Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

For the holiday season, I'm taking a small break from blogging so that I can focus on family time.

Merry Christmas from us to you... see you in 2013!

Unless, of course, I find some time and decide to post since I won't have work...but let's just assume no blogs, ok?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Celebrate

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I'm not the world's most melodramatic person.  I don't really cry at movies and seldom get really worked without a huge reason.

Friday, though, I was a mess. I work at a school and now school shootings hit a little closer to home.  It was more than that though-- it's that I'm a mother now.  Having Maclin's life in my hands on a daily basis creates an empathy that I didn't have before.  I cannot imagine the horror, the shock, the impotence felt by the parents that day.  But maybe the problem is that I can--all too easily.

Last night, after most staff and students had left the building, my school was placed on lock down mode.  A suicidal, armed man was in the woods outside of the building.  No one was harmed and the man never entered the building, but it brings into shocking clarity that events like this are far too close too home.

I can't live my life in fear and I can't control every environment I enter.  So, today, I choose to focus on what I have-- a healthy, wonderful son..

I celebrate my son's life because he laughs at funny voices and says "shoes" with a silly inflection that makes me laugh every single time.

I celebrate my son's life because he tells me he's done with meals by throwing the rements of his food on the floor and then promptly asks for a cookie.

I celebrate my son's life because he is joyous, silly, kind, and sensitive.

I celebrate my son's life because watching him learn new things brightens my days.

I celebrate my son's life to honor every parent who has lost a child, and to assure you that I do not take my gift for granted.

I celebrate my sons's life because I am grateful to God that he exists.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Here's what we're eating this week!

Sunday: Beefy Spinach Lasagna Rolls, Salad

Monday: BBQ Chicken Corn Chowder, Salad

Tuesday: I have book club--David and Mac are on their own :)

Wednesday: Turkey Spinach Enchiladas, Salad (Bumped from last week)

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Out!  We're going to the David Nail concert!

Saturday: I'm cooking a big turkey dinner!  Turkey, Corny Cheesey Casserole, Crash Hot Potatoes, Rolls, Salad, Veggie Platter, Raspberry Chipotle Dip, Hot Spiced Cider, Bundt Cake, and Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cheese Cake.  (Don't worry... I have a crock pot plan...and help from my Mother-in-Law)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Peace Corps Email #19

Rather than sharing an email home this week, I found a statement I wrote about my leaky eye syndrome.  Since I usually tell the story of my eye drama whenever I tell people I was in the Peace Corps, I thought it was interesting.

I was attempting to be "adult" and "calm" when I wrote this-- the nasal-lachrymal unblocking was far more traumatic than I let on--the tiny metal rods I describe were gabbed into my eye socket and came out my nose with a TON of blood and tissue. 

The Moldovan eye specialist was a short little man wearing what I swear to God were women's glasses--complete with pink frames that didn't fit his face.  Allowing him to JAB a metal rod into my eye was one of the most horrific experiences of my life.  It might have been compounded by the fact that he didn't speak Romanian or English--only Russian--and also didn't warn me of the upcoming trauma.

It was more terrifying than painful...but I needed Valium for that second appointment.  And I shot of whiskey.
Funnily enough, Leaky Eye Syndrome didn't turn out to be pink eye or an issue with my nasal-lachrymal canal--it was a simple allergy to chicken feathers.  See, my pillow was made out of chicken feathers (that my host mom plucked herself) and I always slept with the right side of my face smooshed into the pillow.  With 1 minor allergy drop a day and a new pillow, my NINE MONTHS of eye drama was over.  Oh, and when the AMERICAN eye specialist realized it was an allergy, I allowed him to cut off my wart/cyst.  It hasn't come back, thank God.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13...

And we're at the park. Who would have thought?

Also... Happy birthday to Grant, or as Mac knows him, Grunkle.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meal Plan Monday!

We're home all week and all weekend, so I'm going to do a little bit of cooking.

