More ice pictures!

Here are a few pictures I took right outside of our school door at noon, 2 days after the icestorm!

The good teacher that I am, taking pictures of my kids who are about to crack their heads on the ice.

The good teacher that I am, taking pictures of my kids who are about to crack their heads on the ice.

All of the major walkways, even into the grocery store, look like this

All of the major walkways, even into the grocery store, look like this

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Ice Storm!

On Monday morning began the miserably cold drizzle. By Tuesday, the drizzle had been combined with a high of 30 degrees. Tuesday night until Wednesday, the ice/rain stormed down (it sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard! Like thousands of nails being shot down onto the grass!). Schools were either canceled or let out early on Tuesday, and completely canceled on Wednesday to avoid massive car accidents. As it was, there had already been 78 in Dallas within the span of 2 hours on Tuesday morning!

But it was a cool experience, especially since Jesse and I got to stay home Wednesday and watch movies in a toasty warm house. Driving around later that day once the temperature had warmed up to around 35 (which actually melted some of the ice, believe it or not!) was a sight to see. Apparently, ice is hard to photograph, seeing as it is clear, but if you can just picture every single tree branch and blade of grass covered in a thin sheet of glass-like ice, along with icicles hanging from everything, you can get an idea of what it was like! MUCH cooler than snow, if you ask me! Apparently freezing rain occurs in parts of the country where there are ups and downs of cold and warm weather in the winter. That’s Dallas alright! If it were cold ALL the time, the rain would have turned to snow before it made it to us.

This morning was not as treacherous, despite the fact that it only made it to 25 degrees as I was driving in to work, but it was like a Fairy Winter Wonderland. A thin sheet of powdery white covered every rooftop, every embankment and lawn. It took the occasional patch of ice on the freeway (yikes! Talk about a wake up jolt!) to startle me out of the beauty of it all.

Here are some pictures of the storm yesterday. Keep in mind, this is after 10 hours of melting!

All the trees looked like this
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All of the cars in our complex looked like this

This table actually used to be clear

This table actually used to be clear

The walk in to Taco Bell was very slippery

The walk in to Taco Bell was very slippery

“I’m a Christian!”

Yesterday, the newly-illumined Christopher had his first communion. I won the battle with Jesse for rights as to who got to take him up to the chalice for the first time (actually, Jesse is so nice that he pretty much conceded it to me within a few seconds). I had a lady in the choir take a few pictures for me.

Courtney handing Christopher off to me

Courtney handing Christopher off to me

I am singing hymns to Christopher to prepare him for communion ;)

I am singing hymns to Christopher to prepare him for communion 😉

Demetrios helping out

Demetrios helping out

Apparently, Christ's body and blood tastes a little funny to Topher

Apparently, Christ's body and blood tastes a little funny to Topher

Later on, we went out to Panera Bread with the Unruh family. While we were there, Topher woke up from his nap in one of the most cheerful and attentive states I have ever seen him.

This is how he woke up!

This is how he woke up!

A good Christian picture, featuring his new cross and his baptism clothes

A good Christian picture, featuring his new cross and his baptism clothes

Teaching Topher how to pray!

Teaching Topher how to pray!

Happy with Mommy

Happy with Mommy

Christopher’s Baptism!

Today was Christopher’s Baptism. Both the Unruh and the Voss families were able to fly in for the event. The Snells, Gaspards, Trants, Pothoffs and Katy and Curtis were also there. Everyone was joyful and excited.

Except for Christopher.

I knew it was trouble when Courtney handed me Christopher and said, “He’s cranky and he hasn’t slept or eaten. Good luck!”

I’ve decided that I am going to write a list of precautions for any future godparents out there. Hopefully these will save you much grief.

Things Not To Do As A Godparent During the Baptism:

1. Don’t light your sweater on fire with your godchild’s candle.

2. Don’t juggle the baby’s pacifier 15 times behind the priest’s back.

3. Don’t let the pacifier get lost in the altar

4. Don’t worry about getting the baby comfortable- he’s nude and being dunked. He’s not going to be happy.

5. Don’t expect to regain your hearing until the next day.

Here are a few pictures.

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I'm laughing at Christopher for scratching himself and screaming as a result

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The only time Christopher decided to stop screaming was after he became a member of St. Seraphim 🙂

Courtney retrieving Christopher after Fr. Joe churched him

I am aware that this looks as though Fr. Joe dropped Christopher- however, this is just Courtney retrieving him after he was churched

The ending prayers

The ending prayers

Crusader Memories

There was a story recently in the news here in Dallas about a girl’s high school basketball team who beat another school 100-0. They did not put their second string in or let up their press until the 4th quarter. Some spectators observed that it simply become a “lay-up” drill. Since then, the school’s principal (who is interested in Orthodoxy and has been attending St. Seraphim recently) has formally apologized for the down-right unsportsmanlike behavior, and has even offered to forfeit the game. You can read about it here.

