Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weekly Mash-Up

Time for another selection of things I liked and didn’t like this week!

I liked (loved) celebrating this precious girl’s 8th birthday.  I didn’t like the fact that she is 8 (!) already.  Where does the time go?  I am so proud of her and the young woman she is becoming.  She is compassionate, devoted to obeying Christ, and is receptive to correction.  What more could a mother want?


Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

I didn’t like this news.  It broke my heart and made me sad. 

I liked (a lot) our Expat playgroup and the new friends we are making there.


I liked Skyping with our home church last week.  It was so amazing to be connected to our church family in this way and feel their support.

I didn’t like that I got powdered ammonia mixed up with baking powder and made some truly awful corn bread.  (We discovered it before trying to eat it, thankfully!)  When made without the powdered ammonia, this recipe is really amazing!

I didn’t like the construction noise outside my bedroom window at 7am on Sunday, and every other day.

I liked (kinda) the Mariachi music the night club across the way plays on Tuesday nights.  It makes me wonder what kind of dancing is happening inside.

I liked seeing God’s provision for our family in the form of this car:

What did you like (or not) this week?

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Newsletter

If you’re not subscribed to our newsletter, you can read the newest one BY CLICKING HERE.  :)

Subscribe on the right if you want to get these biweekly in your email.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ideas for Making the Most of Skype

Picture this: Two children, best friends for years, now separated by an ocean. They were so eager to chat online that they could barely eat breakfast, and now they sit in front of the computer.  Finally! 
Eagerly they exchange greetings, and for the first 3 minutes, conversation flows excitedly across continents.  Then… silence.  The awkward moment where they want desperately to keep talking, but they have no idea what to say. 
What’s a Momma to do?  This is the moment where a mother’s heart begins to question.  How can I help them through this transition?  Why on earth did I bring them here in the first place?
We recently moved overseas, and this moment has played out in our home several times over the past weeks.  Inspired to work hard at keeping in touch, I brainstormed a list of ideas to help encourage better Skype chats that feel like real playtimes for my kids.  Today, I’d like to share a few of our tested favorites.
1. Ask QuestionsRemind your kids that their friends have things going on in their lives too, and those thing are still part of their friendship equation.  I often have to prompt my kids with questions to ask.  Sometimes I know things about their friend’s lives that help with this.  If I know from Facebook that their friend was sick, or visited their Grandma, this is a piece of information I can feed to my kids to help keep conversation going.
2. Play Games.  Connect 4, Hangman, and many other games can be played via Skype. Kids talk more while they are playing together.
3. Draw and Color.  My daughter loves to color and draw, and so do most of her friends.  They like to do a 10-minute draw, where for 1 minute they both draw with red, then another minute with blue, and so on.  After 10 minutes, they show each other their drawings.  They talk while drawing, free of self-conscious silence.
4. Plan listening dates.  We often listen to an online radio station here, and it’s available anywhere.  So the kids will set a time with their friends, and they both listen.  Then they Skype and talk about the programs or songs they heard.
5. Let the kids give tours.  This can be a little dicey with an expensive laptop and a small child, so often my husband and I will carry the laptop around the apartment or playroom, and let the kids show the person on the other end anything they want to share.  Then we encourage their friends to do the same.
What other ideas have you implemented for helping your kids stay in touch with their friends while your family is deployed or serving overseas?  Leave me a comment, I’d love to give them a try.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I Met a Woman

I met a women at the market a few weeks ago.  Her kids were speaking English, and that gets you noticed around here (Any idea how I know that?).  So we stood, and talked, next to the eggs, which were in the freezer aisle.  In between my fleeting thoughts about the eggs being in the freezer aisle and the fact that you can choose your own eggs, one by one, because they are sold individually, I learned that she is an expat, new to Sofia, with 5 children.

Reading between the lines, I sensed immediately that she is lonely, misses her support network, and has mixed feelings about being in Sofia.  Yeah, me too. 

Se between the eggs and the ice cream, we connected over bags of ice in the only store in the city that sells ice.  We compared our children’s ages, spoke about our professions and our husband’s professions, and exchanged phone numbers.

