Friday, February 28

Lenten Cleaning...

I try to deep clean our home as much as I am able during the weeks when we fast. I find that it is really wonderful to enjoy having everything clean and organized for the Great Feasts of the year. I plan on breaking my cleaning up by cleaning one room or area each week of the Fast (there are seven weeks).  I'll also try to keep up with my regular daily cleaning and laundry routines as much as possible so that the kitchen isn't spotless, while the rest of the house looks like a war zone with naked children running around! 

Week One
Linen Closet

Week Two
Bedroom Closets

Week Three
Living Room
Play Room

Week Four
Laundry Room
Sun Room
Week Five
Dining Room

Week Six
Paschal Shopping (Outfits, Pascha Baskets, and Egg Hunt)
Clean Car
Wash Glass Doors and Windows
Launder Spring Bedding

Week Seven
Hanging Flower Baskets
Paschal Grocery Shopping

From House to Church: Week One's Painting Progress...

The nave of the church has been pretty much completed.  Next week we're hoping to have the choir loft and altar completed and also a decision made on the ceiling.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 27

From House to Church: Painting the Walls...

Starting on Tuesday morning, Father John and two women from the church began painting the walls of the church.  The Renovation Committee chose to use green, tan, and parchment for the walls.  The second phase of this project is to (over the course of a year) apply Venetian Plaster (in the same colors) over top of the paint and then finish them off with stenciling in gold leaf.  We chose to paint first (though it was an extra step) to give the church a more finished look for this year as the plaster goes on little by little.  Hopefully all of the painting with be finished by tomorrow evening.

From House to Church: Priming the Walls...

February has been all about the walls for our little church.  Father John and a couple of people from church prepped the walls by repairing, sanding, and priming them.  All that work took about a week to do and the quality of the walls was really improved. 

Wednesday, February 26

Yarn Along: Daily Rituals...

I am still knitting my Grasshopper.  It is very slow going, but that is mainly my fault.  My evenings (after the little ones are in bed) are usually spent knitting, and I have been deviating from that plan by reading.  Daily Rituals is one of the books on my stack and I am really enjoying it.  It is a collection of the routines of famous authors, artists, and composers and I find it utterly fascinating.  I have been reading one or two per day and a little peek into the lives of the highly creative is so inspiring.  I can see referring to this book for years to come as I come across new-to-me works. 

Tuesday, February 25


(Or, how one knows that their child is Orthodox)

"Mama, did you know that Abraham Lincoln has the word 'ham' in his name? I guess he was born during a time when they could eat meat."  Sugar Plum, age 7

Monday, February 24

An Aquarium Outing...

The children and I were very fortunate to spend the day celebrating two of my godchildren for their birthdays.  We were able to go to an aquarium and out to lunch, but the best part was visiting together!

Sunday, February 23

Copywork: A Time to Keep...

  I spend a little time each week looking for interesting things for my children to write in their copybooks, usually based upon a theme.  I will post them here each Sunday as a record for myself and as a help to any other family that wishes to use them.


To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven...  a time to keep.   

Be kinder than is necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.  
J.M. Barrie

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.   
Laura Ingalls Wilder

If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like.  
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.   
A.A. Milne

A Reflection...

by St. Nicholai Velimirovich

Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, even air and electricity are dense elements in comparison to the spiritual world.

Electricity is very fine but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thoughts.

The air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more is every deed, every word and every thought of ours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. O how terrible it is to commit wicked deeds and to speak sinful words and to think evil thoughts! To what immeasurable distances do these things pass on the waves of the spiritual sea! But do not go into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and that you measure how all of your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: On God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a higher level of saving vigilance.

Saturday, February 22

Thursday, February 20

A Tramp Through the Winter Woods...

Though it is always nice to see spring start to poke up her little green head, I do love the muted winter landscape.  My husband suggested a walk as a family today and it was such a good idea.  I am not an outdoorsy sort of person by any stretch of the imagination, but owning a pair of wellies, a warm coat, and wooly scarf makes a tramp through the woods very pleasant after a day spent mostly indoors. And then, of course, it makes blowing home to a warm fire and a mug of hot chocolate to wrap chilly fingers around that much more appreciated. 

Mama's Chili Con Carne (or Con Elote)...

Every time I make this chili, my little ones ask for seconds and I get requests for the recipe.  My mother used to make it for us as children and we cheered when she did!  Enjoy!

