Operation Christmas Child

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our mini Christmas tree!

This wednesday for Bible Study we got busy wrapping and putting christmas presents together for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.  I love everything about this cause!

I loved the team effort that went into play and how excited everyone was to bring something for a complete stranger half way across the world.  I actually got inspired by a friend on Instagram to do this with our cell group! So thanks Tanya! :) We went to Target and loaded a cart full of fun toys ranging from age 2-14!

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It was awesome to see such a great turnout with everyone that came out to help! The christmas music, yummy donuts, and fellowship in between were the perfect touches to an evening of giving back!

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I absolutely love wrapping gifts and seeing others get involved was the coolest part of it all!  We wrote individual letters to the children to make it more personal & I loved reading a few of them before they went in the boxes! It feels like Christmas is around the corner! Ahhhhh how I love Christmas time! Can’t wait for the JOY of it all!!!! A big thank you for everyone that helped wrap and helped participate this wednesday!

Operation Christmas child

Awesome video:) http://video.samaritanspurse.org/beyond-the-box-the-history-of-operation-christmas-child-2/#ooid=E1d3J0Zjrqa2ZVONMerGhlgfTn3qJwR0

Grace Upon Grace

Whenever I hear the word grace, I think of Jesus and the incredible grace that he shows me daily. However, I was recently able to experience grace poured out on me from others, and it sure felt good. Let me back track a bit. — I have unique relationship with my conscience. Most of the time I love how crazy strong it is, but when I do something wrong it sure makes it difficult for me to forget. I’m usually pretty quick to come to the Lord with my sins to ask for forgiveness-it takes me longer to forgive myself. However, when others are involved I oftentimes make up excuses as to why I don’t have to confess my sin to them if the Lord already forgave me. I try to justify my sin, or even get someone else to justify it as being ‘no big deal’…but the Holy Spirit ever so gently keeps putting it on my heart, or revealing scriptures to me that remind me to come clean.

My memory hasn’t been the best lately, but I’ve been having a lot of time to think and remember Oftentimes it’s the things that I can’t seem to remember during the day;). The Lord recently reminded me of a few past sins I needed to come clean to others about, and it took me a good week or so to finally do it but once I did it felt so good-so freeing! The people that I confessed to were so quick to show forgive and show me grace. I was so relieved and thankful. They reminded me of my duty as a Christian to not only receive grace from the Lord, but to extend it also. I hope that I can encourage you to do the same.

-Olviya

Storytime

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Fiona has grown very fond of her books lately!  She loves repeating words like “BOOK” , “BALL”, “APPLE” and “ABC” that she has learned along the way.  Her little bookshelf that has all her books I clean like 10X a day!  These are some of her favorites.:

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Goodnight Moon! (my mom gave her this one)

Poems and Riddles (a book in Russian) that I found at EB Library Book Sale.

The very Hungry Caterpillar

Toe’s, Ear’s, and Nose

The Little Engine that Could

Babies! (my friend Theresa gave her this one.  It used to be her’s when she was a baby)

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She loves playing peak a boo with her books and sometimes pretends reading out loud with her baby talk!  It is hilarious watching her when her book is upside down and she can’t tell the difference.

Library time

Today we went to our library for there weekly storytime!  I’ve made it into a habit to try to go once a week for their toddler activities. Today was hosted by the Mom’s of East Brunswick so I joined the club!  I know with winter approaching I want to stay involved and active with Fiona.  She has way too much energy to stay at home all day & loves interacting with other kids.

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When she is playing by herself she likes her v-tech and fisher price learning books  because they sing and read to her.

Papa reading

Her absolute favorite storytime is with Papa!   I love when Roman reads to her because she gets so excited to hear his version!  It’s way more exciting than mama’s version;)  She learns new words with him and the next day when I’m reading she will say something new and surprise me!
I really want her to grow up loving reading so we try making it fun!  I can’t wait for all the stories and books to come as she grows up and starts understanding more.

What are some of your favorite board books/reading material for toddlers?   

Clothed in gentleness

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Salutations my dears!  Today I’ll share my morning devotion with you!  It is not every morning that I wake up before Fiona but on days that I do manage to, I cherish the mornings so much!  I feel so renewed and refreshed.

