Monday, February 23, 2009

Cheesefare Week

All convenient meat has been ousted from the freezer, I am pleased to say. Usually Meatfare stretches into Cheesefare from leftovers. Well, okay, I do have half a pound of sausage still in the fridge. THEN we go to our all-meatless menu.
Ordinarily, a family with very young children has two menus during fasting periods. In our case, though, we're trying to implement an adapted vegetarian diet for Kittyboy year round. Not our idea - his. Toddlers usually go through a picky phase, but Kittyboy's is very particular and has lasted since he started eating real food. Fruits, vegetables, starches, eggs, fish, he eats a decent variety. But what he generally refuses as a rule is meat. He'll eat it in small bits in something else, such as on pizza or in pasta sauce. But chicken nuggets (a toddler's mainstay I'm told), hamburgers, pork chops, etc - eh, not worth the fight. Especially since he does love cheese, eggs, fish and peanut butter. So we're looking into dietary guidelines for toddlers planned around NO meat, so that whatever meat he does or doesn't eat, won't matter as far as his overall nutrition. He'll be eating eggs, cheese, and fish throughout Lent - but he typically doesn't eat much meat ANY time of year as it is.
Haven't managed to establish Toddler Prayer Time exactly, but Kittyboy has "his Mary" on a necklace. Wearing it, he stayed in church a good amount of time Sunday, only leaving once before the sermon, so I think that the Mary necklace was a smart move (we don't have to leave to "go find" her). It's a little wooden icon keychain from the Marian Center, taken off the keyring and hung on a leather lace. I am also trying to make myself take time out from whatever I'm doing when he expresses his ever-deepening interest in our wall of icons (picture this little guy jumping at the wall, trying to climb the wall, jumping up and down signing Please and STRAINING for the icons which are all well out of reach - he's just so pitiful and pleading!). We take one of them down, we sit and look at it, I tell him about whomever is depicted in it, we say a prayer, and then it goes back on the wall. That last part does not generally go over well, of course, because he wants to sit and hold it FOR-E-VER and then carry it around with him. So far we've not had an outright tantrum, but it's likely we will at some point. Stopping the day for a while whenever he begs to hold an icon might just BE our prayer time - striking when the iron's hottest, and not when he'd rather listen to music or watch Veggie Tales.
I've been trying to do housework as if I'm doing it for God, and keeping that thought in mind does NOT make me feel better about it. On the contrary, now I look around my house and feel worse. A house kept "for God" should look better than mine. I do not know what I'm going to do about this.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Meatfare Week - Part Two (Resolutions)

I've been trying to think, all this week (as I put meat in recipes where it wasn't before, trying to remove temptation from the freezer), what precisely do I "resolve to solve" this Lent? All that's come to mind is a vague "Becoming a better wife and mother". Time to break down the vague into specifics.
What would I do if I were a better wife and mother?
To be a better mother:
As the one at home with Kittyboy for 9 hours a day, I should be instructing him more consistently in matters of faith. Two is not at all too young to learn about God and praying - he can make the sign of the cross, after all. And that is the simplest "prayer" that is. So I need to start actually scheduling prayer into our days - time to read a Bible story, look at and talk about some icons, and pick one of the many short, simple, memorable prayers I know to teach him. Shorter than the Lord's Prayer, more like "My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit - O Holy Trinity, glory to You." Not that Kittyboy can say ANY of those words yet, but as he hears it repeated, he will one day. Apart from the Jesus Prayer (Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me), that's about as basic as it gets. He's got a preschool Bible, but he keeps bringing me the grownup ones, because they have crosses on them, so if he'll sit for an abbreviated and skimmed-over first chapter of Genesis, I'll read from the grownup one. Some of the Psalms are really short, too. Psalm 117 - "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!" TWO VERSES. I wouldn't even need to find it, I could memorize that in a few minutes (and will, this evening).
And I need to work on getting him to recognize and sign JESUS. He gets Mary - he TOTALLY gets Mary. During Advent I sat down with him, the Nativity figures, the icon of the Nativity, and an icon of the Theotokos and Christ, to discuss who these People were and what Christmas was, and he figured out lickety-split that the beautiful woman with the baby was a MOMMY. And oh, what a Mommy she is, she's so beautiful and looks so loving, and she always has a Baby in her arms, and he likes babies too, and she must be just the most wonderful Mommy ever. He loves her. So... yeah. He has the concept of the Mother of God down pat. After all, it's the most basic relationship any baby understands - that of child and Mother. Now we start on GOD.
To be a better wife:
When I read Proverbs 31, I feel woefully inadequate. It's not that the wife described there is Superwoman - she does have servants, handmaids, to help her in her work. But that woman KNOWS what she is doing, and is mistress of her domain. She is fully capable of running her household, and knows it, and so she doesn't hesitate to ask, "Which should I do first, the dishes or the laundry? Should I pick up the toys or put away the clean clothes? Should I clean this room as it is, or rearrange it first so that it's more efficient, then clean it when I know where I want to keep everything? And how am I ever going to get all this flax spun and woven?" My mind is incredibly disorganized and my house reflects that - yet inwardly, I am a perfectionist. The combination of those two things basically guarantees that anything ever really gets done - I know that I want everything just so, but I can't decide what to do when or how or in what order, and so I end up doing NOTHING. I don't consider myself capable of doing what is really MY JOB, and so I don't try. It's not an excuse, but there you have it.
I just thought of something else - she takes pride in what she does. Housework is not what she does while staying home with the children in lieu of a job. Her family is her life's work, and her household - in which the children grow and are nurtured, to which the husband comes home at night to rest - is by extension also her life's work.
I have thought of my household as something of which I would be proud, if only it were clean and well-run and in order. Perhaps it would be cleaner, better run, and in better order if I took greater pride in MY life's work.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meatfare Monday - "Fast Food" Doesn't Mean What You Think (Part One)

