"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Birthday Girl

Ooops, we did it again!  I have a problem y’all, I cannot seem to celebrate Little Frances’ birthday in a low-key manner.  I started with good intentions of keeping this small and not excessive, but her birthday ended up turning into a two-week long affair!  (Not every day for two weeks, but off-and-on for two weeks)  Every day she would ask for sweets and I would say… well, ok, since its your birthday and all Smile.

I have already shared with you how we celebrated Isla’s actual birthday here.  Bless her beautiful heart!  Sometimes I cannot believe that she is here with us.  We prayed for her for four years, and we can’t help but celebrate our little miracle.

Last Tuesday the presents that Nick and I ordered from the states came in!  I had so much fun setting them up for Isla to come in and find.  I didn’t wrap them because I didn’t know where to find wrapping paper here in Novo (btw, now I do, and that is so getting a blog post of its own).  From us she received a Baby Stella doll and some accessories, the Melissa and Doug shopping cart, 3 puzzles, and 2 different sets of flash cards. I want to get her a tricycle with a handle that comes out of the back, and I have been shopping around for the right one at the right price.

Isla sees toysIsla and Gifts

It is seriously so hard to get a good picture of my big girl these days!

Then finally, Boo’s present arrived!  Almost two months after it was sent, and it included Easter and Birthday gifts.  We didn’t think that it would ever arrive.  Isla had so much fun going through it!  It had both her birthday present and her Easter present.

Opeing Presents with Daddy

I take that comment about getting good pictures of Isla back!  I love this one.

Too Cool for School

Lastly… her party!  I had originally planned for a tiny party with just a few friends from church, during the day on a Saturday.  But then it expanded to church friends and friends from Nick’s company.  And then it expanded to church friends, friends from Nick’s company and other misc. good friends!  Then it expanded from a daytime party with only snacks to a nighttime party with dinner where I expected mothers and fathers to attend because I found out that everyone from Nick’s office had to work on that Saturday!  Needless to say it was wild.  We had 15 children in a two bedroom apartment, plus parents! Crrrazy.  When it gets to that size, it sort of stops being about Isla, and more about everyone else.  But that’s ok, everyone, plus the birthday girl, ended up having a good time!

Then in an effort to make things more crrrazy.  I planned 3 activities for the kids to do. I am not entirely sure what I was thinking! But everyone had so much fun.  I am so happy with how happy everyone else was!  This party was not stressful at all.  There were minimal decorations and simple food, but everyone had fun, even me.  I think that party had a joyful, happy spirit. I wanted to be sure to get pictures for the Grandma so I asked our friend Masha from church if she would come and take pictures!  I am so thankful she did because otherwise I wouldn’t have any.  I was pretty busy the whole time.

The first activity was decorating cupcakes! I made four frostings, bought some small candies, and then found some other decorating things at Tabriz and set them up in our office/hallway area. 

Cupcake 1

Sweet Izlata, perfect as always!

Beautiful Zlata

Liosha was super-focused on his cupcake.

Intent Liosha

It was nice to take a break from organizing everything and focus on Isla for a few minutes.  I loved helping her decorate her cupcake.

Isla CupcakeGood Times

Boris’ birthday was 2 days after Isla’s and so we celebrated his too!  He is such a sweet kid.

The Other Birthday Boy Boris!

Afterwards, all of the children showed off their cupcakes and we clapped at them as they each showed off their creations.  I was seriously impressed with some of the cupcakes!

Showing Off Their Creations

Cutie, cutie, cutie!  I love her dress… made by her beautiful and talented Mama.

Beautiful Zlata 2

I thought the cupcake making would be a disaster, but actually the kids did really well and took it so seriously!  I was impressed.  Only a couple of the younger kids ate their cupcakes before they could decorate them, and they got very few candies or decorative beads on the floor.

This cracks me up. Everyone loves Coca Cola. Everyone. Even though everyone knows just how bad it is for you.

So Funny

The second activity is one that I don’t have a name for, so I am just calling it Community Christmas, since everyone gets a little something!  But basically, you wrap a present over and over, adding new little presents each time so that everyone gets to unwrap a present (preparing for this birthday is how I found out how to buy wrapping paper in Russia).  I opted to make sure that everyone got to take a prize, but with a few grand prizes thrown in.  Normally I think there are just supposed to be two or three presents.  The kids really seemed to enjoy it!

It was quite a chore to get 15 children to sit in a circle!

CircleMy CutieOpening Present 1Opening Presents 2

The kids did so well and no one seemed to mind that a few kids got bigger presents than the rest!  The prize in the middle was the Grand Prize, and to my horror, Isla is the person that received it.  I had hoped it would go to someone other than her!  Fortunately, I was able to slip it into Boris’ Goody Bag since he was also a birthday boy.

Grand Prize

The last activity was one that I still think that I was a little bit crazy to try, but a few days before the party, my MIL, Isla’s Boo sent me a recipe that allows children to make their own ice cream in plastic bags.  All you need is two plastic bags, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and ice.  Then the child mixes them together in a certain order, jumps for 5 minutes and it makes ice cream.  I didn’t even do a test run before we did this activity so I was relieved when it actually worked!  The kids LOVED it, plus it was a good way to get them to work off all of the sugar that I had pumped them with!

