Monday, September 30

A Day at the Apple Orchard...

It was a gorgeous day to go to the apple orchard!  We've gone several Septembers in a row since Sugar Plum was tiny and every year it gets better!  This was the quietest it has ever been at this orchard (normally we go on a Saturday in September).  When we arrived, we spent some time just watching the farm waking up for the day.  There was the smell of apple cider doughnuts frying, the bustle of the workers (many of them Amish) getting all of the produce set out, and a chill in the air.  We were given a ride to the apple trees on a wagon pulled by a tractor (a huge thrill for these little people in my life!) and picked about half a bushel.  Once we finished picking (why does apple picking go so quickly?) we spent some time at the little Fall Festival area where they had hay bale mazes, John Deere trikes to ride, water pump rubber duck races, a deer corn pit for playing in, and zip lines to ride.  We had lunch and headed for home and my little trio conked out on the ride home.  We'll have a quiet afternoon before church tonight (for The Protection of the Mother of God)...  maybe I'll even get a cup of tea and one of those cider doughnuts!

Sunday, September 29


The kitchen was vast and Victorian, filled with every evidence of her busy life.  A dresser was stacked with a set of chipped ironstone dinner-ware, a notice-board was pinned with postcards, addresses, scribbled reminders to ring the plumber.  The dogs' baskets lay near the great four-oven Aga, and large bunches of drying flowers hung from hooks in the ceiling, once employed for curing hams.  Over the Aga was a drying rack, on a pulley, where sodden tweeds were hoisted after a day on the hill, or ironed linen, still not quite dry, put to air.  This was not a wholly satisfying arrangement because if there were kippers for breakfast, then pillowcases smelt faintly of fish, but as Isobel had no airing cupboard, there was nothing to be done about it."

Rosamond Pilcher

Saturday, September 28

A Divine Liturgy Checklist...

A few weeks ago, two of our children's godparents came down to visit.  We talked a lot about family life within the church and they reminded me that when their daughter was little, they had to be creative in teaching her what was expected of her in church because they were choir directors and could not watch over every move she made.  I asked them to send me their checklist and was really inspired by the document that they e-mailed!  

We have a lot of children in our little community and most are new to Orthodoxy.  Because of this, I decided to elaborate on the godparent's list so that it could become sort of a blueprint that can be followed.   I've printed out a few of these rough drafts to try with some of our children tomorrow and hope to rework the checklist as time goes on.

This is a work in progress, so I would love to hear your suggestions and ideas for improvement!


The Divine Liturgy

Blessed is the Kingdom
Cross yourself and bow.

The Great Litany
How many Petitions are there?  Sing Lord Have Mercy along with the choir.

The First Antiphon

The Little Litany
Cross yourself when you hear “most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.

The Second Antiphon

The Little Litany
Sing Lord Have Mercy and To Thee O Lord along with the choir.

The Third Antiphon

Holy God
Cross yourself and touch the floor each time you hear “Holy God!  Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal!...”

The Epistle
Stand up straight and be very still and quiet during the epistle.  Listen for the Reader to tell you what Epistle is being read.

The Gospel
Stand up straight and be very still and quiet during the Gospel.  Listen for the Priest or Deacon to tell you what Gospel is being read.

The Litany of Fervent Supplication
Cross yourself when you hear different people being mentioned in these petitions:  The Metropolitan and other clergy, The President and other government officials, and even the names of people you know!  Sing along with the choir.

The Litany for the Catechumens
Are there any Catechumens in your church?  Pray for them during this Litany!

Hymn of the Entrance
Stand up straight and be very still and quiet.  Sing “The Cherubic Hymn” along with the choir.  Watch for the Priest and Servers to come out of the altar.  Do you see what the priest is carrying?  He is holding the chalice and diskos that have our gifts of bread and wine in them.

The Litany of Supplication
Sing Lord Have Mercy and To Thee O Lord along with the choir.

The Creed
Stand up straight and be very still and quiet.  Chant the Creed along with the choir.

The Eucharistic Prayer
This is a very solemn part of the Divine Liturgy.  Try to stand very still and be very quiet during this part of the service.

The Hymn to the Theotokos
Sing “It is truly meet…” along with the choir.

The Litany Before the Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer
Stand up straight and be very still and quiet.  Chant the Creed along with the choir.

