Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

"Hoppy" Leap Day!

It's fun having a special day once every 4 years... almost to the point that I can overlook the extension of my least favorite month of the year.  Since this was only Strider's and Rayna's third Leap Day ever, and Colsen's second, and Milo's FIRST, we knew we had to celebrate! 

To kick things off, I hid a bunch of Leaping (paper) Frogs around the house with the instructions that the person who found the most by dinner time (and could bring them to the table), would win an extra treat.

Then, after Strider gave us a brief report on the history and necessity of Leap Day, we played some leaping games, both inside and out.

Leaping far...
 ...and farther...
 ...and even farther!
 Whew!  Made it!

Then we resumed a tradition we started last Leap Day...  We traced the kids' bodies on paper so we could see their sizes, and on the backs wrote out some current facts and future predictions.  Strider and I are calling these our mini-time capsules.  We still have the ones we made 4 years ago and are anxious to read what we wrote then -- after we get back to NC.  And we'll store these new ones, too, to bring out in 4 years. 

It's very hard to believe how small everyone was last Leap Day  (Just look how cute they were!).... and even harder to believe that by the next one I will likely have TWO teen-agers, and one may even be driving!!  That seems like a big LEAP indeed!

He left out the most interesting part!

How nice it is to now have a husband who blogs, too!  I get to see a whole new side of him... the side that is quite serious, it turns out.  He looks at things quite differently than I do.  This is a post he wrote yesterday regarding a conversation about micro-lending.  If I was going to write about that same conversation, this is how it would go:

"Pete got together with a man named Mike the other day to talk about micro-lending, and it turned out the guy is from Columbus and actually knows one of Pete's best friends!  And he goes to a church there that a few of our other friends go to!  How weird is that?  Thousands of miles from home in a random city, two guys find they have a common friend!  AND, as Pete was walking on the streets of Chisinau that day, a city of a million people mind you, he also happened to see someone that he knew!  I mean we only know a handful of people here... what are the chances we would run into one of them on the street??  Such a small-world day!  Oh -- and Pete had a nice time chatting about micro-lending with Mike."

My blogging husband, like Paul Harvey, tells "the rest of the story" I guess!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The reason Pete enjoys teaching his classes here?

This is one of the seminar groups Pete has been teaching this past month:
I'm told there was actually a young man present as well, and that he is the photographer....  hmmmm.

All I can say is that Pete was a very wise man to bring me these flowers a few days ago -- coincidentally, the very same day this picture was taken.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tour of Churches, continued

Last night we had some new friends over for the first time, a missionary couple who have lived here in Chisinau for several years.  They told us about a church they knew of right down the hill from us, and since it was a Romanian-speaking congregation, we were eager to try it. (All the churches we've been to here so far have been Russian-speaking, and we have had no chance of understanding anything.)

They told us it started at 10 am, so this morning we arrived at 10 on the dot.  (The Frank family has yet to arrive anywhere early -- on either continent.)  We were surprised to find everyone already joyfully singing, and quickly tried to find a place to sit.  The friendly ushers played charades with us and helped us find a couple of rows we could squeeze into.  It was a very large church, and quite a full room!  About 15 minutes later, a young man found a way to come sit next to Pete and asked if we spoke English.  (I think we stick out everywhere as American!)  He then kindly offered to translate for us.  I'm so amazed at how friendly all of these churches have been, and how there is always someone willing to sit and translate for us.

After a little while Fyeodor-the-translator mentioned that there would be just a couple more songs, and then the sermon.  I was beginning to think that the length of this service was much more like a typical American service.... until he also said that the service had actually started at 9:00!!  We had apparently missed an entire hour of singing and worship!  

At 10:45 there was something akin to an intermission, during which everyone got up to talk to one another or walk around for about 15 minutes.  Feodor told us that the service length is usually about 3 hours -- but it used to be 4 or 5 hours! 

This church was part of a Pentecostal denomination -- which seems to be flourishing over here.  I had to smile as the pastor was praying.  Even though I could only pick out a few words here and there, the cadence and rhythm of his speech brought me right back to the years we attended an Assembly of God church.  He sounded just the same as the pastors I once heard.  Once again we found it an encouraging experience to be among fellow worshipers of a different language.  And as our Romanian continues to improve, hopefully we will be able to understand more and more!

