Category Archives: Family Life

Thanksgiving in Moscow, Russia


About two years ago one of my closest friends moved to Russia. I promised when she left that I’d come visit her but the truth is I didn’t have a Passport and I’ve never flown out of the country so even though I wanted to I was afraid it wouldn’t happen. Thankfully God had other plans and through lots of support and an invitation to teach preschool at a retreat my friend would be attending Kaitlyn and I were heading to Moscow!

Not without some bumps on the way, of course. Like I said I didn’t have a Passport so I had to apply for one which should be a simple and straightforward process except that after all of my papers for my Passport and Visa had been processed the Post Office lost my Passport! Well, there is some debate – it’s possible the travel agency didn’t actually adhere my label to my package because somehow the label on my passport found its way on to someone else’s package! So instead of receiving 2 Passports I received a suit jacket. For well over a week no one had any idea where my Passport was. By God’s grace and nothing short of a miracle my blank package was located in Atlanta and overnighted to me. Just five days before our plane was to take off I knew I would be able to go. Talk about cutting it close!

Getting ready for our first flight overseas (obviously BEFORE the 9 1/2 hours in the air):


Oh yes, it was a long flight:


But no rest for the weary. Due to the time change it may have been time for bed in Virginia but it was early morning in Moscow and we had a FULL day ahead of us and sleeping wasn’t on the agenda.

Our first day in Moscow meant we were full-on tourists with my good friend, Kristy as our tour guide and translator.

Kaitlyn and Kristy in the center of Moscow:


And Kaitlyn in front of Saint Basil’s in Red Square:



And all of us in front of Saint Basil’s.


After a day of sightseeing we died er, crashed but then it was up early again for a little more touring and a three-hour Metro/Train/Walking/Taxi ride to the retreat center where our team would be working. Kaitlyn and I were there to teach preschool.

The train station. All the train stations were beautiful.


On the train ride there:


Our retreat center:


Looked about that dreary every day but we never got any real snow which was great for our walking but would’ve been beautiful to see.

Where we ate:


Some of our Russian food. The chicken soup was really good as was the noodles and beef but the Kasha was hit or miss for me as was the dinner. The drink is compote – a mix of fruit and sugar – mostly tasted like super sweet prune juice.



Sadly, I don’t like fish at all so this was one of those “miss” dinners where we ate Russian dessert and Coca Cola because it’s the one thing I could order at the Russian store – water is usually sold as carbonated unless you know how to ask. Since I don’t speak Russian we drank lots of Coca Cola for 50 rubles ($1.00) since we could all say that!


For Thanksgiving all the Workers put together a more traditional American dinner and they all did a fabulous job!


Kaitlyn and Julia at the youth table.


Kaitlyn in our room for the few nights we were at the retreat. At least I had a great roommate πŸ™‚


After the retreat it was back to the train and back to Moscow and time for some PIZZA! Yes! We got Papa John’s Pizza in Russia! After lots of Russian food it was so good to have something American πŸ™‚


On our last day we got to go souvenir shopping! It was outdoors in 10 degree weather and boy did we layer up. It wasn’t so bad when you dressed right but when we stood still too long we felt the cold! And this was November. I can’t say I’m ready to be in Moscow in January πŸ™‚


After a bunch of shopping and a little bit of bargaining I ended up with quite a few treasures that I was excited to bring home including a few sets of Russian Nesting dolls, a Russian hat for Caleb and a cuter, girly one for Kaitlyn.

One thing we did a lot of while we were there was ride the Metro but the cool thing is that each one was so different. Whether it was architecture or statues or just interesting marble on the walls – they were a site to see, that is if we could actually stop to see them! We were always moving so fast, getting on and off trains and trying our best not to stand out. But every once in a while we stopped to take pictures on the Metro. Yea, that screamed tourist πŸ™‚


The Russians believe it’s good luck to rub some of the statues – or at least parts of them – as you can see the dog’s nose is much shinier than the rest of the statue. Even while we stood there trying to take a photo people would stop by and rub the dog’s nose.


And occasionally we would stop to take a picture in the Metro whether we attracted attention or not!


There’s certainly quite a few other local pictures I could bore you with but I’ll stop there. Kaitlyn and I had a wonderful time even with the exhaustion and jet lag. I loved seeing Moscow and spending time with my friend, Kristy. We pray the Lord uses our time there for His glory and we appreciate the effort, support and prayers from so many to get us to Moscow and back!


Back to Life, Back to Reality… Back to School!


