Monday, December 8, 2014

Bennett's Update! Blood Drive, 12/13, 7:30-12:30 Woolsey Wing

Bennett mom teaches at the
 Casady Lower Division

I'm so very happy to report that the past few days have gone better than we imagined! I'm certain God's hand is at work to answer our prayers to keep him as comfortable and stable as possible! Keep those prayers coming. We've still got hurdles to clear! Today is the last day of chemo and the second of four days on the drug to suppress his immune system. The chemo seems to have mostly made him more irritable, cranky, finicky, and clingy. In the midst of that, he's also been his happy, funny, delightful self! He's still been eating but his doesn't always know what he wants to eat--or does know but we don't have it (or enough of it!) He's quite particular about quantity right now, almost always desiring/requiring two cups of queso and two burritos in his Bueno order. When he asked for a Rice Krispie treat Friday night, he wanted "all of them" and wasn't taking "we'll get more later" for an answer! He was so upset Ben ran down to the cafeteria to get a few more. He ate three bites of one and was finished!! This is sooooo what life is like right now, but we'll take it!

 Throughout this adventure, I've stayed most weekdays at the hospital and most weekends at home. With all the stories we'd heard about the meds, we didn't know what this weekend would look like. Since he'd been doing so well, we decided I'd go home Friday night. Well, he got so flustered that I decided not to leave that night which was super hard! I was looking forward to snuggling my girl in my own bed at home and she was ready, too. It was supposed to be Daddy's night with him. Everyone's expectations were completely shattered! The disappointment I feel when THIS lets Adeline down is so hard to swallow! My mom loved her through it and then we got to spend most of the day together Saturday. Please continue to pray for Adeline, too! Pray for her rest to be quality because the quantity isn't always enough. Pray for her heart and mind to be comforted with all the changes around her. Pray, too, for my momma who is a "rock" for all of us!!

 Like I mentioned, today will be the second dose of the drug to suppress his immune system (so it won't attack the new cells when they get introduced later this week). The stories we'd heard about this process have been more daunting than the chemo ones. Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting--you name it--and it can hit at any time. For Bennett, that's a perfect storm for sending his electrolytes crazy all over again and it's what we've been praying against. Ben and I put off an anniversary date assuming it wasn't going to be pretty. His first dose started about 5 pm and was to run for ten hours. My mom and Ben were there for the start while I dropped A to spend the night with her godparents. By the time I got back to the hospital about 7:00, all was well enough that Ben and I decided to venture out while my mom stayed. Long story, short...we went to dinner, shopping, and both got to be home last night with the assurance Mom would call if things got extreme. I texted her at 8:30 this morning to get the scoop. He did have some reactions in the night but everything is more stable this morning. His fever started climbing about 3:30 and his heart/respiratory rate were off. He's had several supplements and the docs were quite pleased with how he looked when they rounded this morning. This is good news!

Pray this management plan continues working and we avoid PICU. The incision from the amputation continues to heal nicely. I think it's hard for him to really express how it feels. He wants it covered with either the gauze or a sock. The problem with the socks is that he is now keenly aware of the toe seam. It's soooo annoying to him right now and takes all kinds of effort to get it smoothed just right! We found a few thinner pairs last night so I'm hopeful they might be a little more comfortable. This is the start of the adaptations we'll make to maneuver through this new part of our world!

 Everything is still on target for the transplant to take place Thursday. I'm a bit awed of God's timing for a blood drive to his credit happening at Casady on the same morning!! (7:30-12:30 if you are eligible to donate) We've been told he may need blood products everyday for a time after the transplant! Many others will need help that day, too, and every other day to come. I am eternally grateful for this mighty gift that has sustained his life over and over! I've never been a big hashtagger but I appreciate one that's shown up a lot lately.

So, #prayforbennett and Love like crazy.

