Saturday, December 26, 2015

This week...

This past week was full of excitement in our house!

Last Saturday, the kids rose on St. Nicholas Day to find that he had paid them a visit the previous night.

The same day, my parents and sister arrived for a short (but very sweet visit!) They came to celebrate our son's birthday with us, and we had the nicest visit together! My dad made a huge gift for me that means so much. He re-copied a lot of the home videos taken when we were little onto DVD. My mom handed me the wrapped gift and said "happy birthday!" I looked at her and said "enough already! You already spoiled me for my birthday!" And she responded that I might not want to reject this particular gift. When I opened it I was so excited! As soon as the kids went to sleep that night, we had tea and watched a good portion of the DVD. My dad says more are on their way. :-)
The rest of our time together was spent mostly out of the house. We had a family and very close friends gathering last Sunday to celebrate our 5-year old the day before his birthday. It was the perfect afternoon for him! On Monday we showed my parents around our favorite parts of this area and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then, on Tuesday we celebrated the birthday boy again with a relaxing morning at home, lunch and cake, and then some Christmas fun in the city (followed by a yummy Greek dinner!)

On Wednesday, we said goodbye to my family early in the morning, and later in the day, headed into the city again - this time to the Museum of Science & Industry, to see the Christmas Around the World exhibit. The main reason for our visit though, was to watch our parish "tambura" (Serbian Orchestra) group perform at the museum! They are really an amazing group and they are all young students, which makes it even more exciting.

The Russian tree at Christmas Around the World. It was full of matryoshkas just as I hoped it would be, as well as beautiful ornaments with churches on them

It was sad to say goodbye to family, as usual, but we have so much to look forward to these days! In preparation for baby's arrival, I washed newborn baby clothing this week. There is no smell more nostalgic to me than the smell of Dreft baby detergent. I smiled as I folded each piece of clothing. The detergent holds so many memories, but each article of clothing does as well. I haven't used our baby boy clothes in 5 years now, and I still remember at least one memory per each article of clothing that I have washed!

Lastly...I have been knitting away like crazy. I have two projects on my needles (which is a huge deal for me!) I am knitting a cowl for a Christmas gift (one of several), and at the same time, a black scarf for my husband. I am having so much fun with both projects, and I am loving knitting more and more each day! I keep looking through my Pinterest Knitting board and planning out what project I will attempt next. :-)

The scarf for my hubby coming is moving faster than I expected!

Happy Sunday to everyone!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Preparing for St. Nicholas Day...

Today is the eve of the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. We are so excited about this feast day in our family because not only do we love St. Nicholas, but it is also the day my husband was ordained to deacon. It is also his namesday.

Growing up we did not have a particular St. Nicholas day tradition in our home, (aside from going to church of course), but when I married my husband and we had a baby, he insisted we begin putting our shoes out for St. Nicholas each year. I have grown to love this tradition so much, and today the kids share in the excitement.

I would have loved to bake some nice St. Nicholas cookies to leave out for St. Nicholas tonight, but I am 33 weeks pregnant, and it is hard for me to do much of anything ambitious these days. And so, I am keeping things simple this year.

The first thing we have done today to prepare for this feast day is to watch a short video in Russian about the saint, made just for kids. (If you are interested, the link can be found here).

And then, I printed out a coloring icon page from an OCA website which I have come to find very handy! My son loves coloring and drawing, so he is the only one I give this to. My girls do a lot more scribbling, which I don't prefer for an icon page.

I ordered this book on Amazon a few weeks ago and have been looking through the beautiful illustrations. I am not sure if my kids are old enough to sit through the entire book yet, but I will definitely look through it with them tonight before bedtime. In addition to our shoes, we will leave out the St. Nicholas icon we have. I am so excited!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Celebrating St. Katherine's Day

Yesterday was St. Katherine's feast day (Ekaterina, in Greek and Russian). It was my Namesday, and it was a really lovely day. We started the day by getting up early and driving to the Russian church for liturgy as a family. We got caught up in some traffic on the way, but we made it for the end of the Gospel. It was a huge treat for me not only to be at a Russian-style liturgy (home for me), and have Communion on my namesday, but also that my husband stood with the kids and I for the service. A clergy wife's dream is an extra set of hands in church, and that is just what I got! After liturgy, we had coffee and some breakfast treats, and then walked around an upscale mall in the area for a few hours and let the kids get their jitters out. We visited the Lego store, and they got to play there as well. (So did my husband. :-))

Once we got home, my husband declared he'd be making dinner, and one grocery store trip and a few hours later, we sat down to a delicious meal of baked salmon, bruschetta, and rice pilaf. He even made homemade lemonade from scratch, which is a really big favorite of mine! The best part of my husband being in the kitchen instead of me was that he cleaned out my overly messy pantry (which I have been procrastinating doing because I have no idea how to organize it!). It was such a nice day. The best part was that while my husband made dinner and then cleaned up from dinner, I got to sit on the couch with my feet up and knit by the Christmas tree. A special treat in so many ways!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Winter Book Haul

A few days ago, I took a trip to the library without the kids to pick up some books about winter. I love our homeschool curriculum so far, but it does not include any seasonal books or activities since people choose to run their school years at different times of the year, and the holidays would not align properly for some. I searched around on Pinterest for a long time for the top winter and Christmas books, and I selected 10 for right now to begin with. I am adding in a book a day to the end of our school mornings, and the kids and I have really been enjoying this so far. For some books, there are fun activities that can be done, too, if you look on Pinterest or anywhere online, but I do not stress myself out too much about doing anything much other than reading the book. Some days the crafty mood strikes, and other days it does not. :)

Here is a list of the books I checked out so far. I'll let you know if any of them become favorites! (You can see any of these books on Amazon).

