Moving Overseas is Making Me a Better Mom


The tears started as soon as I took the cart away to try and turn it around. My independent girl wanted to do it herself and any interference, especially on this day, meant full on meltdown. Her defiant voice echoed through our tiny market.

We figured it out and started moving again. Peace restored. The meltdown ceased almost as quickly as it started and we went about our day to grab those eggs and that milk that we set out to get in the first place. As I looked up after a conversation with my girl, I met several eyes. They were taking in the site of an english speaking mom and her girl. I bet it was hard not to watch.  But a surprising thing happened in the seconds that followed. I smiled back at those faces.

As we walked up and down our 7 isles of our little market, I noticed my heart rate hadn't spike when my girl revolted. I didn't feel the need to hurry up and get out of that store stat. We took our time, and off to home we went. We ate a chocolate egg on our way. Grace won out.

I'm not sure when my heart started changing. Lord knows that those first months of moving here meant me having as tight of a grip on anything possible, including the behavior of my child. While we're still all about training our toddler, and we don't negotiate with two-year old terrorists, my heart seems to default on the soft side recently. This is a miracle in and of itself.

When we first moved here, we left comfort and resources and landed in an empty apartment smack dab in the middle of a culture we didn't recognize and a language we couldn't speak. While we have a great gift of nearly everyone here having the capability of speaking english, that's not the official language here, and it's only by grace that natives answer our questions as we fumble through.

When Eowyn entered into full-fledge toddlerhood, it coincided perfectly with us landing here in Finland. It also went hand in hand with that positive pregnancy test and my love-hate relationship of 4 months with our couch and toilet. Google became my mom-group and while I kept asking various questions, I kept getting not-so-satisfying answers. As the saying goes "google doesn't have kids."

It got to be too overwhelming to try and sift through a million responses of how to respond to x, y, and z and I became increasingly aware that the quick-fix mentality that can work so well in newbornhood does not-will not-fly when working with a little heart. My girl's character is forming right before my eyes and no babycenter forum address that.

As almost every toddler mom concludes a million times over, maybe toddlerhood is more refining for me than it is for her. My heart and its selfishness and all its fears came right out on the table as soon as our days were tallied by a power of wills. Being overseas only exacerbated those fears and selfish desires "I don't want to fail this girl. I don't want her to turn out poorly....unlovable. I want her to behave. When she doesn't, it looks like I'm a bad mom. and this is kind of my only she's responding poorly, what does that say about me?"

 and there it was. my biggest heart issue.

I think all of us want our kids to be awesome. When it comes down to it, if we're honest, we don't care so much about them being the smartest, or best in any category, we just want them to be lovable, respectable, agreeable. We want our kids to 'succeed' however we define it. Perhaps for some that does mean being the best. For me, that meant being well-liked. I just wanted for people to think that this american chick was actually pretty awesome at raising a well-mannered kid. I wanted Eowyn to enjoy people liking her and not to feel the rejection that I had felt throughout my childhood as I fumbled through social relationships and failures. I want her to be approved of.

And uh toddler tantrums? Not so well-mannered. Definitely not approved. Her first steps into the social world based on those standards aren't very graceful.

And so I think I convinced myself a bit too early that we better reign in that toddler business in before she got to be unlikable.

Perhaps that's really where the work in my heart began. Maybe it's not moving overseas entirely, but the sudden harsh reality of feeling like we were always being observed. Being foreign made me want to conform. And the more I pushed for what I thought that meant, the more my sin came out.

'cuz while I believe the gospel is big enough for sins, a lot of times I worry it isn't big enough for personality. And what if E doesn't have a personality that people like? I've bought into a lie that 'lovable' by world standards is worth conforming to. Never mind that every culture it changes.  Never mind that trying to be liked by strangers is the absolute worse thing to try and live your life for.
Never mind that this way of parenting spits in the face of the gospel and the reality that we're all unlovable, all unable to earn his love, all a product of grace.

So, several weeks in God kept etching away at this reality.  you care more about peoples opinion than your girl's heart. Than my heart. 

I know too well how easy it is to lose a heart in the sea of performance. I know too well how long it can take to sort through who God is when all he feels like is a list of to-do's.

So one day, I bravely put down the google machine and turned off the 'stranger-pleaser' in my heart. I told Ben that it's okay if people don't think I'm a good mom, and it was probably a good time to start going to the expert regarding Eowyn.

So to sum up this whole blog post: moving overseas made me pray a whole lot more and care about things a whole lot less.

My heart change followed suit.

So, we're changing. Momhood these days looks a lot like training and being consistent, but having conversations that take time and praying through what the heck I'm doing. It's looking at my girl and seeing how often she glances just to make sure I'm paying attention. It's making room to just sit, when so often she wants me to just be with her. I'm learning that this is enough. It's agreeing with people when they compliment my girl, rather than the too often "Well, you should see her on her bad days..." comments (because, goodness that's such a jerk move. Why did I ever even do that? If Ben responded that way when people complimented me, I'd wither.) It's showing her that even when she's showing her full range of emotions, that doesn't change the fact that she's lovable. That she's forever loved. That she can't earn or lose it.

It's me asking her how she's feeling when she's feeling emotional, rather than telling her it's not a big deal. And apologizing when I'm doing a poor job of treating her kindly. Momhood right now is me learning grace for both of us and letting our days be more than good behavior/bad behavior and seeing this season as God building character in both of us.

And with all this I see a change in our hearts.

As time progresses, I hope we maintain this culture. This culture where she knows she can ask for time and it be given. Where she can feel all the feels and she can learn how to process those in a safe place. I hope her childhood is marked by the reality that regardless of where we move, and how people expect her to act, she knows that her position in her parents eyes is constant. She's loved in all her glory. She'd doing a fine job at being her joyful created self.