Sunday: Turkey Meatballs (one of David's absolute favorites), salad

Monday: Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Tuesday: Goulash, Salad

Wednesday: Turkey Spinach Enchiladas, Salad

Thursday: Potato Soup, Salad, Grilled Cheese

Friday: Tuscan Chicken Soup, Beer Bread

Saturday: Out/Leftovers

There's lots of salad in our meal plan--what can I say?  We're trying to eat healthier.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Peace Corps Email #18

Whew, who had any idea that I wrote so many emails home?  We haven't even gotten to the INSANE volume of emails I wrote to other volunteers!

It’s Getting Chilly

Original Sent Date : October 17, 2005

Hello Everyone!

I’ve been informed I am way behind in sending a mass e-mail.  Though I doubt you all are checking your e-mail every thirty seconds, hoping to hear from me, I will oblige.  Honestly, I would have obliged without the reminder. 
It makes me feel special…
I returned to Moldova on the 12th of October after a three week vacation in AMERICA!  On my flight into Mother Moldova I sat across from a guy wearing shorts and looking very American.  Unfortunately, I was wearing my grumpy pants that day (you may know them; they’re a sordid  green color) and chose to stare at him rudely rather than speak.  I’ve learned this in Moldova.  You’d be surprised how well it gets people just to leave you alone.  After getting off the plane and going through customs, I meet my buddy Aaron and his fiancé Nata at the gate… turns out the American I was glaring at was Aaron’s brother, visiting from America.  I need to wear the grumpy pants less…
Incidentally, Aaron is engaged to the Moldova who was our language teacher (dum da dum).  But don’t worry Mom; both of our language teachers are women…no Moldovan fiance for me. 

My three weeks in America were wonderful.  It’s weird that going to “Kansas” can be construed as a vacation, but it is.  Yay. I got to see almost everyone I wanted to (and if you’re reading this and I didn’t see you—that almost is for you, darling), go to two football games (regardless of the fact I didn’t return to either after halftime), go to the bars (and realize that I am far to old, at almost 24, for the college bar scene), meet our EIGHT labradoodle puppies (well, now there are 7 since I hid one in my purse and it lives in my room off of scraps now), and become cured of my nine-month struggle with leaky eye syndrome and the wart (yes, wart—I know) on my eye.  It was a productive and exhausting three weeks.
The day after I returned, I went to the training session of the newbies and gave a speech over camps.  I learned the perils of American fashion, as my new sparkly shoes immediately gave me a blister.  I will, however, continue to wear them.  I am stubborn.  It’s nice, though, that there is a new group here and I am now the older and more experienced volunteer.  Woo!

I went back to site late Thursday night. My host mom told me it felt to her just like her daughter had returned to Moldova (her daughter has been in Italy for 5 years without coming home).  I gave away my presents.  My host mom followed me to my house and talked for what felt like 4 hours.  Luckily, I didn’t forget Romanian.  That could have made the long conversation a little rough.

Friday was my first day back at work…we had a celebration for “Fall of Gold” and the kids all dressed up like vegetables.  Cute.  The little girls I love—Adriana and Oxana actually fought over who would get to sit next to me.  Coming back was a lot easier since I was missed!
Friday afternoon I went to the Town Days of Chisinau the capital. We went to a masa at a friends house and I drank a little too much cognac.  Either that or the time difference really got to me, because I fell asleep on the ride home and was mocked by my counterpart and her husband.  Oh well.

This weekend is the Health Expo, and I am somehow involved in that.  So, I’m going to spend Thursday through Sunday in the capital meeting with doctors and medical students.  Luckily, I do not have to give any information out, since I am, surprisingly, not a doctor.  I plan to wear my sparkly shoes and suffer.   

I hope you all are doing well back home!  Take care and feel free to send me e-mails/packages with reckless abandon!


Helping the kids attack the pinata I made.

Olea wearing the remains of the pinata.

Oxana doing PT.

Tom and I posing in front of "Big Steve" (Really called Stefan Cel Mare) the hero of Moldova.

I had a very tiny cell phone while in the Peace Corps.

The girls at the center.

The big boys at the center.

One of the boys and his grandmother at his home.

Another student at her home.  I think their grandma slept on the outdoor bed.

Tailgating in AMERICA with some of my girls!

And here are the puppies I obsessed over.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What a difference a year makes...

Last year...
No hair, not even crawling, thrilled to be held by anyone even a stranger.