Prayers Before Communion
This is the time to line up for Communion.  Stand very still in line, cross your hands over your chest, and sing along with the choir.

The Litany of Thanksgiving

The Prayer Before the Ambo
This is the prayer when the priest comes out of the altar.  Be sure to stand up and try to be as Still and quiet as you can!

The Dismissal

Friday, September 27

In the School Room: Week Four...

This was the first week that we experimented with having Sugar Plum work on several things independently while I worked with Little Man.  Previously, I would work with one child at a time, looking over Sugar Plum's shoulder for all of her work (even if she was perfectly capable of working without my micromanagement).  Obviously, it took a lot longer to complete school this way.  For the past few days, I have done all of Little Man's kindergarten work with him while Sugar Plum works on her daily calender, journal, spelling, phonics, and part of her math lesson.  Once Little Man finishes up, Sugar Plum and I continue with her work for the day.  So far it seems to be going well!  Not only am I pleased with how much more efficient we've become, but I am also impressed with how much Sugar Plum can do (and do well!) on her own!

Thursday, September 26


Thursday is our busy day of the week.  We signed the little ones up for a gym class at a local university (which they LOVE!).  Today we had a few errands to run before the class and we went out to lunch at Chipotle.  Yum!  I kind of love these days and look forward to them all week long.  It makes Thursday's running around more special when we try to keep the outings to a minimum the rest of the week!

One of the stops that I made was at Target for cozy pants for the boys and on the way to the boys section, I I swung by the ladies shirts.  I spotted some gorgeous 3/4 Sleeve Boatneck tops and snapped three of them up (black, white, and navy with white stripes).  I am totally fine with wearing the same thing everyday if it works, and these tees do!  I love the boatneck style (so modest, and yet classic) and these fall to about my hip which means that they are long enough for me to bend over without giving a show (always a bonus!).  I have to do a little post on my autumn wardrobe soon...  I'm excited about it! 

Wednesday, September 25

Yarn Along: Eternity Loop...

I am on to my next project.   A week or so ago, I spotted Chelsea's Mourning Dove Eternity Loop and knew that I had to try it!  I ordered some Quince &Co. Lark yarn in Kumlein's Gull and am ready to dive right in.  I plan on doing the largest size (casting on 220 stitches)...  hopefully it will go smoothly!  

I'm reading September still and love to get through a couple of chapters each night in the bathtub.  I used to read in the tub all of the time and now that my littlest one not only takes his bath with his brother and sister, but goes to bed on his own, I find that I have the time once more!    

Tuesday, September 24

Perfect Autumn Weather...

These children of mine have been outside more than in these past few days.  It's been cool and sunny...  perfect autumn weather, really.  I love that now that the weather is getting chillier, we're able to do some of the things that I like most:  throwing open windows to air everything out, dressing in knitted garments, baking and cooking, etc.  All that's missing is a fire in the grate, but it's really not cold enough for that yet.

We spent Saturday doing some creative endeavors.  We baked Alicia's Sour Cream Apple Pie, which has been just lovely the past few days and we put up our water color leaves in the playroom windows.  I think that these leaves turned out the best they ever have.  At the last minute, I remembered some leaf cookie cutters I had in the cupboard and we traced them right onto the water-colored coffee filters.  Sugar Plum and I sat outside on the porch wing cutting everything out while the boys played and then we helped to glue them onto the windows before lunch. 

I've been perusing The Vivienne Files the past few days to get a little plan together for my autumn wardrobe.  I have many of the the things that I need, but I'd like to freshen up my look a little bit.  I did order a skirt from LL Bean and I hope that it fits.  I like a lot of the clothes from mail order companies, but when I get them, they usually don't work.  I hope this one does!  I have wanted a cord skirt forever!

Monday, September 23

Shale Lap Blanket...

The Shale Blanket is done!  It was such a nice knit and though it looks intricate, it really was so easy!  It took about six weeks to knit this (I began it on August 1st and finished on September 18th). This was my first time using a Jared Flood pattern and I thought that it was written very clearly.  I decided to knit the blanket a bit bigger than it was supposed to be, so there are ten repeats of the pattern rather than seven.  I kept the length the same though (57 repeats of the four rows) and used seven skeins of Madeline Tosh in Composition Book Gray.  It is very cozy to snuggle into this wool blanket in the evenings after the little ones go to bed...  I'm glad that I completed it before the weather turned cooler!