And when I get overwhelmed and concerned she 'may not turn out alright' I just keep reminding myself that her story is still being written.

When she's a preteen and her heart seems so far away and I can't figure out what to say next, I'm going to remember her story is still being written.

And when she's a teenager and is spitting out words that make my heart bleed and I can't figure out where this is coming from, I'm going to remember, her story is still being written.

When she's an adult and all those hours upon hours of training don't seem to result in the choices I would hope for her, I'm going to remember her story is still being written.

Because that's how the gospel lives and breaths. It's not just me teaching her how to behalf just so, and her following all the rules. It's showing her that time and time again-because of the grace I've been given to walk in freedom-in Jesus I can invite her to that freedom. Her position in my heart is secure. She's lovable and lavishly loved.

And our story is still being written.

"He makes all things beautiful in its time."

Another Day in Tallinn :: Christmas Market


Ben's company decided to host the Christmas party this year in Tallinn, Estonia. That meant this past weekend we got to ride the boat again and spend some time in Old Town. We stayed at a hotel that had a pool (much to the delight of our little girl) and Ben and I got a date out of the deal.

We rode in on a Friday, had the Christmas party that evening (I got to even re-wear a dress I had bought with Eowyn's pregnancy, so that was pretty great) and got to spend the full next day out and about. It ended up being quite the long day, and we had a very sleepy little girl, but we still had a good time checking out Tallinn's Christmas market (complete with reindeer!), and this super cute, super delicious cafe close by called Caffeine. Ben said it actually had the best mocha he's had in ages. Eowyn was a fan of the hot chocolate, but no surprise there.

I think the sweetest part of the trip was seeing our girl bond with one of the other girls her age. They've slowly become best buds and she had a blast playing with her the whole boat ride there as well as several hours throughout the two day trip. It's fun to begin to see Eowyn have friends of her own, who she requests by name.

Oh, also the hotel had a restaurant that had macaroons, so my life was made.

I got to say Tallinn, you've won us over.

To see the first time we visited Estonia, click here.

Christmas has arrived! :: Sprague Traditions


We're just 9 days shy from Jesus' Birthday party and we're getting pretty excited! Ben's parents come on Sunday night, and we're finalizing all the details!

I love getting set up for Christmas. We've been set up for a few weeks, and here's a few blips of our Christmas decor. While it isn't much (and what's shown isn't all of it,) it's kind of nice to have a minimalist Christmas. I think it's pretty consistent with it's origin.

The Spragues have pretty common traditions when it comes to Christmas. A few of ours include pj's on Christmas eve, a birthday cake/desert for Jesus (candles included), and limiting our presents within the family to three gifts (want, need, surprise.) The gift idea is from the three wise men (while we all know that there's no real proof there were only three, it's a good cap regardless) and the gifts they brought to Jesus. We like the three gift limit since I think it helps my heart fight off consumerism, and when Eowyn gets older, she'll grow to be content with less. Plus it takes the pressure off to get ALL THE THINGS. While we don't limit what others get her (Grandparents get to do what they want) it's nice when it comes down to the three (soon to be four!) of us.

While having Eowyn last year was especially sweet with it being her first Christmas and all, I'm super excited for this year. I'm excited to see her open gifts, and help blow out Jesus' Birthday candles (we don't put the proper number of candles on the cake...because then all the oxygen would be gone out of the room.)

I think the best part for all of us will be having family to share it with. Eowyn keeps asking when Grandma and Grandpa will be here, so we're now counting down 'sleeps' till they arrive.

There's a lot of talk of Finland's "Christmas Peace" around here. In other words, literally everything is shut down and quiet for Christmas. Things start closing up even before Christmas Eve, so it'll be a good practice in resting and enjoying the day. I'll just be sure to buy a fair amount of milk so we don't run out.

In addition to the classic setting up the tree and the like, it's been fun to reach an age with Eowyn when she can do fun crafts and decorate cookies. We had a cooking baking day with a few friends and one of the gals was kind enough to let Eowyn even use the mixer when making cookies. Eowyn instantly had a favorite person. We had to leave the baking day early for naptime, and the gals were kind enough to leave us with supplies to decorate our own little gingerbread man for afterwards.

Eowyn mostly enjoyed eating the sprinkles.

Side story: The cookie baking day landed on the day before I got to take a gestational diabetes test. I thus, got to limit eating any sugars before finding out results. Here in Finland, if you pass the test with your first pregnancy, you don't have to take it again with any subsequent pregnancies. This is especially nice because they skip the one hour test and go straight to the long test. I think American babies are bigger, because while I'm measuring right in line with my weeks according to the stateside standards, Finnish women are apparently always under weeks for fundal height. So, I had an ultrasound to make sure baby was looking fine. Baby boy looked bigger than what they're used to (Thanks to Ben and his jumbo size.) Which in turn meant we got to go to the lab for the long test bright and early in the morning (bleh.) Eowyn was a champ for those several hours and as suspected, I don't have GD (Praise Jesus.) So those cookies no longer need to stare me down every day. :P Of course, I'm not going to be stuffing my face. The reality is I do get to dictate a bit on how big he'll be based on what I eat, and he's predicted at 40 weeks to be around 10 we have an early birth or send me your birth stories how you awesomely pushed out a jumbo baby. :) Shout out to Ben though, he was ready to swear off treats until I could enjoy them with him. Talk about an A-class husband.

Eowyn, of course, was perfectly content with handling the cookie situation herself.

