Thursday, October 06, 2011

Keepin' it real:

A homeschooler's morning: A paper/book/writing utensil explosion, children who don't know how to sit on chairs, girls still in their jammies, and a mostly drained mug of coffee.

J can't stand this table. At the end of the day I usually try to make some tidy piles of all of these things so it's not so messy looking but it really looks like it is: a mess that's been piled up instead of put away. J has also suggested we use the kitchen table instead but I just can't do it. Many times while Hannah and I work on something the boys are snacking at the kitchen table and I detest food mingling with books and papers. To be perfectly honest, this table makes me happy. It's next to my cute hutch filled with my favorite pretty things and a plenitude of wonderful things have been learned on this table. Now if I could just get my dear husband to see it that way! :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meals, meals, meals.

Our "rugged" backyard :)

And a happy garden!

I prepare a lot of them. Therefore I plan. Here's this week's menu plan:

M - Breakfast for Dinner. Hash browns, eggs (maybe a scramble with leftover turkey chili I have in my freezer) and put some cheese on top, served with tortillas.

T - Red potatoes au gratin with turkey kielbasa and a spinach salad.

W - church potluck - Lots of JUICE! Easy peasy.

Th - Tomato and basil pizza. (We've got bunches of fresh basil in our garden and I make dough in the bread machine.)

F - Rice and beans and tortillas.

Here is my potatoes au gratin recipe that I made up one day that my family devoured:

1. Thinly slice red potatoes - halve them and then slice away. Throw them in a casserole dish.

2. On the stove make the cheese sauce. I do this by eye and have no measurements so this is all approximate. About a few T of butter, melt into a cup of some milk. As the milk warms I throw in maybe a half cup of flour. Whisk! It will get bubbly. That's when I add the cheese. You've gotta be quick! Keep whisking. I probably added a cup of sharp cheddar and a cup of parmesan (shredded.) You can use whatever you like and if you want more, I don't see how it could hurt it.

3. Meanwhile, back to the potatoes, throw in some minced garlic and finely chopped onion, kosher salt, and paprika, and mix it all up. Now pour your cheese sauce over it and mix it up distribute it evenly. Send a kid to your garden for some fresh rosemary sprigs. Throw those into the dish. Cover and bake at 425 for ohidunno, 40 minutes? Take the cover off bake them for a bit longer to get all brown on top, and make sure they are done. Eat them up!

This week I will throw in some kielbasa - which makes for a nice, filling meal in one dish. And then I'll go for a few laps around my block. No. I won't. But I should. :p

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Birth Story of Helena Christine

I was convinced I would have my fourth baby a little early. I was worried I wouldn't make it to Pascha - my most favorite day of the year. But Holy Week, Pascha, and Bright Week came and went and I was still pregnant. I would be for a couple more weeks! Finally, one night around bed time my water broke. It was Fri. night and I was a week past my due date. I was crying every morning I woke up still pregnant. Needless to say I was relieved that the ball was about to get rolling. There was a funeral for a beautiful, old woman from my parish on Sat. morning that I wanted to go to. She was the lady who graced my family with her gift of hospitality on our first visits to an Orthodox Church, welcoming us, and encouraging us to kiss the cross after the service, when at the time it felt very taboo to us. Vera was very special and very loved by every one at our parish, as she radiated the light of Christ. May her memory be eternal!

As the warm waters left my body, I felt the first contractions. I called my midwife, LisaMarie, to give her a heads up. After an hour or so contractions kept picking up and I asked LM to come. As my kids slept, Jason and LM bustled around the house making birthing preparations while I tried to get some sleep but felt too excited. In came the tub and water, chux pads and safety equipment, brewing of herbs for post partum comforts, and piles of towels and receiving blankets. I thought I'd have my baby by 5 am. But as the time went on, my contractions waned and I prepared myself for a 9pm baby, like the others.

As the sun came up, my thoughts were on Vera, and I was trying to think of a way to go to her funeral, but labor pains, though spread out, were still pretty hard, and my water was broken so that could have been really awkward! Our baby's heartrate was a bit fast at times and I was beginning to feel worried. I told Jason if it didn't change we were going to the hospital, that I didn't want a home birth just to have a home birth. My midwife felt the same way and we both feel that, in a sense, we laid it down before God. LM sensed that the baby was perhaps waiting for the beautiful Vera's funeral to be over. I believe this was true. The midwives went home for some rest, left us with the doppler and ordered me to rest, rest, rest. The more I rested, the happier the little baby was. My temp. and blood pressure were perfect, and thank God, rest was just what we needed.

