1000 Gifts

Hi guys, I wanted to share a few things I jotted down in my gratitude list.
It’s the little things that I begin to see God’s reflection more and more in that I want to remember.

21. French inspired farm to table restaurant
22. The way Fiona holds the phone when we’re Facetiming my mom. Hi ceiling.
23. The calling of cicadas in our backyard
24. Friends who hold your baby while you eat
25. ballet flats
26. diapers
27. Little fingers dabbling on the piano
29. Dahlias opening in full bloom
30. Tomatoes ripening on the windowsill
31. that Costco guy that was singing “the more we get together the happier we’ll be & your friends are my friends”
32. My husband’s forgiving heart. <3
33. Entertaining toddler talk
34. Floral summer sandals
35. The peak of a wave and it's strength
36. Gracie crawling pose and her but crawls.
37. Juicy plums
38. Two bumble bees dancing to each other’s buzz
39. Watching my two littles begin to play with each other. <3
40. Coral nail polish
41. Monarch butterlies
When I watch the butterflies sometimes I can't help but reflect on how beautiful & diverse all of God's creation is. If we only but open our eyes to all the beauty he has created for us to experience. Every different shade of color, shape of flower, grain of sand and crashing wave; It is all a gift.
fyi:I have finally figured out how to use macro on my camera! :) Hope you enjoy the last few days of August! What a month it's been.

#GratefulHearts + #1000Gifts

To go along with Within’s August Grateful Hearts month I wanted to start a list of things I am grateful for in my little daily moments. I love Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 gifts because it does a beautiful job of painting the art of gratitude. She has inspired me to start my own list.

1. The sound of the AC humming while the babies nap.
2. Butterfly bushes
3. When Fiona asked me to give her a piggy back ride down the stairs and kissed the back of my neck.
4. Sand between my toes
5. Phone calls that bring you to tears
6. Watering the garden in the early mornings
7. Wild blackberries
8. Sun kissed skin
9. Library trips to storytime
10. Summer rain amidst the humidity
11. Melting french brie cheese
12. Baby Grace falling asleep in my arms during worship
13. Monday morning prayer calls #within
14. Big shopping carts that fit two little girls
15. Laying on the couch talking to my husband at the end of the day
16. Fiona’s messy pretend play doh = “mini babybel cheese wheels” .
17. That contagious dimply smile
18. Baby Grace coos
19. Hearing my nephew’s giggles
20. Hot glue gun crafting
Thank you God for each one of these little special gifts this week. Teach me to open my eyes more to the beauty in and around me. May I learn to live a life with overflowing gratitude. Many times I tend to complain and miss out on these moments but I pray you help me change my heart and the way I perceive things. Instead of striving may I learn to be satisfied in the mundane moments. Instead of complaining may I find true joy in today. Instead of comparing may I look to your affections above all. – Natalie #GRATEFULHEARTS #1000GIFTS

Good day + Good friends


Last week we had a little weekend getaway with our friends from Brooklyn to Jersey shore.  I loved the short drive to our hotel and the quaint and family friendly villas we stayed at!  The morning we got there I actually ran into someone I knew.  Hey Sara!  She had just came back to Jersey from a long term missions trip and we bumped into each other in the bathroom of all places!  This is so rare for me & I get super excited when I know someone!

The trip was perfect.  The girls were so happy and content.  Fiona fell in love with the pool and that is her new favorite word. It goes like this “POOL, PLAY, OCEAN, WEE,”! That is what she says the moment we put her in the carseat.  We got checked in early to our room so all three kids fell asleep for their naps and us couples just sat in the living room and chatted about parenting, marriage, & 7 seater cars;).


We even took the nature walk.  After a couple wrong turns we ended up in the middle of a golf course.  We snapped a few photos as the sun was setting and headed back to our room to make dinner.  The kids played, the husbands grilled, and us ladies finished up the last details of the dinner.  On the menu was a cherry vinaigrette arugula salad, steak, potatoes, asparagus, organic mac & cheese for the kiddos and turkey sausages & freshly squeezed strawberry lemondae.