Sunday, September 22


Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all."

St. John Chrysostom

Saturday, September 21

A Word About Red Marbles...

 From an Anonymous Source
I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

 "Good. Anything I can help you with?"

 "No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."

 "Would you like to take some home?" asked Mr. Miller.

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

 "Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

 "All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it" said Miller.

 "Here 'tis.. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?" the store owner asked.

"Not exackley but almost." "Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home and next trip this way let me look at that red marble". Mr. Miller told the boy.

"Sure will.. Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store."

I left the store smiling, impressed with this man. 

A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles. Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Then just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.  Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts....all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes. Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of what she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size....they came to pay their debt." "We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho." With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her de-ceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

In the School Room: Week Three...

One of the books I have been using this school year is The Artful Parent.  I bought it on a whim and was happy to find that the purchase was worth it!  Though I think that we are pretty good about having the basic art materials out for our little ones to use when the mood strikes, I felt like I was in a rut.  We tended to use the same sorts of things (paper, glue sticks, pen, marker, watercolors, poster paints, yarn, chalk, crayons etc.).  The Artful Parent offers a lot of new ideas for art materials and activities, but is not "crafty."  Each activity is more like an exploration of different materials instead of a prescription for a specific and uniform project.  I love that!  I think the other great thing about this book is that there are many ideas and activities that use everyday items and art supplies that one can usually find right at home.  That makes things a lot easier!

My plan is to one of the art projects featured in the book (there are sixty) each week.  So far we have done Q-Tip Pointillism, painting with liquid watercolors (we had only ever used pan watercolors, so this was fun!), drawing on a line of taped down index cards, and bean collage. 

There are a ton of great ideas in this book and I am so excited to share them with my little ones (all of them love these activities - even the 3 year old!)!  Art this year is going to be a lot of fun!

P.S.  The author, Jean Van't Hul, also has a blog!

Thursday, September 19

Oh Blah Dee, Oh Blah Dah...

It's been such a weird day here...  I've been worrying about Alex and Juliana all day, but life goes on (remember that show?) for these little kidlets of mine.  We zipped through school this morning so that we would be free to go to our first homeschool gym class.  It was so much fun!  Everyone was able to participate (even Button!) and I thought that it was well thought out and well staffed.  We had several friends that signed up too, so it was almost like a playdate for the mamas, too!

Almost as soon as we arrived home, Father John suggested heading over to the beach.  It was really the perfect day to go.  Not too hot and not too cold, just right.  The little ones rode bikes when we came home (Sugar Plum is just about to have her training wheels removed!) and then it was off to bed.  The big kids and I snuck out to check out the full Harvest Moon a few minutes ago.  Did you see it?

I've been glued to my phone all day, texting and calling family and friends.  It seems like Alex is on the mend, but it will be a long road.  I have ordered my sister a book to help pass the time, but don't really know what else to do for her from a distance.  She says that she has plenty of food being brought to her by family and friends, so that is out.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 18

Alex (UPDATED)...

Please pray for my new brother-in-law, Alexander.  He was commuting home from work yesterday on his bicycle and was hit by a car.  He has a skull fracture and had been admitted to the neurosurgery icu.

*Updated on September 19th, 10am*
Though Alex's second CT scan shows more bleeding, the neurosurgeon says that he is optimistic that Alex will make a full recovery and that if anything was going to develop that would need surgery it would have already.   Thank you for all of your prayers!  I will keep you posted! 

*Updated on September 19th, 9pm*
The Neurosurgon is optimistic about a full recovery for Alex!  As of 4pm, he was not getting worse, so the doctors feel that he is out of the woods!

Tuesday, September 17

Crisp and Cool...

Today was another gorgeous preview of autumn, except that it was cooler!  We made pancakes for breakfast, did our school work, and played outside for most of the afternoon.  We're in the midst of potty training Button and he finally seems to be getting the hang of it, which is a relief!  I ordered yarn from Quince & Co. for my next knitting project this evening and am excited to receive it!  I am slowly gathering some things to keep me busy during a weekend getaway in a few weeks...  the blanket will be complete soon and I need to keep my needles busy! 

Monday, September 16

Almost Autumn...