Summer always feels like that alternate reality where there’s no school, we take vacations and everyone gets to stay up late every night. Well, except Kirk since work gets no summers off – that’s a hard one for a work-at-home dad to explain to the kids!!

But now summer is behind us and school has started once again.

It is hard (read, impossible!) for me to believe that I now have a high schooler. The fact that my daughter is old enough to be in high school just floors me. Thankfully since the kids attend such a small school our entrance into high school is a gentle one. Not that her school work will be but she’s also not competing with hundreds or thousands of kids and we’re all okay with that.

Here they are at our yearly front-of-the-door picture before heading out to school. Kaitlyn is heading into 9th grade, Caleb 5th grade and Julianna, Rachel and Alyssa 2nd grade. I tell you the triplets do NOT seem old enough to be going into a higher elementary class.


Everyone’s excited to ride the bus. Oh wait, that’s just our van and we take it every day…


And then in their classrooms (or at least at their lockers)

High School here she comes! Now her grades really count.


Caleb in his last year in elementary school. Tomorrow I’ll be posting about his entering Middle School. Well, not really but it will feel like it!


And all together in second grade:

Julianna – ready as ever to grow up. Look at her, she’s wishing she was the one in high school! Her quote at the end of the day “2nd grade was awesome!”


Rachel is ready to learn.


And then Alyssa. Ready to tackle the year ahead.


This is the first year the girls have ever had a combined class. They will be the 3rd graders this year so hopefully they will be learning a little extra πŸ™‚

I’m hoping to have more time to catch up on blogging and other things in the house now that the kids are back in school. Of course, I think I say that every year and then things get crazy and before I know it the year is over. I’m praying this year I get to enjoy it with them as they learn.

Cute Comes in Triplicate!! (and on Swings…)




This year my girls helped make their Easter outfits. In sewing class, we began work on our skirts a few weeks ago and we got them done just in time for Easter Sunday. Alyssa isn’t taking lessons yet but Julianna and Rachel are and they are getting the hang of it. It’s pretty cute to see a 7-year-old run a sewing machine and I’ve just been thrilled with the idea that I can now sit down and sew something without freaking out.

It’s kind of a big deal πŸ™‚

Well, to me anyway.

And since it’s Spring and we were outside taking pictures anyway and the girls were all dressed up and adorable it seemed like the perfect time to take their annual swing pictures!

Julianna Mabel: my girly girl and born leader. She loves to act older than she is. Right now she thinks if she wears clothes that say size 10 or shoes that are too big that she will somehow grow faster. She takes to most sports quickly and easily though I have yet to enroll her in any official sports activity – she just seems to enjoy all things physical. Doesn’t mean she’s not doing well academically though – she’s doing quite well and remains at the top of her class. She’s an overall sweet and loveable little girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)


April 2008 (17 months old)


April 2009 (29 months old)


April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)


April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)


April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old


April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)


April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)


In the skirt she helped sew:


Rachel Gabrielle: Still my little artist, Rachel has also become a great reader and a sweet little girl. She’s shy though talkative to those who know her. She is also enjoying sewing but art is still her first love and she takes every opportunity to create a card or picture or other design for me or her dad or anyone else in need of a little bit cheering up. She loves being around her family and is always super cuddly – I love getting hugs from my little baby girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)


April 2008 (17 months old)


April 2009 (29 months old)


April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)


April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)


April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old


April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)


April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)


In the skirt she helped sew:


Alyssa Elaine: my vibrant and full-of-life “baby” girl. As the youngest of the trio and the family she lives up to her title as the baby of the family. She still loves to play with toys and I find her often sitting quietly, in her own world playing with her Pet Shops or Polly Pockets or other small toy set she has. Reading has come harder for her but she’s learning and always retaining more information than I expect. Alyssa is still the loudest and she still loves hanging out with the boys but she’d never want to spend a night without her sisters!

April 2007 (5 months old)


April 2008 (17 months old)


April 2009 (29 months old)


April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)


April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)


April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old


April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)


April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)


In the skirt I sewed! (She found it interesting to watch and I think she’ll learn someday but not quite yet)


What a change right?! It’s amazing to see how much they’ve changed and how quickly by little babies have grown up. In fact, those first pictures were taken on days I took the girls out to the swings just to keep my sanity and keep the girls happy while they were awake!! Now they can go outside on their own and swing till their hearts content.

All three girls on the swings – they find it amusing that in the right order their first initials spell “JAR”…


The girls have been a joy to raise and I look forward to many more years with them – because, after all, 7 is still little right?!