Wine Expo

The big event in town this week was the Moldova Wine Expo, so how could we resist?  On Saturday morning, we took 3 of the kids and headed over to the exhibition center. 

In the first building, many of the vineyards/wine-producers were represented at various displays.  They had wine out ready to taste and/or buy.  We did a little of each!

In another building there were a lot of displays for the various components of wine-making -- bottles, labeling machines, and a whole bunch of equipment and machinery that we didn't understand.
 Rayna enjoyed playing these kegs like a drum set:
And the boys were pretty wowed by the size of this tractor/grape harvester (?):

...and these things (they had the name "Bio-mashin" on them, which I liked):
And to cap it all off, there were walking bottles....
.... which made it fun, if unusual, way to spend a Saturday morning!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just call me....

Milo has decided that he would like to be addressed as "Mr. Nood."  I think he means Mr. Nerd, but his inability to pronounce r's makes his moniker all the more amusing.  He especially likes to wear these glasses when he's assuming the identity of Mr. Nood.  He's quite adamant about it -- if we slip and call him Miles, he immediately corrects us.

Meanwhile, Strider has recently announced that he would like to be called "Strider the Suave" from now on. That just about fits.

We always have an interesting character or two around here!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 6

 Ah, the last Joi of Februarie! God's faithfulness continues, and He gives me things to smile about each day.  My "Joy Dare" notebook continues to fill... Here are a few of the entries for this week:

+ Some warm, sunny days (ok, it's been in the 30's.... but I had the windows open anyway!)

+ Chances to get the rugs outside to beat out the winter dirt
+ Greater insight into this interesting nation and people

+ Students of Peter's who are eager to learn and help him research and give to him!

+ Cousins and uncles who like to email and Skype with our kids

+ How learning Romanian is actually helping Rayna with her math understanding

+ Making Ragaliki, a traditional Russian treat.  It's a yogurt- and egg-based sweet dough that is twisted in antler shapes and fried. 

 Tania arrived just in time to show us the authentic technique and shape!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." --Joel 2:13

Once again I am thankful for the rhythm of the church year.  I like how Lent gives us a time set apart from the rest of the year during which we can alter our thoughts and behavior to, hopefully, grow closer to God. 

For this season we are blending some of our old traditions with some new.  We made our Lenten chain today -- Rayna being the main project leader.  On each link we wrote the Scripture passage for the day as well as some people to pray for.  When the chain is finished, we'll be at Easter!

As a family, we are reading through 2 books during Lent this year:

 Amon's Adventure , which is by the same author as Jotham's Journey, one of our favorite Advent books,

Be Shaped to Receive:  A Lenten Devotional with Mark's Gospel.   I was able to download this e-book for less than a dollar!  It has specific prayers for each morning, afternoon, and evening of the day, as well as passages from Mark to reflect on each day.  I hope it will be something that will teach us and help us to grow.

As Arnold Ytreeide writes in  the preface to Amon's Adventure, "But the point of Lent, or any other time of spiritual focus, shouldn't be to follow a set of prescriptions and rules, it should be to seek a deeper understanding of and commitment to God.  It's not a time to check off days on a calendar;  it's a time to rend your heart, to do some spiritual housecleaninhg, to take a long, hard look at what's inside you.  A time to allow God to show you the work He's ready to do in your life."

May it be that for us!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another church, another set of random observations

We were invited to Tania's church this week, so yesterday we continued our great Tour of Chisinau Churches. "Spring of Truth," as it is called in Russian, was very different from our other experiences, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.)  We always get a kick out of hearing songs we recognize sung in another language.  Today we heard/tried to sing along to "I'm coming back to the heart of worship" and "You are my hiding place," as well as many others we did not recognize. 

2.)  Of the 50 or 60 people in the church, most were young people (in their twenties).  It was wonderful to see this generation leading worship, teaching each other, and building relationships.  

3.) We got to meet most of the people there.  This was another very friendly church to visitors! 

