Giant water balloon fun

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I know I've been doing a lot of these sequential pictures lately, but I just had to do this one, so bear with me. The girls told me they wanted to make giant water balloons one day when their cousin Noah was over. The next thing I know they had filled up regular balloons we had on hand and tied them off. Their balloons turned out to be giant, and so heavy they could barely lift them. Olivia's look when she tried to hold onto hers--priceless! I love the things their little minds come up with. Every day they are figuring out a new way to get wet, a new game to play, a new competition. It's really never-ending, and so, so fun to witness. If only I could harness some of their energy, though...


Throwing dresses

This child. She is so much fun to watch. I catch myself stopping whatever I'm doing and just watching her doing her thing. She runs from room to room, picking up one thing, trading it for another as she drops the first thing and runs off. She'll drop the paci right out of her mouth to put whatever she's holding in there. Everything she picks up is interesting to her and something to explore. She squats as she turns the item over in her pudgy little hands and examines them, seeing what they can do.

I see her watching her brother and sisters and imitating their hand movements, their tone of voice, their actions. She follows them around the house and joins in whatever they're up to. She rarely likes to be by herself, and when they're not home, she will look for them upstairs or make me open the garage door to see if they're outside.

Everywhere she goes, the room ends up looking like a tornado hit it after she's gone. She moves quickly from room to room and toy to toy, leaving things strewn around all rooms of the house. It's exhausting to get anything done sometimes, because by the time I cook dinner or check my email, I have a whole new mess waiting for me to clean up. I never know what she just got into, and cringe inside as I'm doing something to think of what she could be up to in the next room. I was up in the play room one morning and caught Naomi throwing all the dress-up dresses out of the basket. I was always annoyed and exasperated when I walked in on every dress out of the basket and on the floor, but hadn't had a chance to get to the bottom of it. I figured it was either Olivia or Noah doing the dumping. Well, turns out it's this little rascal! I hadn't even thought someone was doing it for fun! She was so thorough and quick, and got the job done in no time! Bogdan and I joke that she's just keeping us young.


You and me baby

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We've come a long way, baby! Look at those kids, walking arm in arm, all smiles, radiating happiness. The road since that day twelve years ago has been full of contrasts--smooth and bumpy, magical and mundane, full of tears and sorrow and laughter and joy. We have been in valleys in our marriage that were incredibly hard and tested our commitment and our faith, and we have been victorious on the mountain tops as well. Such is life. The constant through it all is change; change is the only guarantee.

We have grown up together, started a family together, bought one house, then another, and watched our babies grow. We have been through health issues and financial issues and family heartaches as well. And it was all with this man by my side. Looking back at all of it, I am so, so grateful for this life I get to lead. I'm so grateful for a God-fearing husband that wants to lead his family well. I'm so grateful for four beautiful children that I get to raise and watch grow.

I used to look at couples who had been together for five years, and I remember thinking what an accomplishment that was, how much time they had spent together already. Now five years is nothing, just a drop in the bucket. It's been twelve for us, and I feel like someone else has lived those twelve years for me, that we're just beginning, still figuring out this marriage thing.

These twelve years have gone by and I still feel like that young bride, with the same dreams and ambitions inside that had always been there. Granted, my eyebrows are now fuller and I have more wrinkles and more stories to tell, but I am still that high school graduate marrying her high school sweetheart, I swear!


I dare you not to giggle


I was watching this little gem on my computer today. I've been trying to take videos of Naomi here and there  as she grows because even though that little video doesn't seem significant at the time, watching it after some time has passed is always so nostalgic. I love them all, even the most mundane ones. After all, it's the little things that turn out to be the big things. This one is one of my favorite videos of Naomi. It's from January, back when she was one day away from 8 months of age. I just can't help laughing every time I see it!


A memorable birthday this year

Saturday, July 12, 2014

We celebrated Bogdan's birthday last month (where did the time go?) and had the most memorable day! I think we will remember this one for a long time. We started the day off with a special breakfast in bed for him. We sang happy birthday though we didn't have a cake for him and gifted him his favorite goji berries, and an organic deodorant and organic aftershave I picked out for him. He had started refusing to use his regular deodorant because he didn't want to poison himself with aluminum, so good thing I found a good replacement! He is loving it so far, and the aftershave too.

It was actually the last day of school on Bogdan's birthday this year, and each of the kids had something going on for parents that day, so he came home early from work and we spent the afternoon going back and forth from classrooms to the gym for assemblies and back home to wait for the next thing. After school we joined some friends in their backyard for some water fun, then headed out for a date night for just us two.

