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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Joy for Joi ,Week 20

Some of the things I've been thankful for this week:

 + Rayna sharing a "testimony" at the international service this past week.  She's never met a microphone she doesn't like!  (Our friend Heidi took these pics)

+ Getting to go to another International Women's Club event -- this time at the British ambassador's house.  The wives of the Polish ambassador and the Chinese ambassador were there, along with other women from all over the place.  Everyone was asked to bring food from their respective cultures so it was quite a spread!  I enjoyed meeting women from all different walks of life and hearing their perspectives.

+ Daily soccer games, Blink competitions (with wagers), and rounds of "Spot-It" with the kids


+ A reception this afternoon at the American ambassador's house for Fulbright and Embassy folks.  Again, a nice time to meet people from all over and have philosophical discussions about economics, life and culture.



+ Visiting with a very mature 17-year old Moldovan girl who will be going to a high school in Fairfax, Virginia this next school year.

+ Chocolate-filled croissants

+ The whole series of "The West Wing" available at the local American library

and

+ Cute little Daddy-wannabes:


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I am doing today

Pete took a train to Ukraine today, and is touring the resort town of Odessa on the Black Sea.

Yeah, but look what I get to do:

"I dispense the honey of the Holy Scriptures,
the old wine of the classics,
the fruit of grammar,
and the dazzling splendor of the stars."
     -- Alcuin (an English monk who created a palace school, under the reign of Charlemagne)

I like to remind myself of this quote; teaching sure sounds magnificent the way he puts it!  Much better than "I'm reading verses, making my kids read books, drilling grammar rules and math facts, and going through a science book."

So the kids and I are having a wonderful day.  :)

And hopefully Pete is, too.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mean Mommy

The kids were watching the movie "Yours, Mine and Ours," last night, the story about a woman with 10 kids who marries a man with 8 kids.  The new husband and wife have significantly different parenting styles;  while the woman is very laid-back, affectionate, creative, and wants her kids to express themselves in all different ways, the man is a leader in the military and treats his children to "toe the line" in a similar fashion.  (His youngest kids say stuff like, "Permission to play, Sir!" and he responds, "Permission granted.")

Part-way through the movie, Colsen came to me, looking very distraught, and said, "Why is that mommy so mean??"  

I thought he was mixed up and really meant to say that the strict, hard-line father was the one who was mean.  The mother is portrayed as the softer, kinder, open, cheerful one!

When I questioned Cole about this, he insisted it was the mommy who was mean.

"Why do you think she's mean?" I asked him.

"Because she lets those kids do everything!  Anything!  She would probably let them eat 20 popsicles!" he answered.

"But why is that mean?" I pushed him.

"Because it's like she wants them to grow up and have other people be mean to them!"

I started to see where he was going with this....  I asked, "Why would other people be mean to them?"

"Because they're going to be SO BAD!!" he finally declared, getting exasperated that I clearly didn't recognize the connection between lax discipline and poor behavior in children and the adults they grow into.

I'm glad he gets it!

Friday, May 25, 2012

My roguishly handsome husband visits a rogue state

Pete traveled to a region that considers itself an independent country, but is not recognized by the international community.  See his account (and cool pictures) here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Joy for Joi, Week 19

Today marked the day that I got to #500 on my "Joy Dare" thankful list!  Also, as of today, there are 50 days left before we go back home.  And my favorite number is 5, so this is just a good day.  :)

Here are a few of the things that have reminded me of Joy this week:

# 476:  Our trip to MallDova (gotta love the name), which involved having American food-court food and finding public restrooms that were clean  (even Colsen commented on how astounding this was).  This was our first public restroom experience in 5 months that offered toilet paper.  The kids proclaimed our lunch (Sbarro pizza, Happy Meals and california rolls) the best one EVER.  And Colsen is suggesting we go to the mall "4 days a week from now on."  It was a nice mall... very large and beautiful, but incredibly expensive!

# 479:  Waking up to a thunderstorm

#483:  Pete getting to speak at a conference designed to teach high school and college teachers how to teach.

