Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What If?

More from Peregrine today:

"What if I was eating blueberries and my stomach exploded! Pop! Pop! And blueberries started flying all around the van!"

"What if we made a hot air balloon? We could take three of your laundry baskets, Mom, and get a lot of balloons and take them outside. We would tie the balloons on and get in the laundry baskets, and go up, up, up, you and me and Dad and Poppy!"

" What if Cheerios were wind? Or snow?"

I am glad indeed that some questions don't require answers. And I hope that if I'm ever in a hot air balloon we don't run into any Cheerio storms.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On New Floors and Becoming Christlike

My house in in shambles right now. I admit, I'm not the best home organizer and keeper, but, for once, that is not the reason. No, this time, it's a case of "things usually get a lot worse before they get better" and "the darkest hour is always before dawn." (I hope I used those common idioms correctly!) You see, close to a year ago Erik and I were the pleased purchasers of a nice pile of new laminate flooring to replace the carpet in our dining room, living room, and the linoleum in our kitchen. And finally, we are taking the necessary steps to put it in. Erik has torn out the old stuff, leaving nasty looking black adhesive and sharp staples underfoot. There are boxes of books all over the living room, unloaded from our bookcases which have to be moved. There are various extra pieces of furniture in the family room which add to the chaotic, messy, unfinished state of our home. I can live with all this though, because on Monday of next week a couple of Erik's friends are coming over and I'm leaving with the kids. When I return, if all goes as planned, I shall have nice new bamboo-like floors and the memory of gray-blue carpet under the table will quickly fade away. I'm very excited.
As I've walked through my home these past few days, carefully avoiding staples and making my way past boxes and out-of-place furniture, I've thought about the spiritual life, and mine in particular. I have a glimpse of what I am called to become- like Christ. And I know the journey to Christlikeness is a long road, an entire lifetime of struggling against my flesh, of falling down and getting back up, of putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up. But how often I wish that there was Extreme Makeover- Spiritual Life Edition or a Plastic Surgery for the Soul Center where I could undergo an anesthesia, and wake up a few hours later transformed! But, like anything that is truly of value, it's not that simple. And, like getting my new floor means a whole lot of mess, it seems that when I purpose to live a more godly life I become even more aware of the mess I've made of mine. I pray for patience, and I find myself snapping at my children. I seek abiding joy and notice how often my heart grumbles as I serve my precious family. I long to bridle my tongue and find myself speaking unkindly, tearing down with my words instead of building up. Like the staples in my floor, I have all sorts of jagged edges, and I pray that I will not be a stumbling block to anyone, and especially not to my children.
And when I do begin to walk more faithfully in an area, how easily pride creeps in, how quickly I can judge others for an action that only yesterday I myself engaged in! (And will likely slip back into next week... or tomorrow.) So what hope is there for me? What hope do I have for my children who are looking to me for guidance, whose views on God and the world are being shaped primarily by Erik and me? My hope comes from "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" and "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". It comes from getting my eyes off of myself, repenting (again) of my sin, and pressing on "that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me."
My house will soon be back in order, or at least back to it's normal state of semi-order. It will take a few days, (or weeks, knowing us) to get things rearranged, but we will very soon be enjoying our new floor. I, on the other hand, am a much bigger project. No quick fixes here, but a very loving and patient Father who is willing to forgive and strengthen and transform me little by little. And I hang my hopes, all of them, on Jesus, on His work in me, and on this promise: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Let us run well, friends, that one day we may hear those precious words, "Well, done, good and faithful servant."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Peregrine likes baking too!

I have many happy memories of baking with my mom as a little girl. Since getting married I've enjoyed creating baked goods for my own family. My husband has a sensitivity to wheat, so I've had to learn to use alternate flours when baking for him. The following Chocolate Cherry Cake recipe is a blend of my mom's Dark Chocolate Cake and the Cherry Chocolate Cake Erik's mom always made for his birthdays. (And that won him a ribbon in a county fair when he was ten!) I had fun combining the two recipes and making this decadent, yet simple, gluten free chocolate cake for him. You can, of course, make it with regular flour and it's just as good!