4.) After the worship time and after the kids were dismissed for Sunday School, the pastor had everyone break into groups of about 4 people each, and we were instructed to pray together and then read the passage (Mark 11) and discuss whatever God showed us.  We spent about 20 minutes doing this.  Then the pastor invited anyone to come forward and tell everyone what they discussed, and about 7 or 8 people did -- at length.  Finally, the pastor shared some of his thoughts as the mini-sermon.

5.)  The service was very long.

6.)  Thankfully, there were cookies served at the end, because it was well after 2 pm before we were able to have lunch.

7.)  There were only 4 other children in the church besides ours.

8.)  For once the most disruptive child in the service was not one of ours.

9.)  The kids enjoyed the "Sunday School" portion, even though it was conducted in Russian.  Tania went with them to help out.  They played games, including Duck, Duck, Goose and an animal charade game, so Colsen has been teaching us a lot of Russian animal names now.

10.) This church met in a school auditorium (felt like home at Redeemer!) and along the walls there were portraits of famous people from Moldovan history.  Under their names it said things like, "Poet" or "Scriitor" or "Traducator."  My favorite one was "Fabulist."  I think it would be cool to be called Amy Frank, Fabulist. (Not exactly sure what it means but it sounds awesome)

11.)  I need to start carrying toilet paper in my purse.  And, preferably, avoid public restrooms altogether.... which means I need to dehydrate the kids before going out next time.

12.)  I could pass for Moldovan.  In the congregations we've been to, everyone has thick, dark hair and pale skin, and wears a dark-colored coat.   (The rest of our family is obviously American because they wear colors that are too bright, have shoes that are too worn/dirty, have hair that is too light, skin that is too dark, and/or not enough hair.)  But I fit right in!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trying to teach this brood

When I think of what homeschooling could be, I insist on picturing all my children sitting calmly around me as I read a scintillating book full of deep truths and wisdom. The only interruptions of this reading would consist of a thoughtful child raising his hand to point out an element of symbolism we might have missed otherwise, or my stopping to point out thematic elements that can relate to our lives. As I set the book down, the children are all disappointed to see it end, but are glowing with their newly-gained insights. Then, as I expound on foundational values and morals for life, they soak it all in, and are thankful. I finally dismiss them to their rooms where they plot out new designs for life-altering inventions, or ways to raise money for orphanages.

When will this vision suddenly become reality?? Because it so is not.

Ok, ok, I know the part where the children become genius inventors or child philanthropists is a stretch… and even the part where they are thankful for the lessons I teach them, really. But, seriously, is it too beyond the realm of possibility to ask that the munchkins just sit and listen quietly as I read a book aloud to them? Apparently it is.

My mother, in a stage of life that can only be explained by temporary insanity, decided that raising 5 active and mostly strong-willed children was not enough, so she also became a dog-breeder. This meant that at various times we had 8-13 Golden Retriever puppies loose in the house. At one point she actually wanted to have a batch of puppies photographed – in a basket. It turns out that the stage when the puppies are the cutest is also the stage when they can climb out of just about anything you put them in. So there the adults were – all trying to put the puppies back in the giant basket just for a quick camera shot. No sooner would 6 puppies be placed in the basket than at least 3 of them had climbed back out.

That image of trying to keep all the puppies in the basket is what now runs through my head when I sit down each day after lunch to read a book (currently Redwall) to my kids. At any given moment, at least one of the pups is way, way out of the basket. I finally get one or two engaged and interested, and another one starts whining about how someone is sitting in his seat, or taking his part of the blanket, or putting his feet on her. Or someone suddenly needs help going to the bathroom (usually the toddler). Or the boys start inventing a game for every time I read a certain word. It regularly takes me no less than 10 minutes to get through one paragraph with all the interruptions.

Even our Bible time is wrought with interruptions and confusion. I always start out so happily and hopefully, ready to share some pearls of wisdom with my sweet offspring. But within 5 minutes, I hear myself yelling, “EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP MOVING AROUND AND STOP INTERRUPTING AND START PAYING ATTENTION, DO YOU HEAR ME??” It puts a damper on the tone of the time, certainly. The oldest child insists on making constant jokes, the second child cannot focus on what I’m saying – pretty much ever – and the third child suddenly is thirsty or hungry or tired. And don’t even get me started on the squirrely fourth child who never is quiet…. All I can say is, I cannot get these puppies to stay in the basket even for one second!

