Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Conference Photos

Here are a few pictures from the St. Emmelia Conference - it really was a wonderful week, and I encourage families to put it on your calendar for next year!

We drove up a day early, so after 10 long hours in the car, Wednesday night we crashed on couches at the conference center to visit with "Uncle Paul and Aunt Deborah". Bishop THOMAS decided to drop in and join us, making for a fun evening.
We were also joined by Niko and Kristen Chocheli - much to the crocodile hunter's delight. He pulled out his sketch book and they talked drawing and a mutual love for animals. He is a truly delightful man, and I enjoyed getting to know both of them. After everyone else retired for the evening, the crocodile hunter and Niko spent another 45 minutes playing soccer with ping pong balls!

Thursday stretched out before us, free of plans until the evening. The weather was perfect, 63 degrees, with 2 feet of snow on the hills! So, the crocodile hunter spent much of the morning sledding down hills - a dream come true for this southern boy.
Next we toured the camp - visiting the grave of St. Raphael ....
....seeing the little chapel where the kids have church during camp, isn't that stained glass amazing! That is the back wall of the chapel.

The camp is truly blessed with an abundance of relics - above are the relics of St. Thekla, St. Moses, St. Herman and St. Paul (I think - can't honestly remember the last one, but I am pretty sure that is an icon of St. Paul - someone correct me if I am wrong please :) I am grateful I did not have allergy problems until the next day, the sweet fragrance coming from the relics of St. Thekla is indescribable.
Friday evening the conference center museum opened its exhibit of Niko Chochelli's art. The children followed Bishop THOMAS as he blessed the exhibit, then they were the first to get to explore. I absolutely love his work (we own every one of his books!) so it was amazing to see the illustrations in person.

While the adults were busy in workshops, the kids were treated to a variety of fun classes. Here is the crocodile hunter doing a watercolor during a class with Niko.
Recognize that whale?

The artists with their work :)

During the vendor hall periods, I set up camp at a table and got the chance to meet most of the families in attendance as I shared Letters of Grace. It was so much fun to meet people in person, and I cannot tell you how thrilled and encouraged I was to see the excitement of so many who are planning to use the curriculum.

A last shot of the conference center chapel - such a beautiful place to worship. I enjoyed the opportunity to be in church 3 times a day with like minded families. It was also a joy to see so many children - it is the only place I have ever been where I felt the need to qualify discussion of what I do in homeschooling with the comment "Well, I only have four kids, but we..."
What a blessing!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

After all, what could be more mystical or magical than ordinary daylight coming in through an
ordinary window? Why should not that wonderful white fire breaking through the window, inspire us every day like an ever-returning miracle? .... And the more I thought of it, the more I thought that there was the hint of some strange answer in the very fact that I had to ask the question. I had not lost, and I have never lost, the conviction that such primal things are mysterious and amazing. Why did anybody have to remind us that they were amazing. Why was there... a sort of daily fight to appreciate the daylight; to which we had to summon all the imagination and poetry and labour of the arts to aid us? If the first imaginative instinct was right, it seemed clearer and clearer that something else was wrong. And as I indignantly denied that there was anything wrong with the window, I eventually concluded that there was something wrong with me."

GK Chesterton The Common Man (242-43)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The One Thing Needful

I am thankful to be home, but want to say that the St. Emmelia Conference was truly a blessing, for so many reasons. I was hesitant to go, such a long distance, 5 days away from home and my younger ones (and husband :), was it really going to be worth it? That question was answered on the first evening of the conference. Thursday night after dinner and a few "get to know everyone" games, we all gathered to pray an Akathist. It is one of my favorites, The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children. We are blessed here at our parish to have a priest who gathers with mothers on a monthly basis to say these prayers, and I love attending. After several weeks of ups and downs, and the usual February homeschool burnout, I have been struggling with the ever present nagging doubts every homeschool parent must battle. Am I doing enough? Am I failing my children? Are they learning enough Latin, Math, History, etc? As we prayed the Akathist, one line jumped from the page, "Raise my children to be the least of all, that they may be great before God." After the prayers were complete, Bishop THOMAS took a moment to address us. His words were the thing I needed, a reminder to me of that "one thing needful". His gentle reprimand: whether our children are in private, public or homeschool, there is one true focus. I do not homeschool so that my children are better than others. I do not homeschool to create academic geniuses. I do not homeschool so they can attain great heights in this world. I homeschool that they might attain the kingdom of heaven, and become heirs of eternal blessings. I want them to learn, but for what purpose? That they may "strongly oppose atheists," that they may be delivered "from association with falsely-theorizing orators, who speak lies about Thine all-powerful intercession, " that they may "stand firmly against God-hating teaching." I do not pray for fame, for attention from this world, for academic acclaim. I want them to learn to think clearly. I want them to learn truth and beauty. I want them to see God in all. So while I continue to do the very best to instruct them, I must constantly remind myself that the race is not for achievement in this world, but rather for the attainment of the next.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

See you in a few days!

