It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. -Mother Teresa

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

March 2018


Michael set up for the International Houseware's Show at the McCormick Place in Chicago. I took the train up and hung out with him for part of the time. We didn't really do anything special but ate at enjoyed being downtown. Set up took a little longer this year, so he had less free time than in previous years. It was still a successful trip and he doesn't have to worry about it again for a few months!

The other part of Michael's brain: soccer! Well, this weather is making things tricky. He spends part of each day checking fields, reviewing weather reports, and rescheduling events.

We spent Saturday watching soccer in a "Soccer Bar" or "Football Pub"...essentially living Michael's dream. We were going to attend the Chicago Fire's Opening Day but with the weather, we happily caught it on TV. 

I love this picture of Michael coloring Easter Eggs alongside my Dad and Brother-in-Law (yeah, he got to come home for a short leave!). It pretty much sums him up: family. I love how our girls are just used to having a Dad who is involved. A Papa across the street at their beck and call, and an Uncle who absolutely adores them. 

I added an online book club this month. It is through my Homeschool Support Group and we are reading Becoming MomStrong by Heidi St. John. Unlike my other groups, we meet online (obviously) but we break reading and discussion down by week rather than all at once at the end. I will try to keep my reading to a separate blog post...I know it isn't for everyone. :) 

I don't realize how many pictures I take of my cat until I go to make this post each month. I start flipping through my pictures and there is Sparkle...and there is Sparkle...and there is Sparkle Marbles again! I joke that she is my favorite child and if you judged who I loved most by who I take the most pictures of, well...yeah, it is the cat. This is actually me attempting to read my Bible App in the morning. She has to sit ON me and the iPad. 

Nadia Michelle

Nadia is doing a great job balancing her school schedule, work schedule, and soccer.  It was the perfect time for her to take on a new responsibility and we are so very proud of her! 

Can she take your order? Make your food? Clear your table? YES! Go visit her! :) 

A newer holiday for us is International Women's Day. In Ukraine it is a BIG deal. Michael celebrates us by having a special breakfast and fresh flowers. Nadia thoughtfully made us each a gift too. You will often find Nadia doodling, crafting, and such. She makes beautiful flowers out of paper! 


Stacey finished this year's history and literature, and has gone straight onto next years! She has started volunteering at church as a Children's Church greeter and registering the kids. She continues her private swim lessons and is also playing soccer. She is a busy girl!

These four rocked their presentation on Theodore Roosevelt. Seriously. I’m not just saying that because I am their mom. They prepared and it showed. Afterwards a friend reminded me how extra special it was that ALL my girls spoke this quickly I forget that two of them weren’t proficient enough to research, write, and present in English at last year’s event!  Look how confident Stacey is! See Jo's arms wrapped around her, this is a pretty common sight. 

Dating means getting to know each other's family traditions, tastes, and well...issues. I am sure P is enjoying his education into all things Robey. This month we introduced him to Fondue! 


Nan continues to organize game nights once a month at our house for her friends. Food and bossing people around seem to be things she really enjoys (hey, she is my kid!) Her work load was pretty intense this year for school so she is still deep in the middle of it. I am proud of her for not getting discouraged as her sisters finish up before her.

The big girls attended a retreat. They were less than thrilled at drop-off because they knew zero people there. When they arrive at the retreat and get to settle in bunks, there is a familiar face: Lauren, who Nan has known her entire life, is their counselor!  A picture of Lauren and Nancy from the retreat compared to a picture of them from 10+ years earlier. 

Nan will use any excuse to bake...and Pi Day was delicious at our house! 


JoJo has started soccer...sort of. This weather has caused several things to be rescheduled. She isn't one to graciously handled a change in routine but is dealing with it remarkably well...for her. She is taking a break from swimming and looking forward to softball. This month she has been all about dress up clothes and Barbies. She is also into making those rubberband bracelets. (Often when she is supposed to be doing school or sleeping.)

While we were in Chicago, Michael and I visited the Art Institute. We enjoyed snapping pictures like these and messaging Jo. She hadn't studied these pictures but was still able to identify the artist! She loves art and memorizing cards/slides of paintings and artists. I would have never guessed that about her. It is strange, she is not proficient at reading but is super confident and actually really competent in art. God is certainly using her to work on me and my expectations and plans for education. 

In other news, she is obsessed with Little House. My plan (see above regarding adjusting!) was to do the Prairie Primer: A Little House Unit Study next school year with her. But she is interested NOW. I had hoped to be winding down the school year, but instead I am wading into a unit study. I am excited she is excited to be learning and loves all things Little House just like Nancy. Here she is making butter:

Monday, April 2, 2018

What I Read March 2018

I set a personal goal to read 100 books in 2018. More specifically I plan to tackle Tolstoy's short stories and continue reading Newberry Honor books.  So far this year, I have read 35 books. You can see what I have read by clicking HERE.