The next week, we met at a park with a few more expat families, and one new relationship blossomed into four new friendships.

This week, we will meet again, with a few more families, to take the kids to the zoo.  I
think, however, that this is bigger then just seeing the tigers.

This I know because I serve a God who is all about relationships, I know for a fact that He is at work.  This open door is a connection, a road to ministry opportunities, friendships, and people.  People for whom God sent us to Sofia. 

One day, I will look back on this beginning and know exactly why we met that day in the aisle for eggs and ice.  I will look back and see every footstep carefully arranged by a loving creator.  For now, I will walk this path, pray for the people I am meeting, and share Christ when hearts are open. 

Because I am learning that we must always look forward, until it is time to look back.

Have you looked back and seen God working in ways you never realized at the time?  Feel free to share your story in the comments.  I'd love to hear it.

Things I Liked, or Didn’t Like This Week

The idea for this post is completely copied from Rachel at Djibouti Jones. I (Alyssa) enjoy her posts each week, and thought I’d give it a try here.  Let’s call it a weekly mash-up of our lives in Sofia and what we’re checking out online.

I liked the encouragement and influence K-Love has on our family.  We play it all the time, including when anyone is having trouble sleeping.  It sounds like home and is comforting to all of us.  The kids even make K-Love appointments with their friends- both of them listening at the same time, from different continents.

I liked this post from Rachelle Wright.  It made me think, and I enjoy this type of “digging deep” post.

I like/don’t like the struggle we are having with feeling like we need to earn our financial support.  I appreciate the accountability, and the need to make sure we are fully engaged and active in ministry here.  I dislike the tendency I have to focus on pleasing supporters, rather then pleasing and obeying God.  I like the way this forces me to consider my motives and challenges my level of obedience to God.

I didn’t like the struggle this week to both find our niche here in Bulgaria and choose the right places to jump in and get involved. I didn’t like the feeling of being here, but not really fully HERE yet.

I liked seeing my kids make new friends, and meeting families from around the world at our new Expat play group.  Praying for ministry connections there.

I liked the new possibilities that presented themselves this week.  We have multiple ministry avenues we’re exploring, and it’s exciting to think about what God will do.

I liked having our first guests in our new apartment.

I didn’t like waking at 4am to the sounds of some random stranger puking under my window.

I liked how Pinterest makes it easy to find recipes.  Like, for example, what to do with the ground ham I bought while trying to buy ground beef.

I liked the encouraging posts from family and friends.  We have a great support network.  I love you all.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Observations of Sofia

Time for a fun post about some of the unique things about Sofia.  Or at least, things that are new to us.
1. There is fresh produce everywhere.  I mean, everywhere.  Little stands on the sidewalk, larger markets in the center, and shops with produce stands in front of them.  I know this will change come winter, and I will really miss it.
2. The Bulgarians are very friendly, but generally will not start a conversation with a stranger.  If we start a conversation, even with a simple comment, it will often lead to hour-long conversations.  This is challenging for one of us, not so much for the other (guess which?).
3. There are many rules for driving here.  Not many of them are obeyed.  Except when they are, and then we are usually the only ones who didn’t get the memo.
4. Bulgarian is a very challenging language.  Much more for one of us then for the other.  (guess which?  Hint: It’s the opposite of #2). The Bulgarians love it when we attempt to speak their language.  They usually warm up to us right away if we (read: Alyssa) can manage a few sentences.
5. It is a highly valued skill here to speak English.  It’s often difficult to practice Bulgarian, because people frequently prefer to practice their English on us.
6. Salads in Bulgaria include lettuce about 5% of the time.  The rest of the time, cucumbers, yogurt, and/or tomatoes serve as the base, with other toppings added in for variety.  Salad dressing is nearly non-existent, with the exception of oil and vinegar.
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7. Cheese comes generally in 2 varieties: white (feta) and yellow (kinda-sorta like mozzerella).  Other cheeses are available, but for a much higher price.
8. Almost everyone lives in apartments.  Houses are considered expensive to heat and maintain, and are less desirable to the average Bulgarian. 
9. Bulgarians are passionate and enthusiastic, but you may never discover that until you build relationships with them.  They are outwardly quite reserved… unless you get in their way while driving.
10. Bulgaria is a wonderful place, full of beautiful landscapes and architecture.  It is exactly the right place for our family, at least for this season.  :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Just 6 days after arriving in Sofia, we headed to Greece with our attorney to apply for our visas.  The drive t5ook about 4 hours, and when we arrived in Thessaloniki, the first place we went was to the seaside for a short cruise.  The ship itself was a cruising café, so the cruise was free if we bought a few drinks.  No worries, I was ready for some coffee at that point anyway.  :)