2 medium onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 pound of ground beef
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans of sweet corn 
1 large can of vegetarian baked beans
1 16oz can of tomato puree
1 16oz can of chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons of chili powder
shredded cheese
sour cream 
tortilla chips

Chop onions and peppers and saute with ground beef until the meat is no longer pink.  Add the black beans, corn, baked beans, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and chili powder to the pot.  Stir thoroughly.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or more.  Serve in a bowl topped with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a handful of tortilla chips!

**To make vegan, simply omit the ground beef and saute the onions and peppers with a bit of oil.  Top with guacamole instead of cheese and sour cream.

Wednesday, February 19


 "I don't like evil words like dumb, stupid, and hate." 
Little Man, age 5

Monday, February 17

Keeping Home: Getting the Little Ones on Board...

Tidying up, cleaning the kitchen, and keeping up with laundry is all well and good, but I am the one who is doing all the work in this house.  If I try to get my children to help, they end up fighting and whining and I start screaming.  How do I make this more pleasant for all of us?

If your kids don't find tidying up enjoyable, you aren't making it fun enough!  Make housekeeping a game.  Does Daddy take a shower every morning?  See if all the bedrooms can be cleaned, the laundry whirring away in the machine, with everyone sitting down for breakfast before he gets out of the bathroom.  Blast a favorite song and see if the room can be tidied before it is over.  Set the timer for ten minutes and race to clean the kitchen.  Talk about your day or plans for tomorrow while you fold and put away clothes together.  Make like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and pretend that an evil queen is coming to inspect your house to see if it is clean enough...  if it isn't, everyone will be locked in the dungeon.  Read an extra story, sing songs, or play a game as a reward children who are pleasant and helpful.

Make things fun and you will be shocked by the great results you get...  the best being a home that everyone helps keep nice!

Sunday, February 16

Copywork: Washington and Lincoln...

 I spend a little time each week looking for interesting things for my children to write in their copybooks, usually based upon a theme.  I will post them here each Sunday as a record for myself and as a help to any other family that wishes to use them.


"It is better to be alone than in bad company. "  George Washington

"Observe good faith and justice to all nations.  Cultivate peace and harmony with
 all."  George Washington

"Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."  Abraham Lincoln

"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."  Abraham Lincoln

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me.  They have clung to me all my life."  Abraham Lincoln


Button: "Mama, I hungry. Let's go to Olive Garden."

Mama: "Not today, honey."

Button: "Ok. Let's go to Humpback."

Mama: ??

Sugar Plum: "He means Outback!!"

Saturday, February 15

Ask Father: The Orthodox Perspective on Tithing...

Question: I am wondering about the subject of "tithing" spoken about in the Old Testament. What is the Orthodox view on this? How much should we be giving to the Church?

Answer:  A lot can be said on this important subject of Christian stewardship, but I will try to be as concise as possible.  The following is adapted from a stewardship presentation recently given at our mission.

False Stewardship Models

Equal Giving:  1) Each person gives the same dollar amount, dividing the sum needed by the number of people. 2) Each person offers the same percentage amount, such as the 10% tithe.

Explanation:  Every person differs according to financial resources and spiritual maturity. Equal dollar amounts unfairly burden the poor, not even meeting the Old Testament standard, which used a 10% scale (the tithe) as small step toward equity. The tithe, equal percentage, is also unfit for Christians for a series of reasons. The tithe:  1) only considers income not assets and liabilities, as does, for instance, the secular US tax system, 2) doesn’t address how to properly manage the other 90% of one’s income, nor teach the proper use of existing wealth, 3) doesn’t develop the necessary discernment between needs and wants, which allows the Christian to properly see the connection between one’s treasure and one’s heart, and 4) is not taught by the Lord nor the Fathers, except being referenced as something below Christian stewardship.

Orthodox Christian Stewardship

Equal Sacrifice:  New Testament stewardship is the only model that is equitable, faithful to the Gospel, and spiritually sound. Each person is equally free, yet equally accountable, for 100% of everything God has entrusted to his or her temporary care.