 The Immoralist by Chloe Benjamin
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan
Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

 Animal Adventures: Little House Chapter Books #3 by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjorie Williams
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold
Looking for Mary by Beverly Donofrio
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

Book that I enjoyed most this month: 

Book that still has me thinking about it: 
Looking for Mary 

Book that I will discuss with my kids: 
Hitch because the girls read it for school and Velveteen Rabbit

Book that I will never read again: 
The House of Mirth. I'm glad I read it but it reminded me The Bell Jar by Slyvia Plath but 3x longer...

Book that I gave up on and never finished: 
The Last Black Unicorn 

Book that I have previously read: 
Velveteen Rabbit and Animal Adventures (It was a compilation of Little House exerts)

Book that I will read again someday: 
Velveeteen Rabbit and possible Looking for Mary (I want to discuss this book)

Books that I read for Book Clubs:
Ellis Island and Flight of the Sparrow

Have you read any of these books? 
What did you think of them? 

What did you read in March? 
Anything you would recommend?

Friday, March 2, 2018

February 2018

Birthday Lunch at Busch Stadium
At work, he continued to prepare for the International Housewares Show and work on projects relating to the new corporate office. He told me that the architect's office sent a videographer to record for his portfolio. The video guy wondered if they could finish up some of the projects so it would look better in the video...needless to say, the reminded him that they were still settling in!

We enjoy eating lunch with Michael most days. I think it is helpful for the girls to hear about his day and what he is working on. So much of what he does involves managing time and people in addition to all the stuff that isn't in his "job description". I hope they see his work ethic and integrity and duplicate that in their own future occupations. I also hope they are the type of employees who don't complain, "This isn't in my job description."

Soccer season is here even though the first practice hasn't happened yet, so he is busy with scheduling, meetings, and out at the fields. He loves every minute of it. I know his only regret each season is that he doesn't spend as much time working on our "fields" (AKA yard) as he does out at the park. They are working on some projects for the softball and baseball fields too. I love to see him working with so many different people with the common goal of serving the kids in our community. Again, I hope our kids see that too. I want to see how service to others includes so much behind the scenes work that others may not even realize has to happen. (And I want to spend their free time helping others and not just having the TV schedule memorized and catching up on their shows...)

The girls made his birthday peanut butter pie this year!

First of all, it took a while to get back on track after my lymphangitis...first from the actual infection, then from the allergic reaction to the meds, and finally with what the antibiotics do to my gut. (A parasite that I picked up in rural Mexico nearly 10 years has permanently altered my gut. TMI? :) ) I am back to a fully functional adult. It's nice.

A family friend passed away and I was blessed to attend his Celebration of Life with my folks and my Grandmother. Our families have been friends for several generations and my grandparents even retired to a house beside their friends. These people and this place were a big part of my childhood.

It was without a doubt the best funeral I have ever been to. Does that sound weird?

First of all, there was no body. They simply chose not to include it and instead shared a touching display of photos, videos and mementos.  Second, it was in a meaningful, neutral location overlooking the lake that was such a huge part of our lives. Third, it was called a Celebration...and it really was. Fourth there was a share time and people actually shared. Kids as young as 3 to elderly adults shared their memories. Finally, food. Seriously, the first part of the was just cookies and drinks during fellowship time. After the actual service, they served a delicious meal. All in the same place. Everyone invited. Plenty of casual time to catch up and share memories. I WANT THIS for my family and myself!  (Not just because food is my love language! Seriously, the nourishing of people physically just fit comfortably into this time, and led to even deeper connection.)

Namesakes! This is my "Aunt" Laura. It was her father, who passed away but because of the beautiful and unique way they celebrate his life, we were able to spend some time together. Being connected to this amazing, Godly lady was very influential in my life. It was because of this that we choose to give each of our daughter's namesakes too. 

This is my first Stacey! Even though it was freezing cold, we wanted our picture with "The Lake".  We are 4th generation friends (It was her grandfather who passed away) and although we live 2000 miles apart our lives have turned out to be remarkably similar. It was such a gift to get to spend time with her, her husband, and her siblings! 

Nadia Michelle

Nadia and Nancy helped friends move. They all worked together to put together this ping pong table. For Real: We didn't really think that could or would do we didn't have any paddles ready for them. They not only did it but then played with their hands instead of paddles! 

