Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

For our recent 12th anniversary, our two daughters bought us this statuette.


You know, it was rather expensive…. I wouldn’t have spent the money on it myself. And, when the girls bought it, I almost stopped them.

I mean, really. It’s a statuette. A piece of ceramic or whatever it’s made of. And it’s pricey.

But, I stopped myself from stopping them. And I thought, you know, how wonderful that they want to spend a lot of money on their mom and dad who love them and love each other. It DOES COST A LOT to have that. It might not necessarily be a monetary cost, but it’s an even greater cost, a deeply personal cost.

And I think it’s OK that we sometimes spend a lot of money on what really has a lot of value.

It reminds me of spending over a thousand dollars to fly to the States and stay there for a week during my pastor’s retirement service. I wanted to see all the old staff, be a part of honoring a godly man in my life, and it cost money! But it was spending money on what is of real value to me.

At our family group, ladies were talking about how hard it was for them to accept flower bouquets from their husbands– because it really seems like spending money on something frivolous. Flowers quickly pass away. But we can look beyond, and see that it’s really spending money on something you really value– your love and commitment to each other.

We can’t always spend money on these things, but they are wonderful things to spend money on 🙂


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It’s easy, as a modern mom, to let the time slide by with my kids all parked with various screens. I declared yesterday a no-screen day (until evening). So we had to be busy with things. I will keep it honest, and say it is tempting/irritating doing things with children, but I’ve gotten used to that a lot, and I tried to minimize that feeling, in a good way, and just let it be messier and irritating and be OK with all that. Because, hey! 🙂 It’s a lot more together and interesting, too.

Sally Clarkson’s latest book, The LifeGiving Home, inspired me to make cinnamon rolls, and we had a baby shower here last night, so I made a double batch. It was very yummy all around. Here are some photos.






Vika took a small piece of dough and made a mini-batch.





I let my children play with fire. In  my presence. I figure it lets them experience the fascination in a safe place.



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I’m just amazed and thankful today, and I want to write about it here.


My first child was born in 2005 (then 2007, 2012, & 2014), and for years, it really bothered me that I didn’t really experience warm, fuzzy lovey-dovey feelings for my kids. I figured I was just emotionally a bit defunct in this way, but heigh-ho, on we go, and God can fix it if He ever wants. But it did bother me at time, sometimes a lot. I think I’ve even prayed about this, too.

Being my analytical self, I analyzed about this. Like, I had “negative” loving feelings— I could worry about them. And I knew I would be terribly sad if one of them ever died.

But I didn’t feel what I imagined most moms have- warm, happy lovey feelings.

But you know what? After 10.5 years of parenting …. Today I did. Today my heart felt positive, happy love. It feels warm and big. Inside. It’s like a consciousness of a real happy-type love feeling. A fullness. Warm and big. Inside. In the seat of my emotions. It’s physical.

And I want to record a bit of the path the Lord’s led me on in order to develop this.

The early stages of parenting, I was pretty good at. I’ve been reading about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc., since I was about 15 years old. Piece of cake. (I just didn’t realize how much it was a piece of cake because I had studied it so much prior!)

But yikes. Actual childrearing?

I don’t think I’d read even one book about it! The one parenting book I started parenting with was Ted Tripp’s book– a friend mailed it to me.

I will merely say, at this moment, that people have various reactions to this book’s content. I react to it by becoming strict and demanding, and as he teaches only spanking as the means of teaching a child (and words), I was woefully inadequate and just unaware of what else existed as far as childrearing was concerned.

The assumptions or foundation that this book is laid upon is that children are sinners and have hearts that need to be turned to God (through punishment/spanking and words).

What if I had never turned from digging down that path? What if …. ? What would my heart be today towards my children? (Not, what would be every single parent’s heart who’s read that book and liked it… just my heart.)

God sent other Christians my way, in the form of books and friendships. Ross Campbell is one– I highly recommend Relational Parenting. Clay and Sally Clarkson were others. Clay Clarkson is the author of a book called Heartfelt Discipline.

Some of his main assumptions or foundations are these: That children are designed by God to be especially dependent upon their parents, and they are designed by God to be especially open to the teaching and influence of their parents.

At the time I read this, I was so struck by it. By the enormity of my role in the lives of my kids. Those are such positive and life-opening perspectives! It made all their (heretofore irritating) dependency upon me have a great spiritual purpose! They are so designed to be dependent and it correlates with their openness to my influence!

And I didn’t realize until recently, when I went back and reviewed that book, how much those assumptions had taken root in my heart. And they have grown and grown.

And then Ross Campbell’s teachings about communicating unconditional love to my kids, and how, exactly, to do that….

And all the other books I have since studied that have given me tools to work with my kids in teaching them … character, behavior, how to be in relationships, etc. The books explaining their stages of development (and I was just reviewing the 3-Year-Olds book, as Andre is in the 3 and a 1/2 stage of negativity… and how to go through it gracefully and full of love).

And also, in all this process of learning to parent, seeking not to just become used to the irritations (and just accept them on that level), but to actually follow Christ and become a transformed person, a person who, by the Spirit, is actually more patient, gentle, meek, kind, self-controlled, etc.

And …. So today, I was tasting some of the fruit of these good years of my discipline–my hard exercise of learning to do something difficult. The fruit is this big, warm feeling of love in my heart. Finally.

Finally. When I had even stopped really thinking about it.

And I still have miles to go!

And thank You, God! It is Your will that I go on, in Christ, growing into His love and Person.

Thank you, God…. I want to remember. I am remembering now what You have done all these years!

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So, I’m making quite a few revisions in life and testing new things as I’m studying homemaking and hospitality this year. There will be a lot of posts about this, I think.

So, meal(s) of the day.

