Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Why do we put boys in the altar with knives, fire and alcohol?

October 12, 2009

After Divine Liturgy yesterday my 9 year old reported the usual shenanigans that altar boys get into behind the iconostas.  (Moms, you’ll understand when I say I much prefer not to see what’s going on.)   So the 9 year old tells me, in a very casual manner, about an “incident” that happened with his 7 year old brother.

“Mom, if M’s hair smells like charcoal, it’s ok, it just got a little singed.  He got his head too close to the censor, but we picked out the burned parts.”   

School photos are tomorrow.   Luckily the missing parts are on the back of his head.


September 9, 2009

This icon clearly depicts the advanced age of Saint Joachim and Anna at the time of Mary's childhood. According to Holy Tradition, Saint Joachim was 60 and Saint Anna was 59 when Mary was born; both died ten years after her birth.

Everyone seems to be obsessed with the numerical oddity, some would say auspiciousness, of today’s date.   Weddings, lottery tickets sales, and lucky births are all being blessed with the smiling face of fortune today.

I hope you haven’t gotten caught up in this superstitious nonsense, and may I suggest an alternative blessing for this date?  Orthodox Christians observe September 9th as the feast of the parents of Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, falling naturally the day after the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (8th).   Since becoming a mother I’ve always had a special devotion to Saint Anna and I believe through her intercessions that I have been blessed.   It was to Saint Anna that I prayed through two difficult pregnancies and I continue to ask for her help whenever I have a special concern with my children.   Random sequences of numbers just can’t give you that kind of peace!

Most Holy Ancestress of Christ, pray for us!

Anna rejoices, released from her barrenness,
and nurses her most pure child.
She calls all people to glorify Him
Who gave the Virgin Mother to mankind from her womb.

                                                                  Kontakion Tone 2

Troy Polamalu On Faith, Family (and Football)

August 11, 2009


Without a question, my greatest wish would be for [my son] to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian.

Amen Troy. 

It’s a human weakness to feel a vicarious pride in the accomplishments of our children.  From Day One we’re always looking for signs of excellence and, more often than not, the measure of our children’s progress is made against other children and their parents.  It’s selfish and self-centered, and some would say it’s just a result of Darwinian natural selection.  But how many of us parents, Orthodox or of any Christian faith, measure our children’s success in terms of their relationship with Christ and their faithfulness to his Holy Church?  And when our children graduate from high school and go out into the world, will we also measure our success as parents by their careers and income or by their devotion to prayer and an active church life?

I so feel Troy Polomalu’s desire for his son to be a pious Orthodox Christian.  It is the only burning desire I have for my own two sons.  When I first became a parent I agonized over raising children with a spouse that was and remains completely closed off to the Orthodox faith.   For so many years I’ve felt like a windbreak in a howling gale, protecting the tiny flame of faith I’ve tried to catch in my children.   As long as I’m nurturing that flame I have hope, but the scary part is when you realize that you’ll have to stand up and move away.  Whether or not that flame continues to burn is dependent to some degree on the fuel you fed the flame with, but I think the harder part of letting go is accepting your children’s own free will and openess to the Holy Spirit.   Sadly, some may want to light new fires of their own or even let their flame die out.   I worry that despite all my efforts, my kids may do just that, and then what?  Will I accept their choices or rage against their free will?   Parenting is surely a cross in its own way.

Do not miss reading the rest of Troy Polomalu’s interview with Pittsburgh Magazine.  Every Orthodox parent in America needs to read this interview and take to heart a commitment to the spiritual lives of our children.   There is an eternity of consequence at stake here.  Football may be a game but the salvation of our children (and ourselves) is not. 

Hell and the Family Road Trip

July 4, 2009


You know how all those Renaissance and Baroque paintings depict Hell as, well, Hell?  Demons, brimstone, torture, eternal pain?   I now actually think the Chevy Chase comedy Family Vacation comes a lot closer to the true depiction of hell.  I just got into town a few hours ago from a trip to southern New Mexico and Big Bend National Park.   I’m finding it hard to compare which I enjoyed more – four days with my bickering kids and grouchy husband or the five days in a mountain home with the aforementioned and my various in-laws. 

Well, it’s 1:45 a.m. and I have 400 miles of travel to sleep off.  I’ll wait to tell you about the 7 year old who sliced his finger open with a pocket knife in the backseat of the SUV, the dead, stinking skunk in my backyard, and the 65 mph collision we narrowly (I mean narrowly!) had with a sheep rancher today on a lonely, back country Texas road.    

Gangsta Genes

June 22, 2009

Here’s the latest scientific research  that tries to give credibility to the packs of tattooed, drop-out, criminal punk-asses, who’d rather bust out your car windows and each others faces than take responsibility for their own lives. 

The debate over the root causes of criminality – genetic or environmental – goes way back.  It’s a theory that has influenced criminal justice practices for decades, and the fluctuations between either camp determines the ebbs and flows in  social intervention programs for pre-offenders and the types of incarceration, rehabilitation and parole conditions for convicted juvenile and adult criminals.