#485:  Strider baking Banana-Cherry Almond Bread all by himself -- very successfully, I might add.  He did forget the cherries at first... but corrected the situation without too much trouble.

#486:  Playing Imaginiff and eating American-style pizza with friends on a Sunday night

#487:  Strider facing a challenge and completing his first long race -- an international one at that!  And watching him play with the local boys in the soccer/shooting game before the race.

#496:  Rayna's spelling abilities

#500:  Pete making it safely back from his trip to the nether-regions yesterday.  When he called part-way through the day to inform me jubilantly that they had actually "made it across the border with no trouble!" I just hoped that he would find similar success on the return trip.  And he did.

#501:  Rayna and Colsen brushing my hair as I read to them


Half-way to 1000!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Village

Today Pete is either out of town or out of the country, depending on who you ask -- and I'll let him explain that issue later.  It's political and I don't know that I fully understand it all.  All I know is that Pete heard the phrase, "Americans should probably not go to that region," and he immediately put it on the top of his "Places I Must Visit" list.  So he is there today with some friends.  (I followed the State Department's advice and stayed home.)

Anyway, he has both our video camera and our newly-fixed regular camera, so I was just looking through some old files on the computer and found some footage of a village we took a couple months ago.  When we went on the big field trip to see the monastery in the cliff, this village was at the base of the hill we hiked up.  From what we understand, once one ventures out of the city here, most of the rest of the country is comprised of villages like this.  A lot of them can be quite primitive... many people do not have running water, etc.

This one appeared to be quite pretty -- brightly-painted gates, organized rock walls, etc. -- and there were a couple of cars indicating some modern technology.  There were also horse-pulled wagons transporting people and things, and the whole town was on one main road -- a dirt road.

Quite obviously I am an awful cinematographer, but hopefully this gives a little glimpse of village life anyway...

video

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Olympic Day Race

Today was "Olympic Day" here, and we went to see the festivities and watch Strider and Peter participate in the featured race.  From what we could piece together, this was a celebration based on the start of the Olympic torch's journey in the U.K., which began yesterday.  (Only 68 days until the London Olympics!)

During the "opening ceremony" today, the British ambassador presented the Moldovan representatives with a special flag and some other symbols, and then a man came on-stage carrying a real-looking Olympic torch!

After the ceremony, the torch led the crowd to the race starting point.

The race was 4 kilometers, going around a big circle of streets in the center of the city.  This was Strider's first official race (other than one he did for kids at Wingate a couple years ago), so it was pretty exciting!

Here's a little video clip in which I tried to capture the scene at the start of the race:
video

The other kids and I played in the park for just a few minutes, and then the racers were back!  Pete and Strider did great -- we were very proud of them.

And the man with the torch did great, too.


(I'm sorry these pictures are so poor... I'm using our Flip video camera because our regular camera broke and is at a repair shop at the moment.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

World Premiere

On Thursday I was looking at a Facebook page I had just heard about which lists upcoming events in Moldova.  As I scrolled down, I saw this article, and muddled through the Romanian enough (it was helpful that "Tony Hawks" was in English  :) ) to realize that the movie "Playing the Moldovans at Tennis" was going to be premiering the very next night!  I knew Pete would be excited about this since he had read the book by the same title before we came here.

The story is about a British man who goes through with an eccentric bet -- that he could beat all of the members of the Moldovan national football team at tennis.  The author (Tony Hawks) came back here to Chisinau a couple of years ago to film the movie re-creation of the story, and wanted to premiere the movie here as well.  (All of the proceeds go to a hospital for children that he helped to set up here -- very cool.)

Pete and Strider ventured out to watch it last night;  all of the flyers and information we could find online just seemed to indicate it was open to the public.  However, when they arrived, they found this was not the case.  The "guard" told them they needed to have special tickets, and sure enough as they looked around, everyone else seemed to be holding the same green piece of paper.

