Journey Journal

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? 


A Rainy Day

December 1st, 2014 we moved out of our homestay and into our own apartment. Three months living in someone else’s living room…ya, we were excited to have some privacy and space to ourselves. Here’s my journal entry about shopping for our house on a CRAZY rainy day.



There were no pots and pans in our ‘furnished’ apartment. So it has been rough trying to get things like: food to eat…how do we eat without pans and a microwave?!  We have rounded up a few essentials since then, but it has been hard.  Its been raining all week and we have to take the kids with us where ever we go…Yesterday was a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE day!

We had to go the mall grocery store to get pans, broom, loaf bread, hand soap…(things like that). It was raining but we had to go, all of us. We shopped, not finishing our list because we ran out of room (we have to take two taxis because a taxi will only take 3 people).

We finish, put coats on. It is POURING rain. So we run out to the street to wave down a taxi, but none are stopping. Finally, one stops I bend down to get Bub out of the stroller (I’ll have two kids and 1 bag, and My Love will have all the rest). I grab Bub, turn to put him in and the taxi drives off!!


I have two babies in my arms and we are sopping wet.

Well, we wave at 3,4,5 more taxis with no success. We’re all drenched to the bone. I look at My Love and desperately ask, “What do we do?!?” We go back inside to wait for the rain to go down (we have 1hr 30mins till class).

A minute later a taxi pulls up so I run out with 2 babies and a bag. The guy tells me, “no, no” then lets these teenage guys in and drives off.

Again, we are standing in the rain, so I go back inside. We decide we’ll walk to the closest bus station (not that close). But a taxi pulls up and he lets me in with the kids.

After about a 10 min drive to our stop, we get out and wait…wait…wait for My Love to come. I get a call. He had three taxis pull up and leave without taking him (we have 1hr 10min-ish till class). He has to walk back to our house because no one will pick him up!!

So the kids and I walk another 10 mins down to our house. Bub did an amazing job holding mom’s hand until he tripped and face planted, totally soak all of him that wasn’t wet in mud. 🙁 So I am walking with Honey-Bear in the carrier, soaking Bub on one hip and a hug grocery bag and diaper bag in the other arm down a wet hill for 5 minutes.

I’m ready to cry! We get to our apartment; up 3 flights of stairs…My Love has the house key!

We are down to less than an hour till class, I have to feed Honey-Bear, and we are locked out of the house. So I knock on the neighbors’ door. She lets us in and feeds us lunch…what a blessing!!!

Fast-forward about 30-ish mins, My Love knocks on the door.  He is SO wet and muddy (a truck had slashed him while he was walking home). We say, “THANK YOU!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!” Run inside to change out of our ‘swimming suits’ and our babysitter isn’t here yet.

My Love is so mad (to say the least)! It’s 5 mins till class, we call and the boss had forgot to tell the babysitter to come today. So 15 mins later, she arrives. Another 10 min walk to class. We are late!

What a CRAZY rainy day!

Most of our life hasn’t been this dramatic, so don’t worry too much.  But it sure makes a heck of a story!

All for LOVE

Entry Date: 01/11/2015

This is my 5th baby shower to miss! My 3rd sister to never see pregnant!!

I never got to touch their bellies, talk to the baby in their tummies, or feel the baby kick.

I wouldn’t trade this life in Africa to go back, but I’m quite tempted to consider in moments like this.

I am so thankful for the friends & family that are around them because I’m not.  But I envy them so deeply!! Often my the hurts of missing these times turns into petty anger.

Why do they get to & I don’t? Do they realize how lucky they are? THEY BETTER!!!! (angry growl)

I’ve gotten to Skype into the baby showers, and meet my nieces through FaceTime.  But the worst feeling in the world … is when we hang up. Especially at a shower, because every body else keeps visiting and enjoying MY sisters, MY family & friends, and MY niece/nephew!!!  And as soon as I press ‘End’…my heart gets ripped back to reality, and I am no longer part of their world.

