Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Literature for Children

My comment on this is that it is important to note the reactions of authors or the over-reaction.  No longer is this simply the vain belief that only a poet can critique poetry.  This is an attempt to suggest that non-authors don't get "art" in this instance YA or Young Adult literature.  
Not only do I reject that notion, but I would go further to say that my life has at one time or another been changed by a book, a documentary, a portrait.  I would not be a wife and a mother today if not for Caravaggio, Mary Pride, and C.S. Lewis.  
Children are fed a diet of easy reads that range from gross to lurid by the time they reach adolescence.  Books that romanticize sex, date rape, anorexia, drug use, intoxication, and worse are being published under the auspices of being 'relevant,' 'real teen life,' etc.  It is not limited to YA lit., but also television, movies, and video games.  With 7 children of my own and two children who rip through a book every one to three days, I cannot keep up with their media choices.  That said, I am the one who bears the responsibility of their young lives.  It cannot be said enough, keep up with your child's reading habits.  Pay attention to their formation.  If  you don't, their are those that are more than willing to take on your child's formation for themselves.

From the Wall Street Journal Online:

My 'Reprehensible' Take on Teen Literature

Raise questions about self-mutilation and incest as a young-adult theme and all hell breaks loose.

Affordable Illustration Source/Images.com/Corbis
If the American Library Association were inclined to burn people in effigy, I might well have gone up in smoke these past few days. ALA members, mostly librarians and other book-industry folk, are concluding their annual conference today in New Orleans, and it's a fair bet that some of them are still fuming about an article of mine that appeared in these pages earlier this month.
The essay, titled "Darkness Too Visible," discussed the way in which young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty. By focusing on the dark currents in the genre, I was of course no more damning all young-adult literature than a person writing about reality TV is damning all television, but from the frenzied reaction you would have thought I had called for the torching of libraries.
Within hours of the essay's appearance it became a leading topic on Twitter. Indignant defenders of young-adult literature called me "idiotic," "narrow-minded," "brittle," "ignorant," "shrewish," "irresponsible" and "reprehensible." Authors Judy Blume and Libba Bray suggested that I was giving succor to book-banners. Author Lauren Myracle took the charge a stage further, accusing me of "formulating an argument not just against 'dark' YA [young-adult] books, but against the very act of reading itself." The ALA, in a letter to The Journal, saw "danger" in my argument, saying that it "encourages a culture of fear around YA literature."
The odd thing is that I wasn't tracking some rare, outlier tendency. As book reviewer Janice Harayda observed, commenting on my essay: "Anyone who writes about children's books regularly knows that [Mrs. Gurdon] hasn't made up this trend. . . . Books, like movies, keep getting more lurid."
Read the rest here

And Then I Woke Up!

We made the mad 50 mile dash to the Surgery Center this morning.  I finally accept that we are in the traffic hole of the Metroplex.  How could there possibly be traffic before 5:30 AM?  

The staff at the center were amazing and accommodating despite the fact that I was late. The anesthesiologist was everything I could want: great bedside manner, flexible (I turned down Versed since I am nursing), and put in an i.v. as well as my father ever did.  True story, my father put nearly every i.v. I ever received before I was 21.  I was accident prone (not much has changed on that account). 

Anyway, they wheeled me into the operating room, transferred me to the operating table, placed the oxygen mask over my nose, and then I woke up in recovery!  Hug your anesthesiologist, y'all.  They are where it's at. 

The previous surgery my care was managed by a CRNA, I received too much medicine in my spinal and had depressed breathing, I woke up prematurely, I remember things . . .  Remembering things is at the bottom of the list of desirable surgery experiences. 

Anyway, I woke up.  My wonderful husband took care of baby I..  My good friend, Rita, saved the day with a sterilized breast pump and a generous milk donation so that she would not have to have formula.  Hug your favorite La Leche Leaguer, y'all!  She is also where it's at.

My pain level has not been great.  I'm taking more medicine than I want to, but my new mantra is:  Tomorrow will be better.  For now, I am back in a new improved black orthopedic boot.  I have not seen the wound, but the metal appliance looked like something you might find on a bike.