I am heading out for Pennsylvania for the St. Emmelia Conference, hope to see some of you there. Will be back blogging with pix from the conference on Monday.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March LOG Give Away

Be sure to leave a comment for Mary at evlogia to be entered for the latest book give-away.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pascha Boxes

You will have to forgive the poor photos - I had to switch cameras in order to make these pictures load properly, so quality is not great, but it will give you the idea :) First, let me say, my ideas unfortunately tend to come at the last minute. I will mull an event over in my mind for months (birthday party, wedding, anniversary celebration, whatever) and think I have thought of everything. Then, at the last minute, my favorite ideas come, and I am frantically trying to make them happen. These boxes are a great example. Last year, I got up on Lazarus Saturday and had an idea, for Holy Week items for my kids. When I lamented to my husband that the idea just now hit me, he very calmly stated maybe it was from the devil! Not what I wanted to hear. But, at the same time, his comment had a great deal of wisdom. He pointed out that spending the next few days frantically trying to create these boxes was a distraction, one that would take me away from other more important things I should be doing. So, I listened, and I didn't try to pull it off last year. Instead, I spent the next year slowly collecting the items I wanted and preparing my boxes. I share this in hopes of giving an idea to you, but not distracting you. This is a big project. It may be more than you are interested in. That's okay. It may be too much to manage this year. That's okay. The beauty of the church is we live in a cycle. We get to do it again next year, God willing. So, if my idea inspires you, I thank God. I am sharing because others have so generously shared and inspired me, and if my small contribution inspires someone else then I am thankful.
This project is really a combination of two ideas. Over 10 years ago I purchased a set of "Resurrection eggs", a set of small plastic easter eggs, each one filled with an item pertaining to the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.

I loved the idea of those eggs, and I also loved the idea of Mary's Dormition boxes, a set of 14 boxes each containing a symbol of the Theotokos to be opened on each day of the Dormition Fast. Those two ideas percolated for a while, and I kept thinking, there has to be a way to make an Orthodox set of Resurrection eggs. Only after weeks of working on the idea did I discover Phyllis Onest has a lovely pamphlet on creating your own set :) Seems I like to reinvent things other people have already thought of! The problem with little plastic eggs though, is it is hard to find items small enough to fit inside, so I took Mary's idea of using the little paper mache boxes from the craft store - conveniently oval shaped, like an egg.

Last year we also purchased this wonderful book for the crocodile hunter, and I read it through. It has a beautiful explanation of each service of Holy Week. The overall themes for each day are laid out, as well as the many rich images we get from the readings during these services. So, using that book, my copy of the Services for Holy Week and Pascha, and a lot of red paint and m*d podge, here is what I came up with: Each box is about 6-7 inches by 4 inches, painted a deep red with an icon attached to the top. Most of the icons were old bulletins I had saved, I just cut and mod podged them on. The ones I did not have as bulletins I located through the OCA website. I painted the inside of each box in gold. Another way to do this on a smaller scale is to just make one box with an icon of the Resurrection on it, and rotate the items out each day. This would make for easier storage too! This project does not have to cost a lot, many of the items are things I found by scrounging through the kids stuff, or my fabric stash. The hardest part was getting enough of the boxes, as our local craft store will not special order these. I had to watch for a while to manage to gather enough (I made a set for a godchild, so I needed 14 :) but, they were very inexpensive, I think I paid $1.25 each because I got them each time they went half price.

Box 1: This box is for Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. It contains a strip of linen fabric to represent the raising of Lazarus, a donkey (from the crocodile hunter's stash), palm branches (a piece of artificial greenery I found at H*bby L*bby, I just cut the individual fronds off) and icons of Mary and Martha, the Raising of Lazarus, and the Entrance into Jerusalem. I forgot to include them in the photo, but the other item I am putting in this box is the dried palm branches woven into crosses from past years.
Box 2: This box is for Sunday evening Bridegroom Matins and Monday morning services. The focus of these services is humility, with Joseph as the Old Testament type of Christ, suffering in humility before saving his people. The grapes (from a craft store) and figs are references to the parables told during these services.

