochondriac, I went home and went to sleep.

The next day, we went to our appointment and everything looked great! My belly was measuring perfectly, my blood pressure was great, there was no protein in my urine (a sign of preeclampsia returning), and although my weight had gone up a bit, there was nothing to be concerned about. I asked the doctor if we could go to Target and do a little shopping and she said "sure!"

Tuesday progressed normally for us with the exception of a tiny bit of bleeding (which I chalked up to the exam I had been given the previous night) until dinner time when my cramping returned. Since I had been told that there was nothing wrong, I began to think that maybe I was eating something that didn't agree with me or that maybe I was getting a tummy bug. I spent the rest of the evening on the couch drinking water watching tv with our little girl and feeling increasingly miserable. My husband repeatedly asked me if I wanted to call the doctor but I felt like it would be silly to do so when nothing was really wrong. At about 11pm I went to the bathroom and then lay down on the bed feeling worse and worse. Fortunately, my husband called our doctor for me and we were told to return to the hospital of more monitoring.

While my husband got my hospital bag and diaper bag to the car, I quickly got our little one into her pajamas and we headed for the car. Normally, it would take me about 5 seconds to get myself downstairs and into the garage, but I couldn't take more than a few steps at a time without stopping because of the pain. As we were pulling out of the garage, I began to really feel that something was not right and had to lean on my left leg and side and into my husband.

Though the hospital is about 45 minutes away (30ish if your husband is speeding!), the drive seemed interminable. About 15 minutes into the ride, my husband called 911 and asked them to please have someone waiting for us. We were first told to go to the emergency room, but then they called us back and said that there would be someone waiting at the labor and delivery entrance. We pulled up to the entrance of the hospital and THERE WAS NO ONE THERE!!! No security, no nurse, no wheelchair, NOTHING! I somehow got out of the car, took two steps, and my water broke! A few steps later, I was inside the hospital (where there were still no signs of anyone coming and had to crouch down because of the pain. At this point my husband was yelling for help, and began to try to get a hold of someone via the phone on the wall. A few minutes later, it was clear that no one was going to come so he left me to get help. During the two minutes he was away, I pushed our little one's head out and was holding it when help finally arrived. The L&D nurses helped me finish delivering him on the floor of the lobby (there goes all my modesty!) and wrapped him in the in my shirt (I was wearing a tank top underneath) and a scrub top.

Our little one was delivered with nice pink skin and was given an 8 for his Apgar score (which increased to a 9 a few minutes later). He has been breathing on his own since his birth and all of the doctors and nurses are astounded at how well he is doing! He is even nursing once per day (the rest of the time they feed him breastmilk through a tube that goes from his nose down to his belly), something we were told he would be unable to do until he was 33 or 34 weeks gestation.

Though it is obviously very difficult to leave him, we are very happy with the NICU nurses and doctors that are caring for him. They are very sweet and extremely gentle! I am feeling great after his delivery and have to keep reminding myself that I actually did give birth:)

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! We really appreciate them!

A New Addition to the Preemie Club...

Our second child, a baby boy, was born on Wednesday, December 12th at 12:35 am! Since he was born at 32 weeks gestation, he will be in the hospital at least until January 2nd. Thankfully, he is a strong little man, and has been breathing on is own since his birth. Please keep our family in your prayers! I am not sure how frequently I will be able to update, but I will try to put up the birth story soon since it is a doozy!

Monday, December 10

Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate...

  • 2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
  • 1 cup of vanilla soy milk
  • Put the cocoa powder and sugar into a mug
  • Pour milk into a saucepan and heat
  • Add warmed milk to mug a little bit at a time, stirring as you go
  • Enjoy
Note: You can tweak the amounts of cocoa and sugar you use based upon how chocolaty and sweat you like your hot chocolate.

Making Your Home a Haven: Day Six...

Mondays are are always hard days for us to get back into the swing of things around here. I think that it is because Sunday is a day where we are usually on the go!

We were able to sleep in a bit this morning and spend some time playing, laughing, and talking before actually getting up! Once out of bed, we did our usual morning routine (mostly) and set out to run some errands after lunch. Happily, we made a huge dent in our Christmas decoration/Christmas gifts/new baby/hospital shopping and only have to worry about a little bit now!

I am hoping for a good report from the doctor tomorrow and maybe a trip to a few more stores to get the last things we need... once we return home, it will be all about the decorating, wrapping, mailing, and feathering of the nest for the next two weeks!

Thursday, December 6

New Traditions for Saint Nicholas Day...

One of this things that we were able to do today was to go to visit a nearby town's light display. It was so nice to drink hot chocolate as we rode through the lights on the special tram they use while listening to traditional Christmas carols! I hope that we continue to do this every year!

Tea for Two..

After reading all about Barbara's reasoning for having everyday items around the house geared for the littlest ones in your home, I was so happy to find this tiny espresso cup and saucer at our new grocery store. It is perfect for our toddler and though it will only hold barely warmed beverages (for now), she can feel like a big girl drinking tea with Mama!

St. Nicholas Day Treats...

Saint Nicholas Day began beautifully! The field in front of our home was dusted with snow that fell during the night!

Here are the treats that we received in honor of Saint Nicholas! Lots of golden chocolate coins and a set of wooden blocks that can build an Orthodox Church!

These treats spell f-u-n for the whole family!

Wednesday, December 5

Making Your Home a Haven: Day Three...

Since today was the day before St. Nicholas Day, I didn't accomplish the laundry and laundry room that Crystal suggested we do today. Though I was close to being caught up on the laundry yesterday, Teething Toddler had other ideas! It looks like laundry will be on my agenda tomorrow!