Back to Christmas Traditions. For the first year ever, we started an advent activity of reading the storybook bible (there's even print offs if you want to hang up pictures!) with Eowyn before bedtime. While this mostly looks like Ben and I sitting and reading together with Eowyn running over sporadically to look at the pictures, it's become a special tradition. Ben and I often tear up over the stories. The writers of the Jesus Story Book Bible did an awesome job with it. Essentially, every story ties in with the eventual coming of Christ. So, reading it in preparation for Christmas has been especially sweet.

Something about this year seems less rushed, and more beautiful. Maybe it's being hit with colds and having to take it easy in the weeks leading up, and maybe it's the grace we've had at sending out mail late (family, you'll get newsletters a week or so after Christmas. ) Regardless, it's left time to actually think about Jesus coming. Being pregnant with my own little guy makes advent-the season of waiting- seem to have even more meaning. While I'm birthing no savior, the anticipation of his arrival gives me a glimpse to what Mary might have felt waiting.

All that to say, I'm excited for the party.

A Letter To Our Biggest Little


Hey baby girl,

Last night I was talking with your dad about your baby bro coming on the scene. Among all the logistics, there was a point when the conversation turned to you, asleep in the other room, and how it's just been you and me and daddy for what seems like forever. 

I suddenly was swept up in the the reality that our time as just us three is coming to an end. There's now this finite time and space between us as a party of three and us as a party of four.

I can list a million reasons why I'm excited for this. First off, having a live-in friend is the bees-knees. Plus, with your natural little leadership heart, your compassion and insistence to include everyone, I have no doubt that your brother and you will become the kind of friends I pray for. 

 Second, there's just something about sharing life with you little people that's so great it's worth repeating.

But there's some hard stuff that comes with welcoming in someone new. We're about to have a whole lot of change, my love. There's going to be a few months when the frustrations are pretty great and adjusting to the newness of a baby that cries and a mom that isn't instantly available will probably be hard sometimes. I also know babies aren't the greatest playmates right out of utero (that's a fancy term for momma's belly.) So all this talk of the awesome friend you'll have may seem like we're tricking you. Babies are kind of blobs for a while.

But then, the day will come when you do something funny and he gets it. You guys will start making each other laugh and it'll be that way forever more. There'll come a point when you can invite him to play, and he'll actually play along the way you were hoping he would. Someday you two will be putting on the shows for your dad and I and it'll be pretty awesome having someone to play backup music for you. It'll be pretty awesome to have someone always be ready to dance to the credit music with. You'll have someone that gets how frustrating mom can be and know exactly what you're talking about when referencing dad's quirks. You'll have someone that just gets stuff that no one else gets. It's a real treasure to be understood like that.

But before all that begins, before we're a family of four and our little buddy is counted among the living, I want to share a few things about you and us that I really, really love. I want to have this so someday when I tell you that once upon a time, it was just me and you and dad, you'll actually have words written down that existed before the boy who fills all your childhood memories was around.

So here's what I love about us:

You and your dad and I dance to movie music all the time. You get your dad moving first, and then slowly I'll manage to get off the couch (you've been kind enough to inform me that my "belly big!" is in existence.)  But we dance anyways and have a pretty good time of it. Your hips can shake like Shakira (which is an irrelevant reference by the time you read this.) Let's just say you know how to do ballet twirls and some Latin moves.

We paint. A lot. Everyday actually. You love it even if it only lasts for 10 or so minutes. 

You have a deep love for all your animals and know their names. You go through them one by one and it amazes me how much you value each individual little one. Some kids get tired of their toys and sort of forget about them. Giving gifts to you is so fun because of your deep joy with the things you get to play with. There's a gratitude to your heart that humbles me. I love it.

Your dad and I joke that your brother may be a pretty serious boy when he grows up because we think that all the goof and silly that we have in our DNA went straight to you. You're just downright funny. You get the sillies a lot and know how to get a good laugh out of us both. Your interpersonal skills, even as a toddler are really quite impressive. 

You've learned the sweetest new phrases that are guaranteed the response you're looking for. You walk over to us "pay wi'me?" or "nuggle me?" and your dad and I can't say no. You give your dad "BIG HUGS!" when he leaves and run with eyebrows raised and an excited phase on as soon as he comes home. Speaking of excited, whenever anything exciting happens, you exclaim "I SO CI-ED"

Come to discover, there's actually a lot to be excited about in life.  

We read a lot of books. You love to find cute little things in them and in a high pitch voice say "Awww tuute." You currently have a weird fear of snakes due to a youtube video of an anaconda snake that we watched over a month ago and whenever a 'scary' part of a show or other image comes on (any screaming, any dark images) you quickly remind us of the 'nake.' It's actually kind of funny doing advent with the story book bible and reading about the snake and Satan. This seems to make a whole lot of sense to you. 

You notice if someone's ever sad, and give back rubs and belly kisses randomly. I sometimes think you like your space, but truth be told you're all about the closeness. You just don't want to be squished. I get that. 

Your a big fan of soup or "oop" as you call it. It's a second only to pizza and cookies and choc (chocolate. ) Yogurt ranks pretty high on the list too. Right now you're going through a clementine kick and want to eat like 3 at a time.

We're in this fun stage where you're making up songs. We grab your ukulele, harmonica and piano and jam out to tunes. We got you a few more instruments for Christmas so I'm pretty excited for opening up gifts. 

You like to take your vitamin, and are skilled at finding band aids for your owies which miraculously heal seconds after the band aid is placed on you. Your dad and you have a secret handshake and you and I share our love for arm tickles and painted toenails.