Explanation:  Of course, this does not mean that 100% of what we possess or obtain must be given to the Church and the poor (although some have done this), but it does mean that 100% of our financial re-sources should be acquired, stored, and used in a godly manner.  As Christians we should be working hard and honorably, saving prudently to provide for those entrusted to our care, supporting the work of the Church, helping the poor, rendering taxes to Caesar, living within our means, curbing unnecessary wants, and in all things using our treasure to redirect our hearts to God and our fellow man.  If truly practiced, this means that the stronger will help the weaker, yet no one will excuse himself or herself from stewardship as each person has been entrusted with time, talent and treasurer by God.

This model of 100% stewardship: 1) applies to each and every person equally, 2) burdens no one unfairly, 3) offers everyone, whether rich or poor, married, single, or monastic an equal opportunity to offer his or her own self completely to God’s service, 4) educates us to see the connection between our treasure and our heart, as well as the difference between our needs and wants, and most importantly, 5) is the teaching and example given by the Lord, who not only gave His whole life for us but also asks us to give our whole life back to Him.  Understood in this manner, stewardship is an integral part of our common struggle and shared path, leading to a loving, self-sacrificial and full union with God and our fellow man.

Thursday, February 13

Keeping Home: Three Things to Keep a House Going...

Housekeeping ain't no joke."
Louisa May Alcott


Keeping a house tidy is not an easy task.  Nothing stays neat for long and it requires constant attention to maintain some semblance of order.  Does that mean that the mama must run around all day long picking up dirty socks, smoothing covers on beds, washing dishes, sweeping floors, and changing laundry?  No.  But it does mean that there has to be a bit of discipline throughout the day to help things along.  For the past few years I have tried to form the habit of tidying things up three times a day around meals.  It truly sounds terrible and time consuming, but I can assure you that it is not. 

If a family works together to tidy a room or two, take care of some laundry, and tidy the kitchen and table three times a day (twice if the little people head off to school and/or the parents work outside of the home), I can guarantee you that your home will be presentable.  The nice thing about working with a routine like this is that if the morning or afternoon tasks don't get completed, it is no big deal to catch up at dinner and go to bed at night with a perfectly tidy home!

Here is how we do it:

Morning:  Everyone tidies their bedrooms while Mama tidies hers, puts a load of laundry in the washing machine and prepares breakfast.  Once breakfast is over, the table is cleared and cleaned, crumbs are swept, dishes are washed, and the counters are wiped.

Afternoon:  While Mama prepares lunch, the rooms that were played in are quickly tidied.  Lunch is eaten and then the table is cleared and cleaned, crumbs are swept, dishes are washed, and the counters are wiped.  The laundry is switched to the dryer.*

Evening:   Dinner is prepared while the the rooms that were played in are quickly tidied.  Once dinner is over, the table is cleared and cleaned, crumbs are swept, dishes are washed, and the counters are wiped.  The clean and dry laundry is folded and put away by Mama and all of the children (even the littlest toddlers can help!).

A very important thing to note is that everyone in the family should help with whatever they can do.  When a people become parents, they do not automatically become slaves for their children.  As your little ones grow, enlist them to help you with these tasks.  Three-year-olds can pick up toys, clear a plate from the table, and help put away clothing.  Older children can (and should!) do more to help their parents.  Children truly do enjoy an orderly living space and catch on very quickly to a routine of tidying up.  

*If there is more than one load of laundry to do, then the laundry should be switched more often.  Do your best to get it all put away after dinner though!

Wednesday, February 12

Yarn Along: Country Living...

I am eighteen inches in on my Grasshopper shawl.  It is such a nice knit and looks so much more complicated that it actually is.  The best part is that it is pretty mindless at this point and I have a feeling that by the time I get to the 80-some inches that are required for the length, I will be doing it in my sleep!

I was happy to find a copy of Country Living UK for February at our Barnes and Noble very early on in the month.  I am really looking forward to an enjoyable few hours with this beautiful magazine in the next day or two.  It is such a treat!

Tuesday, February 11

My Friend Maia...

I came across this video a few months ago and loved it! 

Keeping Home: Plain, Common Work...

The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. 
 Robert Louis Stevenson


 I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that help to keep things running smoothly around here.  On Sunday I spent a few minutes jotting down a meal plan and shopping list for the week ahead and then slipped out just after dinner to grocery shop on my own.  When I take the time to do this, I have noticed a huge difference in the flow of our week.  I don't have to scramble to figure out what we're eating and there are no quick trips to the store with my trio in tow to buy things to make dinner when we are all hungry and tired.  We spend less and eat more healthfully when I use a meal plan and keep a shopping list to jot things down as we run out.

