Monday, April 28, 2014

I KNEW he was one of the best arguers in the Southeast!

Strider participated in the final tournament for his debate league this year in Fayetteville this past weekend.... and he and his partner came in third!  All that hard work -- years and years of daily, impromptu arguments -- has paid off.

I'm not sure which he loved more -- getting rewarded for arguing well, or his time with Nonna and Poppa.  They graciously agreed to take him to this tournament, and they spoiled him like crazy.  He loved it and didn't want to come home.  One of the first things he said upon walking in the door was, "Why couldn't we have stayed one more night?"  Another one was, "I'm going to do debate again next year because I hope Nonna and Poppa will take me to another tournament!"

So, although we were sad to miss watching him, we're very thankful he had such a great experience.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why I love my husband (well, one of the reasons)

An out-of-town friend asked people to pray because he knew of a young woman who was contemplating an abortion. I emailed our friend and told him that, if comfortable, he could tell the young woman that we would love to adopt her baby.  He wrote back, after conferring with the guidance counselor, and said we could write a letter to the woman if we wanted to, giving specifics about our family, etc. 

At this point I called Pete at work, when he had 5 minutes until his next class started and told him all this.

His response?  “Well, this is kind of big, Amy.”  Then without more than a second’s pause, he added, “But yes, if it means saving a baby’s life, go ahead and send the letter.”

I love being married to a man whose first response is compassion and has a desire to enlarge his family!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pete's Trip to Moldova

Pete spent last week back in Moldova and had all sorts of adventures, but since he’s already back to work and spending his male-limited words on things like “econometrics” and “socioeconomic climate,” so I’ve decided to go ahead and summarize his trip for him.  We are one flesh after all – as he often likes to remind me.  And we Skyped several times, I’ve seen the pictures and videos… I’m pretty much an expert.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights of Pete’s Third Trip To Moldova:

After hours of travel (that will never seem too hard compared to The First Trip to Moldova which involved traveling with squirmy, whiny boys), he arrived in his rented apartment, where he enjoyed silence for the first time in months.  He also enjoyed the views of the city:

Then, after catching up on some work and grabbing some dinner at one of his old favorite places, he enjoyed some sleep.

The next day he arranged to meet our good friend Tania and her new baby!  She, ever the hospitable Moldovan, made him way too much food, including two big platters of blini, one filled with meat and one filled with nuts and sweet cream.

Since Tania spent so much time with us two years ago, and we watched the romance blossom between her and Maxim, and then witnessed Maxim's baptism, we feel very close to them!  When Pete got to walk Tania down the aisle at their wedding a couple years ago, it felt like family.  So now Pete feels like a.... grandpa??

As we traveled around Chisinau, he took a few photos to show us what had changed and what was still the same...
.... and they're still parking their cars on the sidewalks!
 He also went to visit the Owens and "our" old house.  And our former foster dogs!

Before his trip, he was contacted by the NC Secretary of State's office to see if he would take some materials over to a school there.  Pete was happy to oblige -- and was pleasantly surprised to find out it was the one elementary school we had actually been to in Chisinau!  Tania and Maxim's church meets there on Sundays, so we had visited a couple times.

Anyway, when he arrived at the classroom, the kids were all ready for him and treated him like a rock star! They gave him gifts, sang him songs, and were soooo grateful.

The main reason Pete was in Chisinau was to give a couple of talks. One was for the university that he taught at originally and one was sponsored by the American Embassy and was for teachers in Chisinau.  He spoke about developed economies, namely the United States, and ways to more effectively engage students in the classroom.

He didn't take any pictures of these events, though.  :)

A secondary purpose to his trip was to visit some of the projects that Moldova World Children's Fund has been sponsoring.  One of the newer projects is a place called Guiding Star, started by an ambitious young woman who had a child who died from disabilities.  This new center is a place where she and other volunteers teach disabled children after school.  Pete enjoyed meeting them all.

As you can see below, this building is in sore need of repairs and fixing up.  Currently it has no working restrooms, so installing one is a top priority.

Once again he was happy to see that MWCF is giving money to people who need it, and lives are being changed.

Speaking of MWCF, he also visited the tuberculosis kindergarten/orphanage where we replaced all the windows and doors. Visiting Liuba, the director, is always one of the highlights of traveling back to Moldova.

She always gets all teary and is sooo grateful.  This time she had the kids do a little dance for Pete, too!

A couple of other highlights were visiting with a former student from his time teaching at the Academy of Economic Studies, a town hall Q&A with four U.S. Senators who were there to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the Russian agenda, and visiting with the professors he gotten to know over the years.

