Friday, January 24, 2014

3rd grade addictions counseling

There's this kid on my lunch shift who has a ranch problem. All year long he's been pouring it all over his food. Sometimes he'll fill up a whole well in the cafeteria tray with it and eat it with a spoon. He spreads it on his bagels and dips pretty much everything in it. Sometimes I take his tray from him and spoon some out into the trash because I'd rather waste the "food" than have him eat it. He's been eating a little less recently; something I said must have sunk in, I don't know what. On Wednesday, a girl sitting at his table called me over:

Girl: Mrs Stripling! Xavier is being really disgusting and putting ranch on his french toast sticks!!
Me: Oh Xavier, come on, ranch isn't for everything.
Xavier: YES IT IS! I EAT IT ON SPAGHETTI! (He always shouts)
Me: (Sighing, sitting down next to him) Look, Xavier, I'm going to tell you this because I care about you, not because I want to be a meanie and take away your ranch. If you keep eating ranch at the rate that I see you eating ranch now, you are going to be at a serious risk for obesity, heart attacks, and diabetes when you grow up. Also, ranch has things in it that make ADD and ADHD worse for some kids, so you might even have trouble in school if you eat too much of it. So I'm not saying you can't eat it at all, but you just really have to slow down.
Me: That is great. Okay. Wonderful. I'm so happy.

I don't know what it was that made him think about eating it once a week, but I thought that was a good compromise. And guess what? He's been ranch free at school for two days, and he seems to be really proud of himself. I'm proud of him too. Even if he goes back to ranch next week, I think I can retire happily, knowing that this little hellion was able to tame himself for two days.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I apologize; I shouldn't have said that baby and birth books are all written for silly people. I'm glad that there are baby books written in simple language for people who aren't going to read Emile. And there are a lot of people who aren't going to read Emile who are not silly anyway. I just am interested in this topic and wish there was more meaty material; something between Kant and I shall have to supply it by my own reflection. Carry on, Dr. Sears et al.
Ok, I'm getting fatter now. I might have read the scale incorrectly at the midwife's anyway. According to the scale at the school nurse's office I'm plumping up just fine. The chubby cheeks are coming back. I honestly hope they stay; I used to want a skinny face when I was a teenager and a tubby hippie in college, thinking I would look like a model or whatever but then when the student loan payments started sucking the chub away, I realized that being skinny doesn't really make me happy. And in fact it makes me cold. Whatever, that's enough about my body image.

I am having some fun reading Dr. Sear's baby book, simply because it gives me warm fuzzy feelings about the baby. I think there's a lot about "attachment parenting" circa 1985 that I like and definitely a lot of practical tips that will come in handy. But The Baby Book suffers from the same problem that all baby and birth books seem to suffer: they are written for silly people. I guess I just haven't spent that much time reading informational books for the masses, and the only parenting books I've read as an adult have been by Rousseau, Locke, and Kant. Now, those cranky old guys get a lot of details wrong, like when old Leaky-Socks Locke says to let your kids run around in shoes with holes in them even in the winter, or when Kant says that instead of swaddling your baby, you should put him in a box. But to make up for these small shortcomings, they all certainly have a more sophisticated and interesting understanding of human nature than Dr. Sears. I guess I've been spoiled by philosophical treatises on education, and that's what I'm looking for in a baby book. But I will not get it from the people who explain the action of white blood cells as "like millions of tiny Pac-Men," for they believe that I am in seventh grade.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

well shoot

I am not fat enough! I have gained about half a pound in a month and am just back to my pre-pregnancy weight. (I lost about five pounds during the first trimester.) Don't worry, the baby has grown just fine based on the size of my uterus. The heartbeat is strong and I feel the baby moving all the time. It's just that I haven't been growing fast enough to catch up! I thought I was doing such a good job eating over the break but apparently not. (Now I did get a stomach bug and throw up a bunch for a few days, so that might have set me back a bit.) When I sat down today to stuff myself with sausage and cheese and crackers I realized the difference between my old kind of snacking, which was governed by taste and frugality, and snacking for baby making... in number of cheese-cracker-sausage sandwiches, the difference is about five fold. I haven't eaten that much summer sausage at one go since I was an immoderate teenager.