I wish Skype never existed!! I wish I couldn’t be teased by this…in-complete reality that I can’t fully be a part of.  I do love seeing pictures on Facebook and being able to stay connected and up-to-date with people.  But my heart would hurt WAY less if Skype never existed!

I’ll get to meet my nieces & nephew when they are 7 months, 6 months, and 2 months old. I am so excited!!!! And yet I HATE the reality of it!

Why do I have to miss so much?…Why do I love people so much? Why do I treasure relationships and get filled with love from them?

If only I didn’t care so much!  If only I hated my family–it would be easier, right?


Relationships are everything!!! They make the most beautiful stories.  They fill us with so much joy & cause us the most heart ache.

It’s all for LOVE!!


Count Your Blessings


Before we left for Africa, I read Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.” It was a gift from a friend, and a good book to remember to be thankful for everything. Through easy and hard seasons being thankful keeps your spirits up and keeps your attitude from becoming bitter, grumpy & all about-self.

About two weeks into our Homestay, I started my own thankful list. I only got to 18 before I forgot about it 🙂 ha. But it was a good thankfulness check for my heart to stay positive about the things I did have and not get down and negative about the things I didn’t have.
*I’ll explain some of them for you so you can understand it all.

Oct-Dec 2014

Counting Our Blessings

  • No prego nose! God’s perfect timing. (We were supposed to move to Africa when I was still pregnant with Honey-Bear, but the dates go pushed back. Thankfully we didn’t, because the new smells of sewage, dead animals, live animals, etc. were a bit overwhelming.)
  • “B-I-B-L-E” (Bub just learned that song and was going around singing it and singing it. He even taught our host family how to sing it—though they didn’t know English.)
  • Lillian’s smiles!
  • Our Lamb’s sacrifice—after watching cow video. (Our family slaughtered a cow as a part of a big holiday. Watching that cow die made me so thankful for our Lamb’s sacrifice.)
  • Peanut Butter!!
  • Eggs!! Thank God! (Bub was not eating well the first 3 weeks of our Homestay. One evening our Host mom made eggs and Bub gobbled them down! What relief! He started eating after that.)
  • $ leaving home (As we left our goodbye party, many people gave us money on our way out.)
  • A friend’s call on Friday 03/10/14 (We do DD/MM/YY in Africa).
  • Our babysitter—Mia! She’s GREAT!
  • Homestay chosen—3x. (After arriving, we learned our first Homestay was given to another family. The second wanted to charge us more money, so the company said no. Then we were placed with a third family, which work out so well.)
  • Internet Stick (they sell Internet on UBS sticks. We were given one. It was SO nice to be able to connect with family and friends back home.)
  • Pinterest to connect w/ friends & ideas for here, like holidays. (I’m always reminded of someone when I see something on Pinterest, so its nice to just sent it and share it with friends.)
  • Hair conditioner (No, I didn’t have any for a month or two. I almost cried when I used it the first time…being able to run my fingers through my hair without tangles. It enhanced the Bucked-Shower experiences immensely.)
  • Crap-less toots 🙂 (We all had about a 3-4 day stent of bad diarrhea…self explanatory.)
  • New friends! (We met an expat family down the street from us. CRAZY world…my dad and her dad were college roommates!! WHAT!?!?!?! Needless to say, we became good friends!)
  • A & L—friends from Ireland
  • Big cup of coffee. (In any café here, you ask for a big coffee and all they give you is a shot glass size with double the espresso. Over Thanksgiving My Love had his first REAL big cup of coffee.)

My Love's BIG coffee

  • Shower!! (Also over Thanksgiving, we traveled to Work City & got to shower in a real shower!!! Wow—talk about refreshment. We apologized if the water bill was high next month.)

