Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I've been tagged!

I was tagged in the Crazy 8's meme by Presbytera Kathy.

Well here it goes...

8 Things I am looking forward to:

1. the Food-Not-Lawns Plant and Seed Swap on Saturday
2. Kittyboy passing out for today's nap
3. eggplant coming up
4. Getting pregnant again (there, I said it, I need another baby!)
5. JULY - because the next two months are packed way too full
6. Opa Fest in late June
7. Getting my dishwasher
8. Having the whole of my garden in so I can take a break

8 Things I did yesterday:

1. went to doctor's office
2. ordered new insurance card
3. read "God Made You Special!" many, many times
4. got garbage can from curb
5. vacuumed living room
6. rearranged nursery
7. medicated goldfish for ich
8. got another inch done on my crocheted "diaper bag"

8 Things I wish I could do:

1. Pray more often
2. have more energy
3. get my house ALL CLEAN
4. be more supportive instead of cranky when Husband is held late at work
5. cook more things from scratch
6. keep chickens
7. have a big family
8. be waaaaay more patient with Kittyboy

8 Shows I Watch (I'm amazed I can come up with eight, considering we have only an antenna - blame CBS)

1. Cold Case
2. The Mentalist
3. Numb3rs
4. CSI
5. Bones
6. Criminal Minds
7. Eleventh Hour
8. House MD

8 Tags. You're it!

1. Mimi from Bigger Than A Breadbox
2. Nyssa from Nyssa's Hobbit Hole
3. Witty from Randomly Me
4. Sharqi from Little House In The Ghetto
5. Isy from Creative Solutions to Ordinary Problems
6. Woodcutter from The Wood Pile
7. Headbanger_71369 from The Happy Headbanger
8. Chaz from The Fat Capitalist

Today is a better day!

Kittyboy's nap yesterday, though half as long as "normal" seemed to press a reset button, and he was far more pleasant afterwards. Whew. It was so sad, though, when he woke up and started crying and I went in to get him, because he had passed out on the mattress on top of his pegboard, his pillows on the floor, with his barn next to him, no weighted blanket or anything. Didn't look comfy. I would love a video monitor so I could see exactly what it looks like when he spins and spins and spins his wheels and then DROPS.
And I have something to bring up at my next WIC appointment. I did one of their "online education" things instead of going in this last time, and it said what has been obvious to me for some time now, "Never give your baby juice with added sugar or artificial colors." The cereal I bought way back when, that showed us this would be an issue with Kittyboy, was on WIC's list of cereals they cover. Why? If the color in Koolaid is bad for an infant, wouldn't color in cereal be a bad idea as well?
So far, I have taken recycling down to the curb, gone to Carey's and had a Puppygirl playdate, came home with five tomato plants and gobs of daylillies, transplanted tomatoes into larger pots, took peppers outside to harden off, and put tomatoes under the grow light. Time for lunch!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lousy, No Good, Very Bad Day