Today was just beautiful!  Though it wasn't sunny, the air was crisp and cool.  The little ones contentedly played outside for three hours while I alternated doing a little yard work and a little paperwork on the porch swing.  We have an abundance of rocks on our property and the children were trying to move big ones by various methods, pound medium ones to see if they could be broken, and pulverize the smaller rocks that they found, mixing the rock dust with water.  It felt good to be able to just let them do what they wanted rather than hustle them along on errands or occupy themselves inside while I raced around like a mad woman!

I'm starting to think about stocking the pantry with hot chocolate, tea, and apples and the fridge with cider, cheddar cheese and other delectable autumn goodies.  I can't wait to bake an apple pie!  I just decided what I am going to bring to the house blessing on Sunday:  a potted mum and pretty pumpkins for their stoop!  What do you think?

Sunday, September 15


I am typing this with only the sound of the Sunday afternoon football game in the background.  My mother-in-law took the little ones to the playground and out for dinner, so I am puttering.  I've done a little laundry and  a little knitting, and now I'm here!

We had my aunt and uncle here for the weekend and it was nice!  There was a lot of church for the feast and of course for the weekend (and they are not Orthodox), but it seemed to work out well since we live on the church property.  We just scurried over when it was time and returned to them when we were finished.  In all honestly, I think that they enjoyed the little bit of silence that they got when we left...  three excited little ones can be loud!

We'll have a slow start to our week for once, though it will end with lots of activity!  The gym class and zoo class that the little ones are signed up for begins on Thursday and we have an adventure to the apple orchard scheduled for Friday.  Oh, and I cannot forget that we are invited to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's house blessing/housewarming next Sunday!  I can't wait!  Should I bring flowers or a candle or something else?

I am knitting up the last bit of my blanket this week and cannot wait to start on a new project.  I think that it will be an Eternity Scarf.  I spotted it on Chelsea's blog and can't get over how pretty it is!   Now to find yarn!

Coffee with Sister Vassa (September 20th)...

Saturday, September 14

All the Virtues...

If a man builds a house and leaves it without a roof, this house can’t be used at all.  In the same way, if a man acquires all the virtues but not love, the house remains roofless and is of no benefit at all."

Elder Philotheos of Para

Friday, September 13

In the Schoolroom: Week Two...

This week found us settling into our school routine a bit better.  Sugar Plum began a knitting project this week (a headband) and we will work on putting on the finishing touches on it soon.  I bought a digital copy of The Children's Garden of the Theotokos (will link soon... their site is down), after contemplating it for several years, and will be printing that out and reading though the material (what I have read so far looks excellent!) so that we can work it into our school day.  Each evening I am reading a little bit aloud from the Josephina stories and everyone is enjoying it a lot.  We are also keeping up with the Sparkle Stories podcast on iTunes!

Late Summer Nature Table...

We bought these gorgeous sunflowers at the farmer's market this morning, and I just love glancing in to the playroom in the late afternoon sunshine at them. The large ones are called Strawberry Blonde Sunflowers and for some bizarre reason our flower lady has a hard time selling them!  I think that they are just so lovely!

Thursday, September 12

Busy Days...

We've been back to school now for three weeks (though only two officially).  The little ones were chomping at the bit to get started and fortunately I gave in, because things have been busy!  We went with Papa on an over-night business trip (that included two days of sightseeing), a class on baby sea animals at a nearby beach, had godparents visit last weekend, a week of landscaping work going on at the church (and that means Mama has lunch to prepare for hungry guys to eat each day), a couple of late summer pool playdates, an auntie visit for an overnight, and tomorrow my aunt and uncle are arriving to spend a long weekend with us.

Somehow we have gotten all of our schoolwork done each day...  by the skin of our teeth.  This is one of the reasons why I like to homeschool though.  We would miss out on a lot if we sent our children to school. 

Sugar Plum made friends with this tiny little butterfly yesterday.  It carefully climbed onto her finger and posed for a few photos before flitting off into the evening.  She has been talking about it all day!

Wednesday, September 11

Yarn Along: Sugar Plum Edition...

Today I am going to tell you about my little girl's knitting!  She came to me yesterday morning and requested that I find her a pattern for a headband.  She has about 10 inches  finished so far and is hoping to give it to her Auntie Anna (who likes headbands!). 

I am reading September and we are about to start Little House in the Big Woods as a family (I can't wait!).

Tuesday, September 10

Beans: Not Just For Lent...