Chocolate Cherry Cake

2 cups all purpose Flour (or 1 Cup Rice Flour, 1/2 cup Tapioca Flour and 1/2 Cup Potato Starch)
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
3/4 cup strong coffee
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 can (21oz) cherry pie filling, 1/4 cup reserved
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
12 oz chocolate chips
1 C whipping cream

1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans; set pans aside. Allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature while you prepare the batter.
2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, coffee, and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined, about two minutes.
4. Reserve 1/4 cup cherry pie filling. Mix remaining pie filling into wet ingredients. Add dry mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Divide batter into prepared pans.
5. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Prepare filling. Cool cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes before turning out of pans. Cool thoroughly on racks.

1. In a small bowl mix reserved 1/4 cup pie filling, cream cheese, and vanilla.

1. Heat cream in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.
2. Pour chocolate chips into the cream and let stand five minutes.
3. Stir until cream and chocolate are thoroughly mixed and smooth.

To assemble cakes spread filling in between the layers and frost top and sides with Ganache. The above photo is a slight variation on the usual layers I do with this cake!
16 Servings

Friday, February 23, 2007

Life in the Circus

I'm not quite sure when it happened, but at some point I ran away and joined the circus. You see, I find myself the constant companion to a monkey and a parrot. Or sometimes a pair of clowns, or roaring tigers, charging elephants or trapeze artists. Is this sounding at all familiar to any other Mamas out there?
It's fun to live in such a place, most of the time. But I'm having a hard time getting my little ones to see that meals are not the place for their antics. I'm afraid I've allowed Peregrine to be a bit too monkey-ish at the table, and now that he has a little parrot who mimics his every action I've become very aware of it. I think in wanting to keep mealtime joyful I've not put enough emphasis on manners and what is appropriate. When it was only Peregrine I didn't notice it so much, but there is a little girl who sits across the table from him and copies him. He does a lot of things that a boy his age (over four) should know not to do. Like tipping his plate up, not enough to dump the food, but just enough to get his sister to do it. She, of course, doesn't know when to stop, and there goes another plate of food. And the noises! Truly, you would think they were a couple of monkeys at the table. He frequently starts in on some chattering noise, or repeats a syllable over and over and over, and then the Parrot joins in.
I'm finding mealtimes to not be quite as pleasant as I feel they ought to be. I'm having to constantly tell them to stop doing things, and several times lately I've had to have Peregrine the Monkey finish his meal in silence. He doesn't seem to be able to draw the line between what is appropriate and what is completely over the top. And with his every action being mimicked by Poppy the Parrot, I don't quite know what to do. But I need to do something.
The other mealtime "issue" I'm having is not knowing how much to expect a child to eat when the food is not "their favorite". I don't want food to be too much of a battle, but Peregrine has become pretty picky. I think it's important for him to learn to eat at least some of things he finds distasteful. Last night I gave him a tiny bowl of coleslaw that he was to eat before he could have the rest of his dinner. Tiny, as in one of those little glass dishes that's about three inches across- three or four bites. Over an hour later he was still not finished with it. And the problem is that he takes a bite and literally keeps it in his mouth, half-heartedly chewing, for about twenty minutes! It's the swallowing that he balks at. He used to love coleslaw, so I'm not sure if it's truly distasteful to him or if he's just choosing a battle that he thinks he can win.
So, I'm looking to my fellow Circus Mamas for advice. Any hints on mealtime training? I don't want to put so much emphasis on propriety that they feel they can't be somewhat merry at the table. On the other hand, it's out of control. I'm just not sure how much to expect of them at their ages and how to achieve it. Also, I don't know what's reasonable as far as having them eat food they don't care for. Help me please! I'm trapped in the Circus!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Buried Treasure