//What does the Bible have to say about gentleness?//

Let believers clothe themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” ( Col 3:12 ).

Jesus came on Earth  “gentle and humble in heart” ( Matt 11:29 )

A witness to Christian truth is the more effective for being made “with gentleness and respect, ” especially toward a hostile or an unbelieving listener ( 2 Tim 2:25 ; 1 Peter 3:15 ).

Wives should seek “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” ( 1 Peter 3:4 ).

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, ” exhorts Paul ( Eph 4:2 ).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” ( Gal 5:22-23 ),

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)  

Gentleness is suggested by the waters of a stream ( Isa 8:6 ) in Old Testament

Pretty much all these scripture convicted me to the core.  I am far from being gentle in many occasions.  Sometimes I am pretty headstrong or rough around the edges.  I wanted to remember this devotion because I want to allow God to teach me His overflowing grace more and more each day.  To teach me to put on the spirit of gentleness.  In the last one Paul uses such a strong comparison. (something I relate to).   A nursing mother cherishes and loves her child with gentleness and so Paul exhorts us to be with those in our lives.  Our daily life, be it with our husband, children or a complete stranger is supposed to shine light and impart the gospel.

Take home message: i want to love gently.

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Anatoly Ivanov-1 Month Old

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*onesie designed by my friends/little sister at my baby shower. I have one for each month:)

My little boy turned 1 month old today! He is getting more cute, and fun by the day. This month was long, but it passed by quickly..does that make any sense? I’m so thankful that I get to stay home with our little monkey for 3 months before going back to work. I feel like we’ve adapted pretty well-that’s not to say that we don’t have hard days, but overall I feel like Toly is slowly starting to develop a little bit of a schedule with his eating/sleeping/poo-ing. ;)

When we first brought him home, the littlest things took us forever to do. He wore ‘pajamas’ all day/everyday, because I hated putting onesies and pants on him. I felt like he was so tiny in the beginning that I didn’t really know how to put clothes on over his head without cutting off his breathing. Also, he doesn’t like to be changed, so a cry sesh always happens when the diaper comes off. However, I’ve started putting him in regular clothes because a)they’re so darn cute, and b)it’s not as hard as I thought. That’s what I feel like happens a lot in parenting…you think that something is going to be super difficult to do (and sometimes things are), but eventually you learn, and then you can look back and laugh at yourself.

Toly loves: to be held (which baby doesn’t?), bath time (he actually fell asleep while we gave him a bath), riding in the car (he notices when the car stops and gets fussy until we start moving again), listening to music (Andrey likes to crank up Russian hymns for him to listen to in the mornings), eating (he almost always smiles after a good meal), and spending time with mama/papa (at least that’s what we tell ourselves).

Toly dislikes: Being changed-diaper and clothes, his cradle (he sleeps in a rock & play), and his pacifier is a hit/miss.

Overall, I feel so blessed to be Toly’s mama! He brings so much joy to our family. He’s finally starting to smile/laugh, and we both get so excited every time he crinkles his darling almond shaped eyes. We are looking forward to sharing the Holidays (and the rest of our lives) with him. <3

I made a little video to share with those inclined:) I had the hardest time choosing photos/videos for it– the diminishing storage space on my phone/camera can attest to that! Baby pictures are the best! ;)

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-Olviya

Meal Planning

With the colder weather upon us I feel like things slowed down for us.  No more abnormal schedules or vacations for the time being.  I’ve been thinking about changing up our dinner patterns.  I know I won’t be crazy about running to and fro the grocery store when it’s freezing or snowing outside.  I decided to take my first try at meal planning for the month of November.  I’m starting with just planning out the dinners.  For all you organized mom’s out there that have been doing this for years I applaud you!  I found this awesome fill in the blank planner from No ordinary moments blog.  I had kept tabs on our October month and the budget to just get a feel of where I can improve.  I only made one new meal last month.  My friend Liliya had made us a delicious Paleo roasted acorn squash meal when we visited them for dinner so I tried it this last month & it was so delicious, light, and healthy!  Thanks Liliya for the recipe!

Roasted acorn squash

I really want to incorporate new meals and more seasonal fresh veggies into our dinners!  I also want to make freezable or crock pot dinners for the days I am in college and don’t have much time:)  Here is our list from last month!

