Anna in Africa

3 Days Instead Of 1

Returning Home

March 15, 2016 we arrived in Spain to spend a day in transition. Traveling now days is so immediate that it is hard for the human heart and mind to transition fully between Goodbye and Hello. So we took a day to spend in the “in-between.”

Leaving our apartment.

That was a good decision.   I cried a lot that day.  But the next day, we were refreshed and ready for a full day of travels.

The morning of the 16th, we got to the airport a bit early to fly out at 9am. When we checked it, we were told we didn’t have tickets! :O  We had reservations in their system but it looked like we had never purchased the actual tickets.

[Pre-Story: We were advised when we left the States in 2014 to buy round-trip tickets, then simply change the dates when we got closer to the time.  So we did that.

Little did we know that during the 18 months in Africa, the Airline’s policy on that issue changed and no longer allowed us to do that.]

So My Love borrows a guys phone and is on the phone for 4 HOURS trying to get our ticket situation fixed so we can leave.

**I’d like to add Baby Einstein only lasts so long with a 3 yr old and 1.5 yr old…for 4 hours! But they did so well considering…

Around 1pm they fixed it to where they would fly us to the States, then we would have to get new tickets from customs to our home town.

We boarded that afternoon, taking our first flight where we had to get a shuttle and stay overnight. The kids were so tired, as were we but we got into the hotel, ate dinner and slept.

March 17th, when we were supposed to be hugging family, we were boarding our International flight to the States. The kids did AMAZING on our 8 hour flight. Even 1.5 yr old Honey-Bear did phenomenal! I had made a time chart in 10 minute increments of activities to keep them busy.

Bub played games on the Seat TV screen almost the hole time and took at 2 hour nap.  Honey-Bear did great switching back and forth reading books, walking the isle, watching Baby Einstein, eating snacks, talking to the friendly man behind us, and actually taking a 2 hour nap! God is good!

When we landed in….it was SO BUSY! We waited in customs lines for an hour and a half!! Crazy.  It was also spring break, so that added a lot more traffic.

Never again will we willing travel on Spring Break!

After we cleared through customs, everyone had missed flights.  We stood in line at the Help Desk for another half hour resulting in us taking a 4:30am flight the next morning IF there ended up being spots for us. It was 10:30pm, we were hauling our 5 checks, 3 carry-ons, stroller and two kids.  We were spent!

All the bags we came home with.

We found our hotel and called family to tell them we are delayed, again. My Love went in search for dinner and found good American greasy food…which was regretful the next day but that was our only choice.

Early in the morning on March 18th we load up, waited in line for another half hour but finally got tickets!

That was great.  We loaded up, called family to tell them we were definitely coming and waiting for our flight.  On the flight we all fell asleep.

And then…we landed!!

As we got off our flight, we received a message that my mother-in-law and father-in-law were waiting for us.  There was a build up of anticipation in my heart of not knowing what emotions would come out. The kids were a bit droggy from their short nap.

As we came down the elevator and the doors opened, we saw them.  And it was a sweet moment of big hugs and happy tears. They brought some candies which helped the kids connect with them (food is the way to connect to Honey-Bear’s heart).

We were tired, but so full of joy to be with family.  That evening we arrived at my in-laws’ house and were greeted by both our families and all our siblings (minus my three out of state sisters). <3 WOW! Talk about full hearts!!

Honey-Bear crashed!

We retired to our house around 7pm to crash into bed because of our exhausting three days of travel instead of one.

One Month From Re-Entry: Mourning My Loss

We are five weeks out from re-entering back into the States. Next week we are traveling back to Lang City to start our goodbyes. And as I was thinking and processing through the people I wanted to talk to and exactly what say…and I started weeping, but not for the reason you would think.

And all I could think about were the people and life I would be leaving in America when we return full-time to Africa.

I thought about High School times and the people I poured my heart into at that time in my life. And wept because I wont ever get to live a lifetime along side them again.

I thought about our young-married friends and all the times and dreams we pursued together during and after college. And wept because upon our return to Africa, those dreams will officially die. How my heart longs to live a lifetime with them! We will still pursue the same goals with the same passions, just 1000s of miles in between us.