I'll be limping around here for a few days, but nothing significant.  The stitches come out three days before we move.  Thank you for your prayers and thoughtful words of encouragement.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Some News, Some Books, Some Links, and a Request


Every six weeks since I was discharged from the hospital, I have seen the orthopedist.  This past week was one such week.  I see the PA which is not really my preference, but I haven't figured out how I keep getting bumped when I schedule with the physician.  I assumed it would be my last appointment and I announced that it was when PA John walked into the room.  He asked about my pain level and I honestly told him, "it hurts most of the time."  Tuesday's appointment came after a particularly ferocious storm and my ankle is my own personal barometer.  It's not awful, I expect it will improve with time, but what can I say, it hurts.

He sent me off for x-rays and I wondered for the fortieth time if I should be requesting some sort of collar or apron.  I never know what the safety protocol is for these machines.  It seems too late to ask once they have me balancing precariously atop a wooden box with a film braced between my feet.  I returned and we discussed my PT that I've never done and future potential surgeries (ankle replacement, fusion, appliance removal).  This is exactly how my last four visits have gone.  We departed from the script when the orthopedist called from behind the door, whispered in PA John's ear, and mysteriously went away.  

"After reviewing the films, Dr. E. has decided to remove the appliance from your leg.  Sally will come schedule your surgery."  And with that PA John exited, never to return, and now I am having surgery.

Apparently, there are three screws that are digging into another bone.  It is believed that this is source of a lot of the discomfort and pain.  I have to wonder if this is the part where I ought to say, "Nay, leave these thorns to chasten me against sin and remind me of our Lord's own Passion!"  Needless to say, I punked out on that account.  

So early Monday morning, I will submit to the surgeon's knife and he will remove the eight inches of surgical steel and the six screws that bind the steel and bone together.    I cannot even bring myself to think about it.  I pray my guardian angel will watch over me.  My last surgery was very successful and very uncomfortable.  I think that was when the morphine pump was installed.  I have been told that it will not be as significant.  Lord, bear me safely through this latest challenge. 

Baking Books:

Some of my favorite people have been bitten by the baking bug.  I thought I was use this space to share some of my go to books for baking bread.

This is the National Geographic for bakers.  Beautiful photography, amazing recipes, very international in scope.  I  first learned about delayed fermented dough from these pages.  

You cannot go wrong with Peter Reinhart.  He teaches Baker's Percentages and the how to create a DIY steam oven technique.  Fool proof recipes.  His Stollen in this book is to die for.  Plus, he's Orthodox!  What's not to like?

For the truly hardcore.  This book gets whole grain and takes it to the next level with delayed fermentation and a host of other techniques.  If you are into grinding your own wheat, this is your book.

Helpful Sites for Bakers:

Baker's Percentage Calculator: 

Baker's Forum:  

Great Recipes and Eye-Candy: 


Pray for me, please.  Pray for Baby I. and her father as they struggle through the morning together.  Pray for my doctors.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quick Takes

Here are 8 little quick takes from our Father's Day Weekend.  Nothing major or anything, but some photos to capture our weekend so far.

This is B. pretending to be a cow in the cattle shoot. 

D. has an affinity for play driving vehicle.  He's the little guy in the cab.

Evidence that - with a neutral third party - a brother and sister can play a game together without undue bloodshed or whining.

This picture needs some explanation. A. went to the pond with her brother and sister. She was directed to get in the water because she was hot. The result was a muddy, wet 6 year old. On returning to the barn M. (without fanfare) took off her pants and traded them for her sister's soaking wet pair so she could be with the family fully dressed. Then, as this picture shows, M. tied her sister's shoes and walked with her to say hello to everyone.

Little awesome guy. He's just fun to watch do his boy thing.

N. feeding the cows some treats.

Before we left the kids picked blueberries for a bit. Then Mr. Flavius went to get gas while I picked vegetables. The kids snacked on blueberries on the way back and listened to Nelson Mandela's "Favorite African Folktales" audiobook. It's quite good; the stories are short enough for all ages and it mixes up animal stories with other folk tales so that the variety keeps you engaged.  I ❤ Audible.com.

It was 105ºF today.  The wind kicked up dust and blew dust in our eyes.  Standing in the shade, those gusts felt like I was standing in front of an open oven door.  The pond is down, the deer stay all day in the trees.  Days like these never seem to cool off.  It's so hot our heavy clay soils crack wide open, blue jeans will go from wring wet to dry in under 20 minutes hanging on the talilgate.  We're praying for rain here.  What I will remember most?  I hope it is all the sunshine and happy faces.  Thank you, Lord, for your many and abundant blessings.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When the Cat is Away. . .

the Mice shall spend too much money, crunch the car, murder a kindle, and cook really weird and/or fun food.