It was a full day and oh so good, with a little bit of everything in it. It was nice to have family time, but I really wanted Bogdan all to myself this year for at least some of it, and just have some downtime together, so date night was perfect! We ordered a couple new things at a restaurant we had recently tried, then drove up the foothills to this amazing hiking area we had actually never been to before. I had done some research online and we drove up and found a place to park, then picked a trail to hike. I wasn't sure if it was the one I wanted or not, but it seemed like a good one and I didn't know how to find the one I had in mind, so off we went.

Well, it just kept going and going, and soon we realized that we were barely making any progress down, and of course we still had to go back up after coming down. The sun was setting fast, and it always seemed like we would reach the sunny spot just up ahead of us as soon as we came around the next bend, but it was always eluding us as the sun beat us over and over again. Soon we decided to run down to save time, and though I was wearing tennis shoes (thank God), I was wearing a stiff polyester blouse and wasn't too comfortable in it while running. I don't know what I expected--I guess I thought we'd do more of a leisurely hike that wouldn't take too long. Whoops. We ended up walking/running at least 6 miles round-trip, and the last 3 miles were uphill. Up a very steep hill. It was such a challenge getting back up that mountain, this time along the road we drove to get up there, and though my legs were doing okay, my lungs were not. There were times where I just had to slow down to a very slow walk to catch my breath, otherwise I felt like I would suffocate. It was scary because both of our phones died and it was growing dark, and we kept passing cars on their way down as we were going up. We debated hitching a ride with someone to get back to our car, but we were too chicken to do it. Instead we ran as much as possible, walked the rest of the way, and worried about what the in-laws were thinking that we were out so late and when in the world would we come pick up the kids. :)

I often crave some kind of adventure, and this evening was so good for my soul. It was just us two out in nature, and it was so beautiful all around. We were up above the city, exploring a place we had never seen before, talking and laughing and enjoying each other's company. We would stop to take a picture or sneak in a kiss, then keep going, admiring the scenery and the beautiful sunlight streaming down the mountains. I used to think the Idaho desert was boring when I was young, but I have really come to appreciate it over the years. Now I think it is so beautiful. There was a sense of danger and uncertainty since we had no idea where we would end up or how long it would take us, and I kind of loved that part of it. It sure gave me some contrast to my I-know-exactly-what-to-expect suburban days. I can't wait to get out there again and explore some more.

And with that Bogdan is another year older! In sixteen more days I'm celebrating my own birthday and I have no idea what I want to do for it yet, so I better get planning. All I know is I have to leave my 20s behind with a bang!


Photo op fail

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I wanted to try my hand at one of those sweet pictures of the baby gazing into the camera with a slight smile on her face, looking like a little angel, with the window light playing off her face and accentuating her features--you know what I'm talking about. Here's a good example. Or here, or here, or here. That Casey sure knows how to get a good one. What I already knew was confirmed for me, however--this child doesn't do those. She doesn't lay down or lay still--ever--unless she absolutely has to. The poor thing even has the hardest time falling asleep no matter how exhausted she is--she just doesn't know how to let herself relax, so she'll roll around and moan in her crib for a good half hour every time before she finally gives in to sleep. She wanted nothing to do with this, and was off the bed quick as lightning even though I had Mila and Olivia there to help me, and all I have are these pictures to show for it. Thanks for trying, girls.


Twenty things about me

While I'm on the topic of making lists (which is one my absolute favorite things to do, by the way), I thought it'd be fun to do a 20 things about me post. I see those on Instagram, and sadly no one has asked me to do one on there (ha ha, okay, I'm not that sad), so I'm doing one here. Because I can. And because I would love for you to get to know me better. I turn 30 in a month, and it's made me contemplate lately where I'm at and where I'm going in my life. It also feels like I should document some things about myself at this stage in my life before I officially leave my 20s behind and enter the brave new world of my 30s. Oh man.

I honestly don't want to turn 30 because that means I'm running out of time, but all those people saying they feel the most comfortable in their skin and about who they are during their 30s? It's true. I mean, I'm not there yet, but almost, and I have become much more self-assured and therefore doubt myself less, and I'm able to make choices quickly based on past experiences because I know myself better. And all that leads to more contentment, less fighting things you can't control or change, more finding joy in the everyday. So I'm looking forward to that part of it. Just not the wrinkles. So here goes--twenty things:

