Archives for June 2009

The Day We Became Heretics

*This story has been edited slightly to add the facts that my friend Sveta left in the comments.  Thanks Sveta!

So, I promised to tell you the story of Lee kissing the cross in a Ukrainian Orthodox church.  And here it is:

When I was pregnant with Sloan I spent a month in Ukraine researching a book that I was working on.  While there, I spoke with a handful of World War II veterans, but I didn’t get all the information that I wanted or needed.   At this point I already had a publisher lined up for the book so I felt a lot of pressure to complete it before the baby came.

So I began contacting people here in St. Louis who might be able to connect me with more veterans that I could speak with.  One of those people was a Ukrainian-American man who was a parishoner at a local Ukrainian Orthodox church.  He invited Lee and I to visit the church and told us that after it was over we could speak with some of the older people in attendance.

So Lee and I scheduled a visit to the Ukrainian Orthodox church of St. Louis.  At this point I was great with child.  And I had reached the status of beached whale.

Whenever I mention my enormity in my first pregnancy, people so sweetly roll their eyes and say “Whatever, I bet you were adorable,” and other really nice things. 

I’m here to tell you that I’m not exaggerating.  Sloan was 9 lbs. 3 oz. and I carried him all out front.  I was humongous.  And here is a picture to prove it…

random-001See?  G-R-E-A-T with child…

So one Sunday morning, I waddled myself into a small church building with my very crazy supportive husband at my side.  Determined not to make an enormous spectacle of ourselves, we sat in the little cry room in the back.  It was dark in the room and there was a large window that looked into the sanctuary where we watched the service with fascination.

The entire service was conducted in Ukrainian and if you didn’t know, Ukrainian and Russian are not the same.  So we had no idea what was going on and I’m pretty sure we both fought hard not to doze off.  There was another woman in the room with us and she actually had a baby so we tried to look attentive so as not to offend.

It was a very surreal experience.  In all my visits to Ukraine, I had only ever been to one Orthodox service and I only stayed for a few minutes, then left because I felt extremely out of place.  Seeing all the pomp and circumstance that went into the service was very interesting.  I really wished I understood what they were saying.

At the end of the service, the priest (are they called priest’s?  I’m not sure) batyushka – the guy in the robe and headdress – walked through the church with a large cross held out in front of him.  He stopped at the end of each pew and let everyone offer a simple prayer, after which they leaned forward and kissed the cross.  They also kissed his hand, which is a part of this story I had forgotten until Sveta reminded me.

As I watched this, I prayed silently that he would not come to the cry room because I had no intention of kissing that cross.  Not only did I not understand why I would be kissing it, but there were a lot of strange lips that were landing on that cross and I really didn’t want to swap germs with all of them… 

Much to my dismay, however, the batyushka made it to the cry room where my heart was now beating very quickly.  What to do?  The woman with the baby murmured a few words in Ukrainian, then leaned forward and kissed the wooden cross and the batyushka’s hand.  Then he turned to us.

Lee, the consumate Baptist, stood up and reached his hand out to try and shake the priest’s batyushka’s hand.  Instead, the small man furrowed his brow and thrust the cross in Lee’s face.  Lee bobbed his head for a few seconds like a drunk hummingbird, trying to avoid the inevitable.  But he finally took a deep breath, puckered up and kissed the cross. 

And then I kissed it.  Because I didn’t know how to avoid it and my husband had already paved the way for me.  As soon as the priest batyuska left, Lee and I lost it.  We could not stop laughing – the whole situation was just so comical.  And as I belly laughed, my gigantic midsection bounced up and down, which made us laugh harder.  The woman in the room glared at us and left abruptly.

And thus ended our experience in the Ukrainian Orthodox church.  Incidentally, I ended up not really getting any good contacts out of them after all.  When we attended the banquet after church, no one seemed interested in talking, so it was a wash.

Well, except for the memory, which is now one of my favorites. 

And now you know the story of Lee kissing a cross.

The end.

Bits ‘N Pieces

– Today is a MckMama McKDay for me.  I made these pancakes this morning, which I was completely unsure of but was pleasantly surprised when the kids gobbled them up.  Anything made with flax seed meal and flax seed oil sounds a little, uh, gross to me.  But, in an effort to reign in our not so great eating habits, I followed the recipe to a T.

I’m going to make the cookies this afternoon.  And next week I’m going to try the Nut Butter.  I feel so domestic!  (And Barbara, I’m going to wear the new apron – can’t wait!)

If you’ve never read McKMama’s site, you really need to add it to your google reader.  She’s hilarious, she’s an amazing writer, and I think that she just might be supermom.  Plus, she makes me think that if she can manage four children in four years, one of whom has serious health problems and still make meals that contain flax in them, then I can too!