There's a book the title of which is something to that effect - "So-and-so and the Horrible Lousy No Good Very Bad Day". My librarian friend Witty will be ashamed that I can't remember exactly how it goes, but I do remember "No Good Very Bad Day".
That would be our day today.
First, I went to my brand-new ob-gyn I hadn't seen before and discovered, once THERE, that my insurance card is missing. No insurance card in my wallet anywhere. And no clue (since my wallet goes from purse to purse to purse intact) where it could be. Had to leave, order a NEW insurance card, and reschedule. Then went to buy groceries and spent as long in the checkout as I did shopping, because I'd totally blanked on how to do WIC, and because when I went to pay for the other stuff I'd bought, I froze up the card reader. This was all with Kittyboy throwing a fit because he could SEE the milk, but not drink it, and he could SEE the cereal but not eat it. So I got home, I got everything and everyone out of the car, we put away groceries, and I tried to open a bag of Craisins that came in one of the cereal boxes. I love Craisins, and I NEEDED a treat, since all this drama was before 9 this morning. Try as hard as I might, I could not open that bag. Handed it to Husband - who wordlessly held it in front of my face and pulled at the NOTCH in the SIDE of the bag, which tore quite easily.
I give up.
Kittyboy was pretty good, but tired, throughout a developmental re-eval this morning. He was happy to see Rhonda, whom he'd not seen since he un-qualified for DT last fall, but she came at ten and ten-thirty or eleven is when he generally naps. So she asked me if it was okay for him to have Froot Loops, as a bribe to keep him engaged (also, he'd found the container of them in her bag). I said yes. Chances are I shouldn't have - but we'd been thinking that he was now enough bigger than the disastrous first time he had artificial colors, that they were no longer a big deal (though I still read labels for them and he doesn't get candy)...
I don't think colored cereal alone is to blame for the fact that it's AFTER ONE AND HE'S STILL UP. I think most of the blame goes to the Nerds Jellybeans he got out of the pantry while I was in the bathroom. First time ever I've put my hand under his mouth and demanded he spit out something edible. I've done that for coins, small toys, batteries, etc, but if his mouth is stuffed with FOOD and he has to get rid of it, I grab some random container because that's just gross, you know? But realizing he had Easter candy (with who knows what sort of cocktail of artificial colors, which I'd hidden for Husband and I precisely because of those colors) called for panic mode. I made him spit out what was in his mouth immediately and explored his mouth for anything else - then I remembered, FAR too late, that he'd come in while I was in the bathroom with a mouth full of SOMETHING. I'd assumed cereal at the time, the crunching didn't sound like cereal, but at that point I hadn't realized the pantry was unlocked and the jellybean bag open. And the Nerds jellybeans, with that hard coating, would have sounded exactly like what he had a mouthful of at that moment.
Sugar has no effect on him, he eats doughnuts after church every Sunday and goes down for a nap without a fuss. Obviously, colors still DO have an effect. There's no other explanation for his out-of-it goofiness and the fact that he is both visibly sleepy AND wound like an eight-day clock. And I do mean goofy - I told him to lay down so I could change his diaper and he lay down on his stomach, and as I turned him over, he started shrieking and giggling and KICKING, and kept it up the whole time I was changing that diaper. He's hungry but not, thirsty but not, and standing on his head a lot (for the pressure, it's a "stim").
It's 1:30. And I can hear him in his room, out of bed, climbing the rocking chair. No nap going to happen today.
We thought colors weren't a problem anymore (or not as big of a problem) because we'd determined that a couple M&Ms weren't any big deal, and he's fine with powdered macaroni and cheese (every single brand of mac-and-cheese where the sauce is powder contains yellows 5 and 6, every single brand with a packet of actual sauce uses paprika or annato extract for the yellow - the things you learn reading labels). But we'd also made sure not to give him things with multiple colors, or Red 40, because in the studies done on children with ADHD or similar sensory problems Red 40 was a Bad Thing, as were combinations of colors. Well, so evidently we were right to keep withholding those, because he is WIRED.
At least he's not as wild as the first time this happened - colored cereal I bought as a treat, back when he was still taking TWO naps a day. And neither nap happened that day. He was goofy, falling all over, would barely drift off and then jolt back awake SCREAMING. Auditory processing was nil - I screamed "NO!" standing RIGHT behind him, because he was emptying the cat food into the cat water, and he didn't even startle. He whimpered and whined all day. Nothing made him happy. At one point, he was pushing a car across the floor - whining. That evening, you could actually see his expression change from restless upset to a look of exhaustion and relief, probably as the colors were wearing off. I am a skeptic, but I knew that the cereal was the only new thing he'd had that day, and remembered having heard something about artificial colors "being a problem", and so I looked it up, and there were two studies I found of which I could actually read the researchers' notes and conclusions. The one that stuck in my mind was a double-blind study where parents AND researchers didn't know if the child was being given colors or a placebo, and that while the children who had been given colors did act a bit differently under observation but not outstandingly different, the PARENTS of those kids (who knew them inside and out, and what was normal and what was not where their child was concerned) across the board had reported that something was very definitely Not Right. And uniformly, those were the parents of the kids who had actually been given artificial colors and not the placebo. Just as an outside observer of Kittyboy would say, "Oh, but kids act up, he's a toddler, etc" but when I was watching him crawl across the floor pushing a car and whining even though he was playing, that's Not Right.
Been reading labels religiously since, and slowly allowing things like powdered mac-and-cheese, yellow or blue lollipops (and single colors haven't been a big deal), but hadn't tried "here, have a mouthful of every color out there plus Red 40." Hahaha. And hey, now I don't have to work up to that - we have an answer, the answer is no.
Well, I've heard mostly silence since about 2, and it's now 2:15 - maybe he's passed out now. I'm not about to go check, I'll just thank God for however much peace and quiet He gives us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Sad Goodbye (Therapy Update)

Our OT Misty was returning voice-mails late last night, and broke the very sad news that TODAY was Kittyboy's last day with Janna SL! We were quite sad, and so we made sure to get a picture of Kittyboy with The One Who Got Him Talking.

