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Journey Journal

Enjoying Today

We have started the process of going back to Africa next year, 2018.  And I’m excited about it! My heart has shifted to long to be back in that ‘home,’ in that culture, and with those people.  Even our Littles seem to be shifting: Bub keeps trying to speak that language, and asking, “When are we going back?” Honey-Bear is back to playing ‘airplane,’ flying from Africa (the foyer) to American (the couch) and even to Chine (the kitchen).

But today I am grateful for here and now.

I am grateful for my Littles and the sweet, fun, even challenging stages they are at.

Honey-Bear, 2.5
Bub, 4, and Little Brother, 7 months.

I am grateful for the big back yard where my kids can run around, ‘fly’ on the swings, and shovel dirt–even it if turns our back bath into a mud pit.

I am grateful for our believing community; hearing the story of a new friend, going to the park with a sister and grandpa, and having a play date with an old friend.

Yes, the double swing was Grandpa’s idea haha

I am grateful for the friends who come to play with my kids when My Love is gone, so I can have time to myself, and then they crash for nap and I have more time! 🙂

Playing “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”

I am grateful for our Small Group that meets every week to love each other, share life, enter my home, eat my food, and pray together!

I am grateful for a husband who sent me flowers this morning:

Yes…it was a text message! ;P

My heart is preparing to go back to Africa and re-make that my home.  But for today I am enjoying what my Father has given me, and I am calling myself blessed!!

Lost..

20/12/2016

Today, my heart it lost.

I’m cleaning off baby puke, finally alone as all three Little are napping.  As I listen to my “Thinking Playlist,” I am overwhelmed with memories and emotions I have tied to these songs.  Many of the memories that come to me are from our time in Africa, when I was missing home.

But today, I am adding memories to those songs.

Today, I feel lost in my own culture.  Alone in my own community.  Missing the foreign and being frightened of the familiar.

How did this all change?  What has change in me that didn’t change here?

“Life and Death” by Paul Cardall is playing and I’m weeping.  At this moment I feel life and death.  Life from a fullness of adventure I’ve experienced and Death from being apart from that world.  I feel Life from being in my home culture and all that is familiar to me, but Death because the familiar is no longer…me.

I have an new worldview, a different perspective on life, Following Him, hospitality, friendship, sacrifice, selflessness.  And I stand frightened of the familiar because it doesn’t share those views, that perspective.

This familiar now seems foreign.

Little Brother: Born July 07, 2016

Wednesday, July 6th was Honey-Bear’s 2nd birthday. I had my 38 week check up and the midwife stripped my membranes.  She told me, “If it works you’ll have the baby within 24 hours.” And I thought, Oh no! It’s Honey Bear’s birthday!

First high-heels!
First high-heels!

We had a “Dora” party at Nonna and Papa’s house.  During the day, while cooking, I  felt things moving around.  And as the party started at 6pm, I sat on the couch with my legs crossed because I knew my body was getting ready and had to wait 6 hours before he could be born on a different day.

We left Bub and Honey-Bear at my in-laws’ for the night and went home because I was quite sure baby was coming tonight.  I slept about two hours and at midnight I woke up and couldn’t sleep.  I felt labor coming.  I had three contractions 10 mins apart, so I woke up My Love and told him, “It’s time.”

Thursday, July 07, 2016 we checked in to the hospital around 1:30am. The nurse didn’t think I was in labor–coming in with lite contractions only 10 mins apart. But she admitted me and quickly got things ready after talking to the midwife! 🙂 (Honey-Bear was born at home because she came within an hour of my contractions starting! Surprise!)

Around 5:15am, I was in hard labor.  And after a couple pushes, Little Brother was born at 5:58am.  I was so thankful to have him naturally, no epidural! He came out crying; I held him right away and My Love cut the cord.  He measured 6lbs 6.6oz and was 19.5 inches long.

Little Brother #1
He’s here!

I held him after measurements and he latched right on–trying to eat!  When My Love was holding him, the nurse thought his grunting noises didn’t sound right. When we transferred rooms, they took him into the nursery and I didn’t see him for another 2 or 3 hours.  The doctor wanted to run some tests to see what was causing the strange breathing.