4 U.S. Senators, all with "John" in their names

His last night in Moldova was spent having dinner with several of our missionary friends that we got to know two years ago.  It was great to catch up with them and to meet the one we hadn't met yet-- Miles, this bundle of joy below.

One other notable thing I'll point out is that Chisinau continues to be a Land of Running Into People We Know.  When we were there years ago, we kept being surprised by how often we would see someone we knew in the city.  Considering how few the people were that we knew, and how many people there are in the city at large, it seemed odd how often that happened.

This trip was no exception.  On THREE different occasions Pete ran into someone he knew without planning to!  He doesn't seem nearly as shocked by this as I am.... but he does tend to be less exclamatory in life in general.  So, since I am the one recording this account, I will go ahead and include multiple exclamation points anyway!!

Finally Pete wended his way home to us.  We were thrilled to have him back -- and the stockpile of our favorite Moldovan candy he imported to the U.S.!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Scenes from Easter

On Facebook everyone is posting pictures of their lovely, dressed-up children today.  Here is the picture I got of my lovely, dressed-up children:

But bad photos aside, we had a great day celebrating our Risen Savior!  Here are some of the other pictures:

Pete brought home a traditional Easter "bread" from Moldova...
so the kids were thrilled that they got to have eggs and CAKE for breakfast!

Easter baskets were found and enjoyed in inverse proportion to age

Cousins were found outside Mor-Mor's apartment

... and more pictures were taken, despite the howls of the dads
("Didn't we JUST take pictures recently??")
We took over Mor-Mor's dining room.
The place ain't never seen the likes of us before!

Poppa tried to figure out how he was going to get the whole table
 to sit still and listen to his Life Lessons (not really)

Karin showed Mor-Mor something fascinating on her phone.

After we ate, everyone played outside until the requisite
number of children were crying from injuries or lack of naps.

James knocked over a bench so Miles helped him right it.
(or vice versa)

More fun grandchildren pictures.  Miles loved it.

At the Dreschers' house afterwards,
Ava organized an egg hunt for the kids!

James was all charged up and insisted he would win!  (He didn't)

I tried on some way-too-big skates.
And did NOT break my neck.

So, it was a good Easter.

I guess there's no such thing as a BAD Easter.  It's the best news ever that our King is ALIVE and His Spirit is with us!  "He has opened paradise!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A week without Pete

So Pete was in Moldova this week, this Holy Week, this wholly long week.  It seems like it's always interesting while he's gone... random things happen, I make 435 meals or snacks, and answer 45,367 questions, and get very little sleep.

Because of that last part, I remember very little of what actually happened this past week.  I do know we all made it to the other side whole, and there were several times that I was surprised by how good I felt, considering the fact that I averaged 5 hours of sleep each night.  The Lord was gracious!  But I also remember thinking that Milo's version of a song might seem appropriate sometimes:  When he sings "Bless the Lord O my soul" by Chris Tomlin, for one of the lines he always bellows, "Ten thousand days until the evening comes!"  I wondered if I might feel like that at times.

Really, it was never that bad.  :)

So, since I can't remember what happened before yesterday, I'll just re-cap the last 24 hours as a sample.

Yesterday, Good Friday, was a vacation day from school, so I envisioned I would have a slower-paced day in which I could catch up on a bunch of the details that had been sliding through the cracks.  Instead, I moved at a rapid pace all day, finding more details sliding through the cracks, and going from room to room finding more and destruction.  Why do kids feel the need to pick up every little thing and just move it from one place to another (the wrong place)??  There were muddy socks in the garage, broken twigs on the kitchen floor, hand-weights on the stairs, flashcards strewn all through my bedroom, markers without tops everywhere, and, well, I won't go on and on and on... but that's what it would take to describe it all accurately.  It never stops!

After reading the crucifixion story with the kids, and repenting of my sin -- especially all the reactions I was having to all the destruction everywhere -- some of the kids and I went to the store after finally finding the fridge pretty bare, where we saved $77.  Then we came home and started making our traditional Hot Cross Buns in our darkened home.  (I followed through on a few of our annual traditions anyway.... but without Pete here it didn't feel quite the same.)  I also worked on a related blog post for The Celebration Project, while the kids went around and destroyed more stuff.

I can't remember what we had for lunch (although I do remember the disastrous pancakes I attempted for breakfast.  I'm the worst ever pancake-maker.  Using coconut flour did NOT help), but I do know it was likely that somewhere between 25% and 100% of the kids complained about it.

