Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bread Rising

I've been having trouble with the bread rising slowly in the cold kitchen. We don't have a pilot light in the oven. Usually I let the bread rise on the counter, with a big pan upside-down over it. (I learned that trick from the Frugal Gourmet, and it works great to keep the dough from drying out. It works much better than covering the dough with a cloth.) Today I got out the heating pad, plugged it in, turned it on "low," and set it on top of the metal bowl covering my bread dough. It worked great! That little bit of extra heat seemed to make a world of difference.

New TV Show

We really didn't need to get hooked on another tv show. But they started broadcasting right after American Idol to hook us in, and the premise is fun, and Jeff Foxworthy hosts, and their marketing ploy sure worked on us. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader airs on Thursday nights on Fox. It's a little bit like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," but without the hard questions on movies and pop singers and current events. So far we've not only enjoyed the laughs and fun of the show, but we've also had the benefit of some educational discussions as we review something from schoolwork or even introduce something that one of the kids might've missed.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In like a Lion

Last week, we skipped Thursday's Belegarth practice because the weekend was just too jam-packed full. Then Saturday we were cancelled out of a birthday dinner and laser-tag because of blizzards. Church was cancelled on Sunday because of blizzards. We skipped Belegarth on Sunday night, due to .... yup, blizzards.

My feet are cold. It's so cold in this house. I discovered that I can be a whole lot less miserable if I plug in the heating pad and wrap it around my tootsies while we read aloud or watch tv or anything else where I sit still for a while.

In the early part of the week, the weather cleared up. Thursday morning, it took me an hour and fifty minutes to get to Bible class; normal drive-time is an hour and five minutes. Lots of cars off the road, accidents too. About 10-15 minutes after I arrived, they decided to cancel class. Bummers. But we did accomplish a lot of work on a job that needs to be done for some non-CCA publishing. So that was good. I waited until the roads had been plowed before I headed home.

We woke up today to huge drifts, drifts like I've never seen in my life. The wind is roaring. The snow is falling. There are white-out conditions. This is the worst mess for driving I've ever seen. We told Matt he can't come tonight for his regular Friday-night visit. Philip didn't go to work. I managed to get to town to deliver papers, and found an entirely different world in amongst the buildings. Sure, they have snow problems. But it's nothing like it is in the country! I could actually drive faster in town with the 25-mph speed limits than I could drive out here on the highways in the boonies.

A Drudge Report headline today noted that a Minnesota forum on global warming was cancelled last night due to blizzards. Can you say "irony"? Of course, the die-hard believers will spout stuff about how all this wintry weather indicates that there really is global warming. I suppose they're entitled to believe that, but it just goes to show that global warming is an article of faith every bit as much as religion is an article of faith. I may not like the blizzards and what it does to our mobility and our plans, but I can't help but think of Psalm 2. "The kings of the earth set themselves. The rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed. He who sits in the heaven shall laugh. The Lord shall hold them in derision."


In our continuing homeschool study of the Constitution, yesterday we were working through Amendments 11-15. One is on suffrage. A workbook question was "What is suffrage?" Of course, they thought the correct answer was "the right to vote." But I was caught off-guard. What about morning suffrages and evening suffrages in the hymnal? Those are prayers -- the psalm versicles used daily. After a wee bit o' etymological digging, our best guess is that "suffrage" must basically mean to "speak out." We may speak out politically with our vote. Or we may speak out scripture before the throne of God as we pray. We aren't sure if we're right. But we're trying to make sense of how these two words must be related somewhere far far back in their beginnings.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

International Tiara Day

Anthea told us about International Tiara Day, and we of course are weird enough to find that enticing. So Rachel bought some inexpensive tiaras this week for a few of us. They were a huge step up from a party-pack that you'd buy for an 8-yr-old's birthday party. But as one of her co-workers told her, if she's wearing a tiara, she should at least wear a tasteful one. (So that tells you what our tiaras were like. Not exactly like a homecoming queen's tiara.)

I couldn't bear to wear it at church this morning. Some places just aren't right for that kind of goofy fun. But I wore it driving to and from. And I did put it on at church and asked the guys to verify for me that I wore it (even if it was only for one minute). But then my munchkin spilled the beans to Rachel about my non-participation during the A.M., so I gues Rachel's not going to be checking up on me when she gets to church on Sunday morning after all, and the guys won't have to vouch for my tiara-ness.