Our stomachs full we decided to give the kids a bubble bath!  It was hilarious watching their foam covered faces enjoying the jets roaring around them.  They loved splashing the walls with the water bottle.  (Don’t worry we cleaned it all up).  I loved seeing Fiona play with David.  They get along so well and it kept Fiona entertained.

The beach however was probably my favorite part.  It always is.  We brought our boogie boards and we enjoyed riding the waves.  It was the first time I had gone fully into the ocean all summer and it felt so refreshing.  Especially riding the waves!  It reminded me of our first year of marriage when we used to go all the time after my husband got off work.  We had yummy tacos under our beach umbrella and enjoyed watching the kids play in the sand!  This is the closest Fifi ever gets to the ocean water:)

Thanks for a lovely trip Edelsteins!

Anatoly Ivanov 9 months

Hey guys, it’s that time again! These months have been flying by, faster and faster with each one! So crazy! Anyway, let’s get to the recap at hand.


Hey Toly,

Your monthly onesie says “9 time to shine”, and I feel like you’ve been living out that phrase this month! Your personality continues to brighten our days! This month you started crawling(!), much to your father’s delight! He thought that you might skip crawling, and go straight to walking. It took you a good 3 weeks to really get comfortable, and confident in your stride. It’s funny because I kept the camera on 24/7 those first few days because I felt like you were SO close, but you decided to take your sweet time…and then when you finally did start crawling, I missed capturing it on camera-of course. Apparently you crawl just like your daddy used to. You use one knee to push forward while dragging the other knee behind you. I would describe it as the curious/cautious crawl. You love to move around and explore, but also want to make sure that you don’t fall forward.


Another big thing you’ve started doing is eating more solids (YAY!). Previously you liked to be fed by a spoon or pouch, but now you are doing an awesome job picking up your own food. It gets pretty messy, but I am slowly learning that messes are okay. J You learning to feed yourself is more important to me. The way your pudgy fingers pick up your food and bring it up to your mouth is so cute! You have two of your bottom teeth and your constant drooling leads me to believe that your top two are next.

I’ve learned another lesson this month. I love reading parenting books, and hearing other’s experiences with their own kids, but ultimately I’m learning to allow you to take the lead on when you’re ready for things.

You don’t like your crib for naps, and prefer mama’s bed, with me cuddled right next to you. I love lying with you, but feel like I can’t get anything done around the house if I just nap with you all day long. ;) You love sitting up and playing in the bathtub. You would sit in there forever if we’d let you. You like to pull yourself up on whatever you can get your hands on, and if we hold you up, you’ll take a few steps before plopping your bottom down. I’m curious to see if when you’ll start walking..no hurry though.


You’ve started playing more lately. You love balls. Our friends gave us a bunch of the plastic McDonald’s play place kind, and you never get tired of them. You love throwing balls/toys down from wherever you are, and for us to keep picking them up for you. You play pretty independently. I’ve plopped you down next to a few different kiddos this month, and you just mind your own business…unless somebody has a toy that you want. ;) At church you grabbed another boy’s hair and made him cry. You looked up at me with your big greyish eyes all confused as to what you did wrong. Speaking of doing wrong…while I believe that you are an angel child;), I know that you’ll start testing our boundaries soon. I hope I’ll be consistent and firm..it’ll be hard to say no to those eyes of yours. They are the coolest shade of grey with specks of brown. It’s crazy how much they’ve changed.


One last thing before I wrap things up here. You survived your first ‘road trip’. I hesitate to call it that because it really was supposed to only be a 3 hour drive, however it took up 7!. Traffic was insane, and we contemplated heading home so many times, but somehow we made it to Santa Cruz. You were not a fan of sitting in your car seat for so long. We took a few stops for you to stretch your legs, and for us to breathe a little. ;) Once we got to the beach, you fell asleep in my arms for over an hour. I held you and watched/listened to the waves and took many deep breaths and realized that it was worth it..even if we drove more than we relaxed, and the sand was not your favorite, it’s always good to get out and into God’s creation for a little bit.

IMG_1668IMG_1749 IMG_1649

Well that’s all I have for now, I’ll catch ya at your 10 month update! I love you!

