Moab UT

Moab UT

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Little Mother

Zoe, the little mother.  

She is the one who dotes on her babies and stuffed animals.  She follows me around the house all day with purses on her arms and a babies wrapped in blankets occasionally whispering "ssshhhh", with that little bounce that only mother's know how to do. 

It all comes so natural, even at this young age.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

An evening out

Sunday evening we went to a Russian Festival in Dallas hosted by the Russian American Center.  The director of the event was kind enough to give us free tickets, and we thought the girls would enjoy seeing the performance.  

The band was called Kristall Balalayka.  They are from Russia and are amazing.  Each of the band members played several different instruments and all of them have great voices.  The music ranged from beautiful russian ballads to very festive folk music.  They threw in a couple of American remakes that were...interesting.  The girls had a blast. 

Ever heard of a gusly, sopilka, okariny, zhaleyka or a rozhok?  Me either, but they sounded great!

Of course our favorite song of the night was "Katusha", since we have our very own Katusha in the house.   Thea swore she heard them singing a song titled "Thea".  Zoe didn't care what they played as long as they kept going.  She danced up and down the aisle.  

If you ever get the chance, check them out.  


I hear mud baths are great for the skin...

So, do you remember that charming little post a couple of days ago about my darlings playing in the mud outside?  Well, it was really charming, Zoe's little muddy toes and all...then.  However, today we were all working in the yard, me out front, Fr. to the side.  All of a sudden I hear Katherine behind me asking if they can play in the water hose.  I turn around to face three little pigs-literally.  The girls had found a water source and proceeded to do a little gardening of their own.

So, maybe we could do a little mud bath fundraiser.  My kids could be in charge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Big sister

I don't know about you, but watching kids grow up is bittersweet.  I love them each and every day.  I love the people they are becoming.   But, I look at old pics and long for those chubby little hands and feet.  

Katya is such a big girl now.  She helps me with everything.  The other night Zoe had a bit of a cold and was cranky.  Katherine took her into my room and began reading to her.  She gently calmed Zoe down and got her ready for bed. 

I love my big girl, but I also miss those fat little cheeks she used to have.  


I love this girl

All right, who wants to kiss these cheeks?  

New Style

Is Fr. Justin the only one that doesn't know that the little snap shirts go inside the pants?  I can't tell you how many times I've come home to find my little one's dressed with the shirts snapped on the outside.

When I say something to him, he always answers with some kind of mumbly response like, "Oh, um, huh, oh, yeah, oh right...does it matter?"

I guess not.

But I washed my hands!

We've gotten a good bit a rain the last few days.  The girls, of course, love the mud and water puddles.  After calling them in the other day, Zoe, the little straggler, came in covered in mud-especially her feet.  

When I told her what a little mud ball she was, she answered, but I washed my the muddy water no doubt.  

A gray day in the South

Well, we thought it was Spring.  But we should have know better.  There is always one last little cold snap around Pascha every year.  

Nonetheless, it always takes us by surprise.  So, the girls have been running around in the house all day trying to find things to do.  

This afternoon, when I went in to check on why everyone was so quiet, I found that Katherine had pulled up her rocker and started knitting by the window.  

Such a nice sight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Please pray

For this little man, Stellan.  He has some serious heart problems.

To read more, go to

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Papa and his daughter

Today, Fr. Justin and Katya continued their work on the vegetable beds.  
Fr. is putting in a new bed for tomatoes and Katya spent the morning weeding.  
Katya was in this same squatting position weeding for about two hours!  Oh, to be that limber again!

O Most Holy Theotokos, pray to God for us!

A joyous feast of the Annunciation to you all. 

This is one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church that commemorates the Archangel Gabriel's announcement to the Theotokos that she would bear a child - the Son of God.

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with Thee!

Troparian, Tone 4

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old Hat New Hat

This has been all three of my girls favorite book at one time or another. Currently it is Zoe's favorite.  When I read it to Zoe now, if the other two are in earshot they still come and listen to me read.  If your little one doesn't have this book,  get it.  It's a very charming rhyming book with excellent illustrations.  