This year...
TONS of hair, running, and thinks that Santa might be trying to kill him.

The difference is amazing.  My little baby is a toddler!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grand Cayman!

I'm back, with my developed under-water camera, to talk about the rest of our vacation.

In Grand Cayman, we opted to do an excursion called Sea Trek.  Basically, you put on some old-school looking scuba helmets and walked underwater.  It was FANTASTIC!  The battery on our camera died just before going down, so there aren't many pictures.  However, it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  We drove out to the middle of the ocean, climbed down a 30 foot ladder, and spent an hour walking around coral.  How cool is that?

After Sea Trek was over, we had enough time left on land to journey out to Sting Ray City.  We went on a cheap tour, so it's wasn't as fancy of a trip as the time Mom and Dad took us.  Still cool though.

Here are the underwater disposable shots :)

Not a bad time, even though David got bit.  Poor David :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Ugh, I totally spaced on Meal Plan Monday. It's probably from the best--I'm not doing much cooking this week.  I made stir fry last night and will make White Chicken Chili tonight or tomorrow.  Otherwise, we're doing the sandwich/leftover thing.  My poor family :)

Yesterday, it was 75 in St. Louis!  I couldn't believe the crazy weather, but man--was I thrilled for it.

Mac got to go to the park and it was probably the 13th time this year I've said it was the last time until spring.  I'm not saying that this time--because I can't help but hope we'll be back.

 Sorry for the iPhone pictures--- I was too spacey to remember to do the camera thing and it was almost dark at 5pm.
 Mac REALLY liked this ladybug.

And, on the same day I spent 90 minutes at the park, I came home and decorated for Christmas.  It was seriously the most bizarre day.

 We spent a long time debating whether to put ornaments on the tree or not.  I'm thinking that Mac is not the best age to practice self control.  In the end, we left several of the more breakable/precious ones in the box and decorated mostly with soft or sturdy ornaments.

My goal this year is to get a tree topper that I like and is special.  And to get a "real" Christmas tree skirt.  I'm thinking I'll look at after Christmas sales for those things.  I would rather get nice ones that crappy but have to balance my cheapness.

In an attempt to keep Mac off of our tree, we made him a tree of his own to play with.
It's just some felt.  Every time he tries to touch our tree we tell him that his tree is this one and take him to this tree.  It's a long shot that it'll work, but I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

At work today, 4 people told me I looked "professional" before 9am.  I thought it was interesting...mostly because they used the word professional.  You know, not nice, pretty, lovely, tired.  Just professional. 

I was slightly worried because I planned on wearing the top part of this outfit for pictures on Sunday. So I did what any red-blooded American woman would do... I went to the bathroom and took a picture of my outfit.

Here you go.

And then I texted the picture to David, who was, as always, grounded in reality.

* To be fair, around 11:15, someone told me I looked fancy.  Better than professional, right?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


You may or may not have noticed that I mentioned being out of town for 10 days in my meal plan post. 

David and I went on a cruise...without Maclin!  I didn't mention it here (or facebook, or anywhere really) before leaving because I have ridiculous fear that someone is going to read that we're gone, connect the dots, and rob us.  Not that we really have anything worth stealing, but that's not the point.  People out in internet land don't know that, right?

At any rate, we went on a cruise!  It was fantastic... a little rough to leave my big man, but altogether a good time.  David and I hadn't been anywhere alone in a very long time (I'm thinking it had been over 2 1/2 years since even a weekend trip) and it was great to reconnect as a couple, not just as parents.

Maclin stayed with my parents for the duration.  Thank goodness for grandparents who are willing to take your child at the drop of a hat!  Because, you see, David and I left for this trip on the 17th...and booked it on the 6th.  Nothing like short-term planning, right?

In order to get Maclin to my parents, we drove to KC on Friday the 16th, handed Mac off at my brother's house, and drove to David's grandparents where we slept for about 3 1/2 hours before heading to the airport.  On the plane I napped while taking breaks to stop David's snoring. 

We arrived in Miami, where it was wonderfully warm...and suddenly the lack of sleep didn't matter.  We were on vacation!  Woot!  Woot!

 We spent a day at sea, where most of our pictures looked like this.