The Snow Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
The First Day of Winter, by E. Fleming
Snowballs, by Lois Ehlert
No Two Alike, by E. Baker
Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale, by Jan Brett
Bear Snores On, by E. Wilson
Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow, by E. Soman
Red Sled, by E. Judge
Katy and the Big Snow, by E. Burton 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Prayer to Share

This morning as I scrolled through the saints of the day, I clicked on "St. Philaret, Metroplitan of Moscow" to read about his life. At the end of his life story, I was struck by the beautiful prayer of St. Philaret, a prayer that he would read throughout his life. I hope to add it in to my daily prayer routine, and am sharing it for those who may wish to, as well. I usually read the prayer of the Optina Elders, which is very similar to this one and equally beautiful, and today I learned that this prayer was the original one and was read by the Optina Elders, too. This is why it has been called the prayer of the Optina Elders in some prayer books.

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Recipe: London Fog Tea Latte

This afternoon during our Quiet Hour (see below post), I decided to be more adventurous with my afternoon cup of tea. After visiting a David's Tea store yesterday and seeing a woman with a fabulously yummy-looking drink, which she told me was a "chai latte", I ran a search on how to make such a latte for myself. Luckily, I have a fancy new milk frother (thanks, husband!), and with its help I may have found myself my go-to afternoon drink from today on!

How to make a London Fog Tea Latte (aka an Early Gray Tea Latte)
*I should mention that I am not even a fan of earl gray tea normally...not until today, that is!*

You will need:
One Earl Gray or Lady Gray Tea Bag (I used Lady Gray today)
8 oz. of boiling hot water
1 T. of regular sugar
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Place the tea bag into the 8 oz. boiling water and let it steep for about 5 minutes.
Remove the tea bag and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. (I actually used 1/2 T. of sugar for fear of it being too sweet. I think I'll put in 3/4 T. next time).
Steam the milk either in a frother/steamer or on your stovetop. Add in to the tea and stir. Voila! Enjoy!!

Preferably, drink in a beautiful tea cup :-)

Quiet Time

One of the most commonly asked questions I get as a stay-at-home Mama to several little ones is, "how do you not go insane?" That's a question I have to often ask myself so that I make sure that I stay sane (even though, my priest once told me, "we are all a little bit insane". I love that.)

One of the main things I have tried to learn how to do in my almost 5 years as a mother has been to keep myself grounded and in a good psychological state so that I can be the best mama and wife that my children and my husband need me to be. One of the things that has become a custom in our house is "quiet hour", which is at least an hour long each day, immediately after lunch. This is the time when the toddler naps, and the older two children each sit on a couch within my sight. It is also the time I sit down at the table for usually the first time all day (not including our morning lessons, when we sit on the couch together). For our Quiet Hour, the rules for the kids are that they need to stay on the couch (or inside the teepee, or on their Anywhere Chairs), and do something quiet. I have always dreamed that I'd put together nice "quiet time boxes" like I see on Pinterest, but in my reality, this has not happened and I am ok with that. I kind of prefer they learn what to occupy themselves with, anyway, because I will not always be there to hand them a box of fun goodies (lol). So, they choose books or quiet toys and sit resting for a solid hour. Before I go on, please remember that my reality is far from perfect: so, the kids do not always sit perfectly silently, and there are always interruptions of one sort or the other. But the point is, I do not end quiet time until a full hour has passed because that is what all parties need after a busy morning. Some days are very successful, and other days, I need to remind the kids what "quiet hour" is all about.

My routine during this very beloved time of day is to clear off the table from lunch (which the kids help with), wipe down the table, and put everything away (food and dishes, napkins, etc) so that I have a clean kitchen to work with in the afternoon and evening. Once the kitchen is clean and the counters are wiped down, I make myself a nice hot cup of tea, or a cafe latte. This is my favorite time of day! I sit down and savor every sip of that latte, and usually I either read a book, browse Pinterest, or knit as I sip. This gives me the right amount of time to re-gain energy for the rest of the day, and also to get some mental quiet/peace time, which is always very needed. Some days, if the kids rested nicely, I let them watch 45 minutes of a TV show (99% of the time, something in Russian), and I continue my quiet time by knitting, or do quiet housework, or knit.

My husband recently sent me a surprise gift in the mail - a milk frother. This, together with my stovetop espresso maker, has been making the best afternoon lattes!!! Today, I tried something new: a tea latte. I LOVE it! I will post the recipe I used in my next post so that this post doesn't get all cluttered.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Easy November Project

This year, so far, we have been very blessed with some pretty mild fall weather. Though we have had a few days that required bundling up, most days we can still get away with being outside in just a sweater. It has been so nice! There is nothing I personally hate more than having to bundle up each kid in layers before going outside...and doing it for months and months on end. Definitely enjoying this mild weather while it lasts!

We have been keeping busy with some fun and very easy fall crafts in the house. I have noticed since we began homeschooling that my son is extremely artistic, and he isn't even 5 yet. He can take a glance at something and copy it really well. He colors completely in the lines, and he draws a really impressive picture off the top of his head! However, I have always been less than a lover of art and the reason for that is probably because of my serious lack of skill in the art department! That said though, I want to nurture my little guy's talent as much as I can, and since getting him into an art class right now is not really feasible, I figured I would try to give him as much opportunity as I could at home. Don't be impressed though, because I really am taking it slow. I am not a fan of projects that require me to run on a shopping trip to Michael's and spend a lot of money on materials, followed by the prep work, or projects that leave me more exhausted than I was before we began. So it is with great thanks to Pinterest that I have been able to find a few easy and low-stress/low-mess projects to do with the kids. I thought I'd share for the other Mamas out there who want to keep their kids busy with something a little more special than just plain old coloring.

The first project we tried out was making leaves on bare trees with the use of a dish brush and some paint.

I downloaded the template here and printed out one for each of my older kids. I printed it onto cardstock because I thought it would be nicer to use rather than paper, considering the paint factor.

Then I had the kids color in their trees and the grass below. I helped my 3-year old because she is not a huge fan of coloring.