I thought about leaving America to make Africa “home” and wept.   How am I supposed to close the door to 24 years of life, to make a new life? How will my heart be able to handle closing the doors to SO MANY deep relationships, so I can open the doors for relationships in Africa? I don’t know how I’ll get through that—except with buckets of tears and honest, deep words expressed from my heart.

I thought about our families. And wept because our leaving will be hard for them. And I’ll have to live with missing more weddings, babies, graduations, and holidays.


At this stage of leaving Africa, I’m not too sad because I know I’m coming back and our return to Africa wont be for two or three more years, but my heart is already mourning the loss…because the loss will be great!!

This is a HARD call!!! But I am confident that The Prize is worth cost!! After my weeping slowed and I shared my thoughts with My Love, I was filled with peace.

And in that moment, I have never been more grateful for our “Blessed Assurance”! It eases my heart to know that even though I can’t live a lifetime with our dear friends and families, we WILL LIVE together FOREVER!!! That gives me peace and gusto to run this race with all I have to give to reach the finish line and celebrate with them in the after-race Party!!

Thursdays :-)

I love Thursdays!

Every other Thursday our house helper comes. She arrives around 9am and stays till 2 or 3pm. Those days are so fun with her! It is so nice to have company, like family. We chat, work together, cook together, and she plays with my kids. Growing up in a 6-kid family, I HATE being alone and love having someone in the house. On Thursdays, I get that ‘fix’ with her!

Each time, she cooks a national dish. Sometimes she has an idea; other times I have an idea. I make a grocery list and head to the market, leaving my kiddos with her for a nice 10-15 minute break. Coming back to the house, I like to help her prepare the meal. Looking over her shoulder–always learning.

She is so gracious to talk to me, patient to listen to my broken language, and natural to speed talk when she gets going. At the beginning the speed talk was hard, but the more I’m around her, the better my ears are at getting catching it all. So she’s become a teacher and ear-trainer for me. Now I understand 85% of her speed talk (with 10% lost in vocab I still haven’t learned).

She is someone I can share my heart with, because she’s walking a similar Narrow Road. She is always encouraging to me, and that challenges my heart–and vocab–to be the same back to her, speaking Truth and building words into her life.

And Thursdays are always nice to have a CLEAN house! She leaves no ‘stone unrolled’ so to speak. She’s amazing at what she does and it blesses our family, of two toddlers, SO MUCH!!

And her food is always good! My Love is often very happy on Thursdays too because he comes home to a cooked local meal and a clean house!! The only down side is that My Love can now expect these meals from me because I’ve learned them! hahaha I would be honored to attain her cooking skill set.

Thursdays are the best!! Food, company, conversation, laughter, clean house and happy hearts! God bless our house helper for the blessings she brings to our house and hearts!

Christmas in Barcelona

 

 

Oh, Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia
Playing at the park in front of the Sagrada Familia.

I love you. I love your parks in every neighborhood. I love your easy public transportation system. I love your bacon, ham and sausage. I love your Sangria (when I’m not pregnant or nursing). I love your diverse looking people. I love your beautiful mountains—love. I love your beautiful buildings and old history. I love your cathedrals. I love Primark. I love your trees that change colors. I love that I can speak English to most people. I love your familiar restaurants, your familiar foods, and your familiar feel to home. I love your Christmas lights and markets at Christmas time!

You have become a place of rest, a place of familiarity, a place like a second home.

At the Aquarium
At the Aquarium for an early Christmas gift.

My family can relax here, play here, shop and eat too much here. My family can see mountains and swim in the ocean all inside your city. My kids love to eat your hotdogs, play in your playgrounds, and practice saying, “Hola,” like Dora.

I have become very fond of you.

Family Christmas Photo
In front of a 3-story tall Christmas Tree!

Thank you for celebrating Christmas!! Your lights are magnificent, and fill me with Christmas cheer! Your Christmas markets are lovely and a sight to behold. See nativity scenes and things of the Savior born…*sigh*. Hearing “Jingle Bells” being played by a subway saxophone player warms my heart! Thank you, Barcelona.