  • I'm paranoid of things inside my shoes (spiders and slugs mostly) and gardening gloves and creatures underwater. I try to play it cool while swimming at the lake, but I can't get images of something grabbing me out of my head when I'm swimming in cold, deep water.
  • I have two brothers and two sisters.
  • I hate my widow's peak. It just completely ruins everything.
  • I have always loved how strong I am (physically).
  • I wish I could draw or paint. I see things in my head but can't get them out on paper.
  • I have the widest feet in the world. Mila inherited this from me and her shoe selection is very, very limited. :(
  • I've lived in Idaho for 20 years. That definitely beats 5 years in Ukraine and 4 years in Washington.
  • I'm lactose intolerant.
  • I need to be a professional proof-reader because I can find every single typo and incorrect use of there/their/they're. In textbooks, books, and let's not even start about blogs/Instagram comments.
  • My waist and upper body are way smaller size-wise than my legs, so I have always hated jean shopping. It's my enemy. That waist gap...ugh.
  • I don't mind folding laundry and Bogdan despises it, so he's folded maybe five baskets of laundry during our 12-year marriage.
  • My favorite movie is Wicker Park--so mysterious and romantic and wistful, and the best soundtrack ever.
  • I helped raise my little brother, then babysat all the neighbor kids (and then some) when I was older, and then I got married young and had my own kids right away. So I've basically never been without someone to take care of.
  • A clean house has to be the best feeling ever.
  • And fresh sheets and fluffy linens is the second best feeling ever.
  • I have the biggest desire to travel, but it's been on the back burner basically my whole life so far. I can't wait to be able to see the world.
  • I'd live in New York City if I could, but Bogdan is the opposite and hates city life.
  • I've always felt like I don't have enough friends. But it may be because I have too many kids. :)
  • I have the driest skin of anyone I know. My feet are especially embarrassing.
  • I could skip the food and just live on dessert.
  • This post took way too long to write.


Summer bucket list

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I don't like the term 'bucket list' for whatever reason, but there's really nothing better to call a list of things you want to do before the summer is over. So bucket list it is. I was inspired by Amanda Watters to make this list--I loved reading hers, and it got me all excited for summer!

Our summer break started twenty days ago now, but we've been busy celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, so I'm finally sitting down to wrap my head around what I want our summer to look like. We don't have any big trips planned, but summer doesn't have to revolve around expensive trips (hey, we have four kids and we're living on one income, travel is not at the top of our 'needs' list). The local things are an adventure as well, and you get to sleep in your own bed at night! :) Plus, I know there are so many things to do here locally that we haven't done yet and need to do. So here are some things I have planned for this summer:

  • camp out in our backyard 
  • swim at Eagle Island
  • paint something and frame it
  • visit the Museum of Natural History
  • craft with the kids again
  • catch up on back issues of my magazines
  • watch a Friday night movie in the park
  • go hiking with the kids
  • visit a new hot springs
  • lots of dinner guests
  • make an Instagram book
  • go camping in three new places 
  • visit the Boise Art Museum
  • pick fruit at a local orchard (borrowed this one from Amanda)
  • tea party with the girls
  • drive-in movie in Parma
  • picnic at the park
  • swim lessons for the kids
  • try a couple new restaurants
  • visit Hidden Springs
  • dollar theater with the kids
  • host a big dinner party for no reason at all--everyone's invited!
  • start Naomi's scrapbook
  • spend a day at Lucky Peak
  • blow up Ben's volcano
  • farmer's market
  • blow up one of my pictures into a poster
  • go on a hot air balloon ride
  • frequent our neighborhood pool more than ever before!
  • paint the kids' bathroom and upstairs hallway
  • visit a new Idaho city 
  • spend a whole day out of the house (daring, I know)
  • bike the Greenbelt for date night
  • splash pad
  • Roaring Springs water park 
  • launch Ben's rocket
  • sew the girls some skirts or dresses
  • go zip-lining with my other half
  • host some sleepovers
  • a day at the pool by myself-aaaaaaaahhh

That last one sounds so amazing right now! I need to figure out the logistics of it and go spend some blissful, uninterrupted time at the pool with a good book. The things moms wish for...

So now I'd like to know, what are some things that are on your bucket list that maybe I need to add to mine?


Chili recipe

Monday, June 23, 2014

I was craving hearty, meaty chili so much one day recently, kind of out of nowhere (but isn't that how cravings are?) so I went online and started comparing recipes to figure out exactly what ingredients I wanted in mine. I like to compare lots of different recipes to see the similarities and differences in ingredients and technique, and then I can save myself time and money by ruling out ones that don't sound that appealing based on what I like to eat. That way I don't have to make and have to eat three different recipes to know what I like best, and I can experiment right away. It's also very helpful to read reviews to see what people change and what they like about the recipe. What I came up with is based loosely on this and this and some other recipes too. I knew I wanted a ground beef base (versus various cuts of beef), lots of beans, but I also didn't want chili with only meat, bacon, sausage in it--I need to have plenty of vegetables in there to balance things out. I think this chili is the perfect balance:

about 2 tablespoons olive oil (I eyeball it)
2 pounds organic ground beef
one red onion
4 cloves garlic
one red bell pepper
one yellow or orange bell pepper
one jalapeno
one 28-ounce can tomatoes, whole or crushed
one 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans
one 15-ounce can kidney or pinto beans
one 12 ounce bottle of beer (preferably amber)
1/4 cup masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
shredded cheddar, for serving
green onions, for serving
sour cream, for serving
lime wedges, for serving