Mr. Flavius is far away and has been since Saturday morning.  These trips always cause a bit of flurry anxiety and impulsivity in me.  Being the only parent in the house seems a decidedly unnatural thing to me.  I am not particularly accustomed to being the HERE where the buck stops.  That is not to say I roll over when he is not here, but they are many and I am singular.  When he is at home, I know he's got my back.

Anyway, we're here not doing much of anything in particular.  My ankle is really bugging me this week.  I made Chicken Feet Stock to help combat the ever-shrinking cartilage in my sad ankle.

I saw a woman with the tell-tale black orthopedic boot on my way to the barber shop with the boys.  She had fallen through her attic and broken her leg when she hit the concrete below.  I really hope that there was someone at home with her.  After my ordeal, I couldn't bring myself to ask her who found her.  She said seeing me walking gave her hope.  If someone can take hope from my achy-breaky, gimpy-limpy walk then it is all worth it and I will quit complaining and take it like a woman.

A few months ago, N. got the worst haircut ever.  Somehow before I could get all the children inside, the gentleman wielding the clippers of doom managed to wrangle him into a chair and faster than most people could whip one of those capes on-- he had practically scalped the poor boy.

N. was stricken.  I was too.  He's always been sensitive about this teeninesy scar on his forehead from a game of Open the Door-Close the Door when he was 15 months old.  I don't why he is so preoccupied with it, but he is and this just about killed him.
It took getting a really bad haircut to appreciate a mediocre one.  For this I am thankful.  For whatever reason, I have not mastered the language of the Barber Shop.  I keep asking for a Classic Boy's Cut and it looks different everytime.
 B. is by far the nicest toddler I have ever had the pleasure of taking to the barber shop.  No screaming or flailing or crying or terrorizing the barber, the customers, or young mothers.  He sits up on the chair just like his brothers, but with the requisite lollypops.

He's saying, "Cheese!"

A few minutes after this we had lunch.  And a few minutes after that, I accidentally cut a corner short and  ran over a boulder.  That pretty much did it for me.  Then we went home.

 We got out the grill for out last days of Texas Summer.  It had to be 100ºF or hotter.  May I say that Texans grill in the summer to prove that we can take the heat.  If not that then why?  House after house in Johnstown had something called a Summer Kitchen.  Usually a stove in the basement between the washing machine and the laundry sink.  It might get to 90ºF outside there, but central air conditioning is not common.  Here in beautiful sunny Fort Worth, we have ALL the a/c you could want, but we still go out and stand over the grill.  If you do it right, you can get cooked on both sides with the sun on your back and the grill at your front- you can come out looking like a bright red cherry tomato!

After dinner, I realized that I let the coals burn down too far so made s'mores over the stove.

I managed to get all sorts of undefinable goo all over my phone.  It started with a piece of Press n' Seal that I wadded up and stuck in my pocket.  Being the same pocket as my phone, it, of course, melted sticky muck all over my phone screen.  As I was trying to get the mysterious substance off, it occured to me that this is not necessarily a product to be used in the microwave.

Taking this picture, I managed to get S'more all over the home button.  This was cause for mild concern, but Mr. B. took care of that and replaced it with a new anxiety after he washed the darn thing.

I may not be taking anymore pictures.  At least not for a few days, while I wait for my "it came from the eighties" picture filter to go away.

Thank the Lord, he is returning tomorrow evening.  

Humanitarian or Eugenicist?

Watch this:

Then read this:
Tetanus vaccine may be laced with anti-fertility drug. International / developing countries.


A priest, president of Human Life International (HLI) based in Maryland, has asked Congress to investigate reports of women in some developing countries unknowingly receiving a tetanus vaccine laced with the anti-fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). If it is true, he wants Congress to publicly condemn the mass vaccinations and to cut off funding to UN agencies and other involved organizations. The natural hormone hCG is needed to maintain pregnancy. The hormone would produce antibodies against hCG to prevent pregnancy. In the fall of 1994, the Pro Life Committee of Mexico was suspicious of the protocols for the tetanus toxoid campaign because they excluded all males and children and called for multiple injections of the vaccine in only women of reproductive age. Yet, one injection provides protection for at least 10 years. The Committee had vials of the tetanus vaccine analyzed for hCG. It informed HLI about the tetanus toxoid vaccine. HLI then told its World Council members and HLI affiliates in more than 60 countries. Similar tetanus vaccines laced with hCG have been uncovered in the Philippines and in Nicaragua. In addition to the World Health Organization (WHO), other organizations involved in the development of an anti-fertility vaccine using hCG include the UN Population Fund, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, the Population Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and Uppsala, Helsinki, and Ohio State universities. The priest objects that, if indeed the purpose of the mass vaccinations is to prevent pregnancies, women are uninformed, unsuspecting, and unconsenting victims.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Now, doesn't that makes this headline much less cheery and happy?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Milestones