You don't like baths very much, which makes me laugh because my mom used to call me "stinky weed" because of my disdain for bathing. In a whole lot of ways you are your mothers daughter. I love that I get to share silly things like that with you. But, in all honesty, you are all your own girl at the same time. I don't think I'll ever feel like you're 'JUST like me.'

Almost every night your dad randomly will declare how great you are to me. He's excited for your brother, and is especially excited for the fact that he'll be the main one taking care of you in the upcoming weeks. He's excited for that time to get to be with his girl while momma figures out the whole feeding thing with your brother. You guys have a groove all of your own even at just two years of knowing each other.

Anyways, I could go on and on about this season, but I'll just say we really like having you here. The adventure has been so sweet with the three of us. I'm really grateful that you made me a momma and that you're the first 'arrow' in our helm. 

You're a real beauty, Eowyn. Your "joyful charger" name is so fitting, it's ridiculous. I don't think I could have dreamed up a more beautiful little person.

I'll be treasuring these next several weeks that's its just the three of us.

I love you and I love that you're our 'biggest little.' 


Almondella Box :: Products I'm Loving


With the first snow under our belt here in Finland, and the reality that things aren't going to get warmer here on out, I started seeking out ways to keep us busy through the next several months. Back stateside, I had a few friends recommend kid-subscription boxes to me. They had purchased them for their own kidlets and always commented how it gave them something exciting to look forward to every month. While I have only dabbled in the world of subscription box services ( I got one trial box many moons ago,) it seemed like a seriously good idea for this season.

I soon discovered that there just wasn't the options that I found stateside. Any subscription boxes I did find weren't really tailored to moms and kiddos, weren't for Eowyns age, or only shipped to the UK.

and then I stumbled upon Almondella. I got pretty excited.

Not only was it high quality products, the boxes were tailored to specific developmental milestones for ages newborn through three years old. While some subscription boxes focus on a specific area (like crafts for kids) this box seemed to be one of the only ones I found that did a great job of focusing more holistically on children and their needs.

Almondella is based out of Finland.They're actually here in Helsinki, down the street from our place, but service all of Europe. The boxes are based on the concept of the Maternity box that the government gives to mom's-to-be here in Finland. That holistic aspect I mentioned really is represented well when considering that their inspiration is from a box tailored to meet a baby's needs.  Almondella boxes are created for pregnant moms all the way to 36 month toddlers and carry 4-5 high-quality items each month. 

In addition, they're all about supporting small creative businesses, while being earth-friendly. The more I grow in my understanding of how our money affects the world globally, the more I can get behind such a vision. I was thrilled to have found them.

While I have loved everything I've seen on their site so far, one thing that I was super impressed with was the option to have a sneak-peak of the box BEFORE you get it. The beauty of this is that they even allow you to pass up a month if you please. I can't tell you how much I love this idea!  They also offer a 'trial box' that's steeply discounted.

I was pretty set on giving them a try, so in my excitement, (and in my tendency to always be on the lookout for a discount,) I shot them an email asking about any deals/coupons available before ordering.

Not only did we get a discount, but we got to meet one of the employees personally as she came to hand deliver our box. Eowyn repeatedly said 'thank you' even after our new friend, Hanna had gone back to work. :) So, we were very excited about how kind they were to do that for us.

During Hanna's visit, she interviewed me a bit for a blog post on their site. To read the interview, click here. (The last two of the pictures of this post Hanna took. They give you an even better idea of how much fun Eowyn had with the unveiling of the box.) Needless to say, it was great getting to know Hanna and play with all these goodies.

And now on to the box (the best part!)

Our first box had a cooking theme and was wrapped sweetly. Little candies (which were consumed faster than I could take a picture,) sweet wooden veggies that Eowyn can 'cut' by her self, moomin cookie cutters, a notebook for recipes (I've claimed it for myself,) and a sweet tea towel were all part of our box. In addition, we got a cute longsleeve organic cotton shirt that's from a Lithuanian company. Eowyn was a big fan of the "cat!" on the T.  So much so, she took off her shirt nearly immediately to put her new one on.

It's been a few weeks since we've received our box, and Eowyn is still playing with the veggies on a regular basis. We've made some moomin play-dough cookies, and have enjoyed hiding beneath and 'cleaning up' spills with the tea towel. I'm pleased with how the box has held our interest.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming months and the sweet surprises that will come from our almondella subscription. The items represent Finland and our fellow countries so well, I'm excited for the memory keepsakes we'll find through this (like the moomin cookie cutters!). We may even order a few boxes for our little guy.

All this to say, we're grateful to have found them.

In addition to receiving a coupon ourselves, I get to offer it to Celebrating Daily readers! Check out to see the sweet boxes they send. If you order a trial box, subscription or gift box use the code "cd25" and get 25% off the first box. 

Life Lately :: November


The month of November has held some fun memories. We got to have my parents here, I was able to be interviewed by a local company here in Helsinki (I'll post more about that later,) Eowyn has been picking up several words everyday, and we get to end the month with a sweet thanksgiving meal with our church friends. It'll be a full house (like 20 or so!) which is no other way to have a thanksgiving when far away from home. Filling our house makes me love the place all the more. 

This month brought a sort of peace with Finland that I haven't had in previous months. I think every month we get more and more into a groove and there's just been a sort of settling of my heart as we start the holiday season. We're no longer having to buy odds and ends to make our home complete. We have enough towels, have the cooking utensils we need (minus a turkey pan....still trying to find that for this week!) and are now preparing for the little guy to make his entrance in a few months. That's one of my favorite sites, actually. His little closet with all his diapers and folded clothes, makes my heart so calm. His life has redeemed so much of the struggles we've had over the past year. Getting to meet him will be such a sweet part of late winter/spring.  