You have blessed my heart with feelings unspeakable. I am grateful for you.

Thank you for blessing my family this Christmas. May God bless you with many more.

Products I Love: Stroller Edition

Out of all the products we would need living in Africa,  our stroller is the product I spent the most time searching for.  There are so many options out there–they don’t make it easy for you.  So, I am gonna show you how I picked the right stroller.

1. Choose Your Desired Features:

  1. Reclining Back
  2. Lightweight
  3. Moveable Sun Shade
  4. Easy Close
  5. Good wheels
  6. Etc.

Those were the main features I was wanting in our stroller, plus tall handle bars for my tall husband.  So those were the things I searched from.  First I searches ‘Lightweight strollers.’  Then from those, I looked for the ones that had most or all of my other desired features. I was pretty picky.

2. Do Your Homework:

  1. Look on the product website and read reviews.
  2. Google pictures to see if you like how it looks.
  3. If it’s in town, test drive it.

This is very important.  I cut several strollers from my lists because reviews showed flaws in the stroller, or that ‘the wheels we not that good.’  Tips like that are so nice to know ahead of time.  Google pictures are great to see how it really looks like in real life.  This helped narrow my list if it looked too big, too small, or too short. And always, test drive if you get the chance.

3. Shop Prices:

  1. Look on the product website.
  2. Craigslist
  3. Facebook ‘Give-N-Take’ Pages
  4. Amazon
  5. Etc.

I usually started my searching on Amazon.com.  Once I narrowed my top choices, I looked all around me to see if anyone was selling second hand.  Strollers can be quite expensive, so spending some time looking for a deal is a good way to save some money.  You never know what you may find around you!

4. Choose Your Desired Accessories:

  1. Rain Cover
  2. Organizer/Console (that fits your handle bars*)
  3. Airplane Bag
  4. Toys
  5. Car Seat Bar
  6. Etc.

Once you’ve picked your stroller, find which accessories you want. This is a great way to add more to basic strollers (which are often cheaper).  I only wanted a stroller organizer, but had to search carefully to find one that fit the handle bars correctly. This is the one I chose. I like it because goes on and off easily.  I use it as my diaper bag.  And there’s an inside zipper where I keep my wallet, hidden and safe, yet easy to access.

Pick wisely, you don’t have to buy tons of stuff for your stroller.  But if you’re moving, say to Seattle, you should think about buying a Rain Cover for your stroller.  Think through was you actually need and get it, at a good price.


So…do you want to see what I decided on?!

Inglesina Swift Stroller
Inglesina Swift Stroller

There she is–our Inglesina Swift Stroller in Navy.  And we LOVE her!!!!!!! The Inglesina is an Italian Stroller.

What do I love about her?

  1. She reclines in three positions.
  2. The Sun Shade moves  140 degrees and extends! There’s LOTS of sun in Africa and our kids are so grateful for the Sun Shade, too.
  3. The handles are tall enough for My Love.
  4. It is so simple to close and open.
  5. The wheels and break are so good.
  6. We have taken her to 5 different countries, countless airplanes, trains, taxis, buses, dirt roads, rock and brick roads. We have worked her HARD and she’s still doing great!!

**My only negative after 18 months of ^ that kind of hard work, is the fastener that keeps it shut is loose and doesn’t hold it as close together anymore.

At the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.
At the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

In fact, we didn’t realize how much we loved our stroller until it was stollen about three months ago.  🙁  It was sad!  We went through a mini-grieving period.  We got her before Honey-Bear was born.  She has been everywhere we’ve traveled, taken such good care of our kids…a part of our family!

In Marseilles, France at the Château D'eau.
In Marseilles, France at the Château D’eau.

Even looking online to buy another stroller, I couldn’t find any that I thought would do as good as our Swift. I couldn’t get myself to buy a replacement.  And thankfully, I didn’t because a week later we found her being sold at a local shop.  HA!  She still had the little stain from the cup spill and food crumbs stuck in the buckles. We were so excited to find her!  Sadly, we had to ‘re-buy’ it, but we got OUR stroller back!!!!