Our dear friends Thomas and Maria came and picked up our kids and took them to church for the funeral with plans to keep our daughter Hannah with them, and drop off our boys with my mom. Knowing our kids were in good hands, and that our little baby was just fine got my labor back in business. Contractions got hard and closer together again around noon. It was all so familiar - the rythm of laboring. The waves of intense pain and work fading into the peaceful breaks in between. I tried relaxing my whole body to get through them, allowing myself to do the work without the crippling distraction of tensing up. I got in and out of the tub. I watched tv. I let Jason and LM bring me snacks and drinks. My laboring beverage of choice is diluted cranberry juice with ice. I tried to eat cheese and crackers but really didn't have a huge appetite. I just ate enough for some energy.

Time ticked by and it was the afternoon when I started to get very tired, and labor seemed very intense. I went upstairs to bed for awhile to try to nap. Jason came with me - he wasn't feeling that great and we both dozed off between contractions. I would get a tough one and he would quickly wake up enough to put pressure on my tailbone to help me with the pain. We did this over and over for about an hour (I think.) The midwife picked up her partner Celia, and I came downstairs to get some relief in the tub. I got hit with a huge contraction and draped my arms over my new friend Celia to ride it out. I got in the tub and enjoyed a break as things slowed down again. Then LM suggested I get out for a while and stand up to let gravity take its effect. I was hesitant because I was feeling so sick of the pain, but also wanted badly enough to be done that I took her advise. I walked the few steps to the bathroom and stood up by the towel bar and got hit with those huge contractions that you just know are really bringing the baby down. I couldn't believe we were coming to this point - the point of transition - it wasn't 9pm yet! It was around 4ish. I got through a few big contractions in the bathroom and headed back to the tub. The house next door was being rented out and I remember people coming by to look at it and I was like, "Close the windows!" Can you imagine house shopping and hearing crazy birthing noises going on next door? OMG! How embarassing! I'm convinced that the people who rented the house are the ones that came by that day and they think we are total weirdos. haha.

So anyway...Birthing! I was getting to my absolutely least favorite part of giving birth. Ouchy, ouchy, pain, pain. I was starting to get pushy. I remember standing up in the tub, this time draped over Jason feeling so helpless. As we embraced I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and love. I was in my own home, being loved and supported by the wonderful man who gave me the gift of a baby, of which I was about to bring into the world. Those moments were strikingly romantic. More urges to push kept coming. LM encouraged me to just listen to my body and do what I felt I needed to do. No official check of my cervix and permission - just a gentle support of doing what I felt was best. I made some whimpy attempts at pushing, testing it out and before I knew it, I was in the spot all future mothers who are about to push a baby out find themselves to be: A rock and a hard place. You either push and deal with the pain or you will be pregnant forever. I picked the first option.

I HAD TO PUSH! OMG I AM PUSHING! AAAAH! I slashed around the water in the tub like a caught marlin expending the last of it's energy. It was kind of ridiculous. The midwives had calm faces. They did not panic. I pulled it together. I pushed. And I pushed. And, by golly, it was working. I told the baby not to worry. I was gonna get her out just fine. Come on baby. It's time to be born! Today is your birthday! For the first time in my career of pushing, I felt like it wasn't so completely horrible. Maybe it was the water, I don't know. But this time I felt much more in control. I knew I was going to be done very soon. We saw her head. Jason got that ecstatic look he gets when we have a baby. I grunted and growled and slowly eased her out. She had nuchal hand one of the midwives carefully got out of the way. Her face was out, and then in one big final, epic push I got the rest of our baby out, right into my own hands. I slowly and gently lifted her up out of the water for her first breath of life. She looked like Hannah! She was wide-eyed and stunning. She was chubby cheeked and sweet and all that a newborn baby should be. She was born beautifully without one cry. No trauma. Just joy. We adored her. She checked us out.

She was born on St.s Constantine and Helen day. A dear friend of mine told me she had prayed our baby would be born that day - and her prayers were answered with a yes! And of course I would name our baby for the great Saint Helen. It was meant to be. I felt the prayers of Vera, the prayers of my patron St. Anna as she watched over me while I was in the birth tub.

Everything else went great after that. I got tucked into my bed with our new sweet baby. Hannah came home that night and slept with us while Jason passed out on the boy's bed. In the morning my mom brought the big brother home and they all got to mee their new sister. It's so fun to see the older siblings meet the baby for the first time. They are always so enamored with the new baby. So lovely!