It is becoming clear that I have inherited my mother’s proneness to insanity, though… I keep thinking homeschooling can be that idyllic, peaceful scene where the cherubs all listen to their revered mother with rapt attention. When will that day finally arrive? When?? 

I want to be the wise and graceful hen with her chicks all pecking nicely around her feet; intead I am the crazy, wild-haired woman trying to get the puppies back in the basket.  At this point, my goal is just to finish this Redwall book before someone graduates.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 5

"When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude."  -- G.K. Chesterton

Once again I'm taking Joi/Thursday to write the things I am thankful for, as part of the Joy Dare, inspired by Ann Voskamp.  It has been a relatively quiet week, and another blustery, cold week, but there is still much to praise God for, such as...

+ coming in one night and finding that these little guys had decided to snuggle in together:

+ watching the kids make Valentine's for each other and Daddy, and me, and Miss Tania

+ some yummy food creations (including creamy potato-cabbage soup, honey-chicken and slaw pita pockets, mediterranean tuna-pasta dish, and coconut-chocolate-peanut-butter oat bars)
+ watching the National Prayer Breakfast speech by Eric Metaxas with Strider (We loved it!  Here's a link -- it starts at minute 35.)

+ Russian-speaking friends helping us communicate with taxi companies on the phone

+ listening to Jonathan Park CD's all of us snuggled on my bed

+ hearing about a Moldovan woman's faith in the midst of health crisis

+ learning again that first impressions about people are not often right

+ towel warmers
+ getting the kids outside again finally!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Help around the house

Our "simple life" has gotten a touch more busy with Pete working so much now!  For the month of February, he's scheduled for 17 hours per week of instructional time -- almost double the load he usually has at home.  Since he's gone a lot Monday-Friday, and keeping the house up is more than I can handle on my own (thanks to 2 hairy dogs, the fine black dust that keeps settling on everything, the humidity that causes excessive condensation to form on everything, and the lack of appliances I'm used to) with teaching the kids, too, we've hired a young Moldovan woman to come over two afternoons a week to help.

 Tania has been such a blessing!  Not only is she a very diligent and capable house-cleaner, but she also loves the kids and enjoys playing with them.  So I often have her watch the little boys for an hour or 2 while I finish up school with Strider and Rayna.  I love that!!  I've got to find a way to do this back in North Carolina.  (Unfortunately the labor rates there are much, much this is not very likely.)

Colsen, in particular, counts down the days until Tania comes because his favorite part of the week is following her around helping her clean!  He gets his rags and spray bottle of vinegar and water, and goes to town, right by her side the whole time.  I hope this industriousness lasts through adulthood. 

We've been so thankful for the help Tania provides-- and for her friendship and generosity.  She brings us gifts and offers to do things for us that I wouldn't have even thought of.  God's provision through her has been very good.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Americans dining in the 'Dova

Last night Pete and I finally escaped sans kiddos for a dinner out!  A master’s student Pete had met at the Fulbright orientation meetings invited some of the Fulbrighters as well as some Peace Corps volunteers in the area over to his place, so despite my skepticism that a young guy could cook a decent meal for all of us, we accepted the invitation and taxied on over.

Besides us, the attendees were:  a Russian-American bachelor giant of a man, a married couple of professors who are grandparents from Phoenix, a beautiful young woman who is a recent graduate of Chapel Hill, a long-haired young dude from Kansas now in the Peace Corps, a man from Chicago working on his master’s degree, and his friend who has been living in Eastern Europe as a master’s student and Peace Corps worker for the last several years.   If this motley crew had gathered in America, it would have been a very strange dinner party indeed.  At the very least, we all would have appeared to be part of some Murder Mystery dinner with all of the various roles.

But once we got past all of the initial introductions (“How long have you been in the ‘Dova?” the Kansas dude asked), the group actually gelled quite well and it turned into a very spirited and quite enjoyable evening!  The local wine, which was brought in 8 2-liter plastic soda bottles labeled with little sticky-notes like “Chardonnay” and “Merlot,” started flowing and the conversations were fascinating as everyone shared their observations and experiences.  Some of these people have some crazy stories about living here, traveling across borders, dealing with officials, etc!  Several of them are currently stationed in villages a few hours south of here and we were interested to hear about their perspectives and those of their students and/or colleagues.

