Thursday, September 30, 2010

Busy week at the library!

Actually, it's been a busy week at several libraries. We started with with the end of last week, where Jacob's latest craftiness produced these wonderful sheep at Pajama Time:

Jacob has to protect the sheep from the hungry dinos on his pj's

Jacob's picture shows the sheep a little better & juxtaposed with a random toy on the floor
Our next library adventure was on Monday. We went to Storyville in Woodlawn with Granny. See the photos here, since too many were taken to post on the blog. Jacob had a great time in spite of accidentally biting his lip while removing the drum. He got a little bloody. The family bathroom was no help since it was too environmentally friendly to have paper towels or tissues. I had to use a wipe from our diaper bag to clean up the blood. He really enjoyed working the grill and the cash register, which I guess means a fast food restaurant career is not out of the question. Maybe it'll be his day job to support his drumming passion.

Today (Thursday, September 30, 2010) we went to 3, 2, Fun at the East Columbia Branch of our local library. We were supposed to get a ticket from the children's desk to let us in, but we went the wrong way so Jacob could see photocopiers and the globe. An announcement on the library's PA system caught Jacob's interest and we ran into one of the children's librarians who helped convince Jacob it would be fun. We made it to the room a little late--Jacob still had to stop at every copier along the way and got two drinks from the water fountain before we made it to the right room. The theme was zoos. A story about ordering a pet from a zoo kept both Jacob and Lucy enraptured. Jacob also played along with "Old MacDonald" and a couple of other songs. At the end, he got his usual hand stamp on a piece of paper. While Jacob and I were busy negotiating that with the librarian, Lucy started cleaning up the room! She took all the bean bags that were on the floor and put them on a table. Lucy probably got us a guaranteed ticket to come back to story time at any time, ticket or no. Good job, Lucy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cry Room Chronicles XV

This week we had special guests at Mass: Granny and Grandpa! Thanks to their help we were even early to the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Louis.

We had the Children's Chapel to ourselves at the beginning of Mass. Slowly, more children and parents trickled in. Lucy's little same-size-but-slightly-older friend showed up first. They got along really well, though it seemed at some points they were about to get into something over a book that they were both interested in. Another mom, granny and daughter showed up later, as did James, Colin, and their parents much later. The room steadily filled.

In spite of the many kids, it was a very peaceful service. Lucy was pretty low-key; she couriered books from the shelves to Grandpa and to Mommy and back and forth and hither and yon. She was pretty satisfied. Jacob stuck to his usual reading (out loud but quieter than usual). He did repeat some of what the priest said and some of the responses for the congregation. He even sang along with some hymns and parts of the Mass. He also sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the ABC song. He only asked to go upstairs right before communion and was very polite and quiet about it. Jacob even managed to put change in the poor box instead of the book-buying box like he did last week. The kids must have been on their best behavior with the grandparents there. We'll have to get some life-sized cardboard cut-outs of them for next week.

Since it rained, we were unable to play on the playground. I did see Timmy and his parents when we went to communion and afterward walking out of church. Hopefully next week's weather will be better.

I even got to listen to the sermon this week. The gospel was the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The priest brought out how the rich man never really did anything bad, but he failed to do the good he should have, especially for Lazarus. He drew a great comparison with the movie Schindler's List, where a business man at first exploited the Nazi economy to make lots of money. Then he had a turn of heart and tried to save as many of the Jews as he could. Schindler did what the rich man in the parable didn't. He used his wealth to help those in need. Not only did he give of his wealth, but he gave of himself. And that is what we are all called to do--not just share our wealth, but share ourselves.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Visit to the Coptic Church Festival

This past Saturday (September 18, 2010), we went to St. Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church for their church festival. In many ways, it was like many other church festivals or picnics. There was a moon bounce for the little kids, a dunk tank for bigger kids, church tours for the interested, food (including ethnic delights) for everyone and even a car wash for your car. We had a grand time.

After handing our keys over to the car wash guys, we meandered into the parking lot where someone offered us a tour of the church. We thought that would be a nice start, so off we went. The guide explained to us that orthodox churches are usually in one of two shapes. First is cruciform or cross-shaped, with a long main aisle and two side aisles that would look like a cross from above. Second is the ark shape (as in Noah's ark), with a rectangular room and a ceiling with long wooden slats supported by arches much like an upside-down boat. This church is ark-shaped. Like other orthodox churches, the altar/sanctuary is separated from the pews or nave by the iconostasis, a wall with three doors or openings connecting the sanctuary and the nave. The iconostasis has many icons on it representing saints and other holy persons. Here are some of the pictures I took:

Main door of the iconostasis

Detail of Mary and Christ child, yes it's on the curtain!
Detail of Last Supper over the main door
Icon of Mary and Christ child to left of main door. Note the intricate carving on the columns!
One of the common motifs in decorating the church is the cross, which can be seen in the iconostasis, the pews, the altar and even the podium:
The woodwork throughout was pretty incredible.