They decided to stick it out, though, and see if there might be room for them after all.  (Strider found out later that while they were waiting outside, he was actually standing in very close proximity to Tony Hawks, and "could have talked to him!")  Thankfully, right before it was to start, the British ambassador told the "guard" to let Pete and Strider in sans tickets!

Mr. Hawks introduced the film -- and was reportedly very funny.

The movie proved to be quite entertaining as well, and the guys were excited to see various parks and landmarks around the city, spots in which we've stood, walked and played.  Pete says he wants to buy the DVD version someday and have a screening for friends and family at home.  The end of the movie features the loser of the infamous bet singing the Moldovan national anthem in the center of London -- completely naked (edited for film).  So you know it's a fun movie.  :)

It was an exciting experience for the guys -- probably for Strider one of the highlights of our whole trip!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Joy for Joi, Week 18

Today I have found myself singing the line, "Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise..." often.  I'm sure I miss thousands of God's blessings every day, and fail to give Him praise for many of the ones I am actually aware of, but the song presents a good goal anyway!

This week our blessings again have been many.  Here are some of the highlights, for which I give Him praise:

+  Getting the opportunity to go to a new (Moldovan) friend's apartment and teach about 10 children how to make American-style cookies (chocolate chip, of course!).  Rayna came as my trusty helper and enjoyed getting to know one of the young boys in particular.  He gave her one of his stuffed animals when we left.  :)

+  Meeting a couple of people who work for charity that may be able to help me get funding for the tuberculosis kindergarten I've been going to visit.  We are really hoping this project takes shape.... looking forward to seeing developments...

+ The policeman being merciful to us when we were driving a borrowed car the wrong way down a one-way street in the center of the city.

+ Eating lettuce from our garden!  The seeds we planted a couple of months ago actually grew.  :)

+ Re-reading the book, "Stepping Heavenward."  I loved it even more this time around, being able to relate more as I get older and go through more stages of life.

+ Experiencing a large European-Union-themed festival:



They released a lot of balloons (shown above the tower on the right, below) We have no idea what this signified since we couldn't understand the guy on stage. Then we heard there was going to be a flash mob, but we ended up leaving too early and missed it.
On the way home, though, we stopped by the famous Stefan Cel Mare statue...  Here are the boys in the Stephen The Great posture.
 They weren't very enthused since it was pretty hot by this point  :)

and

+ Some good, long conversations with a friend, a sister, a mom, and a grandmother this week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cherry-picking


This is what the Frank family has been up to lately... up to the tops of the cherry trees!  Our yard has several of these trees and they are all laden with beautiful red fruit.  They apparently are quite early this year -- perhaps the reward of a cold winter and fast warm-up in the spring. So we've been picking and picking and picking!


Colsen, in particular, is in love with this activity.  He tells me it's the very best thing he's ever done.  I asked him if he would rather go to Disney World or pick cherries;  he chose the cherries!  Every day, all day he's out there, either in the trees, or begging to be.

All of the boys have been picking (well, Milo tries),
... and Rayna has been a very faithful and persistent "pitter" inside.  

She has the red-stained hands to prove it, too!


(All of the kids have been walking around with splashes of red juice on their shirts and faces all week!)

We've been making all kinds of cherry recipes:  cherry squares, cherry bread, cherry sauce, cherry French toast, and I'm freezing some as well.  What an unexpected and tasty blessing these trees have provided.

We have way more fruit than we need, so we've been sharing bags of cherries with anyone we see.  Some of the neighbor kids have come over a few times and asked if they could climb up and harvest some as well -- of course we said yes.  (Strider thinks it's fun to have cute girls over.... when he reads this he's going to be furious with me and vigorously deny it, of course!)


If anyone wants some cherries, come on over!  (Or if you have any good cherry recipes that do not entail me making pie crust from scratch, I'd love to hear them.  :)  )

Monday, May 14, 2012

Like a 9-in-a-million chance

Ok, so it's starting to feel like every time we go out somewhere in the city of Chisinau, we see someone we know.  There are 700,000 people living here and we only know about 30 of them, but somehow we keep running into those 30!  For example, over the weekend, we went to a huge festival in the very center of town, and we saw Strider's guitar teacher there. This kind of encounter happens to us a lot.
The festival on Saturday.  See?  A LOT of people!