She's trying to get him to BLOW on the pinwheel - he's trying to show her, "Look, there's an easier way, you just spin it like this!"
Last August, Kittyboy was evaluated to have an 85% delay in communication - he had maybe half a dozen signs (for the basics, eat, drink, more, please, thank you, night-night) and babbled on the level of a four-month old. He was 18 months, chronological age. He rarely signed without prompting - he would bring a book and bang the corner into your leg saying, "MM! MM!" rather than hand it to you and sign please. We had eliminated basic hunger and thirst as a cause for tantrums, but he still collapsed in tears on a regular basis for no discernable reason, because he couldn't SAY, "Mommy, I can't find my teddy bear" "Mommy, I want to go outside" "Mommy, I want peas instead of corn for lunch". Boy, oh boy, did he qualify for Speech therapy.
Some time last September or October, maybe the second or third time she saw him, Janna SL said, "I think he's trying to say it with his mouth closed. Has he ever been diagnosed with oral aphasia?" And thus began a voyage of discovery - he was indeed trying to copy speech, but wasn't opening his mouth. Either didn't realize he had to, or thought it WAS open (when he was learning to drink through a straw, we had many problems with milk spilling out because he would forget to close his lips). What a difference it made, when instead of sighing, "Please, don't WHINE!" we started asking him what he was trying to SAY. The whining tone slowly disappeared as he realized he was finally being listened to - and we slowly learned to distinguish between mm, ng, gng, gm, and all the other noises he made with his mouth closed. We still had no clue what he was trying to say, but we could tell that one was different from another, and that was a start. It took off from there.
So this is the lady who got him talking. When Kittyboy runs up to me and says "Mommy, [sign for help]!" I thank God for Janna. Now that he knows how communication works (and that he is fully capable of it) he dives into it headlong - he hybridizes signs to approximate a word for which he doesn't have a sign, he makes up signs sometimes, he parrots words all day long, and he'll attempt words that are difficult by just taking the first syllable and repeating it. Je-je for Jesus. And usually (usually), he does it without us having to push him back, unwrap his fingers from our clothing, and say, "Stop whining and TELL US!" I had described it to Janna as his baby chimp act - pulling on us, trying to climb us, and whining unintelligibly. He has baby chimp moments, but it's not ALL DAY LONG.
Misty will be finding us another SLT, or possibly our EI coordinator will. I'm sure it will be someone good, either way, we've had wonderful therapists all around - but I need to print and frame that picture, of Kittyboy and The One Who Got Him Talking (and saved our sanity!).
We will miss Janna very much. May God bless her work and all the lives she touches. She touched ours in a BIG way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kittyboy, Counting and Homeschooling

Christus resurrexit!
Vere resurrexit!
(the Paschal greeting in Latin)

Kittyboy has this rolling toy that counts to ten (in the creepy Fisher Price toy voice). It counts a number every time the wheels roll. He stepped on it coming in the door, it said "One!" and he immediately said, "Two!" Plain as day, nice and loud. I've been working on one and two, having him hand me one or two clothespins when I'm hanging laundry (not that he would actually hand me one or two when I ask, more like "Mommy needs one clothespin! Now Mommy needs two clothespin!"). Now I guess he can say at least the number 2 out loud! I think we need to find things to count one and two, and ask, "What comes after one? What comes after two?"
Last year, I was researching Montessori schools, thinking that if we had a prayer of affording it, it'd be a good match for Kittyboy, because of allowing the child to learn just as fast as he can. All I remember of third grade was that we seemed to spend months and months on nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Hello, how hard is that??? I learned it in a couple days. I spent the rest of the year, it seemed, reading a book hidden in my desk, to the great annoyance of the teacher. A more adversarial child would have come out and said, "This is boring and stupid, can we move ON?" and gotten in even more trouble, which I didn't. I just passively read my book and didn't pay attention... because it was, well, boring and stupid. When it came time to do state reports, which is the only other thing I remember of third grade, I wrote my report on Pennsylvania - and then re-wrote it. I read it over, and dumbed down some sections. Simpler sentence structure, more basic vocabulary. I'm pretty sure I didn't deliberately misspell anything or change punctuation, that would have pained my pride too much, but I may have erased a comma here and there. Why? Because I'd already picked up on the fact that thanks to my mother's English degree and father's newspaper experience as reporter and editor, I did not write like my classmates. I did not speak like my classmates. And I was just sure that the teacher who expected us to take months to learn that red was not a noun would accuse me of plagiarism.
Don't get me wrong, I got along way better with teachers in following years than I did with the 3rd grade one. There were parts of school that I LOVED. There were more parts that I just - went through. There were other parts I hated.
There are kids who do great in public schools. There are kids who just go through them because they have to. And there are many types of children for whom it's not necessarily the best fit. What do you do when you're really, really good in one class but slow in another? Or you're ahead in everything - but you don't test well? Or instead of telling someone, "Hey, I know all this, can I work ahead?" the child is just bored and becomes bored with school in general?
So here I am with a toddler who will probably fall into the category of "very bright but doesn't test well", researching homeschooling curricula. And over the last year, Husband has gone from saying, "Oh, but he SHOULD go to preschool, he needs socialization" to "If you think you can homeschool, go for it," apparently without suffering whiplash. I think part of his change of mind is owing to Kittyboy making it abundantly clear that he is one of Those Children who will NOT go along to get along if he's not interested in what's going on. I can't see Kittyboy fitting well in a classroom, and I haven't come up with a way to nicely say to the frustrated teacher, "Well, maybe if he's not paying attention, it's because he's bored with what you're teaching?" I don't think teachers are superhuman, but I think they are expected to perform as such, and it's impossible. I think they are totally human, and only capable of so much, and far too much is expected of them, the result being that they absolutely cannot be and do everything they are expected to be and do for every single child who enters their classroom. I have the utmost respect for them - but their job is impossible. I'm going to make it easier, by giving them one less child with whom to struggle.
So now that Husband's open to it, I'm going for it. His change of mind might also be owing to the number of homeschooling children we've recently met - Kittyboy's best friend who is eight is homeschooled, there's a family at church who homeschools (and their fourteen-year-old is learning Latin), and all of these children are VERY social. I like that Kittyboy's friends are older than he, because instead of the Lord of the Flies social environment of children all in one age group learning social skills together, he sees behavior modeled by the older children and learns from that. And that's as it should be, children are supposed to learn from older children and grownups about acceptable social behavior - not their fellow four-year-olds. Gradeschool children learning social interaction from each other is like fifteen-year-olds teaching Driver's Ed.
Homeschooling, here we come!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pascha with Kittyboy