The altar directly behind the main door/curtain is fairly simple.
There is no tabernacle as in Catholic churches since all the consecrated bread is consumed during the orthodox mass. And yes, that is a camera set up in the sanctuary. They stream their services on-line for parishioners who may be away for various reasons. Our guide said that he'd watch when he was off at college. Another camera is in the body of the church facing the podium and iconostasis.

Another interesting decorative feature is the "ostrich eggs" on the iconostasis. They symbolize the vigilance of the Holy Spirit in watching over the church, just as the ostrich will not leave its egg for anything until it is hatched.
To the right of the egg is an icon of the Archangel Gabriel and one of the side doors
Also, this church is blessed with relics from fourteen different saints, most of whom were from the Egyptian area. The reliquaries that house the relics are quite ornate, as in the picture below which shows icons of the four saints on the top with the relics in cloth bags underneath.
Apologies for the poor lighting in the photo
Also, the baptismal font is large enough for baptism by immersion, which is their common form of baptism for adults and infants.
Detail of icon of Jesus baptized in the Jordan River above the font
While Angie and I did the tour, Jacob kept asking us for change to put in the poor box. Lucy meanwhile made a friend:
Looking cute on the steps of the altar
Not to be outdone, Jacob later made the same friend in the parking lot while they were playing with rocks:
Jacob has a preternatural awareness of cameras pointed at him
We enjoyed the festival too. Since it was the middle of the day, we did not get a meal, though I did try the sugar cane juice (surprisingly tasty) and some baklava (not particularly outstanding).
Sugar cane juicing machine
Standard food booth with lots of extra sugar cane on hand
Jacob was fascinated by the dunk tank since they were emptying it. He threw many leaves and blades of grass into the runoff water. Much more fascinating was the band, which played some contemporary Christian music quite well. The singer was especially good. Jacob liked the band because they let him try out their drum during one of their breaks.
The band's allure overcame Jacob's preternatural awareness of the camera pointed at him
The visit was a lot of fun. We'd definitely go back next year. Maybe then we'll be brave enough to try to get the kids to eat something more than a little different for dinner.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cry Room Chronicles XIV

This week provided a special challenge since Angie was up most of the night feeling ill. She didn't come to Mass (she went to the urgent care clinic instead), so Jacob, Lucy and I went to 9:30 Mass at St. Louis. I was a little nervous about having both of them double-team me.

We arrived a little late; as we were walking in we heard the end of the Gloria being sung. In the Children's Chapel we discovered our 8 a.m. friends Timmy, Kim and Luke, along with another dad and his daughter about Lucy's size but seemingly a little older.

Jacob went into reading mode pretty quickly. He kept asking me if it was okay to read the book that he just got off the shelf. I didn't say no to any of them, (1) because they were keeping him occupied and (2) they are stocked in a church cry room, how could they be objectionable? One book's cover said it was My Little Prayer Book but from Jacob's reading, clearly the lyrics of Old MacDonald Had a Farm were printed inside, which he sang quietly. Lucy joined in for the part she knows: "Eeee-iiiii, eeee-iiiii." They were cute but distracting.

Lucy finally learned from the other kids to put the rosary beads over her head and around her neck. She walked around for quite a bit like that. She also traded beads back and forth with the other girl. They both seemed content. As is her custom, Lucy handed me a bunch of the song books and other children's books. I didn't see her giving books to anyone else, though maybe she was being coy.

All in all, they were pretty well behaved and I didn't really have to worry about things. Jacob almost missed the collection again but he didn't beg to go upstairs for communion like he usually does. When we finally did go upstairs, he got a drink of water from the fountain and put the change I gave him for the poor box into the box next to the book rack. My attempt to explain which box benefits the poor and which one is for buying books was fruitless this week. I'm sure he'll eventually figure it out. By that point, we may have put enough change in to buy something good. Again, it being a church book rack, it'll be hard to find something bad there.

The Lord was definitely with us going to communion. Lucy was happy to be carried and Jacob held my hand the whole way, so neither one wandered off. We did go by the choir and musicians. We stopped and Jacob watched them for the rest of the Mass. I half-watched him and half-prayed. I felt like I did a lot more praying this week than in previous weeks.

The only bad thing was the "Old MacDonald" incident coinciding with the sermon. I honestly can't remember what the priest talked about. The gospel reading was the famous You cannot serve God and mammon passage. Even re-reading it now sparks no memories. Oh well, maybe next time, as Jacob likes to say.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jacob Plays with Fire, or at least the Remains of Fire

Jacob was a little disappointed today that we didn't go to his favorite "car" park by Lake Elkhorn. In stead, we went to the playground in Savage. He did remember that park and had a good time riding the slides and such. Lucy also enjoyed climbing up the play equipment and riding on the swings.