Ben's doing well. He sort of rocks the whole living overseas thing. He's starting to look more and more European and it's been fun slowly seeing his style change. I think I'm doing the opposite. Ha! While he's getting more and more stylin', his wife is hugging her leggings and comfy clothes tighter. But I suspect once my belly isn't exposed in every normal shirt, we'll get back to enjoying the whole getting dressed arena. Lucky for me, Eowyn is the belly-exposure-police and will ensure that no epidermis shows at any given time. Thanks, kid.

My belly is getting big, and my legs aren't taking me quite as far as I'd like them to. We're having to re-calibrate expectations and relearn what we can and can't do this season. One thing that's nice about having a toddler is that we still get out and about daily. We both get a little cabin fever and while the weather here is often grey and rainy (oh, how I miss you sun!) we're learning the joy of puddle jumping even when we have winter coats on. So, the next few weeks may be slow and steady, but I'm no longer fighting it. We're just counting down till thanksgiving, going on a fun Christmas trip for Ben's work, and hanging out with Ben's side of our family.

Then, it's just a matter of weeks before my mom and sister come and a little mr. makes his debut. I gotta say, having a baby early in the year has it's perks. Third Trimester does go a wee bit faster when there's so much to look forward to.

November, you've been peaceful. Thanks for that.

Also, thanks for giving us so much time at home that my girl is really learning how to be involved in her art projects.  Getting the paint out of that girls belly button was hard work. :)

First Snow :: Helsinki


The first time I was introduced to snow, I was seven and my sister and I, out of pure joy (and coming from Texas) tied plastic bags on our feet and hiked up a giant snow mound before church. Compare that to a girl who has had snow as a part of her life ever since before she could walk, and it's interesting to see how different her winter experiences are to mine. Minnesota, Colorado, Finland, each stage of her life has included the sweetness that a snowfall brings.

Eowyn in true eowyn-fashion spent the majority of her time outside today consuming the white fluffy goodness. She also got a kick out of snowball throwing. As she should. We stomped around for a while until I noticed her nose running and my fingers burning, and hiked back in (after many tears). My guess is we'll be making another trip out as soon as her daddy comes home.

If ever there was something to make me realize how quickly this girl is growing, it's looking at each season's 'first snow.' Here's her very first intro to snow back in 2012, then there was last year's snow, and now this year. One things for sure, she's moving a whole lot quicker nowadays.

Happy first real snow for Helsinki! Heres to hoping it sticks so that good ol' 3:30 sunset can leave the streets not so dark.

What I wish I knew :: 6 things from six months abroad


We've crossed the threshold, officially. We've lived overseas for a whole half year! It's barely anything, and yet it feels like everything. I can feel the 180-some days we've been gone from home, and those days have held a lot of things in them.

Sometimes when I'm riding on the tram, I get to thinking about how this once so foreign, now familiar way of life has changed my heart. I sometimes wish I could have had the forethought of the upcoming changes then that I do now.

But to actually verbalize what it means to embrace a new way of doing things, a new language, a new city,'s hard. It's hard to express and explain change to those that haven't swam in the current of a new culture. It's hard to explain that all these days added up slowly change the direction that we think and the way we react. This whole experience of cross-cultural living is like wading in a river. Given enough time we end up in a whole different place.

But, as you all know, hard doesn't mean impossible. Here's a few key lessons my heart is learning. While I don't think I'll ever really know how much is happening in our hearts during this season, I can see some big lessons I'm being given.  Here are 6 of them:

1. Comfortable looks extravagant when it's no longer available (and it isn't a dirty word.)

It's weird how deeply we long for things of home at certain times and seasons. Being pregnant has only exasperated those feelings for me. Mostly because I had an awesome experience stateside with my clinic that included chipotle across the street. Praise Jesus, Amen.

There's an ease and a convenience that American living provides and while some scorn it, there's something to be said for it.

I was warned of how hard leaving comfortable is. It made sense in theory (people told me how much I would miss x, y and z.) and yet  I don't think I understood how extravagant the lives my friends back stateside now look. Starbucks in target? Stores that hold everything you could need? Drive-thrus? Even the house sizes seem radical. They're magical now. The biggest thing though for me is the comfort that comes with friendships that have weathered through life seasons. They seem all the more precious now. If homesickness could be capsulated, I think it would be the missing of people that just get you. Getting to be a constant in other peoples life is, I've come to understand, one of the biggest gifts to be given. It's one of my greatest aches.

I also have stopped seeing comfortable as the dirty word that I used to. When I was stateside, 'comfortable living' is challenged regularly, especially in Christian culture. I'm well aware that there is a way to become too comfortable and hold on to that too tightly when we're called to something different, but I think choosing a life just to be uncomfortable, well, is kind of chasing after wind.

So, I'm learning that comfortable isn't the end all (as I previously might have thought.) Sure consumerism and a self-focused life often equate to comfortability, but so do other really good things.  Making others feel comfortable is of value. Finding the comfortable in the uncomfortable is too. It isn't good to live a life day in and day out with the headache from the uncomfortable. It makes a soul weary. I guess all this to say, I'm grateful for all the good gifts we get to enjoy in this short life, especially when that enjoyment comes in the company of friends.. I'm grateful for the comfortable here and look forward to enjoying some of those sweet comforts that are held in the friendships we have back home.

2. When travelers say that a place is about the people in it, they know what they're talking about.

I'm learning that who you journey through life with really does make the trip. We've been blessed with some pretty solid people to go through this season with. Even the new people I meet at the park or the random English speakers on the tram have made the time here all the more special. I think one of my most frequent thoughts while here has been: "Had we not moved here, I'd never get to know you."
It seems so simple, but my heart aches at just the thought of it.