Honey-Bear sleeping all cozy.
Honey-Bear sleeping all cozy.

We LOVE LOVE LOVE our Inglesina Swift Stroller!!  And don’t ever want to loose her again. I would HIGHLY recommend this stroller or other Inglesina Strollers, if they have your desired features.

Happy shopping!!

Bub’s 3rd Birthday!!

Sunday, December 6th is Bub’s 3rd birthday!!

Bub as a newborn-2012
Bub as a newborn-2012

We are SO blessed by this boy!  He is so smart, funny, goofy, gentle, wild and boy!

This is Bub's 'stink eye'--2013
This is Bub’s ‘stink eye’–2013

He always has a song on his heart.  Most recently, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.  He always puts a smile on people’s faces when we’re walking outside and he’s SINGING his heart out!

Bub ready for Thanksgiving 2014.
Bub ready for Thanksgiving 2014.

He is an adventurer!  He’s lived in 4 places, been to 5 countries, and can speaks 2 languages…all in his first 3 years of life.  He loves Africa: the olives, dipping bread into every meal, his friends, riding in taxis, and going to school.  He makes friends fast.

Bub in Spain-2015
Bub in Spain-2015

He loves his Honey-Bear!  And loves to kiss Baby #3 in my tummy.

Being silly together-2015
Being silly together-2015

He is so smart!! He can count to 12 in two different languages. He can greet Africans and speak their language to them.  He knows his shapes, colors, and ABC’s.  He figures things out very fast.  And he is a great helper!

Bub trying out the Nutella gotee -2015.
Bub trying out the Nutella gotee -2015.

We love him SO much!!  Happy Birthday, Bub!!  God bless you with many more!

<3 Momma

Adding to the Family

We are excited to share with everyone that I AM PREGNANT!!!  We have baby #3 on the way!

Pregnancy Announcement

I saw an announcement like this on Pinterest years ago and have wanted to do it. The mom sets up a series of family pictures, then in the middle announces she is pregnant.  And you get to see the husbands response! So fun, and I finally got to!!

My Love was surprised and I was happy!

We haven’t been preventing, but waiting to see what would happen.  And something finally happened!  We are excited!  I’m feeling a bit less excited right now because my morning sickness has become all day sickness. 😛

But we are excited and thankful for this one’s perfect timing.  I should be finished being sick by the time we travel back to the states in March.  And then we’ll have four months of re-adjusting before baby arrives! 🙂  It really is perfect timing!! We are so thankful.

Not Home For Christmas — From: Nonna

My dear Mother-In-Law, Nonna, wrote from her perspective of missing us while the family in the states continues the celebrations of the holidays.  I love her open heart in sharing with us.  Enjoy the read.  Maybe grab a kleenex!


Not Home For Christmas From Nonna

 

1.5 years. 18 months. 78 weeks. 547 days. 13,128 hrs.

That’s the countdown I started with in Sept. of 2014, the amount of time that would pass before I could hold my kids and grand-babies again…ominous. 

We’ve missed Christmases, Birthdays, first words, first steps, first day of school for Bub and countless hugs and kisses, tears and giggles. Having our loved ones in another country is hard and during the holidays it’s especially hard. The season of joy can easily become the season to just “get thru” because you have to. Yes, we are “celebrating” and are happy to be with our other children and family members but there’s still something missing. A big part of our hearts are living in another country and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are here. They are there. It stinks! For us, being around our family table eating the Thanksgiving turkey or the Monaco Christmas spaghetti isn’t quite as sweet because four chairs are missing. Four of our favorite faces, smiles, laughs and hugs. How they interact with us, our son’s corny jokes and our Anna’s sweet presence. The way our Bub would love being the center of attention, and receiving Honey Bear’s sweet kisses. Skype/FaceTime is great but we can’t hug or kiss them, feel our grand-babies little arms around our necks or smell their sweet heads. And it’s not just Nonna and Papa (that’s me and my hub) who are hurting, our other kids have had to live this as well. Their best friends and sweet nephew and niece are missing from the family table and they miss them terribly!