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With November upon us I started brainstorming for our Bible study Thanksgiving dinner.    I love Thanksgiving because there is nothing better than a group of grateful, smiling people sitting together around a table giving thanks with hearts & bellies full!    I think it’s my favorite holiday! Wouldn’t you agree?  Ahhh I can’t wait!!

So I grabbed some empty calendars, pens, and recipes and went away planning what I would want to make this month.   I ended up watching 3 episodes of Pioneer woman and spending an hour (maybe 2 ) on Pinterest tagging things I wanted to make.  I want to test try a couple recipes beforehand.  I felt so productive and now I’m excited to cook the dinners!  I also don’t have to text my husband asking him what he wants for dinner when I run out of ideas!  I will keep you posted at the end of the month on how I did.

I wanted to ask our readers if they have any meal planning tips!? What works for you? How do you plan out your grocery lists? 

DC Anniversary Trip

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Throwback to 2010! Super awkward group selfie where no one was ready! But yet it holds so many memories.

As this was the first picture with Roman and I <3.

This last-last weekend was our third year anniversary. We had been planning what to do and both really wanted to go back to Georgetown, DC.

The story from the picture above:   My friends and I were flying out from DC to Africa and had around a 12 hour layover & Roman texted me and asked if he needed someone to show us around.  I didn’t even have his number saved so I had no clue who was texting me and I remember googling the area code of the number.  He took the day off from work and came with his friend Saulo.  We had a whole day to spend in DC and strolled around the canal talking and laughing.  Roman walked with me most of the time and I still remember the exact conversation we had.   Then he took us out for dinner in this cute french restaurant and purposely sat right across from me. Oh so he tells me now:)   And that is why I loved that day.  And that is why this weekend was so special and it felt like walking down memory lane.  All sorts of giddy, love and happiness.  Revisited all our spots and got to share them with our little squirt!  Here’s a short recap video of our weekend adventure:

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Although I do love spontaneous trips, I was so glad we planned out the details of this trip!  It made for a fun, busy, and exciting trip.  My husband organized taking bikes and his cousin let me borrow her bike with a baby bike seat which was so incredible awesome of her!  Fiona loved anytime we were on the bikes.  We stayed in a family friendly hotel called Marriott Wardman Park.  It was walking distance to the National zoo and like 2 miles away from everything else we biked to.  Our check in lady upgraded us to the club floor and we even got a private lounge with yummy breakfast and snacks throughout the day! (SCORE) It was perfect because it was stocked with mini whole milk cans and I could just make a bottle anytime.  On Saturday morning we woke up at around 7am and got to see the sunrise coming up! I think that was one of my favorite moments.  Just quietly watching the sun come up while drinking a cup of coffee.  We had hit and misses when it came to some of the food.  The french restaurant wasn’t as great as I remembered it!  However the lebanese dinner we had at the Tavern was so fresh and tasty!  We had a scare of our lives when we were biking and one of the black suburbans in the road next to us had a huge gun pointing out of it.  They had a diplomat on board so it was crazy to see all the security in DC!  We visited the Georgetown cupcake original shop and it was every bit as delicious as my husband talked about.  Every cupcake I tried was super moist and not over the top sweet!

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I had no idea I would enjoy the zoo so much!  We went like around 9am so there would be no lines or crowds. We got to watch the pretty gazelles, cheetahs, elephants, and my fav (pandas)!  I especially liked when the panda dangled off the tree! They sure know how to please a crowd! :)

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It was such a beautiful weekend and I was so glad to just get away and enjoy the last of the sunshine outdoors.  I will remember this anni trip always! I am so grateful for these past three years, my husband and our little family!  God is so good!

Passing Along Good Habits

Hey guys, I hope you had an awesome Tuesday! We had a pretty productive one over here. I did some laundry,baked banana bread, and made chicken tortilla soup- along with taking care of the little one of course! I read somewhere that the first few weeks with a newborn, you will be lucky to get a shower in, so I always feel good when I am able to get a few extra things done. Andrey had to work late today to finish up some training he missed while on paternity leave, so I decided that some fresh air would do the babe and I some good.