Old Hat New Hat
Stan and Jan Berenstain

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thank you, Vladyka Dmitri

The news of the retirement of our precious Archbishop Dmitri, is bittersweet for me.  I, like so many, have such wonderful memories of my time with Vladyka.  

When I was becoming Orthodox and had read enough that I wanted to visit an Orthodox Church, I called my friend Timothy in California to ask which one I should visit.  He said, that I should visit them all to experience how each jurisdiction (Greek, Antiochian, OCA, ROCOR, etc.) worships, but there would be only only one place I should settle, and that is at the feet of Archbishop Dmitri.  He continued to say that he had never met him, but had heard nothing but great things about him.  He was, and still is, right.    

When I became Orthodox, Vladyka Dmitri catechized me.  At the time, I had no idea what a blessing I was receiving.  When I was received into the church, both he and Fr. John baptized and chrismated me.  When my father was gravely ill in the hospital and had no desire to meet with anyone "spiritual",  Vladyka went and ministered to my father.  When Fr. Justin and I were courting, Vladyka and I had many conversations about "this man" and didn't give his blessing for our marriage until he had met and spoke with Fr. Justin-several times.  When Fr. Justin and I decided to get married, he was unable to attend our wedding due to travel.  He did, however, insist on betrothing us early so that he could be a part of our wedding.  He baptized two of our three children.  

He has been an important part of everything I live for.  He has helped me make the most important decisions in my life.  I am so thankful.

I am only one of so many who has been, and will continue to be, touched by this humble servant of our Lord.  May God grant him many, many more years of good health and a peaceful retirement.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Things I need:

 An easy and great veggie burger recipe (no eggs or milk please)

A great falafel recipe

Can anyone help?


A portrait of me by Thea.

I love it.

Papa and his garden

The unwritten rule around here is that Fr. Justin takes care of the vegetable beds and I take care of the flower beds.  Generally speaking, that is true.  However, I must confess that around about the end of August when I start looking at all the cooler places on the map we could live, I see my beloved out in the yard giving my sad little friends water.  Thanks Father.

Anyhow, I only plant perennials.  I don't have the time or energy to mess with annuals.  So, I really only have to go out in the spring, cut back the dead branches, do some mulching and watch my gardens bloom.  

Fr., on the other hand, has the hard part.  He has to prepare his beds, which here in Texas can require a lot of work, and then plant vegetables all year long.  He seems to really love it and I think it's one of the quiet places he can go.  The girls love to help him but they usually get sidetracked with other things to do and eventually he is left to dig alone-again.  

Here are a couple of pics of his beds this year.  He changed his beds around after reading the book "Square Foot Gardening".  We'll see if that works out better for him.  The beds look great and I can't wait to partake of the bounty.  

Ahhh, Spring

Spring is here to stay for us in the South.  We had a cold snap this past weekend, but I think that will be the last one.  

The girls and I went to a golf green turned park.  It has a few ponds with ducks and geese, turtles everywhere and snakes (so the signs say).  We had a great time, especially when the girls found the old sand pit for the golfers.  

Some of the pics are by the girls.  They really love taking pictures and are getting pretty good at it.  I may have to locate a couple of inexpensive cameras for the girls for Christmas if they stay interested.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

The event of the year,

for my niece, that is.

This past weekend my niece was joined in matrimony with her long time boyfriend.  These two youngsters have been dating since the eighth grade, gone away to college and hoofed it to get finished with school and are now ready to start their lives together.  They both graduate in May and will be starting their careers as teachers (poor souls).  

Of course, the timing of their wedding was not so good for our immediate family, but as Fr. and I agreed, we are so glad that they are getting married, since so few people think it's important any longer.  

There were 400 people at this event!!  It was by far the largest wedding I had ever been to.  The reception was in a three floor building, with food and beverages in every direction.  It was pretty fancy.   The bride and groom seemed exceedingly happy to finally be together as man and wife.  While my brother and his wife seemed exceedingly happy that this whole event was finally over.

Of course, I had every intention of getting all sorts of really great shots.  Well, with four hundred people milling about and three very excited girls shooting off in every direction, wanting to explore every nook and cranny of the building, I didn't get very many shots.  Here are a couple of pics of  the girls as flower girls,  Fr. Justin being charmed by a little red haired beauty, the bride dancing with my parents, a group of dancing people, and Thea dancing with her friend. 

