Saying Hi

Here’s the 20 second video!

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G says hi!

It’s official– G now says, “Haaii!” while he’s waving! He also does it on command. So cute. Melts my heart every time!

In the middle of a wave

Plus, he's a Pro Cheerio grabber....

Pro Cheerio eater (especially when he shoves huge handfuls in his mouth!)

And a pro giggler!

Clapping

My lil’ punkin 🙂

First Day

Today was my first day of English teaching since the 2008-09 school year. It felt great! I have loved preparing for this class, re-reading great works of literature, making lesson plans, etc. It helps scratch an itch deep within my soul. When I am teaching English, I feel complete (is that weird?).

My mother in law is the one who will be watching Gregory for the 2 hours on Mondays (although today she only watched him an hour, since the first day was a different schedule). I love that while I am off making money, Gregory is getting priceless bonding time with his grandparents. It makes me feel not as bad about leaving him for a short time.

When I got back, my mother in law said, “Don’t tell Gregory this, but he is so smart!” She proceeded to tell me that as they were playing on the grass today, he started sorting the leaves by color! Holy crap! He also follows commands now– claps when we say clap, waves hi and bye when we say the appropriate word, turns in his exersaucer when we say, “turn”.

I did notice, once again, that he was very clingy when I got back. Very cuddly and sweet. I made sure to spend as much time as I could with him, just so he knew Mommy cared!

Also, a huge plus– my class falls right before Jesse’s lunch break! Looks like we can have lunch together a few times every week! AND we live only 5 minutes from school, so by 3:15pm, he was home in the living room, playing with Gregory 🙂 Yes, I could get used to this!

His Life

Our beloved Archbishop Dmitri fell asleep in the Lord at 2am last night, surrounded by many of our close friends who were with him until the end. Yesterday, someone from St. Seraphim’s asked Jesse to post an article about his reflections and memories of our Vladika. I think the article turned out quite nice, so I am posting it here for you to read. I would post a link to his blog, but I’ve purposely kept it very separate from this one (despite it’s vast popularity among people of the OCA– thousands of “hits” a day).

My wife and I moved to Dallas towards the end of the summer of 2007. The day before we arrived – it was a Sunday – we went to Liturgy in a small little Antiochian parish in San Antonio.  As we chatted with the good folks afterwards, the folks chimed in about possible parishes we might find in Dallas.  Though we were coming from an Antiochian parish, and though these people were at an Antiochian parish themselves, they pointed us in the direction of the OCA cathedral.   ‘’I’ve heard good things about Ss. Constantine and Helen’’, said one parishioner to me, ‘’ but you should also check out St. Seraphim.  Archbishop Dmitri is a kind of Gandalf figure for the South.’’

That is the kind of endorsement one just cannot ignore. The following Saturday, on a late August evening, we found ourselves in a vigil service within the sanctified walls of the cathedral Vladyka Dmitri had built. I remember that the hot, evening air was quiet outside, but inside the cathedral people were worshiping and offering themselves as living sacrifices in the concentrated way that comes about from standing on stubborn Texas clay. After the reading of the gospel, Vladyka inauspiciously emerged from behind the kliros to give blessings to the faithful. I remember, before even receiving that first blessing from Christ by the hand of Vladyka, being struck by his presence.  It was an odd thing: powerful and soft, graceful and magnetic, discernibly personable and discernibly heavenly, full of unique personality whilst also being an empty conduit of Christ. The ancient virtue the Greeks called megalopsuchia, and what St. John the Forerunner meant when he said ‘’He must increase, but I must decrease’’ was exemplified in the person of Vladyka Dmitri. He was truly magnanimous– ‘’ large souled’’ – because he was filled with the love of God, and the light of the Diocese of the South was the Divine Light reflecting with bright gentleness from this man, beloved of God.

I count it an unworthy gift of God that He blessed me to have this man in my life for the past four years. I was his parishioner, and he my Despota. I do not claim to have a privileged relationship to him: like so many others I drank gallons of coffee with him, both in the parish hall and in his kitchen, heard the same stories over and over, laughed at his jokes, and took questions to him as they arose. It was impossible to treat him like a legend or a celebrity. This, the occasional traveler would find out when, upon bringing Vladyka some dogmatic, academic, or formal conversation, he would break it off in favor of a pleasant story or to talk to an infant or toddler. I have often wondered if this was Vladyka’s favorite sermon – breaking off idle theologic in order to remind us that one must be like a child to enter the Kingdom.