Poor Igor got drafted into helping us with the ice-cream making assembly line!  He said that he had always wondered what it would be like to work at an American McDonalds Smile.  Here are the kids lining up to make their ice cream!

Poor IgorBeautiful Christina

Some jumping action!

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Two of Agnessa’s three grandsons.  They are so sweet to Isla and Agnessa says that they fight over who will marry her, haha!

Isla Goes for a Ride

I was able to use the left over candy from the cupcake decorating part so that people could top their ice cream.  I think a lot of the bags and bowls ended up being more candy than ice cream!

Decoration Station

I love this picture of Zlata, Miss Sassy-Pants was not happy having her picture taken!

Funny Zlata

Finally we opened presents.  We just let the kids play while Isla and I opened them.  It past 8 PM at this point!

Opening Presents

Finally, all we had left to do was relax and let the kids play!

Best FriendsTired MamaPlay TimeGood Friends

We also had Thank-You goody bags for all of the kids!  Unfortunately I miscounted and there wasn’t a bag leftover for Zlata.  Her Mama was very forgiving! We are going to find a way to make it up to her!

Goody Bags

It was after 9:30 by the time everyone left.  I never in my life would have had an evening birthday party for a two-year-old in the states, but here it just worked!  We are so thankful to all of our friends who came.  Nick, Isla and I have been so well loved here.  We are grateful and humbled, and we cannot begin to understand why we deserve such sweet friends.

So that’s it!  Starting tomorrow, our girlie has a full year until she is a birthday girl again!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Disaster’s Our… Middle Name

So, I never know whether or not to start or end with the worst part of our vacations, with Ireland I ended with it and with Italy I began with it.

For this vacation, I am going to start with it because I have a feeling that by the time that I get to the end, you folks at home are going to be like “What? Is she still posting on her vacation???  Move on already.”

I have a lot to share. Because this vacation was good, folks. A little too good. Something had to go wrong.

It all started Wednesday afternoon.  Isla had just woken up from her nap, and we were all lounging in our PJs in our hotel room, when I got a call from the front desk.

“Mrs. Wann, can you please come to to lobby?  There has been an earthquake.”

I immediately knew what she was saying without needing to come right out and say it.  And weirdly, I had been thinking about that same thing for the first time in probably years that afternoon when we had been swimming.

What she meant to say was “TSUNAMI.”

I jumped out of bed and started throwing my clothes on.

“We have to go to the lobby.  There’s been an earthquake.”

Nick and I started grabbing our important things and throwing them into a bag.  I grabbed our wedding rings and cell phones, plus a bag of diapers.  Nick grabbed our passports and iPads.  We raced to our lobby.

You know, I am ashamed to admit it, but I was so scared.  Like ridiculously scared.  I have always been so flippant about death and have been known to boldly say things like “I am not afraid of dying.  I am looking forward to it!  I’ll be in heaven with Jesus and it will be amazing.”

Until I was actually faced with death.  Not just any death.  I kept imagining Isla being wrenched from my arms by a huge tidal wave.  That was not a way that I had ever pictured myself meeting Jesus.

We got to the lobby and I tried to make small talk with another mom.  Nick set about trying to figure out what the heck was happening, and also he was annoyingly jovial… didn’t he realize that we were about to DIE???

Here he is trying to capture the “mood” of the lobby on his iPhone.  I was not amused.

I also kept imagining surviving the tidal wave only to have to roam the island for days until we were rescued.  I knew I couldn’t trust the hotel staff.  They would ditch us the first chance they got.  No sir.  So I raced back to my hotel room and stuffed every ounce of food that I had into another bag… just in case.

And then little Frances.  She was being so naughty.  So, so busy.  She kept running up to the piano.  I snapped at her too.  And then felt guilty.  I mean, we only had a few minutes to live and I couldn’t even muster up the tiniest bit of grace for her. Worst Christian ever, that’s me!

Doesn’t she just make the perfect little refugee baby in this picture???

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Then the bad news started coming in.

  • This earthquake was an 8.7 earthquake, only a little bit smaller than the 9.1 earthquake that hit this part of the world in 2004.
  • And it was coming from the same place as the earthquake that hit in 2004, somewhere in Indonesia.
  • Nick and I tried to piece together where that was using our shaky geography, thinking that it was far away from where we were, only to find out that no… it was very close.  Not only that, but Thailand was one of the worst hit places during the 2004 earthquake.

OH MY!  We were goners.

I immediately started reciting my favorite part of Psalm 91 -

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”

It was verse that I read a lot while I was pregnant with Isla and trying to prepare for her birth. I had to look up the rest on Nick’s iPhone, but I started reciting it out loud and immediately felt so much better.  I also recited Job 19:25, and I felt perfect peace.  I am so thankful for the word of God, and peace the surpasses all understanding.