Bub and Honey-Bear came with family and saw him through the nursery windows.  They were so excited!  Bub kept saying, “He popped out!”

.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Wheres-the-baby-300x292.jpeg" alt="Bub was looking for Little Brother." width="300" height="292" srcset="http://lifewithoutamicrowave.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Wheres-the-baby-300x292.jpeg 300w, http://lifewithoutamicrowave.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Wheres-the-baby-768x748.jpeg 768w, http://lifewithoutamicrowave.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Wheres-the-baby-1024x997.jpeg 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Bub looking for Little Brother.

Around 9:30am, a doctor came in and told us she wanted to take him to the NICU for x-rays and other testing because his breathing was getting worse.  She said, “We’ll bring him by to see you before he goes back.” And immediately they wheeled him into the room plugged into all these cords. They picked him up for me to kiss and left!!

I bursted into tears–it was a dramatic entrance and too quick of an exit.  A friend was there and she came over and prayed with me! We were thankful that we made it to the hospital and that we weren’t still in Africa.  Later we were told by the doctor that Little Brother was admitted into the NICU and would be there for a minimum of four days.  I cried some more.

At 1:30pm we got to see him in the NICU.  It was a bit scary to see him with so many cords attached.  But once they explained what the cords were for, I was so thankful for them!

First visit in the NICU
Daddy with Little Brother.

He had Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). He did not have enough surfactant, which keeps the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.  So he was over working himself to keep breathing!  The doctors put an oxygen tube in him to give him a break and gave him medicine to produce more surfactant in his lungs. By 4 or 5pm they took the tube out and put him back on nasal oxygen.

Family and friends were able to come see him in the NICU that afternoon and evening.  I went in to see him at 9pm and got to hold him! The nurse was so sweet and let me hold him for an hour!!  And his breathing was the most consistent it had been all day. <3 My heard was filled with love and mommy pride!

All Friday, we were just watching and waiting for Little Brother to improve.  The kids came by to visit and Bub was so upset he wasn’t allowed to see/hold his brother  yet.  He cried and cried, sweet boy!

Daddy holding him for the first time!
Daddy holding him for the first time in the NICU.

Saturday, I got to nurse him for the first time! Before, they had fed him through a feeding tube.  In the afternoon, they took out his nasal oxygen.  They also turned off the heating lamp above him to see if he could maintain his body heat. I was discharged Saturday, so the next two nights I stayed at a friend’s house close to the hospital so I could drive in and feed Little Brother every three hours. Bub and Honey-Bear got to ‘meet’ him for the first time, through the NICU window.

Our first family-of-5 picture!
Our first family-of-5 picture!

Sunday morning, he failed at maintaining his body temperature so he went back under the heat lamp.  He also became jaundice, so he spent the next 24 hours under a UV light.  And we were only allowed to hold him twice that day.

Monday, his jaundice levels were down.  His feeding tube was taken out and his IV was ready to come out! After the doctor’s rounds, he said they would keep him for observations just to make sure he’s healthy, then he could go home Tuesday around 1pm.

Little Brother
A little smile!

Monday night, I got to ‘room in’ in the NICU with Little Brother.  It’s basically a mock night at home.  He was totally unplugged and in my room.  And the doctors are there just in case I or he needed anything–so great! He did fabulous and cried just to be held! I think he was surprised to find mom was there to get him when he cried!

Our first night TOGETHER!
Our first night TOGETHER!

Tuesday morning, the nurses had a couple tests to run. An hour long carseat test was done because he had respiratory issues.  He passed all of them.  Around 1:15pm, the doctor came in for one more evaluation and said, “Sign your release papers and you are free to go home!!”  So we did!  My Love had brought the kids to pick us up so they could meet him for the first time!  It was such a SWEET moment when they got to see and touch him!

Bud holding him for the first time!
Bud holding him back at home!
Honey-Bear holding him!
Honey-Bear holding him!
Kids made a "Welcome Home" cake with an aunt!
Kids made a “Welcome Home” cake with an aunt!