I was called outside the the other day by a small boy who came to the door in great excitement, insisting that I "come and see" what he had found. And no, he couldn't tell me what it was, I had to "come and see!" I was led through the damp yard to a patch of earth, and there, poking bravely up through the dirt, was the single bloom of a crocus. To me, the crocus is the first real sign of spring. Sure, the daffodils send up their verdant shoots earlier, but the crocus always beat them to the bloom. Peregrine, apparently, has inherited my love for this humble flower, and we made our way around the yard, finding more clumps of them here and there: purple, white, gold, and violet, each seen eagerly through our winter weary eyes.
In our crocus search I also pointed out several other varieties of bulbs to Peregrine. "See there, the thin shoots of the daffodil? And the curly wide ones are tulips. Those clumps will soon be bursting forth with spanish bluebells! And over there, those are iris!" I explained to him how the bulbs lie buried in the ground, like hidden treasure, all but forgotten for many months. And then one day, you see them pushing through the cold wet earth, willing to lie dormant no more, eager to see the sun, ready to burst forth in delicate beauty and fragrance and riots of color.
We made our way through the yard, my boy and I. We exclaimed over the signs of new life that are becoming evident everywhere we looked. I showed him the swollen buds of the blueberry and raspberry bushes, the rhododendron, the lilac, and the tiny red leaves on the rose bushes. As we found one thing after another I heard his voice ring out loud and clear in the crisp morning "Praise the Lord!"
My heart leapt within me; these signs of Spring, of new life bursting through where none could be seen before, made me want to rejoice and cry and shout "Praise the Lord" all at the same time. I am ready for Spring, not just for the flowers and birdsong and sunshine, but for Spring in my own life. The last several months have been a Winter like I've never known. We have lost two babies through miscarriage and walked through the pain and coldness of grieving. I have battled fear and despair, anger and lies, and have wondered what higher purpose can be accomplished by our going through this not once, but twice.
And there in my garden, I was reminded that in the Kingdom of heaven death comes before life. Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it cannot produce flower or fruit or more seeds! Through these months that have been like Winter to me I've nearly forgotten that Spring must come next; it always does. Those trials I've been allowed to walk through seem to me like seeds, like bulbs planted deep in the soil of my heart. By God's grace they will grow into something beautiful, something life giving and sweet. By God's grace we will walk in the sunshine again; we will experience not the cold rain of our tears, but the warm spring rain that calls forth life from death.
We will remember our little ones, Esther Bihana Hope and Lydia Grace, as flowers who have bloomed in God's garden, as Shining Ones who live in the radiance of the Face of Jesus. We will continue to watch here as winter gives way to Spring, as the clouds are chased away by the brilliant sunshine, as flowers bloom in defiance of the gray skies above. By God's grace our hearts will be good soil where something beautiful can grow. From the seeds of sadness buried in our hearts we look to Him alone to bring forth treasure. And, with Peregrine, may His praises be on our lips as we see what He will do.

Crocus picture from

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Mama's Bible

As I sat this morning with my Bible open on my lap, stealing a few quiet moments, my thoughts wandered, which is not at all unusual. When my eyes fell on the page I saw a column of Scripture that had been "decorated" with the delicate scribbles of a brown pencil crayon. A page or two later there are markings from a blue pen and a page that has been torn out and is waiting for the healing touch of some tape. It was these things that caused my thoughts to roam to my Mama's Bible....
It is worn, well worn, mostly from the countless hours she's spent reading it over the years. How well I remember the sight of her sitting, Bible in hand, seemingly oblivious to the noise of her five children playing, laughing, fighting, and otherwise being loud! She had an amazing ability to do several things at once, like most mommies do, but when it came to reading she could be in a different place, nearly oblivious to the chaos around her. We used to joke about it, but now I think it may be a gift that has preserved her sanity. I remember her sweet voice reading to us from her Bible, words of correction or comfort or encouragement. As a small child she read me verses to calm my fears, and she's read me those same Scriptures as I've labored to deliver my babies, or more recently as I lay in the Emergency Room when we lost our little Esther. Over the years I've seen those Scriptures as well, copied in her own hand and tucked into envelopes for me to read as I've gone off on adventures around the world.
Some of the wear on her Bible has come, not from her own use of it, but from her children, from young artists trying out their talents, from tiny hands who crumble and tear whatever they can. It's probably been dropped and thrown and who knows what else! The binding is loose and the gilding on the page edges is long gone. The leather cover is soft and supple.
Stuck between the pages of her Bible are five pink paper hearts. On each one is written the name of one of us, her children. Beneath the name is a list of things she prays for us. I remember she showed them to me once, when I was a young teenager. One of the things she prayed was for the person we would eventually marry. Now we're all in our twenties and thirties, grown, four of us married and three with children of our own; I imagine the items for prayer have changed a bit as we've grown, but I know she still prays. I see the pink edges of those hearts peeking out between the soft and worn pages of her Bible.
My Mama's Bible is beautiful to me, not only because it's familiar and worn, but because its very words are so much a part of who she is. It has shaped her and molded her; she has fallen in love with, and become more like, it's Author over the years. I love her for that; I want to be like her when I "grow up".
My Bible is still relatively "new". It's page edges remain somewhat shiny, and only a few pages have recently been marked and torn by sweet little hands. My morning quiet time is often interrupted these days by a small boy who comes out in his jammies, eyes blinking in the light. He climbs into my lap, still warm from the coziness of his bed, and lays his head on my chest. Some of his first words lately have been "Mom, will you read to me some Bible?" It's almost enough to melt my heart, that he wants to hear the Old, Old Story, that he wants to be with me. I pray that he not only hears the words, but sees the Story lived out in the lives of his Mama and Daddy, just as I have seen it lived out in my parents. I pray that these words become part of him, that they mold and shape his life, and that someday he will pass them on to his own children.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Land of Canaan