Nick was meanwhile running all around, cracking jokes.  He came back from chasing Isla down by the piano, and showed me a request for Hotel California Smilethat someone had left at the piano… “You can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave.”

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Eventually good news started coming in!

  • Because our hotel was situated next to a deep bay, even the 2004 tidal wave had done very little damage to our hotel.  Only the pool was damaged and there were no casualties.
  • The earthquake movement was more lateral, as opposed to 2004, which was a very vertical movement, so they did not expect a big tidal wave.

And I felt silly. And relieved. And I started to let my husband make me laugh again.  And we got brave enough to move to where we could see the ocean.  As you can tell, we were pretty far from the beach in the lobby.

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I am so relieved!IMG_0485

This video is well worth watching!  Isla was being so bad, and she kept wanting to jump into the infinity pond.  Nick’s “observations” are always pretty funny Smile.

Anyway, it was the worst part of our trip!  But it wasn’t so bad, and at the very least, I (yet again) learned just how precious the word of God is.

Now, onto the GOOD stuff!

PS. None of my videos have been uploading!  I will keep trying… we took so many good ones.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Христос воскрес! (Christos Voskriec!)

Happy Easter all! Today is the Russian Orthodox Easter, and even though we attend a firmly non-denominational bible church here (Calvary Chapel), we celebrated on the same day as our fellow Russians. 

What I have written above is “Happy Easter” in Russian although the literal translation is “Christ is Risen or Resurrected”!  I wish we could cut to the chase in English and just tell everyone “Hello, Christ is risen!” on Easter Sunday in the United States… could you imagine your Wal-Mart greeter saying that? How long would it take for someone to try to take that one to the Supreme Court and have it banned??? But I digress, and I shouldn’t because I have lots to share. And I am tired. But I will share because I think that my blogging mojo has finally returned for the first time since January Smile.

Also, TODAY IS ISLA FRANCES’ SECOND BIRTHDAY! How we love our little princess.  We are so thankful for her!  I will have a 2 year post coming in the next couple of days.

Also, we are home!  It was a pretty uneventful trip home, and it was long.  48 hours almost exactly before we arrived in our apartment this afternoon, and I calculated that we traveled 32 hours from our hotel in Phuket to our hotel in Krasnodar last night.  Yes we slept in a hotel 2 1/2 hours from our home in Novo, but we arrived in Krasnodar at 7 pm and Nick’s company has a rule about people driving at night outside of Novo’s city limits. It felt a little bit ridiculous, but it worked out perfectly because our pastor’s wife needed a ride to the airport and since a) it was Easter Sunday and b) her husband is a pastor there was no way for her to get a ride, plus the hotel we stayed in is super fancy, so no complaints from me.  So our driver picked her and her son up, dropped them off at the airport, and then came and got us.  We arrived at our apartment, dropped our bags off and then went straight to church to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord with our church home.  How special!

***One random thing that I am putting on the blog because I don’t want to forget, but we flew Qatar Airways most of the way, and every time we would get on the plane and no matter how purposefully we walked, we would have every single flight attendant ask us where our seat was and if they could help us find it!  How hard it is to walk a straight line and look up and read a number?  Apparently quite difficult for the people who usually take their airline.  Also, here is Isla asleep in the lounge in Doha.  Sweet baby.

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Here’s a little picture recap of our day:

Our birthday girl, helping Mama pack.  She always says “Ayay (Isla) pack too!” She is a great little traveler!

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We first stayed at our hotel during our preassignment trip last January.  I was so jetlagged and we were only there for a few hours, but I remember thinking that it reminded of exactly the sort of the place that the “Inner Party” would meet and stay at during the Soviet times.  Although upon returning I realized that its actually a fairly new hotel, it still feels so “Old Russia” to me… even though it is Egyptian themed.

EFG

Then we went to church.  I know that I am like a broken record, but I love our church!  It was so nice to walk in and be greeted with smiles by people who were happy to see us and missed us while we were gone. Also, we sang all my favorite songs Smile.  That always makes for a good Sunday.  I tried to upload a video that I took of worship, but it is taking forever.  I will try to upload it tomorrow.

After the service all of the kids performed and they were adorable.  I don’t know if I have ever said this, but here in Russia, they start kids on classical instruments EARLY, as in like 4 or 5 years old!  So most of the kids got up and did solos on their instruments.  My favorite was Ruslan and his big brother.  He sort of stole the show with his mini-guitar!  He is the cutest little boy.

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After church we stopped at Magnit for some groceries and when we got home, Isla was presented with her Easter basket.  It was all books, stickers and sticker books and one DVD.  Her birthday present was 2 sticker books and 2 coloring books from Melissa and Doug. She will get her real presents tomorrow (fingers crossed!)  Stickers are her absolute favorite thing right now.  There is nothing that can distract her from them!

Here is Nick with her basket! In case you can’t tell, he is such a dork, in a good way… he’s a fun guy to have around Smile.

A

Isla when she realized that the basket was for her!

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Isla checking out her stuff!

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That was our trip home and our Easter-Birthday Day!  I have about 1000 pictures to go through and I cannot wait to get started sharing, after a good nights sleep. Smile

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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