I love blogs…

– I signed the kids up for the library’s summer reading program this week.  And then I bought them canvas bags for their library books and let them decorate them.  Just so you know, a five and three year old and metallic puffy paints are nothing short of an adventure

So, the reading program:  For every 12 books the kids read, they get a special prize from the library.  I’ve actually added to that goal, though.  I told them we would go back to the libaray to collect their prize when they read 12 books in English and one in russian

Piece of cake.

Except they can’t read in English yet!  Gah!  Which means I am having to be much more intentional about reading to them.  I started working with Sloan on his English reading.  I bought a great workbook that seems to be helping a lot, so I think I’ve decided that for every 7 pages he does in the workbook, I’ll let him count it as a book read for the library.  I’m not sure if that’s cheating or not.

Just FYI – teaching kids to read English is H-A-R-D.  English is a dumb language.  It makes no sense.  At least in russian every letter has only one sound.  Once you know the letter’s sound, you’re good to go.  English?  Good grief.

So we’ll see how it goes.  Sloan’s already read three books (I read them to him and made him sound out the shorter words) and Tia has “read” two.  When I’m done here, I’m going to search the internet for simple russian language books. 

That won’t be hard at all.

– I’m going out of town in a week in a half.  I will be gone for 8 days and it’s the longest I will have been away from the kids since they were born.  I’m a little apprehensive about it.  I’m not one of those mom’s who has a hard time being separated from her kids – in fact, I think it’s GREAT to get time away – but I’m going to be really far away and my kids will be spending a majority of their days with a babysitter.

This makes me nervous.

I’m also thoroughly overwhelmed at all the preparations that need to be done.  Meals need to be baked and frozen, schedules need to be ironed out, diapers need to be bought, packing needs to be done, and major pep talks need to be given to my husband who is being very supportive and cool about this whole process but who I can see is freaking out just a little.


Wish me luck.

The Lotus in a Field of Mud

I took a yoga/pilates class at the gym last week.  Why? Hard to say…I think I’m a glutton for punishment.  Actually, the yoga/pilates class wasn’t nearly as difficult as the yoga class I took on Saturday, which kicked my butt. 

Seriously, my butt was sore for days…

At the end of the class, after we’d taken our short nap and aligned our breathing with our heart center (huh?) we sat up, hands clasped at our hearts and the instructor, in a vibrating alto of a voice, said, “May we all shine like the lotus in a field of mud.  Namaste.”  At which point she bowed low.  While everyone else bowed back, I stifled a giggle because really?  What does that even mean?

And I had an immediate flashback to my honeymoon when my brand new husband and I decided to try our very first yoga class together.  We were at an amazing spa and resort off the coast of Seattle.  It was very earthy and granola.  Yoga just seemed like the thing to do there.

So we arrived promptly at 9:00am on the second day of our honeymoon and we met our instructor, whose name I don’t remember but in my imagination I call her Celeste, because it seems to fit the picture I have.

She was probably in her early fifties and had long, matted hair – very hippie.  She didn’t wear a lick of makeup and looked as if she had sworn off bra’s around 1965.

To put it mildly, she was…an odd bird.

We got inside the small yoga room where she lit incense and turned on warbling music that immediately made me feel like Dorothy in the field of poppys.  It suddenly dawned on Lee and I that we were the only two people in the room with Celeste.  We looked at each other and giggled.

Then we began the workout.  “Take in deep breaths,” Celeste stage-whispered over the drowsy music, “And align your spirit with the stars of the universe.”

At this point I opened one eye and looked over at Lee who had his hands at his side and a look of horror on his face.  “What is this?” he mouthed to me.  I shrugged and stifled another giggle, then went about trying to align my spirit with the stars.  I’m pretty sure I never accomplished that task.

Fifteen minutes into our private yoga class, Celeste finally pushed Lee too far.  Mind you, this was our first experiece with Up-Dogs and Down-Dogs.  We’d never heard the words “Shatacharasana” or “Chutitutunga.” 

I’m pretty sure those aren’t actually yoga terms, but it’s what I hear when the instructors speak.  It’s all very confusing…

Aaaanyhoo, Celeste was leading us in our first Cobra.  A pose which requires you to keep your lower abs on the floor and push your shoulders up and back.  As we scooped forward, Celeste, who up until this moment had been whispering all her instructions with great reverenece, burst out in a deep voice, “BEEEE THE COBRAAAAA.”  And she thrust herself upward.