These things everyone saw; But that this is not a privileged perspective only reinforces the greatness of the man.

He would love to share stories, often the same ones over and over. ‘’You’re from California,’’ he would say. ‘’I was first a bishop in California, an auxiliary bishop – Bishop of Berkeley – back in the 60’s.’’ At this point he would chuckle. ‘’I got along well with everyone out there. They would see me, wandering around the University in a cassock, and everyone thought I was like them!’’ His eyes would shine and from deep within his beard would come a soft laugh.

I once asked Vladyka about serving in WWII, where he was a Japanese interrogator for General MacArthur. He spoke with his usual kind-heartedness about his time in the service, but his maturity never threatened his characteristic levity.  Because the Japanese were not trained on how to behave when captured – since they were never supposed to be captured – he said his job was just to talk with them; a task well suited to his nature.  He told me of a ‘’chat’’ with one Japanese soldier who had occupied his time on watch by diagramming the deployment of the Japanese fleet.  The man was so proud of his little sketch he proudly displayed it to the young serviceman Royster, oblivious of the consequences.

Our father in Christ, his children would lovingly share daily stories about him. He was known for always drinking coffee, no matter the time. He preferred his coffee strong, and if possible, with chicory. He had acquired the taste while in New Orleans for graduate school and ever since then Cafe Du Monde had been his favorite.  After helping him out around the house one day, he gave me a can – one of about 15 some voyaging monastics who had stopped by previously provided him. When he made coffee at the parish, he would make it unbelievably strong.  He would dump the recommended scoop into the coffee maker, say ‘’How about let’s make this a strong batch’’, feed it another scoop, and then – with customary twinkling eyes – ‘’Ah, three for the Trinity.’’ If you wandered into the parish hall when he had made the coffee you might be warned that you were about to drink, ‘’bishop’s brew’’.

His penchant for coffee was matched only by his assiduity for translation.  He would frequently explain why he chose certain words over others.  For the most part he used the King James; he believed the Gospel should be voiced as exaltedly as possible, and that the language we heard in Church should demand from us our very best attention.  He would explain why he insisted on using ‘’debts’’ rather than ‘’ transgressions’’ in the Lord’s prayer. He would gently insist the readers pronounce ‘’victuals’’ correctly as ‘’ vittles’’ while reading through the Psalms. His homilies had the same thoroughness and attention to detail, but despite his incredible facility with languages, his decisive eloquence spoke simply and lovingly.

Vladyka was always found in the parish hall before or after the services.  If you wanted to spend some time with him, all you had to do was show up an hour or two before Wednesday Vespers.  He would be sitting at a table, talking to his dear friends who ran the St. Seraphim bookstore. You were always welcome to pull up a chair and join in. He was a fixture in the parish hall after each service. Though accompanied by one of his smiling subdeacons, Vladyka’s arrival was never ostentatious or distracting from the existing atmosphere in the hall.  He would always stop and talk to the youngsters, whether a solitary newborn or boisterous group of five year olds.  The babies loved him, and the youngsters adored him – running up to ask for a blessing or squeeze his knees. ‘’And who’s this little guy?’’ he would always ask of my little son, his short-term memory failing.  ‘’Gregory? Well how you doing little Gregory?’’

In August of this year, during one of the last liturgies he attended, I walked by his table in the parish hall, carrying my infant son.  One of the deacons who was sitting with Vladyka at the table stopped me. ‘’Vladyka wants to see him’’, he said, gesturing towards my son.  I brought him to the table, where Vladyka, feeble but joyous, poked a finger at him.  Gregory laughed.  Vladkya could barely speak – the deacon, with an ear to his lips had to echo his words to those of us at the table.  In a wheelchair, without a voice, he continued to preach his humble sermon to us in his life.

My most enduring memory of Vladyka is of him in liturgy, standing between the Royal Doors, cross in hand, sweetly crying out to God, ‘’Look down, Oh God, from Heaven, and behold, and visit this vineyard, which Thine Own Right Hand has planted, and establish it.’’  That image seared indelibly in my soul – the icon of a true bishop.