Crist is arisen!
Arisen he sothe! (the Paschal greeting in Chaucerian Middle English)
(click here for the Paschal greeting in a couple dozen languages)

My various ramblings and observations on Pascha with a toddler....
Kittyboy did astoundingly well in church on two hours of sleep. He fought sleep with all his might until about 9:30 Saturday night, and then was woken up at 11:15 to go to church - and amazingly, he cooperated. He looked incredulous that we were going back to church AGAIN, but was totally cool with it. Think how easy a normal Sunday will be after the Week Of Endless Church.
Holy Week has also had the benefit of lowering Husband's standards for Kittyboy's church behavior from "Captain Von Trapp's RoboChild" to slightly below MY standards. Hey, at least he's no longer leaving with him every time the boy opens his mouth. Or heaven forbid, plays with the kneeler. Husband's gotten waaaaaay more laid back. Something to do with having Kittyboy all to himself Sunday-Thursday nights, and Wednesday-Friday mornings, because we decided Father could get along without an acolyte easier than without a chanter. Friday night and Saturday night, we *gasp* all sat together!
Saturday night, Kittyboy spent mainly curled up on one of our laps looking sleepily attentive. No sleep in sight, not when there were so many candles to look at and people doing things. He was one of two toddlers in the entire sanctuary - and the youngest of those by at least a year. I don't know why more people don't just bring blankets and have their kids sack out in the pew. It's the one night out of the year they get to go to a party at 2 a.m.!
Husband was not satisfied with exercising Jedi mind control over the acolytes, and kept darting out to remind them of things, because The Service Would Implode otherwise. It was kind of cute, he's been head acolyte for so long, he was having difficulty letting his baby birds leave the nest and fly on their own. But no one lit anyone on fire, did anything sacrilegious, or whacked anyone in the head with the censor, and another leader is in fact emerging - a TEN-year-old, P, who took the reins and directed the others, two of whom were older than he. That was enjoyable to watch during the Resurrection Liturgy, particularly with the "Red Alert!" expression on Husband's face, followed by P smoothly averting "disaster", repeatedly. If P is capable of running the team, maybe Husband will take a Sunday off now and then. Kittyboy would not mind in the slightest.
And he totally loved the party at 2 a.m.!!! He ate lots of bread, his favorite food group even after fasting is over, and decided he likes feta after grabbing a big chunk of it off our plates.
The greeting in Welsh -
Atgyfododd Crist!
Atgyfododd in wir!