Doula clients (who cook wonderfully) gave me their Betty Crocker cookbook, so I looked up a pork chop recipe (as I had bought pork chops). Buying pork chops is a new thing for me, I don’t really do it a lot. But, I’m expanding my repertoire. I also have been craving glazed carrots for a while for some reason. And I decided on mashed potatoes as a side.

HOWEVER, the pork chop recipe I liked required 3-8 hours of brining the chops. Well, it was Christmas Day here yesterday, so there was a service, and Vitaliy and Vika would be coming home hungry, and I needed to have something ready. So I decided on a light, half-way meal. Which, as I was making them, morphed into toasted sandwiches with a cucumber/tomato salad. On the pan for toasting: American bread slices, buttered, with scattered ham bits, and a slice of cheese.


Actually, this lunchette was a big hit.

For the special dinner, I julienned the carrots and boiled them, then paused to do the glazing later while the pork chops were cooking. And Andre and I made a bunch of mashed potatoes.


Andre peeled his first potato all by himself! … But the second one, he didn’t want to keep trying. So, one was enough for him.

Andre also loves to take pictures on my phone. I thought this was a good shot.


I also played magnets with Una– she loves hearing animal sounds.


Note: for mashed potatoes–it’s important to boil them in salted water—I know “everyone” knows this, but there was a point in my life when I didn’t know this! Also, for yum, yum mashed potatoes–I mash them up in the mixer (learned that from my mom), and I add butter and chicken broth (or rabbit broth, or turkey broth).

I won’t elaborate on the pork chop recipe, but I put them in the oven to cook and glazed the carrots. Then we were ready to go. To eat.




Now, the meal was fabulous. Vitaliy and I loved it. But. Real Life. Skyla opted only for mashed potatoes because she is our final child dealing with oral thrush and it hurts to eat. Andre also wanted only mashed potatoes — the pork chop was too spicy, and the glazed carrots, well, I made him eat a few bites, then later, asleep on the bed, I fished them out of his cheeks (he was quite the hamster). Vika was emotionally overwhelmed from being at a friend’s house all afternoon, didn’t want to eat at all, and cried through a few bites that took about an hour to insert into her mouth.

So hey, the food was great! The company was great too, because they’re my kids, but needy. 🙂 ❤

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So, for my 40th birthday party … Which was wonderful ….


I prepared a brief testimony of main things God had done in each decade of my life. I would like to record those thoughts here.

Birth to 10: I had a normal, happy childhood. And for this, I am very, very grateful. (Wonderful parents, loving friends and family.)

Annie & pets

From 11 to 20: During this period,

  • I came into saving faith,
  • I was in a terrible car accident that became one of the greatest blessings of my life,
  • and I grew in a great church (a church that wasn’t on a “kick” or fad or emphasizing one right way to do secondary things, but taught us the basic Christian disciplines of regular Bible reading and prayer and evangelism. (This is our sending church.)

From 21 to 30, God led me into the two most life-shaping decisions of my life:

  • I moved to Ukraine as a missionary (at last!)
  • I met and married Vitaliy.


From 31 to 40, the Lord gave me:

  • Our wonderful church, Light of Life, from which we serve in Ukraine,
  • and my four amazing disciples.


Thank You, Lord.

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I can’t believe I’m writing this. But hey! I’ll be happy at my humbling 🙂

(Take this not in command form, and maybe you need to adjust it for wherever you live.)

Go camping!

I really used to struggle with our summer “vacations.” (We changed that word to “trips” pretty fast.) First, I had two young children and I wasn’t used to almost-complete life invasion all that entails. Second, my husband is into cheap vacations. No plane tickets, no hotels. It’s camping, babe, with the gas cooker, meal prep, and all.

I had friends taking “vacations” in Turkey and other exotic places.

But, no fun comparing is there.

However, 8 or 9 years into this deal, I’m becoming a “happy camper!” Hee, hee.

Go camping! It’s cheap! Kids love it! Go fairly regularly– then it’s even better! We camp several times a summer– with our Harmony group rafting trip, an annual trek to the Black Sea. Oh the memories we have!

I do well to find a café I can go to each day, now, no questions asked, no guilt. I even guilt myself sometimes– can’t you just read your Bible and think and write around the tent now? …. Then the incessancy of young ages reminds me that, no, nothing involving books, gadgets, meditating, and writing is going to happen much there. And it’s nice if there’s at least a sliver of “vacation” in the “trip.”

We’ve gradually improved our gear, too. We used to sleep in the van floor. Try that pregnant–I sure have. Then we graduated to a tent, and now we have a two-room tent and one room is entirely for my loads of bedding and pillows, and it’s nice. With six in there, it’s a bit crowded, but we might move the girls out at some point.

We bring V’s mom with us to help with cooking and baby watching sometimes. She loves vacations, too, especially by the sea. Between the three of us adults, we swing meal prep, holding a baby, and entertaining the others.

I used to hate really not enjoy too much our camping trips. But, with learning to give out, give up, and still recharge myself how I can, I’m starting to enjoy them a lot. The sea sounds are interesting. Watching the kids grow into new experiences. Trying local foods (that was really interesting when we used to go to Crimea every summer). Having water experiences we can’t have in the city.

So, what I’m saying is, sticking with it, camping is a pretty good long-term “trip” choice because it’s cheap, many-kid-friendly, repeatable, improvable, and generally all around great (for us, at least).


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Skyla’s gone to camp, so we’re filling the days with 3 kids 🙂 We spent a long while at the lovely Art Mall that’s not far from us.


Then we made chocolate cake cupcakes with frosting.

We all love doing the frosting! Vika got the excitement all to herself!

IMG_7314 IMG_7321

Of course, babies were somehow involved.

IMG_7319 IMG_7323

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