After I swallowed my heart, which had leapt into my throat, I laughed out loud.  I couldn’t stifle it.  But Celeste was so well aligned with the stars that she didn’t even hear me.

I looked at Lee who was standing up and rolling up his mat.  “I’m leaving,” he whispered. “This is weird.”

“You can’t,” I mouthed.  “We’re the only ones in here.”

He shrugged, then walked out.  My husband of 48 hours abandoned me in a room with Celeste the yoga nazi. 

I didn’t want to leave because I was afraid that we would bump into her somewhere on the grounds of the resort and she would know that we were the people that bailed on her class and place some kind of star-powered yoga hex on us.  So I stuck it out.  I did the tree with Celeste. I balanced on my elbows with Celeste.  I did a shoulder stand with Celeste.  I became one with the cobra with Celeste.  And all the while I cursed my darling husband for leaving me to suffer alone.

That was only the start of the many, many bizarre situations that Lee and I have managed to get ourselves into in our nearly nine years of marriage.  We have definately seized the day in our married lives.  I’m so glad I married someone who isn’t afraid to try new things.  And I’m pleased to say that he hasn’t abandoned me in an awkward situation ever again. Thankyouverymuch.

(Soon, I’ll tell you about the time we visited a Ukrainian Orthodox church here in St. Louis and Lee kissed a cross.  Classic…)

And now, every once in awhile when we’re sitting quietly, one of us will burst out with “BEEEE THE COBRAAAA!”

Now if I could only figure out how on earth to be a lotus…

Looking Cool in A Minivan

Follow these very simple tips and you too can rock the minivan!

The One with the New Design

So, whaddya think?  The new design is up and there are a lot of new bells and whistles to figure out and play with so bear with me for a few days.  But I am very excited about finally having a design and I’m very thankful to Joe for all of your help!  I’ll post more tomorrow because right now I’m going to play with it a bit.

It’s My Party and I’ll Sleep if I Want To…

I’m 29 again today.  It’s the weirdest thing.  Last year I hit 30 and that was kind of fun.  30 felt so grown up and sophisticated, and since I was just barely out of my 20’s, it didn’t feel old.  Just mature.

But this birthday is a little odd.  Because now I am in my thirties.  I’m a thirty-something.  Remember when thirty-something’s were old?  Yeah, me too. 

So I hereby boldly declare that I’m now 29+2.  And that’s the way it’s gonna be, m’kay?  Good.

It’s been a fabulous day.  Really, really fabulous.  I had a pocketful of money for my birthday and I headed to the mall where I further confirmed that I can’t possibly be old and still enjoy the mall as much as the squealy preteens mosey-ing beside me.  Yep, I still got it.

And I hit major sales, which means I came home with a lot of stuff.  Shopping makes me happy.  Shopping when I have money to spend makes me ecstatic.

Oh, and did I mention that my mom is keeping the kids all day and overnight for me?  I know, right?!  So now I’m home and the windows are open, the birds are chirping and the planets are apparently alligned to make sure my third 29th birthday is as glorious as it can possibly be. 

What will I do with myself the rest of the day?  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll take a walk.  At some point I’ll take a shower – a long, guilt free shower.  And maybe, juuuust maaaybe (what movie is that from?…C’mon, you know it) I’ll take a nap in my brand. new. bed!





Can I just say that my husband is the luckiest man on Earth?  This furniture was not supposed to come in until the end of the month, but it arrived early and was delivered the day before my birthday.  Score for Lee as he’s so off the hook today – but not totally because did I mention that I don’t have kids all day today?  Yeah – we’re going out…And not to Smokey Bones! (Old small group friends will get that joke – I’ll explain it to the rest of you another time.)

So I’m off to celebrate – without kids…did I mention that?  I should say I had a lovely breakfast out with my beautiful brood this morning, so I did get to kiss their faces and love on them some today.

The proverbial “they” say that 40 is the new 30, which naturally leads to the assumption that 30 is the new 20 – so technically I’m not even 29+2 – I’m 21.  Which is even better.  I’m gonna go drinkin’ tonight – Whoop!

Don’t you love my math?

Love and Respect

Okay, I’m coming out with it.  I watch Jon and Kate + 8.  I always feel like I need to apologize for myself when I admit to getting sucked into the mindless world of reality TV.  And while I’m confessing I might as well let you know that the other reality show I watch (not regularly because Lee won’t let me ) is America’s Next Top Model.  There – now you know.  My dirty little secrets…

Anywhoo, moving on (blush)  Considering that nearly 10 million people tuned into Jon and Kate last week, I figure I’m not alone in my obsession with the show.  I’ve watched them for a couple of years now and have really enjoyed the show…until the last two weeks.