Anyone have any idea how to say that?
Then Sunday morning at 11, we were back, where else but church again, which Kittyboy must think is our new home, stumbling through the Agape service. We have a wonderful, wonderful lady named Amy who moved here recently, and had asked a couple weeks before Pascha how our Agape service ran, and who did which languages, because she could read it in French and Italian. Half the people there had no idea what she was talking about, because the service is VERY poorly attended and Father's never bothered with more than English and Greek. So Amy sent out a mass e-mail, drafted everyone who could read something other than English, and by golly, we had an Agape service. Father read the Gospel first in Greek, Amy did French, Italian and German (believe the dialect was Hoch Deutch, it had that Klingon sound to it), we had Latin, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and I did Spanish. If out-of-towners could have made it, we'd have had ASL too. I've not used Spanish since my sophomore year of college, make that seven years now, because I could not abide my college Spanish professor, and she turned me off the language completely. But I did volunteer Spanish, and survived it - although I realized in the last verse that I'd pronounced Jesus' name the Greek way every time. Iisous, not Hay-sus. Ah well - I SURVIVED. We all survived, despite the fact that no one knew who was doing what in what order or anything. And we know for next year how to plan it better.
Then after a nap for Kittyboy, we went to Father and Presbytera's house for the party to end all parties. The first thing that greeted us as we entered the house - a screaming, running mob of children. And Presbytera Filia, urging us into the kitchen, "Come on, come on, get a plate, get some food, eat, eat, let the little one play with the children, he'll be fine..." Husband and I had the exact same thought in our minds. Kittyboy shoves - hits - pulls hair. All in the name of "fun", he does it with a big ol' grin like it's a game, and appears to not know that other children don't like that. He plays nicely with much older children (his best friend is 8), but not so much ones his size. Filia's youngest granddaughter is his size, and most of the little mob was not too much bigger. And when really, REALLY riled up, he has attacked children much larger than himself. Therapists think it sounds like he gets overstimulated with lots of faces on his level. Also likely that he just doesn't quite get it yet - they're living beings, not large toys. So no, he wouldn't necessarily be "fine"! Neither would anyone else be if our solid, muscular Baby Samson took a swing at them!
We were both jack-in-the-boxes, popping up and down - "Where is he now? What was that crash? Who is crying? Who did what? Where is he??" And thankfully, instead of getting wound up and smacking someone (or shoving the granddaughter down the stairs, or other things we feared), he went off by himself. He found a Larryboy DVD in the TV room, and our neighbor, his Thea Maria, who was also there was more than happy to play it for him. At first I was displeased that here we came to be with people, and he was parked in front of the television - then I considered that perhaps he was blindsided and overwhelmed by the mob greeting, and so took a break to settle in to his new surroundings first. He left to go play about ten minutes in, so that was probably it - the children, adults and new surroundings were too much all at once, so he left an overstimulating situation to collect himself. Bravo!
It was funny; other parents were trying to keep their children from misbehaving, we were looking for ours TO misbehave, in accordance with the other children! You know, that whole social thing, paying attention to others, imitative play, and interacting with the group. And he performed! Therapists will be thrilled! He learned to throw things off the balconey, to our concealed delight (of course we put a stop to it officially), and a perfectly precious little girl taught him how to slide down the heavily carpeted stairs on his backside. With his shorter legs, he got better speed going feet-first on his stomach, and so they both did that for a while - she on her bottom and he beside her on his stomach, both giggling. Up and down and up and down. It was the cutest thing. Her twin brother attempted to teach him how to play with action figures. Must talk to the twins' grandmother about a playdate sometime.
All around, a most joyous Pascha!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Paschal Homily

The coolest part of Pascha. Read every Pascha, in every Orthodox church, everywhere.

The Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom
Archbishop of Constantinople (~400 AD)

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness! Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

This text is presented here part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Paul Halsall April 1996

Pascha with Kittyboy

This post was published in the wrong place, and so I have republished it above The Paschal Homily. Evidently I can't DELETE a post, or change where it appears, so this was how I moved it.

Christos Anesti

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by Death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Rock ON!
Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen, Kali Anastasi, Happy Resurrection, and good night. I have to practice the Gospel in Spanish for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Great and Holy Friday...

