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.