Add olive oil to a large pot or lidded frying pan and start cooking beef on high heat. Chop onion and add, then mince garlic and add. Chop beef up as you fry, turning and chopping with a wooden spatula until there are no large chunks left. Dice red and yellow peppers and jalapeno and add to pan, making sure to keep stirring the meat every once in a while. When meat has browned, pour in the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cayenne pepper. Wash your beans, and add them to the pan, along with the bottle of beer. Turn heat down to low, cover chili with lid, and let it simmer for another hour. (If you like to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start cooking, total cooking time is about an hour and a half.)

Right before turning the chili off, mix the masa harina with about 1/2 cup water and whisk together, then add to chili to thicken it to your desired consistency. You can always do a taste test at the end and add more salt or chili powder if desired. If the chili turns out too thick (keep in mind it will thicken as it cools), you can always add some boiled water to loosen it up. Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped green onions, sour cream, and lime wedges. I personally love baking up some fresh cornbread to go with it--it just takes the meal above and beyond!

If you like spice, you can leave the jalapeno seeds in, but I always take mine out so I get the jalapeno flavor without too much spice. Also, make sure you use regular chili powder, which has other spices like oregano mixed in. I used chipotle chili powder the first time I made this, and although I reduced the amount I used because I knew that stuff is insanely spicy, the kids still wouldn't eat my chili. Lesson learned--not the same.

The most important thing I can tell you, however, is to buy quality meat. I buy organic ground beef at Costco because we all know Costco has the best prices on organic products hands down, and it's the most delicious ground beef I have ever tried. It really does make a difference. Organic meat has so much more flavor than regular because the animals aren't on steroids to develop bigger muscles and therefore more meat. It tastes better but it's also so much healthier for you. You're eating meat, not toxins like antibiotics and steroids, and who knows what else. And did you know organic meat is actually more filling than regular? It's what God intended for us to be eating, instead of tampering with things and calling it food. I urge you to try it!


Family pictures by the lake

We were lucky enough to squeeze in a family photo session when Julia and Yuriy were in town last month. We did it the day after Naomi's family birthday party, where I cooked dinner for a million people for the second day in a row, so by Monday (which was also Memorial Day, and we had plans at the park with our church), I was pretty burned out. I was picking out outfits as Julia and Yuriy were arriving, and working on the girls' hair as they were taking pictures of Naomi. I meant to have the outfits all ready to go the day before, but I just kept washing laundry all week long and never got to finish washing it in time. I wanted everything clean so I could have all my options in front of me and be able to put something together that worked.Oh man. Embarrassing, but I'm so glad I didn't tell them to go back home cause this mama didn't have her crap together. I was pretty tempted to. 

When we were all ready, we did some shots of the kids inside, then headed back to the same park we had been at earlier in the day, and Julia and Yuriy worked their magic as the sun glowed golden behind us. It was the quickest photo shoot we've ever done just because I was late getting ready, we were working against a setting sun, the mosquitoes were eating us alive (but you can't even tell!), and there was something insanely allergenic in the brush. We all just wanted to get out of there! Our noses instantly got stuffy and runny, our eyes started swelling up, and we couldn't stop sneezing. I couldn't believe how fast and strong the symptoms came! As we were driving home in the car, we just kept getting puffier and puffier (mostly Mila, Ben, and me) as we rubbed our itchy eyes, and by the time we arrived at the store to pick up some children's Benadryl, Mila's eye was almost swollen shut. The symptoms wouldn't go away for days as I doled out Benadryl and wanted to rip my own eyes out, but it was worth it. No doubt. Just look at the pictures below.

I'm so thankful to have this time in our lives captured, to have these moments frozen in time for us to enjoy even as the kids grow, Bogdan and I get older, and the family dynamic changes. Because as we parents know, things change in a family very, very fast. We think this certain thing one of the kids is doing will stick around a while, but within a couple weeks they are done with it and moving on to something else. Photography is such a gift, and even though I didn't feel quite ready for the shoot, it's so nice to have these pictures now. And if you're on our Christmas card list, be prepared for one of these to show up! :)