Nadia continues to transition into adulthood. We I forget how much this stage is in many ways like toddlerhood! It seems like so much effort and work on both our parts but then a whole bunch of steps and milestones will be reached in what feels like no time at all. We have walked this path once previously with Jessica so we have an inkling but am still constantly reminding myself how parenting every child is different.

Nadia continues to practice her driving and I see a vast improvement! She is working hard toward completing this year's classes with no plans to take a break. She is going to keep on working straight through until she has enough credits to complete high school. I am so very proud of her for all this effort. I think we all can remember how anxious we were to finish school and just be done with the work but still have all the concerns on "What will I do next?"
Nadia teaching her Dad to Waltz

I hosted my Book Club this past week, and we had a new member. She was in my home for a while before she put it all together and said, "Oh you are Nadia's Mom!" She and Nadia are part of the same small group Bible Study. It was such a reminder to me that Nadia is spreading her wings and making a life for herself outside of the safety zone we created. (Am I ready for this? Is she???)

Mona Stacey
She began the month with a visit to her Orthopedic Surgeon in St. Louis. It was a GREAT visit. Her scans are miraculous and it was such a joy to be a room filled with the doctor and staff who created and celebrated this victory with us!!!! One more "minor" surgery to remove some of the hardware and she is done. Well for now, they are removing the hardware in order to make future surgeries easier. But by future, I mean hip replacement in in her mind forever but really maybe the ripe, ole' age of 40.

As a sub-heading of Stacey we can talk about "P", her boyfriend, right?!? Right.
So they are continuing to spend time together either with family and/or friends. Wednesdays are still our night. He missed this week, but he had a decent reason: Nationals! His basketball team is currently playing in the final four of the NACA National Championships down in Tennessee!!! Next year we will be a proper supportive sports family and attend more of his tournaments and hopefully Nationals again. Until then we will make posters and practice our body paint. If we are going, we are going BIG (and embarrassing). 

Annual Candlelight Valentine Dinner

He joined us for our Annual Candlelight Valentine Dinner which just so happened to fall on a Wednesday so even if we didn't want to drag the poor kid into our family traditions, he may have showed up anyway. He said he wasn't going to participate in the dancing portion of the evening. Long story short, he danced and loved it. (He never actually said the word love but how could he not have loved a Robey Dance Party????) And because I know he is reading this and it will forever be family lore, he ate a cracker with a salad fork in order to be polite.


I think one of Nan's gifts is hospitality. She loves to host and has been hosting game nights along with her sisters. 

Every year this child goes further and further to The Darkside...and by The Darkside I mean soccer. Over the winter she participated in a series of online classes on soccer officiating. This past month she participated in a weekend class in order to earn her patch. She attended this class completely on her own...arriving only to find she was not only the youngest member of the class but also the only female. (Later a college-aged girl arrived and sat by Nan.)

But God is so good in that the class organizer is a soccer colleague of her Dad's and recognized her and the instructor turned out to be a friend's father. The good news is that they knew her so she felt comfortable. The bad news is that they knew her so she was "volunteered" to demonstrate a lot! She learned a lot but maybe more importantly she realized that all the assignments she completed before class were necessary. (She also noted several adults in the class who obviously did not do the required work and paperwork as assigned and happily was one of the first people to be done with the test and paperwork.) I love when something like that "clicks". She has already been asked to ref in a neighboring community. But her Dad isn't thrilled about that - he feels like he educated and trained her so she could ref here in town for him! :)

Much of the first part of February involved the extra needs of Felicity, Nan's Black Lab. Eventually we made the decision to say good bye to her. Many nights this month Nancy had slept on the floor beside her dog to comfort and care for her. It has been difficult to adjust to life without her especially for our younger dog, Rory. 

Jo's new favorite show is the Great British Baking Show. She does like to cook and bake...and eat! For as thin as she is, you would never believe how much and how often she eats. I think her body puts all of it it's effort into height instead of weight. Just this morning she said to me, "Do you think I grew when I was asleep? I feel like I am the same height I was yesterday when I walked on my tippy-toes but I am not walking on my tippy-toes. And my pants are like way too short." Her Dad and I had just had a conversation a few minutes previously about why her pants look like capri's with several inches of skin showing even though we had just bought new pants for her in December!

Reading has come slower for her than any of my others, so it has been so rewarding to her and I to witness the huge amount of progress she has made in the past month. She is currently obsessed with all things Little House on the Prairie. So it was no surprise to me when she started reading beginning Chapter Books based on this series. I was going to wait until next year (2nd Grade) to do the Little House Unit Study Curriculum like I did with Nancy but we may just start early! (You can read about how we Visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's Home, made Oyster Soup, and how I thought the curriculum would be before I used it back in 2011). 