Day 9: Russian Christmas

By Professor Carol on Dec 08, 2014 03:00 am
Jacques Hnizdovsky (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The celebration of Russian Christmas has been shaped by forces both astronomical and historical. Let’s look first at the calendar.
Most of Europe shifted to the Gregorian Calendar starting in 1582, but Russia retained the Julian Calendar. Peter the Great modernized the Julian calendar in 1699, making January 1, 1700 the beginning of the New Year, rather than September 1 (the traditional beginning of the Orthodox Liturgical Year), but discrepancies in the placement of Leap-Year days remained. Consequently, by the 19th century, Russia was 12 days out-of-sync with the West, and 13 days once the 20th-century turned.
When Bolshevism swept Russia in 1917, the Julian Calendar was abandoned quickly. Two weeks literally fell away from January 1918 as Lenin forced his country to “catch up” with Western dating. The Orthodox Church, however, remained steadfastly with their liturgical calendar (based on the Julian). Thus, December 25 in Eastern Christian practice today falls on January 7.
So that takes care of the astronomical issues of Russian Christmas. What about the historical forces? Well, for that story we return to the Bolshevik Revolution. It decimated Russian traditional life, including folk traditions. It obliterated the Orthodox Faith. Nearly all of the symbols and celebrations of Christianity were banned.
Communist ideology did offer “alternatives.” For Christmas, focus shifted to a ramped-up version of New Year’s. The Christmas tree (ёлька) became the New Year’s Tree. The fairy-tale figure of Father Frost (Дед Мороз) made a fine New Year’s Santa. The Snow Maiden (снегуричка), Father Frost’s counterpart, appeared as well. These images brought the flair needed for a spectacular Holiday. The government made oranges and other delicacies appear in the markets in late December. Christmas was soon forgotten.
Or was it? Since the fall of Communism in 1992, Russians have been free to revitalize their Christian traditions, and are doing so enthusiastically. The period of Communism is seen as a tragic hiatus in a millennium of Christian identity.
But, within the Eastern Christian practice, Christmas was, and remains, a modest celebration, tempered by the highly intimate and spiritual focus often found in Orthodoxy. The most public occasion is the Christmas Eve Vigil on January 6—what we in the West would call Midnight Mass. There is a festive mass on Christmas Day, too, but the Vigil is the highpoint, liturgically.
Preceding Vigil, however, will be a tender and highly symbolic “Holy Supper”—a special Christmas-Eve dinner (сочевник). The table is covered with linen and scattered with straw, reminding us of the swaddling clothes and the manger. The meal begins with prayers and concludes with prayers and singing of Christmas Hymns. The mother of the family may dispense a blessing of honey in the shape of the cross on each child’s forehead. Christmas Eve itself is within the fasting period, so the meal will consist of simple “Lenten foods” (no meat, dairy, or desserts).
Both Garlic and honey are important elements of the modest meal. Garlic (or bitter onions) is served as the first of twelve courses, reminding us that, until Christ’s coming, man faced only despair and bitterness, without the Promised Messiah. Twelve Courses should be served, representing, not surprisingly, the Twelve Tribes of Israel as well as the Twelve Disciples. The meal might look like this:
  1. Grated Garlic (or diced bitter onions)
  2. Mushroom soup (or Sauerkraut soup)
  3. Lenten bread
  4. Bowl of honey
  5. Baked cod
  6. Fresh Apricots, Oranges, Figs and Dates
  7. Nuts
  8. Stewed Kidney beans seasoned with shredded potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper
  9. Peas
  10. Parsley Potatoes
  11. Bobal’ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppyseed  with honey)
  12. Red Wine
You’ll find many variations, of course, particularly since you’ll find similar versions of this meal in Ukraine, Poland, and other Slavic countries.
You might be struck by the contrast between the Orthodox “Holy Supper” on January 6(in preparation for Midnight Vigil) and our often hyper-charged Christmas Eve. To be fair, many Western families make a point of keeping Christmas Eve for family and church, refusing to be drawn into the spin of secular events. In this very Advent Calendar, we will post the tender Krippenspiel or Manger Play that is still staged in German Churches on Christmas Eve. But certainly few Westerners think of Christmas Eve as a period of fasting based on, essentially, Lenten foods.
This year, ask your children what they think the effect would be of having a Russian-style Christmas Eve supper. Remind them that Russians feast liberally on Christmas Day, much as they do on Easter (although nothing can top a Russian Easter-Day banquet). Consider pausing with your children at sundown on January 6 to give thanks for the religious freedom Russians have regained to celebrate their Christmas Eve. Perhaps incorporate parts of their traditional recipes into your own Christmas Eve supper. Let mom bless each child with the sign of the cross on the forehead in honey! It might become a cherished new family tradition.
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