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Coming Soon..

Thanks to the generosity of my brother, computer hacker, web developer and web host extraordinaire, we’re shortly going to be moving our nascent blog to:

http://www.thecrabtree.net

We’ll let you know when the move becomes final.

Sadness for the Patriarch

Did you happen to see His All Holiness’ 60 minutes interview?  I was very impressed by Patriarch Bartholomew’s humility and candor – too often he comes across the wrong way when he’s in the West courting secular elites for things like environmental issues or other political things.  The interview really reveals his spirituality, his piety, and a small part of the sufferings that the “Ecumenical Patriarch” must daily undergo in a city that is no longer even nominally Christian.  Today we find out just how willing the Turkish authorities are to crucify His All Holiness– his statements about feeling “crucified” and being a “second-class citizen” (things all too obvious anyway) were targeted by the Turkish government.  Like bullies, they are asking him today for a “clarification” of these statements… a stark reminder that freedom to speak one’s mind is not a “given” in other places of the world as it is in America.  How often we take it for granted!

Just in case you missed it, here’s the interview:

The interviews are good, despite some historical inaccuracies.  Before seeing some of the Christian treasures of Turkey, I thought the best move would be for the Patriarch to officially relocate to Mt. Athos.  This seems impossible to me, now.

O Lord, protect and preserve Patriarch Bartholomew through the prayers of Thy Most-Pure Mother and all the saints, Amen.

Forgive the hiatus on our blog!  We have big plans to turn this into an active blog now that things have stabilized for our family. For those interested, what follows is a brief recounting of the events during the past year.

April 22, 2009: Arlie’s pregnancy itching worried her doctors enough to do a stress test and draw her blood. We went home thinking things were fine, but later that day Arlie received a call from them indicating what we had most feared– the itching was a symptom of cholestasis, where the bile salts of the liver come through the muscle, causing the intense itching. They told her to go right away to Akron General Hospital to have more testing done. We arrived there for what was supposed to be a couple hours’ monitoring, but further tests indicated that it would be best to keep Arlie under constant monitoring and deliver the baby early, because her condition was associated with a high risk of stillbirth. She was 33 weeks pregnant at that point. The doctors gave Arlie steroid shots to accelerate baby’s lung maturity.

April 23, 2009: Arlie had another ultrasound to check up on baby boy, but the technician and doctor noticed an anomaly that was not present at the 20 week ultrasound: a shifted heart. They took Arlie into another room with a more sophisticated ultrasound machine, and it showed them that baby has a diaphragmatic hernia: a hole in baby’s diaphragm that allows bowel, stomach, and other organs to come up into the chest cavity. This was a very difficult day for us. A Muslim doctor came into our room to tell us all of the things that could go wrong: mortality rates are high for this condition, and even if he lived he’d be on a ventilator, or possibly even ECMO (a sophisticated, and very invasive, way to oxygenate the baby’s blood).

April 24-May 13, 2009: Arlie is on bed rest with constant monitoring in her hospital room for the next three weeks, with daily bio-physical profiles on the baby. Meanwhile, Isaac has to take care of the dogs at home, study for law school finals, and stay with his sick wife and baby at the hospital. We get visits from family and friends, and we pray, trying to trust God– that He will work all things to His glory and give us the Grace to bear whatever happens. At this point we had tied a sacred relic from the Athonite monastery of Vatopedi around Arlie’s belly. It was a strip of cloth which has itself been placed upon the holy belt of the Mother of God which is kept there. This particular relic had come to us a couple months before the ordeal had begun– a friend who had stayed on Mt. Athos for three months spent a night with us on his way up to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. He gave us that little relic and a stone from the Holy Mountain. All this time, our priests were coming to visit us along with Church family. Our team of doctors met with us every day. The plan was to keep waiting, keep monitoring the baby. They wanted to keep him in as long as it remained safe to do so, to give his lungs a chance to develop. There were positive signs all along– the fact that the condition hadn’t been noticed at 20 weeks was a good sign that his lungs had had the chance to develop somewhat before the condition. Isaac managed to pass all of his finals, having studied for the most part in the spare bed next to Arlie’s, in a double room which the nurses had kept as a single for us, out of their deep kindness and generosity.