-Your Mom

Summer firsts + recap video


This summer has been packed with lots of new joys and new experiences for our family.  Fiona turned 2 and I will hopefully do a recap post of her birthday someday.  Grace is a heaven-sent sweet little girl.  I feel like the second time around is easier.  I’ve heard someone reference it as the pancake parenting theory (it gets easier with practice).

This past month was a big one for both girls. Grace is such a good eater and sleeper. She weighed in 13 lbs on her 3 month check up! I love watching her grab her toes and fingers and put them in her month.

Fiona wears her heart on her sleeve, in her voice, her fists, her stamping feet, and her crocodile tears ;)  Once Fiona is awake its ‘go time’. I love this age because of how adventurous it is but there are moments that are challenging I’m not gonna lie. One of my mama friends told me that at her age toddlers are very egoistic. The world revolves around her and I’m learning to balance it all. No lounging around for that wild child.  Sometimes I sit back and think about how blessed I am to just be a part of their joyous lives.  Sigh.  Thank you Jesus!
Here’s a few firsts of the summer so far:

photo 4

1. I made my first cobbler.  Fiona & I picked a few blackberries from our garden and I didn’t know what to do with them all so cobbler it was.  I was reading the instructions to make it and thought I had read it wrong.  You pour water on top of the batter and it just bakes away.  

photo 2

2.  Fiona rode her first tricycle & then we realized we might be rushing it.  Her legs just kind of wobbled in the air and hit the pedals here and there.  Maybe by next summer she’ll have it down;)

photo 1

3. Grace rolled over on both sides!!!   I usually find her sleeping on her stomach or side in the mornings:) It happened all of a sudden and then I had to reassure myself that she was still my wee little one and she wasn’t growing up too fast.

4.  Fiona has got her before bedtime prayer all memorized and doesn’t have to repeat after us anymore.  (Proud mama)

5.  Fiona tried her first Kinder egg experience and boy did we not foresee the raging tantrum that would follow. Yikes! No picture needed.


6.  I bought matching outfits for the girls and they had their first matchy day on 4th of July! #thatmom

photo 2

7.  I went running for the first time since having Gracie and boy did it feel exhilarating. Now if only I could do that everyday!


8.  We had a sweet Father’s Day and invited parents/grandparents over.  Fiona made Papi her first gift the (coffee-enthusiast in our household).  We bought a blank canvas picture frame from Target and used some fresh coffee beans and mod podge and Ta Da!

photo 1

9.  We had some major changes with ministry.  We merged/joined a local church in our area and my husband Roman is now the new youth pastor.  God is so good in how this all came to be and I am still amazed by the way he guides us.

photo 5

10.  Lots of firsts for the garden and hopefully I’ll do a recap of that soon.  But I’ll leave you with these hand picked florals from the yard.

And ending the post with a recap video from random moments: )

Anatoly Ivanov 7-8 months old

Hi guys, I’m finally getting around to posting Toly’s updates..just a few months late, but better than never I suppose. I hope you are all staying nice and cool in the heat we’ve been having. <3


Hey Toly,

Somehow I skipped doing your 7 month update and then I turned around and boom!, you were 8 going on 9 months. Agh! I wish I remember what you were up to at 7 months, but my memory isn’t the best, so I’ll just do my best to combine the two months.

I’m not the only one who’s been busy these past few months…You’ve been busy exploring, discovering, learning and developing your incredible personality. You LOVE looking at yourself in the mirror. You get the goofiest grin on your face when you do it. You’ve really mastered sitting up, and are SO close to crawling. You can’t seem to figure out how to push your legs to propel yourself, so you try to move by rolling over. It’s really quite cute! Your dad wants you to be crawling already, but I don’t mind you taking your time. I just realized today that when you’re mobile, I have to be better at keeping my floors clean. ;)

I’m off work for the summer and am thoroughly enjoying my time at home with you! Last week we took a trip to Lake Tahoe with your cousins (feels crazy typing that!),and had a blast spending time with family. Your cousin Fiona was so sweet with you, and I’m sure that you and Gracie will be chasing each other around soon as well. It was your first time in the pool. We just dipped your feet in, and you started pumping them up and down. You experienced your first little sunburn. I thought that I was thorough in my sunblock application, but apparently I seemed to have missed a patch on your arm.

