Friday, March 30, 2012


Mr. Milo continues to show us a stubborn streak, which at times is quite frustrating, and at others is just plain funny.

Since we've been here, he has insisted on waking up at the irrational time of 6 am, or even 5:30 sometimes, and then by 10 am he's exhausted.  We've been trying to keep him awake during the day so he'll sleep more at night.... but this has had the effect of making him seem rather narcoleptic.  Anytime we leave him alone for more than 3 minutes, he tries to go to sleep. 

So many times we have found him like this:

 .... or like this....
.... or this.  (Although in this case it's no wonder he's so exhausted, after doing his algebra and everything.)
 He even falls asleep regularly during our Romanian lessons.  (The teacher is very understanding!)
This has been going on for months now!  When is going to finally realize sleeping at night is better????

Meanwhile, he's also getting more and more vehement in his retorts to us when he's angry.  Shockingly, his plans are not always our plans, so he finds himself frustrated sometimes..... and likes to express himself accordingly.  He tried responding to our discipline with statements like, "You stupid!" or "You mean!" but learned eventually that this was not a wise course of action.

So he's had to get more creative with his responses.  We've had conversations like this:

Daddy:  Alright, now you have to go to your room since you're not listening.


Mommy:   Go sit on the bench until you're ready to be obedient.

My favorite so far, though, has been one time last week when he was so frustrated with me that he tried to find something awful to say, and he came up with:  "GOD DIDN'T MADE YOU!"

If he's still saying these kind of things in a few years, I'll be more upset about it.  But right now when he speaks with his little baby voice without any "R's" and frowns with his chubby little cheeks, I just want to laugh.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 11

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.
— Henri Nouwen

This week has been full of blessings once again....  including:

+ waking up in the morning with 2 extra little boys in the bed.  Four people in a Queen bed = cozy (or something)

+ having conversations with people from all over the world at various gatherings

+ watching our kids watch dramas performed by young adults in the church service (such awe on their faces!)

+ first crocuses of Spring!

+ nephews and nieces who correspond with us, and brothers/brothers-in-law who are good sports and willing to sing as a favor to me

+ "Amon's Adventure" (which we're reading in the evenings) running parallel with the Gospel of Mark (which we're reading in the mornings).  The kids love this.

+ in-home haircuts... including Milo's first professional cut!

    .....And Rayna's cute new style:

 + Exploring a new, huge, beautiful park

..... and....

 + Pete resembling a "ninja" when he gets ready to go to work -- at least in the eyes of his son

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A hopeful place

Yesterday I wrote about the tuberculosis kindergarten I visited, which left me feeling very sad and helpless as I wondered not only about the present conditions for the children, but also about where they would go afterwards. But another place I visited has given me hope. This home for older children is not state-run, but does work in partnership with various governmental agencies, which place the kids there. Many of the residents were former street kids, or came from situations of abuse or even human trafficking. I knew all of this going in, and was a little anxious about what the home would be like.

Just like in the kindergarten, the woman whom I met with seemed quite pleased I was there. She was happy to tell me all about the various programs and activities they have for the kids and then she took me on a tour of the buildings. There are about 16 kids who live there, if I counted beds correctly, and they all stay for at least a year.

The house was definitely very full, and not in pristine conditions, but the bedrooms were neat, and even colorful. They had a very different feel from the sterile, plain conditions of the kindergarten. It became clear as we talked, that the staff at this house promoted expression and creativity by the children. I loved seeing some of the things they had made.

But the biggest difference became clear very early on: the purpose of this house is to re-integrate the kids into regular society, and the best way they know to turn their lives around is to share the Good News about Jesus with them. As the woman spoke about it, her face radiated with joy! She told me all about various ways they’ve shared the Gospel with the kids, and how the kids have responded in tremendous ways.

They also have very practical goals for re-integration, including finding jobs for all of the kids as they reach adulthood. Some of the kids are encouraged to go on to the university and pursue business careers, etc., and others are trained in specific vocations. If a girl expresses interest in cosmetology, she is encouraged to get the training necessary, but she is also introduced to local women who own beauty salons and can give the girl a realistic view of what it means to work in, or own , a shop – financially, logistically, etc.

As I walked through the buildings, I saw some of the kids and they were all smiling and welcoming. This was a very different environment from the juvenile home that Pete and I worked at years ago. The only thing to which I can ascribe the difference is the central focus of Jesus in this place. Here, they are giving the kids a place to heal, but also a new Hope for their lives.

