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.'