If this whole trip was only for the people I've gotten to laugh alongside with (and perfect my British accent) it's been worth the trip. Plus, Eowyn calls me 'mum' pretty sure that's the coolest thing ever.

Really though, growing in community here has made this place beautiful.

3. Kind people are as universal as their counterparts.

With my parents most recent trip, we were having a good talk, as we often do, about making choices and how that affects others. My dad made the comment that "there'll always be unkind people and kind people." So much of my life I've tailored to the unkind. I've made sure to work above reproach, just in case we're in the company of the unkind. While I didn't label them as such, I now realize that there are people that will always lean towards critical, and others that will lean towards grace.

My job is to lean towards grace, and to show Eowyn that while there are unkind, there are mountains of kind people. And those are the people we tailor to. Too little joy is gained from tailoring to unkind. Especially when kind are in plenty. I want to teach Eowyn to find friends who will hear the whole story. Who will give grace until they've had the conversation, and to naturally lean towards assuming the very best.

 I've had strangers sigh heavily at us being in the way, and I've had strangers offer to help and entertain Eowyn (in Finnish. :) ) Everywhere we've gone, I've learned I have a decision to make. I can either let the kindness of others be the thing we remember and to allow my heart to rest even midst silent stares or unkind comments or I can battle the heart-race that comes from feeling like I've failed some standard I'm not yet aware of. There's enough kindness to be the light I remember. If there isn't, we can be the kindness that others remember.

4. Grace through journeying together is the difference between enjoying or hating an experience.

Marriage is hard. Going overseas and having everything that came easily become a chore is harder. Traveling with someone who is just as lost as you are can easily become volatile ground to become frustrated, impatient, and bitter. The simple things fall a part when a brain is overworked from everything else and you only have one person to turn to. Things get left undone.  Like dishes, like apologies,  like remembering to do what we said we would.

I've learned to ask myself how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling exhausted, or tired, or worn out, or like this whole thing is one big failure, chances are he might be feeling that way too. Remembering this gives the grace to my heart to fight for each other rather than with each other. And much more gets done this way (with a bonus perk of a  heart that's then willing to enjoy her spouse once the dust settles rather than work through all the damage I've created.)

I think because we honeymoon so well together, and vacation so well together, I assumed that this would be easy. While I'd say we live abroad really well together, we've definitely done the dance of figuring out how to work alongside one another. All this to say, given our chance at The Amazing Race, I now think we might actually have a legitimate chance. :)

5. Adventure is most sexy before the trip. In the midst of it, it can trend toward exhausting.

The number one comment we got before our move was some various form of :"Oh! what an adventure!" And I couldn't have agreed more.

I think when I thought of 'the great adventure this is going to be!' I compared it to all the amazing vacations I've experienced. But those didn't hold trips to government offices, figuring out tax forms, learning to pay bills, losing important things and figuring out where the heck the garbage is (to check for important lost things.) It didn't include the tears that come after bringing some weird cream sauce thing home for the umpteenth time because you thought it was yogurt.

It doesn't take long for those cool European buildings with antiquated elevators to go from romantic to tedious.  It's an active choice to see beauty when so much of the beauty comes with hard work.

I've learned that when people tell me that they're on some sort of 'wild adventure,' to ask them how their heart is doing. Because, it's hard and that's the first thing that gets lost in all the newness. It's hard to move to a whole new place where no one knows you. It's hard to try to reconnect to people back home when in a matter of weeks, new experiences have messed up all you once thought. And while the place we move to does have several awesome sites and experiences (that are super fun to show our visitors), it also has a lot of struggle.

I'm learning to not speak  so quickly on the things I don't know. I found that before this journey, I was quick to give my opinion in hopes to make the conversation more meaningful.  I've now thought often how much I desperately  want to cuddle a person when they speak slowly and with wisdom. I've seen friends of mine actively choose to not speak on what they haven't experienced. And now I know the difference of "I read a blog post that says this helpful thing..." and "That sounds so overwhelming, how are you doing, Can I help?" Too often I say the first rather than the latter. But, lessons are being learned.

All that to say, adventure with a family can be exhausting. Wise community makes adventure worth it again. (And grace to cover all of it is beyond essential.)

6. What I think an experience is meant for, may not be what it's really for.

If you were to ask me what this season was for, based on my best guesses, I would see it as an experience to travel, to raise Eowyn in a different place, to pay off debt, etc. While those things are true and still a part of our experience, the days and weeks look a lot different.

I think this experience is more about shaping our family, and even more so shaping our hearts. I think God's teaching me about loneliness and community and how both of them aren't to be rushed into or out of.

I think we're learning about what we need in our marriage, and what makes us tick. Being faced with a new culture allows us to take another look at the things we always just assumed were true for us. We're realizing that there's a lot of choices we were planning on making that just don't make sense anymore. In all of it, I'm realizing that faith has a lot more importance when it ends up being one of the only things we have to hold on to.

I'm also seeing struggle as a more and more beautiful thing. I always hate writing that, but it's true. As I meet others, I often find that the souls I love most are the ones whom have weathered a few storms. The tact, and quietness that so often comes to their souls from struggle is just so beautiful and refreshing, that I can't help but hope that our struggle results in that kind of beauty. Until hard life hits, we so often talk without depth. So, in a lot of ways I'm encouraged by the outcome of struggle. Even if I still resist it anytime I sense its impending arrival (next up: newborn)


All in all, this season has been a season of struggle. But, it's been worth it. I questioned that a lot in the beginning weeks of moving here. I don't question that so much anymore.

I often joke that the quicker lessons are learned the easier life gets (which is laced with inaccuracy but...lets pretend) if so,  then the next few years are going to be easy-peasy right?