Yep, self-portraits of us in the same position but with different clothes.  Because nothing says vacation like 13 variations of the same picture.

The day at sea was fantastic... we slept in until 11:30, ate, swam, read, played bingo, drank, listened to music, and took pictures in all the corny photo booths.  Pretty much we just enjoyed each others company.  Glorious.

On our third day, we went to our first port in Jamaica.  We had a blast there.  First we took a mini-boat tour of the island, where David served as captain.

We got to see Mick Jagger's old house, Mick Jagger's current house, and some shed where they filmed a Bond movie.  Oh, and the pretty island.

At the end of the tour we got dropped off at Dunn River Falls.  OMG.  Have you ever heard of this?  We WALKED up a waterfall!

It was, hands down, one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Wikipedia tells me that they are 180 feet high and 600 feet long.  It was so awesome to climb these and play in the water. 

The next day we went to Grand Cayman, but I took a lot of pictures that day on a different camera and have to wait to get the pictures.  I'll give you guys an update on that when the pictures are available.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meal Plan Monday!

We are back in St. Louis after our ten day absence. Here's what we're eating this week.

Monday: BBQ Chicken Corn Soup and Salad

Tuesday: Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Sausage with Salad

Wednesday: Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes

Thursday: Turkey and Sweet Potato Soup with Salad

Friday: Lasagna and Salad

Saturday: Out or leftovers

Friday, November 23, 2012

Peace Corps Email #17

August, Also August in Romanian

Original Sent Date: August 3, 2005

Greetings from Moldova, the hottest spot in the world!

What is new back home?  I haven’t heard any big news lately, so maybe that’s for the best!  How is everyone?

The other day, my host ma told me that it was 48 degrees Celsius on the hill in the sun.  I didn’t really think much of it, until I found my phone to do the math…and that’s about 118 degrees Fahrenheit!! The weird part is that it really doesn’t seem all that unreasonable at all.

I have discovered and quickly accepted the Moldovan solution to the heat—sleep.  It’s wonderful.  You  wake up in the morning, do what absolutely has to be done for the day, and get ready for lunch. After lunch, it becomes difficult to both breathe and function, so you go back to bed until 5 or so.  After supper, you eat ice cream and piddle around.  Maybe it’s not the most productive schedule, but what to do?

Last week, my site mate Maria and I put on an English Camp for the children in Calarasi.  It was such fun!  We had 35-ish kids show up for the camp (all were required to speak conversational English)… the activities were things like pictionary, Simon Says, and all those leadership games we do all the time back home.  I, however, was in charge of arts and crafts (how appropriate!).  It’s amazing how different it was to plan arts and crafts in Moldova than in America where you can’t just run out to Wal-Mart and pick up ANYTHING you need (with 5 brands of everything to add variety and price difference) and without hardly any money.  But it went well, I think.  I taught how to make friendship bracelets, collages, sand (actually salt, because it’s cheaper) art, and how to dye fabric with plants and flowers.  Maybe I should pursue a job in arts-and-crafting when I come home instead of that whole master’s thing!

In this past month, I also began an English Club for the kids in my community.  These kids don’t speak any English or have maybe take one year or two in school, so it’s completely different than the English Camp was.  I have about 8 kids come twice a week—I am always in such a good mood after they come!  There’s one little boy, Danu, who lives in Italy during the school year (like 1/3 of all Moldovans) so it’s really interesting in the class when he likes to shout out the Italian words for everything!  Can you imagine being 8 years old, speaking Romanian, Russian, and Italian while trying to learn English?  It boggles my mind!

On the 17th, the camp that you all helped me finance, Opening Doors, begins.  I can hardly wait—that might have something to do with the campsite being near a beach!  Again, thank you so much for all of your help. 

I plan to take tons of pictures for all to see!  So excited!

And, finally, some of my biggest news: (I was testing you all—you had to read to the end to know this!) I’ve planned a vacation home!  I’ll get in on September 20th and stay for two weeks.  Who would have thought a vacation home to Kansas would be the most exciting thing I can imagine?

Take care and I hope to hear from you all!


Human Knot...always a winner.

A list of phrases that one of the boys said.