After a while, Jacob decided to investigate outside the play area, which meant exploring the picnic tables and grills. Lucy kept playing on the swings and I figured she needed me more than he did, so I let him have freedom to explore. He was fascinated by the grills and played a lot with the charcoal, becoming quite charcoally himself. I didn't realize this until it was far too late. He admitted that his hands were dirty,

I'm a boy, what did you expect?
but he refused to believe that his eye was dirty. Luckily no other parents were there or I probably would have been reported for having a child with an unexplainable black eye:

you should see the other guy!
Thankfully, diaper wipes work on more than just baby's bum. He was cleaned up in time to make a respectable appearance at the grocery store. Let this be a lesson to parents out there, even a cold grill provides a hazard to your child!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taken Home from the Library

Last week Jacob made it through another craft and came out smiling. The theme of pajama time was Grandparents. The craft was a hug:

The barely visible text is "I love you this much!"
Jacob tried to model it for me when he got home:

Check out the heart hiding behind the left hand!
It's a little big to hold out easily but he was very proud. He hasn't decided which grandparent to give it to. Possibly he'll forget about it before he sees any of them.

The day after Jacob's craft, I received an email from the staff at East Columbia. I had been participating in the summer reading program, submitting the titles I've been reading along with short reviews. At the end of the summer, they drew for prizes, and I won a tote bag full of books and other fun items:

What a haul!
Six books, three post-it note pads, a reading light, a lanyard, two CDs of audio book samples, a notebook, a key ring, a free ticket to Toby's Dinner Theater, a bookmark, a carbine clip, and (of course) a tote bag. Pretty awesome! I'll definitely participate next year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cry Room Chronicles XIII

It's been a rainy, sleepy Sunday today. We didn't make it to the usual 8 a.m. Mass and were quite content to go to the 9:30 service. A whole different crowd awaited us in the children's chapel.

And I do mean "crowd." The total number of kids must have been nine or ten, though some drifted in and out with their parents. Motion was the only constant today. Kids were ricocheting off walls, doors, chairs, and other children. No harm was done but we parents were certainly keeping a close eye on things. Lucy met another girl who seemed a little bit older but was about the same size. They were pretty happy staring at each other and handing items back and forth. Jacob, as usual, found a book and read it out loud. Then he found The Step-By-Step Bible which kept him occupied for quite some time. He almost missed the collection. 9:30 is an official children's chapel Mass so the usher came with a basket. And we had to remind him about the sign of peace. He shook everybody's hand. There were no dinosaurs this week, alas.

The 9:30 Mass also has contemporary music, so Jacob wanted to hang around after Communion to watch the musicians and singers for the rest of the service. Then he asked to go to the playground and was eventually convinced that the playground, like his idea, was all wet. He was content to come home for a snack and playing in the basement, i.e. with the new PlayStation2 Rock Band drum kit. But that's a story for another blog.

The most interesting thing the priest said during the sermon (or at least, the most interesting thing I heard) was how people that you find annoying probably find you annoying too. I almost facetiously asked Jacob if he found me annoying but refrained. I'm sure I get on his nerves, especially when he says things like, "No Daddy, I want Mommy," or "Daddy, go in kitchen/upstairs/over there and let me play by myself" or "No diaper change, nnnoooooo!" Sometimes I comply with his wishes but not always. Diaper changes usually aren't negotiable. Jacob is only annoying to me at certain times, but those times definitely feel more significant than perhaps they really are. We're usually back to normal pretty soon.

The context for the priest's comment was the parable of the Prodigal Son, whose brother is upset that the father throws a big party for the return of a ne'r-do-well. Surely both brothers got on one another's nerves and maybe even made their father upset. Nevertheless, the father is a great example of unconditional love for both sons. It can be tough to see past the annoyance to the person, but that other person has the same struggle. Loving your enemies is tough when they seem so unlovable. Therein lies the true call to conversion, to seek to have a better heart, to ask the Lord to take away your stony heart for something far better. May we all answer that call when it comes to us.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New playground discovered in Odenton!

Since Labor Day is a holiday, many events during the week are pushed back a day. Our recycling and trash pick ups are all delayed (the poor garbage men will have to get our trash on Saturday; it doesn't seem like they really get a day off). Another effected event is new comics day, which is usually on Wednesday, but this week is Thursday. So we went to Annapolis to get some fresh reads for Daddy.