I knew Vladyka in the ways so many of us knew him, and he left his mark on us all.   He loved the people of St. Seraphim, and they loved him back. It was not loud; quite the opposite. It had the soul-pleasing presence of a constant wind winding its way through the forest, or the soothing sound of the fingers of the tide tenderly touching the land.  But behind the peaceful serenity of a lapping wave upon the shore is the fearful power of the breakers – and as Vladyka spoke and lived with us gently, the tremendous power in his life was evident. Many of us could speak of such things, but would rather take them and cherish them preciously and privately. There was Vladyka for us, and there was Vladyka for me; and for me it shall stay.

May our loving God grant Vladyka a rich entrance into His Kingdom. Memory eternal!

– Jesse Cone

Anniversary Trip

It’s no secret that our first 3 anniversaries were a little bit…less than ideal. Last year, we changed all that by going out to dinner in downtown Irving.

This year, since it was our fifth anniversary, we decided to do something special. 5 years is quite a milestone, I’m sure you’d agree!

Since we now have our families to help us out, we left Gregory overnight with my Dad (my Mom was at a Women’s Church Sleepover), and spent the night at a beach-side hotel in Cambria– Moonstone Beach to be specific. This beach has special significance for us, as it’s where we sorta fell in love, 8 years ago, during a youth group outing. Jesse was leading us all in worship, playing the guitar out on this rock:

So, Jesse found us a great deal at the Pelican Bay Inn, across the street from that very same section of beach.

Once we left Gregory with my Dad (along with detailed instructions), we drove the 45 minutes to Cambria. We checked into our hotel, then left to find dinner in the quaint downtown area. We were looking for Mustache Pete’s, the Italian restaurant we used to eat at after our pre-marriage counseling sessions, but we found that it went out of business 😦 So, we settled for another Italian restaurant called Lombardi’s.

After we finished our meal, we ordered Tirimisiu to-go, and ate it at our hotel room, watching part of 2 silly/stupid movies. In between, we took a midnight stroll along the beach, hand in hand.

The next morning, we went to the full breakfast provided in the cute dining area of the hotel. Waffles, eggs, bacon, potatoes, coffee and OJ….mmmm.

After taking a nap, we checked out of our hotel and returned again to the beach for a few pictures. Once we were done, we went back to downtown Cambria and bought an iced mocha and donut to share. We drove home, just in time for Gregory’s lunch 🙂 My dad said that he went down to sleep last night without any fuss. He’d been a happy boy all morning, and had just finished his 2 hour morning nap. As happy as he was, you could tell he was glad to see us. He waved hello (his newest trick) and proceeded to giggle and play with us on the floor. At one point, he crawled up and put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me. Normally, when he does this, he can’t stay still for long, but today he was there for quite a while.

All in all, THE BEST anniversary so far. Sure beats sitting in a car repair shop!

Later on, we also get to use the anniversary gift from Jesse’s parents– a very generous gift card to Robert’s in Paso. Looking forward to more good food!

5 Year Anniversary!

5 Years Ago, this event was occurring:

Happy 5 Year Anniversary, Jesse!

Smarty-Pants

Lil’ G is smart. No, really! I know every mom thinks that, but I really do think he has a lot going on upstairs.

For example:

1. Yesterday at church, one of the parishioners who’s a Dr. asked us how old he was. When we said only 10 months, he was floored. “Really?” he said. “His dexterity, alert behavior and core strength definitely remind me of a 14 month old. He must be meeting all of his milestones way early, huh?”

Mama’s Response: Nice to hear, especially since the only comments we get about his age are how small he is for it…

2. I’ve sung, “Patty cake” many times for him, clapping his hands to the rhythm. Just recently, G’s been clapping voluntarily, mostly when I say, “yay!!!”. Just today, however, I sang the song, and he started clapping to the rhythm, huge grin on his face. I tried it again a few times in the afternoon– same thing.

Also, he just started waving goodbye!

3. He almost always goes for his books first when playing. Ignores the toys, goes for the books. Today, he grabbed a book, sat down, and proceeded to “baby talk” his way through it. “baba-gaga-eeeee–ohhh–tututu….”, with lots of intonation and rise/fall in his voice. When he got done playing with the pages, he stopped, picked up another book, and did the same thing again!

I will always love my babies, no matter if they’re smart or slow. But, I gotta admit, it’s way more fun to watch G doing stuff like this. It’s like getting to see a whole new world through his eyes.