Peregrine's been thinking on deep spiritual things lately. Or maybe he just likes honey.

"I want to go from Egypt to that place where the river of milk and honey is flowing. And I would just dive in and eat the honey all. And Poppy would want to go too and you could carry her if she gets tired. Mommy, we'll have to talk to Daddy about going to that place where the milk and honey is. We could drive there, through the sand. And we could bring some beach toys Mommy. And some little snacks we could pack up and go."

Friday, February 09, 2007


Several mornings ago I found Peregrine has woken up extra early. Being a Mom who likes to know just how sleep deprived her child is, I questioned him a bit. "Did you see Daddy before he left for work?" His answer was a bit confusing to me. "No, but he came in and said goodbye and kissed me and told me that he loves me. But I was sleeping so I didn't hear him." When I asked him how he knew Daddy had done this if he was asleep he replied with such simplicity and faith: "He told me last night that he would."
I've been thinking about this for days. Peregrine had no doubt whatsoever that Daddy had done just as he said he would. I'm once again reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 18:3. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Oh, to have faith like that, to trust implicitly in the Words of our Father. And what a beautiful gift God has given to our children, this ability to place their trust in us. On the flip side, what a sobering reminder of the responsibility we have to be worthy of it. We are human; we will fail and disappoint them many times. I wish it weren't so, but I know it is. I pray that when we do we'll have the grace to humble ourselves and ask for their forgiveness. And I pray most of all, that during these precious years when we are "like gods" to them, we will introduce them to the One who will never fail them, who will never break faith with them, and who will never let them go.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Chocolate for Breakfast

My sister and her husband just bought a new house and Peregrine and I drove over to see it a few nights ago. As we sat together this morning in Erik's big chair our rambling conversation turned to their new home; how much bigger it is and how fun it will be to go play there , etc. I told him that one of the reasons they wanted more space is because they'd like to adopt some more kids, and that maybe they'll get some that are his age. I then mentioned that some kids are orphans because their parents couldn't take very good care of them. His reply to that was "Will they feed them chocolate first thing in the morning?" I was a little confused, thinking he was asking if Alyssa and Scott will feed their new children chocolate for breakfast! Then I realized he was equating parents not taking good care of their kids with feeding them chocolate "first thing in the morning"!
I had to laugh; somewhere along the line hes probably asked me for chocolate way too early in the morning. I can only assume I made a comment that made him think "good parents don't feed their kids chocolate for breakfast"! The things he remembers, and the way they come out later on, are pretty funny! It reminds me of that saying "Chocolate: It's not just for breakfast anymore!" And on a more serious note, I'm so glad that he has no idea what it really looks like when parents don't take care of their children.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Life and Death