I will not lie and say everything was perfect after the birth. It was by far, my hardest post-partum. Hannah, my firstborn's was difficult in another way, being a cesarean, I had a painful physical recovery, and I believe I had wacky hormones because of it and definitely had "baby blues" with some uncontrollable crying and extreme exhaustion. James was pure elation, being a VBAC and in many ways a taking back of my body, and I felt incredible after. Phillip's birth was long and hard and I felt more tired, but still mostly OK. But after our little love, Helena, I felt completely overwhelmed with everything. I think it was a challenge because she had a weird latch issue and lost more weight than I was comfortable with. Using some creativity I figured out a way to trigger more milk ejection reflexes while she nursed, and she finally began plumping up. I think the worry robbed much of my joy, unfortunately. Thank God for my family, and church family and friends that brought us meals! Managing my house, the big kids, and caring for a newborn that needed to gain weight rattled my nerves. My poor family! The fog really didn't lift until Helena was six weeks and we were churched.

Little Helena is an angel of a baby. She's been so sweet. From birth, she has had the most engaging eyes and face. She makes eye contact with everyone and freely gives her big baby grin. When she was just a month old, she played a cute little baby game that she made up. She sat in her bouncy seat and we would put a blanket over her body. Then we would se how fast she'd kick it off. She did this over and over, much to the delight of the whole S. Family! We are so pleased to be blessed with her and we thank God every day for our dear family.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The past few months...

Have been good. :)

I had a baby.

She's cute. She's 3 and 1/2 months now.

Her name is Helena. Pronounced: Heleena :) So we call her Lena a lot.

We really like her. *goochigoolilttlelenabobeenaweloveyoooouuuuu*

Life is going by so fast. Today is the birthday of the Mother of God. This makes me happy. :)

Jason mentioned my blog a little while ago (he rarely reads - he's not much of a computer guy) and I told him, I'm letting the blog die, like a bolted annual herb you no longer care about. And much to my surprise, he encouraged me to resurrect it. He appreciates the gentle record of our lives together, the pictures and chronicles of our growing family. So here I am. I struggle with this blog a little. What to put in, what to leave out. I feel assuming, that people would want to read anything I write (or even if they should.) Do I have anything worth sharing? Does this bless anyone? I don't know...I guess it blesses my family. Family life is important and worth recording. And I love the glimpses into my friends lives via blogs.

OK, so besides Helena here is a little update on the S. Fam:

1. I've read a bunch of housekeeping books and blogs. They have helped me a little, but my house is still mostly messy.

2. Hannah goes to school twice a week now - and starting soon we will begin a co-op at our church for homeschoolers. We hope this is step for one day starting an Orthodox Christian school at our parish. (And maybe, God willing, it will be ready before all my kids are grown...and that we can afford it, hahaha.)

3. We began a Read the Bible in a year program. It's much more manageable than I thought it was going to be. I've never read the whole Bible so I'm happy to take up this challenge, not to mention, as a convert coming from Evangelical Protestantism, I've never read the Tobit, Maccabees, etc. Should be pretty neato.

4. Helena - She is sweet as pie. The big siblings love her. We're so happy to have her! It's a joy to have a baby in the house.

5. I had her at home. It was a really good experience. I'm glad we did it. I'm not one to push home birth on anyone, and this was the only time I had a baby at home, but it made a huge difference to birth where I was comfortable. Perhaps I'll share my birth story soon.

Here I am looking really cool. I had the baby about 2-3 hours after this pic was taken. We were watching Say Yes to the Dress on Netflix. I was feeling suuuper goofy at this point and the hormones were making me giggle. If this makes you laugh, you are welcome. ;)

Hope those of you who read this are well!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lent's End

