Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our living room soundtrack

When the little guys are not busy building forts or destroying something, they are often found on the piano bench these days, teaching themselves, and each other, some songs.  Colsen's latest compositions have been sounding quite pretty -- reminding me of Christmas bells or chimes or something.  

I told him this morning that I think he is a good composer.  He responded, 

"Yeah, and if young Mozart lived near me and at the same time, we would be good friends!  We would be best friends because we both like to write music!"

Here is what I recorded him playing today:

Then, Milo, not to ever be left out, climbed up on the bench and asked me to record him, too.

I love his little cross-over move at the end.  :)

Our soundtrack here has gotten much lovelier lately!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Trip Back to Moldova

A long delayed guest post (by Pete):

A few weeks ago I was able to return to Moldova for three very different reasons. I was invited to speak at a conference sponsored by the American Studies program at Moldova State University on the role of government in the economy (as it pertained to the U.S. Presidential election). The second reason was to attend Tania’s wedding (our Moldovan friend who was a huge help to us during our six months there) and walk her down the aisle giving her away, and the final reason was to visit the Tuberculosis Kindergarten/orphanage that Amy worked with and check on the restoration project that we started with the Moldova World Children’s Fund (MWCF). 

It was a busy four and a half days. Walking Tania down the aisle was an honor and it was a unique experience to be a part of a Moldovan wedding. The ceremony was similar to an American wedding except for the time when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to say anything. One woman took him up on his offer and she was not very positive in what she said. It was awkward…but the ceremony concluded without any other fanfare and the couple is testimony to God’s redemption. 

It was also fun to see many folks that we got to know while living there. My first evening in Chisinau I was able to eat dinner with two couples we met early on during our 6 months there as well as my friend Jeff (whom we rented from).

Tania and Maxim releasing doves
cutting the cake

Bride and groom seeing each other for the first time that day

Outdoor area where we took pictures

The other highlight was visiting the kindergarten and seeing all the progress that has been made during the three and a half months since we partnered with MWCF to raise money for the project. It was great to see all the programs and the quality of the work was excellent. Lubia and the others that work at the facility were so appreciative of the work, and it was really neat to see many of the kids and interact with them. I visited the kindergarten with Ray West, the president of MWCF, and I got to spend a lot of time with him during my visit. We also had the opportunity to visit another orphanage that is possibly another future MWCF project.

One of the kids' rooms with tall their things neatly displayed
One bedroom with clothes lined up while the kids are napping.

One of the girls reciting a poem to us while Lubia looks on.
Outside of the building where work still needs to be completed.

It was a great trip, and I hope to continue the relationships with the people and the country for years to come.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A visit from Grandpa and Gee-Gee

Bud and Jane came to spend Thanksgiving week with us and we were happy to see them!  The kids were asking about their arrival all day.  I don't know how many times I heard, "How long until they get here?!?"*

Thanksgiving Day was, of course, the big highlight, but we also had a few other adventures on the other days.

The whole group, minus Miles and me, went to the missionary center JAARS for a tour one day, and they all learned a lot!

Another endeavor over the last couple days was building some sort of tree house/platform thing in the backyard (I'm still not completely clear on what it is or is going to be).  Thankfully Bud is very handy with power tools, so somehow something is taking shape...

Meanwhile, Jane baked us a very tasty apple-cranberry crisp, and helped us put up our Christmas tree!
 To be more specific, she helped re-disburse all of the ornaments after the kids hung 95% of them on the same 3 branches at the bottom of the tree.  She did a good job -- now our tree looks all sparkly and even!

We are thankful that they made the long drive down to spend some time with us!   Hopefully all of our chaos and silliness didn't wear them out too much.  :)

* While we were running an errand, I told Colsen about how I used to be so excited when Mor-Mor and Grandpa would come to visit us when I was his age.  I described to him how my siblings and I used to sit out on the curb and watch all the cars turning down our street, trying to see if it was them or not. Sometimes we would have to sit and wait for hours because, as I told him, we didn't have cell phones and couldn't know when exactly they would arrive.

"You didn't have cell phones??" Colsen asked.
"Nope," I said.
"Oh.... you lived Back THEN!" he said.

