Friday, September 28, 2012


"He ain't heavy.... he's my brother."

Now, how high can we pile the Frank men??
"Too high!" says Milo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


For some reason this year, about 80% of our weekly activities all fall on Tuesdays!  Yesterday I did a little photo documentary of our day...

First, Strider heads off for his one-day-a-week school program, called the Bridge.  During the day, he goes to classes with 3 different teachers, and learns about literature, history, writing, geography, Bible and worldview.  Plus he gets to have lunch with his friends.  :)

While he's gone, here is what the rest of us do...

Our lovely friend Amanda comes over to work one-on-one with Rayna....

 .... so I can have some focused school time with the boys.

Yesterday we started out with a little project, making these cute little clothespin messages.

 Then, we did some reading and some math.  Colsen loves this.  :)

 After Amanda goes home and we have lunch, we all pile in the car to take Rayna to her Praise Dance class:

 Then we rush home for a quick snack, and it's off to violin lessons for Rayna and Colsen!

They get home right around dinner time.... just in time for me to rush out the door myself, to teach a class.  This 8-week block I'm teaching 2 nights a week, 2.5 hours each night.
 The subject of my marketing class last night was PRICING.  This is one of my favorite subjects to cover since we get to apply all kinds of mathematical and econcomic concepts...  As I told Pete last night, it's the perfect marriage of my subject (marketing) and his (economics)!  Since it was the eve of our anniversary, I thought this was appropriately romantic.

His reply, though, was, "No, it's not.  Marketing is just the real-life application of economics.  Economics is at the foundation of everything."   Not very romantic.  Oh well -- he's making up for it today!

Tuesdays are a bit of a whirlwind... but we're thankful for all the opportunities, activities and lessons available!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Heard around the house today....

-"Way to go on scoring that goal today!"
-"No, I scored TWO goals in my game... just one was in the wrong goal."

"Is my throat down the drain in my mouth?"

"Thank you, Daddy, for catching me when I was falling out of the tree!"

"Do eagles beat falcons?  I need to know because our soccer team is playing the Eagles."

"Mo-om, I have something that is going to make you happ-ppy....  We have underwear!"

"Why is there a bottle of vegetable oil here in the office?"

"I can help you do the consignment sale clothes, Mommy?  Really??  Oh, thank you!!" [spoken without any sarcasm at all, actually.  My girl loves to help!]

"In our karate class we learned how to kill someone.  Well, maybe not kill them. Maybe just hurt them."

-"What is this big clump of hair doing here?"
-"Oh no, there's some over here, too!  And over there!  What is going on?  Where is it coming from?"
-"Did Rayna just cut her hair?!?"  [Why yes, yes she did.]

-"Strider did you order a decaf latte today?"
-"Yeah, no, he didn't get decaf."

"I'm too old to have my date with Mom written about on the blog.  Just don't make it sound all cute and everything."
(I went on a date with a handsome gentleman today.
  That's all I 'm allowed to say on the matter.  :) )

"Is that all you want to write?  Just do, 'Love, Mommy.'"  [My girl also likes to read over my shoulder as I'm typing.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Best stage of parenting (so far)

I looked around the dinner table the other night and decided that this might be the very best stage of parenting.*  It’s certainly much better than it was the first decade or so, when it was mostly just a sleep-deprived haze of cleaning up messes and feeding small mouths.
Everyone now is potty trained (in theory anyway), and can get him- or herself dressed.  Everyone -- and this is key --knows how to wash his or her own hands.  We can get out the door in less than 10 minutes if we need to.  I love all of this independence!

The older kids are even actually quite helpful, whether babysitting, helping with chores, or even cooking:

The kids all love to be together and laugh together and make up games together.  In fact, right after I took the above picture, this is what happened next:

We have plenty of spontaneous hugs.  We also have plenty of spontaneous blow-ups and spontaneous “time-outs.”  But all of the soft, chubby-skinned hugs make it all worth it.

Yes, our garage looks like this...

... and, there is often an orchestral percussion section made up of pantry items all over the kitchen floor...

...But, I wouldn’t trade these days for any others.

  Our house is full of clutter and plastic toys, the soundtrack of our home is loud and chaotic, and our moments together are full of all kinds of emotions.  This is what I remember from my own childhood, and I love that life has now come full circle.

* I hear that some parents enjoy the teen-age years even more, so maybe it just keeps getting better from here!

Monday, September 17, 2012

I married the right man

Aluminum foil has been on our "to buy" list for the last couple of weeks, so when I was at the grocery store a few days ago, I bought some.  It took a little thought, though, because I had to figure out if the sale on the name brand was as good as the generic deal, and then if the sales on the large sizes were better than the smaller sizes.

After looking at the per-foot prices, I found that the generic deal was definitely better than the brand on sale, but the larger sizes were actually more per foot than the smaller sizes (why are they trying to fool us???).