May 14, 2009: The doctors all agreed that the best thing was to induce labor in the morning and get the baby out.  Arlie’s labor was difficult– the pitocin was brutal on her and the contractions were painfully intense. Once it was time to push, though, he was out in only three pushes! We saw him come out and he made a little cry.  The doctors and nurses took him into the next room where the team was doing all sorts of things to stabilize him. Arlie was wheeled back into another room where we wait and wait to see him. Our priest had given us his blessing to baptize him if he was born alive, since his situation was so serious.  His godfather, David, was there with us when they finally wheeled his big incubation transport thing into our room. He was hooked up to so many things!   Isaac used a bottle of holy water, baptizing with three little pourings on the head and the invocation of the Holy Trinity after the Orthodox manner (immersion was of course out of the question). Many of the team had come into the room to watch, and many people were crying.

Robby was then taken to Akron Children’s Hospital NICU, and Arlie had to stay in her bed to recover to make sure her liver condition was resolved. Isaac and David, after getting Arlie settled back into her room, went to see the baby boy.

May 15-18, 2009: Robert’s condition continued to improve. His blood oxygen levels were so good that they began to allow him to breath room air through the ventilator, and started to talk about when to do his surgery.   The minimum time they wait for anyone with this condition is five days– which is all they waited for Robby.

May 19, 2009: Surgery in the morning. Isaac’s mother flew in from St. Louis to see the baby, along with his sister, brother-in-law , and their baby boy.  The surgeon comes back to us in the waiting room after three hours– it was succesful! He went through it with flying colors, and the hole was a mere four centimeters. This allowed the surgeon– once he had put the stomach and bowels back in the abdomen– to simply sew it up without the use of a gortex patch. That means his chances of re-herniation are much lower than they would have otherwise been. They also removed his appendix, a standard procedure in this situation, and LADS– a procedure where they correct the mal-rotation of his intestines. Isaac, unable to contain himself, hugs the surgeon.

Incidentally this day was not done with troubles for us. On our way back to the NICU from a brief return home we were rear-ended by a man driving a Lexus, going about 30 miles an hour, trying to make it through the yellow light. Robby of course was still in the hospital– thank God– because we’re hit hard.  The man was kind and apologetic, however.  His insurance paid for our car’s repair, our rental car, and a replacement for the car seat which we had just installed that day.

May 23, 2009: Our priest and his matushka came to visit and pray the Eighth Day naming prayers over Robert. This was still the Paschal season for us Orthodox, so as we venerate the Cross, he greeted us with “Christ is Risen,” to which we say, “Indeed He is Risen!” Fr. Nicholas placed the Cross up next to Robert’s incubation crib and said, “Christ is Risen!” to which Robert immediately replied with a huge kick!  That’s our boy!

May 24, 2009: Arlie’s 26th birthday. She’s been out of the hospital herself now for several days and we’re constantly over at the NICU. We actually stay at the hospital’s family center for a few nights because Zac’s mother and sister were both staying at the little apartment, getting it ready and buying stuff for baby (we had canceled our baby showers once Arlie had been hospitalized). Family eventually leaves and we get to stay in our own bed, while visiting Robert at the hospital all day.

We should also mention at this point that the Muslim doctor came to us during rounds with his medical team. Whereas once he had been the grim bearer of sad news, he was now all smiles. He told us, “The prayers are working!” Undeniably they were. Robert continued to recover, eventually allowing us to hold him. He loses his ventilator and one by one his medicines are weaned. At this point we know we’re going to get him home and we have to watch all of these videos in the NICU about caring for the baby.

June 2, 2009: Robert comes home! We waited 21 days since his birth for this! Our little Crabtree-sprout sure had changed our lives!

July 12, 2009: This is the Sunday when Robert was “churched” along with Arlie. For him, this involved everything but baptism– prayers, chrismation, communion. There was a little bit more of a waiting period than usual because of his being medically fragile. He had gotten MRSA on a bed sore while paralyzed in the hospital, which was cured with strong antibiotics. Isaac’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew came up for it, along with Arlie’s sister and father. Our parish threw us a lavish shower afterward, since Arlie’s hospitalization had cancelled her earlier planned ones.