My 9 year old and I watched a classic movie this weekend, The Bad Seed, the whole premise of which is based on the idea of inherited criminal character versus an environmental cause.   My son was just as fascinated with this movie as I was at his age; maybe because this highly stylized and moralistic film shows a clear image of what true evil and sin can be committed by fallen man.  On the other hand it could leave you with the false impression that you aren’t such a bad person after all – you’re certainly not a homicidal 8 year old so you must be pretty good.  

When our children are young and innocent we’ve all wondered to some degree whether they will grow up to be law-abiding, honorable, good people.   I can remember freaking out a bit when my youngest son was 4 years old and constantly acting up at church.   He’s always been a bit of a monster and I’ve spent many hours in frustration over his wild child behavior.  These early episodes should have been a tip-off to his now diagnosed ADHD.  On this one particular Sunday, we’d made the gazillionth trip out of the church to regroup and burn off energy.  I finally asked him, “M., why are you acting up like this?”   I really didn’t expect an answer, but he shocked me when he just popped right back, “I evil, Mommy.”   I thought for sure I had a future axe murderer on my hands. 

What does society do then with these gangsta teens?  I for one am not ready to blindly accept the idea that they just can’t help it.  It’s in their genes poor things.  The opening field of genetic research I think is going too far in their passion for finding the genetic cause of everything.  Isn’t assigning genetic factors to every human behavioral and psychological condition pretty close to denying our free will and leaving us only one step up from the instinctual behavior of animals?   I give these  gang bangers more credit than a school of fish, and I still believe in the old-fashioned idea that if you can’t find the self-discipline to change your life than you’re going to have to pay the consequences.   

My little gangstas (Spring 2007)

My little gangstas (Spring 2007)

Evil, Evil Cupcakes

June 19, 2009


Who can make school administrators hyperventilate?   What sends teachers into cold sweats?  Who can kill a Valentine’s or end-of-school party with a simple phone call campaign?   No Child Left Behind?  Mandatory testing? 

No, it’s a shrill, preachy, obsessed, helicopter mom whose greatest fear is that her darlings will – ‘horror’ – eat a sugary treat at school.  Here’s a woman who really knows how to kill a class party.   MeMe Roth has made a one-woman industry out of fighting sugar and fat in all its public school incarnations.  Just visit her website  at National Action Against Obesity and you’d swear the webmaster for PETA was working on this as a side job.   Does anyone see the big rebellion coming along when her kids decide they don’t want to be indoctrinated in Mom’s ‘sugar is bad’ propaganda camp anymore?  When they hit 16 it won’t be binge drinking they go for, but all night pig outs at friend’s houses, eating Crispy Creme donuts and shotgunning Big Red.

I live in San Antonio, Fat Capital of the US, so I’m well aware of the dangers of childhood obesity.  Every day I see the results of poor parenting and poverty and I can empathize a bit with MeMe Roth’s ideology.  I also happen to be the mom of a chubby boy so I do my share of  preaching about healthy eating habits.  I encourage lots of physical exercise and sports, and teach him food awareness and nutrition.  I review the school menus, and applaud the ban on cafeteria vending machines.   However, am I abusing my child as MeMe Roth believes, by allowing him to eat a cupcake during school parties?    I think there’s more abuse in the rules she enforces on her own kids than the simple fun of celebrating a classmate’s birthday with a small cupcake and a juice box.  

Where is the moderation in this crusade?   Many parents have become so focused on optimizing their childrens’ chances for success, beauty and health, they suck out a lot of what makes childhood fun and memorable.    I think it’s a pretty good bet that many of the  children of zealots do not take up their parents’ causes when they grow up.   They see where concern and reasonableness end,  and instead become a source of childhood embarrasment and resentment.

Greyson’s Law Finally On Its Way

June 1, 2009

YEAH!  After a scare on Friday, May 29th, Greyson’s Law is finally out of the Senate and headed to Governor Rick Perry’s desk.  Along the way, it almost died with the addition of the CHIP funding bill but has been stripped of the last minute add-ons and, God willing, will get signed.  Please, Governor Perry, do the right thing and sign this bill.  

I’m still fuming over the way our Governor callously dismissed the health care needs of thousands of poor children with the CHIP mess.  A recession is not the time to tell poor, working class families that they’ll just have to suck it up and not get medical care for their sick kids.  In this instance, that funding was going to get tacked on to Greyson’s Law and derail the whole thing.  Why can’t our lawmakers just do the right thing for kids in the first place?  Take some of that oil revenue surplus and fund CHIPS properly.   If Greyson’s Law has taught us anything, it’s that up-front preventitive care or screening is more cost effective.  We’ll all be sucking it up to pay for families denied access to CHIP  rolls  now when they have to make a more costly visit to the ER for the kind of care the budget makers denied their children.

More on Greyson’s Law when it gets signed.  In the meantime, here’s the link to Governor Perry’s contacts page.  It’s easy to let him know how you feel about the passage of Greyson’s Law.