Yes, I know it's Saturday. I decided, quite prudently, to quit burning the midnight oil and SLEEP last night - because tonight, we don't sleep!
I had Husband take pictures of our Epitaphios (The Big Carved Wooden Thing Pictured Above) because it just looked so nice. It's the sepulcher which holds an icon of Christ in the tomb, and we carry it outside around the church carrying candles. I wish very much that I could have gotten a picture of Kittyboy riding on his daddy's shoulders in the procession. He was very much into it. He also provided us, as expected, with what has come to be referred to as a "monk-boy moment". Thursday night, he saw Father hanging Christ on the cross, and correctly identified that as "Jhe jhe" (Jesus). He was there for the Friday morning service of the Hours, with "Jhe jhe" still on the cross. He was home napping, however, for the service during which we bring Christ DOWN from the cross, and when the icon of Christ in the tomb is laid in the sepulcher. When we came in Great Friday evening, he saw the decorated Epitaphios, the bare cross, pointed at the Epitaphios, and signed Jesus. How did he know? It's just what he does. Cross is empty! Tomb is pretty! Where else would Jesus be? Duh, Mommy!
He is currently in bed screaming and kicking the walls, because every night this week he has been in bed at 9 at the earliest, and now he thinks that's his new bedtime. Tonight, we need him asleep before 8 (we were shooting for 7, originally) because we'll be waking him at 11 to go back to church!
An early Christos Anesti - Christ is risen!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Matins of the Crucifixion

I read, with some incredulity, a comment on my last post, which said, "Oh, but [Matins of the Crucifixion] is so beautiful!" Beauty does not come to mind when I think of this service. What does come to mind is a wish to be elsewhere - understanding that the betrayal, trial, and Crucifixion were necessary for salvation, I would rather get on to Great Friday. Great Friday is sad but beautiful, as funerals can be sad but beautiful. And joyous, because we know the end of the story already - as we leave, we're already saying to each other, Kalo Pascha (Happy Easter), and Kali Anastasi (Happy Resurrection). Holy Thursday, by contrast, is a tale of torture and murder. Not beauty.

I think perhaps my faith has matured in the last year, and that perhaps it takes maturity to appreciate beauty where there is none evident. To my surprise, this year was not so painful as I remembered. This year, the hymns recounting the betrayal, the scourging, the mocking, the crown of thorns and the cross, seemed as if they were balanced somehow by the often repeated and many variations on "But Lord, show us also Your Resurrection!" Almost every hymn seems to end with some variation on that. "Glory to Your forbearance, O Lord!" There is a light behind the clouds, so to speak, that I don't think I ever noticed before, or at least not to the extent I did this year. Maybe I'm more of an optimist this year. Or maybe, I saw it because I was looking for it, because someone told me "Oh, but it's so beautiful!"

Kittyboy knew exactly who this was, too. I know he signed it, but I think he also SAID "Jhe-jhe!" which would be a first. I know I heard a nice loud "AH-MEEN!" right after Father, towards the end. Kittyboy was just good as gold, considering he was up two hours past his bed time. The service was almost three hours long. Husband, down in the pew with him, kept him occupied with lighting the candles after each Gospel reading. Kittyboy loves candles, and at two years old, he lights his own every time we come to church, and sticks it in the sand all by himself. So Husband let him be acolyte-in-training tonight, since Father had no acolytes. Kittyboy lighting candles served two purposes - it gave him something to do, and it gave Husband a bribe - "Do you want to light the candle when Father's done? Then you need to be good so we can stay in church!" Just as I always ask him, "Do you want communion? ("uh huh") Then you need to be quiet and stand nicely!" Church is a really easy place to use such bribes. There's always something he wants badly enough to polish his halo for.

My favorite exclamation of the night, after AH-MEEN and Jhe-jhe was "WOW!" First as Father came out with the large wooden crucifix on his shoulder, and then repeated throughout the procession. WOW! indeed.

Well, I thoroughly abused muscles and joints today by first digging holes for several shrubs and a new lily bed, and second by standing for three hours. I'm going to bed. On to Great Friday - when we move in to church for the day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holy Wednesday Evening

I should begin by explaining that tonight, Holy Wednesday, we had the Holy Thursday Matins. All of Holy Week, services are performed "in anticipation" - Palm Sunday evening, we do the Matins of Holy Monday morning, and so on and so forth throughout the week. So tonight, Holy Wednesday night, we did the matins of Holy Thursday morning.

"Today Judas abandons all pretense of love for the poor. Not caring for them, he assumes the very shape of greed. Instead of selling the sinful woman's myrrh, He sells the anointed one of God and steals the proceeds. He runs to the lawless Jews and asks: What will you give me if I betray him to you? Cursed be the traitor's love of silver! He lowers the price and bargains like a trader. He sells Jesus like a runaway slave, not asking much. For thieves never regard the value of precious things; Now the disciple casts holy things to the dogs. Maddened with avarice, he howls against the master. Let us flee from his example and cry: Long-suffering Lord, Glory to you!" hymn from Holy Thursday Matins,