Today, as another example, I went to visit the tuberculosis kindergarten a few miles from here and Pete headed in the other direction to take Strider to the international school.  While we were out, we BOTH saw someone we knew!  Pete saw one of the Moldovan women we know walking her baby on the sidewalk, and I ran into Andre, one of the other Fulbright professors -- who actually normally lives a few hours away from here!

After talking to Pete and comparing stories, I decided to calculate the chances of this.  Assuming there at least 10,000 people that live in a few mile radius of our neighborhood, and, again, we only know 30 people in the whole city, the probability that I would run into one of the ones I know is conservatively 30/10,000.  And the chances that Pete would see someone else we know is 29/9,999, right?  To calculate the chances of BOTH of us having these encounters at the same time, we multiply those fractions (in probability, "and" means multiply, don't forget!), and we get something close to 9/1,000,000!

These odds make me smile.  Why does God choose to orchestrate our steps so that we would continue to have encounters like this (and not, say, let us win the lottery)?  As I was thinking about it today, I came to the following conclusions: 

 God knows I love 2 things:

1.)  I love the feeling of being "home."  Seeing people I know when I'm out and about certainly helps with that.

and

2.)  I love "small world" stories.

Therefore, I think He lets these things happen just 'cuz He loves me.  

Oh how He loves us!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

 Well, it certainly pays to be an American woman in Moldova in the springtime:  you get to have both Women's Day (in March) and Mother's Day!

Today Pete and the kids treated me to a very fancy brunch -- an egg strata, baked french toast with cherries and cherry crumb bread!
 I told Pete it was like he was on one of those cooking contest shows where they give the chefs a few key ingredients and they have to make several dishes from them.  His key ingredients seemed to be bread, eggs, and cherries!
 Everything was delicious, of course!
And, best of all, I got some sweet homemade cards from the kids and Pete, which I will treasure always.

This afternoon we rested and played, and then I spent a lot of time making Cherry Layer Bars (sticking with our key ingredient list) to take to our International Christian Fellowship meeting tonight.  I finished the last part of the recipe just in the nick of time, put them on the plate.... and then we promptly drove off without them.  Rats.

But overall, it was a very nice day.  And I'm thankful for my mom, Pete's mom and my grandmother, all of which are far away, but we were able to touch base (briefly) with them all through the power of Magic Jack.  We are blessed to have such a heritage of faithful and giving mothers!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Joy for Joi, Week 17

 My "Joy Dare" notebook continues to fill with the faithfulness and generosity of God, as He continues to bless and bless.  Looking back at this week, there seems to be a theme:  all of our big highlights involved Him blessing us with or through other people.

For example...  yesterday we invited a team of "World Racers" over for lunch, and it ended up being one of the best times we've had in the 'Dova!  These kids (ok, ok, they're in their 20's... but I'm getting old now) were so fascinating to talk to.  They are just finishing up a month of service and ministry here -- and it's the 4th such project they've done in as many months.  Within 11 months, they will travel to 11 different countries -- this particular team's route includes Haiti, Dominican Republic, Romania, Moldova, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, the Philippines, India and Nepal!  I get exhausted just writing all those names... I can NOT imagine traveling to them all within one year -- and serving people in each place.
Clearly this a group up for crazy adventures!
The team already has many stories of precarious sleeping and eating conditions, transportation nightmares, and amazing things they've seen God do in each place.  Strider was so intrigued and asked them question after question.  The young men were great with him -- they loved his curiosity and told me later they could see him becoming a leader on a trip like this.  Sure enough, as soon as they walked out our door, Strider turned to me and said, "I want to be a World Racer!"
 As a side note -- I have never had a group of people appreciate my cooking so much!  These people ate helping after helping of macaroni and cheese, and swooned over the chocolate chip cookies.  (Eating in third-world countries for months will do that to you!)   I need to feed people like that more often.
Anyway, we loved our time with them.  Last night, though, as we were reading the facebook status of one of them, we learned that they had just discovered they have lice.  We'll see if my joyful smile persists through next week....  (Strider tried on 2 of the guys' hats yesterday!!!)