Even for the children who could perhaps be considered “the least of these” in a poor country, there can be hope and joy. I was glad to see it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A heartbreaking place

Last week, with the help of an acquaintance of an acquaintance, I went to visit a place known as a tuberculosis kindergarten. All of the children who live there have been diagnosed with the closed form of tuberculosis (non-contagious), and also have many other long-term health needs. Most of them also come from socially vulnerable families, and many don’t even have parents at all.

As soon as the child has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are taken from their homes (or wherever they are) and whisked away to this building, where they will live for the next year or longer. The saddest part of it all is how young they are. I saw little toddlers there (the kindergarten ranges from ages 3-7 I believe) and I couldn’t imagine tearing them away from normal environments to put them here. How could a child possibly understand that?

The building is a very old soviet-style rectangular structure that is definitely in need of repairs. With the help of my new interpreter-friend, I was able to meet with the vice-director, who only spoke Russian. She was a very sweet lady, well under five feet tall, with a gray bun and twinkly eyes. She seemed to be very excited I was there to visit, kept rubbing my arm and smiling at me. As she showed us around the building, I was struck by how clean it was -- and how spartan. The medical equipment was definitely old, but they said they just work with what they have.

The kindergarten divides the children into groups of about 20 kids each, based on age. Each group has their own floor in the building. On each floor, there were 2 big rooms: a sleeping room filled with around 20 beds, and a play room. The play rooms appeared to have many toys and activities, but when I realized this was the only space for all 20 kids to play in and eat in, it seemed small and sad.

The building is sorely in need of new windows and doors. Even though this is a state-run facility, they are not given enough money for some of these basic needs. It’s been estimated that it will cost about $20,000 to replace all the doors and windows, so they’re looking for a private donor to give that money. The vice-director also gave me a list of some basic things they are in need of  (when I asked) – and at the top of the list were vitamins. At this time of year, they desperately want to give the kids some extra nutrients since they were pretty deprived of them over the winter.

The international women’s club of this city donated some playground equipment to the kindergarten recently, so at least they have some things to play on outside. The morning I was there it was probably about 55 degrees, but all the kids outside were bundled up with heavy coats, hats, and mittens. And their little faces were so cute.

They appeared to be happy as they were playing, but all I could wonder about was how they felt at night, going to bed in this strange place without their families. Do many of them cry? And how would the staff handle that? And what do they do inside all day, in their one room?

I was very overwhelmed with emotions, and to some extent, helplessness, during my visit to the kindergarten. We are praying that the Lord will show us if there are ways we can help the children there… from what I understand, they don’t have many people come by or take an interest in them. So these are probably the kids Jesus would visit, as we’ve been learning in our study of the Gospel of Mark this Lent season.

I’ve also visited another home for hurting kids, which gave me more hope… I’ll write about that one in another post soon….

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Getting Around

Let me just start with my main point here: this city is not easy to navigate.

Last night Pete and I were thrilled to have a night out. Our babysitter arrived and we jumped in the car to head out to a place known as the “Marine House” for a good ol’ American chili cook-off with some of the Embassy folks. On the map it looked quite simple to get to, about 10-15 minutes away.

Thirty-five minutes later, we started what was to be our chant of the night: Driving in this city is never simple. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. There are no street signs. The names of roads are occasionally posted on buildings, but they are never readable until after you’ve already gone past the intersection.

2. There are no lane lines, so cars drive (very, very quickly) wherever they want. We are always being passed on narrow roads by big vans, and all of the buses and mini-buses are coming in and out from the curbs. So even if you wanted to try and read those little road names on the buildings, you can’t take your eyes off the road because you never know what car is about to cut you off.

3. There are way too many cars in the city for these small roads. Which means there are almost always traffic jams, adding many minutes to even a “simple” trip.

4. There are many one-way streets. These are not labeled on our maps, so we keep getting surprised by them, making us do long detours, which usually put us back into a traffic jam, thanks to #3 above.

5. The road names are all long names like Mitropolit G. Banulescu-Bodoni or Mihail Kogalniceanu , but then the labels on maps or on buildings are abbreviations like "M. Kogalniceanu" so you really need to know both names. Plus these are relatively new names (the streets all used to have Russian names apparently), so many locals still don’t know them and are not helpful for directions. And, as we found last night, sometimes some of the smaller roads have building signs still with the Russian names.