We aren't really worried about the baby so far, because I was well nourished before pregnancy, and the baby probably easily got most of what it needed from my reserves. What I was able to eat in the first four months was usually quite nutrient dense. And like I keep telling myself, the baby IS big enough right now. But it's time to get real. My only job is eating. How dull!

I suppose I should get a scale. I've never kept one around because I always thought that was kind of a negative way to monitor your health (at my age anyway,) but weighing myself every day would definitely be easier than keeping track of calories.

Well, it's time to take a post-snack/pre-dinner nap. That's all for today, folks.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


If you want good food in this town, get Chinese takeout, go to la taqueria en la carniceria, or stop by the drive-through gyro place with "expresso." They are all great. The gyros are in fact so impressive that we had the guy cater our wedding. And if you tell him you're Orthodox you might get a side of Greek history. But if you want to go out for your anniversary, here are your non-chain choices:

1. Great thin crust pizza with huge unhealthy delicious chef salads in a terrible atmosphere
2. Decent pizza in a dumpy, exposed atmosphere that makes me feel agoraphobic
3. Exactly the same decent pizza, made by schismatics from #2, in an equally dumpy, more private atmosphere, with better bathrooms
4. Upper-mediocre Chinese buffet out by Wal*Mart
5. Sit-down Chinese dining with intimate atmosphere and good location but rumors of too many health code violations
6. Crappy Chinese buffet with way too much American food, but with EXCELLENT crab rangoons
7. A "picturesque," riverside Applebee's-level overpriced crappy restaurant with a nice bar
8. Over-priced, underwhelming, burger place with a good selection of craft brews (a miracle in this town,) but a most unfortunate, cheap, obnoxious Margaritaville theme
9. Big, sassy, well-established Mexican place with a pretty standard Americanized menu. Everybody likes it.
10. Less sassy, newer, Mexican place with fairly diverse, more authentic menu. Some people love it.
11. A fledgling Peruvian/Mexican restaurant which we've really liked so far, but with a depressing atmosphere and no liquor license yet

And I think that's pretty much it. Hometown friends, let me know if I forgot anything. Coming soon: A New York Bagel place and a Japanese steak house???

Anyway we chose #6. I hadn't been there since I was a kid and Matt had of course never been there. The place was a little sad, but we still had fun, and as noted above, the crab rangoons were excellent! I think it's a good omen when on your anniversary, you both get almost exactly the same fortune:

You will make many changes before setting satisfactory. (Hers)
You will make changes before setting satisfactorily. (His)

I don't think "setting" can function intransitively. If you read "setting" as "settling" then his makes grammatical sense and mine still doesn't. But I get the point. Funny that I'm going to make "many" changes and he will just make changes.

He gave me a neatly wrapped copy of St. John Chrysostom's homilies On Marriage and Family Life (which he had plucked from our bookshelf,) with a note tucked inside promising the bearer six nights of reading and discussing the book in bed with her husband. I could not have been happier, and promptly redeemed the first night (On 1st Corinthians 7.) I told you he was a Good Husband!

I am getting rounder. I waddle, creak and groan a bit, although I feel good overall. It feels strange to grow so much in only one part of your body. One's balance becomes a bit compromised. I'm looking forward to warmer weather when I can spend more time moving and getting used to this body outside, rather than slugging about inside. I'm just starting to realize that when the belly starts to swell, the belly button begins to turn inside out, and it's really the only thing that has disturbed me so far. I do not like it. I do not mind being fat (and in fact wish I were fatter) but I do not like a part of my body turning inside out. Not at all. Ew, I don't even want to think about it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

that's a lot of snow

This is my second snow day home from school. It's been below zero for a few days and the roads are still basically just packed ice and snow. I can't imagine kids waiting for the bus or even staying warm enough in the bus. I'm glad they've called off school. The extended Christmas break has been very nice; it's coincided with some days off for my husband (the weather was bad enough to stop the mail!) and we've had a lovely relaxing time. We took one -13 degree walk in the abandoned streets to see what it was like. I had an enormous icicle hanging off one set of eyelashes for several minutes after I stepped inside again.