We've also been blessed this week by some of our friends here.  They invited us over for dinner on Tuesday and you would think we were going to Disney World the way the kids were anticipating this big event!  (We don't often get invited to dinner anywhere)  I don't know how many times I heard, "How long until we go to the Bucks' for dinner?!?"  Thankfully we only had to wait 2 days from the time of the invitation... I would have gone insane with the questions if it had been much longer.

The actual dinner was very exciting -- maybe close to Disney World.  They actually found ways to make several Asian dishes.  Delicious!

This same couple has also offered to babysit our kids for a whole weekend so Pete and I could get away.  I have been blown away by how God has even given us friendships in this short time that would make that a possibility!  (We are not actually able to take them up on the offer for a couple of reasons, but I was so touched that they sincerely offered that.)

And finally, we have been blessed materially through people as well this week.  Some other friends here made an unplanned trip back to Seattle last month, and we suddenly realized we could maybe get our broken iPad replaced (since shipping back and forth to Apple from here had not been a possibility).  A contact at the Embassy told us she was going to D.C. for a week, so we ended up sending our broken iPad with her, and she took it to a UPS store to mail to Apple.  Then Apple mailed a new iPad to our friends who were visiting Seattle, and they brought it back here to us this week.  So now I have a new iPad!  Yay!

Thank you, God, for all the people you've put in our path.... and please keep the lice far from us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stuff about Strider

When Strider saw my last post about Colsen, he asked, "When was the last time you wrote about me?!"  After I thought about it a few minutes, I concluded it was about time to shift the spotlight back to the firstborn.  (As a fellow firstborn, I know how important that spotlight can be!)  So here is an update on what Strider is up to.

Our time in Chisinau has been stretching for Strider.  He has realized he's not real fond of living in an urban environment;  seeing old women pick through our garbage for food and watching drunk men passing out on the street have not produced warm and fuzzy feelings in him.  But he's been making the best of the days and weeks here, keeping busy with a few activities and schoolwork.

One of his favorite things to do is spend time at the international school down the road.  We can't afford to send him there full-time, but he's been able to do some after-school clubs and sports, the main one being tennis.  He loves running around, and also getting to talk to kids from all over the world.

He's also started taking classical guitar lessons with a Moldovan teacher who comes to our home.  I love the way the music sounds!
Protesting my picture-taking during the guitar lesson
Meanwhile, in addition to his regular schoolwork, he's been pursuing some other interests, including introductory-level computer programming with Scratch, and creating newsletters which he sends to family and friends.  So far he's created four editions of his newsletter.  (If anyone not on the mailing list would like to be, just let us know!)  The highlights of his days are hearing from people at home.

He's also been stocking up on "fascinating facts" (such as: Did you know Mel Blanc, who played Bugs Bunny, was actually allergic to carrots and had to keep chomping them and spitting them out in a bucket?) and riddles (such as: "In a deck of cards, what does the king of hearts have which no other card does?"*)

And on his horizon now is a big trip to celebrate his 12th birthday in a few weeks:  he and Pete are heading to Istanbul!  So we should have plenty more spotlight on Strider in coming weeks.... Stay tuned!



* Leave a comment below or call/email Strider if you know the answer to the riddle.  We'll post the answer in a couple days.  :)  )


Monday, May 7, 2012

Conversations with Colsen

In honor of Colsen's half-birthday yesterday (now he's 5.5!), I'm recording a few of the things he's been talking about:

Lately, he's has been pretending to be another kid (who he's made up)  -- usually one that's a street kid, very poor, from London, named Jon Harris.  So we have a lot of conversations like this:

Colsen:  Hi.  I just got here and I was wondering if I could stay with you guys.  My name is Jon Harris.
Me:  Oh, hi Jon Harris.  Of course you can stay with us.  Would you like some dinner?  Maybe you could share a bed with our son who's about your age named Colsen.
Colsen:  Who is this "Colsen?"  I have never met him.
Strider:  Hey -- if you're from London, what do you call an apartment?
Colsen:  A flat.  And it's right next to Big Ben.  In fact, I'm one of the guards there.
Strider:  Yeah, but say it with an accent.