It’s funny to me now to look back and laugh at the ‘simple blessings’ we had at the beginning. What joy it is to remember where we came from and the journey we’ve been on!  Let Bing Crosby remind you to, “Count your blessings instead of sheep.”


Loving How THEY Receive It

They say stress and finances are the reasons couples fight and grow apart. They also say that living as an expat is about five times the stress amount as living in your home culture.   So it has been a major priority of ours to take good care of our marriage living in Africa. We have felt the stress!! Sometimes we handle it well, and other times not so well. But we don’t give up striving to have a healthy and strong marriage!

This was my Journal entry this time last year after ‘throwing my cards in.”


My Love likes to relax a lot, which is good b/c I don’t rest well. And sometimes it seems like that’s all he wants to do! But…when he sets his mind to something, it’ll happen!
So this past week he made up a weekly schedule for us. He has started running, being very diligent in his studies and café time with is card buddies. I love seeing his “let’s get this done” RED side!! (for those who know Color Code) It speaks to my BLUE, “to do list” little heart.  And he’s made “us” time every night after kids go down, which I’m thankful for…seeing his effort speaks love to me!
He was also great in helping me get the extra rest I needed Tuesday and Wednesday when I was really sick.

My Love knew that my BLUE side needs structure and productivity to rest and relax. So by creating a schedule I could get a handle on life, de-stress and start enjoying. With all the stresses in living cross-culturally, we could grow apart or closer together. So it was key that we make “us” time a priority too.

My Love isn’t naturally a scheduler or organizer, but because he saw me struggling and knew what I needed, he stepped up. This is key, folks—SELFLESSNESS! My Love knew how I receive love and he gave it to me, even though it wasn’t natural for him; even though it wasn’t his way of receiving love.

My Love does like to relax and it is important for him to do so to de-stress and recharge. I love him is by not multi-tasking and playing cards with him, watching a movie, reading with him, speak words of encouragement, & bring him sunflower seeds. 🙂

Living in a place were it can be stressful just going to the grocery store and back, weighs and wears you down quick. As a married couple, we have to make priority: loving and refreshing one another. There is no one else around who can do that for us. We strive to give grace, apologize quickly, forgive even quicker, & speak encouragement and truth often.

If you are struggling with the stresses of life in your marriage, I would encourage you get with spouse to relax and enjoy each other!!  Selfless love breaks down many barriers and builds a solid foundations for a healthy life.  Whether you are in Africa or your home town, learn to de-stress and enjoy this beautiful life and the wonderful spouse you’ve been given!

I am so thankful for my husband!! Does anyone else have a story to brag about your husband’s selfless love for you?


Throwing My Cards In



But my emotions are on a very short fuse.  Like My Love and I were
playing cards just now, while the kids were crying to sleep; I
couldn’t get anything out and lost 3 times in a row…I threw my
cards down, sobbing “I can’t do this anymore!!”

It sounds so dumb, but I’m feeling a lot of emotional strain and…ya. Yes, I
‘knew’ this would be hard, but THIS IS HARD!!

We met some Americans over the weekend, but that didn’t work out like I had hoped–no big connecting. I was having a hard time not having good “normal-I know you” relationships.  Granted, we’d only been here two weeks, but it’s still hard.  We didn’t have Internet at the house so I couldn’t even talk with people back home.  My Love pointed out, of course this will be the harder part for me because I’m so relational and relationally driven.  And what made it even harder was that my relationships here (My Love & the kids) were strained too!!

Relationships, I found, are a lifeline for me.  I felt lonely, on top of all the stress I was feeling, with very limited relational outlets.  There was stress from Bub learning new skills of crying & whining for everything from the homestay kids (more on that later).  I was struggling with nursing Honey-Bear because of a yeast infections that turned into sores that got ripped open every three hours!  I thought about giving up nursing completely!  There was stress in not being able to talk freely with the locals I was around.  There was stress in me struggling and My Love doing great.  It was a blessing that he was doing fine and helping when my patience ran out, but at the same time it seemed to amplify my feeling of isolation in the struggle.