toly in tahoe

While having dinner at my mom’s one night, I stepped back and soaked in the sights/sounds/smells. The kids were lively, and the room was filled with good food and conversation. I felt grown up all of a sudden. :) Your dad keeps me young. The other day he told me that I looked like a ‘cute girl’ instead of a ‘mom’. I wasn’t sure of the wording of his compliment, but took it anyway. ;) I’m so happy that you have such a wonderful example of a father to follow.


dad and toly 2

You are SO happy almost ALL the time! You love attention, and interacting with people. You like grabbing my hair, and your daddy’s face with your tiny hands. You move your arms and legs wildly when you get excited. I just love how much you’re growing lately. You’re still a good sleeper, and sleep from 8ish-7 almost every day. You wake up once at 4/5 to eat.


You’re still loving milk, but solids are a hit/miss. I keep trying different combos, and at least twice a day, but you’ll typically only eat a few spoonfulls. It’s funny because when I try to hand you a piece of food to graze on, you’ll throw it down..as opposed to putting all other non-food objects in your mouth. Oh well, we’ll keep trying.

These past few months we’ve celebrated my first mother’s day, and just recently your dad’s first father’s day. It is such a treat to be your parents! Thank you!


Happy 8 months Tolik! I love you SO stinkin’ much!

-Your mama

Family Vacation 2015


Hello there! :) I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend.  I wanted to share a recap of our family vacation from last month.  It was our first family getaway after baby Grace was born.  We flew into Sacramento for a week, and during that time took a trip to Incline Village, NV with our family to relax for a few days.  We changed it up from our annual Los Angeles trip, because let’s be honest, driving for 6 hours with a toddler and 2 young babes doesn’t sound too relaxing. ;)






Lake Tahoe is just glorious.  I feel like God took some extra time when creating that little haven.   I saw the beauty of God’s MAJESTY everywhere I looked! I’m warning you guys with the photo overload. Tahoe+family tends to do that.

We had a great time catching up: playing Scrabble, cooking and eating, swimming, biking, kayaking, napping, taking walks, and watching our little babies bond.  Baby Grace and Toly got to go swimming for the first time ever. It was more of a dip, but still. ;) It was awesome just spending time with one another and enjoying the beautiful fresh air!









My adorable parents:))


Our Fiona girl is such a beach bum. She also loves the swing, and is content to be swung for hours. We were able to get into a beautiful private beach (courtesy of our awesome host), and this beach had pools, and a playground for the kids. So Fiona got the best of both worlds.







My mom and I woke up early one of the mornings and went for a walk.  We picked some wild lilacs blooming in the mountains.  My all time favorite spotted flower in Tahoe was the Wisteria blooms.  Oh what beauty!  I can’t wait to plant them one day and let them go wild.








laketahoe 22

I love this last picture because of Nathan’s face.  He was tired chasing after our little squirt.  She sure keeps us all on our feet. ;)

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer & spending time outdoors with family! ☀



Life Lately 6/30/15



It’s 11:21 am and Toly just fell asleep, and I decided to set my timer for 15 minutes and type out a post in that time..because, let’s be real-the hardest part is starting.

Summer is most definitely upon us! I am three weeks into my summer break (from work), and loving it! The first week I was like organize ALL the house mode, and then I simmered down and just decided to CHILL and soak up these precious moments with my 8 (almost 9!) month old. Gosh it’s been fun! Our days typically go something like this:

5am: Toly wakes up and I bring him into my room to feed him and then he falls back asleep with us.

7:30-8:30 I love officially waking up to see him handsome little face. He is so sweet and lets me wake up slowly. He knows how much I like to savor ever minute of sleep that I can. I’ll usually eat some breakfast while giving Toly some finger foods in his high chair. We then play in his room or the office as I continue to wake up. ;)

9:45-10:30 I feed Toly and he falls asleep for an hour or so again.

11:45 ish: Our day officially begins. Our schedule varies daily but almost always I try to get out of the house for a few hours-otherwise I get a little stir crazy. We’ve been loving going to my mom’s and mother-in-laws house. The kiddos get to play with Toly, and I get free lunch ;) haha

Toly typically takes 2 more naps and eats every 3 hours or so.

