Thursday, September 27, 2007

Out of Reach

It hasn't taken me long to realize how much I miss having Rose around. She's a rational and reasonable companion in a house of sometimes-petulant and dramatic children, not to mention a great help around the house. The prospect of 16 more days without her is making my head hurt.

When people ask how I'm going to handle her absence, my self-defensive instinct wants to say, "I suppose I'll have to put down my box of bon-bons, turn off my stories, and pick up a broom." But I usually pay for thinking such thoughts. Payback has already happened more than once, most notably, the incident which produced this angelic photo.

Liturgy was nice today. Dusan is supposed to be back this Sunday after a month's absence due to a sprained ankle. I know I'm not the only person who misses having him in church.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eve of the Exaltation

I'm still reading Brothers Karamozov. It's one of the most difficult works of fiction I've ever read. The first time I attempted it I was a know-it-all college kid, but I couldn't get through it, and the Orthodox references went way over my head. The second time I tried it Rose was a baby. When I got to the chapter entitled, "Rebellion." I couldn't continue. It was heart breaking. The third time, I got through that chapter but got bogged down in the next chapter called, "The Grand Inquisitor," and realized I wasn't as smart as I thought I was.

Now I'm further into the book than I've ever been. The chapter on Fr Zossima is painfully beautiful. I wanted to record something here:

It's the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy. The mild serenity of age takes the place of the riotous blood of youth. I bless the rising sun each day, and, as before, my heart sings to meet it, but now I love even more its setting, its long slanting rays and the soft tender gentle memories that come with them, the dear images from the whole of my long happy life--and over all the Divine Truth, softening, reconciling, forgiving! My life is ending, I know that well, but every day that is left for me I feel how my earthly life is in touch with a new infinite, unknown, but approaching life, the nearness of which sets my soul quivering with rapture, my mind glowing and my heart weeping with joy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Grand Tour

I just dropped off Rose at my parents' house to leave for her trip to England, Wales, and Ireland tomorrow. She'll be leaving from Charlotte and flying to Orlando, and then to London. They'll be touring London for several days and then taking a tour of the Southeast and circling around for a tour of the West Country. They'll be visiting cousins of my dad's side of the family in Wales and then fly to Dublin. They'll be in Ireland for about three or four days and then fly back to London. God willing they'll be back on the 11th.

Poor Margaret was inconsolable as Rose and I were trying to leave. I don't think she's cried like that since early this morning. So if Rose needed proof of Margaret's genuine despair and desolation at having to say goodbye, she got it.

My goal is to get Rose's lime green room painted before she gets back. The original paint job was done when Margaret was a baby, so I had a lot more time than I do now. Rose liked the color of her room for almost six months, and has been politely talking of getting it re-painted for the past five years.

For Rose's birthday she was given new, more grown-up, furniture, and a lovely maroon and gold brocaded bedspread with shams, throw pillows and a bolster. The lime green doesn't work anymore, needless to say.

I insisted that before we let Rose leave, we all go outside after supper to play as a family for a little while. We got the 3' beach ball out and played a very liberal game of soccer with no goals, no points, and no rules. The kids did want to break up into teams, however. Mark, Rose, Ella, and LMark were the "Mexicans" (so named by Ella) because of their darker complexions and hair. Max, Margaret and I were the "Angles" because of our lighter hair and complexions. Midway into the game Margaret cried out "I want to be a Mexican!!" at which point they welcomed her with open arms. Max and I were out-numbered so we just out-manoeuvred them with our quick wit and light complexions. Since there were no rules or points, they could each run around, fall down, tackle, and holler at each other for twenty minutes and walk away thinking they had won the game. It was fun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pix & Patios

Today began with a discussion between me and Mark about the size of a patio we're putting in the back yard. He wants a 23' x 26' patio so we can have a place to play half-court basketball. I want a more moderately-sized, 20' x 23', patio so we don't have huge slab of concrete in the middle of our back yard, but enough room for for the kids to play. So we decided to compromise and get a 23' x 26' patio so we can have a place to play half-court basketball.