May God grant many, many years to this couple, Cade and Amanda.

Happiness is...

Walking in to a quiet bedroom to find three just bathed girls quietly reading.

The Sly Fox

The neighbors said we had them.

Fr. Justin said he caught a glimpse of one a few years ago.

But it wasn't until we got chickens, that one showed his pointy face.

After seven years of waiting to see one, Fr. Justin finally caught a bold fox snooping around our back yard tonight.  I guess we'll finally see how critter proof our chicken coop is now.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Organization update

Well, if there was a time to start our new well organized life, it was not this week.  Fr. Justin took a trip to Holy Archangels' Monastery for a few days and left us girlies here to organize alone.  Hmm, does this sound suspicious to anyone else but me?  :)

Anyhow, I was a little disappointed (not at Fr. Justin, but just at not being able to dive into our new well organized lives).  You know, when you've got the new rearranged living room idea all set in your mind and your just waiting for your husband to get home so he can flip it all around for you?  Then he calls and says he has to work late.  

Anyhow, at first I thought I'd just wait until he returns (because this is a family affair mind you) and then I realized that I couldn't wait (a weakness).  So, we implemented a few things this week that have been really great.  It's amazing how just a few small things make a really big difference.  

For example, the girls now have to pick up their room twice a day.  It only takes a second, since they are doing it twice a day.  And you know, they haven't complained once!  Also, they now must put their shoes and coats away the minute they come in the door.  Some of the times I've enforced this rule and but more often than not I've let it slip.  It is so nice to have all coats and shoes out of the way all day long!  Also, before dinner, the girls have to help me clean the living room.  

When Fr. Justin called to check in with us today, I gave him the update on "Our new plan".   I told him things were moving slowly, but surely.  That I've decided that we should put a few things in place, make them work and then add more slowly.  

Our conversation reminded me of a discussion I had with Geronda Dositheus of Holy Archangles regarding changing  bad habits and sinful behavior.  He said the key is to start with one thing and work on it until you have overcome the sin or bad habit-or at least until you have control over it.  He said that if we wake up one day and say "I'm going to be a better person or mother," then this doesn't really help us.  He said by  praying and working daily  against a particular weakness will enable us to be mindful of it and to cry out to God when we feel we are struggling.  Then we can slowly begin to work on other things as we are able.  This was invaluable advice for me.  

So, I applied this wisdom to our lives this week and decided that since the girl's bedroom is a struggle for me (it's always messy with clothes and toys and we homeschool in their too), we should start there and get it functioning well, and then add on other chores after they've master a few responsibilities.

Of course  I must pray to keep a proper perspective here.  I am tempted to throw our lives into a whole new routine.  To have the girls wake up one morning to charts everywhere.  (I'm still not sure about that one.)  But I realize that I have to recognize my own weakness to want it all 'perfect' now!  It sounds really good, but I see chaos and failure in that plan.  

Like I said a couple of posts ago, I'm on the twenty year plan.  

I give you my word, we do homeschool around here!

Zoe's godmother, Eudokia, gave the girls a basket filled with crafts and craft ideas for Nativity.  Included were paper plates and string for masks.  

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"The primary goal in the education of children is to teach, and to give example of, a virtuous life." St. John Chrysostom

Although I have only just begun schooling Katherine, she is in the first grade, it seems like I've been working at it for years.  What I've really been working at, however,  is how to homeschool, attend to my little one's, attend to my husband, attend to my home (and that huge list), attend to my spiritual life, etc.  The list goes on and on.  

I bet Fr. Justin wishes that he had a dime for every time I have walked in and said "OK, we have a new game plan!"  I am always trying to figure out how to fit it all in.  A friend who successfully homeschooled her two boys told me that I would always be changing the game plan, and that I would never be able to fit it all in.  I believe her.  I just want to fit some of it in.