This brought back lots of memories from my own high school basketball experience. During my senior year, our team was so much better than the rest of our small CVS league that we frequently blew teams out by over 60 points, even with our 2nd string. Our coach, Greg Hardie, did a good job of not only immediately pulling our press, but also using the game as an opportunity to test new plays and defense formations that we were entirely unfamiliar with. In this way, the game became an opportunity for both teams to grow. Despite these efforts, our team was almost always accused of being unsportsmanlike, like in a game where we beat Maricopa 85-14, for example.

So it’s easy to see why this game made national news, especially when you consider that the team they beat was a school for children with mental disabilities, with a total of only 20 girls in their entire high school. It not only gives Christian schools a bad name (although, I would have to say, in my own experience Christian schools were often much nastier in behavior than anyone else), but also Christians in general.

However, on my way to work this morning, I heard the most touching Sports Illustrated article on the radio about a different example of Christian sportsmanship. The incident occurred this last November in Grapevine, TX, the town next to us. I am putting it here- feel free to forward it to anyone you know who would tear up at an incredible Sports Story (not that I did…:) I feel as though they should make a movie out of this.

High school football is big in America, but I suppose there is no place where it is bigger than in Texas. Friday nights there are legend.
The fans scream; the stands are packed; cheerleaders with pom-poms jump and sway to the beat of the school band and everybody joins in the chants and stomps their feet on the metal stands until you are sure they will collapse.
This is the frenzy of Texas high school football.
But there is one football team in Texas that is a little different. When they play on Friday night, their stands are empty, no band, no cheerleaders, no mass of parents or townsfolk wearing the school colors and waving banners and flags. They take the field without anyone cheering them on. When they score a touchdown, which rarely happens, there is no wild celebration behind them… All of it seems hollow and muffled in contrast to the tidal wave of roars and drums and chants that come from the opposing side.
They are the Tornadoes of the Gainesville State School, a fenced, maximum-security facility. The young men who go to Gainesville State are there because they have made some major mistakes in their lives. But the players who are on the team are there because they have worked hard and have earned enough good behavior points that gives them the privilege to leave the facility and play football on Friday nights—always an away game for them—always a home game for their opponents—and almost always a loss. They don’t have a weight program or training equipment or high-paid coaches and assistants. They don’t have a large pool of players to draw from. The school has 275 boys, but many are too old or too young or can’t or don’t meet the “criteria” to play. And they don’t have the support of a town and a mass of parents and family and reporters and bands and cheerleaders.
That is, until November 7th. Something changed. They played Grapevine Faith Christian School.
A few days before the game, the Gainesville coach, Mark Williams received a call from Faith Christian coach, Kris Hogan, asking him if it would be okay if Faith formed a “spirit” line for his team when they ran on the field. Mark said, “Sure, that would be a real encouragement to the kids.” He thought that the line would consist of a couple of the JV cheerleaders, but when they took the field, there were a hundred people in it and it stretched to the 40-yard line, filled with Faith Christian parents, fans and varsity cheerleaders, complete with a banner at the end for them to burst through that read “Go Tornadoes!”. And then, those parents and fans sat in the stands behind the Gainesville players and when the Tornadoes broke the huddle and went up to the line they could hear people cheering for them, by name. When they got a first down, “their” fans erupted.
You see, coach Hogan had sent an email out to the Faith Christian parents and students asking them to consider doing something kind for these young men, many who didn’t know what it meant to have a mom and dad who cared, many who felt the world was against them, not for them. Hogan asked that they simply send a message that these boys were “just as valuable as any other person on earth.”
So half of the Faith Christian fans were now sitting on the visitor’s side of the field, cheering for the Gainesville team, and in some cases, against their own sons. –Cheering for a team decked out in mismatched old uniforms and helmets. –Cheering for boys who wouldn’t go home that night and have a smiling dad slap him on the back and feel his mom put her arms around him and say “I’m so proud of you son!” –Cheering for the underdog.

This was a Friday night like no other for the Tornadoes. In the locker room, the players were confused.

“Why are they cheerin’ for us, coach?”