6:15 Daddy’s home. Toly spends some time with Andrey while I prep dinner. Lately Andrey has been requesting salads–his pants were getting too tight, and I happily oblige. There’s nothing like not having to turn on the oven in this crazy heat storm we’ve been having.

7:30 I feed Toly one last time and put him down around 8pm.

8-11 Andrey and I hang out, do stuff around the house, and have dessert…We really should switch over to tea or fruit or something healthy. ;) Our choice of ‘poison’ has been Talenti gelato. Sea salt caramel to be exact. Andrey let’s me scoop out the bits of chocolate. He’s too good to me.

Anyway, I’m not really quite sure how this turned into a daily schedule post, I guess it’s just what we’ve been up to. Life much different  now than when I was working and would come home and want to fall asleep by 8 o’clock. ;) I am really thankful for summer break! I’ve also been taking time to research Credential Programs for next Fall or Spring 2o16. I need to go back to school for another year or so in order to become a ‘real’ teacher. :) This past year I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and doubting. After having Toly, I was like “I want to stay home with my baby”, but I know 100% that teaching is something that God is calling me to do…I’m not 100% sure about when or how, I’m just choosing to trust Him and take it one day at a time.

Okay time’s up, and baby is up..Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you’re having a fabulous summer so far!



How I lost the baby weight

body quote 2

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to write about this, and ultimately came to the conclusion that if it helps someone, I should do it.

Lately people have been asking me what I’ve done to ‘lose the baby weight’. The question actually threw me off the first time I heard it because I had to think about what helped me lose the weight-and in order to answer that question we have to journey a little bit further back-even before my pregnancy.

A lot of you know that I struggled with my weight throughout my childhood/teenage years. I had an unhealthy relationship with food, and hated the way I felt about my body. I tried a bunch of diets, working out all the time, a personal trainer, a body bug (the old school fit belt), and nothing seemed to work. I remember looking in the mirror and physically feeling sick with what I saw. I knew that God didn’t create me to feel that way about my body (His creation), but I just didn’t know what to do. And then it hit me. I needed to pray about it. I was used to praying about everything else, and for some reason just thought that this ‘tiny’ party of my life was something I could try to figure out on my own and didn’t have to bother God with. I told God that I was tired of feeling this way about myself, and that I wanted Him to help me overcome my struggle. The change wasn’t overnight, by any means. Looking back now I see all the little steps I started to take, and the small changes that started happening in me as a result.

I met Andrey at my cousins birthday party when I was 18, and we began dating shortly after. I remember feeling self conscious about my appearance. He had just finished up his modeling career and it was a bit intimidating to be dating a former model. Andrey never once made me feel uncomfortable about myself. His mom/sister were both overweight and I think that helped him gain a little bit of perspective. After we got engaged, I envisioned myself becoming this perfectly fit bride, and while I did lose some weight for my wedding, I still wasn’t 100% confident in my dress…nothing a body slimmer suit couldn’t fix. ;)

Marriage was (and still is) a whole lot of fun! Andrey was very active and encouraged me to be active with him. We loved to go on bike rides, small hikes, walks . A few years into our marriage I was complaining about my weight, and Andrey being the sensible man that he is encouraged me to do something about it. I did some research and decided to join Weight Watchers. I lost some weight, but more importantly I learned a lot about my eating habits. After doing the program for two months or so, I felt comfortable to try to maintain my weight and healthy habits on my own.

A little while later I discovered healthy living/food blogs and started reading a lot about how other people were able to maintain healthy lifestyles. I learned SO many things that I still practice today. I started eating more vegetables, and being more aware of what I put into my body. I began trying to make more conscious efforts to exercise more…and not only at the gym. I also learned that I needed to give myself some wiggle room in my diet. There are some things I am not willing to give up (ahem dessert!) because it’s something that I enjoy so much.