Late August 2009: What seemed at first to be a stomach virus for Robby turned out to be something more serious: scar tissue had developed in his intestines from the surgery and these several blockages prevented him from keeping any food down.  His surgery is performed by the same great surgeon that had corrected the hernia, and just as before he recovered very quickly thanks to everyone’s prayers.

September 2009: The family moves to St. Louis, now that Isaac had finished law school.  However, we soon get more tragic news: Arlie’s mother has stage IV breast cancer that had moved to various other parts of her body.  She began chemotherapy shortly after diagnosis and she continues to show improvement, but the doctors were clear that such a course of action was not a cure.

To present day: Now that we’re all in St. Louis, Isaac studies everyday for the Missouri Bar Exam in February.  Little Robby is doing great… his doctors here are absolutely amazed at how healthy he is– 98th-percentile in weight (this after having spent a month of his life in hospitals on artificial nutrition) and 75th-percentile in height.  He laughs and smiles, sits up, rolls over, can almost crawl, and has begun to mimic syllables.

Glory to God for His great and rich mercy toward us.  We’re back at our old parish in St. Louis, a thriving community (we mean it– lots of young families– the children now outnumber the adults) under the Russian Church Abroad.  We look forward to making this blog an active one, and we ask our few readers’ forgiveness for the long hiatus.  Below are a few photos from this previous year.

Dumbing Us Down

My wife and I have decided to homeschool the children God gives us.  We decided this for a number of reasons, but one enormous factor was John Taylor Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down.  A short read, the book delves into the philosophical foundations for modern public education, turning them on their heads and exposing all of their deficiencies.

Gatto addresses several subjects:

– Age Segregation:  He shows how segregating children by age for the vast majority of their waking hours is a disservice to any real attempt to educate.  Imagine the absurdity of sending your child to a school where 99% of his teachers only knew as much or less than he did.  But, Gatto argues, this is precisely what we already do, and we have learned the lesson so well that we now have reservations for the old, too.

– The lessons of bells and grades:  Bells teach children that no subject is so important that it cannot be immediately dropped once a bell is rung.  Grades are arbitrary, and yet we make children base their lives, interests, and self-respect on these evaluations from “experts.”

– Privacy:  Children get no time to themselves, to think for themselves, to examine their lives, etc.  After public school comes homework, then television or other activities that don’t help children to cultivate reflection about who they are.  What we need is less school, he says, and more independent study, community service, large doses of solitude, and a thousand different apprenticeships with adults of all walks of life.

– Dependence:  Public education has become adept at “curing” children of their innate love of learning.  Better to let an expert handle what will be learned, read, thought, etc.  We are a nation that now relies upon experts in much the same way.  The society of self-educators is extinct.

– Monopoly: the certification of “experts” in teaching is, in Gatto’s words, “a scam and a fraud.”  He argues that this system has produced disastrous results like teachers unions, whose primary goal is self-preservation, not education of students.  Gatto argues that market forces and private individuals are a much better way to produce genuinely educated communities.  He cites studies which show the shameful results of the current system.

The book has so many powerful ideas– I’m so glad I came across it and read it with my wife before my children were born.  I’m sending copies to all my family who will listen.

Sanctity of Life

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5

As parents it is essential to talk to our children about the sanctity of life.  Does anyone have ideas about how to do that (age appropriate)?  We couldn’t make it this year to the March for Life, but we are praying for those who are travelling to our nation’s capital for the event.   I found a great Orthodox prayer service available here: Prayer and Supplication service for the Victims of Abortion.  It’s a shame that the “civil rights” folks, for the most part, are blinded to such a violation of civil rights!

Also it is important that if you are not aware of FOCA to educate yourself about its “change,” and if you feel like I do, sign the petition.