Usually the kids are inclined to fall asleep on the way there (even though it is less than half an hour to the comic shop), so I've been looking for stops along the way to entertain them. There's a library we've gone to a couple of times; sometimes we go early and hang out at the Annapolis Mall playground; we've gone to the  National Cryptologic Museum; we've gone to the National Vigilance Park at Fort Meade. Today, we discovered a hidden playground in Odenton, Maryland, thanks to this list.

The Seven Oaks Community Center Playground is just a stone's throw from Route 175 and Fort Meade. The parking lot enterance looks like it's for a row of townhouses, but off to the left is the community center and pool. Driving up to the pool, careful observation shows the playground on the far side of the pool. After walking around the empty pool (Labor Day is usually the cut off for swimming in these parts, especially weekday day time outdoor swimming), we found the playground. It had a fair amount of equipment,

Jacob loved the merry-go-round til Daddy went too fast

including a ride on plane and bus,

Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times
Jacob's first school bus ride!
and a swing set!

Lucy's favorite part of any park
The children enjoyed it very much and we had it all to ourselves, presumably because no one knows about it. Hopefully it will stay that way unless some idiot starts blogging about how great it is. We will probably go back again in the future.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cry Room Chronicles XII

The usual suspects were in the children's chapel for today's 8 a.m. Mass at St. Louis: James and Colin with their parents, Timmy with his parents, and Jacob and Lucy with their parents (otherwise known as "us"). The usual behavior was exhibited: Jacob reading loudly from books (I asked him to whisper at one point; Jacob replied, "Shh, Daddy, I'm reading books"); Lucy wandering from here to there, dragging items off the shelves and handing them out (she handed several books to Colin and James who learned to say thank you!); meandering and dinosaur play from James and Colin.

Unusual behavior was on display too. Timmy was pretty kranky for some unknown reason. He lost his playground privileges this week. Most of the kids also tried to leave the room at one point or another. Occasionally two of them tried to open the door at the same time. Luckily, their efforts weren't coordinated enough to achieve success. When it finally was time to go upstairs for communion, first Jacob took off fast, then Colin, then Lucy, then James. Parents were having a tough time coordinating who was keeping up with whom. Both Jacob and Lucy wanted to walk up the aisle by themselves for communion. The problem with reigning in such behavior is fear of making a scene right at a most solemn moment in Mass. I had Jacob with me, so I gave him as much leeway as I could. Angie let Lucy walk but held hands with her. Walking back, Jacob wanted to check out the musicians not realizing the 8 a.m. Mass has only an organist. Since the choir's risers were empty, we (by "we" I mean "he") decided to sit there. Fortunately a second collection for Peter's Pence was taken and Jacob wanted to put some money in the basket. We had to walk back down to the pews to make our donation. That started the ball rolling back towards the children's chapel. Unfortunately, the ball stopped rolling and I had to pick up Jacob and carry him part way. He didn't protest verbally, which was a comfort to me as I walked past the pews. If only everyone was more pious and had their heads bowed in prayer rather than watching us making our exit.

The first line of today's first reading is "Who can know God's counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?" (Wisdom, 9:13) Quite appropriate for us in the children's chapel, because there was a lot of meandering, loud book reading and dino play during the sermon. I remember the first part, where Father described how at the previous Mass a parishioner asked for something inspiring and he felt the pressure to deliver. At this Mass, no one made such a request; nevertheless, he asked that we take a silent moment to pray that he would say something inspiring. I remember having that silent moment of prayer, but remember nothing else from the sermon after that. I hope someone was inspired. I'm inspired to pay better attention next week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reading is Fun for Everyone

Today, Jacob and Lucy decided to read books in her room. Or should I say read a book in her room. Pat the Bunnywas their selection. Conveniently we have two copies of the book and two rocking chairs next to each other:
We love to read and pose for cute photos
At one point, Lucy discovered that they were both reading the same book:
Hey, I hope he doesn't give away the ending!
Alas, she wasn't too happy about this and decided to take it out on the book:
Too bad she didn't realize Jacob had moved on to another book
Is this another sign of competition among them? I hope it leads to more reading, not less.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Snack Attack!

Jacob's post-dinner snack was the last of the zucchini muffins. He loves them, surely not realizing the main ingredient is a vegetable. A green one, no less. They are tasty and the green is barely visible. Much more visible are the raisins, a food that is a delight to every child.

He was down to his last chunk of muffin, so I asked if I could have a bite. I leaned over with my mouth open. He passed the chunk in front of me and put it straight into his mouth. He laughed through a full mouth. I put my head down in mock sorrow. He patted my head in sympathy. Looking up, I asked him, "Did you get any muffin in my hair?" Jacob replied, "No, I didn't get muffin in your hair." "Oh, my hair is clean, then." Jacob's response was, "No, I got crumbs in your hair!" We all had a good laugh at that.