“Because, men, they want to encourage you. They want you to know that they care about you…that you have value.”
Coach Williams said the boys were stunned. For many of these kids, it may have been the first time that anyone had shown them, so visibly, unconditional love.
They were down 33 to nothing at the half. Williams encouraged his team to set a goal for the second half: to score a touchdown against this vastly superior team. And when the boys from the State School took the field again, with their fans cheering them on, everything started to click. And they did score. Not once but twice.
And the fans went wild.
Coach Williams was asked what the bus ride was like on the way home and he laughed and said that they were all asleep—their bellies were full. That’s because after the game, the parents brought a whole bunch of food over to the guys: hamburgers, fries, candy, sodas…and included in the meal sack was a Bible and a personal letter of encouragement from a Faith Christian player. But then, he said, they formed a line for us out to the bus. And the parents patted them on the back and said, “Nice game” and “Look forward to seeing you guys next time.”
As they left the field that night, Coach Williams grabbed Coach Hogan and said to him: “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.”

Buddy and Jason Meet Dallas

This last Thursday evening, Buddy and Jason, two of our bestest friends from California, flew in to spend the weekend with us in Dallas. We may have worn them out, as we tried to pack everything Dallas had to offer into one weekend.

On Friday, the boys came to see me teach a Swing Dancing class at St. Peter’s. The kids were even so kind as to proudly show off their “line-dancing” skills. Later that evening we all hung out with the Unruhs and Christine. Since it was only 30 degrees outside, the girls were a little bit surprised that the boys wanted to go out on our porch and smoke. To prepare themselves for this endeavor, they each bundled up in about 3 different jackets and blankets. Christine, Courtney, Topher and I stayed in, of course, to watch “You’ve Got Mail”. All 4 of us ended up falling asleep on the couch or floor by the time the boys were finally done talking at around 3 am.

On Saturday morning, after I had taught a few piano lessons, we all went over the Unruhs for “Omelette Saturday”. This was a tradition started by the Unruhs after the big Omelette Breakfast that we went to at our old apartment complex. From there, we left the Unruhs to take the scenic route of Dallas. We stopped and bought lunch at a place called “Eatzi’s“, which is basically a gourmet deli full of the best desserts and sandwiches you could possibly imagine. From there, we went to Vespers at St. Seraphim, and then invited a bunch of friends from church to eat dinner with our friends at La Madeleine’s where we stayed until midnight.

Sunday morning, of course, was spent at church. Christine was the official Christopher nanny, which is a hazardous job. Apparently, hearing the cherubimic hymn makes him pee, a fact which Courtney had failed to mention to Christine. And sometimes, his diaper cannot contain all of it. Her poor skirt got a good dose of what it feels like for Topher to “let go of all earthly cares” !

Afterwards, we spent a while at the parish hall introducing them to our church friends and browsing the massive St. Seraphim bookstore. For lunch, we went out with the Unruhs and church friends to my favorite restaurant in Dallas, Gloria’s, where we got embarrassingly engrossed in a professional bowling tournament while we were stuffing our faces with El Salvadorian food. When we were done, the boys went and bought fresh fruit to make homemade pies while I went with Jenny, Karen and Heather to a choir party.

When evening came, we all reconvened at our house for a belated “birthday party” for Jesse. It has been a tradition many years running that Jesse’s birthday become an occasion for reunion. Since they boys were in town and Christine lives only 3 hours away, we had decided upon this weekend. Courtney made potato skins and hot croissant sandwiches. For dessert, we munched on 3 different flavors of homemade pie and drank the occasional gin and tonic handed us by Buddy. After the Unruhs left, Jesse, Buddy, Jason and I continued to talk for several hours as they finished off a bottle of Bourbon. I, of course, just watched and laughed as Jason kept needing to pee.

The next and final full day of their trip, Monday, we all slept in. This was partly due to the alcohol- Buddy woke up on our couch and couldn’t remember how he got there 🙂 At around 11am, we met the Unruhs and Christine at The Waffle House for an old fashioned southern breakfast. We had so many plates of food that a few of us had to split up and go to sit at other tables.

While everyone else hung out at the Unruhs, I bought curtains for my friend Karen and went to workout. The rest of the details of their afternoon I heard second-hand, as I had a few piano lessons to teach and was not with them. After talking for a while, the Unruhs and the boys went on a long walk all around Euless since the weather was gorgeous. Jesse then took the boys to some good Texas BBQ and to hang out their Mecca.

The last event of our trip was re-convening at a fun pub in Addison called, The Flying Saucer with some church friends. Courtney even got her mom to fly up from San Antonio to babysit for the evening! Having a dad who works for Southwest sure pays off! It was $2.75 pint night, so even I had a pint of beer. Or half of one. When he wasn’t being hit on by our waitress, Buddy finished the rest of mine for me! But at least I tried.