Box 3: This box pertains to Bridegroom Matins on Monday evening and Tuesday mornings gospel readings. The theme of readiness for the final judgement runs through the readings and the parables of the 10 talents and the 10 virgins are told. The sheep and goats (from the crocodile hunter's stash) are a reference to the scripture in which the people will be divided at judgement. The coin recalls the story of the Pharisees' attempt to trick Christ - render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. I still want to include a lamp, perhaps made from sculpy, to represent the parable of the 10 virgins, but that may have to wait until next year.
Box 4: This box covers Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening, with an emphasis on healing. The scriptures read during these days recalls the parable of the good Samaritan, and references to Christ healing the sick. The pitcher, basin (doll house items) and vial of oil remind us of the harlot washing Christ's feet, and also His rebuke to the disciples that He came to save those who are sinful. The bag contains 30 pieces of silver, as Wednesday is also the day Judas is paid for his betrayal of Christ. Finally, the oil also calls to mind the Service of Holy Unction which is commonly held on Wednesday of Holy Week.
Box 5: This box is for the Mystical Supper, and contains a chalice, bread, an icon of the last supper and figures of Christ and disciples.
Box 6: This box covers the services of Thursday and Friday, from the Passion Gospel service to Royal Hours on Friday. It contains a small plastic sword (not shown - you know, one of those cocktail ones !) which Peter drew to defend Christ in the garden, a rooster as a reminder of Peter's betrayal hours later, a crown of thorns (miniature wreath from H*bby L*bby), a vial of vinegar as offered to Christ on the cross, a strip of leather to remind of the beating he received, a die as they cast lots for his clothing, and a small wooden skewer to represent the spear that pierced His side.

Box 7: The final box is for Saturday, and contains a strip of linen to represent Christ's burial, vials of frankincense and myrrh which the women took to the tomb to prepare his body, a stone, icons of the resurrection and the risen Christ figure.

Some of the items in the boxes are not appropriate for younger children, and I am sure there are many other items that could be included, and ways to personalize this project. We plan to take each box to church during those services, and use the items as reminders for what the kids should be listening for during the readings. As I said, I did not have this ready last year, but I did collect a few items to use last year, and it was amazing how effective it was for my 4 year old to hold those grapes, and then how excited she was when she actually heard the parable of the vineyard. If nothing else, it tuned them in to the readings, and gave them something visual to contemplate throughout some VERY LONG services that test the patience of even the most tolerant of children!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Recipe Correction

For those of you who downloaded the "lemony shrimp scampi," sorry!!! I accidentally uploaded the non-fasting version which includes butter and oil. The recipe has now been updated to follow the strict fast, and I assure you, it still tastes great (just finishing up a plate now!)

Bringing Church Home: Preparing for Pascha

As we are reaching the mid point of Lent, I wanted to once again share with some of the information presented by the women of our church at our retreat last fall. The topic of this talk was Preparing for Pascha, and was mostly a collection of resources and ideas to help prepare for this time of year.
There are so many resources out there, so I have included a few photos from the display table, along with a lengthy list of links for many of the items you see in the photos. The main focus of this talk was about thinking ahead, simplifying this time of year by doing things ahead, and being purposeful in planning our lives around the services of the church, rather than fitting church into our lives when it is most convenient. It is also a time to reduce our distractions and focus on preparing through our daily life. We can turn off the television, avoid movies and other forms of entertainment, and instead spend our time in services and spiritual reading. Children can be encouraged to add to their reading, selecting a book such as I-vile to You-ville, or perhaps a volume of the lives of the saints.

For an explanation of the red oval box with the resurrection icon on it - stay tuned. That is our Holy Week box for children, which I will share in detail in a few days. For now, here are a set of links that some may find useful.

Lenten Survival Bag for kids
Phylis Onest site - pascha eggs, projects, book ideas,
coloring book pages to print off, a guide to Holy Week for kids (and adults too!)
fasting and feasting talk outline
cycles of grace notebooks
Paschal Lenten Calendar

Holy Week
Holy Week Schedule and Checklist
(this is obviously specific to our parish, but includes many
helpful reminders of items needed for services etc.)
Resurrection Garden
Pascha Cookies
Resurrection Buns
Pascha Cheese Mold

There was a completely separate talk on the Pascha basket I will share in a few day with some helpful links.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Coloring Book Resource

If you have not already checked out Potamitis Publishers, do it now. They have just released a series of Orthodox coloring books - a Synaxarion for kids. There is one book for each month, affordably priced at only $6.99. Each book contains roughly 15 line drawings of saints commemorated during that month, along with a brief paragraph about the saint in Greek and English. I ordered a sampling of them a while back, and they arrived in my mailbox today. They are beautiful!
These books are a perfect addition to daily readings from the lives of the saints.
I have ordered a number of things from them, and they are wonderful to do business with, so go check out the latest!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Career Planning

A few weeks ago, the crocodile hunter was complaining about having to learn math and Latin. Like most kids, he started asking why he needed to know either subject. I asked him what he thought he wanted to do when he got older. His responses revolved mostly around paleontology, veterinary medicine and zoology. I calmly explained exactly how Latin and math played a role in each career option he listed. I thought the subject was closed. A week later he came to me. "Mom, I got it. I know what I want to be - an artist. I am pretty sure they don't need to know Latin or math!" So, apparently he has been practicing for his future career as an iconographer - during liturgy no less.