My concerns about the food were soon allayed – our host’s boyfriend brought forth quite the gourmet meal with spicy pumpkin soup, braised pork with pomegranate seeds, carrots with currants and nuts, and buckwheat.  It was a delicious feast, and quite a treat to have someone cook for us!

By the end of the evening, we were sad to leave.  I suspect that the political, spiritual, lifestyle, and philosophical views varied greatly within that room, but sharing a common language and experience in a foreign land goes a long way to bond diverse strangers. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One month

I realized today that we have been here for over a month now.  A long time ago, when we were first planning this trip, certain members of my family voiced their beliefs that there was "no way" I would actually go through it.  (My non-adventurousness and need-for-control-ishness are clearly evident to all who know me well -- not to mention the facts that I dislike flying immensely, and any kind of traveling with kids is not my idea of fun normally.)  In fact, if memory serves me well, there was actually a wager made by some family members over whether or not we would actually make it here, and the stakes were a meal at the Capital Grille!

Well, we came (despite my longer list of "cons"... Pete's list won out) and we've lasted a month -- the coldest month ever, by the way.  (Ok, I don't know if it's really the coldest month ever here, but Nadia, a Moldovan woman, told me this week that she read that the Black Sea has actually frozen, and that has never happened in her lifetime, so it's pretty dang cold.) 

So I think someone owes someone a Capital Grille dinner!  And all too sadly, I am not one of the ones involved in the wager.  Too bad... I could go for some nice steak right about now -- one that I don't have to buy in the open air market.

Friday, February 10, 2012

International Experiences

This week while Peter has been off at work, the kids and I have had the opportunities to get to know some Moldovan women a little better, which has been very enjoyable!  One has come over several times to help me out, another one came to cut the boys' hair (yay, in-home haircuts!), and one is our language teacher. We've loved hearing their insights on Moldovan culture and the recent, rather dramatic history this country has had.

And we've also had some opportunities to interact with people from other countries as well.  There are many embassies here in the city, so there is an active ex-pat community that is very welcoming.  Strider has been taking tennis lessons at the international school a mile up the road, which he loves.  In his small class, there are kids from Germany, Italy and Sweden, and his instructor is Moldovan.

I actually got out this week,too, and went to a meeting of the International Women's Club.  I wish I had had a camera -- not really... I don't need to be that weird new woman who brings a camera!  The gathering was at a hotel and about 60 women came.  Some of them looked quite glamorous!  :)  Anyway, it was quite interesting getting to meet women from all over, and I hope to get more involved with some of the activities of the club.  The central focus seems to be raising money for charities focused on children and women in the city, so I like that.

We are soaking up the opportunities to talk to people from all over the world!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Joy for Joi, birthday edition

This is the 4th Thursday (Joi) that I've sat down to record some of the week's "joys"... but today I don't even have to reach for my notebook/list.  There is more than enough to list just from living this day-- Milo's 3rd birthday! 

So here are some of the things that I am thankful for today:

+ Older siblings who wanted to make decorations for their younger brother

+ Hearing the delight in Miles' voice when he first woke up this morning and asked, "Can I have cake and ice cream?  Am I 3 now???!"

+ Lovely Tania, our new friend, bringing Miles gifts and all of us delicious Moldovan treats that she made!

+ Hearing Miles practice saying, "Eu am trei ani" (I am 3!)

+ Watching the whole family wrap gifts (in blankets -- we have no wrapping paper!) for the youngest

+Watching the little guy open the gifts

+ Enjoying a special family dinner, topped with an ice cream cake*!

+ Getting to talk to Mor-Mor on her 91st birthday

+ Receiving calls and messages from people who love Milo

Yes, plenty of joy today!

* Ice cream cake may sound like a strange choice when our thermometer has only gone over 20 degrees twice in as long as I can remember (and our indoor temperature has been hovering around 62).... but I'm still not confident with this oven, and there is no cake flour, etc., here.... so ice cream cake (with chopped up chocolate bars, strawberries, and home-grown walnuts) it is!