And consequently, holding it all inside…not so great (as you read in my journal quote).  So after I threw the cards on the table and cried, My Love, wisely, told me to go write in my journal.  As I wrote out my feelings, the weight on my shoulders seems to transfer to the paper.  I felt like I could breath deep again and I felt heard.

After thinking, I decided I needed to be proactive about relieving stress before it blew up again.  So I resolved to make journaling a priority and write at least once a week.  Secondly, I was going to pursue homestay relationships with the mom and oldest daughter, and another mom in our language class.  Though I couldn’t talk at all, I wouldn’t get better if I didn’t try, push myself and learn.  If nothing else, I hoped they would see the sincerity in my heart from trying.


Transition Stage—Entering Africa

This was my first journal in Africa entry:


We’ve been here for 3 full days (gone 4 days total). Goodbyes went well on Monday. It was sad, but good. I was ‘teared-out.”

-tired. We are starting to have friction between us!

The flights were smooth and went well, except the end of the transatlantic flight. Our newborn, Honey-Bear, slept and traveled splendidly the whole time! But Bub, our 1½ year old, did not sleep the entire 8+ hour over-night flight!!! And the last three hours, he cried and cried…and cried! He was ‘that kid’ on the airplane. We felt terrible, but people were great.  The flight attendants were great. We were relieved to get off that flight. And maybe five minutes afterwards, Bub feel asleep in the stroller waiting for the connecting flight—ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!  We were so happy, but kind of annoyed!



We flew into our Work city and stayed for a week to get adjusted from jet lag and time zone changes before jumping into full-time language classes. Transitions are key to starting with success in any field, but especially moving to Africa—there is a lot that we needed to transition from and into.

We had to mentally and emotionally ‘leave’ our home and loved ones behind us. Which was sad, but surprisingly quick in light of the excitement of the adventure we had started.  The newness of Africa spiked our energy, which soon led to an energy crash because we were so tired.

My Love and I were tired and emotionally stretched, so feelings got hurt easily. But after apologies and “What I meant to say was…”, we were quick to forgive.  We needed each other to get through that transition, so holding on to hurt feelings and being opponents wasn’t an option.

We stayed in a furnished apartment. That was nice for us to have alone/family time to process the change. It was also nice to not bother anyone while the babies cried and woke up for a couple hours in the nights.  Just like having a newborn, which we had, interrupted sleep is never easy. Thankfully, it only took the kids around four days before they were almost back to sleeping through the night. What a great night that was!

The next week our friends drove us down to our Lang City, and we walked straight into our language class orientation. After that, we met Mia, a national, who was going to be the kids’ babysitter while we were in class two hours a day. Later we got to meet the national family we would be living with the next three-months.

Transition, Part 1:  √


Leaving on a Jet Plane

Saying Farewell & Loading the Van

My alarm went off at 6:45am, but I was already awake. I got up and dressed in my pre-selected outfit. We got babies up and took bags to the van. I hardly touched my breakfast when I sat down to nurse our two-month old baby girl, Honey-Bear. Our oldest, Bub, was 21 months and searching the rooms to find where his toys had gone.

When we finished loading our four check-bags and three carry-ons, I jumped in our company car to make the final ‘drop off’ before we left for an 18-month term in Africa.

After the car was dropped off, driving away to our final friend/family send off…it hit me. I looked over to My Love and burst into tears. “This is real…we’re really going.” We drove on submerged in a deep silence of reality.

When we arrived at our send off, it was a strange mixture of happy, sad, excited, and nervous. To see everyone who came to send us off filled us with joy and love. Seeing all the tears filled us with grief, sadness and loss. Strangely, halfway around the ‘goodbye circle’ I ran out of tears. And as we closed the doors of the van and hit the highway towards the airport I felt the page in our lives turn to the next Chapter: Africa.

My life moto.