Next, I gave them some fall-colored paints on a plate and a dish brush each. I had them dip their brushes into whatever color paint they wanted, and paint some leaves onto their trees. We also put some "falling leaves in the wind" for effect. They did need some help getting started and a few examples for technique. When the trees were dry, I cut the white off the bottom, mounted them onto some colored construction paper, and voila! They hang so nicely on our huge bay window, adding some fall color to my kind of bland decor (I'm still learning the ropes of home decor!!!) :-)

Just a note to add. I have been slooowly reading through the book The Artful Parent, and this book is so wonderful in guiding clueless, not-so-artsy mothers on how to incorporate art into their kids' everyday lives. I love it! This project was not from that book, but I wanted to recommend the book to other Mamas because it is that good. It is worth every penny. I am going through it slowly for a second time, in hopes that I can actually incorporate the recommendations the author gives into our lives one bit at a time. So far, we have built play-doh into our daily routine pretty well, and coloring as well. The kids are having fun experimenting with different mediums for coloring and drawing. Though it can sometimes get messy, like when they are using markers, (nothing a hand wash cannot fix, though), it is really fun to see what they each do with the various types of coloring tools! Even the 22-month old joins in on the fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I have been absent for a whole month because things have been going non-stop in a whirlwind and frankly, I've been exhausted! I am about to head into my 3rd trimester of this pregnancy, and some days I feel a rush of what I need to get done in preparation for this baby, and I just start without stopping again until the kids are in bed at night. Most of what I have been busy with has been housekeeping and de-cluttering, which is a job that never seems to end! I'll share some of what I've been up to in later posts.

For now, a few days late, a little look ahead into November.

St. John of Kronstadt (Nov. 1)
Archangel Michael (Nov. 21)
Start of the Nativity Fast (Nov. 28)

Note: These are clearly not ALL the important days on the calendar for this month in terms of feasts, but since the kids are still little I am keeping things simple (and also so that I can keep up better!!) Mostly, we are learning about the feast day and talking about it, and if I can, I find a video on YouTube, or an icon for them to color in pertaining to the saint/feast. The Nativity Fast will have an activity of its own.


Continue with the fall clean-up of the home
Plan out a cleaning list for the Nativity Fast
Start thinking about where to set up baby's crib and clothing in the next few weeks to prepare for his arrival



Special DaysThanksgiving on the 26th! This year, we will celebrate with my almost entire extended family!


Plan and budget for gifts for our December birthdays and Namesdays, and St. Nicholas Day
Finish planning and creating an Advent Calendar and activities for the kids
Finish learning & Practice our "Thanksgiving Concert" (we are planning to perform it for family on Thanksgiving Day), and practice "stage etiquette"

KnittingFinish knitting baby's blanket before Thanksgiving and blog about it
Start knitting a black scarf for hubby for his birthday

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Happy October! I am so excited for this month! Every year, October brings a sense of new, since it is the start of fall (not officially, but the fall weather never really hits before October :-)).

Yesterday we kicked off our first truly fall-like day by taking the kids apple picking! It was so. much. fun!! My hubby teased me the entire trip that I was smiling ear to ear. I told him, "You don't understand...I looked forward to days like this my entire life!" Having a bunch of kids, a little circus wherever we go, carrying heaps of jackets as we walk, plus a coffee in another hand...taking pictures on the tractor...scouting the highest limbs of the tree for apples.. It was pure perfection! Of course, there was a moment where the 3-year old was having a fit about walking "too far", and I ended up carrying everyone's jackets plus my bag, plus the coffee I was using to cure my headache...but it was a laughable moment and comforting, too, because I just thought to myself, "this is our life at the moment, and it's wonderful!"

Here are some of my goals for our family for October a "Living & Learning" of sorts:

Faith & Feasts Days: 
Protection of the Mother of God (14th)
St. Paraskeva (27th)
St. Peter of Cetinje (31st)

These feasts are my center point for our faith study this month. I will introduce the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God to the kids, and do a learning activity on both of these saints in preparation for their feast days, as well. For starters, I chose the Protection of the Mother of God because it is the feast day of our monastery, New Gracanica - we attend the feast each year. I also chose the "red days" in the calendar, since the kids are small and we have many years of learning ahead of us. 

We hope to make a trip down to Nashville, TN towards the end of the month for our good friends' parish slava (feast day) - St. Paraskeva.

I hope to get back to my housework schedule from the book, Large Family Logistics as soon as possible! I don't know how I got off track...but perhaps the pregnancy exhaustion would explain it. Hopefully I can at least set a timer each day to stay on target and get the main stuff done. 

Nuts and Squirrels 

There are a few picture books that I will intertwine with our normal curriculum for our lessons, to "fall-ify" things a bit. :-) 


"Our Father" in Slavonic (we get the English here every Sunday at liturgy)
Singing the prayer before and after school together (instead of just me)
Sweeping the floor after each meal
Folding laundry
Continue going to story time once a week 
Continue swimming lessons
Apple Picking
Visit a pumpkin farm (we'll be doing that with the parish Church School soon!)
Art at home

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wisdom from St. Theodora of Alexandria

I fell in love with the following excerpt from today's Prologue reading, from the "For Consideration" section:

"Blessed Theodora took on a strange child without a word, accepting it from her slanderers as her own. Out of love, she brought the child up in the fear of God. At the time of her death, she counselled the child thus: 'What more does a man need than God and His divine love? He is our treasure, our riches, our food and drink, our clothing and shelter, our health and strength, our mirth and joy, our hope and our confidence. Strive to find Him, my son. If you find the one God, that is enough for you; you will find more joy in Him than if you had found the whole world.'"

Could there be anything more perfect or more beautiful to teach one's child than that? I really do not think so. What a beautiful example.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Our Playroom

It has been over half a year now that we are in our new home, and I have put off posting any photos of our playroom until I felt like I really love how it is set up. Finally, we've reached a point where I feel like I want to share it.