So I opted for the smaller, generic size to get the best deal.  Then I turned around and put an additional box in the cart reasoning that since it was so small, I'd be put out pretty soon.  Should I get a third box, even?  Then I would have as much as the larger size....    No, I told myself, then the drawer just gets too crowded.

So I came home with 2 "smalls."

But when I went to put them away, I found that Pete had already bought foil earlier in the week, having seen it on the list!  AND, he went through the exact same set of calculations and reasoning that I did.  So this is what we ended up with!

I'm so proud of my man -- that he came to such a smart conclusion, and was not fooled by the larger-size-more-per-foot trick (or the brand-name-is-better trick)!

Now our drawer is just a little crowded, though.

(Here's a little more math for today :  80% of the people reading this are concluding that this was a complete waste of their time.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Colsen takes me out for a special afternoon

Awhile back Colsen started talking about how he wanted to go on a "date" with me again, remembering it had been a long time since our Chick Fil-A date.  I told him I would love to, too, but it was the man's job to ask the woman to go out.  He responded, "Ok, then I'm going to ask you soon, but not right now because, you know, that would be... you know."

So the next day he formally asked me if I would go out with him, and we agreed on a good date/time.  Then for the ensuing 5 days, about 80% of his conversation revolved around where exactly we would go.  The options, as we quickly discovered, were just about endless.

After the 47th round of, "Should we get a milkshake at ___ or ice cream at ___ or fast food at ___?" I began to suspect that the chance to have special food was really at the heart of his desire to go on a date.  To confirm this I asked him what he was most looking forward to.  He immediately responded, "Spending time with you!"  

The other aspect that he was quite concerned with was what we should each wear on the date.  One evening as I was getting ready to go to work, he came in and looked at me all dressed up and said, "Now THAT is what I want you to wear on our date!"  He also asked me if he should wear his "wedding clothes," but I assured him that "church clothes" would be sufficient.

The big day finally arrived, and he took himself off to his room, closed the door, and told me not to look at him while he was getting ready.  When he emerged, he was all decked out, and had even combed his hair.  He seemed pleased that I was wearing a skirt and jewelry, so we were proclaimed ready to go.

He asked me for my keys and then ran out to the car to open the door for me!  As he climbed in the backseat afterwards he bemoaned the fact that he couldn't yet drive, like the man is supposed to.

 Throughout our time together he kept saying things like, "I'm remembering ALL the things I'm supposed to do on a date, right Mom?"  and "Isn't this a good date?"  Every time there was a decision to make, he would defer to me saying "whatever you want!"
We went to Dairy Queen, since he had been very curious about this place having only been once as a baby, and ordered mini blizzards.  My little gentleman paid for both with all of his hard-earned money (which amounted to a very heavy pocket full of quarters).  Coincidentally, the DQ was right next to a Backyard Wildlife store, so he was quite excited to go there afterwards and check out all the bird-feeders and other bird things.

Then we went to Harris Teeter to get a bunch of things.  He was very happy to go along for this part, since he doesn't get to do that often, but he did say as we were driving there, "Let's just say the date is over now, ok, Mom?  Because, you know, Harris Teeter isn't really a date place."

I loved spending time with my little guy, and especially enjoyed our conversations.  While we ate our ice cream I told him he was going to make a very good husband someday.  He had a huge grin on his face, so I asked him, "What kind of wife do you think you might marry someday?"

"One just like YOU!" he answered.
"Really?" I asked.
"Well, what kinds are there?  Are there "kinds" of wives?"
"Oh, well, I just wondered if there were certain kinds of things you would want your wife to be," I told him. "Like, do you want one who can cook a lot, or likes to travel, or is athletic or...."
"Yes!  I want one who likes to travel and is playful -- see, just like you!  And best of all, you're a great cook," he answered.

Seriously, this boy just melts me.  Five years old is a great age!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Yes.... and, thank you, and.... yes" (Moldova Wrap-Up, a little late)

“For all that has been, thank you;  for all that will be, yes.”  -- Dag Hammarskjold

In the last weeks before we left Moldova, I sat down to write a summary/reaction to our time there, and wrote the above title and quote.... and that was it.

The famous arch in downtown Chisinau

And now, over two months later, I'm still unsure what to write.  I know I haven't fully processed everything, and my perspective will continue to change in the coming months and years, but I still feel the need to write something... for my own sense of closure at least.

Before we left the U.S. back in December, our friend Howard gave us some advice which stayed in the forefront of my mind throughout our 7-month adventure:  to approach everything with the words, "Yes... and..."  My normally resisting nature was challenged to behave in a new way.  