Baby I. laughed.

Just the other night, gazing into her father's eyes, she had a way down deep chuckle.  I love watching, Mr. Flavius with his children, especially when they share these moments.  There's a twinkle in their eyes that speaks of mutual adoration and inside jokes.  Even the baby gets it.

B. is becoming a water baby.  In these last Texas days of ours, I am getting as much use out of the neighborhood pool as I can.  Making up for lost time I suppose.  I know there were whole summers I avoided going, because I was afraid of managing The Many, because I had not yet accepted that I was The Lifeguard, because there was always The New Baby.  As far as reasons go I've got them in spades, but these days I am trying to find ways to say yes as much as possible.  I don't want little resentments from The One towards The Many because we avoided sleep overs or pool time or whatever it is.  So for now, I am sitting (read that as:  pacing) in the shade with the baby, watching the many, lifeguarding as best I can.

It drives Mr. Flavius crazy, but Summer Swim Days means one thing: Sno Cones.  [Household favorites are Tiger's Blood and Wedding Cake with Sno Cream, both flavors from twenty-some-odd years ago my childhood.  In case you were wondering: Sno Cream is not optional.  I mean, really, what kind of crazy nut job is going to endure the anxiety and strain of watching 7 children at the pool, under the sun shade, yet mostly in the sun, in 100ºF weather, and not going looking for a frozen drink when it's all over?  Not to suggest that endlessly watching little girl's handstands and spins, and baby boy splashes, while monitoring the big'uns and also watching to see who also might be watching the big'uns (cause you can never be too careful) is fun.  It's fun.  It's work, but the good kind.  Did I mention I'm watching 7 children?  It's an endless counting game.

Beautiful M. turned 10.  We had a few girls for a sleepover.  Popcorn and a Movie (Gnomio and Juliet) and then swimming the next day (and then I was watching 10!).  We gave her a charm bracelet and a new chain for her cross. Blow-up mattresses filled the family room, all the girls wanted to share the same bed with M.  I'm sure she was flattered.  It was sweet to watch them all together chatting and making summer plans for the time remaining. My mother celebrated with us the next day and called it The Last Birthday.  I suspect she's not taking our upcoming move well.

We endured our inspections on our Texas house and on the Pennsylvania house.  Praying for our buyers and sellers has become a must.  I would like these experiences of buying their first home to be a wonderful one and not one they regret or have any resentment over.  Likewise, I want our sellers to feel good about selling their family home of over 32 years.  I remember buying and selling our first home and I occasionally must remind myself not to hold onto disappointments and frustrations from that time because we were young and inexperienced.  Now, I'm still young, but more experienced.  I feel like I understand the process a bit better.  Of course we've added out of state purchasing to our repertoire now.  

Our Texas time is now in it's final days.  Mr. Flavius made it official and purchased our hotel rooms from the Big Trip Up Yonder.  We leave very early on July 11th.  I told a dear friend yesterday and tears filled her eyes.  I panicked, did a crazy, "No-No! You can't cry- there's no crying," sort of thing.  I feel bad about it now.  How low is my EQ?  I think that once I start though, it will be a while before I stop crying myself.  Not that I'm unhappy, but all the happy memories and wonderful friends and family that we are leaving behind, all those potential memories together that will now be different and far away.

If you only knew. . . I'm missing you already.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hello. . . Is It Me You're Looking For?

I've not abandoned the blog, but I have felt busycrazy and then some since the baby was born.  So much has happened already this year and so much more was to come that had you told me what a year this would turn out to be (and it's really barely half over.  Lordhavemercy, protect me through the rest!) I would have buckled up right where I sat.

From the spectacular fall and a new baby's birth to her holy Illumination and now the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.