We chose the room straight off of the kitchen and eating nook for our playroom. Since it is an open floor plan in that area of the home, I am able to see from the kitchen into the eating nook, and past that into our playroom. Part of living in a parish home though, is using what you've got and what they have provided you with and making it work for your family. We had an already-furnished room (which we are so grateful for!) but I did not want the entire room to be a sitting area, because the kids need a space of their own, too. Had we had no furniture in there, the room would have gotten set up completely differently. So after re-arranging the furniture a few times, we came up with the idea that we can divide the large room into two sections: the sitting area/family area, and the play area. To do this, we simply took our larger couch and put that one in the center of the room, and changed the love seat to be the one against the wall by the fireplace. This made a really big difference (I wish I had a "before" photo to show!). Now it almost felt like it is two separate rooms. You'll see what I mean in some photos below. Oh, there is a coffee table in the sitting area too. 

Just behind the couch

The area behind the couch took quite a bit of arranging and re-arranging before we made it perfect. For right now, I am very happy with this set-up. On the left wall, we put our ever-so-famous IKEA Expedit unit. This is my favorite piece of furniture ever, because it is so versatile! We used to have it in our son's room for his toys, but after moving a few times realized it functions best as a general home for all the toys. We have gone through several baskets in the past, but these IKEA wicker Bradas baskets are now the favorite (I think they are $12 a piece). They look a bit fancier than cloth baskets, and they have surprised me in being sturdier, too. The kids used to sit in the cloth bins (like the turquoise one that is left over), and stretch them out/de-form them, but these have not been tempting to them at all! We organize the baskets by type of toy. The first one contains farm animals (our Schleich collection) and the farm fence. The next basket is for dress-up clothes. The third basket is filled with all the babydoll and doll items like clothes and accessories, plus my daughter's famous purse collection (she plays with them ALL on a rotation every few days). Finally, the last basket contains a few race cars, trains and my son's miscellaneous small toys. The cloth bin happens to be kind of a miscellaneous bin right now which I need to go through and purge. 
About the books - every few weeks, my husband usually tells me to get rid of some of the books from the shelves so the kids stop making such a mess. However, I have taken books away and found myself adding them all over again a few days later because I see how much the kids love to read. All three of them look at all of the books. We do clean-up as a team, so I am hoping that they get better with time at putting back one book before taking a new one. We are working on it. But since they do most of the clean-up, I am not really too bothered by their mess-making. It is the one room in the house that is really 'theirs' to make a mess in and then clean up. 

The refrigerator from the play kitchen fit best in this nook too, and kind of makes it more fun for the kids too, because they feel like it's more realistic when they walk to the refrigerator from the other kitchen play area. 

The shelves above the Expedit unit are IKEA's picture ledges (RIBBA - the longer ones). I had seen many photos of these ledges used for books on Pinterest and just loved the idea of using colorful books as a decor for the room while at the same time keeping favorite books out of reach of children by keeping them high up. Ideally, I would have needed three of these shelves but I have other places in the house where I keep the other precious books that I do not want the kids touching. 

Behind the couch on the other side is our teepee, which I planned to be a reading nook. One day I will probably put a basket of books by the teepee or inside the teepee, but for now, there is a blanket in there which functions as a cushion, along with a few pillows. I plan to find some teepee lights for it one day, too. The kids absolutely love going in there! It was an Easter gift to them this year, and I love finding my girls in there with their dolls or someone reading in there (usually it's the littlest one!) My middle two take turns in there during quiet hour as well, and that has significantly reduced chatter and fighting during quiet hour (which was on the two couches before). In case anyone is wondering, the teepee is Kidkraft and it was from Walmart. It is the only teepee I ever found for less than $100 so I bought it right away. You can buy them on Amazon, too, or if you're more creative than I, you can make them (see Pinterest for a tutorial). 

The rug is from Costco and we bought it for $17 on a whim a few months ago. I love that it is educational, and it adds a bit of cozy-ness to the hardwood floor in there. I may move it into our classroom one day...

The play kitchen is Pottery Barn Kids found on Craigslist for a ridiculously cheap price when someone was moving and needed to get rid of it. I searched for months and months for a wooden play kitchen, both new and on Craigslist, and though I practically drooled over PBK's catalog play kitchens, I never expected to actually find one for a reasonable price! 

All in all, I love this room for now! I tried to not make this post confusing, but it probably was, so I'm sorry about that!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Shoes

I wanted to share some shoe news today.

I have very strangely shaped feet, and they are a medium size, but on the wider side of medium. If I attempt a "wide" shoe though, my feet fall out. I also have some slight bunions on both feet. If you ask me, I've got some pretty ugly feet! But that's not the main problem. The problem is shoe shopping. I have a very difficult time finding shoes that are comfortable, affordable AND a proper fit for my odd-shaped foot. This year I made a pact with myself that I will no longer care about price when it comes to shoes (ok, this does not mean I'll just dish out $200 on a pair of shoes, either). Comfort simply needs to come first. It has been too long now that I haven't listened to my gut and have bought shoes that were just okay as opposed to be beautiful AND comfortable, only to find myself squeezing my feet into them and forcing myself to wear them despite my discomfort. I have since been on the lookout for shoes that are only leather (inside and out) so that I can wear them barefoot without having an issue, and also ones that are pretty on my foot. After reading about these shoes on a blog, I decided to give Born Julianne a try. I finally bought my first pair this month as I was in desperate need of a new pair of tan-colored flats, and so far I absolutely love them! They scream "comfort" when you first take them out of the box because they are buttery soft and then when you look inside, they are well-cushioned. They are a flat but not so flat that I feel like I am walking on solid ground. Finally, my feet do not hurt when I am walking!

Just thought I would share for others who are on the lookout for a good shoe! I am hoping to buy them in red next month to add a pop of color to boring maternity fall outifts. :-)

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Quote...

God is fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is from the devil — for the devil is cold — then let us call upon the Lord and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him but for our neighbor as well.

— Saint Seraphim of Sarov

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Homeschooling, Week 1

This week has officially been our first week of homeschooling ever! I did not want to post right away until we had had a few days of it and I got a better picture of how things are going. Well, things are going GREAT! I am so excited and feeling so grateful to God that with His help things are going smoothly so far. I'm also feeling more connected with my kids and just happier overall. I know to some moms this might all sound crazy, ("how could you feel happier when you're not seeing your kids off to school and getting a little break??") but this is just working for us right now.