We had an appointment to get the kids' pictures taken for our homeschool yearbook at 10 this morning. This is one of my favorite parts of our being in our homsechool group. Since it's home-school we can include a lot of pictures of our family doing fun-looking things. It doesn't matter that someone might have pitched a fit 5 minutes before or 5 minutes after the photo--what matters is the publicised moment of family joy and peace which is immortalized in our yearbook.

Even though we could have stayed and had a group photo made at the studio, I wanted to save a few hundred dollars and go to WalMart instead. Fortunately when we arrived we weren't behind a group of five irritable and hungry kids who took forever to coordinate their smiles, because we would have been waiting forever. Unfortunately we were the group with five irritable and hungry kids who took no less than 90 minutes to coordinate their heads, blinks and smiles, and then pose for their individual shots. There were two ladies with a toddler who arrived five minutes after us who had to wait just to pick up thier pictures. I kept saying to the photographer, "Go ahead and take care of them, it doesn't matter--no really--it's OK." But she refused. It was almost as if she had some vendetta against them.

The first ten shots I told the kids to yell "Cheese!" When they got bored with that it was "Milk Shake!" Then I tried to come up with words that would be a reward for their smiles. What we learned: the words "gum" and "chocolate" do not produce attractive smiles for a family portrait. Then I left the area and let the photographer do her work with the croaky frog. The kids were exhausted. The last photo we took, which was the one where I just said, "Alright this is the last one! Y'all just hug!!" produced the best picture of all. This is the one we got in the large size.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brain Buckets

It was a beautiful day today. The sun was shining and there was a genuine chill in the air. Before church this morning I went to CVS and bought a box of bandaids because LMark had cut his finger with a butter knife (while trying to cut a mini-wheat in half). After naps, I took the kids to the grade school to ride bikes. Fortunately I had left the bandaids in the car, because by the time we left the parking lot, we had used eight of them.

Ella had a minor spill that scratched her knee and hands. Max did something to his knee. But Margaret & Ella had a collision that ended our day. I didn't see it, but they ended up in a heap together with Ella rubbing her knee and Margaret holding a knot on the back of her head the size of a golf ball. I carried her to the car and packed up the rest of the crew.

When we got home I put an ice pack on her head and leaned her up against Papa on the couch. The rest of the children, upon seeing the treatment Meggy was getting, presented all of their own injuries, limped around, and groaned like pathetic invalids.

I didn't think that the girls actually needed head gear at this point in their bicycling because they were, at times, ridiculously cautious and slow. Today they were zipping all around the parking lot at lightning speed. Before the accident I mumbled to myself that I should have brought their helmets. So from now on they won't go riding without one. My friend Stephen calls them brain buckets, which is an appropriate name, no doubt.

Initially they'll object that it restricts their freedom. But I suppose they'll soon treat them like seat belts. Max, if he discovers we've begun driving without buckling him in, will scream in terror, "I'm not buckled yet !! I'm gonna fwy out of de cawr!!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Playing in the Gutter

Last night we had an unusual storm here. There was a downpour of Southern proportions, but not a bit of lightning or thunder. Because this was such an unusual thing I took the Meggy, Max, & Little Mark onto the front porch to watch it. We rarely get the opportunity to appreciate a good rain outside because of the lightning. Once Ella & I walked onto our porch for just a second to move something and were zapped when lightning struck something across the street and charged the air. It made me very careful of exposing myself or the children to thunderstorms.

It was different last night. It rained steadily for 20 minutes and we watched it from the porch. Then Mark & I took the kids down to the gutter in front of our house where water was pouring like crazy from up the hill. We had a good time putting bark and flowers into the water and watching them disappear down the storm drain.

When I was a kid we played in the gutter all the time because we lived at the bottom of a hill. We also made necklaces of clover and popped bubbles made in the tar on the road. That was fun.

Simple pleasures.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When Should a Man Obey His Wife?

The simple answer to "When should a man obey his wife?" is the following: when she says, "Whatever you do, I don't care about the circumstances, never put a crayon in your pocket." Also he might pay added attention if she includes the phrase, "Never, never, never put a crayon in your pocket, ever, ever, ever."

But the Good Lord didn't intend that a man obey his wife. Which is why crayons end up in the man's pocket, and then into the laundry, and then into the dryer, which then, in varying degrees, bespeckle all the clothes, and completely turn the interior of the dryer a Crayola brown and "mountain green."