Until this year, Holy Wednesday night has been the Unction Service, but this year, the Archbishop sent out a notice saying that we really did need to start doing Unction earlier in the day (and only once - apparently some parishes did it twice, morning and evening), and we needed to do Holy Thursday Matins. This was the first I knew of there BEING a Holy Thursday Matins. It's not in the Holy Week service book. I would love to have it explained to me how anyone ever approved a book of Holy Week services which completely eliminated one from the roster. Having just returned from the first Holy Thursday Matins I have ever attended in seventeen years of being Orthodox, I feel many things - sadness, awe, inspiration - and a growing annoyance. Seventeen years I have been deprived of this service! Then this year, Father got three (3) copies of the Holy Thursday Matins, one for himself and two for Susan and I, to read and chant. Considering that we all three were working from texts with which we were unfamiliar (and that Susan and I had never seen before), the various editing errors, the occasional line completely omitted from the English side of the book, and directions that were confusing and wrong... the service was actually NOT a complete train wreck. Which I feared it would be, when the first thing I saw upon opening the book was a line completely missing from one of the first prayers. That doesn't usually bode well for the next two hours, you know?
Susan and I were alternating every few verses, and the one above was the last in one of my sections, and I was thankful it was the last. It's usually not until Holy Thursday night that we have at least one female reader in tears, but that hymn was my limit. I had never read the betrayal of Judas discussed in such calculating, monetary terms. It's hard to think about, let alone read aloud.
On to Holy Thursday and the matins of Great Friday - I don't know ANYONE who says, "Gee, isn't Holy Thursday night such FUN?" It's the Matins of the Crucifixion. It's twelve Gospel readings (betrayal, trial, and crucifixion in all four Gospels). It's relentless. It's disturbing. It's very upsetting. It's the reason I've never felt the need to see The Passion - we read the script every Holy Thursday.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How Old is Too Old; Or, the Magic of Sprouting Seeds

Once at my parents' house, Kittyboy had "trained" his Papou to say "Open - shut - open - shut - open - shut" as he gleefully flipped the trashcan, you guessed it, open and shut. Papou, my Daddy, said it's a trait of all small children to be endlessly amused by the simplest of activities, and that G. K. Chesterton had written something about how only children and God say "Do it again!" I found the quote:

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

I thought of this as I was climbing onto Kittyboy's toy box for a better view of my pepper sprouts under the grow light:
There is something magical about watching seeds in dirt turn into sprouts. They change by the day and grow bigger and bigger and bigger. And this absolutely fascinates me. I learned the basics of germination in grade school; every one does, with a seed and a styrofoam cup. But I don't think I will ever tire of watching it. Regardless of how many bell pepper plants I want or need or even have space for, I feel this yearning to push more and more seeds into little peat pots and whisper to God, "Do it again!"
Everyone should garden. It keeps you young.

Friday, April 3, 2009

5th Week of Akathist

Sigh... the Akathist services have come and gone once more.
My mind was all over the place during the service, I once forgot what page I was on and Father had to PROMPT me. Yeah, I haven't slept as much as I should have this week. So I was embarrassed even before I got to "Awed By The Beauty" and Father ONCE AGAIN assumed I knew it in Greek. Nope, still English only!!! I mean, I can follow and sing along with him as he sings the Greek, but there are still juuust enough syllables of which I'm unsure, that I'm not doing it in Greek. His estimation of my linguistic skills is flattering, but still. One of these years I will take a book home and learn the whole thing in Greek and astound him. It's cool, though, that he's decided my English rendition after the Greek is a tradition now.
I was thinking, during the two long prayers in front of the icons, of when I was in the hospital after Kittyboy's birth and I had this long rambling monologue of both prayers running through my head. I don't remember specifics other than instead of "raise us up at the hour of prayer" it was always "raise us up at the hour of pumping"... because I was trying to start milk and so I was pumping for half an hour every three hours round the clock. Or at least, I did that for the first 24 hours, and then the next 24-36 I did little but sleep - and wake, and look at the clock, and sleep again. Did I eat meals that second day? I do not remember. Maybe after the whole HELLP/c-section thing I shouldn't have been dragging myself out of bed every three hours. Probably so. But yeah, "the hour of pumping" is enshrined forever in my memory. Ay.
And at the petition "for those who serve and minister unto us", who should come to mind but Dr. Lehman, Dr. Hendricks, the staff at their respective clinics, and the staff at St. John's Hospital. It amazes me, with all you hear of specialists being hard to see, hard to get a hold of, and rushed when you finally do see them, that Dr. L is none of those things. When the rash and arthritis were still bad, he gave us his cell number in case something went south. He's just great. And man, when we took Kittyboy back the second time with all the spots cleared up, that boy was a celebrity. The receptionists, the nurses, everyone wanted to see how much better he looked. They remembered him! Admittedly, that rash was hard to forget, but that was still really cool.
And Dr. H - it still floors me every time I leave a message for a nurse and within an hour, usually MUCH less, I have an answer. The first doctor Kittyboy had, we liked him okay, but he was honestly absolutely clueless about all things Kittyboy. "You're doing what? I don't think I've ever heard of that. Okay, that's fine..." He signed orders the therapists requested, and stayed out of the mix, which at the time we appreciated (could have been worse, he could have fought them on everything). But we hated, hated the clinic. It might be a WEEK before you got a call back. I once had a voicemail from them "returning a call" and I couldn't remember what I'd called them about, it had been that long. If you did get a call back, because you didn't always. They also had to be reminded about calling in prescriptions, took over a month to get our insurance in the system, and sent us to a specialist two hours away without mailing the CT scans the expert was supposed to review. A world of difference with Dr. H and all the staff there - not just that they're competent and professional, but that they really are CARING, and friendly, and helpful.
And St. John's has taken very, very good care of our little guy twice now. What can I say, God has blessed us with MANY who serve and minister unto us. May He keep and preserve them all to continue doing the good that they do.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