Over the years I've often felt a bit "guilty" for not getting more excited about Easter. Although one can't entirely isolate the Resurrection of our Savior from His life and death, in many ways it is the day on which all of our hopes are hung. Through it Christ conquered death and gives us the promise of Life. And yet it often seems, for me anyway, a day with little anticipation and not nearly the excitement I think I ought to have at the celebration of such an event!
In the Eastern Orthodox Church the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is the pinnacle of the Church year. As Erik and I have investigated and moved toward Orthodoxy the last two years I've begun to catch a glimpse of what I've been missing in my celebration of Easter, and how I can experience the awe and wonder that I've always felt should be there. Prior to being introduced to Orthodoxy I had only a few fuzzy notions to associate with the word Lent, all of them from a Roman-Catholic-through-a-Protestant-lens perspective. As I've learned and listened and read, something has just recently "clicked" within me. From Orthodoxwiki Lent "is the living symbol of man's entire life which is to be fulfilled in his own resurrection from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a time of repentance, a real renewal of minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. It is the time, most of all, of return to the great commandments of loving God and neighbors."
I'm beginning to see that going through a period of preparation, of voluntarily denying one's self a few of life's pleasures, of spending more time in prayer and repentance, of allowing a little more of self to die, will afford one a more real celebration of the resurrection! Somehow I've never put it together before- if I want to experience true joy in Christ's life, then I need to experience some death. This is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity- death comes before life! Of course, this is the calling of the the Christian, to die to ourselves and to follow Christ, but the "darkness of Lent is to allow the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection." (Alexander Schmemann in Great Lent.)
Already the Orthodox Church is in the period leading up to Lent; the last three Sundays have taught us to desire Christ through the story of Zaccheus, to humble ourselves through the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee, and to turn toward God in repentance through the story of the Prodigal Son. This sentence from Great Lent spoke volumes to me regarding repentance: "And the one who is perfectly "at home" in this world, who has never really been wounded by the nostalgic desire for another Reality, will not understand what is repentance." How often I feel that raw wound in myself, that desire for my true Home, and yet I fail to repent of sins that separate me from God's perfect rest.
I'm excited to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ this year. My flesh is not excited about being denied anything that it's used to having. But I want the fullness of what God has for me; I want to experience the joy of Life and Christ's victory over death!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Moments in my Days

It is said that that time with little ones is made up of long days and short years. I already feel like the years are going by too quickly. There are moments I pause and try to burn into my memory; to take in the sight and the feel of the moments that I never want to forget. Here are a few of them.

  • Looking up early in the morning, surprised to see my quiet-as-a-mouse boy in his jammies. And the snuggle that follows.
  • Dress up clothes, carefully put on by the dress-up trunk. Carelessly taken off all over the house.
  • Kissing tears off soft cheeks.
  • Seeing them play kindly together, how they both delight in it. And I do too.
  • Reading together. On the couch and in the rocking chair, on the floor, wherever. The books that, as a result, end up on the couch and in the rocking chair, on the floor, all over.
  • Stealing into their rooms after they're asleep, stroking their cheeks, their hands, their hair. And when that's not enough, picking them up and holding them awhile, or lying down and cuddling with them.
  • The sound of laughter that comes not from humor, but from happiness.
  • The things they think are treasures. Simple things like pinecones and feathers and band-aids.
  • Watching the joy in little faces when they grasp a concept.
  • Reading the same books. Over. And over. And over. Then watching Peregrine sit down and "read" them to Alethea.
  • Hearing them try new words on for size. They're often used incorrectly at first, but it's amazing how they figure it out after a while.
  • Playing make believe.
  • The joy they find in special moments, like a picnic/walk or a surprise trip to the ice cream shop.
  • The little songs they sing when they don't realize anyone is listening.
  • Hearing "Mom, you know what? I love you." It always makes me happy.
  • Being "fooled" by the same trick three hundred and seventy-four times. Watching them dissolve into giggles that they tricked me. Again.
  • Little arms wrapped around my neck.
  • Getting to be the one they want when they're hurt or upset.

It's moments like these that sprinkle the days with sweetness, that make the harder, less pleasant memories fade away. How I want to hold them always in my heart!

Have a great weekend. And enjoy your family!