This has happened to me several times before, and I haven't been able to trace the culprit as easily as I can now. This doesn't matter because I can already hear, not only from the man, but from every corner of the blessed earth: "You should have checked the pockets."

Yes, I know, thank you very much.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Boy Math

We had our annual parish meeting today. It went pretty well. It's funny how the nine children (ages 7 and under), when they have the freedom to go in and out of the church, prefer to be out, and will, 98% of the time, stay out. But when they have been told they must stay outside with Rose, they stand and stare through the door like forlorn puppies.

After church I took the middle three to the high school parking lot to ride bikes again. Max, who used to be gung ho about his bike, is now uninterested because we took his training wheels off. So he spent the time in the parking lot running back and forth on the sidewalks. Meggy would scream at him if he got too close, "Max! You're nervousing me!!" About 100 feet away from where I sat in the car, Max plopped himself in front of a styrofoam cup with a lid and a straw that had been deposited in the parking lot. I was watching him, but wasn't terribly concerned about his doing the unthinkable. But, being 1000% rough and tumble boy, he did it. He took a drink.

High school parking lot + cup + weekend = I don't want to even imagine what was in there. And I will leave it at that.

We went home for a few minutes to get some iced tea. Instead of returning to the high school we went to the new elementary school just 30 seconds from our house. The parking lot is newly paved and the medians are sandy and unmanicured right now. The girls loved the smooth ride and rode around for an hour. I enjoyed myself, although it was hot, there was a nice breeze and it was fun watching the kids play. Needing to be reminded that we are in a fallen world however, there was an irksome housefly (at least it looked like one) that wanted to land on my legs. It wouldn't have been terribly pesky, except that it bit me everytime it landed.

Max wandered off and discovered a fire hydrant which he sat beside and stroked as if it were a golden idol. When I called him back near the car he decided to play in the sand. Then he began burying his legs and feet in the hot, dusty parking lot sand. He did this for nearly 30 minutes.

Margaret, who had dropped by the car to get a drink of tea told me what he was doing. "He is making ant hills on his legs," she announced, "I told him 'Good job, Max! They look just like 'em."

We're headed for Charleston tomorrow for a field trip to the Old Exchange and Charles Towne Landing--then to the beach for probably our last swim of the season.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

In the Balance

I made prosphora today. I still don't like doing it. Having started at 7AM, I thought that I might actually have them all cut by lunchtime and be done baking by 3:00. So I didn't finish till an hour and a half ago. Not a big deal. It indeed would have been something to finish earlier with all the kids around and Mark home too. But I made a triple recipe to get us through October, litya to get us to the end of the year, and commemorative loaves for a few weeks at least.

Carolina is playing Georgia and has a significant lead right now. By the time I finish this post, however, they might have lost. They don't have a very good track record of keeping the leads they get in the first half--especially when they're playing a team like Georgia.

I re-covered Quartus' four-legged stool that he sits on in the choir at church. The seat was splattered with paint. It wasn't that bad because it was hidden behind the choir stand, but I decided I would re-cover it anyway. I hope he doesn't mind; the paint didn't come off with Oops. I probably should have used brush cleaner, but it was easier to re-cover it.

I took Rose and the kids to Target today (left LMark at home with Papa to nap). Rose had to get a present for Carley's birthday party tonight. I had a irrepressible urge to visit the shoe department. In my youth shoes weren't that big of a draw for me, but they are now.

In order to allow Mark more quiet time without the kids, I decided to take them to the high school parking lot to ride bikes. Margaret is the best bike-rider right now, but she had a pretty bad spill today and scraped up her elbow. But it is entirely characteristic of Margaret to recover pretty quickly if having fun hangs in the balance.

Mark is at Nell & Josh's house watching the game with some other friends, and our visiting Siberian friend, Polina. She's passing through town on her way from Siberia to Oregon for school. I hope we can find someone to marry her who lives here. I have always liked her very much.

I'm hesitant to sign-off of this post because Carolina is still winning--but they've lost their big lead. It's only a four point lead now, and 1:27 minutes left. Plenty of time for Carolina to lose. I'm sure if they do lose I'll hear about how I jinxed the game because of my bad attitude.