We experienced the effects of all 5 of these aspects last night, which made us very, very late for the chili contest event. Thankfully the Marines are pretty laid-back, when off-duty, and no one seemed to mind.

But what put me almost completely over the edge was the next part of our journey. After we left the Marine House, we were heading to some friends’ house for a little gathering. Pete had a map and directions with him, and he said, “Should be pretty simple.” HA! HA! HA!

Now we had a new little twist to deal with: Darkness.

Because the street names are only on buildings, they are, of course, not lit, making navigation in new areas virtually impossible. We knew we needed to take a right at some point… but which right? After about 10 minutes of saying things like, “Are we still on that “H” road?” “No, wait, I think we somehow ended up on the “I” road” “Where do you think this ramp leads? Is this even a road?” I was ready to throw in the towel and head home. But Pete persevered. Thankfully he has a built-in GPS that he was born with, and so about 10 minutes later he said, “I think this could be the right way” and he turned down what felt to me basically like a dirt road with ditches we had to crawl through (mind you, we are still in the city, but the road conditions are abysmal!). Sure enough, after wending our way down this narrow little alley, we arrived at the correct house.
Getting the car turned around in this alley to head back home after the party is a whole other story (think golf-cart scene in Austin Powers movie ---according to Pete).

Anyway, the little gathering was worth it…. There were 6 Americans, 1 Moldovan, 4 Nigerians, and 1 young man from Switzerland. We had pizza and played games – a very fun night.
And the ride home was definitely not simple. But this post has more than enough words already.

A poem

Rayna memorized "Written in March" by William Wordsworth recently, and we thought it would be appropriate to recite during March... If you listen closely you can even hear the "cock crowing" in the background!

(I'm not sure if she's pausing for dramatic effect right before the last line, or if she is listening to a new sound.)

Written in March
The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,*
The lake doth glittter.
The green field sleeps in the sun.
The oldest and the youngest
Are at work with the strongest.
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising.
There are forty feeding as one.

*Strider wants to know how many followers the small birds have on Twitter.  And also, are the bigger birds Facebooking instead?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Joy for Joi, week 10

I'm closing in on #300 in my journal of Joy, listing things I am thankful for.  Almost 300 things in the last few months -- almost a third of my 1000 goal for the year!  Yes, God is good, and surrounds us with good things.  Here are some of the ones I have seen this week:

+ glimpsing little blades of green tulip (lalelele!) leaves poking up from the dirt

+ hearing the dogs "sing" along to Rayna's piano playing

+ receiving a real package -- almost 2 months after it was mailed!

+ meeting a Moldovan woman and hearing about her life and faith (in the Baha'i religion)

+ visiting a young Moldovan couple who just had their first baby, and seeing their tiny, one-room apartment full of joy!

+ learning about cork trees in Portugal

+ my youngest boy who sometimes asks if he can "holdj you" and sometimes asks if someone will "holdj me."

+ my middle boy who answers, "Oh I was just upstairs fighting a ninja" when I ask him where he was.

+ my kids who are so eager and excited to have new adventures and try new classes
+ my boy who insists on taking off his shirt as soon as the temperature gets higher than 55 degrees:
+ portable entertainment technology

(Note an item that is not on my "thankful" list this week:  March Madness.  Those games have brought me zero joy this year.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Packaging game answers

I am thankful that some friends (no family members -- where's the love, folks??!) were good sports and went along with my random game, either commenting below or on Facebook.  :)  It's fun to hear the perspectives and the cleverness.  I wish some of you were with me in the stores to help me figure this all out!

Everyone who entered guesses got at least half of them correct!  There were a couple products, though, that had most people stumped.  No one got this one right:

It's actually ice cream!  And this is a very important one to know, after all. It cracks me up that it comes in a bag. Still tastes pretty good anyway.

And, only 1 person (Amy H.) correctly answered this one:  Baking Powder

(Side note:  I've found that if I put baking soda in my cookies like I do at home, they taste weird here.  But if I use some baking powder instead, they're better.)

So the complete answer list is:
1. Ice cream
2. Butter
3. Baking powder
4. Mustard (kind of creamy, though)
5. Milk
6. Yeast
7. Dill
8. Conditioner for hair (nice try, Dapper Dan-Man, Marc!)
9. Shaving cream (but I might always call it "beauty skin for men" from now on!)