On Monday, I was honestly not prepared to begin. The weekend had had all 3 kids coughing and sneezing and myself, too, plus our son had a headache and a fever for two nights in a row (he would wake up feeling great each morning, though, until the next bedtime). So I figured we would use Monday to recover and start Tuesday. But come Monday morning, my hubby told me that I should start that day, (kind of like "if you keep putting this off, you'll never start!), and so I obliged. The kids LOVED it. And thankfully, since with Sonlight, the lessons are all planned for you, I really had no prep work to do other than finding the right pages in each of the books for that day.

Here is how our days have been going each morning.
6:30 AM - I wake up and have coffee and try to get a quiet and calm start to my day while everyone else is asleep (some days I am joined by the little one but she just does her own thing)

Somewhere between 6:30 and 7:45, everyone else wakes up. My husband comes down and gets a coffee, and we sit down on the couch. I read the Prologue to Ochrid for the day out loud. I don't make the kids listen but I hope that with time they'll just get used to it and listen along. After the Prologue, I read the daily Bible readings aloud.

8:00 AM - I try to have breakfast made BY 8 so that we have ample time to eat and prepare for the day. I typically don't let the kids eat in their pajamas but prefer they are dressed for the day. They get dressed on their own upstairs, other than the little one. After breakfast, I prepare for the day upstairs and get dressed, and my husband usually does the dishes during this time (that was his own initiative, not a request on my behalf. But I'm not complaining!) We do morning prayers as a family once my husband and I are ready.

9:00 AM - As close to 9 as possible, we start our school day. At this time, the kids and I hold hands and sing a Russian song about going to school as we walk into our school room (aka the formal living room where I have made a school corner). I open the double doors of that room and lay out all our materials for the day from my shelf, while the kids sit down on the couch. Once we have finished the song and everything is prepared, we stand up and sing a prayer before our studies.

The Sonlight curriculum does not take much longer than 45 minutes to an hour each day (for pre-school). I love that! I usually add in a few of my own things here and there, and at the end of the school "day" I let them color while listening to music. Yesterday was particularly fun! We read a story that was based in Japan, and looked at Japan on the map afterwards. Then, during their coloring time, I turned on Japanese music instead of regular classical music, to keep things interesting. They loved it!

We are just having so much fun together with school so far. I hope and pray that things continue going this way! One of the things I was most concerned about before we began, was that the kids would stop speaking Russian to me at all once they realized I CAN speak English to them, sometimes. Well, this has not been the case at all. They just click that as soon as school starts, we speak English, and then afterwards we go back to Russian. My son actually starts saying "Ok Mom, we are ready!" as soon as he enters the "school room." They take the school space very seriously (and I giggle inside at that). Yesterday I suggested coloring at the kitchen table instead, because it's more spacious, and he very seriously said, "no, right here is perfect" and sat down at the junior table in the school room.

Thank God for everything!!

BTW: Another thing I have been trying to do is pray to St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. John of Kronstadt each morning before school, because they are two patron saints of education. They helped me so much when I would struggle in college! I am certain they are helping with things going well so far.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Exciting Day!

Today was a very exciting day because it was our very first Sonlight BOX day!!! Our big white box arrived just after lunch and it was greeted with equal excitement from the kids and I! My pre-schooler squealed with every book I lifted out of the box screaming that he "loves that book!" I can't wait to dig in to these books, but in due time... I am hoping that we can begin on Monday. It just depends if I can make my other homeschooling plans in time.

I just love each and every book that I have taken out of the box, and I love that so many of them are Usborne books (my favorite books!) A few of them are classics like Peter Rabbit and Mother Goose...then there's Dr. Seuss, the Berenstein can take a little peek below. I have literally looked through my stack of books 4 times already!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pantry and Refrigerator/Freezer Staples

I have a confession to make: I HATE grocery shopping. I have tried doing it solo and buying myself a treat of a coffee before I do it, but that honestly didn't make it much better (and many times I'd spill the coffee!) I realize it is a part of adult life though, but I really would rather hand off the duty to my husband, or go as a family (which is not a great idea at all these days!!). Thankfully, my husband loves grocery shopping! It is one of his ways of having down time, and he actually tells me some evenings "i'm going to Mariano's (our grocery store of choice)" without me even asking him to go buy food. The one problem I have with him doing the shopping though, is that many times when he is prepared to go to the store, I am not ready with my list. This leads to him walking around rather aimlessly and buying things that seem good (basic cuts of meat, for example), and me remembering what I need only once he has left the store and is on his way home.

I am trying to find a solution to this problem to make meal prep a little bit smoother in our home and cut back on emergency trips to the store for missing ingredients or staples. One thing I decided to finally do is make a list of pantry and refrigerator staples: things we use daily that do not really get included into recipes, therefore things that I am constantly forgetting to put on the list.

I am sharing my list here. I got the idea from a book I'm reading called Family Feasts for $75 a Week but of course, this idea of having a "staples list" is not a new one. I went off of the author's list, taking out things I don't use, and adding in other staples, and here is what I came up with so far. I am sure I missed something (or a few things) which I can add later on.

My plan is now when my husband is ready to go to the store, or I am planning my meals and making I can skim my basics list and see what I may be in need of.

Pantry Staples

  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate chips (regular and mini)
  • Coffee (k-cups, Serbian, and regular ground coffee)
  • Caffeinated Tea
  • Decaffeinated Tea
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Coffee creamer
  • Bread Flour
  • All-purpose flour
  • Wheat flour
  • Sugar: Regular, Brown, Confectioner’s
  • Minced Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola/Vegetable Oil
  • Onions (red and yellow)
  • Pasta: Egg noodles, lasagna noodles, and regular (any shape)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jam
  • Potatoes (any kind)
  • Quick-Cooking Oats
  • Rice (Brown and/or white)
  • Spices: Garlic powder, paprika, dried parsley
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestire Sauce
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • White Vinegar
  • Pasta Sauce (non-dairy so it can be used for lent as well)
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Clams
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Yeast
  • Cereal: Multi-Grain Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Special K
Refrigerator/Freezer Staples

  • Apples (organic)
  • Butter
  • Margarine (spreadable and stick form)
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cheeses in shredded form: Cheddar, Mozzarella
  • Parmesan Cheese (in any form)
  • Cream Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Lettuce
  • Organic Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Caeasar Salad Dressing (natural)
  • Salsa (Whole Foods 360 Corn and Bean Salsa)
  • Fruit Juice Ice Pops

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Some News

I have been quiet lately for a big reason... I have been hiding a big secret, and that is....