Matt asked me this morning what I was going to do with yet another day off and I have no idea. I don't really have any big projects left. Well, I could always clean the bathtub, but I think it's beyond the help of any pregnancy-safe hippie cleaning products. There's definitely enough food around here; we still have this big pot of borscht and I made like fifty delicious pierogis last night and froze a lot of them. I'm not going to share the recipe because it would take a long time to type out, and are you really about to make pierogis? Ask me if you want it. The process was pretty time consuming but every step was easy nonetheless, and I had fun filling the pierogis while I listened to the first lecture on the Good Husband. I downloaded the rest of the series just now. I doubt that my husband is going to listen to them because he's not really into Ancient Faith Radio like we converts are, plus he's already a Good Husband in my book. I have been talking to him about the Good Wife series and I think that's enough. He doesn't really have 10 hours to sit around listening to sermons and I'm not going to push them on him by making a CD for the car or something.

I have good things to say about the Good Wife series, but also some problems with it. I'll start with my two major difficulties.

First, in the first lecture, Fr. Josiah spends a considerable amount of time talking about the way that a wife can change her husband. He quotes St. Peter as saying that if a husband is disobedient to the Word of God, his wife can bring him back to obedience through her own obedience and submission to him. I have no quarrel with the apostle Peter here. Father Josiah goes on to interpret this as meaning that when a husband is being stupid or mean or crazy, his wife should not try to assume dominance over him or fight back, but merely submit to him, no matter what. Well, I still think that's pretty good advice, most of the time. But the way that Father Josiah words it is disturbing to me. He says that if a wife pities him, her husband will burn with shame as she triumphs over him in the spiritual life.

Father Josiah is definitely steeped in the language of the Fathers, so perhaps this very strong language comes naturally to him. I think it goes a little too far, especially since he's just been talking about how women can be better, smarter, and stronger than their husbands even at doing their own jobs. With that in mind, I think this kind of talk could lead to a silent, bitter sense of repressed superiority, which is never brought to light because it's never mentioned, although it could certainly show up as passive-aggressiveness. I don't want to make my husband burn with shame as I triumph over him. If he burns with shame because I'm doing the right thing and he's not, that's how the cookie crumbles, but should I really desire to triumph over him? It reminds me of that verse in Proverbs (?) which says that if you act kindly to your enemies, you'll heap burning coals onto his head. I always thought that was a little weird when I was a kid. Isn't that disingenuous and really sort of awful? Sorry, I know it's in the Bible. I just don't like it.

Another problem I have with this advice is that if my husband is upset on a fairly low level, I'd better just try to reason with him, because it makes him more upset when I clam up and refuse to engage. He's more reasonable, or maybe smarter, than I am, but I'm less thumotic/excitable in arguments so it's usually a pretty fair "fight." When he's really upset, it's true that I should respond gently, and I do find that helpful. He usually thanks me for it afterwards.

So, in short, I think the advice is good, but the motivation seems pernicious. Try to find a nicer reason to do what he says.

Secondly, I don't think Father Josiah knows much about feminism. I'm not a feminist, but I have a brain/sense of justice and I can see that he is making straw (wo)men left and right when he speaks on feminism. It's simply not fair, and I don't think Christians should participate in that kind of rhetoric. If all that Father Josiah's parishioners know about feminism comes from the ambo, they are ill-prepared to engage lovingly with non-Christians on the principles that undergird much of life in the first world. I don't fault him for speaking strongly against and disagreeing heartily with feminist ideas, because I do think there are extremely anti-Christian elements to feminism in all its "waves," but he paints with a very broad brush a vast and diverse movement. Also, much of his language about women's roles will sound "tone-deaf" and very old-fashioned to those who have spent much time in secular circles, especially intellectual or pseudo-intellectual (as the case may be) circles. Maybe that's okay. Just warning you. 