Happy Mother’s Day

May 10, 2009


To all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!  Are you working as hard as I am today on our special day?   The laundry and meals never stop.  I am dog tired after a full morning of church and cooking dinner for the family.  But I got some great hugs, some crayon drawings and roses, and an awesome button-framed photo of my 9 year old. 

Today is also the 4th Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of the Paralytic in the Orthodox Church.  Did anyone catch this in the Epistle reading today (Acts 9:32-42)?  Sometimes you just hear things completely new and I had to try hard not to bust out laughing.

Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.”  Then he arose immediately.

And again in the Gospel lesson (John 5:1-15):

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Eight years and thirty-eight years – these two guys have been layed up, paralyzed, unable to walk.  Amazing cure.  Total healing.  And what do they have to do immediately after St. Peter or Christ performs this miracle?   Go hug their families?  Go to the temple and give thanks?  Go shout from the rooftops?  No…they have to make up their beds!   It seems like a small detail that two thousand years later we’re still reflecting on.   What’s the point?   

St. Peter’s housekeeping instruction isn’t very clear.  Maybe it’s to prove to everyone that he’s really healed.   The purpose in the Gospel account is more understandable.  It’s a succinct instruction that points out the Jews’ overzealousness for rules rather than  gratitude and acknowledgement to God the Father for the miracle done by Christ his Son.   The paralytic performs a prohibited work on the Sabbath by carrying a load and tests their willingness to recognize Christ’s divinity and the principle of love overshadowing the strict interpretation of the Law.   

Both the paralytics did just as they were instructed.   I can very well picture  Aeneas in Lydda joyfully folding the covers, plumping his pillow; the guy at the pool whistling a tune as he rolls up his mat,  glad to be doing something so normal.

Personally, it’s Mother’s Day.  For just one day of the year I’d like to tell my kids to do anything as simple as ‘make your bed’  and get back a smile and a cheery “Sure Mom, whatever you say.”  Swift, unquestioning obedience without eye rolling or procrastination.  I guess that’s why they call these things ‘miracles’.


Greyson’s Law Headed for Senate Committee

April 27, 2009


The Morris Family’s unrelenting determination and faith have brought them one step closer to ensuring newborns in Texas receive the best possible future.  Greyson’s Law, now being considered in both the Texas House (Bill 1795) and the Senate (Senate Bill 1720) would mandate  more comprehensive medical screening for every newborn in Texas.  Currently in Texas, only 27 diseases are on the screening profile although the American College of Medical Genetics recommends testing for 54 treatable disorders; Greyson’s Law would raise that to 47, at a minimum of cost to the State of Texas.   This won’t put us at the forefront of progressiveness, but I think most Texans would agree we just can’t accept being ‘fair to middlin’ anymore on issues of public health.  

On Tuesday, April 21st the first committee hearing for HB 1795 was held in front of the House Public Health Services Committee, and Bill and Nicole Morris were there  to ‘put a face’ on the cost of inadequate newborn screening.  It is Greyson’s beautiful face that has, unfortunately, become the image of children loved and lost to genetic illnesses.

While House Bill 1795 is now under consideration, the identical, companion bill in the Senate, Bill 1720, is now also set for its first hearing  tomorrow,  April 28th, before the Health and Human Services Committee.   It is vital that members of the Committee understand the widespread support this bill is gaining among the public and why it is so important that it be favorably considered on Tuesday.   A well-informed and well-attended Committee meeting will be a huge boost to the eventual passage of Greyson’s Law.  I am encouraging everyone to contact the members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and let them know how you feel about Greyson’s Law.  Committee members can be contacted by a very easy to fill-out email form at the links below: 

Committee Chair, Senator Jane Nelson, District 12

Vice Chair, Senator Bob Deuell, District 2

Member, Senator Joan Huffman, District 17

Member, Senator Robert Nichols, District 3

Member, Senator Dan Patrick, District 7

Member,  Senator Eliot Shapleigh, District 29

Member, Senator Carlos Uresti, District 9

Member, Senator Royce West, District 23

Member, Senator Judith Zaffirini, District 31

To learn more about Greyson Morris and his amazing life, visit Bill and Nicole’sblogs or go to Hunter’s Hopefor samples of emails (right hand links section) you can send to both the House and Senate Committees to encourage them to vote for Greyson’s Law.  It’s easy and it won’t take long for you to make an impact.   (15 minutes – that’s all it took for me to email each of the Senate Committee members at the links above.   That’s 3 games of Snood;  that’s time better spent than watching You Tube videos or reading silly blogs)

The Fiesta Shoe Box Float

April 22, 2009


There…’s finished.   This may have been my last shoe box float ever, and from the looks of it, I don’t think I had any intention of going out on a high note.   Thank you to my sister who took her lunch hour yesterday to run over to Fiesta on Main  and get the Fiesta-y nick nacks  (It’s a great store – I get our Pascha piñatas there every year.  The website just doesn’t give you the idea of the amount of cool stuff they have – lots of artwork, Mexican crafts and the best Dia de los Muertos figures and skulls too.)

It’s my opinion, but I believe the greatest, most useful parenting tool isn’t communication or empathy, it’s the hot glue gun.