First Sunday

We just had a wonderful first day at our new church in SLO. Of the 40 people in the parish, 10 of them were children, 7 of which were under the age of 4! The parish is very used to children and encouraged us over and over again to let Gregory make as much noise as he wants! Much of this has to do with the fact that 3 of the kids were the priest’s 🙂 They even have kids’ activity bags in the back of the church for parents to borrow during the service.

Obviously, the parish is very friendly. They have a potluck after every service– one of the deacons who introduced himself to us filled up our plates with food since he could see we had our hands full with G. They had yummy lasagna, salami sandwiches, and tons of fresh organic oranges, picked this morning at a parishioner’s orange grove!

Turns out, another young couple with one 3 year old daughter and one “one the way” just moved to the area 3 weeks ago. They were from another OCA parish in Georgia. We found that we have a lot in common– the mom, Heather, who’s in her early 30’s and a stay at home mom, is very into organic foods and farmer’s market shopping 🙂 Who does that sound like? And we’re both new to the Central Coast, so it sounds like we could both use each other as friends!

In other news, Jesse is in a little place we’d like to call heaven right now. We just got In N Out burgers and the Dodgers are live on TV. All I can hear him saying right now is, “Vin Scully! Dodgers! Now! Vin Scully!” etc…..

Also, Gregory’s runny nose is really sad. Going on Day 4 now. He seriously sounds like a pug dog as he’s nursing! No cough and no fever though, thank God! We bought him some elderberry herbs (on the advice of our new naturopathic pediatrician/midwife– thanks Steph for the recommendation!), so we’ll see if those help.

ALSO, last night we finally saw the last Harry Potter! Yay for families to babysit. And, yes, it was awesome. Can’t believe we waited so long 😉

Now, to take a nice, long, nap! Our only plan for the rest of the day is to have dinner with Jesse’s family this evening. Tomorrow is our first day of teaching orientation, so we’d better relax while we can!

Wonderful

Nice things about being home:

Yesterday, we woke up to the sound of my parents’ trees getting trimmed. They have a few big oaks in the front and a tiny orchard of about 8 fruit trees in back. The wonderful part? The tree trimmer was none other than the son of a dear dear friend of the family. His mother used to babysit me twice a week while my mother worked. She also tailored my wedding dress and made me and my bridesmaids breakfast. I love these times that show me what a “small world” the Central Coast is.

After we’d woken up a bit, we began to unload our Penske truck. I recruited my brother Joe who was still asleep at the time, thinking that there was no way Jesse would be able to get all those boxes by himself.

Turns out, didn’t need to worry! A few minutes later, David and his wonderful girlfriend from Biola named Emily arrived. Emily stayed with Janelle and I in the house, organizing the little stuff as the guys brought it in.

About an hour later, Brooke and her teenage daughter Rachel arrived. They heard we were moving and voluntarily decided to take the afternoon off to help! For me, this confirmed once again just how wonderful it is to be near family. I was worried that it would be mostly Jesse and I unloading the truck, just as it was 90% of the time while we were packing (although we did get some great help from Jason and Michael on the final day!). Instead, we had a team– no, an ARMY of 8 individuals! They helped us sort the boxes (some are staying in storage), move our new bed in, hang stuff in the closet, set up our tv and stand, and even watched Gregory for me when he awoke from his 3 hour afternoon nap (what a GREAT day for him to decide to sleep!). Our little “apartment” in the back of the house is really starting to take shape!

No sooner had the moving army left, than my Mom got home from work and made us yummy pulled pork sandwiches. I love dinners that I don’t have to cook 🙂

And just an HOUR later, my best friend Tess arrived with an iced latte for us. We spent the evening hanging out with her and another friend from high school who went on to Azusa Pacific and then became Orthodox.

As if the good times just weren’t enough, today Jesse, Gregory and I all went to SLO and had Thai food for lunch with my Dad. It was a sunny 75 degrees with slight breeze (ahhhhhhh!!!!), so we were able to sit on the outdoor patio overlooking a babbling creek. Oh yes. It was heavenly. The food was awesome too!

TONIGHT, we are meeting both families for dinner at Brooke’s house. I’m sure it will be the usual– lots of talking, laughing and eating.

Yes, it’s wonderful to be back in the arms of such a vibrant and caring family. We are so blessed.

In other news, I’d better go now. Gregory just ate coffee grounds out of the trash can (wow…just…wow…) and is now in the newspaper bin, having a ball. He also caught some sort of cold on the plane and has a thick, green runny nose. Ah, life with a toddler!