For some reason, Lent has seemed to me for many years to be more of a "making resolutions" time than January 1st. It's probably because the church calendar just seems far more significant than the secular one that can be changed at whim - leap days, leap years, leap seconds, whatever. The church calendar doesn't change. Ever. "How many Orthodox does it take to change a light bulb?" the answer is either, "Change???" or "None. We use candles."
I'm not totally up on word origins, but I think it's significant that the word "resolution" is mostly "solution". We resolve - to solve. At New Year's, we seek to "solve" our weight, our level of fitness, our grades in school, our study habits, our BAD habits. And whether it's eating less, exercising more, or putting an end to nail-biting, to solve a personal problem takes discipline.
Lent is about many things, but the first one that comes to my mind is DISCIPLINE. That's because after remembering all the extra church services I love, the very next thing I think of is fasting.
The Lenten fast, for Orthodox Christians, is no meat, dairy or alcohol - for the duration of Lent. This is Monday of Meatfare Week, the last week we eat meat until Pascha (Easter). Next week is Cheesefare - "farewell" to dairy (eggs fall under dairy, as an animal product). And from then on... well, I fix a lot of bean soups and salads.
Why do we do this? It's not because cheeseburgers are sinful. It's not because pizza is inherently bad for you. It's not because a glass of wine is immoral (after all, Jesus did not turn water into fruit punch). If it were about "being righteous", we wouldn't gather in the church basement for a feast of meat, cheese, and wine immediately after the midnight Paschal Liturgy! Neither is it about earning salvation through self-deprivation, or being more strictly Orthodox than the next person. It's not about following rules and regulations for the sake of being "correct". If you're doing it for strict, legalistic reasons, you're doing it wrong.
This is my own understanding, and I am NOT a theologian, these are just my thoughts on the subject, BUT:
What it comes down to is discipline. We are creatures of impulse - ask anyone in the field of advertising. We are good at making rules for ourselves, but we are better at breaking them. We are pitiful at saying a simple "no" to what we want, and we excell at finding ways and reasons to say, "Oh, why not." And so, for 49 days out of 365, we say no - A LOT. I'm running errands and I'm hungry - a drive-thru burger is not an option. I'm in the checkout line and want something to munch - half of what's there is MILK chocolate. You have no idea how little willpower you have until you find yourself mesmerized by the latest Olive Garden commercial.
And why is this a problem? Think of it this way - if you can't say no to a piece of pizza, how can you say no to temptation when it counts? We all think that if an answer sheet fell out of the blue sky onto our desk during a test, we would not cheat. We would be Good. Because, you know, we're just Good People. Right? But if there were enough riding on that test - if the stakes were high enough? Suppose it's not a test in school, but a test in life. If the stakes were high enough, how would our willpower - our resolve - hold up? Would we lie? Steal? Hurt? Kill? Would we deny Christ Himself? We all swear like St. Peter, "Even if all are made to stumble, I will not be!" (Mark 14:31). St. Peter was a disciple, one of the Twelve, a great apostle who went on to do great things. But when he was scared, well... three times before the cock crowed.
If we can't turn down a stick of string cheese, we're in trouble.
Next post: My Lenten Resolutions

