One and a Half! :: Elias Grows


Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016

London, England :: Sprague Adventures

Happy Birthday to the love of my life


I was about to write a post to my love about the story of how we met, how we fell in love, got married, had kids, and moved overseas. But most of you out there know the story, and Brittany certainly knows it as well.

Today is Brittany's birthday. My love, I have been with you for every 2#'s birthday of yours thus far. We were dating and about to be engaged at your 20th. Married and just returned from Ireland at your 21st. Finished up with Minnesota Reading Corps and about to start a great adventure with LDI at your 22nd. A mom for 1 week at your 23rd. Struggling through a miscarriage soon after your 24th. Adjusting to life overseas and a new healthy pregnancy at your 25th. Dealing with some intense heartache at your 26th. And now sickness of my own, but returning from a great adventure in London at your 27th.

Not every birthday has been perfect. But I hope every birthday I can show you that I love you more than words can convey.

I love who you are, and not just how you make me feel (which is pretty great). I love your boldness for people. I love your passion for those who are downtrodden, and your heartache for a world that is broken. I see your longing to make some kind of difference. To not just sit idly by and believe that the world is too big to make an impact.

I see you and you are such a world changer. You long to make a difference, to love on ALL people as God has called us to do. You love the Muslim and the homo-sexual as much as your fellow Christian and I applaud you for that. You make me want to be more like that. You are someone who gets me so excited and fired up to reach those people for Christ. You have deep opinions and facts to back them up. You always DO something and it makes me want to do more.

These are the things I love about YOU. You care more than most and always try to find the common point in everyone.

What have I learned from these past 9 years of knowing you, and 6 years of being married to you? I've learned that I want to be more like you.

I want to be a great dad because I see what an amazing mom you are. I want to be a great husband because I see what a great wife you are. I want to love everyone around me because I see how much you love everyone around you.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays and I hope you have a great rest of the day. Today is not over yet and I hope that the rest of it is fantastic and that you feel so loved.

Love from your husband,

FOUR! :: Eowyn Grows

Travel Tips :: Ten Things to Purchase Before Your Next Flight


Ben has often said  'a large part of enjoying any hobby is having the right equipment.' I would venture to say that the same goes for travel. We've gotten to fly in many, many a plane and visit our fair share of airports. While we aren't pros at this, we certainly have learned a thing or two. One thing we've learned is this: what you bring to the airport can make a big difference in the experience you have when traveling.

Here are a few things we've purchased that have made our airport commute, in-flight travel and all around holiday more enjoyable.

1. Non-Leaking Water Bottle. I know this might seem pretty silly, but with kids, having something to drink is essential.When you find that the water bottle you brought has leaked EVERYWHERE due to cabin pressure changes, it can be a real damper on your experience. We recently replaced our Camelbak with the brand Contigo (found at target) due to getting my entire diaper bag soaked every time we went up in elevation. So, go out and buy yourself a nice water bottle (but don't discount the cheaper ones.) Bonus if it has a lock!
TRAVEL TIP: pressure will build up in a water bottle if it doesn't leak-so be sure to loosen the cap-especially with straw-type bottles before drinking. We've sprayed ourselves and fellow passengers when forgetting to do this. "Oh, hi. Yeah sorry about that." 
2. Luggage Scale. I'm not going to go so far as to say this little device saved our marriage-but it certainly saved our hearts in the packing insanity. Ben used to just lift our luggage into the air and guess if it was too heavy or not. While some may have pitch perfection, my husband apparently has weight estimating prowess. While he really is pretty spot on-more than once he's guessed the exact poundage-this takes out the guess work out of it. Plus having the scale leaves time (and freedom) to pack a few more things you might need. It's under 10 bucks as well. Well worth the price to put your mind at ease. It's especially useful when coming back with those souvenirs.

3.Suitcase Organizers-We bought these on a whim before we moved overseas. I'm thrilled that we did. It's so much easier mid-trip to just 'grab Eowyn's bag" than dig around an entire suitcase for a pair of socks. We only have a set of three, but it has worked totally fine for us. Plus it's handy when we have someone else watch our kids during the vacation. This past trip we were able to hand Eowyn's little bag over to grandpa and grandma and she had practically everything she needed.

4. Kid's Backpack (SKIPHOP)-We often will buy toys (one per hour of a flight) and wrap them in tissue paper and put them in our kid's backpack. We also include snacks and a charged old phone. Having cute characters are obviously not required, but it certainly helps with the kidlets wanting to wear their backpacks. Elias has Eowyn's old Skiphop giraffe backpack, and for her birthday last year she got a butterfly backpack that's larger. Having their own backpack is useful for knowing where their toys are and it helps for those random bits of downtime in the hotel.
TRAVEL TIP: We alternate snack, phone, toy. for every 30min-1hr on the plane. We also always include play-dough, tape/band-aids, chap stick, crayons/coloring stuff and stickers. When we upgraded our phones last year after one of them broke, we took the one that still did work and turned it into a app-filled tablet for Eowyn. We save it for the plane because we don't want her thinking she's got her own phone at four, but it's been grate. Also, it allows us to keep our battery life on our phones. 