This school year, we have been able to attend several performance at the Krannert Center on the campus of U of I. They are without a doubt our favorite field trips and not just because we also get to go out to lunch! Papa and Nana were able to join us for this performance. Every time we attend a performance with classrooms of public school children, I am reminded that learning to be a good audience is an important life skill. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What I Read in February 2018

I set a personal goal to read 100 books in 2018. More specifically I plan to tackle Tolstoy's short stories and continue reading Newberry Honor books.  So far this year, I have read 23 books. You can see what I have read by clicking HERE.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

Watch and Ward by Henry James
Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Lion and the Puppy and Other Stories for Children by Leo Tolstoy
After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer

Book that I enjoyed most this month: 
The Guernsey Literary Society, The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Book that still has me thinking about it: 
Can I say all of them??? It was a month of a thought-provoking books. I wanted to talk about them all! 

Book that I will discuss with my kids: 
Waterless Mountain. I can't wait to read it to Jo. I know that she will feel that same as I did was I read it. I felt like I understood and could visualize better after spending some time at the Navajo Nation and especially after visiting the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. 

Book that I will never read again: 
The Kennedy book. It was actually transcripts of several interviews. It had excellent footnotes and I learned a lot but it was tedious reading. 

Book that I gave up on and never finished: 
I read them all.

Book that I have previously read: 

Book that I will read again someday: 
Tolstoy: A Russian Life

Books that I read for Book Clubs:
The Great Alone (I had previously read Turtles All the Way Down which was the other book this month.) 

Have you read any of these books? 
What did you think of them? 

What did you read in February? 
Anything you would recommend?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

January 2018

So I joked about keeping the blog up so that I wouldn't have to do it all in December for our annual Christmas "Letter". But here is it February and yeah, it didn't happen...

2018 began very low-key. I had to work on New Year's Day so we were just looking forward to being home and relaxing. Christmas/New Year's is still a little messy in expectation-wise in our multi-cultural family. For those of you who don't know, Ukrainians traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 6th (They follow a different calendar.) Shockingly, Christmas is a RELIGIOUS Holiday that involves church. New Year's is when they put up their tree, have presents, and eat. We are still working through all of this...remember our girls did have some traditions but even when they lived a very untraditional life style (in an orphanage) so tradition I said, "Messy."

Speaking of multi-cultural, we attended our first quinceaƱera in January. It was one of the most beautiful expressions of parenting I have ever experienced. After celebrating Mass (on Epiphany no less), we were guests at one great party! 

When we moved into this small town, the Garcia family was the first to invite us to their home and life. Although this was the largest and most opulent event they have ever thrown, they were still attentive and thoughtful hosts. One of the things I admire about and try to emulate from them is multigenerational entertaining especially the way they include their own children. 

We started back to school and I feel like we are still struggling to get back into a routine. This semester we started Geography. It has opened many conversations about worldviews...without inviting too much controversy into the subject...let me share that raising children from two different continents and cultures truly changes the way I teach and the way I learn AND leads me to question what and how I was taught. As an American, I have certain biases that aren't necessarily bad but I need to recognize that I am viewing the world through them.

 Anyway, we have been working on world maps, first blob maps and now more detailed. I am amazed at what we can accomplish and learn together....yes, I am including Jo in this although it is a high school level class. She gets most of it and isn't technically graded, which is a good thing because one day her map was upside down so her world is different than everyone else's. Truly art imitating life! 

Two weekends found us at Swim Meets! Due to weather and what I consider a ridiculously early warm-up time, we spent the night in a hotel the night before one of the meets. It was fun to swim and hang out in the hotel (why must you eat pizza and junk food in a hotel???) with just our two swimmers: Stacey and Jo. And in a first, we allowed the other two to stay home overnight for the first time. With grandparents literally across the street and an Aunt who can see our house from her's on the other side we weren't exactly worried about large parties! ;)  They were delighted to have the opportunity to prove themselves trustworthy. As a parent I felt like it was a major milestone moment for me too! 

Speaking of parenting milestones, January found us having our first big cell phone issue. Anyone with kids knows there is not better example of a LOVE/HATE relationship than that of your child having a cell phone. We love the ability to connect with them when we need to. We hate the ability for them to connect with others when we don't want them to! For the sake of privacy I will leave it vague but gosh darn it, this private "little" issue took up a big part of my month.