I'm pretty sure Back Then is all one big era to him.  It's the pre-modern period during which there were no cars, no electricity, and the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  And now, apparently, it's when I was a child.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving

We were privileged this year to once again be able to celebrate with family members from both the Wray side and the Frank side since Bud and Jane came down to visit for a few days.  Yesterday we all went to my parents' house, along with my sisters' families (the brothers' families either were too far away and expecting a baby any day now, or found a better offer with their in-laws).

Our motley crew had a fun day, the highlight of which was a soccer game in the middle of the golf course.  All the generations played -- from ages 2 to 75!  Both grandfathers played impressive games, even diving and doing head-balls.  Who knew they still had it in them!  The kids all started out enthusiastically playing along with us, but once all of us adults started getting a little competitive, the intensity level scared some of the younger folks away.  Nevertheless it was an amusing game for those of us tough enough to stick it out.  The Wray girls are still a force to be reckoned with... and the men judiciously chose their times to reckon with us.  I am sore this morning.

Then we all trooped inside for some snacks -- including mini-cornucopias for the kids, along with their own cheese ball.  The dinner that followed lacked no good thing;  as usual, my mom put out quite a spread.  While we ate, we were treated to readings of Thanksgiving Proclamations by both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.  Somehow 3 different members of the family all came with the same idea!

The kids, who had been impressively quiet for a few hours, started to stir once they sensed Nonna was starting to get out some dessert-type items.  As she floated from room to room, out to the garage refrigerator, pantry, etc., she started to find that a collection of children was forming behind her, pied-piper-style.  By the time she brought the pies to the table, all 10 of the children noses were present, right behind her  elbow.  And neither the noses nor the mouths were disappointed by what followed.

All in all, it was a happy day.  Here are a few not-so-great photos to document:

Some of the soccer players...Four more are missing from the shot. The Dreschers brought their ringers in full soccer garb.
Prep time earlier that day:  Gee-Gee and Rayna peeling potatoes and the boys judging.

Kids having snacks hors d'oeuvres
Getting ready for dessert.  James won his own pie because he's a nerd.

Kids waiting for pie.  Katie leading everyone in song?  Or handing out forks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beach Blast

(This post is written by a Guest Author today:  Strider)

This weekend I went on my first youth retreat to the beach.  It was a ton of fun.  We listened to some good talks by a really funny guy, had a talent show ("Beach Blast Got Talent"), played ultimate frisbee, and went out to some cool places, like an upside-down house.  I also went swimming at around midnight in 40-degree weather.  Then I got in trouble for doing it.  (By the way, the pool was NOT heated.)

Here is the whole group that went -- 4 different youth groups

Some other pictures from the weekend:

Friday, November 16, 2012

The things Pete misses

As of today, Pete has now been out of town for 1/3 of the last month (yes, I'm calculating).  And the poor guy misses out on a lot of things when he's gone.  So I decided to make a...

 "Top 10 list of The Things He's Missed Just in the Last 3 Days"

10. Hearing the kids create a "zip line" in the living room -- and try it out repeatedly, always ending with a crash

9.  Finding that someone threaded a leather belt into the humidifier vent -- while it was on, somehow.

8. Getting to wake up several times a night with random children who are sleep-walking, crying from a bad dream, needing to go to the bathroom, cold, wanting to come in our bed, can't fall asleep, and/or are coughing.

7. Getting to have an hour-long argument beginning at 6:15 in the morning about whether or not the sun is actually up.

6. Trying to explain what imaginary numbers are in  math

5. Dealing with the fact that the neighbor kid punched our kid in the mouth, and now our kid is complaining that his molar keeps hurting him.

4. Getting to hear someone ask you questions like this all day long: "Which kind of little primate do you like better, Mom?  The ring-tailed lemur or tarshears (sp?) ?" or "How many kinds of falcons are there, Mom?"

3. Having conversations like this:

"Mom, do you know what the biggest snake in the world is?"
"It's the anaconda!  You know that.  It can be longer than my room!"
"Well, I hope we don't run into one of those."
"Yeah, but do you know what kind of snake you DO want to run into?  The zebra snake, because it's realllly pretty. It looks like a zebra!"

2. Or overhearing (even as I am typing this):

"Miles, what are you doing?  What are you cleaning?  What spilled??"
[Silence for way too long]

"Oh, he just got really dirty outside and so now he got the floor all dirty and he's trying to clean it up."
"Mo-om, this won't clean!"