February and March Updates: A Pop of Color


I have not meant to go this long without blogging but life has gotten so busy that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit down and blog about it.

Life getting in the way of blogging, go figure!

Doesn’t mean I haven’t been hard at work on my New Year’s Resolution. It’s the opposite in fact, I have spent a lot of my time over the past two months learning how to sew and making plans for my house. But we got hit with quiteΒ a few snow days this winter (in case, you didn’t already know that…). Add to that sick days and me being called in to sub numerous times means many hours not spent working on the house.

Oh well, we’re getting there.

In February we reupholstered my kitchen/dining room chairs. A few years ago, my dad had graciously recovered them but in the years since the fabric he used began to shred and was in desperate need of replacing:


Yikes! How did we sit on those for so long??!!

After a little bit of this:


And a LOT of this (I mean a lot – we stapled these things like crazy πŸ™‚ )


We came out with this:


I know you love the orange!

It’s okay if you don’t – I promise it goes along with the bigger theme of colors which you can see in my awesome new pillow. While the chairs were my February project, the pillows were done in March so see, a little progress each month and I may actually get somewhere by the end of the year!

First set:


Second set:


Right now they’re in my living room on my brown couch – can’t say these go that well there but hopefully soon they will reside in my made-over family room – that project begins next week in April!

Thanks to my friend Krysta at Studio Solaris for the embroidery as well as for teaching me how to make pillows. I am by no means an expert but thanks to her awesome teaching I was able to complete 3 of these 6 pillows myself and feel confident enough to make some more which is a good thing since every single one of my daughters asked where her pillow was with her name/initials on it. Guess I know what to get them for their birthdays!!

Keep checking in – many more house projects and exciting new things coming soon.

Saving Money in February: Learning to Sew


This is more of a long-term plan than just the month of February and seeing the way 2 of my 7-year-olds are taking to it I have high hopes of savings lots of money on…

– clothes
– household items (curtains, room dΓ©cor)
– and maybe even their wedding dresses

Okay, that may be thinking a little too far ahead – right now they’re just learning to sew in a straight line but with their small amount of new found knowledge they are already trying to skip ahead to sew purses, pillow cases and pot holders!

Thanks to my good friend Krysta at Studio Solaris we are all beginning to learn how to sew!


Though to be perfectly honest – I’m doing a lot less of the sewing and practicing than Julianna and Rachel! In fact, I now have to fight them to even get a second on a machine.

Out of 4 girls 2 enthusiastically agreed to learn to sew, 1 said “yea, I guess so” and the other said she would rather play with Krysta’s son, Chip. I bet you can guess who is who!


First, we learn to cut fabric (fortunately I have LOTS of practice fabric thanks to Kirk’s grandma who will be thrilled to know I am finally using it πŸ™‚ )

Check out Rachel’s serious expression – she is going to measure this right:


Aaah, there’s a real smile from Kaitlyn! Maybe I’m not forcing her after all…


The girls first time using an iron – they seemed pretty excited about that too.


Then it was on to the machines. I’ve had two sewing machines for ages thanks to Kirk’s mom who passed away ten years ago and left them to me. I can only imagine how happy she would have been to see her granddaughters sewing so eagerly on her machines. Unfortunately she passed away before the girls were even born and they never knew her but even still they are being blessed by her!

Julianna on “her” machine – one I can only guess the age of but I do know it’s at least older than me…


Rachel on my “newer” and more mobile machine (the older one is so heavy there’s no lugging that one back and forth to class!)


Kaitlyn got to work on Krysta’s machine and once she got started she was a good sport about trying it though she was not amongst the girls super eager to keep sewing when we got home. Maybe once we move on to re-decorating her room she’ll have more fun with it!


I am excited for them and looking forward to learning more! Stay tuned for some major home changes. Not exactly DIY since I have Krysta to help. More like a complete beginner and a seasoned expert and I’m not exactly sure what that’s called!! I do have some home dec/painting experience but in the sewing department I’m completely new.

But learning to do it myself is the first step to saving money on these projects in the future πŸ™‚

January Updates: Bathrooms!


From what I hear, by this point in the year most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions which is why I only made one this year πŸ™‚ And thus far it’s been going pretty well.

Okay, I confess, this month has been super easy – we already had our half-bath remodel on the schedule and since we weren’t doing it but rather having someone do it meant that it was sure to get done!!