For nearly all of our marriage Mr. Flavius has struggled with/against/toward a call.  At various times, my tin ear thought he was being daft/stubborn/not settling in/difficult, but that turned to amazing/dedicated/brave as I began to hear the correct pitch.  One day, I'll have to tell you about how choosing to let my husband be the head of the household saved me, our marriage, our family, our happiness. . . but not today.  Anyway, for the better part of a year, it has been our goal to get my man to seminary.  It started last August and took a major hiatus come December.  We had not a single showing during that time and I was happy to get the house off the market so I could prepare for the baby.  I think I called that time period the Divine Silence.  Mr. Flavius called it frustrating.  Then I fell.  After that baby I. came.  Now we are ready.  The proof?  We had a an offer for our asking price fewer than 12 hours after we went active.  Hello, Providence!

Anyway, just as I was settling into the thought that I would like to start hauling back in all those boxes of cookbooks and linens and sundry comforts that we had packed away last summer, I had a flash of inspiration on how to accomplish The Goal.  It was the radical option, but as it turns out it is The Option, ultimately it is all worth it in the end.  I don't normally like to say that God spoke to me.  Who am I?  But there was definitely a whisper that early morning in the predawn quiet.

That was Holy Friday.  Today, I sit in a preternaturally clean home devoid of the things and clutter one might expect a family of our size to have, awaiting the call of any passing agent who might care to see the house even though I don't really need too.  Two contracts signed.  One, for a home far away, waiting for our family's arrival.  The other for the house in which we have lived for nearly five summers now freshly painted and newly carpeted awaiting the now-strangers to become its soon-residents.

We are in the crazymaking time that is the house shuffle.  My mother is having a hard time with it.  My impression is that she is pouring over the various websites at all hours looking for The House, despite the fact that we have a contract on Another House.  She frets over the age, the stairs, the laundry room in the basement.  She frets for my ankle, over the snow ("5 feet!" she'll occasionally exclaim. Johnstown tends to get between one and two feet.), over the distance, for the children she already misses.  My father on the other hand calls with practical advice, the importance of a tune up, getting the serpentine belt checked, maybe we ought consider replacing the windshield.  Even he holds the children tighter, hugs linger a bit longer.

Other family members have flatly refused to give any kind of blessing to The Adventure.  I want to understand.  It sure makes it harder, but I am trying to understand.  Everyone, myself included, has remarked about the future likelihood of snow and all things snowy.  Apparently, we, Sun Worshipping Southerners, are terrified of the stuff.

In between Now and Moving Day, we have to cram in our last breaths of Texas -air, -sun, -memories. . . there is a rush to push it all into this moment, as though it could evaporate or fade once we cross over the state line.  M. turns 10.

I. has her third ear infection in less than as many months  We are headed to the ENT on Monday.  Lord have mercy on us and help her, poor thing.  She smiles amazing sunshine smiles.  I get lost in her eyes.  She is so attentive and responsive.  I am not adjusting well to the dairy free diet, but I'm trying.  She is getting better.

I did not write for so long because I did not know how to respond to some of the sad things going on with you, my readers, with my neighbors, and then to the tragedies that seem to abound between Pascha and now.  I did not want to contribute more noise or write falsely about one thing or another.  I prayed, found few words, and so I wrote nothing.

As for the moment, I hope to keep caught up here.  I hope y'all are well.  Many prayers and well wishes to you all.

Putting on Christ. . .

Cake!  Generously provided by my parents. We always do a cake for baptisms. Sometimes we also do meals, but as this was our first Saturday baptism we opted for just a cake. We were delighted the other family who had their child baptized today (Many years, little Ludmilla!) brought some wonderful food to share.

My father was able to make it. He and B. have a special relationship. Whenever we visit B. seeks him out, runs to him, and gets a big hug. It's as sweet as it sounds.

The children in attendance. They played upstairs and outside after the service while the adults ate the aforementioned cake and chatted.

Mommies with their catechumens.

I just really love this photo.

And this one...

... and this one.

"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

- Galatians 3:26-29

I. and her godparents.

I. was tuckered out after the event. She held her baptismal cross in her hand for quite a while and slept for even longer. She didn't wake up until after 5. This is actually pretty common for our children - they sleep for hours and it gives us time to kiss on them and call them new creations, no longer heathens, beloved of God, etc.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

- 2 Corinthians 5:17