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Okay I’m back and it’s Wednesday now…such is the life with a baby lol You sit down to write thinking he will nap for another hour and bam! he wakes up. It’s almost like he knows, and wants mama all to himself. ;) Anyway, so Toly and I went on a walk yesterday. I finally figured out how to use my Moby wrap, and I’m loving having Toly cuddled so close to me. I still hold his head and bottom, partially because I’m still a little paranoid that he will fall out, but mostly just because I love holding him. :)

On our walk we ran into one of our neighbors and her dog. We chatted for a bit, and she told me that she had been seeing me walk for the past few (two) days. As I walked away I remembered that I used to see another pregnant lady and her husband walk EVERY single night when I was pregnant. I remember it so well because I’d always see them when I was making dinner, and I would tell Andrey that we needed to be more active like them:) They motivated me to get out more and walk my lazy pregnant self. One day, we saw them walking past our house with a stroller, and we were both so excited for them (that they finally had their baby), and also that they were back to their walks so soon! We haven’t seen them in a while, but maybe it’s because we bought new (non-transparent) curtains, or maybe it’s because I haven’t really been making dinner lately (besides the crock pot tortilla soup:). However, I do hope that I run (walk) into them one of these days. I would thank them for setting a healthy example for me and my family. I hope that Anatoly, Andrey and I always remain active. It doesn’t have to be much, but gosh we all feel a little bit better once we’ve breathed some fresh air.

I’d like to encourage you all in building good habits. They may inspire someone else to do the same! :)

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P.S. We ran into some wild turkeys on our walk, and they reminded me that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Time please slllllooooowwww down!

Love,

Olviya

3 Weekend Moments

Hi all, I hope your Monday is going great so far. (I just had to look at my calendar to see what day of the week it was:::these days are flying by!). I wanted to share three special moments that happened this weekend with you all. It was the first time that we took Toly out (besides his Doctor’s appointment). I was a bit nervous, but he did such a good job! On Saturday we went to my cousin’s baby shower. I was so glad that I had decided to go. I had such a great time, and was reminded of the importance of fellowship. The shower was beautiful, as was the momma we celebrated. IMG_6573 IMG_6576 IMG_6561 IMG_6559IMG_6556

My grandparents live next door to where the shower took place, and they got to meet Toly for the first time. My grandma is so sweet! She told me that 2 Sundays ago (when I was in labor), she couldn’t sleep at night so she got up and prayed. She wasn’t sure who to pray for (she didn’t know that I was in the hospital), nonetheless she was obedient to the Holy Spirit, and prayed anyway. Then when she found out about Toly’s little problem, she stayed up the next night praying as well. She is such an example of a disciplined and obedient servant of the Lord to me! <3 IMG_6554

I wanted a photo of my grandparents with Toly and I, and so my grandpa said that he was going to change out of his work/home clothes and came back wearing a dress shirt/tie. ;)IMG_6566On Sunday, Andrey’s family was having a harvest celebration at his grandpa’s apartments so we took Toly to meet all of the other side of the family. Andrey’s little cousin came up to look at Toly and exclaimed, “Aw, he’s so tiny–He’s like a cupcake!” It made me laugh! :) IMG_6603

Later that evening Andrey turned to me and said, “Today was a fun day.” I agreed with him, and then because my mom-brain forgot what we had done that day I asked him to remind me what we did again, and he said, “We gave Toly a bath!” To which my heart melted into a puddle. Yes, giving our boy his first bath was the highlight of our day. #it’sthesimplethings. IMG_6610 IMG_6588

-Olviya

Anatoly’s Birth Story:: Part 2

For Part 1 click here.

Things started to move along quickly after I got the epidural. The next time I was checked, I was 5cm, and 90% effaced, and then a few hours later I was ready to go. My Doctors and nurses came in and began to set things up. I was so excited that things were finally happening! I pushed for an hour and they kept telling me how close I was, and asked if I wanted to feel his head. At first I said no, and then one nurse asked me again and so I did. Feeling his head made it so real for me, and so I gave it all I had for the final pushes. A few minutes later,Toly made his entrance into the world!