1. Walking into a room and finding scenes like this a lot:

(Yes, those are legs sticking out on the right)

So, come on home, Pete!  This house definitely needs another person on staff.  I mean, your family misses you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New cousin

The oldest Wray cousin got to meet the youngest (for now) Wray cousin yesterday!

I told Strider that someday when little Lincoln is all grown up and approximately 6-foot-2, it will be fun to pull these pictures back out!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New (manly) skill

Strider's GateWay year has been going very well.  So far the boys have heard from several men on topics such as wisdom, leadership, respect, manners, knife safety, whittling, and electricity.  This weekend, though, at least in Strider's opinion, involved one of the best skills yet:  shooting guns.

The boys (and dads) trooped out to a friend's house nearby which turns out to be an ideal shooting range.  Pete brought his guns, given to him by his grandfather, and taught the boys all about the differences between them, how to load them, and other gun safety tips.  Then the actual shooting commenced, and from the reports I have heard, it was great fun.

Strider came home bubbling over with enthusiasm -- and awe over what a marksman his father is.  ("How come I never knew this??" he kept asking.)  According to him, Pete hit the targets every single time, while Strider and some of the others struggled a bit.  So now the challenge has been presented and Strider can't wait to go out and try it again!

I love watching my boy become a man, and I love watching my own (marks-)man teach him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now he is 6!

Colsen strikes me as just the type of kid that A.A. Milne wrote about, so I thought this particular poem from Milne's Now We Are Six book was particularly appropriate yesterday:

"When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,

I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever."

Cole is very excited to be six, and we are very thankful to start another year with him!  He is our bird-watching, wildlife-learning, backyard-exploring, tool-wielding, imagination-stretching, sibling-protecting, math-oriented, jumping-around boy, and we love him.

He has demonstrated such a loving heart in his first 6 years, and I was happy to see that a new birthday had not diminished this.  Last night when one of his siblings was not allowed to have a piece of his special cake, Colsen immediately offered up his own piece to that sibling!  We love his soft heart.

(This pic is so typical of both boys!)

His big day was spent mostly with Daddy, going out and about, and then building a new 6-year-old-sized work-bench in the garage.  Violin lesson, dinner from Moe's, and an ice cream cake specially requested by him rounded out the evening.

May the Lord continue to protect him and grow him in His ways!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts on this election day

I have found myself less passionate than usual on this election day... and I know many people would scream, "WHAT?!  But THIS is the year that our entire future is being decided!  If the wrong guy gets elected today, our whole country will fall apart in a matter of days, if not minutes!  Get with the program, Amy!"

I think my limited apathy (and it is limited -- I did vote!), is largely due to the fact that I feel like we have reasonably good options, and a reasonably good chance to make our voices heard.  While this statement would probably outrage 97% of my friends, in both political parties, I still believe that most of the people running for public office are in fact trying to do what is right, and not out (primarily, anyway) to get rich by cheating the people.  Perhaps I'm just naive or have watched too many movies with patriotic music swelling at the end.

But after living in a country still in the shadow of communism, I have a greater appreciation for our options in America.  

After seeing how hopeless people can become in a land in which the politicians are openly corrupt, stealing from the masses to build their own coffers, changing election rules to keep themselves in office indefinitely, I am glad we still have the opportunity to vote for change. 

After watching a parliament elect a president only by changing the voting time at the last minute so an entire political party missed the vote, I am grateful for as much consistency and transparency as we have in elections here in this country -- even if not complete.

No political system is perfect here on earth, but in comparison with some others, ours sure is pretty good.  I'm thankful today that I did not wake up in a situation in which I feel oppressed, with no options.  Hope is a powerful thing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Colsen will be turning 6 this week, and according to family rules, he was eligible to have a party with his friends this year -- and he eagerly accepted the offer!  So yesterday he gathered some of his buds and did some of his favorite things:  played soccer (and other games) and ate food shaped like animals.

It was a perfect day to play in the backyard.

 Uncle Dan, Uncle J and I even joined in on the fun.  :)

For snacks, we had owl cupcakes (I think Cole liked them!)
 ... as well as bear crackers,
... and grape caterpillars.  (Colsen helped me make all of these things)

 His friends brought him wonderful gifts, too!
Uncle Deuce demonstrated how to shoot a big rocket (which has since had to be retrieved off our roof about 5 times in the last 24 hours):
All in all, it was a fantastic party and Colsen was thrilled with it all.  We're grateful for cousins, uncles, and friends who were able to celebrate with us!