Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Charlotte's Web Birthday

Note to self - don't plan birthday parties for Bright Week! What was I thinking? I need more time to recover from Holy Week than that - but, invitations had already gone out (a rather exciting news clipping about a mysterious spider web at a local farm) and guests were expecting to come view the web and participate in some old fashioned county fair style fun. So, here it is:

We served fried chicken, corn dogs, hot dogs, french fries,popcorn, cotton candy (you know, really healthy fair food :)

The barn was created following Mr. McGroovy's plans (the rivets are worth the money - we did the castle a few years ago - and I still have half a box after making the barn). The kids played in the barn and enjoyed carnival style games while they waited to eat.
Apple bobbing was perhaps not the best choice for a starter activity - we had lots of wet kids - but they didn't seem to mind.
My littlest joining in on the apple bobbing.

I will say, the cake is not what I had planned - ran out of time for all the animals I wanted to put on it etc - (see note to self at start of post!) and the barn ended up crooked and poorly executed (decorated an hour before guests began arriving) but, thankfully, children are such kind critics, they all said it was beautiful :) Hopefully it won't show up on Cake Wrecks some day!

One final note - this was truly a success in the good gifts department! In the never ending battle to fight the "tiny plastic toy campaign to take over my home" - I really don't care to have parties with lots of children where the kids get lots of junk that breaks within a week or clutters the house or wastes the brain or (you get the picture) - instead, this year, they got a butterfly garden, tickets to a children's theater performance, a trip to the zoo with grandparents, money for horse camp, an all day train ride from the other grandparents, a magic rocks kit, visits to the jump zone, drawing tools and supplies. So, thank you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The gospel reading in Latin

Sorry about the wobbling in the middle, I was holding the baby and trying to tape, and halfway through she decided she wanted down :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come receive light from the Light, that is never overtaken by night

This lantern was a gift from my goddaughter - lit with the flame from Pascha to be taken home and kept burning here. (The beautiful eggs on the right were done by the Queen's godfather, the red one was from last year, the Theotokos one was given to her this Pascha.)

Happy Birthday

Not many kids get to celebrate their birthday on Pascha - let alone a milestone birthday like ten! Happy birthday to my first baby, who's not such a baby anymore :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One thought

It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the preparations, to lose sight of the important things, especially in Holy Week when there is so much that "must" be done. A friend who is a recent convert (this will his first Pascha as an Orthodox Christian) laughed at me on Sunday when I said there was so much to do this week. He said - "what is there to do other than go to church?" I laughed and thought - you have no idea how much preparation goes into Holy Week - the cooking, the flowers, etc. But, in reflection - his is the more accurate attitude. What else is there? Yes, there are lots of exciting extras - but they must not become our focus, they are there to help us focus, not distract us. The following sums it up well:

"After the Easter service, the blessing of the eggs, meats , breads, cakes, etc., which are proper to this feast takes place in Orthodox parishes. The custom, in itself, is excellent. It associates the life of the home with the life of the Church. But one cannot protest too much against the deviation which it causes in certain Orthodox countries where many of the faithful are so absorbed with cleaning their houses, the decoration of eggs, the making of cakes, in short, with the material preparations for the feast, that they miss the services. Religion thus becomes an adopted national or familial custom which is no longer animated by the breath of the Spirit."
by a monk of the eastern church - The Year of Grace of the Lord p.206

May we enjoy the preparations, may we benefit from them, may they never cause our absence from services.

Aren't these beautiful? I went to the grocery store this morning to get flowers for decorating the funeral bier in the morning (the children are allowed to decorate throughout the readings during Royal Hours) and they had roses for $5/dozen! Even better, since they rang up with the wrong price, the store policy is to give it to you for free - so I got some of them free :) The lilies were also $5 a bunch, so I got those for my house this week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Holy Tuesday

Holy Tuesday I tackled the Pascha Bread - not sure how it is going to turn out, but we are giving it a try.
Here are the girls illustrations from the Tuesday Bridegroom Orthros - the little princess illustrated the parables of the 10 talents and the 10 virgins - so she painted coins and oil lamps.
The Queen painted her 10 talents, but got tired of the lamps and decided to paint herself and the sun too :)

And the crocodile hunter did not participate today - he is down with a virus. In fact, seems we have been struck with virus on several fronts. My computer is having virus issues as well. Yes, I can see the irony, and yes, I can see it is probably a message to get off the computer for the rest of Holy Week, so I am not sure if I will be posting much in the next few days.