If my calculations are correct, I think Catrin had the most correct answers with 7.  Congratulations, Catrin!  Feel free to come over and pick up your prize anytime.  :)  (I truly wish you could.)

Thank you everyone for playing and making my day a little brighter with your enthusiasm!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Consumer Product Packaging: A Game!

When I teach an Intro to Marketing course, we always spend some time talking about product packaging and why/how marketers choose the materials and wording for wrapping and labeling the goods.  So I've been intrigued by some of the packaging we've found in this country.  And I've also been completely bewildered by some of the packaging -- as a non-native consumer.  Some of the shapes and methods are so, well, foreign to me.

For example, if I went to the store looking for mayonnaise, I would not normally look on the shelf for a bag.  But that's how it comes here!
As it turns out, there are actually many products sold in bags that I would not expect.  In some ways the bags are easier to deal with than jars, etc. ... but not necessarily all the time.  Yogurt in a bag, for instance, takes some getting used to.

I thought maybe some of my friends/relatives reading this might enjoy trying to figure out what some of the products are, based on the packaging. 

So here's the game:  Guess the product!  If anyone can correctly identify the 9 basic consumer products I have pictured below, you winAnd your prize will be a very special treat that I make out of some of these items... but you must come pick it up.  :)

Let's see who can get these right...

 ...and one of my favorites:

Any thoughts or guesses?

Monday, March 19, 2012

First "Spring" park day

This weekend we finally had some no-jacket weather!  We rushed right out to explore a park in the center of the city...
 There was still some snow on the ground, the lake we walked near was still pretty frozen, and there was nary a green bud to be found,  but we were ready to call it Spring anyway!
 The park was beautiful even without greenery... many, many wide open paths.
 After a young man saw me take the picture above, he kindly offered to take a picture of all of us:
 Thankfully he did not steal our camera... in fact, he ended up being a very nice fellow, telling us about how he spent time in Ocean City, Maryland a few years ago.  (We're finding there seems to be quite a consistent conduit of students from Chisinau to O.C.  What a wonderful taste of America they must be getting there.... )

Anyway, we enjoyed our long walk near the lake, up some hills, and through some woods, and spotted some beautiful things -- including these glowing white trees:
 Then we came across the coolest nautilus-type equipment!  We thought it was a playground at first, but then realized there were more adults on the equipment than children... and everyone could get quite a work-out.

 Here's the one cousin Alison or Uncle Mike would head for, I'd bet:

 It's actually pretty ingenious, since these little machines are right next to a real playground for little kids.  I wish we had these in America -- parents could fit in a work-out while their children play right nearby!
 We played for a bit, but fortunately saved enough energy for exiting the park, which included going up these 171 steps.
Yesterday was one of our most enjoyable exploring-Moldova days so far, and we look forward to experiencing more of these parks in the city.

Bring on the Spring!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

People from one country observing a holiday from another country, while in a third country

Can't ignore our Irish heritage, no matter where we are! 

Yesterday we talked about the true story of St. Patrick, which we always love, and so the kids were eager to observe the day today.  (Rayna, who may have missed the main point, just kept asking, "Do we eat pancakes on St. Patrick's Day?"  So, we did.)

 In addition, some of us dressed in green -- one of us, head-to-toe --
 ... and some of us couldn't find matches to our socks (per usual), but wore at least one green one!

 Some of us danced an Irish jig,
 ...and one of us gave her little brother some green freckles with a marker.
 Pete was speaking at a conference for most of the day, so we had some free time on our hands.  In keeping with our making-breads-from-different European-countries tradition this semester, we made an adaptation of Irish Soda Bread... which was really more like cinnamon-raisin bread by the time I finished adapting.

Then Rayna and I went for a walk around the block to look for some green items.  We found quite a few!  Green fences... trash can and roof:

 ...even one apartment painted green by some expressive individual (in the center below)...
 .... and a whole green house.

We haven't seen any green beer here, or leperchauns for that matter, but we felt pretty festive anyway. 

(Although I must admit I was too tired to make the Irish dinner I had planned for tonight --with cabbage and potatoes, which sounds an awful lot like a traditional Moldovan dish -- so we had leftovers.  Irish dinner for tomorrow!)