...what do you know...we won. How about that? Woohoo!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Not so Quiet

This afternoon I went to WalMart to exchange a printer cartridge that was the wrong model. Within minutes of returning I found the house strangely quiet. Rose was loading the dishwasher and the children were still in bed for their "quiet time" which should have ended an hour ago. I felt like something was up, since Rose had changed into her father's ugliest t-shirt, and in reply to my request for the status of the house she replied dully, "Everything's fine."

Everything was not fine, as I found out when I walked upstairs and into my room. Max tattled on Little Mark, saying he had eaten "all da medicine." When I ran over to check out LMark, I found him standing on the vanity counter painting the mirror and himself with Dr. Burt's Rescue Ointment. Any other time I would have gotten angry, but I was already anxious about the "medicine" so the vanity had to wait for later. When I asked Max to explain what happened, he revised his story. Little Mark had eaten two pills, but Max had eaten one. I got on the phone with the pediatrician knowing full well that it was Max who had eaten all the pills. After explaining the situation to the pediatrician, then to Poison Control, and finding out that three times 160 mg of acetaminophin is not toxic to a boy Max (or LMark's) size I got the real score: Max-3, Little Mark-0. Thank God.

Little Mark, fortunately, was merely covered in a healthy, fragrant analgesic, which is why I had to put him in the tub. Upon walking into the bathroom I discovered that Ella had written on the cabinet in toothpaste the phrase "I hate Mom." I was bewildered because I couldn't remember having done anything particularly hateful earlier. When I was a kid I would say "I hate you" to my mom all the time and could effortlessly reduce her to tears. This is probably why I said it all the time--and why I deserve having it said to me.

There is a latant instinct in me to sit Ella down and have a heart-to-heart, but frankly, I'm out of patience with that modern nonsense. I made her clean up the mess, and then the whole bathroom. She didn't seem to have a problem with it since it appears her sentiments have changed. This, however, doesn't change the fact that I'm going to have to buy more toothpaste before the end of the week, and find time before Mark gets home from work to clean off my mirror.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Some Kind of Labor

Today we had Girl Scouts. The boys stayed home to nap with Papa since he was off work. If I had been thinking I would have made a list of errands beforehand. Doing errands without children obviously allows me a lot more freedom. Since I didn't think of a list, when the time came to decide how to spend my 90 child-free minutes, I was like a prostrate squirrel unable to decide whether to go right or left.

I ended up at Lowes.

When I went to pick up the girls I lamented to one of my friends that I couldn't think of anything to do. She just said, "Why didn't you just go get a cup of coffee and read a magazine?" I was speechless. It had never occurred to me to do something so--dissipated.

Today was the last day to swim at the pool since it's Labor Day. Gwynneth of the Gold Hoops was there again. She, Ella, and Meggy have become best friends. They exchanged phone numbers last week and talked on the phone for an hour. They kept trying to get permission from me to spend the night together. But I don't know the father except from across the pool, and I've never seen the mother. It was a little awkward explaining to the girls that we just can't do that kind of thing. So this time they said goodbye and wished each other a good Christmas and other nice holidays in between now and pool-time next year.

We went to Antonius' house yesterday for a goodbye party for the Allens as they head back to Boston, and a birthday party for Christina. Very sweetly, Antonius made a public promise to Christina that he would stop smoking. He has made this promise before, but never publicly. He said he's hoping that the prospect of public humiliation will give him the encouragement he needs. We're all pulling (praying) for him.

I bought a book of 2000 stickers last Wednesday that I planned to use in a scheme to get the kids to do more work around the house. I remember reading in a parenting magazine once about how children should not be encouraged to work with little goodies like this. The author argued: "I never get little stickers or candies when I finish sweeping the floor or folding the laundry so why should..." I decided this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard so I didn't bother finishing the article.

It was working remarkably well Wednesday. Margaret was as busy as a bee, saying, as she rubbed her hands back and forth, "What can I do next?" Ella and she turned it into a competition, and Max got into it too. Then, the next day Margaret wasn't feeling well, Ella was sick, and Max behaved as if he had never heard of our stickers-for-work scheme. And now that everyone is well again I can't find the stickers. It seems that the minute a plan begins to unfold nicely something happens and blasts it all to pieces.