The low point for the afternoon, between making a potato dish and shuttling Strider off to a science class, was learning that Strider had somehow lost our neighbor's key, which he had used to take in their mail while they're out of town.  I loooove being the irresponsible neighbor.... so I sent all 4 kids out to comb the streets until it was found.  It wasn't.

Eventually, after a few loads of laundry, more cooking, and more destruction around the house, we loaded up the car to go do our FUN activity of the day week, which was dinner at Dan and Amy's with some other family members.  Just before we pulled left for their house, the key was found!  Yay!

Dinner was a wonderful affair, full of adult conversation, and only a few dozen screaming kids.  It was a lovely, lovely break from having to prepare constant meals!  And none of my kids complained about the food.

Then we came home, in the dark, rainy night, in time for Strider to go over to our other neighbor's house to let out their dog.  Unfortunately, in the dark and rain, he didn't notice that their landscaping team had left the gate to their fence wide open.... so about 20 minutes later he came running in all panicked because the dog was GONE.

It was 9:00 at night, the other kids were all in bed, and the last thing we wanted to do was run around in the dark and rain calling an old dog who surely would not respond to our voices!  Just as I had finally resigned myself to the reality that I had to make that awful phone call to the dog's owners.... suddenly, Strider saw the dog come running across the street!  Yay!  Found key, found dog!  (Thank you, Lord!!)

So now it was finally time to head to bed and wait for Pete to get home.  I feel asleep while I was waiting (did I mention I haven't gotten much sleep this week??), and woke up at 12:30 to find that he still was not home!  I started to worry that he had fallen asleep driving back or something awful, so I called him.  Turns out he had returned to the Charlotte airport to find that his car had a flat tire.  Poor guy had to change it right there in the parking garage.

Finally sometime around 1:30 we both tumbled into sleep.... and then were only awakened 3 times in the next 6 hours.  Once by a child checking to see if Daddy was home, once by a child who's foot was sooo hurting, and once by the power going out.

After all that rest, we arose this morning, and I headed off to teach my class from 9-12.  Pete somehow found a way to get the tire fully fixed and get the kids to a birthday party.

Then we all crashed here this afternoon.  And when I say we all crashed, I mean I took a very long nap.  Not sure what everyone else was doing.... but it probably involved more destruction.

But at least Pete is home now.  :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What kind of pack does God have?

These boys have been super consumed with building muscle lately.  Any time anyone mentions anything about working out, weights, muscles, or "guns," the shirts get instantly whipped off and suddenly they're posing like this:

They're very concerned about their "packs," too -- do they have a 4-pack or a 2-pack or please-tell-me-I-have-a-6-pack.  They like to do my Fitness Blender workouts, and Miles will often ask, "Will this upper my pack??"

But I realized the obsession had taken an odd turn when Miles drew a picture of God yesterday -- -and he had 6 neat rectangles drawn across his middle.  "He has a six-pack," Miles said -- "Or actually, a seven-pack."

p.s. Strider is usually right in the middle of it all, comparing his muscles, too, but declined to be photographed today.  Rayna, too, is quick to show off her arms.... but also is quick to break into dance.  :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Growing... in self-awareness?

The little guys here continue to make us chuckle with what they say... especially when it gives us glimpses into how they perceive themselves.

For example, Pete and this conversation with Miles recently:

Miles:  I'm sooooo cold!
Pete:  Miles, stop whining.  You're tough.
Miles:  I'm not tough!  I'm only smart!

Then, our pastor came over to talk to Pete about something and Miles walked into the room.  They had this dialogue:

Dean:  Well, hi, Miles, how are you doing?
Miles:  Fine.
Dean:  How old are you these days?
Miles:  5.
Dean:  Wow -- you're becoming quite an old man.
Miles:  No.  I'm becoming a cute man.

Colsen, meanwhile, has been letting us in on some of his strategies for coping.  He told me recently,

"One thing I do when I need attention is I whine.  Another thing I do when I need attention is pretend I’m really hurt."

Good to know.

We can only pray that they are continuing to grow in wisdom, with hearts that will be humble before God.  It was fun today to see them singing during the Palm Sunday celebration at church.  They're getting to be little men  -- smart, cute, and attention-seeking!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Debates and kites

This weekend Strider had another big debate tournament.  Although I never actually got to see any of his 6 rounds (he insists it makes him nervous for us to be in the room!), I hear he and his partner did quite well, placing 4th overall.  I can only imagine his well-honed and oft-practiced arguing skills came in handy.

And he sure looked handsome in his suit!

A big THANK YOU to Nonna and Poppa for helping us out at the tournament and entertaining Strider in the evenings!

 Meanwhile, at home, the other kids enjoyed our neighborhood kite festival!

So, it was a good weekend.