And THIS would be how Kittyboy looks with no spots whatsoever, astride his valiant steed in Dr. L's office! "Ha HA, with my noble donkey I shall conquer the world once more!"
No spots. No remaining arthritis (after two days of having to carry him, very carefully, anywhere he wished to go, and not touch or move his legs for fear of hurting him). No fever. No more Tylenol or Motrin unless his joints are aching (they're still healing, after all). Just Allegra and followup visits.
And Dr. L has managed to explain, to the one who got a C in Baby Bio her freshman year of college, what the heck serum-like sickness is. There's something that the immune system recognizes as a foreign substance - a virus, a medication, some random THING. The immune system gets way over-enthused in its attack of said substance and lots and LOTS of antibodies attach to whatever it is. So many antibodies bind to the substance that the body has a really hard time then dealing with it and flushing it out, which causes a lot of problems - hives, fever, swollen and aching joints, known as reactive arthritis. That's basically what happened. Will it happen again? No way to know. We're avoiding "cillin" antibiotics like the plague, because there's no way to know if the amoxicillin was the triggering substance or not.
But the important thing is... heeee's BAAACK!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Last Word on Hives... maybe

They're not gone by any means, but they've gone from only his trunk (when they first started) to all over, and now they've left his trunk and are just on limbs and face. They also no longer look as if he's been beaten or burned, but more as if he has an exotic medical problem or some very extensive birthmarks. Now that having someone reaching for the DCFS hotline is much less likely, I felt comfortable taking him to the grocery store. I should have taken along a sociology student to note the reactions.
When you do an entire, extensive shopping trip with a toddler, and not one person smiles at him, waves at him, makes faces, etc., there is a reason. Uniformly, from all adults, the reaction was to glance - and look away. You don't want to be caught staring, that would be rude - you don't want to ask, that would be rude - so the least rude option is to not look. We adults are quite sophisticated in our handling of obvious deformities, handicaps, and things that make people look different. The BEST, most honest and candid reaction was from a little girl who walked past us - whose eyes widened to their outermost, jaw dropped, and head swiveled to follow us. Her older sister turned her around. I just thought it was funny. YES, HE LOOKS WEIRD. WE KNOW THIS. IT'S FINE. It's perfectly natural to stare.
So we have been to Dr. Lehman's office for followup, and the overall conclusion is something called serum sickness. It was ruled out by the original blood testing, but the symptoms fit it better than anything else. Serum sickness can be caused by a virus, a medicine (though it may never again happen when taking that same medicine) or just some random protein that sets off a reaction. It answers the extensiveness of the hives, the "reactive arthritis" (his joints were swollen and painful, still are to some extent), and the fever he had yesterday afternoon. The blood test says no, the symptoms say yes, either way it's still a "treat the symptoms, wait it out" thing. And now we can definitely see progress, with the trunk entirely clear and no new ones on the trunk. The limbs are still popping up new ones. I would say we may be clear by sometime next week if it progresses at the same rate, sooner if the ADULT dose of Allegra he's getting speeds things along. He's getting the regular adult dosage of Allegra, split into two doses twelve hours apart. This morning, one eye was swollen completely shut - by the time he laid down for a morning nap, he could see through it a little. And he was stomping around happily on his trampoline, wonderful news since yesterday he cried in pain any time I stood him on his feet. His ankles had been so puffed they were purple. This morning they are still purple, but more normally shaped, and obviously more comfortable.
I believe we will play outside after lunch! For the first time in five days!