Anyway, nearly all of my day was spent preparing for St. Nicholas Day. I made and decorated the cookies that you see above. I am a little disappointed that they look so unattractive, but I think that I learned a few tricks for next time (it was my first time frosting cookies). I also spent some time today hunting down chocolate coins for our shoes (who knew that a store specializing in every kind of candy known to man wouldn't stock candy coins?), picking up some odds and ends at the market, and wrapping the coins and the family gift for tomorrow. We also had Vespers tonight and a video on St. Nicholas at the church. One of the nicest things about today was the fact that it snowed here! It was our little one's first real experience with snow flurries! I think that she loves them as much as her mama does!

I'll post some pictures of our St. Nicholas festivities tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 4

Winter has Come at Last...

Never had there been such "high jinks" held in the little stone house as were held there that beautiful, late-lingering autumn, when November seemed October over again, and even December aped the sunshine and hazes of summer. But on this particular day it seemed as if December had remembered that it was time for winter and had turned suddenly dull and brooding, with a windless hush predictive of coming snow. Nevertheless, Anne keenly enjoyed her walk through the great gray maze of the beechlands; though alone she never found it lonely; her imagination peopled her path with merry companions, and with these she carried on a gay, pretended conversation that was wittier and more fascinating than conversations are apt to be in real life."

-Anne of Avonlea
L.M. Montgomery

Making Your Home a Haven: Day Two...

Making Your Home a Haven: Day Two

The Family Room

First, I added some flowers to our coffee table that were left over from the Thanksgiving centerpieces I made recently. The colors are perfect for this room and the decorations we have in it. I may have to move it once the Christmas things come out though!

Next, I put away all of our Thanksgiving and Fall books and got our our Christmas and Winter ones. Since I had transfered the baby's cleaning supplies to the clementine box last week, I had an extra basket that worked perfectly!

I also got out this pretty embroidered pillow that I bought at Tuesday Morning a month or so ago. The colors go very nicely with the throw and pillow that were already there.

We received this pretty card from one of our parishioners yesterday. He paints a picture to feature on his Christmas cards every year (I was so disappointed that his card from last year was accidentally thrown out!) and I thought that the beautiful winter scene would really bring some holiday cheer to the room. I'd like to find a third thing to add to the table... maybe something Christmasy.

The last thing I did was a bit of tidying. I wiped down coasters, put away toys, and collected all of the dvds and videos that had made their way to our tv cabinet. The result is so much more pleasing!

Monday, December 3

Making Your Home a Haven: Day One...

Making Your Home a Haven: Day One

1. Refresh Your Spirit:
We said Morning Prayers together as a family this morning! Though we usually do this, lately we've been off running this way and that and have been resorting to either saying them by ourselves or in the car as we rush somewhere.

2. Take Time to Plan: I reviewed my Daily Routine and tweaked it a little. In addition, I wrote out a new cleaning schedule. We seem to be becoming a little more messy with a toddler, so I want to begin cleaning the entire house each week (previously, I have cleaned the upstairs rooms one week and the downstairs rooms the next). Though things will be a little more busy for us, I think that we will be happier in the long run!

3. Do Something: I decided to follow Crystal's example and tackled the entrance to our house. I began with the front porch and worked on tidying it up (something I should have done weeks ago!). I removed all of the pots with dead flowers, took down our flag bunting, and put away a little crow scarecrow that our little one was given. Though the porch looks a little bare now, it is ready for the Christmas decorations we will be putting up in a week or so.

Front Porch Before

Front Porch After

The next thing I worked on was our front room. I straightened a few things and moved some items around a bit. Though I am still not satisfied with the result, the room looks presentable. Eventually, I'd like to find some curtains for the windows, a chair cover for the desk chair, and I have been thinking about seeing if Fr. John can build a long "built-in" bookshelf for the wall across from the futon. We need the shelf space and I think that it will really improve the look of the room!

The Front Room Now

A Close-up of the Desk (which was pretty empty before)
I am already looking forward to day two of the challenge!

Making Your Home a Haven Challenge...

Rather than posting my usual Commitment to Loveliness the next two weeks, I would like to encourage you to join in with Crystal for her Making Your Home a Haven Challenge. Each day, for the next two weeks, she will be posting daily challenges that encourage order in the home. If you would like to join, check out her blog for the day's challenge. I think that you will find that she has come up with some very thoughtful and lovely ideas for your family and home!
Note: I will be joining this challenge as well... check back later to see my progress!

Edited to Add: For some reason I cannot link to Crystal's Day One post. All you have to do to view it is to got to the main page of her blog. It is the first post up for Monday!

Sunday, December 2

From Office Building to Church: Part Two...

Here are some photos that Fr. John took of Saturday's accomplishments at our new location. Not bad for one day's worth of work, huh?!

See Part One Here.

Saturday, December 1

A Charming Accessory...

Though a little steep in price for me right now, aren't these charms wonderful? They would be a lovely addition to a mother's charm bracelet to celebrate the birth of a child or for Mother's Day.

A Wonderful New Product...

After writing my post on working towards getting feminine hands, Mommy Bee mentioned that she uses and likes Neutrogena Instant Nail Enhancer. When I went out to the store the other day, I picked up a tube of the pearl sheen version. It is wonderful! It has give my nails the look of clear polish (with a slight shimmer) without the tedious drying, chipping, and removing-after-a-few-days that regular nail polish requires. The best part is that it is nourishing my nails when I use it! If you plan to get it, it is in the cosmetics section of the drugstore with the Neutrogena makeup... I spent a lot of time looking in the lotions section and then in the nail polish section before I stumbled upon it.

Friday, November 30

From Office Building to Church: Part One...

Here are some photographs of the building that will soon house our little mission parish. Hopefully, there will be plenty of updates the next few weeks... We are hoping to be in by the beginning of January!

The view from the front (our part of the building is the right wing of the structure)...

The inside...

The view from the back porch...

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