Monday, February 9, 2009

Odds and Ends, and Kittyboy's Cough

Firstly, news of a distressing sort - Kittyboy's cough is pneumonia. Not hospital-worthy, thank God, just antibiotics, fluids, and rest.
Some toddlers, I'm sure, would be content to lay on the couch and watch Veggie Tales. Such children must exist, somewhere. I was such a child, after all. The Kittyboy, as everyone who knows him are already aware, is the sort of child who would not do such a thing unless straitjacketed. He has a cough, yes, one that can last up to a minute or so (watch the second hand 'round a clock, a minute is a good bit). And he is exhausted, because he coughs all day, coughs all night, coughs through naps and whatnot. But will he lay down? For maybe two minutes at a time... He is finally, finally asleep for a nap. It will not be a long one, I'm sure, but for now I have peace. No sharp corners of board-books being banged into my leg. No shrill whining. No throwing a fit for a snack and then pushing it away and crying again. I remember having pneumonia, and I pity him, I cringe every time he coughs - but I can't fathom being sick and having so much blasted ENERGY. And a sick toddler is not a pleasant toddler. Particularly not a sick little ball 'o fire.
If the construction across the street wakes him, I may need to smash something.
He was healthy as a horse until Thursday, when he decided to take the lid off his sippy cup and drink from an open, lid-less cup all on his own. At the time, no coughing or gagging, so he was doing fine, right? That night he had a tight, unproductive sounding cough. It continued as he slept, and through Friday. Friday evening, we went to the clinic. The doctor said he had "decreased breathing in the right lung relative to the left" and said they could do an x-ray. I asked if that was really necessary or not (thinking surely he'd cough it up, whatever it was) and she said that as he had no wheezing or distress, we could wait and watch - but come back immediately if the cough worsened or he had a fever. Sunday afternoon (AFTER church, naturally) the cough was indeed worse, and he had a temp of 100.3, so back we went. We got the same clinic doctor, yahoo, so she knew exactly what was going on already, and she said, "Yes, I think we should x-ray now - if you remember, I mentioned this Friday" (emphasis mine). Yes, yes, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Doctors do not mention x-raying two-year-olds because they just feel like wasting some film trying to get the kid to hold still (which we did, it took three takes to get something usable).
Definitely pneumonia. And I'm definitely blaming the drinking without a lid. You can't ask a disease where it came from, but that's a heck of a coincidence considering he's been so healthy until now. "Dumped some water down his trachea to his right lung and it got infected" fits all the facts. I e-mailed Terri to ask if there's any way to know for SURE that it's from Thursday and not that he's been leaking into his airway the whole time he's been drinking from a sippy cup, and she said that's really hard to say. Back to the straw for now.
Odds and Ends...
I'm taking advantage of the sun and warmth by moving all of our vertical blind slats behind the tomato and basil plants, so I have sort of a little greenhouse in there. I can't tell if my attempts to pollinate the blooms worked or not, but it's worth it just to have the wonderful scent of tomato plants every time I go over to the window. Fruit or not, it SMELLS like summer. Love it, love it, love it.
The Baptist church across the street is, at long last, doing something about the overhang that collapsed under a measly inch of snow a month ago. It appears that they had added it themselves to the building, church members donating time and skills or whatnot, but maybe they didn't quite know what they were doing. From where we are, right across the parking lot, it looks an awful lot like the supports weren't attached securely - it just FOLDED. And finally, a month or so after it happened, they are doing something about their dangerous eyesore. I understand that churches don't have much money, and this isn't a mega-church, it's a little white building with a steeple (and a collapsed overhang, and a tarp over that part of the roof), so they may have been holding off to raise the money - but if someone's kid had stepped over the wimpy orange snow-fence and it collapsed the rest of the way, heaven forbid, I'm pretty sure they'd be EXTREMELY liable. Firstly, because the construction doesn't look to have been all that sturdy to begin with, and secondly for not dealing with it as soon as it happened - bracing it, shoring it up at least, if they were waiting for a warm day to work on it. You can't just put up a vinyl snow fence, half of which was leaning over maybe a foot off the ground, and call it a day.
Back to plants, Aldi has big gorgeous tropicals - real, not silk. I'm going to take Husband there this evening so he can pick out my next "project". I'm leaning towards the palm-thing with burgundy leaves. It's awesome!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Solution to Boredom