All in all, it was a wonderful 4 day weekend. We are very grateful to have such wonderful friends who would make the trip all the way out to Dallas just to hang. This isn’t to knock anyone who HASN’T come to visit us, we know there are constraints and that life happens. We are just immensely grateful that the Lord has blessed us, both with friends who still care about us back in CA even after being gone for 2 years, and with friends who love to be with us here in Dallas. Both groups got along so well together this weekend, that an outside observer might not be able to tell which was which 🙂

Walk Down Memory Lane

I was going through some files on my computer today and I found some old pictures. I began thinking about the past and how we should use it to connect us to the present. Lest I’m trite before I fully prepare my thoughts, I will just leave you with the pictures. Enjoy!

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My 4th Birthday at Disneyland

Jesse and I at Big Sur when we were little

Jesse and I at Big Sur when we were little

Tess and I when we were 5!

Tess and I when we were 5!

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I think this says it all. Jesse was in the paper for being MVP. I, however, was the Most Improved 🙂

Oh my goodness, I can't believe I still have this! And you thought I look young NOW!

Oh my goodness, I can't believe I still have this! And you thought I look young NOW!

At a pool party in the 10th grade

At a pool party in the 10th grade

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Haha, I was a cheerleader! See if you can find me 🙂

Jesse and Paul rocking out at Youth Group

Jesse and Paul rocking out at Youth Group

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This picture is only appropriate because we are holding our shirts down-I mean up:)

Best Friends having a sleepover

Best Friends having a sleepover in High School

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My Senior Picture

Our Dinner with the Metropolitan

On Sunday night, Jesse, Michael, Courtney and I were invited to dinner at the Metropolitan of the OCA‘s condo in Dallas. This is the same man who was ordained to be a Bishop at our church in November. The dinner was a very special event, for we were surrounded by famous monks and nuns from around the world, some of whom were here to found 2 new monasteries in the US.

One was Sister Aemilane, a woman with an incredible story. To get the full impact, you would have to read her interview here, but I will give you the summary which I heard from both her and Brother Gregory. Sister Aemilane, before she became a nun, was a PhD student at Harvard University. She was an outspoken feminist, until one day she was involved in the Bridge that collapsed at the Hyatt in Kansas City, 1981.

She was crushed- her knees went through her rib cage and various bits of bone severed her spinal column. She remembers hearing the firemen give up on saving her, as they were unable to lift the rubble from her body. Then, she was pulled from the wreckage by a man she did not recognize and was carried and set down near the ambulance. The doctors at the hospital said that this act alone should have killed her, but it didn’t. They said that she wouldn’t live, but she did. They said that she would always be paralyzed from the waist down (as her spinal chord was severed) but after taking the Eucharist one Sunday, her foot tingled and the next day she was able to use it. 3 months later, she was walking. I can attest to the fact that on Sunday night, 28 years later, she was walking just like anyone else.

The most amazing part of the story, however, was that she could never find the man who pulled her from the wreckage. She spent months searching for him, to thank him for saving her life, but the fire department had no description of such a man.

Many months later at Holy Cross Theological Seminary in Boston (where Jesse’s uncle went to school), she met a man named Elder Dionysius, a man who we all met at Metropolitan Jonah’s house on Sunday night. He showed her a picture of his spiritual father, Archimandrite Aemilianos, who is the abbot of the monastery on Mt. Athos. Sister Aemilane (who you can now guess, has this name because she took on the same saint’s name as the Archimandrite) immediately said, “That was the man who saved me.” Turns out that the day the bridge collapsed was Archimandrite Aemilianos’ namesday, the namesday of Martyr Aemilane. This part can only be said in Sister Aemilane’s words:

Some months later, he (Elder Dionysius) sent me a picture of his Elder, Archimandrite Aemilianos, Abbot of Simonos Petras Monastery, Mt. Athos. I was totally shocked. I recognized his likeness as the one who pulled me out from under the tons of debris after the accident. Then I knew. What saved me was the prayer of the Elder Aemilianos – someone who was on the other side of the world in his monastery without ever having set foot in America, in the flesh. There was no reason why he should or could know me. I had heard of him and his spiritual son, my Elder, Dionysios, but had no idea I could ever meet them. After that, I found out that the day of the accident was his namesday – 17 July, the feast day of St. Aemilianos the martyr. So it became clear to me in my very blood and broken bones, without this being at all, ever, an analytical thought, that the prayer of a pure – purified! – heart is the most powerful thing in the cosmos.