I have been reading "A Mother's Rule of Life" by Holly Pierlot.  This book was recommended by Sophia over at and I am glad I've taken the time to read it.  I am almost finished with Holly's book and I have been inspired to put some serious structure into our lives.  She has convinced me that what has been missing is a rule of life.  Before she married, Holly was considering the monastic life.  What came to her was the idea to order her home in the same way monastics order their lives.  So, she assigned chores and responsibilities with charts for every child, every hour of the day.  (Of course, I'm sure I need not mention that she does not make her children work all day.  She just has everything scheduled, including play and free time, etc.) 

At first this seemed overwhelming to me.  I am not one to schedule the entire day.  I will confess, however, that I probably wing more than I should.  Nonetheless,  I have experienced firsthand how peaceful and orderly monastic life is.  There is a reason that the abbess assigns daily chores to most of the sisters every day.  Among other reasons, this removes any confusion of who's responsibility it is to do certain chores.  It also frees the sisters of the burden of worry about what needs to be done, when and how,  and allows them to focus on prayer.  Of course, this also teaches the sisters humility, detachment and obedience.  

Children need structure too.  I don't care what style of teaching a mother chooses, children need structure.  I believe that an orderly and well structured home allows a child to feel safe and at peace, which actually frees the child and creates a good environment for the teaching of  virtues.  This also gives the mother the peace and the opportunity to live these virtues. I personally  believe this to be the single most important part of parenting.  For me, when I am stressed about the house, laundry, dinner, not praying, it's really hard for me to be the example to my children that I must be, not that I should be, but that I must be, for both our sake.  

Children also need responsibilities.  Momma and Papa should not be the only one's cooking, cleaning and feeding the cats.  How else will children learn how to care for themselves and to be hospitable to others?  Kids love having responsibilities.  They feel part of the team if they are contributing and helping in the home.  They experience firsthand the dynamic of a well functioning family when they are allowed, and expected, to help.  I see how my kids respond when I ask them to help me cook, fold laundry, feed the cats and chickens.  They even love washing the car!  Of course, it's takes much longer to include them.  But as our beloved Metropolitan Jonah told me recently, mothering is the perfect place to work out one's salvation.  It offers every opportunity that monasticism does-well, except those wonderful long, quiet, services.  Indeed, no one will make you die to yourself quicker than your children.  

So, I took clean week off from school to think, pray, clean and plan.  I plan to start work on our new schedule this week.  I'm sure I'll be tweaking it for the next twenty years or so, but that's OK.   This whole experience is for my salvation as much as it is for theirs.  May the Lord grant us all strength, mercy, love and repentance!  

O Lord and Master of my life, the spirit of idleness, of despondency, of love of power, and of idle words, grant me not.
But the spirit of continence, of humility, of patience, and of love, do Thou grant unto me Thy servant.
Yea O Lord and King, grant unto me to perceive mine own offences and not to judge my brother; for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim

Friday, March 6, 2009

Looks like we have an emergency!

There is one toy that my girls have never gotten tired of:  the medical cart.  They each love this thing and have played with it non-stop for years.  You can't really see the cart in this picture, but you can see the medical tools that came with it.  I am always walking into an emergency operation on one of my kids, a baby or one of their stuffed animals.  

A present for Poop

Last night as Zoe was perusing her books for a bed time story, she got very excited as she spotted just the right one.  "Look mommy, let's read Poop and Tubble with carrot!"

It took me a few moments to recover from a good belly laugh as I saw the book she was referring to.  Surely you all know the Holly Hobbie characters Toot and Puddle?  They are two pigs who are best friends and live together in Woodcock Pocket, a cozy little home in the woods. Well  Zoe charmingly refers to them as Poop and Tubble.  The books are so great and the illustrations are wonderful.  

Anyhow, the story that Zoe was referring to is called "A present for Toot".  Puddle spends the entire book looking for the perfect present for his dear friend and finally settles on a parrot.  And yes, you guessed it, Zoe calls this bird a carrot.  I've tried to phonetically explain the difference between a p, p, parrot and a c, c, carrot, but it's like asking a two year old to say y, y, yellow and they say y, y, lellow.    

If you've never had the good fortune of reading about Toot and Puddle, the next time your at a book store, pop over and have a look through these books.  They will bring a smile to your face.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Forgive me

On this Forgiveness Sunday, I humbly ask each of you to please forgive me.  

May you all have a fruitful and blessed fast!

Matushka Michelle