Michael hosted soccer registration and is getting schedules set up. His goal is to have a co-ed traveling high school team. It is tricky to get teens and parents to make a commitment even just to a recreational team. I hope he isn't disappointed and it makes me all nervous to see him investing in something I think is going to be frustrating...

Professionally it was a busy month! He is always busy this time of year preparing for the Annual Housewares Show. In addition, his company moved into a beautiful new corporate office. This move involved and continues to involve some special projects he never dreamed would be part of his job as a graphic designer! Just this week Michael and the owner took a "field trip" to photograph their first local factory only to return to over a million of square feet of factory and office space. It has been a blessing to see and be a part of this company's continued growth.

I am continuing to work part-time at the shoe store at the outlet mall. It is our "slow" season so we have reduced hours. It really helps me appreciate how much easier it is homeschool without working! Organizing and utilizing my time well has never been something I was good I continue to grow and be challenged in this area. It has been good for all of us to share in more of the household duties especially preparing meals (which takes on additional responsibilities to most families since we eat all three meals every single day at home). 

I ended the month in a very unhealthy way with lymphangitis. (Yeah, I had never heard of it either so I had to google it and found this LINK.)  Pretty much it is an infection. It started in my thumb and literally left painful, swollen, hot, red lines of infection up my arm, into my armpit, and to my chest. It escalated quickly...and recovery took way longer than I expected (and included an allergic reaction to the initial antibiotic).  It's over. I never want to do that again! 

Nadia continues to plug away at her classes. I know it is tricky for her to still be in high school when technically graduated in Ukraine. Our school systems are different so she is earning the credits she needs to have an American diploma too. 

She stepped out of her comfort zone this month and applied for a job. It wasn't the right timing for them and her but it was great practice. It is exciting to see her trying to figure out what God has created her to do. 

She joined an adult Bible Study in our community. Not only has she enjoyed participating but she has also enjoyed bringing snacks to share each week. Again it is exciting to see her stepping out of her comfort zone and trying new things and making new friends. 

The biggest thing to happen this month is a booooooyyyyy! Yes, Stacey officially has a boyfriend so we (that means you and me!) can officially tease her. 

Seriously though, we are "those" parents who in order to make life better we first make it more embarrassing. This meant that we sat down the four of us (Michael, Laura, Stacey, and P) to discuss expectations, guidelines, and issue warnings. 

Remember at the beginning of this blog how I discussed how things can be a little messy regarding expectations because we are a multicultural family??? Well, that is in all areas of life especially communication. This guy needed a few warnings about dating our daughter...not just the typical ones. Although her English is great, somethings still get "lost in translation", and our proud daughter is almost never willing to admit this. It makes parenting her tricky sometimes; I can only imagine how fun it is to date someone like this! 

He is a great kid and we have enjoyed meeting with weekly for dinner. He comes on Wednesdays if you want to join us and interview him! (You're welcome, P!) 

Nan started taking drivers ed at the local high school. She is the youngest freshman so it is a long time until she will even actually get her permit (by long time I mean 10 months...which is nothing compared to the 22 months until she can get her license but she's not counting or anything). 

She continues to be a part of our church worship team. Mainly on the piano with some vocals (yes, she has her own microphone so she looks like Barry Manilow or Elton John...okay, she doesn't look like them but I knew she would read that and complain, "Moooooooooom!") Occasionally she brings her acoustic guitar or does a special. 

Her friend, Susie and her, enjoy playing and sometimes recording music together. It is fun to hear them practice. Speaking of practice, she is still trying to get the hang our her electric guitar and so refuses to allow us to see (though we can still hear). 

Since this is my blog and I can type what I want. I want to publicly congratulate Nancy for being the messiest person in our family. Her clothes are not able to be stored on hangers or in a dresser. They are somehow all attracted to her bedroom floor. I know that her roommate finds this adorable and amusing. (Right, Stacey?) 


This pretty much sums up Jo. The paper prompts her to finish this sentence "My snowman melted because..." Jo's response is simple, "NANCY" 
Oh what to say about Jo...there is so much. When asked what pretty much sums up her year so far. Her response, "I like almost all the stories that I listen to on my ipod. I didn't really like Little Women after all because it was really long. I don't like when people give the dogs squeaky toys. It is annoying. Right now I like that we all get a day to make lunch. My favorite thing is to make sandwiches. It is easy...super easy. I like Skylanders because there are two ways you can play with them on the game or in the human way (let me translate: you can play on the Wii or just with the characters like action figures). I like pets more than I like poop but not more than I like my sisters." 

Jo received a membership to Little Passports for Christmas from her Meme. Our first country was Brazil. She made these yummy treats!