When I was  a little girl, my mom often set up a little collage activity with beans, pasta, and paper for my sisters and I (and probably my brother, but I was in high school and oblivious).  I remember it being so! much! fun!  I finally got my act together and bought a few bottles of glue and a bag of beans so that my little ones could try it out.  It was the perfect low-key craft activity to work on while we listen to Handel (this month's composer) and decompressed from our schoolwork.  

Lest you think that it is all classical music and quiet industry around here, I should mention that our five year old kept begging me to let them listen to Eye of the Tiger while they worked. 

Sunday, September 8

Coffee with Sister Vassa (September 11th)...

The Nativity of the Mother of God...

Thy Nativity, O Virgin, 
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! 
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, 
Has shone from thee, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse, 
He bestowed a blessing. 
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal Life.

The Learning Basket for The Nativity of the Mother of God can be found HERE.  

Friday, September 6

In the Schoolroom: Week One...

Each Friday, I would like to post about the goings on in our little schoolroom.  Here is an overview of the books that we will be using this year for our little students:                   

Horizons Math K
Get Ready for the Code A
Sylvan Language Arts Success for Kindergarten
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Daily Geography Practice for First Grade
Daily Science Practice for First Grade

Second Grade
Daily Calendar Work
Daily Journal Writing
Daily Reading Practice
Building Spelling Skills Grade One
Explode the Code 2
Daily Language Review Grade Two
Daily Reading Comprehension Grade One
Horizons Math Grade Two
Daily Geography Practice for First Grade
Daily Science Practice for First Grade

In addition, each day we are reading aloud as a family, going on outings and participating in music and art, poetry, history, gym, and knitting.

Wednesday, September 4

Yarn Along: The Artful Parent...

Several months ago, Ginny mentioned a book called The Artful Parent.  I put it on my Amazon wishlist and forgot about it.  Fast forward to my good friend's August birthday.  I decided to order her one and on a whim I popped one into my cart for myself as well.  I didn't have any art ideas for my kindergartener (Sugar Plum is still knitting!) and I thought that this might have a couple of suggestions for me.  Boy was I wrong!  This book is phenomenal!  It should be in every parent's library! Jean Van't Hul not only has wonderful activities that engage all of my children, but she has a book that really helps parents create a lifestyle that surrounds their children in beauty and creativity! 

I was able to knit ten more inches of my Shale Blanket!  I only have two more skeins of yarn left (I started with seven), so I am anticipating this project taking me two more weeks.

Tuesday, September 3

Living and Learning: September...

Church New Year
Nativity of the Theotokos
Elevation of the Precious Cross
Saints Juvenaly and Peter


Visit large farmers market a few time before it closes for the year
Begin Serving Warming Meals
Make S'mores as a Family

Spend Evenings Outside by the Fire Pit
Organize Out of Season Children's Clothing
Plan Children's Autumn Wardrobes and Start a List of Things Needed
Decorate Porch with Mums and Ornamental Kale
Continue Good Homemaking Habits
Replenish Everyone's Socks, Pajamas, and Undershirts
Put Out Autumn Decorations
Organize Seasonal Decorations

Finish Knitting Shale Blanket
Begin Knitting Honey Cowl for Myself
Begin Baking Again!
Decorate with Dried Hydrangeas

Learning Basket Themes Apples

Read Alouds
Little House in the Big Woods

Special Days
First Day of School – 3rd
Grandparents Day – 9th
+ Michelle – 19th

Full Barley Moon – 19thAuntie Claudia – 20th
Uncle Peter – 24th
Grandmama – 30th

Practice patience and love towards one another
Learn the say "Our Father" by Heart

Learn The Sign of the Cross for Button 
Tidy bedrooms each morning 
Tidy the playroom each afternoon
Put Away Own Laundry
Enjoy the Autumn Book Basket
Nature Table Scene
Begin Second Grade for Sugar Plum!
Begin Kindergarten for Little Man!
Apple Picking
Attend the Pow Wow for Some Local Native Americans

Learning Basket for Nativity of the Theotokos
Learning Basket for Elevation of the Precious Cross
Visit the Beach Frequently Before it Gets too Cold
Weekly Library Trip 

Begin Weekly Gym Class 
Enjoy the Zoo's Monthly Animal Program
Spend 30 minutes to one hour in Quiet Time each afternoon
Boardwalk Rides!
Use The Artful Parent

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