We seem to have a knack for making things difficult right when we start keeping our heads above water. Newborn baby in 13 weeks = party, eh!? Just like with everything else, I have no doubt we'll declare it all to have been worth it. We just might be having to wade back over to the shallow end of the water for a while.

Any readers live abroad or have experience doing so? What are some of the big things you took away from your experience? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

First & Second Trimester Faves :: Products I'm Loving


I always love reading up on favorite products or tips people have regarding pregnancy and motherhood. With this being our last week of the second trimester, I figured I'd take some time to share my own favorite products that I've used over the past 27 weeks. Our family has definitely shifted over the years to a mindset of quality over quantity, which has fueled my desire to not waste money on things that aren't going to hold up well/be useful for a longer season. All these things have proven their worth and have been helpful through the first two trimesters.  Hopefully a few of my momma friends can make use of these little finds (or store it away for later) to have easier pregnancies of their own. I know these things certainly have made mine more enjoyable.

1. Bumped by Blanqi Support tanks- I actually had Blanqi's postpartum tanks back stateside and then forgot to bring them here. Sadness abounded. But not to fear, when I went to buy the maternity tanks from target, they were half off! So I was able to get exactly what I needed and recover my losses. Sadly, they dont appear on anymore, but I know you can get them elsewhere.  I now have the maternity tank and postpartum tank in my arsenal for when the time comes. I've been loving the bit of extra support the pregnancy tank gives. Plus, I didn't have a bellyband, and it has one sewn in, which allowed my 25 week self to still wear a few pairs of my favorite jeans. All this to say I love these tanks. They're long, offer a great deal of support for my belly and have great fabric.

2. The Pregnancy Countdown-I rented this from the library stateside and really enjoyed it, so I picked it up this time around from, an online bookstore that ships here free. It's been a fun read each week, even for a second time mom. Plus its got a dash of humour, which I'm always one to enjoy.

3. Unisom/B6- I'm not sure if this combo helped with the nausea as effectively as with Eowyn's pregnancy, but it did help me sleep at night through sickness. Bed time was my favorite time of day through those first three months. Unisom still makes its appearance here and there and the b6 certainly kept me from upchucking a few times. Check with your doctor obviously before taking it, but it was recommended to me by my OB back stateside.

4. Vick's Humidifier. You'd think living by the sea would make for some pretty humid homes, and in many ways it's true. But with how well insulated Finnish homes are, the air gets dry really quick. So... Bloody noses. They suck and I get them a lot when pregnant. Putting a humidifier by our bed has helped majorly with this and the sore throat. Plus we saved ourselves from having to buy one once our boy arrives.

5. AngelSounds Sonar Doppler-I read on several forums that women who had gone through miscarriages were particularly blessed with this little doppler. While it's a bit controversial, (Due to the problems that arise when untrained people use medical equipment, midwives often discourage use. It's not to be used as a diagnostic tool.) I  went ahead and bought it in hopes to get to hear our little ones heart. Before I could feel him kick, I enjoyed getting to find my little nuggets heartbeat in between appointments . We used it sparingly, just incase, but it saved Ben from hour long conversations reassuring me everything was alright. Plus, is there any better sound than that little heartbeat? I don't think so. I was able to find the heartbeat by 12 weeks, but the box says it takes till 14. (I bought ours from, and don't see the same one on, but I'm sure it's available elsewhere.)

6. Doterra Deep Blue Essential Oil-This is a recent favorite. When my parents came they brought with them a Doterra Physicians Kit starter set that I bought from Amazon. Medicine here is really hard to come by (even tylenol in certain doses is prescription,) and after having so many weeks of sickness, and being limited in what I can take because of baby, I got a little desperate. So we hoped on the Essential oil bandwagon. The oil by itself seems a little pricey, and I bought the kit from one of the cheaper vendors on amazon so it was a better deal. I wasn't expecting to love this particular oil so much, but I do. It helps tremendously with the achyness, so I'm a big fan. It's like a duller version of biofreeze, if you've ever used that.

7. Peppermint Altoids. My overconsumption of these ditties through this pregnancy can be proven by my daughters habitual need to have a 'minnn?' as soon as we leave the house. For the first several months, every time I walked out of our abode, the scents of the world outside would have me digging for these sweet little spheres. Ben's mom even shipped them express when I couldn't find them here. Talk about the save of the century. I use them when I get motion sick as well.

8. BumpNest Pregnancy Pillow-I've made mention of this sweet gift from the heavens before, and I'll mention it again. I didn't have a pregnancy pillow last pregnancy, but I'm so glad I do this time around. BumpNest was one I wanted back stateside and I was able to get it here as well. I was super glad and have been loving it ever since. Apparently it makes for a great nursing pillow as well, so I look forward to testing that out.

9. LifeFactory Water Bottle- Ben, Eowyn and I kept sharing one water bottle, so during the first week of living here, we picked this up and I've been loving it.  I like it so much so that I went and bought Eowyn a sippy cup version. I don;t think I've ever gotten so many compliments on a water bottle as I do on this one. Plus its easy to clean, and my nalgenes are known to get mysterious grey matter on the bottom of them toward the end of their life, so I'm grateful to be able to have a wide mouth bottle and to be able to clean it easy.

10. MamaLicious Maternity Coat-Wasn't sure if I was going to need this...and...yes I need it. Having a summer baby has major advantages regarding saving money on buying clothing. But I'm a big fan of the coat I bought and use it everyday. Since we're outside in the elements everyday for an hour or more, I'm glad I went for it. I'm hoping I can use this coat to snuggle in our little boy in a wrap when he comes. It'll hopefully have a bit more room to accomodate.