 Also right around that time, I  read about Ann Voskamp's "Joy Dare" -- to find things to be thankful for each day. These two new habits -- receiving all circumstances and events with "yes," and choosing gratitude every day -- kept me from going completely crazy, I think!  There were several times over those months when I would lie in bed at night and think, "I have to stop thinking about this situation, or I could lead myself right into a panic attack."  So I decided I would wait and think about it all after we were safely home.
Cole in front of Stefan Cel Mare,
holding Flat Stanley,
who also made the trip to Moldova
And now we are home, so I am slowly feeling more free to think about it.  Many people have asked us if we are glad we went on the trip.  My response has generally been that if I had known everything ahead of time, I would never have agreed to go.  However, then we would have missed out on some powerful things... so, as usual, it is quite good that I did NOT know everything ahead of time.

The other way I have begun to sum it up is this:

1.  I thought it was challenging.
2. I thought it was good.
3.  I did not think it was fun.

As a side note, if I were to write Pete's list it would be:

1.  He thought it was challenging.
2.  He thought it was good.
3.  He thought it was fun.

Anyway, it was good for me to have not-so-fun times, and to live slightly below my normal comfort level.  (Sometimes it felt like I was living WAY below my normal comfort level, but I'm sure I have no idea how bad it could really get, and in terms of how many people live, I was WAY better off.)  As we were trying to make the decision about whether or not to even go to Moldova, we knew that some suffering would be involved.  Living in a developing, third-world country with four children (and 2 dogs, though that was "unknown" at that point), would definitely not be easy.  We knew the Bible was quite positive on the concept of suffering, and it was not something we should run away from.  The question I asked over and over, though, was Should we willingly run towards it?

Soviet-style apartment building in our neighborhood
In our case, we have definitely seen some good things come out of answering "Yes" to that question.  Suffering definitely produced perseverance, and perseverance brought character, and character, hope, as Romans 5 promises -- we saw this in each other.  Sometimes the "hope" we clung to was just wrapped up in the fact that we were going to get to go home and be surrounded by all our comforts again.  But sometimes we were reminded of our True Hope, that our eternal home is what we are really longing for.  And, I learned to be thankful for many things that I had up until then taken for granted!  Plus, as a special bonus, we were able to build relationships Tania, and Liuba, and several other wonderful Moldovans, as well as all of the missionaries, teachers and diplomats who gave us new perspectives on the world and life.

So, would we do it again?  Well, the answer for Pete is simple -- he's actually planning another trip to go back there next month!   And when the rest of us heard about that, it's true that we all said we wanted to go, too.  (The Fulbright cash tree is not sprouting in our yard a second time this year, though, so only one plane ticket will be purchased.)
At Capriana monastery --
one of the most beautiful places we visited

Yes, we are thankful for this special journey we had as part of our larger Journey.... and as more months go by, hopefully I'll be able to process and think about what we've learned even more.... as the panicky feeling subsides.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cole's new activities

 Just when I thought this boy couldn't get any cuter....
..... he becomes a bird-watcher.

 His new favorite hobby is taking library books about birds outside, along with his binoculars, and trying to spot and identify some winged creatures.  He's been spending a lot of time in the backyard just exploring and observing!

And this season has also marked his soccer-playing debut!  He plays right in our neighborhood (LOVE that!) and his team is called the Falcons (which, coincidentally, are some of his new favorite creatures).  Saturday was his first game, and he had a "ball!"

We are enjoying his enthusiasm for just about everything these days.  He certainly loves God's creation -- animals and people.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not to be left out...

Little Milo, with his thumb, likes to be right in the thick of things, even when it's schoolwork.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

School is back in session

 I've decided I'm not going to say I'm "homeschooling" anymore.  For one thing, that term brings all kinds of connotations, some of which I am not fond.  (Do I need another "of" at the end of that sentence?  Is this grammar-challenged individual even capable of homeschooling her children??)  And the fact of the matter is that I am not at home schooling my children all the time anyway.  They all go to classes with other teachers throughout the week, and we have some private tutors coming to the house as well.  So from now on, instead of saying I'm homeschooling, I am saying I am "customizing my children's educational programs."  :)

But the central body administering these customized educational programs is still Poplar Streams Academy, and it is now back in session!  After a summer that felt way too short, with only a few weeks of our normal routine at home, we have re-started the school year.  I have come with heavier, slower steps than usual to this new year, but have still found joy in unwrapping the new pencils, picking out the books, etc.

To get back in the swing of things, we had our annual night-before-the-first-day-of-school Treasure Hunt.  This year I separated everyone's "treasures" into their own bags, and the kids had to search around the house for them.
Getting ready for "the hunt."  I could say so many things about this picture...
Treasure found
Some are more excited than others
New school supplies!
 The next morning, with the bribe of a special breakfast, we assembled the crew for the annual First Day of School picture:
Poor Milo is sad he's not officially in school yet!


Strider has outgrown his Poplar Streams shirt
 This was an especially big day for Colsen -- his first day of school!

Excited kindergartener
After enjoying Peach Baked French Toast, we said the pledge, and then got started with our regular school activities.

Rayna brought her "class"
 The students are all making books about their travels this summer:
 Even though I didn't quite feel ready for all of this, we ended up having a good week -- falling trees and all.  We look forward to learning and growing together this year!