 

 

 

We are so thankful for all the prayers offered up on Little Brother’s behalf and for our family!! God is good!  As I finish this blog post, he is already a month old and healthy as can be.  At his 2 week check up, he was 7lbs 1oz! We joke that he might have medically enhances lungs because…man, that boy can CRY! 🙂  We love his SO much! Can you tell–all these pictures?! haha

1 Month Old
1 Month Old

My first E-Book!!!

Hello all!!!

Sorry I’ve been gone for a while–baby #3 came July 7, 2016–Little Brother!! I’ll write about his arrival in my next post.

Little Brother

But now–I want to share with you all that I’ve written my first E-book!! Wahoo!  🙂

It is a small accomplishment, actually.

I’ve been working on several free-lance writing projects this past year and this is the first I’ve gotten online and will be available at Amazon.com.

Dinners To Go

In short, it is an at-home, carry-out business plan for stay-at-home moms.

“The business IDEA is to cook, from your home, oven-ready meals that you sell for “Dinners To Go” in the evening. Cooking in bulk can be simple and easy. And as a plus, you would have dinner ready for your family too. You can make bulk meals after lunch and be finished before kids get home from school (or while they are napping, if you have Littles). Then you would have the full evening to do homework (or play) with your kids, only to be interrupted to hand out a meal and get paid—goal accomplished!”

It will be available to order August 13.


If you know any one who would be interested in this business idea, pass it on!  It is out there to help and bless families!!

Love you all,

Anna

Saying Goodbye: A Process

This past January 1, 2016, I started our 90-day count down in leaving Africa to return to the States.  I’m not much of a last-minute-person and I like to avoid as much stress as possible.  So I started my 90-day count down of what I would pack and when; when I needed to make certain arrangements in the States; and when I would start saying goodbye to whom.

We have been through a lot of cross-cultural trainings and one phrase I’ve heard over and over is,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”

And I wanted to do BOTH well, so I put a lot of deep thought into how we could “leave well.”  I thought about our family’s needs: My Love’s need for a low-stress environment; my need for deep relationship-connectedness; and our kids’ needs for expressing their emotions during transition.

After evaluating those needs I decided (1) I would slowing start downsizing our possessions, but not start packing essentials till the very end as to keep our environment low-stress for My Love. (2) I would make sure that as we downsized, our kids would be a part of deciding what toys to get rid of each week and where they would go. (3) We would intentionally spend weekly times with friends and then keep our last two weeks free to be with our best friends.

A couple practical ways we practiced “leaving well” were by giving things away, last meals, and writing letters.

Giving things Away–

So…it is amazing what you collect over a year of life even with a minimalist mentality.  And it is amazing what wont fit into just 5 check bags and 2 carry ons.  We had a lot of possessions to go through: clothes we brought in the beginning that we never worn or didn’t fit anymore; replacement clothes; kitchen items; toys; random electronics; and ‘office supply’ types of things.  So I divided my apartment into categories, and week by week went through that ‘area of the apartment’ to downsize–keeping all essentials till the last week.

I had a basket in our bedroom I would toss ‘give away’ items in, then once it was full I would give to a friend.  (The community aspect of African culture is amazing.  And what they didn’t use from me, they passed on to the next person till it all found a home.)

With our kids’ possessions, week by week I would ask them what toys they wanted to give away or were all done playing with.  Some weeks it would be two toys, others it would be 10 toys–it was their decision.  I wanted them to practice making the choices to downsize to experience the feelings in leaving, and to help them realize the reality of,  “We are leaving Africa.”

The second step we took with our kids was prompting them to give their toys aways to their friends and people of choice.  This also helped them ‘leave’ and created for them relational connections.  So Bub chose specific toys to give to specific friends.  He gave his TiLung leopard to Z to ‘take care of for him’ while he was in America. This was a special toy to Bub, but for some reason he didn’t want to take it to America so we gave it to an older girl friend to ‘take care of’ while we are gone.