My tiara lasted through the afternoon, until Maggie's covetousness got to her. She was wearing hers (a Christmas gift from Katie), and it kept slipping because of looseness. So we traded, and I got to wear the tiara with a tiny little pink boa attached.

So Anthea, I only got in five hours worth of tiara. But Maggie got in on the act too. And serendipitously, I got the cutest picture in the mail on Tuesday of my god-daughter and her sister, all gussied up: Lily in funky green glasses and Claire in [drumroll please...] a tiara!

"I Confess"

We recently watched again the movie I Confess. It's a 1953 Hitchcock horror story. When Steve Wiest told us we HAD to watch this movie, I wasn't going to. Hitchcock? Horror? No thanks. Not my style. I want to laugh. I want romance. I don't want scary.

But Steve insisted we had to see this movie. And finally I relented and watched it. It's great. The horror is not in gore or violence or anything that we normally think of as horror. (Although, for faithful confessors and their penitents, there is a scary aspect to the movie.)

The basic gist of the movie is that a man commits a murder. He hadn't intended to do it. He is distraught. He confesses to the priest who had helped him (a refugee) resettle in the new country. Later, to protect himself, he implicates the priest as the murderer.

How does the priest respond? [Warning. Vague spoilers following.] Like all pastors, Father Michael is charged by God "never to divulge the sins confessed to him." He is serious about it. It hurts him to cover the sin of others. And it turns out he's not covering the sin of only the murderer. In the end, it turns out that, in spite of dire temporal consequences that occurred because of Fr Michael's integrity, forgiveness is applied to sinners.

This movie should be required viewing for seminarians and for pastors who hear confession.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

It's cold.
It's winter and the days are not long.
The chickens are on strike.

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Some people fast for Lent. Some people abstain from meats. Some abstain from sweets or TV. But I don't know anybody who abstains from milk, butter, eggs, etc, during Lent.

The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was supposedly a way to use up the milk and eggs. People were supposed to get them out of the house prior to Lent. That's something I'd heard before. But I never really understood it -- those aren't things that are typically given up for Lent.

All winter, the eggs from my neighbor have been in relatively short supply. It's winter. That's what I should expect from normal chickens living a real-chicken's life. But, hey, last week, there weren't ANY eggs. So I tried a different neighbor. She didn't have any eggs either! As one of the kids explained to me, the chickens are on strike.

Started me to wondering. Is there some reason the folks in England gave up milk and eggs for Lent? One website said it was because people give up "rich foods" for their Lenten fast. But most of us today think of milk and eggs as plain foods. (Maybe that goes to show how spoiled we are??) My friend John told me that we abstain from meat and wine during Lent because of those two things being reminders of Jesus' flesh and blood, and the salvation He accomplished for us. So what's with the pancakes and donuts prior to Ash Wednesday so that we can use up the eggs?

When we were visiting St Sava's last week, one of the moms asked about the round things flanking the processional cross. The deacon explained that they were like "fans" and told us how they were used in the Service and their theological significance. He also admitted the exact same thing John had told me, about how the elements were originally "fanned" [sorry, I don't know the correct words; maybe Marie can help me out again] to chase off flies, and how that action was then eventually invested with a theological meaning. The practice began very practically, and then took on deeper meaning.

So now I'm wondering if that's what's up with the pancakes. Hens don't lay as much during the winter. In spring, some of them are getting broody and wanting to keep their eggs to themselves. Likewise, in spring the cow may need to go dry in preparation for the birth of her calf. Could it be that the farmers were simply short of eggs and milk at this time of year, and so they worked that reality into their religious practices? I'm just guessing, but it makes sense to me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

I had to buy eggs at the grocery store this week. Luckily, they were trying to move some near-expiration-date Omega-3 eggs from the chickens that hadn't had antibiotics and weren't cannabalistic. So I grabbed a few dozen.

It's warmer the last few days. We've had more sunny days this month than we had last winter. And we're up to 11 hours of sunlight daily. Maybe the local chickens will start laying again soon.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Photos from St Sava's

This shows the chancel. (I'm not sure what they call it in the Eastern Church, but it's what the deacon said would compare to the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament temple.) Laymen may not go behind the screen, but the deacon allowed Paul to take a picture through the screen. Notice the Christ in the ciborium (the icon on the wall behind the altar).