All that being said we couldn’t be more proud of our kids. Tho we are here and they are over 4,500 miles away from us we have so much to be grateful for. They are happy and healthy, they are learning and sharing, the Grands get to experience things at the ages of 1 and 2 that we haven’t! They have eaten some strange foods, traveled on trains, planes and taxis, climbed mountains, played in the ocean and learned new languages. They have walked thru marketplaces full of color, smells and sounds that fill all of their senses and broaden their love of the world. We have watched our Grands grow not only in stature but in their love of people and adventure. They are fearless and brave about things that would scare most of us and not afraid of people that don’t look or live the way we do here in the U.S. It’s a gift that will forever be a part of who they are and who they will become.

Obviously it’s not perfect, we miss them every day. I love them more than life so I think about them constantly. We are going thru a time right now that Bub doesn’t want to say goodbye because it makes him sad so we put on a happy face, sing their song and say “See you later”. Then when the computer screen goes black and they can no longer see us we are sad and we cry. Friends don’t truly understand, no matter how hard they try, and you have people that tell you all the bad things when they hear where your kids are. But its do-able. We have learned to be grateful for Skype, FaceTime, texting and even Facebook to share photos and news. We talk when we can and lift them up knowing they are in our Father’s hands. We can easily get lost in the sadness and heartbreak, and I have been there, I have grieved. Thankfully we are on the down side of their time in Africa and I can’t wait for them to come home!! We are having Christmas (again) when they come back to the states and I am so excited! No, it won’t be Dec. 25 but it will be all of us together, celebrating. Not only do we celebrate the glory of His birth, but we celebrate the joy of family and being together. And isn’t that what makes this life beautiful? 

-Nonna

Tay’s Bacon Wrapped Chicken

My sister-in-law makes these drooling Bacon Wrapped Chicken strips.  For our Family Fall Extravaganza, I wanted to make these as part of our family’s new Fall Traditions.  Here is her recipe below:

Tay’s Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Ingredients:

Garlic powder
Chili powder
Salt
Pepper
Chicken–cut into strips
Bacon
Brown sugar
**All amounts depend on how much you want to make.

Instructions:

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into strips.
  2. Season the chicken strips by sprinkling salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder on both sides of the chicken strips.
  3.  Take a strip of bacon and wrap it around the chicken strip, use more than one strip of bacon if necessary. Try and cover the chicken completely with the strips of bacon.
  4. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken wrapped in bacon with brown sugar. The more you add the sweeter the chicken will be.
  5. You can now choose two options. You can either put it in a 9×13 pan, cover it with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (time may vary); or put some foil on a grill and grill the chicken.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

This is how ours turned out when we did our Fall Extravaganza!  I cut my chicken into thumb size  (**Maybe could do with Turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving?!) You should try these out and let me know what you think. 🙂

Laundry: My Therapy

I just found this picture when I was scrolling through old pictures with the kids.  We do that sometimes to remember and try to solidify those times into the kids’ memories.  Anyways, this is me doing laundry at our Homestay. 🙂

Laundry on the roof

Yes,  I am using a plastic bag to take the clothes down.  hahaha! I laugh when I look at this picture because I remember what it was like to live with so less. We didn’t own a laundry basket.  We didn’t own clothes pins.  I had to share the washer, line and clothes pin with our Homestay family.

We got to do a load of laundry about every other week.  If Honey-Bear had a blow out or spit up, I washed those by hand.  If our clothes had anything extra than normal dirt, I had to wash it by hand because our Homestay mom was very picky about her washing machine.

A couple times I took laundry to a friends’ house while we visited and did it there.  That friend wasn’t picky about her washing machine.

Though washing by hand was hard, I came to enjoy it.  It meant time away from the kids.  It meant quiet time.  It meant working hard with my hands, which was a good release on the days I was so frustrated with language and culture.  It also meant that I knew my clothes and stains were cleaned out. Washing by hand became good therapy for me!

Now, we have a wash machine we share with our apartment building and a normal tall, white laundry basket we’re given.  And I still hang clothes on the line and take my time, enjoying the beautiful creations around me!