11. MAMA Maternity Pants-First pregnancy I prided myself on how long I could go without maternity pants. This time, with bending over constantly with Eowyn and the sense of sickness when clothes are too tight,  I was trying on my maternity pants right into the transition from 1st to 2nd trimester. No need to wait till 20 some weeks and I'm never looking back. I really like H&M's maternity line and these jeans have been worn pretty much every day.

12. Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal-I started taking these after watching this video from a blogger I really like, Mama Natural. While I often just bought whatever prenatal was cheapest, I really never felt like it did anything for me. I've really liked these. While the taste is weird to me (Ben says he can't taste anything but they taste pretty earthy.) and I struggled through taking them during the first few weeks, They've got everything I need. I can notice a difference when I take them VS. not, which says something.

13. Contented Baby & Toddler- I picked this up at the library when looking for books to help with the transition from one to two littles. I actually am really loving the practical nature of this book. The author, Gina Ford even writes out routines and such for managing two littles (which all of you who know my A-type personality, know that I eat this stuff up.) Plus, I like that while she assumes common sense, she still goes into detail about things.

14. Method Cleaning Products-I found a store nearby that sells method cleaning products, and more out of my love of Target and the familiarity of them, I purchased a few. The smells however have been great, they're non-toxic and I can actually read the labels, which is more than I can say for most other products here. I'm a fan.

There you have it. Any mommas have a few more items that didn't make it to the list? I'm always excited to hear the wisdom of my pregnant comrades.

Cheers to Third Trimester!

Twenty-Two, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Seven :: Baby Bump


Time is starting to speed up. Especially with the holidays, I anticipate that these last several weeks will buzz right on by. The friends that I have that are momma's of two littles often comment how fast the second pregnancy went compared to the first, and I couldn't agree more. I think I spend a lot less time worrying about when he comes as I did before. God had his hand on so many details that now, looking back, I find a lot of peace in recognizing how little control I have over details. 

I AM reading up on transitioning to two littles and am really loving a few finds on the topic. I'll perhaps share more in a different post.

All that two say, my brain is starting to think of us as a family of four, and I can't praise God enough for that. I wasn't all too sure if we'd be more than the three of us for a while, so to see God answer in the ways he has...well it's pretty awesome.

This picture is ACTUALLY a day away from 25 weeks (woops) but we're coming along. The other day I was planning out my week and while remembering this post, realized that I only have 2 more posts like these: 28-32 and then 34-38.  Perhaps I'll be able to post that 40 week post (which would be kind of perfect, because thats when my momma comes for baby) but, regardless I'm not sure if I'll feel much like jumping in front of the camera. :)  All that to say, having a february baby rocks. One, because of the the weeks fly by (and delicious food is served.) TWO because I have my own heating system over here and THREE because winter snuggling is totally okay by me. Plus having a baby right after christmas sales means we get to save bank on any last minute essentials.

I like having my summer girl and winter boy.

I'm starting to see some common themes with this pregnancy. First theme : second pregnancy aches more, second theme: we're really excited to meet this little guy.

Also BELLY. It seems like those three weeks between twenty-four and twenty seven really allowed for that baby to drop lower. I always wondered if having a boy would feel different than a girl. While I think it has more to do with the first vs second time around, this baby boy certainly likes to be front and center. But, to be honest, it looks very similar to last time around

I was a bit late with this last picture (27 instead of 26 weeks) since we had family visiting, and I feel it's right about this time when things start to get more sporadic. The combination of growing to bus-size and the holiday season and it being freezing to go outside to take these pictures on our deck...well, we'll see what we end up with. :)

All I know is this: I'm grateful. If there was ever a reason to be sore, it's getting to grow a kidlet.

Tallinn, Estonia :: Adventures in Europe


When planning out all the fun things we wanted to show my mom & dad during their stay in Helsinki, Ben got the great idea to look into doing a day-trip to Estonia. We've heard great things, and we live walking distance from the boat terminal where we could board a cruise ship to go over. After looking into it, we thought it would be a great time and decided on going the first day Ben had off work.
The boat trip was a mere two hours, and they had a room on ship that had all sorts of toys and a ball-pit, so Eowyn was pretty well entertained the whole ride. In fact, by the time we got off the boat, she was already pretty tuckered out. We boarded at 7 AM and spent the day touring Old town. It was cold at times, but really was the Old Europe I imagined when first dreaming of moving here. While Helsinki is a much newer city, being so close to such beautiful architecture made for a happy day.
We walked the streets, found a few token souvenirs and came home on the 4:30 ferry, just in time to walk back home and have dinner. It was the perfect amount of time (thanks to the tips of our friends who had made the journey before us) and we were excited to have been able to visit and share discovering new places with my mom and dad.
My parents were leaving early friday morning, so we took Thursday to rest easy and we were glad we did. Not only were we pretty tired from the large amount of walking that Tallinn gave us, the weather was pretty rainy and cold. It even snowed on Thursday evening. I'm so happy to have had them for the time we did. 
 We now get to have visitors/events to look forward to all the way past our baby boy's arrival. I've been kind of holding out all year for this season to begin, and now that it's here, I am thoroughly enjoying the festivities. We're already gearing up for our next set of visitors: Ben's mom & Dad who come Christmastime! All this to say, we're happy the holiday season has finally arrived.
Hope youre staying warm in this cold weather and enjoying the weekend. It's a solid 30's-40's/ 0-5 degrees here and looks like it'll stay that way. They even have christmas everywhere. Despite not having an American thanksgiving (which we're throwing a party anyways!) they really do know how to usher in the holiday season. Every week I see more and more sparkle.