He gave his Noah’s Ark boat and animal set to his class on his last day of school.  He did it so they could remember him when they played with it.  🙂  It amazed this momma’s heart how thought full and deep children’s hearts can be at such a young age–Bub is 3!  Though he struggled with saying the word, “goodbye,” this helped him.  His friends were happy with the new toys, so goodbye wasn’t a sad thing any more. Honey-Bear was great at speaking goodbyes and did her own give aways with a bit more direction from us.

Last Meals–

Having family meals is such an important part of African culture: a great to way to love, respect, and honor to the people you eat with.  We came to love meal times with other families and value them! So tried to have last meals with our closest friends and their families.

Of course, our friends wanted to host and give us their best recipes, so we enjoyed ourselves.  The honor they showed us was humbling.  The conversations we shared we so rich and meaningful.  These times were so precious and moments I hold dear in my heart.  And after 5-10 minutes of hugs, tears and goodbyes, we walked away sad but with a feeling of wholeness.  I found myself thinking, “If leaving people we’ve known for less than a year is this hard…we did something right!”

And though leaving them was hard and heart-breaking, the wholeness feeling we felt was from saying goodbye really well.  And each time after leaving their homes, we felt our hearts emotionally closing that door behind us, which made us ready to open the doors that were before us in arriving.

Writing Letters–

Writing letters is a practice I used when we left the States in 2014.  I’m a letter girl! I love to receive a letter that I can read over and over again–it helps the love ‘last’ longer–and it is deeply personal and intimate.  I’m also not a quick thinker and usually I leave a conversations and remember 10 minutes later, “Oh, that’s what I wanted to say.”  So…I again decided to write letters to my Africa friends I was leaving to say my goodbyes.

Through my letters, I was able to pour out my heart and say all the things I wanted to say.  I asked my language teacher to help me in this process.  So I ended up writing my letters in English, then she would re-write them in the national language.  With her help (because there are still many things I couldn’t say in their language), I was able to express my heart 100% to my friends. And my heart felt closure from that.

Since then, each friend I wrote to has messaged me saying how personally touched they were by my words.  And though I wasn’t looking for responses, it was an even deeper, more whole feeling to know they understood my heart, it blessed their hearts, and it made our relationships deeper.

So if you haven’t heard it yet, let me say it again,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”

 

Our Last Day in Africa

Our last day in Africa, we weren’t leaving our apartment till 11/11:30am that Monday in March.  We woke early–I with not much sleep–ate, washed dishes, re-weighed bags, and saw a couple more friends for our final goodbyes.

Last Day in Africa
Right before leaving our apartment.

Our transport came and we loaded bags into the car.  My Love walked through the apartment making a video of it for memories. 🙂 Then we said goodbye to our house helper, and began walking down the three flights of stairs. And that’s when it hit for Honey-Bear.  Saying goodbye to a most familiar face (our house helper) and to a most familiar place (the apartment she learned to walk in, talk in, had her first birthday in) she began throwing a fit, saying, “No, no, no,” very aggressively. I had to pick her up and carry her down the rest of the flights as she was shouting, “No, no, no!”

As we drove out of our beloved Work City, we asked the driver to pass by some of our favorite spots so we (mostly the kids) could wave a final goodbye.  We passed the walking pier and said goodbye.  We waved goodbye at the distant mountains fully in view.  We passed the slides where we most frequently walked to play.  And that’s when in hit for Bub.  He bursted into tears crying, “My slides! My slides!  No, no goodbye! I want my slides!”  And that’s when in hit for me.  Not only was I saying goodbye to this new place; my children were having to say goodbye to their home!!

Work City…Africa…had become their home.  Honey-Bear was two months old when we came.  Bub was 20 months old.  And here they were at 21 months and 3 years saying goodbye to what they now knew as home–Africa!  My heart broke for their loss.  And I wondered, “What am I doing taking my kids away from their home?”

After that initial leaving day, we spent two days in Spain before making the final fights home.  We were exhausted from goodbyes!  Our emotional tanks were pretty empty, and the rest of…honestly doing a whole lot of nothing was refilling.  We spent some time with friends, time at parks, and time eating good food. It was a transitional time to leave Africa behind and starting thinking towards what was coming the next couple days.  As Wednesday came around, we felt ready to leave the transition spot in Spain and return…home?

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.

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