A week or so later, Colsen was again pretending that he was a lonely boy without parents.  When I greeted him and invited him to stay for dinner, I asked him if he happened to be Jon Harris.
He answered,  "No, I'm not.  But I know him!  We used to be poor together!"

***

He came home from being with a new group of kids at someone's house last night and he was all happy about his new friends.  The first thing he told me was, "I met this new girl and we made a deal that we're going to get married!" 

"Oh," I said.  "So what is this girl's name?"

"I don't know," was the answer.

***

The other morning Colsen and Miles were playing in their room, singing songs.  Colsen came out to tell me that they were having a party for God.  "We're singing songs and having fun because that's what you do at a party!" he told me.  Then, apparently remembering another key component of a party, he said, "And Jesus is the Cake of God since He's the best special treat we're ever going to have!"

***

While we were starting to read an "endangered animals" book, Cole eagerly jumped in with an explanation for the other kids:  "When all of the animals start to die, they are extinking!"

***
He came up to me while I was washing dishes last night and said,

"Mom, I think there must be an adult-English language and a kid-language.  'Cuz I don't know all the adult-language words.  Like I don't know what "application" means."

I said, "I guess you're right."

He responded, "See?  You used kid-language words so I would be able to understand you!  I need to learn adult-language."

**  Updated 5/9/12...

This morning, before I even got out of bed, this is what I was greeted with:

"Mom, did you know that in the navy there are all kinds of jobs in the world?  So know what I am?  I'm in the navy and I'm a cook!  I cook a lot of food because people get hungry at war.  Sometimes the war lasts all night!  But I still know how to kill people.  I wait at my restaurant all night, and it gets a little stressed because every night ninjas come!  Last night they came and and I had to fight them, I punched them all out.  But I didn't kill them, thankfully.  I gotta go get dressed.  Bye!"


The pictures above show him playing with the one toy he brought here (a gift from Nonna).  He plays with it allllll the time and it becomes all kinds of fascinating objects.  :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fire in the "wedding park," and pretty places to play

About 2 miles from our house there is a giant city park that we've heard referred to as the "wedding park."  We went there for the second time today and it was certainly living up to its reputation on this beautiful May Saturday!  When we walked in the gates (after paying our 20-cent admission price), we were within 50 yards of 4 different brides, all getting their pictures taken.   During the hour or two we were there, we spotted 11 brides and grooms!


We saw many people, both men and women, wearing white sashes -- I'm assuming they were wedding attendants?
And outside the gates of the park these guys were guarding a bunch of doves in this cage:


Anyway, while we were wandering around, the kids spotted this train:


 We paid the 80-cent/person fare to ride the train, to the delight of the kids,



...And as we were riding through the park, we came across this:


Many little fires were lit, some right along the path we were driving on.  At first Pete said this was just "Moldovan lawn mowing," but after a while we realized there was no one around at all tending these fires and they were spread out over an alarmingly large area.  Sure enough, as soon as our train conductor saw someone, he yelled out to him (something we couldn't understand of course).  

A few minutes later, we noticed some official-looking tractors, motorcycles, etc., all heading in the direction of the fire.  This may have been the fire truck:
We left the fire-fighting in the hands of the professionals, and spent the rest of our time in the park in other areas.

It was a beautiful day to be out!

 The kids spotted some frogs...

 .... climbed a bunch of trees...

 ... and tried to rescue a frisbee from the creek.

 My favorite part was the lilac tree grove.


Lilac trees are great perfect for climbing, too.  :)


We all had a lovely day... except Miles who had a minor break-down by the end.  Early bedtime tonight!