Immersed in Scripture

Monday night as I listened to the Bridegroom Matins service being chanted I was struck. One principal objection protestants have with Orthodoxy is that we don't rely enough on scripture - "sola scriptura" - just the Bible ma'am. Of course, anyone who attends Bible study, reads a devotional book or listens to a pastor's sermon has violated sola scriptura - we all rely on something as a guide for interpretation - whether it be the holy fathers who lived at the time of the apostles, the fathers of the reformation, or modern day worship leaders and preachers. The thing that struck me was how completely immersed we really are in the scriptures. Bridegroom Orthros is just over an hour service. In that hour, we prayed 9 different Psalms, listened to one Old Testament reading, several summaries of parables Christ told, and 2 Gospel readings. In the morning at the Presanctified liturgy, there will be 22 Psalms read. The liturgy of the church is mostly a combination of Psalms, passages from the Old and New Testament, litanies requesting prayer for the church and the world, and ancient hymns that are typically based on the Psalms and other scripture passages. Nearly every word the priest utters comes from scripture. So while we may not have as many Bible studies, if we are immersed in the life of the church, if we attend the cycle of services regularly, we are singing and praying the scriptures constantly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Holy Week in Color

In a style along the lines of the Days of Creation plans from St. Michael's School, I decided the kids could illustrate the readings from Matins this week. We all attended Bridegroom Orthros last evening, then this morning I asked the kids what they remembered about the service. Between them they managed to recall all the major parables and themes for the night. Then they set to work painting.
The little princess hard at work illustrating the vineyard parables.
Here is the finished product.

Here was her illustration of the Patriarch Joseph whom we remember on Holy Monday.

The crocodile hunter did his version of the parables of the vineyard.

and here is the Queen's illustration - those purple things sticking out are grapes growing from the tree (guess we need a botany lesson next :).


Easy dresses for Palm Sunday? I just made new sashes in soft pink silk dupioni to replace the red ones from the anniversary party last fall!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Memory Eternal

As I roll the wheat berries around on a large sheet, I think about the way the church engages our senses. We were created to experience life on so many levels, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell - and I am always thankful for the way the Orthodox Church recognizes our need for all of these to be a part of worship. Five years ago, on Bright Tuesday (April 14) my beloved grandmother left us. She had been in and out of the hospital since January, and at times we were under the impression everything was fine. Then, a few weeks into Lent she took a turn for the worse. I was about 20 weeks pregnant with my third child, and much of Lent was consumed with visits to the hospital to see Grandma. She was my only surviving grandparent, my father's parents both died before I was born, and my maternal grandfather died when I was 8 from a painful battle with lung cancer. Grandma had always been there though, and she doted on her great-grandchildren - my two oldest - 3 and 5 at the time. We got through Pascha, and were saddened that she was not able to join us for services. I remember Agape Vespers thinking - I should go to the hospital, but we were so exhuasted, and she wouldn't know we were there (at least that is what everyone told me). I planned to go see her Tuesday, but the princess had gymnastics, and I just honestly forgot. Halfway through class I received the call from my husband - her battle was over, she was gone, and I had forgotten to go see her that morning. I grabbed my 3 year old out of class, buckled her into the car, and with tears running down my face hurriedly explained that great-grandma had died. My sweet precious girl looked at me and said, but mommy, why are you crying, Christ is risen from the dead, and then she sang at the top of her lungs "Christ is Risen from the Dead" as I drove home to meet my husband and get to the hospital. It was the middle of April, but it snowed that day - it snowed the entire drive home, and my sweet girl sang all the way.

If you have ever experienced a Bright Week funeral, you will understand when I say, the most beautiful death is to die during Bright Week. That night when we received her body at the church, the air was heavy with the fragrance of lilies. The church was still filled with beautiful flowers, and the funeral vigil recalled the vigil held just a few nights earlier for Christ. It is the only time of year when we sing the hymn Christ is risen at a funeral. There is an air of joy and anticipation that no other season allows. The scent still makes me think of her, the sound of Christ is Risen being sung, the feel of wheat berries rolled under my hand, the jewelled beauty of pomegranate purchased in season and then frozen for this special day, and the sight of purple flowers - her favorite. So, in honor of our beloved Joanna, so new to the Orthodox faith, so beloved of her church, so missed by her family - Memory Eternal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Resurrection Garden

This idea came from Ann at Holy Experience and was a wonderful way to mark Lazarus Saturday. I went shopping this afternoon for the last few items for Holy Week and stopped at a local hardware store to find these lovely plants.
The crocodile hunter spent over an hour carving the hole in the rock to create our tomb, then we carefully placed our plants to create our garden. Ann suggests wrapping a clay caterpillar in linen for Holy Friday, then replacing it with a butterfly on Sunday morning. We will probably wrap a linen figure and place it within the tomb, and I have a set of figures which include the risen Christ and Mary Magdalene kneeling at his feet that I think would be perfect for Sunday morning. We are also planning to take the garden to church on Saturday evening and use it to decorate our table for the Paschal feast.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Time Bluebirds, yummy!

What says spring time better than little nests of baby bluebirds? These cupcakes were for my nieces for their birthday party this year - here are the original cupcakes - I opted for icing nests in deference to the younger crowd, though aren't they darling in coconut?

Monday, April 6, 2009

skirty fun

In case there are some of you out there who have not yet discovered the wonderful "skirty", let me introduce you! The perfect solution for little girls who love to run and play, and not show the world their drawers :) My girls love to wear them and they look just darling under skirts and dresses.