The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and we were really savoring the moment.  Being on the Mediterranean was pretty amazing for this Midwest family.

After the cruise, we checked into our hotel room.  The room itself was nice (though very small), but the view was perfection.


For dinner we headed to this tucked away local hotspot, on the recommendation of our attorney.  We could not have chosen a better place for a seaside dinner.  Great food, better view and experience.



In the morning, waking up on the balcony enjoying the sea breeze was wonderful.


After a nice hotel breakfast, we headed to embassy, filed our papers, and headed back to Sofia.  In a few weeks we will head back to Greece to pick up our visas!  Then we apply for resident cards and work on the kid’s visas.  Please pray that everything goes smoothly with future trips across the border and our paperwork processing.

Today (or yesterday, now)

Today, we needed an outing.  We were all feeling homesick, and so this was not the day to sit at home, even with language study to keep us occupied.  So we combined the fun with the practical and headed to Metro, Bulgaria’s version of Costco or Sam’s Club. 
In the weeks since we have been here, I have spent a great deal of time going to different stores, both to become familiar with what is available and to compare prices.  I have lists of what is available where, and what the prices are, so I can make the most of each trip into a particular store. 
Metro is good for a few things in particular, and today was out third trip there.  Our first trip was fact-finding only.  The second was an attempt to stock our home with some essentials (think toilet paper, flour, and sugar), as well as to purchase small amounts of a few items to try them before buying in bulk. 
Today, I finally felt prepared to enter the store armed with a list (based on a complete menu for 2-3 weeks) and get down to business.  Here’s a sampling of what we bought (and the prices, since so many of you are curious).
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- Milk.  We are milk drinkers, and although we don’t drink nearly as much milk here as in the States, we do use about 3 liters per week.  (4 liters per gallon.  You’re welcome.)  At the grocery store milk ranges from 2,19 BGN to 1,49.  At Metro, we paid 1,07 BGN.  We bought 24 liters (no refrigeration necessary till they are opened.)
- Ground Beef.  It took me a while to find 100% ground beef.  Most of it is mixed with ground pork or lamb.  I even bought ground ham once by accident.  The price is 9,95 per kilo, which works out to about $3.00/lb.  It’s very lean too. 
- Muesli.  We eat this nearly every morning, with whatever fruit we have.  This morning, I cooked it with cinnamon and bananas.  A few days ago, it was peaches. Muesli, complete with flax seed, and dried fruit, is about $1/lb. 
- Eggs.  We bought a flat of 30 brown eggs.  Here,the price is often per egg, or for 10 (not often do you see a true dozen).  We paid ,16 per egg, or $1.26/dozen.
- Watermelon.  It’s in season now, and delicious.  We paid ,27 per kilo for ours, and it was a 7 kilo (just over 14 lbs) watermelon.  Total cost: 1,89 BGN or $1.24.
- Chocolate Chips.  This was our splurge, for sure.  This was the only place I have seen them here, and less demand drives up prices.  The bag was 2.5 kilos, or nearly 6 lbs (close to 7 bags in the US 12 oz size).  The cost was 35,00 BGN, or $23.00.  I’ll be making these last as long as possible.
I’ll try to take more photos next time we go.  I forgot this time. :)
Thanks for coming by!