Playing a game I made up...they made a line with things they know, shirts and shoes.

She died this fabric with leaves and berries.

Skit day.  Here Bush and Vironin dance fight.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Peace Corps Email #16


Original Sent Date: July 8, 2005

America, America, America,

Great news!  My grant which was on the internet is now fully funded!  Joy!  I am so happy and thankful for all of you who donated…thank you so much!
I’ve had a pretty busy last month!  My center, Dorinta, finished up the school year on the last day of June.  I have all of July and August pretty much free.  It’ll be nice, but I’m going to miss those kids!  

I’ve also been to camp GLOW (or Girls Leading Our World).  It’s a 10 day camp for 120 girls from all over Moldova.  I was in one cabin of 20 girls and we just happened to have the only evil girl in the whole camp in our cabin.  It all turned out just fine, but I’ve never had to threaten to kick a girl out of a leadership camp before.  Crazy.  But I guess if you have a group of 120 girls and only one is actually pure evil, those are pretty good odds, right?  The camp is run in Romanian and Russian, so all of the classes I taught were in Romanian.  I taught First Aide, Conflict Resolution, and Puberty.  It was fun, but I had to have a little dictionary time to learn words that I don’t use everyday.  Oh, and internet time to make sure I actually knew what I was talking about!  Ha.
 At GLOW, I was also in charge of the Halloween celebration.  All the girls found costumes from whatever they had and it was so creative—one girl was a salad (she taped tree branches to herself) and another was day (she wore a white sheet and had a yellow balloon on her head).  I made them bob for apples—which is really confusing to Moldovans.  Fun, fun.

All in all, GLOW was a lot of fun—but I’m really glad it’s over.  I’m a little scared for next year when I’m supposed to be in charge of it—I think that will be a lot more work than I bargained for!
 I also just finished helping to run a Fourth of July Barbeque (it was actually on the 3rd) for the FLEX  students I am working with.  These students all have physical disabilities and will be coming to the United  States as Foreign Exchange Students.  I was really surprised to find that one of the girls is going to be living in Liberal, Kansas.  Small world, right?  I made a surprisingly non-ridiculous piñata for the BBQ which turned out to be a bird.  However, maybe a piñata wasn’t the best idea since the game was a little too easy for children with sight impairments.  The bird, Squawky, was dead after one hit.  Also, before we killed it, one child fell.  Actually, only one child fell once in the entire day—and Sasha managed to fall right on the piñata.  Huh, maybe that was why it died so easily.  

But, it was worth the piñata dying it’s early death when we got to eat S’Mores.  You forget how much you like things like that until having them is a huge treat!

Last night I had a fun time with my host ma…we went on a walk to the spring, since that’s the kind of water she really likes.  On the way there, she decided that I had never eaten a peach before—I may have allowed her to think this since she asked me if I had tasted a peach but used the Russian word for peach, which I do not know; I only know the Romanian—and that I must must must have one.  Since the peaches in this stranger’s yard where out of reach, she simply took a hunk of leftover cement (leftover, of course, from the many empty cement buildings of the soviet era) and threw it at the tree.  After three near-death tosses, a peach finally came down.  I really thought I might die, but that was a darn tasty peach!

On the walk home, my host ma became concerned that our 100 baby chickens are not eating enough or growing fast enough…even though she feeds them eggs and sheep cheese.  So, she began “stealing” grass from the neighbors and the sides of the roads.  She looked like a crazy bag woman who really likes grass.  It was one of the funniest things I had seen, and even all the people on the street were making fun of her.  She told me that the neighbors don’t understand because they don’t want their chickens to have as many vitamins as ours will have.  I love my life here.

Today, I’m heading off to another village—Donduseni to visit a buddy of mine.  He lives 4.5 hours away, so I think there had better be a present waiting for me when I get off the bus!  That, and a lot of deodorant.

Take care and hope to hear from all you as soon as you finish this sentence!

The first set of these pictures are GLOW.  The last two are from the FLEX BBQ.

My training host sister, Viorica.  I miss her!!

Alenulu and I

The girls in my cabin.

Seanne teaches tie-die


D'Andrea and I dressed up for the costume party.

My pinata, Squawky