Now I’m just sad.  It makes me sad to watch them.  I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with the way that they speak with one another on the show, but before last season it seemed kind of cute and real – it was more banter.  But beginning last season, the banter became excessive and I became uncomfortable.

Here are a few thoughts I have regarding marriage that Jon and Kate have solidified for me:

Two years ago, Lee and I went through a study with our small group called Love and Respect.  If you’ve never heard of this study or the couple who wrote it, I highly recommend you check it out. 

The whole premise behind their concept is that in order for a marriage to be healthy and stable, two things need to happen: A woman needs to respect her husband and a man needs to love his wife.  It seems simple doesn’t it? 

Then why is it so hard?

This has always, in my opinion, been what’s wrong with Jon and Kate’s marriage.  Kate shows little to no respect for her husband.  She orders him around and he, like a well trained puppy, complies with eyes rolled and shoulders slouched.  I almost cried in one episode a couple of years ago when Kate told one of her sons not to listen to daddy because “he’s mean.”

I’m a firm believer in women esteeming her husband in front of others, especially her children.  Kate does not do this, and it is a problem.  A big one.

Now Jon, on the other hand, has rarely shown Kate love, at least not while the cameras were rolling.  This can be a tricky thing, because everyone needs love communicated to them differently.  But, if you’ve watched the show for any amount of time, it’s pretty clear to see that Kate’s love language is acts of service.  If Jon were to get up and do anything without being asked first – and done to the caliber that his wife desires (which I agree may be unattainable in some cases), he would communicate love to her in volumes.  The rare times when he seemed to please her were when he did just this.  Oh, and Jon?  The attitude with which you volunteer your service makes a big difference.  Just sayin’….

Without respect from his wife, a man won’t love her well and without love from her husband, a woman won’t respect him well, and thus goes the vicious cycle.

Now, whether or not a man has been well respected does not at all give him grounds to cheat on his wife.  I do think Kate is getting slammed by the media a bit unfairly.  And I’m not saying that I believe Jon had an affair – at least not physically.  But c’mon – getting caught alone in the middle of the night with a 23 year old?  Doesn’t look good, dude. 

But it all started with this lack of love and respect.  And I find that so sad.  It’s sad for their kids, it’s sad for Jon and Kate, and it’s sad for the institution of marriage.

Jon and Kate need to reprioritize.  They need to grow up, get it together and repair their family.  And I’m with 90% of America in thinking that the best way to do that would be to turn the cameras off.  I was struck by how often they both said that everything they do is “for the kids.”  Um, that’s another topic for another day, but clearly the kid’s-focused life they’re trying to build is not working out for them.  There’s no stability as a couple when everything you do revolves around the children.  None. 

Also, they’ve both said there’s nothing more important in life than family.  Well, Jon, your wife is your family – and Kate, your husband is your family.  You were each other’s family long before the kids came around.  How did that get lost? 

Anyway, those were some thoughts I’ve had.  It’s nothing new – nothing that no one else has said, but it felt important to document.  Jon and Kate claim to be Christians, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of that claim, but if it’s true, then they need to seek godly counsel to help remind them that first and foremost needs to be their relationships with God; second are their relationships with one another; and finally, their kids.  That is a healthy marriage.  It’s not easy – especially with eight kids and a camera crew.  But it is attainable.

If you are struggling in your marriage or are just looking for something to help strengthen your relationship, I highly recommend Love and Respect.  They hold conferences nationwide, they have a DVD series that’s excellent, plus numerous books and resources that you can find on their website.  Check it out and join me in praying for this reality family that is facing a very harsh reality.

Wordless Wednesday: Who’s Been Playing with the Red Marker?


For more Wordless Wednesday, visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

Happy Birthday Becke!

We love you!


Thanks for all your kind words, thoughts and prayers.  We had a lovely, refreshing weekend in Nashville and came home rejuvinated and encouraged.  A special thanks to Rob and Kyna and Matt and Erin who made the weekend such a blessing for us.  There is still heartache present, but also peace. 

The kids had an absolute blast with their friends.  Here are just a few of the things we did:

We ran through a wide-open field…



We visited the Farmer’s Market in downtown Franklin where we learned to milk a cow…img_5838

We got a Light Saber painted on our face…img_5846

As well as a butterfly…img_5849

We sat in an oversized rocking chair with friends…img_5852

We made S’Mores around an open fire…img_5866 img_5855

We played hide and seek…img_58372

We spent 11 hours in the car not driving mom and dad crazy…img_58711

And we altogether wore ourselves out…img_5870

Yes – it was a good weekend.