By the old Orthodox calendar, this was also the namesday of St. Athanasios the Athonite, who was killed when a building collapsed on him.

After this, Sister Aemilane joined the Monastery of Onilia in Greece. Wouldn’t you?

Don’t Text While Driving!

Today, I opened class by warning my kids to never text message while they are driving.

Of course, there are safety reasons for this. But the main reason I brought it up was because I found out first hand today that it is very easy to send the WRONG text message to the WRONG person. Especially if you are driving.

Let me start at the beginning of the story, or it will sound crazy.Yesterday was a big day at church, mainly because the Metropolitan was in town. This event usually draws a lot of attention in the Texas-area, so it was not unusual to see more than the usual number of visitors. What IS unusual, is for the visitors to be extraordinary good-looking. As I was gazing out of the choir/kliros at the start of the service yesterday, I noticed a lot of very handsome people in the audience. I remember thinking, “Those people are WAY too good-looking to be Orthodox!” Don’t get mad at me- usually Orthodox men have gnarly beards and the women are shrouded by thick ugly shawls.

Anyways, things in the choir yesterday went okay- the “Trio” of women that sings before communion was a little bit off-key, as were some of the songs we sang, but overall nothing was too bad.

Then, at coffee hour, a nun came up to my friend Karen and, pointing to the ridiculously good-looking men in the corner, said, “You know who those people are, right? Those are the Hanson Brothers!”

For those of you who don’t remember this boy-band phenomenon, they were the Jonas-Brothers equivalent of my junior high experience. Every girl was crazy about them. My first roommate would play their song, “Mmm-Bop” over and over again until I thought my head would explode. Here’s what they currently look like:

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I did not draw this arrow, by the way

Anyways, there they were, eating pastries and talking with people at our coffee hour. Apparently, they are Orthodox- their aunt is an Orthodox nun over in Greece. The oldest one (the one with the arrow) has a wife and kid.

Of course, my friend Karen went crazy, running around outside saying, “Mmm-Bop! Mmm-Bop is here!”. Then she realized that she’d just sung by herself in front of a bunch of pop stars, as she was part of the “Trio” that morning. I felt sorry for them having to listen to the choir. Then, again, I had to listen to them straight for my first 3 months of college, so I guess we’re even. I did try to get Brother Gregory, our favorite monk, to take a picture of them with my camera-phone, but he very vehemently declined, saying, “Kelly! They’re at CHURCH! Leave them be!”

Anyways, to get to the part about the text messaging. I sent a girly text message about, “Mmm-Bop” to several people, including Trenna, my mother and Tess. I didn’t think they would mind something so silly.

Turns out, as I was trying to text my boss on my way to work this morning, I accidentally re-sent the Hanson text message to him. I immediately realized what I had done and called him.

Boss: “Good morning.”

Kelly: “Don’t read the text message I just sent you!”

Boss: “Actually, I was just in the middle of it. What on Earth??”

Kelly: <thinking> This is the worst start to a day EVER.

So, this is why I warned my kids this morning to NEVER text while you are driving. You could get crushed by an 18-wheeler. Or become mortified as your boss finds out how much you love Hanson. Ouch.

Something To Make The Californians Vomit

So, there’s this town about 10 minutes south of where we are currently living. For people in Dallas, this town of Arlington is known as the “trashier” side of the Dallas suburbs. What they mean by this is that it doesn’t have an award-winning school district and has a “higher” crime rate (which means that they have a couple car break-ins every year). They also have a higher Hispanic population. In truth, it’s just another version of Whittier, but with lots more trees. This is also the town where they are building the new Cowboys Stadium next to the Six Flags.

Due to these factors, Arlington prices are cheap. I’ve always known this, but I decided to actually do a home search a few weeks ago. And I just have to hear stories about all the vomit you will produce once you see this.

How about a 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath condo with a garage and 900 sq. ft.? How much would you guess this costs??

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True, this kitchen is a bit small..

True, this kitchen is a bit small..

Wanna try…………

Did you guess??

$42,000

Yup. Less than an SUV. Including property tax and insurance, the monthly payment for this condo would be $300.

Barfing yet?

Let’s say you don’t want a condo- how about a house?

Now, of course, houses cost a little bit more. But you get a nice big yard and stuff, so it’s worth it. How about a 3 bedroom, 2 Bath 1400 sq. ft. house?

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How much….hmmm….how about $74,000?? That, of course, would bring the total house payment up to a whopping $600/mo.

And now I will leave you to throw up and wish you lived in Dallas 🙂