A picture from the back of the nave.

The dome over the center of the nave.

The back corner of the nave. On the left of the picture, you can see the icon of Jesus calming the storm. Just around the corner, you can kinda see the icon of Ezekiel and the dry bones. Toward the right of the picture, you can see the mosaics on the back wall of the nave and in the balcony.

This shows the screen separating the nave from the chancel. The doors are open during some parts of the Liturgy, but closed when something especially heavenly is going on at the altar (such as the consecration of the elements). Notice the many saints depicted: on the front of the screen, on the arch of the ceiling, the Blessed Virgin Mary near the ceiling at the front of the church, on the doors of the screen, above the screen, etc. The icon partially visible on the right, above the screen, is of the crucifixion. The icon partially visible above that is of the institution of the Lord's Supper. The chancel area was where they started doing the mosaics fifty years ago, and it shows the most important stories. The rest of the mosaics were done over the course of the next several decades, being finished only recently.

The mosaics don't show up as beautifully in these pictures as they do in real life. The deacon explained how the pieces of tile are different sizes, without smooth edges, and the surfaces cannot be perfectly flat. If they were smooth and even tiles that fitted together perfectly (like in your kitchen or bathroom) the light would bounce off too well, and we couldn't see the picture. The intricacies of the icons and their vivid colors don't come across well in the photos.

Lutheran Carnival

My friend, Mrs Rebellious, is hosting the current Lutheran Carnival. If you're unfamiliar with the carnival, it's a list of recent blog posts that you might be interested in reading. But even if you don't want to blog-hop and read your way through this blizzardy day, it would be worth your while to hop on over to her site and read the story of a Lutheran you are probably not familiar with: baseball player Bill Wambsganss. She tells the story so delightfully!

The G-Tube Maggie Didn't Have

For those of you who don't know the story, my youngest was born in the car on Christmas morning. Labor was putzing along, going nowhere, and I asked Gary to take me to the hospital so I'd be out of the way for Christmas morning Services. I figured the baby wouldn't be born until afternoon or evening. We got in the car to leave for the hospital, and she was born about 10 minutes later. Surprise! We stopped in town to see the family doctor, and were back home in bed only two hours after we left. (No hospital bill. Just a bill for an "extended office visit" at the clinic!)

Maggie's heart problems weren't discovered for two more weeks. It wasn't definitively diagnosed for over three weeks. She was admitted to the hospital for her first heart surgery at 5 1/2 weeks. During those weeks, we lived a rather unexciting life at home with a new baby, the way it's supposed to be: diapers, baths, naps, cord care, nursing, burping, more naps, etc.

During her time in ICU after surgery, we saw brand new parents arriving to meet their newborns who'd been medi-flighted there. I was so thankful that God spared us that trauma. We had the comforts of home. We had time with all the siblings together, just reading stories, holding baby, eating supper. After weeks of that, we were finally whopped with the realities of her heart defect. But there was the nice lull before the storm.

Today I was catching up on reading my VCFS email list. Today I discovered that those early hospitalizations are often a cause of feeding disorders. Babies are medicated so heavily, and they're given IV nutrition, and they don't learn to suck, and they aren't cuddled and held because of all the tubes and wires and monitors. So when God caused that baby to be born in less than an hour, we were not only spared the shock and the upset of the hospitalization and surgery for a days-old baby, but Maggie also avoided a lot of the medical complications that are often part of VCFS.

Parental Notification

A federal judge in Massachusetts handed down a decision this week that says schools not only can but should endorse homosexuality to children. Parents claimed that they should be notified of such lessons. Parents said that they should be permitted to exempt their children from such lessons. The judge said no. The judge said that, if children were to leave class when issues of homosexuality were discussed, it would hurt the feelings of the children of same-sex couples. The judge said that it is important for children to be prepared to engage in a diverse culture, and it would undermine that part of their education if children were dismissed from class when there were lessons presented to which their parents objected.

Therefore, parents may not ask for notification or for exemption from objectionable lessons. Massachusetts parents were told that their only other option is to enroll their children in private school.