Come February 2016 (if God wills it to be so...), we will be welcoming a new member to our family... a new sweet baby, #4!!! We are so very excited about this coming addition to the family! Unfortunately, the kids do not understand the concept of not picking baby's gender very well. They have their hearts set on a boy, because it's only fair to have another boy now that we already have 2 girls (to them). I keep reminding them that God is already giving us a huge blessing in a new baby, and that we have to be thankful for what we get, whether it is a boy or a girl. Poor Lazar really does want a roommate, though (and I don't blame him!) Hopefully, in a few weeks, we will be finding out the baby's gender. I had 2 surprise genders out of 3, and I think that's enough for now. :-) I cannot wait to have a sweet little newborn in the house again!

In other news, we have made some very big decisions regarding school for our children. After many months of discussion since moving to our new home, we have come to the decision that we would love to attempt sending our children to a Greek Orthodox school "around here." I said "around here" because the school is actually 40 minutes away (much to our dismay). However, given that we have not found a school that we like better than this one, (and given the fact that it would be amazing to have them in an all-Orthodox school environment), we decided to sign the kids up for 2 days of pre-school this fall and see how things go. If it is not going well in terms of the drive to and from school, we will know not to continue.

At the same time though, I have kind of had my heart set on homeschooling my babies for at least the early years. I have such a love for educating since completing my education degree while pregnant with my second child, and therefore, I have not been able to get away from the idea of homeschooling. After many conversations with my hubby about it, and a lot of prayer, we have decided that on the days  that the kids are not in preschool, I will be attempting to homeschool them. I have bought Sonlight's pre-kindergarten curriculum (which is a Charlotte-Mason, literature-based curriculum). I'm excited to do a lot of reading with the kids! This should be really special for them, because I have never read to them in English - always in Russian. So now we get to start something new together! I'm very excited. I am hoping that within a few months of preschool and Sonlight, we get to see what our preference is. We will need to make a big decision about what we will do for Kindergarten before next fall.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Thought for the Day

"Do not ever succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much one can endure and, according to that, measures the sufferings and pains of everyone. St. Nil Sorsky says: "When even men know how much weight a horse, or a donkey or a camel can carry and, according to that they are loading them according to their strength; when a potter knows how long to leave the clay in the kiln for it to be neither shattered nor over-baked, how could God not know how much temptation a soul can bear to make it ready and fitted for the Kingdom of Heaven?""
-St. Nikolaj Velimirovic, from today's Prologue reading

Saturday, June 6, 2015

New Sunday Tradition

I have been meaning to write this post for a few days now!

I am a really huge sucker for traditions. I just love them. Every family has their own traditions, and while I have enjoyed using my childhood traditions with my family so far, I have also enjoyed making some new traditions with my kiddos and my hubby. One thing I have looked forward to for many years (like, from the day my hubby reminded me "you know, if you marry me, our future is living as a priest's family on a parish, right?") is having a family dinner on Sunday nights with a fancy roast or something really tasty that screams, "Sunday night." Sunday night is the culmination of two days of services for a priest, and it is so nice for him to come home and relax with his family after all of the standing on his feet. In addition, it really is the beginning of the following week and can really set the tone for the rest of the days to come that week.

So last Sunday, I set out to prepare an extra special dinner just for our little family. I prepared a roasted leg of lamb and potatoes (Greek-style with lots of lemon, oil and oregano), a side of mashed potatoes for the little ones who prefer them to the roasted, an overflowing bread basket, and a nice big salad. I set up the dinner table in the dining room because it makes things feel more special. We will definitely eat Sunday dinners in the dining room from now on. The kids enjoyed it and so did my hubby and I. I think it serves as a wonderful opportunity to remind them of manners, too, when eating at a big fancy table instead of our ordinary table.

Usually I don't serve dessert after meals simply because I don't have time to prepare one, but also mainly because I don't want my kids to view dessert as a necessity, (and somehow they don't ask for it much these days anyway). Plus, we are known for being frequent stoppers at our local ice cream shop! I think Sundays do call for a nice dessert, though! Last Sunday it was ice cream, but in the future I'd love to make a nice homemade pudding or something else yummy.

Some Sundays we aren't home just because that's the way that it goes, but all in all, I'd love to keep up with our new tradition every time we are home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Teaching our Children...

I am quickly making my way through a book called, Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing a Large Family. It is turning out to be a really useful read (even though we aren't even a "large" family)!

This quote really struck me as something I would love to not only keep in mind but make a reality in our home more than at the present time.

"Do not swish your children away to be entertained by the television or toys; include them in your work instead. Give them a broom or a wet washcloth. Talk to them while you work, and tell them why you are doing what you are doing. Explain to them the value of work and the joy that comes from a job well done. Praise them and brag about your busy little workers to their father when he comes home. Do not allow them to whine!"


Happy June, everyone!

This quote that I came across on Facebook today was just so perfect that I had to share it immediately. So. True.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Ascension of Our Lord

Troparion (in tone 4): 
O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory, / Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. / Through the blessing they were assured / That You are the Son of God, / The Redeemer of the world!

Happy Feast Day! Today we celebrate the Ascenscion of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven after his Holy Resurrection. It is a gray, cold day outside, but the spirit of the feast can certainly keep our hearts warm.

I am currently plyaing the service from Moscow's Sretensky Monastery loudly through the house (our tradition for every feast), as we prepare for liturgy.

