Thursday, September 18, 2014

Something New

I wanted to share a new tradition I have started this month in our house. I call it Thoughtful Thursday.

For years now, I have been constantly thinking that I am not thoughtful enough. I always seem to be forgetting to do little things for people that can really make a difference and make them happy. I beat myself up when I forget to send a thank you card or a birthday card or forget to remind someone that I am thinking of them.

Enter Thoughtful Thursday.

For the last few weeks, each Thursday, I have made the time in our day (via my planner) to stop and do something thoughtful for someone else. For grandmother was preparing for a hip replacement a few weeks ago, so the kids and I took some time out of our morning to write her a "thinking of you" card and send it out in the mail that same day. She got it a day before the surgery and she has thanked me about ten times since for that card which really made her day. Another day, I mailed a "just because" gift to a friend in need.

I cannot believe that I have never realized before that I should just assign a day of the week to doing something for someone else. It has made such a difference in my happiness to know that I am not completely disregarding other people any more. The kids have really enjoyed this so far as well. If there is one routine from our days at home together that I hope to keep up, it is definitely Thoughtful Thursday.

Join me in this, if you'd like! It's so fun and very rewarding!

New Rituals...

I have been trying to scramble and get organized, as I keep mentioning, and well, with my son's new routine of twice-a-week preschool, I have gotten much motivation to get moving on some of the things I have wanted to do for a while now. For example, I have developed a little routine with the kids for learning. This week, we have been working on learning a song of the Russian alphabet...they are loving it so far, and even though it is not really easy, they are starting to catch on so well! It is a new melody for them, whereas the Serbian alphabet song goes to the same tune as the English ABC song.

Aside from learning the Russian alphabet song, we are working on some seasonal songs...I have only chosen one for now because I do not want to overload them. I chose a song that's new to me (I haven't learned any 'seasonal' Russian songs before other than Christmas ones)...and I YouTubed it to find a clip of the song. We listen to it 3 times each morning and sing along to the best of our ability. It is a lot of fun for me because I really love to sing, and the kids are so enthusiastic! The song we are currently learning is about leaves falling from the trees, and it's so fun for me because it has opened the door for many teachable moments that I never even thought about. We have talked about the leaves changing color and falling from the trees...about fall meaning a change in the temperature outside....the birds flying south...many topics that are really not something I intended on teaching them about. Now, when I say "teach" I am not talking about us having a sit-down session at the table. I still really am a firm believer in kids learning through play at a young age like my kids are, and so I don't want to make too much of a structured "school" session at this point. But I do love making a point to sit on the couch with them and just talk, listen and sing along to our songs each morning.

Other days, when we can, aside from these little lessons, we try to squeeze in a morning walk. It is hard to time the walk properly in between the baby's morning nap and lunch time, but today we managed. I want to be outside as much as possible these days before it gets really cold.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preparing for the Fall

Ahh... a quiet house. L is in pre-school, and M & K are both asleep. I just finished my afternoon cup of tea and have been doing some computer "work" (AKA planning things to do with my kids). I'm making plans for the fall because last year taught me well that I was unprepared for Fall with toddlers. This year, I'm hoping to do more with my kids now that I am not toting around a pregnant belly everywhere I go. Even though my baby isn't sleeping through the night (not even close) I am pretty much on the same level of exhaustion as I was last fall, but L and K are each a year older now, so I am hoping that Fall memories can be created with a tad more maturity this year. :)

I have been looking through all my pins on Pinterest this week, starting with the "Kids" board, and weeding through the useless ones and deleting them, but printing out the good stuff. I ran across this list made by one Mama that I found to be really great. She lists all her favorite art supplies to have on hand for kids to use at home. With a little guidance from me, my kids will have a lot of fun with each of these supplies this next few months...hopefully, it'll come in handy as we prepare for our big move.

Here it is.

It's easier for me to link it to you so you can see the cool layout of this Mama's post, as well as all of the handy links she provided. Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tea Time

Thursday, yesterday, was my scheduled day of the week to look at the Ascetic Lives of Mothers book and think about my spirituality as a mother. I did this while my kids were playing happily outside, and the wind blew in my face, still a nice summery breeze (thankfully!)...

This passage really hit me as being brilliant, and I wanted to share it.

It first begins with a quote...

Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.  - Elder Sophrony of Essex

And then, my favorite passage....

"My mother reminds me often that tea has a way of keeping you in the moment. It's not like coffee, which, in our society, is meant to keep you always moving forward. Tea encourages the partaker to sit down and rest a moment. It is a sort of reset button for the weary. If we push ourselves beyond what we can bear for the sake of being strong, we will fall over, teacup and all, and find that staring up from the darkness of the abyss is far more terrifying than standing at the brink.

Let us step back and take tea together as mothers. Of course we may not be able to sit at each other's tables and sip a perfectly steeped pot together, but we can pray for one another and be an encouragement. We can make a pot of gratitude for all the Lord has blessed us with and sip it throughout the day through prayer and the reading of His Word. We can choose to face the difficulties, in the strength of Christ our Lord, and lay down the idea that we must somehow bear it all. How freeing is that though alone?"