So going back to the baby weight…

When I got pregnant, my doctor told me to not use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. She said that losing pregnancy weight is difficult and the less weight I gain, the less I have to lose. I was a little bit thrown off by her comment at the time because I felt like pregnancy was the perfect time to justify eating copious amounts of whatever I wanted…hadn’t she seen the movies. ;)

I tried to maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle while pregnant. I definitely wasn’t perfect, but I was motivated knowing that I was growing a little human. One thing that I did not keep track of was how much weight I gained during my pregnancy. A few years ago, I decided to stop weighing myself. I don’t want a number making me feel good or bad about my body. I believe that this made a huge difference in how much weight I gained. The doctor still checked and let me know if I was making good progress, she just didn’t share the number with me. A little much, you’re thinking? Maybe, but it helped me!

After I had Anatoly, I definitely noticed some changed in my body. My diet consisted of my mom’s delicious cooking and my short walks were my exercise. After getting cleared by my doctor, I bought a Groupon for group exercise classes near my house. I pushed myself too hard on my first workout, and felt nauseous. It was a humbling experience. J I did a few more weeks of classes and then the holidays came up. I kept up the walks, but that’s pretty much it. In January I went back to work and everything changed. but that’s another post for another day. Unfortunately I never was able to figure out a way that I could work out while still making time for my little one, but school is about to let out for the summer (3 more days!), so I’m hoping to make exercise more of a priority.

Woah, this has become a super long post! I guess that’s what happens when you try to compact a few years into a few paragraphs. J

To conclude, I just wanted to say that I am the happiest that I have ever been about my body. It’s far from perfect, and I still have negative thought about it sometimes (I don’t think those will ever go away in the society that we live in), but it helped me grow a beautiful little human, and it powers me to live, so I’m really thankful for that. I fully believe that God was the one who helped me evolve to where I am today. He has helped me to love my body, and to view it as not only a physical being but also as His vessel. To love on and serve my family, my students, my friends, and my community.

I hope that this post has encouraged you! I believe that God can help YOU love your bodies as well.


P.S. I know I still owe you guys a life update! Coming soon my friends!


April showers bring May flowers…


May is my favorite month in New Jersey hands down.  The snowdrops and daffodils are behind us and warmer days are ahead.   On good sunny days Fiona plays out in the backyard while mama does some minor gardening & baby Gracie naps.   I think we are all most happiest when we get fresh air in our lungs.


^^^Today we spotted this little guy eating grass by the butterfly bush that is going to be blooming soon.  When Fiona saw him she yelled, “Bunny”!  I quickly managed to get a shot of him before he hopped away.  Isn’t he a cutie?!

Some little snaps of the backyard glories for you:




^^^The lilac babies bloomed two weeks ago and it was so heavenly!  Sadly they don’t stick around too long.  Until next year you beauties:)


^^^ Right next to them are two overflowing yellow mini rose trees.  I have no idea what they are called. But there’s so many little mini rose look-alike flowers on branches falling down.


^^^I loved the spread of these tiny purple flowers across the green grass. It was picnic perfect:)


^^^I was so shocked when I saw these dahlia roots spring up from the ground.  What?! The dahlias I planted last year survived.  They came up beautifully last summer and my neighbor Pearl warned me to uproot them and put them in the basement in the fall so they don’t frost over but I completely forgot about it until it was already frozen over.  I was so sad about it and thought I had lost them for sure.  I figured since they are next to the house and right next to our laundry which generates heat they must have not frozen over. I couldn’t of picked a better spot for them;)   I will be extra thankful when they bloom :)))


^^^Last week these Monet’s Blue Iris’ bloomed to the right. My iPhone photo doesn’t do them justice. To the left are some Hyacinth Orientalis Blue Jackets. Both of them were scattered throughout the backyard.


^^^This week the “Ceaser’s Brother” Iris’ bloomed.


^^^Soon this baby will be in full bloom!  There are four different peony plants in our garden but only two bloomed this year.  And I accidentally broke one of the stems of one of the plants.  Oopsie Daisy!


^^^ And shortly after the roses will follow.  This year I actually tied the branches to the trellis and it’s been growing so much better.   #BLOOMAWAY

This month was a lot of work with pulling weeds, cleaning up leaves, and pruning.  We enjoyed every bit of it!  The warmth of the sun against our skin was magnificent and greatly missed.  Hope everyone is enjoying the beauty of this spring season! Happy Gardening :)) #GROWINLOVE #NJFRESH