Okay. Now the good things.

Father Josiah presents the ideal of marriage as something very beautiful and inspiring. Notwithstanding a few headscratchers, overall the Good Wife series made me feel that with God's help and my husband's I can make something wonderful out of my life as a wife and (God willing) mother. He quotes from Chrysostom saying that the Christian home is the fundamental unit of society, and the source of life for our culture. Creating that environment is the wife's calling, and he makes it sound like a very high one. Much of the advice he gives on caring for one's husband is very touching.

Even if you don't like everything about the way he talks, you can't fail to appreciate the beautiful passages on marriage that he reads from the Bible and the Fathers, especially St. John Chrysostom. They are like a fresh, sweet drink of water to someone like me whose Facebook feed is teeming with hostility towards Christian ideals (particularly on gender and marriage.) There were many Patristic passages that I had never heard before, and if I walk away with nothing else from these lectures, the inspiration to go read Chrysostom's homilies on Marriage and Family Life is worth $10. But I think that Father Josiah's teaching is basically true, and I am glad that I spent that $10. I gladly spent another $10 today on the rest of the Good Husband lectures. Those lectures were delivered first so I would not be surprised if they have more general wisdom on marriage than the Wife lectures, as well as specific advice for husbands.

I realize that I spent more words on my critique than on my praise, but nonetheless I recommend the lectures so far for both singles and married folk. Keep your brain plugged in; don't be afraid to question his advice and to discuss it with your spouse and/or priest as applicable. There is a lot of honey in this mix, but it never hurts to bring a strainer.

I think I will go and clean something while I listen to the next Good Husband lecture. I'll keep you updated.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Stupid Easy Recipe-- "Lamburger Helper"

We just got pommeled with an enormous snowstorm, it's below 0 degrees Fahrenheit out there, and all the stores are closed, so I'm cooking from the pantry and the bottom of the fridge tonight. I left the big pot of borscht at our priest's family's house (thinking, mistakenly, that we were off to a romantic getaway in a cabin out in the middle of impassable nowhere, and that we would not be at home to eat the borscht) or we'd be eating that. So I made some simple lentil soup which seems to be turning out well, and here's what I did with half a head of cabbage and a pound of ground lamb. I used Moroccan-inspired spices (alas, with no saffron threads,) before I paused to reflect that perhaps they don't have cabbages in Morocco. It doesn't matter. This tastes great and you could use any spice combination that you like. These ones go particularly well with lamb.

Maybe go easy on the initial saute oil if you're using beef. Lamb isn't as fatty.

Lamburger Helper

Oil of your choice to saute (I used lard and olive oil)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Cinnamon, about 1 tablespoon
Ground cumin, about 2 tablespoons
Grated ginger, about 1 tablespoon
Turmeric, about 1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
1/2 head cabbage, any variety, cut into thin strips
1 lb ground lamb (or beef)

Heat oil on medium heat. Saute onion, ginger and garlic until translucent. Stir in the other spices. Brown the lamb. Add the cabbage. Stir about, throw salt on there, reduce heat, and cover. Stir occasionally, aiming for tender cabbage. That's all.

I will serve it with yogurt like I always do.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to make a huge pot of Borscht for Theophany

Apparently, in Russia, it is customary to have 12 specific Lenten dishes on Christmas Eve, which you make a lot of, and then eat again on the Eve of Theophany. These dishes include:

-Sauerkraut Soup
-Fermented Oatmeal
-Split Pea Soup
-Fish or Shrimp
-Garlic, horseradish, and honey with bread
-Kidney beans cooked with shredded potatoes
-Sauteed mushrooms
-Fruit compote
-Root soup

We learned this custom from our priest and his wife, who picked it up in seminary. We don't always have a supper on Christmas Eve, so we just make all this stuff fresh for Theophany. I signed up to make the borscht again. I don't remember how I made it last year, but this is what I did this year. This will make a huge stock pot-full. I cannot tell you exactly how much because my stock pot is full of borscht and I cannot lift it to look at the bottom to see the capacity. I would estimate that I've made about four gallons.