With homeschooling two children comes a lot less time to fritter away.  I am someone who really likes my downtime to be free from nagging thoughts of things left undone and so I try to find efficient methods of keeping house so that my evenings are open for knitting, reading, and spending time with my husband.  I'd like to start a series of posts on this topic and hear all about how you run your households.  Cleaning, cooking, and laundry are things that we all have to deal with on a daily basis...  it would be nice to feel some enjoyment from these tasks rather than feeling like they are something that must be simply endured.

Monday, February 10

Reading in Bed...

With our schoolwork completed before lunch and the crockpot doing it's magic on dinner, Sugar Plum and I got cozy with our books in the big bed this afternoon.  We quietly read our while the boys ran around the house playing together.  I glanced up and saw this and had to take a photograph.  Sugar Plum has been slow to read, but a few weeks ago, things really clicked for her.  Father John and I can no longer resort to spelling things out because she can figure out what we are trying to hide!  It is an exciting time and I feel like shouting to all the mamas and papas of struggling readers:  "Don't give up!  It will get easier!  The real secret is not in a fancy curriculum or a special website. It is in good old fashioned practice, patience, and time!"*

*All last year, I was a basket case trying to get this child to read.  I tried a thousand different books and websites and was not patient with her or myself.  This school year, I just made it a priority to practice every single day and reminded myself frequently to take a chill pill!  

Pointing to a life-size set of Nativity figures stowed near the water fountain in the church hall where Sugar Plum takes ballet, Little Man explains to Button:

"This is the Elder Joseph. This is the Christ Child. This is the Marytokos."

Copywork: Mother Teresa...

I've been spending some time each week looking for interesting things for my children to write in their copywork notebooks.  I love good quotes and thought that I would post the ones that I have selected this week in honor of Valentine's Day.  Is this something that would be helpful on a weekly basis?


"Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."

"Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

"Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love."

"A life not lived for others is not a real life."
-Mother Teresa

Saturday, February 8

Ask Father...

Question: If God is one, how can Christians have so many varying and even conflicting positions on theological, social, and moral issues?

Answer: Although the answer to this question is simple, it is not often easily accepted because it requires a little humility. God is truly one, but we are not yet fully one with Him.  As St. Dorotheus of Gaza once said, we are as points along the perimeter of a circle and God is at the very center.  As we draw closer to Him, we draw closer to one another, until finally we arrive at perfect union with Him and one another. The fact that we have conflicting positions on theological, social, and moral issues, should indicate to us that we need to draw closer to God, who alone can bring us closer together and make us one.  This is the mission and activity of the Church, which has the Lord Jesus Christ as its center, focal point, and means of unity.

I feel very strongly about my own beliefs, why should I believe as the Church believes?

Answer: Personal conviction is a key part of Christian development, however, just because we have strong feelings that we are correct does not make it so.  I may feel very strongly that 2 + 2 = 4 (which of course it does) but it is not my strength of conviction that makes me correct. The real proof is found in the discipline of mathematics, and the common witness of all those who have passed the 1st grade. :)

In the sciences and in the spiritual life, we should be very careful not to verify our thoughts and beliefs by our own feelings and emotions.  This is called “emotional reasoning”, an identified psychological pathol-ogy, and this can lead to spiritual delusion as well.
In the spiritual life, the safe way to truth, the sure way to acquire the seemingly intangible mind of the invisible Christ, is through the very tangible mind of the visible Church.  It is only when we compare our personal understanding to the commonly held mind and consensus of the Church that we are able to discern whether what we believe is correct or not.
This is the very reason why St. Paul makes the connection between the mind of the Church and the mind of Christ; through the one we arrive at the other. This is because although distinct the two are actually intimately and perfectly connected. To show this unity, St. Paul speaks about Christ as the head and the faithful as the body.  Just as a physical body has no mind without its head, so too the Church has no mind apart from Christ – the Church’s teachings are the Lord’s teachings.
It is through the unity of the Church that we can experience unity with God and with one another. But this unity only comes through the difficult road of repentance, which begins with the humility that perhaps we are not as connected to God as we might think or feel.