Some more great links for the day:

National Sanctity of Human Life Day proclamation by President Bush

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah for Sanctity of Life Sunday

wreath_blueTomorrow is finally yolka at our parish.  Yolka, in Russian, literally means evergreen tree and has come to mean Christmas pageant.  Songs, readings, skits, and poems are preformed by the Sunday school classes.  Last year my husband and I led our 7th and 8th grade class in the Legend of the Candy Cane.  The kids each read a bit about what the candy cane represented and how it came about.  This year our class is explaining the meaning behind the classic Christmas song, the twelve days of Christmas.

Many people think of the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, as a secular song like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snow Man, but it was first used as a way to teach children the basics of the Christian faith.

1st DAY:  On the first day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  The first day of Christmas, Dec. 25, is the Nativity of Christ— He is the Partridge in a Pear Tree.  A Partridge hen symbolizes Christ who said in the Gospels, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  The Pear Tree refers to the Lord’s ultimate victory on the Tree of the Cross, conquering sin, death, and the devil.

2nd DAY:  On the second day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Two Turtledoves…  The Two Turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments, which both bear witness to the coming of Christ, as he told his two followers on the Road to Emmaus: “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

3rd DAY:  On the third day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Three French Hens…  The Three French Hens are the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love.  Like the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Church:  “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

4th DAY:  On the fourth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Four Calling Birds…  The Four Calling Birds are the Four Gospels of the New Testament, which call out to the whole word with the message of salvation in Christ.

5th DAY:  On the fifth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Five Golden Rings…  The five golden rings are the first five books of the Old Testament, the Penteteuch (PENT-a-TOUK), written by the Prophet Moses, which explains God’s creation of the world, mankind’s fall from Grace into sin and death, and the promise of a Redeemer to bring Adam and his children back to God.  Christ told the Pharisees, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”

6th DAY:  On the sixth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Six Geese-a-Laying…  The Six Geese-a-Laying represent the six days of Genesis in which God created the world, and continues to sustain it in His providence and power.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

7th DAY:  On the seventh day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Seven Swans-a-Swimming…  The Seven Swans-a-Swimming symbolize the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion.

8th DAY:  On the eighth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Eight Maids-a-Milking…  The Eight Maids-a-Milking are the Lord’s Eight Beatitudes:
1 Blessed are the Poor in Spirit…
2 Blessed are those who mourn…
3 Blessed are the meek…
4 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…
5 Blessed are the merciful…
6 Blessed are the pure in heart…
7 Blessed are the peacemakers…
8 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

9th DAY:  On the ninth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Nine Ladies Dancing…  The Nine Ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit from the book of Galatians:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”

10th DAY:  On the tenth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Ten Lords-a-Leaping…  The Ten Lords-a-Leaping symbolize the Ten Commandments by which we fulfill the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all of our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

11th DAY:  On the eleventh day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Eleven Pipers Piping…  The Eleven Pipers Piping are the eleven faithful apostles, after Judas betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.  As the Psalms say of the Apostles:  “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

12th DAY:  On the twelfth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, Twelve Drummers Drumming…  The Twelve Drummers Drumming represent the twelve articles of the Nicene Creed.  The Creed, regular like the beating of a drum, sets forth the Orthodox faith upon which the Church is founded.

On each of the Twelve Days, it was the True Love who gave us each of these gifts…

Our True Love is God, the Lover of Mankind, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Initial Post

our weddingOver the past few weeks I’ve been reading blogs written by mothers from all walks of life.  Most of these have been by women who share my faith, Orthodox Christianity.  My eagerness to see how other Christian women walk in their daily lives is one more way of preparing for my own journey of motherhood.  My husband graduates law school in the spring, and we are expecting our first child in June, for which we couldn’t be more excited!  There is so much to do before baby is with us– I’m overwhelmed!  I hope that by joining this community of online Christian mothers I can learn some things before baby arrives.  I want to use this blog as a way to chronicle our journey as a new family.

Today as I was doing my blog search I came across Passionate Homemaking.  They are going to begin a book study February 1st on Prac­tic­ing Hos­pi­tal­ity: The Joy of Serv­ing Others by Pat Ennis & Lisa Tat­lock.  This looks like an interesting read so I entered into their giveaway.  If you have a few seconds, comment on their post and enter yourself.  A book study like this will be a great way for me to jump start my blog.