This was really easy with canned beets and a food processor with a shred setting. The selection was not good for fresh beets at our grocery store, just like last year when I tried to make borscht. I am often a picky purist about this kind of thing but my husband and I both thought the soup was just fine with canned beets. Maybe you will have the same problem in your area around Theophany. Wouldn't they have this problem in Russia too? I suppose they're practiced at beet-saving for the winter.

The main thing to remember is that if the beets are canned or cooked beforehand, boiling them with the other vegetables is unnecessary, and will detract from their color.

Amounts can be varied.

Huge Pot of Borscht
2-3 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots
1 large head of red cabbage
1 small head green cabbage (I used Savoy because our store was out of regular)
2 large potatoes
1 medium turnip
1 big parsnip
2 big cans crushed tomatoes
6 cans shoestring beets
A few tablespoons of olive oil

Saute the garlic and onions in the bottom of your stock pot. If you want to get very fancy and flavor-enhancey,  use another pan or even two to saute the carrots and cabbage as well. If you're stressed out don't do that. Use the shred setting on the food processor to make the carrots into "matchsticks" and add to the onion and garlic. Shred the cabbages, turnip, potatoes, and parsnip. Add to pot, along with tomatoes. Cover with water and add a few handfuls of salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer at medium temperature for about 20-30 minutes until vegetables are all tender. Finally add the beets, juice and all, and simmer gently until they are warmed to the same temperature as the other veggies.

Serve with yogurt or sour cream if you're not fasting.

It remains to be seen how long it will take this borscht to disappear. Right after I finished the soup, I plopped down on the couch next to my husband, who said "Holy Supper is cancelled." Here as well as in most of the greater Midwest, a huge winter storm is expected. So now I have about four gallons of borscht! We might take it over to Father and Presvytera's house tomorrow for lunch with others who live close by and already made a bunch of food too. I hope the person who signed up for the pierogis will come.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

commencing the year of the baby

Starting off 2014 with my first cup of hot coffee in a long time. Usually Matt makes one mug for himself and  leaves about 1/4 a cup of cold stuff for me to drink with milk. But today I'm living a little!

2013 in review:
A painful, miserable, spring semester at the Orthodox school where we were working. It sucked. Worst Lent of my life. We finally extricated ourselves in June. We hadn't wanted to quit, because we didn't know what to do in the fall, but a few big things changed and we jumped ship.

We went straight to a good month long vacation in Maine. The salt air in our wounds did us some good. Maine is a place to breathe and heal.

In August and September, we moved back to my hometown. The transition was very easy. We had already been commuting back for church, and settled right into more active participation there. We've grown closer with the other youngish adults in our parish and it's been great. We've fallen into more casual, intimate access to my family. Sibling returns are easier to enjoy.

I quickly got a job in an elementary school teaching 2nd and 3rd grade computer of all things. Matt pieced together tutoring, substitute teaching, and working at a farm stand until he got a job with the Post Office in October.

I got pregnant in September, thank God. All is well there.

Matt started applying to graduate programs in earnest. He's almost done.

I was thinking about New Year's resolutions, which I don't hate, and realized it's sort of hard to make certain kinds of resolutions when your next year is probably going to hold a lot of big changes. The future is always unpredictable, but this year we're definitely having a baby, and planning to move either to New Orleans, Milwaukee, D.C., Boston or Dallas, on rather short notice, rather soon after having the baby. So "I'm going to run every day" or "I resolve to move up a fluency level in French" might not work, because I have no idea if that's going to be possible. But "I'm going to save all the damn receipts and we're going to sit down and budget every pay period" is slightly more likely. And there's nothing to stop me from reading the prescribed readings from the lectionary every day in a real Bible and not on the computer. Ooh, guess I should go do that.

Those are my January 1 words on a page. My brain is stupid and I don't have anything more reflective to say. I think we'll get Chinese food tonight.

Also, do you think Herman is a goofy name for a baby?