Are you bored? Life gotten a little dull lately? Too much same ol' same ol'? Tired of picking up a shoe and finding absolutely nothing hidden inside?
May I suggest, a TODDLER. Take MY toddler, for example (take him... please!). He is possibly the best solution to ennui ever conceived (wait - that pun was unintended, I SWEAR). Every so often, you have one of those days where you just have to throw up your hands and say, "Well hey, I'm NOT BORED!"
There was a day last September when Kittyboy was dead set on dismantling the house for fun. I was trying to set up my laptop to play music for him, when he started shaking his cup upside down (it takes work to spill thickened liquid, but that's only a challenge, not a deterrent!). I set down the laptop, took the cup, put it in the fridge, and when I came back, something had been opened on the laptop, I didn't know what, and gibberish had been typed in it. While I was trying to figure out what the heck he'd done and whether he'd done any damage, he went over to the table, grabbed my FULL mug of coffee I hadn't even gotten to yet (but it had cooled a great deal) and poured it all over himself. And the cream-colored carpet. I ran over shrieking "No, no, no!" and started blotting it up, because we already have so many stains, and heard the pantry door in the kitchen open, and the distinctive sound of cheerios being dumped. Ran to the kitchen. Complete, barely started, 14 ounce box of Cheerios, upside down on the kitchen floor. He was skating in them. Did you know you can ice skate on cheerios on linoleum? You can! I sat on the couch laughing (better than crying!), grabbed the phone, and was telling my mom, "HE'S YOURS. COME GET HIM!" when he discovered another fun Cheerio game. He grabbed two big fistfuls, ran to the far doorway, and flung them down the hall. What a lovely rattly noise! We had to do that again! And again! He had so much fun. It was like his bean-rice box, only on the floor! He put the cheerios in mixing bowls, plastic lids, whatever he could reach, poured them out again, poured them into other containers, it was so funny. I decided to just sacrifice the cereal, let him play, and vacuum later. Come to find, a Tristar vaccuum CAN pick up an entire box of cheerios before you need to empty the bag.
Better to laugh than cry. And hey, I was NOT bored.
So, Monday was another "gee, at least I'm not bored" day.
First, I decided to let Kittyboy "help" with our worm bin. I have probably a hundred or so red wigglers (all named Fred) in a bin in the kitchen who consume our compostable waste during the winter, and their home desperately needed to be cleaned out. (info on vermicomposting here) So anyhow, I had my shredded newspaper, bowl of water for dampening the paper, and the cat litter bucket into which the worms were being moved. I didn't want him touching the waste I was removing, or the worms, lest he consider them spaghetti, but I figured he could put paper in water without causing too much of a mess. That was fun! That was lots of fun! Until he wanted to pour the contents of his bowl into the worms' new bin. NO! So I showed him how to squeeze out the paper and put THAT in instead. Then that was so much fun, he had to take it back out to splash it around in the water again. Every so often I had to check the water for a hapless Fred or two who were thrashing about, crying, "Noooooooo! We can't swiiiiiiim! Or breeeeaaathe! We have no giiiiiiillllls!" By the time I gave up and just dumped what was left in the old container into the new one, my floor had been thoroughly puddled by muddy water and newsprint.
So then later we gave sitting on his potty chair a try. I'm been trying to put him on it and then run water while he plays with a toy in a container of warm water. The toy I picked up was one of those fish you squeeze to fill with water and then squirt, but he hadn't figured that part of it out yet. No success with going, but he wanted to keep playing with his fishie in the water. Okay, it was keeping him quiet and occupied (you'd be amazed what you'll permit if it keeps the two-year-old quiet and occupied) I told him to keep it in the container (famous last words). He was sitting on the floor in the family room pushing the fish around in the water, then he picked it up and squeezed it. What an exciting moment of serendipity when it shot water across the room! Wow! That was COOL! And as I laughed hysterically, he put the fish right back in the water, pushed on its tummy, said, "BUH BUH!" (bubbles), and took it out and squirted again! Wow! Again and again! Bubbles! And it squirts water! How cool! And just when I had gained enough composure to say, "Let's go play in the bathroom now," he squeezed it facing the wrong direction and shot water square in his face. So much for composure - and my ability to breathe - as he sat there surprised and blinking with water dripping from his eyelashes. Then he had to do THAT again and again. I moved him into the kitchen, with its non-carpeted floor, just in time for him to decide to examine the bottom of the container - and express toddlery surprise when turning the container upside down dumped all the water out! Wow! Who knew THAT would happen? Obviously not him! He looked in the container (you never know, maybe some had stayed in), he looked at the floor, and he looked at his fish. He put the fish back in the container, rattled it around in there, and still no water. At this point I was once more incapacitated with giggles, as he tried to play with his fish in the puddle on the floor, and tried to put the water back in the container (both attempts unsuccessful). So he brought me both fish and container, showed me it was empty, put the fish in, rattled it around (Look Mommy, my fishie has no water!) and put them in my lap. I remained, as I was, a giggling lump on the floor. So he repeated the process. Container, empty. Put fishie in - no water. Fishie needs water. Mommy, here is my container, get my fishie water! "Mm! Mm!" signing please. I told him, "No, I think we're done with water for today," and he took the container and fish back and walked off. I got up, went to the family room, he wasn't there. He was in the bathroom - remedying the water situation. Think, where can a toddler find water all on his own, at his height, readily available? As I shrieked "NONONONONO!" at a pitch normally reserved for dog whistles, he turned around from the toilet and brought me the container with water and fishie. "Buh buh!" He had taken initiative and solved his problem, and was quite proud of himself for having done so.
My life is many things. "Boring" is not one of them.