And I love the results. We are so happy to have safe bathrooms once again without fear of falling through the floor or mold. While we did get new and nicer bathrooms out of the deal this wasn’tΒ a cosmetic remodel – it was a necessary one both for our safety as well as looking towards putting our house on the market. After all, no one wants to buy a house if the ceiling may fall on them!!

Sadly, I am TERRIBLE at taking before pictures. I have no idea what is wrong with me!! You’d think I would think of that.

This is all the pictures we took of the kids bathroom before it was redone – the bathroom used to have cute frogs everywhere that a friend painted for us about 10 years ago. I really liked the frogs and didn’t anticipate having to paint over them but the way the bathroom got disassembled we didn’t have much choice. So use your imagination – we had an ugly oak cabinet sink – it was functional but seriously ugly.


The after pictures are obviously a little better and now instead of frogs we have birds πŸ™‚ These aren’t permanent though – if we ever decide to sell the house they can be easily removed and the bathroom is quite neutral (makes me sad but I hear buyers like neutral):


From frogs:


To birds:



Sadly I didn’t do any better getting before pictures of the half-bath even though I told myself I would!!

The mostly before pictures (obviously it used to have a toilet and sink):


A pretty old set that ended up on our front lawn for a while – I’m sure the neighbors appreciated it…


Making progress:




Finally it’s done and has some COLOR!! Okay, if buyers can’t handle a little color in the bathroom then that’s just sad because I love it πŸ™‚


And then we added a little bit of decoration – again this is a wall sticker so it can be easily removed and the bathroom quickly repainted if absolutely necessary. Why in the world does everyone hate color??


Those were our December/January projects. Both rooms still need a few accessories but otherwise they are complete and it is a huge relief. In February I am very excited to begin a long-time dream of mine to learn how to sew curtains and other home accessories. Last year I had a New Year’s resolution to learn something new and it didn’t happen but this year I have a new good friend and some great motivation to get it done (meaning I’ve bought the fabric so I HAVE to do the curtains now!!). Looking forward to chronicling my learning adventure! Be sure and stop by again soon πŸ™‚

End of the Year Recap


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Love, Kirk, Dorinda, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Julianna, Rachel and Alyssa

What in the world? How did two months go by since I last posted?? And how is 2013 almost over?

Well, let’s see – in the past two months:

– Caleb turned 10


My one and only son is 10 – double digits – so hard to believe. He is one sweet boy and while I’m not ready for him to grow up I do enjoy watching him get older.

– the triplets turned 7

–Β and got new American Girl dolls


Julianna Mabel – 7 years – reading chapter books and missing her two front teeth!!


Rachel Gabrielle – 7 years – reading chapter books and loving school – she also loves cleaning which works out great for me πŸ™‚


Alyssa Elaine – 7 years – as you can see still as crazy and silly as ever! This is the girl that dances through the Christmas performance and tests the microphone just because but she always makes us laugh!!

Β – we finally had our master bathroom fixed/remodeled – huge job…

Β – we went to Florida

– we celebrated Thanksgiving

– we surprised the kids with 2 days at Disney World for Christmas (just a few photos from our trip – I won’t bore you with a ton!)


Why do I look more excited than them? I think they’re ready for rides and not stopping for pictures!


Grandma and Grandpa got to come with us on our first day there – like icing on the cake for the kid’s surprise πŸ™‚


Me and my Dad.


I think everyone who goes to Disney World has this shot but I still had to take it.


Three of my favorite princesses!!


Lunch at Belle’s Castle.


Last night there – no one wanted to leave!

Β Β Β – the girls had their 7th birthday party at the American Girl doll store


We had to wait to celebrate their birthday until December 7th – no idea who the girl behind us is πŸ™‚

– we had the kid’s bathroom remodeled – I’d like to say it’s because we wanted a new look but really it was because we didn’t want them to fall through the floor

– assisted my friend (really she did all the work – I just did what she told me to) making all the costumes (I have no pictures of this)

– I directed and the kids acted in the school’s first Christmas play (somehow I don’t have any of this either – I think I was too busy…)

– we celebrated Christmas





Is it any wonder I’m broke??

(side note: rule for January – spend no money – oh wait, that won’t work… we have another bathroom to remodel, err.. fix!!)

(2nd side note: THIS is what I do with all my “free” time while the kids are in school)

And that is probably the quickest recap of 2 months I’ve ever done. Just days away from new resolutions and I’m pretty sure I haven’t filled this year’s yet. Oh well, that’s what a “new” year is for – starting over and trying again! I’m all for that πŸ™‚