Phillip getting a spring clean up - not much to do with this post, but cute, no?
It's the last week of Great Lent. I had a big, huge list of stuff to get done. I still do. Some I knocked out, some I pretended to not see staring at me on the list or in it's messy reality. Some I halved, true to my style. I began to scrub the grout in my kitchen tile, and after about 30 minutes on my hands and knees clutching an old toothbrush, and dragging along some rags, a bucket of warm, sudsy water and a magic eraser I gave up. I thought I'd go back to it, but nope. Last week was the "Get Ready for Baby Week." Not a single onesie was laundered. A craigslist dresser was not to be found. I contemplated sharing my own dresser with the baby. I could simplify and get rid of a bunch of clothes. It's easy to get rid of stuff when you're not wearing it. But perhaps my future un-pregnant self would be upset about that. Today when I scan my house, it is so messy. There are toys everywhere from the boys building boats and towns out of their blocks and random found items. I can't help but feel a little perturbed that after all my cleaning and organizational efforts, I still feel like a loser house-keeper. But, thank God, Lent is not about a clean house and pristine storage containers and closets. I hope my little efforts here and there are a small but meaningful offering to God and my family. I hope my dear ones feel loved when they open up the pantry and can easily find what they need. I hope they enjoyed the time we spent together, not staring mindlessly at a television screen, but truly listening to and loving each other, telling stories, praying, coloring, reading, crafting, and even cleaning up together. I hope I learned to do things more cheerfully, with less complaining. I hope. Part of Lent, is also rolling with the punches and the vexations of life. Oh the things that turn up! They seem so random but after they happen you realize they were all part of the Big Plan. Not my plan, of course. It's the surprise bill, jury duty, some one who needs help of whom you may not particularly want to help. It was James getting sick AGAIN. I could go on. But the Lord is good. Everything we worry so much about is always something He'll help us with. Many times I'll be needing to remember a verse from Scripture to help get me through something. And poof! It magically appears as it was hidden in my heart, either from the Holy Liturgy, or just a verse I've remembered or perhaps even have sung in a somewhat cheesy yet catchy tune back when I clapped my hands in church as a Protestant Evangelical. It was in that last manner yesterday as I nervously drove James to the doctor because of some more breathing troubles. I was dreading another pink bottle of antibiotics and feeling so helpless because I never know when he's going to get sick and when its time to go to the doc or time to be patient and give him some TLC. Overwhelming nervousness hit me. What if they want labs again? How am I going to get through that without crying more than him? You know the cycle of worry. And then the guilt sets in,because you know so many more people have it 1000 times worse than you and their kids are REALLY sick. And for crying out loud, it's not like we live in a third world country where there is no quick drive to the doctor for bubble gum pink bottles of drugs and co payments. So despite all that, in my first-world anxiety, I started singing, "I know I can do all things, I can do all things through Christ!" I sang it loud in that cheesy old tune from my hand-clapping days and I sang it loud as I drove down the freeway on that warm, breezy day with the windows down. And I knew it would all be OK. And I said a prayer for my friends and loved ones with real problems. We met with the good doctor who really listened to me and together we figured out James has Asthma. I was so relieved. I mean, it's a bummer to have Asthma but the breathing treatment worked beautifully and now we have an inhaler that I can give him right away to nip his breathing problems in the bud instead of waiting and worrying. When we got home we played him this little ditty because we all needed a laugh. (OK this is totally not very Lenten, but most of the time my need for humor shines more than my piety.) :) I've Got ASTHMA!!! God bless us all in the upcoming Holy Week as we walk with our Lord to his Holy Resurrection!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If I were on Facebook,

These would be my status updates:

This week, my lenten cleaning goal is to scrub the grout on my kitchen floor. Boooooo!

I keep seeing neighbors going for walks and enjoying the beautiful weather, which makes me feel inspired, but the thought of pushing my already huge self up hills, while pushing two big boys in a stroller stops me.

Presanctified Liturgy tonight...I neeeed it.

I had a dream last night that my baby's foot was protruding so far, just beneath my first ribs, my godmother and I could see it. My godmother thought this was hilarious. I thought it worrisome. And then I woke up.

Phillip's godfamily is coming to visit tomorrow....And they're bringing homemade Eritrean food with them. Have you ever had Eritrean food? Well you should. I urge you to.

34 weeks today! Or was it yesterday? Who cares? I'm almost done! Or should I say, she's almost done! ;)

But I'm not on facebook right now. I feel somewhat detached. But more industrious. And more likely to play with my kids. So it's all good, right? Right.

The iconography in our new church temple (mom took this picture with her sweet new camera.)

ETA - Boy that grout sure did show me who's boss. I think it's gonna be a three-parter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


You should know this about me:

I'm a painfully slow learner

I dread trying new things (besides eating new things)

I get exasperated and frustrated extremely easy

I often give up

But a goal was set and I wrote it down, and gave myself some accountability. So we watched the Singer dvd, and paused, and went back 48 times, and yelled at the lady for going too fast. Hurdle number 1 was actually finding the beginning of the the thread. I could have totally just given up right there. I called Maria - she helped! We threaded the bobbin. The boys tried to not touch the sewing machine. Hannah gave me encouraging words. We threaded the machine and needle. (BTW Mom, I think that auto needle threader is broken.) But we persevered. I overcame my helplessness and indifference today. We sewed! And it was kinda fun. Thank you very much.

*taking a bow*

Well then. Now we're spending the rest of the day in our cozy, messy house. A fort is in my living room, the sky is gray, and noses are being constantly wiped. And now I shall have tea time. Red raspberry leaf, if you 'd like to know. :)

And today is one of those days I'm not gonna clean until at least half an hour before Daddy comes home. Also, in my Real Simple magazine there is a whole article in there about procrastination. It said to do the worst thing first. Sewing. Done. And it wasn't so bad. :)