Question: So are you saying that the consensus of the Church cannot be wrong? I have a real problem with that.
Answer:  In our fallenness, in our separation from God and one another, we all have become accustomed to going our own way, doing our own thing, and not being held in check by anyone, even at times God Himself.  Although this is an unhealthy form of individuality and freedom, we justify this stance by claiming that all is relative; after all, we say, even if absolute truth exists, there is no way to verify it.
In His foreknowledge, God knew that this would be our problem.  And in His love for mankind, He not only revealed Himself as absolute Truth, in the person of Jesus Christ, but He also set up His Church as ”the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) in which dwells the Holy Spirit, who will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).  When we see the Church’s divinely given claim to truth as tyranny, we tragically turn away from the leadership of God Himself.  This ultimately will lead to separation from not only the Church but also separation from God – the one a visible sign of the other. Such division then becomes the greatest evidence of our self-direction. Unity, on the other hand, is the greatest proof of God’s leadership.  This we see in the Lord’s Church, which Christ established “that all might be One”. 
Therefore, we should test our relationship with God by comparing it to the relationship the Church has with God.  Submitting to such a test is not giving in to human tyranny but rather humble recognition of the sovereignty of God the Father, the Incarnation of God the Son, and the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit within the Church.  The Church then is not the problem; it is God’s answer to our problems.

Question: Doesn’t the Church need to critically examine its core teachings in light of the changing world? Is the Church afraid of self-examination?

Answer: Historically speaking, remember what happened when the Roman pope reevaluated and changed core teachings, forgetting his accountability to the consensus of the Church and Christ its head.  This led to the Great Schism in the 11th century – the separation of Rome from the rest of Christendom, which remained united in Orthodoxy.  Centuries later, when people realized the errors of Rome, they broke away from the pope and formed their own churches in what became known as the Protestant Reformation.  Now, Western Christianity has some 30,000 divisions – all because of 1) not being afraid to change core teachings and 2) not being afraid to separate from the consensus.
In Orthodoxy, the core teachings are the Lord’s, who is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews: 13:8), and we guard these teachings through the consensus of the Church.  It is incumbent upon everyone to examine the teaching of the Church not in order to redefine it according to one’s own personal beliefs or the changing fads of the world; just the opposite. Examination of Church teaching is made to make sure that the current teaching corresponds perfectly to the unchanging consensus of the Apostles, bishops, priests and laity – a unity spanning across time and space, shared between the creation and the Creator.  Therefore, the reason we don’t change the teaching is because we don’t want to break our union with God and one another, not because we are afraid of self-examination.  Our understanding of self-examination is much more properly placed on the personal level where it belongs.  We examine ourselves to see if we are conforming ourselves to Christ through His Church.  We examine ourselves to see if we are overcoming divisions through repentance (changing our minds, hearts, and lives), or conversely if we are increasing divisions through our unwillingness to be changed and conformed to Christ, who alone is the focal point of all unity.

Living and Learning: February...

The Meeting of the Lord
Saints Simeon and Anna
The Publican and the Pharisee

Prodigal Son
Sunday of the Last Judgement
 Saint Raphael of Brooklyn

Put away the last few Christmas decorations

Reorganize Seasonal Decorations in the attic  
Enjoy Forced Bulbs (Hyacinth, Tulips, and Daffodils)
Purge Boy Clothes Bins in the Attic
Get Car Serviced
Clean the Car  
Start a Winter Planting Project (Is it too late for bulbs??)  
Valentine's Day:  Menu, Small Trinkets, Cards, Decorations
Plan Lenten Cleaning and Organizing
Wash Bedding (including blankets and comforters)
Knit Grasshopper Shawl
Read Knitting Yarns
Read Daily Rituals

Hearts and Valentines
Special Days
Groundhog Day (2nd)

+Gege (1st)
Baba's 93rd Birthday (5th)
Valentine’s Day (14th)

Full Snow Moon (14th)  
Aunt Susan (17th)  
Grandma (17th)
Auntie Kate and Uncle Pete's Wedding Anniversary (20th)

Practice being still and quiet during services and prayers
Practice patience and love towards one another

Begin a Prayer Journal (a record of the people we'd like to pray for)
Work on entering church properly

 Listen to Peter and the Wolf
The Olympics
Tidy Bedrooms in the morning
Read A Cricket in Times Square

Listen to several Jim Weiss cds
Nature Table Scene
Winter Book Basket
Watercolor Pencils
Learn How to Cut Out Hearts

Feed birds
Polish wooden toys together  

Weaving with Sugar Plum  
Knitting Fork with Little Man
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