This morning as I read the Prologue from Ochrid (by St. Nikolaj Velimirovic), I ran into an interesting snippet that I felt was worthy of sharing. It doesn't pertain to the feast, but to a Christian life in general.

"A monk complained to St. Arsenius that, while reading the Holy Scriptures, he felt neither the power of the words he read nor any sweetness in his heart. To this the great saint replied: 'My child, just read! I have heard that snake-charmers, when they cast a spell on the snakes, pronounce words that they themselves do not understand; but the snakes, hearing the words spoken, feel their power and are tamed. So with us, when we constantly keep the words of Holy Scripture on our lips; even if we cannot feel their power, the evil spirits, hearing these words, flee in terror, for they cannot abide the word of the  Holy Spirit. My child, just read. The Holy Spirit, who wrote the divine words through those He inspired, will hear and understand, and will hasten to your aid; and the demons will hear and understand, and will flee from you." 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Last Day of Pascha...

Today was the last day of Pascha. Tomorrow's liturgy will celebrate the Apodosis (or the "farewell") to Pascha. Somehow, even though Great Lent flies by each year, Pascha flies by even faster. We are encouraged as Orthodox Christians though, not to be sad at this time, but rather to look forward to the Ascension of our Lord, as well as all the other feasts that await us later on in the year.

When I baked 11 kulichi this year (Russian Easter breads), I did not expect that they would be eaten before the end of Pascha! But alas, they were. I was so devastated that I had finished off the last one a week ago, but my Mama, who came for a visit this past weekend, saved the day by bringing me her last kulich (a Mama's love, I'll say :)) I enjoyed it (and savored it!) with my leftover cheese pascha. I usually tried to eat it when the kids weren't around and I could have it in silence with some tea!

Today would have been my dearest grandfather's birthday. This is the first time we remember his birthday after his death, and I definitely had a few teary moments today when wishing I could call him and sing to him, like he always did to me on my birthday. We prayed for him this morning at prayers though, which is of course, most important. As a little comfort, I made eggs and bacon for breakfast this morning, which was the breakfast he always made for us whenever we would come over to visit. (We always made it a point to visit FOR breakfast, because his eggs could just not be topped! He fried them in bacon grease). Memory eternal, Deda! You are so very missed.

Omelette prep this morning

Monday, May 11, 2015

Help from Above

In an Orthodox home, the most important thing we, parents, need to relay to our children, is of course, prayer. We need to teach our children that we are not all-knowing or all powerful, even as parents. But as life gets crazy and our days get hectic (around here, every day is hectic!) it can be easy to forget to make time for prayer, especially prayer aside from our morning and evening prayer rules. For me, days like those are the ones that are difficult, and the ones filled with the most temptations. When I forget to put God first (which is easy to do in a secularized country especially), I find that I have the hardest days.

One of my greatest comforts is an Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children. This Akathist is relatively new in my life but I have been finding that the days I remember to make time to read it, it is a lot easier to stay focused on my children and all of the important things, instead of on secular issues and petty things.

I have shared this once before, but I am sharing it again. I recommend printing out these beautiful prayers (this akathist) and standing in front of any icon, reading it (or singing it) aloud. I have read it in Barnes and Noble before, but I have sometimes read it at home too, right in front of my kids as they play. I hope it can bring other Mamas comfort like it has brought me. I love sticking in my children's really makes it feel so personal!

Click HERE to go to the Akathist.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Happy May!

Christ is risen!

It's finally May! A promising month it always is, because the weather starts to get so much nicer. Lucky for our family, we just got a beautiful wooden fence put up in our backyard (it is less than a week old). We are so thankful to our parish for doing this for us! Outdoor playtime is so much more relaxing now for my husband and I, and the kids have so much space to run circles in (literally - that's what our oldest son loves to do). Mama loves to kick back on our new outdoor swing (a gift from a few families in our parish...thankful yet again!) and watch the kids play with sand, which is their current favorite outdoor activity.

We just got back from New York, where we visited my family for about 10 days and it was really lovely. Then, we had our parish feast day celebration today (the actual feast is this Wednesday, St. George's Day).

Now, I am working on trying to make a more concrete plan for school for our oldest son (who is almost 4.5). I would like to work on a little bit of homeschooling with him come this fall, and see how things go in preparation for Kindergarten. We have no set plans for what we will do regarding Kindergarten and there are many factors to consider. Hopefully, getting a feel for homeschooling this coming fall will help us figure out whether that is something that can work for our family for the future or not. I'm excited to try things out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Preparing for Pascha!

Pascha prep is officially underway in our house! As usual, I started the preparations by baking our kulichi (Easter breads). I made 11 this year (it varies every year, depending on how high the dough rises, and the sizes of cans used)...and the house smelled so tempting all day! I have frozen and stashed all the kulichi and cannot wait to defrost the largest one on Holy Saturday, so that we can fill our basket and take it to church to be blessed on Pascha!

I initially baked 3 small for each of my kids. But I ended up with so much dough that I baked in 2 batches, so I re-used some of the small cans and ended up with many little kulichi instead!

Next up is buying farmer's cheese and then making our cheese pascha! And cleaning, of course!

A Kitchen Nook

I'm really excited about my kitchen desk has turned into such a cozy nook now that I have managed to organize it nicely! 

I was so excited about this area when we were first moving in...until I realized that it can easily become a dumping ground for miscellaneous items (which did happen)! I spent a lot of time looking around on Pinterest for ideas for a kitchen command center and the result is a little mix of a command center and a cookbook keeping area. 

All the way to the left, you can see our family calendar (a photo calendar), with a wooden Long Island above it. I love that Long Island souvenir!!! Someone gave it to me a few years ago from my home parish, and I chose to use it only as a decoration and not as a real cutting board! I love that my first home is hanging above my desk for me to see in such a prominent spot. 

The inside of the cabinets were not easy to arrange because of the funny sizes of the side cabinets. But I took my time and things really came together nicely, I think. In the left cabinet I have my 3 home keeping binders. One is a general binder of my housekeeping routines (I have them written in the form of checklists). The other 2 binders are a recipe binder and a binder of magazine articles I have collected through the years, all pertaining to homekeeping. 