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Since he was overdue (and possibly stressed), Anatoly had his first bowel movement in utero, and so that meant that the Doctors had to take extra precaution to make sure that if swallowed, the solution wouldn’t infect his lungs. We had extra doctors/nurses in the room during my delivery, and as soon as I pushed him out they had to take him to check him out and rinse him off. This made for a very sad mama. I wanted to hold him right away. What seemed like an eternity later, they placed him on me for just a few seconds and then they had to take him away to the NICU, where he stayed for the night. I had read about babies swallowing their meconium (first poop), in utero, but had no idea that it was so serious. Andrey went with Toly to the NICU, and once I was finished with all the fun afterbirth events, I wanted to go to them so badly! Unfortunately I had to wait a few hours. Gosh, it was hard being separated from my boys. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t sleep because I kept worrying about Toly.

IMG_6462IMG_8828 When I was finally cleared to go see Toly, Andrey wheeled me into the NICU room where the tears did not stop falling. Anatoly was hooked up to all sorts of tubes, and wires and just looked so tiny and helpless. Some sweet volunteers donated a blanket and beanie they had knit, so I almost didn’t recognize my boy. They let me hold him and I never wanted to let go of him again. Andrey had to be my tissue supplier and nose wiper-I was a mess.

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The doctors told us that it seemed like he was doing better but they had to do more tests and would let us know how things were after they got the results. So a few hours later Andrey and I came back to the NICU, and they told us that things were looking good, and that they would probably allow Toly to come stay in our room later that afternoon. I was overjoyed to hear that good news. My family came to visit, and I was finally able to try and breastfeed Toly.<–Easier said than done. He still had a bunch of tubes attached, so I was scared to mess things up. Nat & I hospital mom and dad hospital

Around 4pm, the Doctors gave us the green light to have Anatoly room with us. They would still keep monitoring him, but at least he could stay with us. What a relief it was! Andrey’s family came to visit us later on, and it was nice to be able to relax a little, knowing that our baby would stay with us. The doctors and nurses came back to check on me and Toly every few hours. There were all sorts of tests they did. Poor kid would just fall asleep, only to be woken up again..but I am EXTREMELY thankful for the thorough care, and would rather be safe than sorry.

IMG_6475 On Tuesday we just rested, tried to get the hang of feeding, and kept having more tests done on Toly. We had a few more visitors. My mom brought over some yummy homemade food. It was nice to see some fresh faces,and share our joy with them. Andrey’s friend David and his family came over and we had a mini photo shoot. Toly was not feeling it, and my lack of sleep was catching up to me. The doctors discharged me that night, but allowed me to stay and room in with Toly until they could discharge him the next afternoon. I was thankful to have been able to stay in the same (HUGE) room for my delivery and recovery.

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On Tuesday we just rested, tried to get the hang of feeding, and kept having more tests done on Toly. We had a few more visitors. My mom brought over some yummy homemade food. It was nice to see some fresh faces,and share our joy with them. Andrey’s friend David and his family came over and we had a mini photo shoot. Toly was not feeling it, and my lack of sleep was catching up to me. The doctors discharged me that night, but allowed me to stay and room in with Toly until they could discharge him the next afternoon. I was thankful to have been able to stay in the same (HUGE) room for my delivery and recovery.

The next day (Wednesday), Toly was finally discharged around 2pm and we left the hospital as a new family of three! I was so nervous to drive home with our precious little one. I felt so safe in the hospital, but once we walked out those doors I started noticing so many things that I wanted to protect Toly from. Looking back, I may have just been a bit hormonal;) We made an obligatory stop by at a drive-through Starbucks to get my pumpkin spice latte, and headed home.

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After the delivery, I was a bit emotional and every time I thought of how good God was, my heart would overfill with gratitude and I would start to cry. I am SO thankful to God for being with me through this beautiful experience, and for giving me peace during the difficult moments. I’m thankful for Andrey-Gosh, He is such a great support to me, and simply wonderful with our son.I’m thankful to the wonderful team of Doctors/Nurses who took the BEST care of our little family. I’m thankful for our family and friends who visited us, AND brought warm carrot muffins;), AND came over to hold my baby while I showered, AND made me delicious food, AND washed my floors (thanks mom!).  I’m so undeserving, yet He is so good.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150:6

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-Olviya