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Preparing for Fall: Children's Wardrobes

I have been thinking about the kids' fall wardrobes since we are in September now. One of the things I am trying to do (as I have mentioned in previous posts) is to become more minimalistic with their clothing. In the past, I have gone shopping only on clearance racks or sale racks and have picked up whatever looked cute for both of my older kids. But now that my children are able to dress themselves (the older two), they also love picking out what they are wearing each day instead of me giving them their outfit. What I have seen lately is that my son has two favorite colors (Navy and Red), and he'll choose only clothes in those colors to wear. He also loves jeans. My daughter loves pink and leans towards anything that's either a dress or pink to wear. At first this drove me crazy because I was wondering why on earth she won't wear anything else that I have for her (so many cute clothes!) but then I started realizing that if she didn't have those other clothes, I wouldn't care. I only want her to wear them ALL because I spent money on them ALL. Other than that, I don't really care what she wears...even though I do cringe if she doesn't match, hahaha.

So, I am trying to take what I have learned from my first years of dressing children and use it to become a smarter shopper for their new fall clothes. My baby is going to be wearing mostly hand-me-downs from her sister, the ones that overlap with the correct season, anyway. I may pick her up a few new onesies though because ours have gotten pretty worn out by now.

Anyway, I have done a little research on other blogs as well as on Google and have tried to figure out what my kids' fall wardrobes should look like. Here's a helpful article I have read on being minimalistic in clothes.

With all of that in mind, I came up with a reasonably-sounding list for each kid, which basically includes enough outfits to have one for each day of the week (instead of more than that like we've had in the past), several warm sweaters per kid for our frigid winters here, several church outfits, a pair of play shoes each, one pair of church shoes each, socks and underwear and the winter necessities such as jackets, hats and scarves and mittens. And for the girls, several pairs of tights.

I'm hoping I can stay minimalistic with the clothes from now on and make my laundry loads lighter, too!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Living and Learning for September

Trying to get back into the swing of things over here....

Living and Learning for September

Sts. Adrian and Natalia - 8th
St. Kasijana’s Feast Day - 20th
Nativity of the Theotokos - 21st 
The Elevation of the Precious Cross - 27th

Sort through things for 20 minutes each day, in preparation for our move this fall
Visit the farmer’s market a few more times before it closes
Work on following my morning and evening routines
Start having a little school-type routine with the kids each day that Lazar is not in pre-school 
Work on making sure the dishes are done after each meal/snack
Make sure Lazar has quiet reading time in his room each day after Kasijana is finished napping
Make sure each kid has a one-on-one date with a parent once this month

Themes for the Month

Establish better family routines
Start having a snack after nap time each day

Special Days
+Liza - 8th
T. Natasha’s Namesday - 8th
Kasijana’s Namesday - 20th
Babi’s Namesday - 22nd
Dida’s Birthday - 27th
Deda’s Anniversary of Ordination - 27th

Follow new spiritual schedule for each day of the week (Monday: Read an Akathist, etc…)
Go outside every day before it gets cold
Start working on a Montessori activity each week (hopefully to pick up the pace next month)

Practice Being Still and Quiet during Prayers and Services
Singing – the troparion for this month’s feast days
The Sign of the Cross for Kasijana 
Visit the beach as much as possible
Go to Story Hour or to the library for a visit, weekly
Visit a pumpkin farm

Go apple picking

Monday, September 1, 2014

Re-Organizing: New Goals, Part 1

In getting ready for our upcoming move, I have gotten into a purge/sort/re-organize kind of mood... It is making me excited for changes in the near future, even amidst the feelings of nervousness.

In doing all of this, I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting and I realized that I have really lost most of the self-discipline I used to have. One of the things I really need to work on right now is making my spiritual life more a part of my daily routine. Sure, prayers in the morning and the evening are a routine, but I don't feel like that's cutting it any more. Especially when days are hard, I realize that those days would not feel quite as hard if I were just a bit more disciplined but most importantly, if I always always prayed inside my head.

In order to start fixing this little glitch, I have decided to make an organized schedule for myself of something spiritual to do each day of the week. Here's the list I have come up with.

Monday: Read an Akathist to a saint of choice (relevant to the week perhaps!)

Tuesday: Read a kathisma from the Psalter

Wednesday: Read a chapter of my current spiritual book choice 

Thursday: Mama prayers. Pray about current struggles I'm having in motherhood, as well as prayers of thanksgiving. I'll use the book The Ascetic Lives of Mothers as a tool here. 

Friday: Work on confession list (it's much easier to remember sins one week at a time, than to sit down once every few weeks when preparing for confession!)

Saturday or Sunday: Write down spiritual reflections on the week that has passed...make goals accordingly

This is a start, and I am sure that I will find a few things to add in the future.... Or perhaps I'll change it up every now and then or at the start of a fast. These aren't things I'll do necessarily at night after the kids are in bed, but I will try to find time for them whenever I can throughout the day. Sometimes at night I have so little energy left that I feel like all I want to do is vedge on the couch and sleep, so I don't want to make these night-time activities per se.


In other news, tomorrow my oldest starts his first day of pre-school! I'm going with him the first day, so I am excited...otherwise, it'd be a little brutal to just plop him into a new setting and leave for 2.5 hours! He's so excited, and I am too, but I do have some feelings of apprehension. I comfort myself by reminding myself that if something goes wrong, I can always pull him out.