Looking at the center cabinet, all the way on the bottom I have cookbooks. I do have many of them, and this is after getting rid of a handful, too! These are ALL from my wedding shower and very few of them have actually been my own purchases. The shelf above the cookbooks houses my most-used parenting books, as well as a few books I use on a regular basis, such as my current Lenten reading. These books extend onto the top shelf, where I actually had to lay them flat due to size constraints. I think they look kinda cool that way, though! 

You'll also see in the left center cabinet that there is a light blue basket...that's where I am currently keeping my knitting. It needs to be in an area where I can reach it easily so it's not forgotten, but also out of the reach of children (until now it has been hanging out on my desk, which is so dangerous!) Next to that basket I have a black basket which is filled with miscellaneous items, such as missing puzzle pieces that I find at random times, and odds and ends that I find while cleaning...but all of these things are ones that will be gone back to later, and not junk that should be in the garbage. Instead of keeping them on our window sill, I put them in that basket. Then, once the basket is full, I can go through these things. 

Now, all the way to the right, up top, I have our play dough storage container (so cool!) which has not only all our play dough in it, but also all the toys that go along with it! (I got this idea from Pinterest. It's a Sterilite 3-level container...perfect for this!!! The play-doh is in the 2nd level, in round balls, and the other 2 levels store the tools for the play-doh). Next to this is our art caddy...again, out of reach of the kids. One day I can hopefully keep the caddy out regularly, but that has proven to result in a disaster for our family at the present time. 

Below the play-doh is another blue basket, in which I keep all the chargers. I HATE having chargers laying around when they are not being used!! They look so hideous! This was a perfect solution. (BTW...I got these blue baskets at Hobby Lobby on sale...less than $3 a piece). Next to the chargers is my little sewing kit (this doesn't really have to be here, but currently there's not a better home for it). 

And last...the lower level of the right cabinet. Right now, I'm keeping something current there, and that's our easter egg storage bags because we have to stow away an easter egg each day during our Paschal countdown. Next to this is a huge box of greeting cards that I have collected to use for whatever occasion is necessary. 

Now, on top of my desk... I hate having piles and piles of stuff laying around, so I really tried to think this through. You'll see that all the way on the left of the desk is a pen/pencil holder, my Mall Money piggy bank, and a little container of note cards (used regularly!) Next, I have a mailing station...this has in it stamps, envelopes, any current OUTgoing mail, and our return address labels (I have my own, plus ones for our whole family). Moving on to the letter tray. In here I am holding anything VERY current...such as something I am currently working on with the kids (right now that is our Serbian Easter carol) planner, and any mail that I need to take care of ASAP. That's about it. Everything else is either thrown away as soon as I have taken care of it/looked at it, or is upstairs being filed away in my little filing cabinet. 

I decided to use the magazine file to store current catalogs to clothing or home stores that I may need to refer back to, plus coupons that are current. I hate digging for coupons, so this is really a great way for me to keep them within reach. I need to find a better way to keep them together, but currently they are all clipped together using a ginormous paper clip, and neatly placed next to the catalogs. 

I love my new, tidy area! I should mention that the beautiful desktop organization items are from the Container Store. I thought very wisely before choosing my items...I easily could have bought the entire collection! 

Update on our icon corner....

I finally found the beautiful icon cloth that I have been looking for for our icon corner. I think it makes the little corner stand out so much more, and looks so beautiful (though now I see I need to pull the cloth down to the right a bit ;-)).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

4th Saturday of Great Lent...

Here we are, more than half way through Great Lent already! It's true that Great Lent really goes by faster with each year.

Today, my husband was away all day visiting parishioners, and amidst the craziness with the kids, I tried to do a little reflection in my head of how Great Lent is going for me this year. One of the things that immediately came into my head was that I feel like I have spent every waking hour of this lent on my feet in the kitchen. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like cooking and washing pans/loading the dishwasher, and tidying up the kitchen is what I am doing most of my day, every day(this happens outside of Lent, too, but for some reason lately it feels like more time). It's a big frustration to me when I think that I could be spending my time reading, cleaning other parts of the house (like following along with my cleaning plan) and trying to grow in some way before Pascha. So I made a little plan to help myself for the rest of this Great Lent. I whipped out the paper plates, and decided that I am going to use only paper plates from now on until Pascha (but maybe Sundays will be an exception). I started out with this new system for lunch today, and my clean-up was so much easier! I was wiping down the counter within minutes, instead of spending almost 40 minutes cleaning up after a meal (which includes checking that the kids aren't tearing down the house every few minutes, running to break up fights, etc). I'm really hoping that the time I save on cleaning up will add on to my reading and quiet reflection time until Pascha.

In other news, this was a busy week! Yesterday was the first day of spring at last! My family in NY was getting snowed in, but we had a springy temperature of 50 yesterday and today. It has been so nice to wear lighter jackets outside for the last 2 weeks! In accordance with the first day of spring, and tomorrow's feast of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, I made zhavaronki (lark buns) yesterday. I look forward to this every year so much! (next to my pan of birdies is split pea soup). Russian tradition has it that as a welcome to spring (which always falls right around the feast of the 40 Martyrs), we make little buns in the shape of lark birds.

Today, I embarked on a new adventure: making piroshki for the first time in my life!!! I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never made them before, but I have an excuse: my grandmother made hundreds of piroshki at once when we were growing up, and she'd freeze them so we always had them at our fingertips when they were wanted or needed. I did help her make them, though, if that counts! Once I got married and moved away, I was busy with school and Babushka always supplied me with frozen piroshki, so again, I never even thought about making my own. Times have changed a bit now and I am a little more independent in the kitchen than I was back when we first got married. I decided today that it was going to be the big day that I first made piroshki. I had a great time with the recipe (which one of my best friends gave me), and the kids did, too! It was a perfect thing for them to help with, because they loved cutting the circles out of the dough!

As you can see, my filling of choice for this first try was mushrooms and onions. YUM!