5. ZIPLOC Bags- Perfect for obvious things like travel liquids, these also are fantastic to organize other snacks, the kids extra change of clothes,  Mints etc. I also always bring a few extra for dirty wet clothes and have almost every flight used one.
TRAVEL TIP: Bring a burp-cloth like rag for quick clean up with spills as well! 
6. Diva Cup: This is exclusively for the lady audience. A friend many many years ago introduced me to this contraption. She was an avid camper and when her monthly came along, she didn't have a place to put used feminine products. This totally eliminates the need for that. I was wary for the better end of a year, and then when I was cloth diapering Eowyn, it felt silly to not try it. Not only is it super easy to use, it saves a chunk of change every month. You can buy special soap to clean it with and it is totally comfortable. I've been a convert for well over 3 years now and I'll never go back. Plus there's something to say for not putting bleached cotton material up into the tender bits....The diva cup is the brand I started with, but now I have a Finnish brand. There are two sizes to accommodate changes with childbirth, so pay attention to that when ordering.  It has been wildly handy, in and outside of holiday.

7. Travel Organizer: We put our passports, residence permits, and all of our print offs (unless we have enough printouts to use an actual binder) in one central place. I have a back pocket that goes flush against my back on my diaper bag where we keep our organizer.  We've used this for over two years now and will never travel differently. When you're juggling four passports and all those papers, this is a handy way to not lose anything. The kind we have isn't sold in the states, but many will do wonderfully-I would just recommend it zip closed.

8. Noise Canceling Headphones: While Ben rarely gets to actually use these due to the kids always needing something in-flight, they are wildly helpful for plane rides. Someday when we go by ourselves somewhere I'm totally buying myself a pair. Not only are they great for keeping noises out, the quality of the sound is impressive. There will always be a crying baby or a chatty side passenger.These are a sure rescue anytime you just want some time alone.

9.  Quality Kids Apps: Oh how I have researched good kid's apps. Our favorite companies for kids apps (some are free, some cost) are TOCA BOCA, AVOKIDDO, & Endless Alphabet/Numbers/Spanish (free.) Check the age ranges to give you an idea which ones to try. I know there are a ton more for iphone users-but for  my android loving followers-check these pages out!(They're also available-and have even more options-for iphone.)

10. Zarbee's SLEEP (Kid's Melatonin:) A fellow mom kindly suggested this before we moved to Finland and I've loved her forever for it. I know the whole "give your kids medicine for sleep" is controversial. I'm not eager to get into that. What I do know is that my children are wildly overstimulated when we ride on planes. This is a great solution for kids that are three or older. We've used it sooner after talking with our doctor-but I would highly recommend you talk to yours and check out how it affects your child before giving it to them  on a plane. This has been wonderful for Eowyn and has helped when getting through jet lag. It doesn't act as a sleep aid-they still wake up at noises and such, but it does help with the initial falling asleep. Although we use it pretty sparingly, we're grateful for it. You can buy it at target or on amazon.

There you have it! There are 10 purchases we're convinced making traveling easier.

What are a few of your favorites? Share in the comments below!

* This is not a sponsored post. This is just me sharing the wisdom we've learned from the past several years of travel. With the Kid's Melatonin, be sure to check with your doctor, as I am a mom-not a medical professional.

Alppiruusupuisto :: Helsinki Adventures


The past few summers have had their share of trouble. When we first moved to Helsinki, I was blessed with getting pregnant with Elias. Fortunate for us. Not so fortunate was the intense sickness that dominated the summer months. The following summer, the boy I was pregnant with prior, was now a sweet little infant-who humbled me and who banshee screamed at the slightest of breeze. Needless to say, we've spent two solid summers doing minimal adventures. 

So, to have this summer feeling well and able, and to have a little boy who is just as crazy about adventure as the rest of us-well, it has all the potential to be a summer to remember.

Back in the spring, when the promise of green was sprouting, I created a Helsinki Summer Bucket List. Visiting this Rhododendron park, Alppiruusupuisto in early June, was at the top of that list. 

We were able to go right before we left for the states. It didn't disappoint. It was an absolutely beautiful forest. The kid's loved walking along the boardwalks. And not only did we get to see it, we also crossed off yet another bucket list, riding the commuter train to get out there.

Absolutely the perfect way to welcome June. Now if I could just say Alppiruusupuisto three times fast. ;)

Solidaridad, Mexico :: Sprague Adventures


Every year, the company Ben works for hosts an annual meeting. Some years it's in very ordinary places like Phoenix or Texas. This year-due to the size of the company growing, they've had to move to places that can hold a few thousand people. This translated to us getting to go to the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. I  know. Crazy.

What a special experience it was. The Hard Rock Riviera Maya hotel staff are overwhelmingly kind and were wildly affectionate to our kids-which made the experience really special. Plus, I got to practice those spanish skills that were collecting all sorts of dust from moving to Scandinavia.

The humidity was intense, as was the beauty. We weren't expecting to get to see all the wild life we saw. Yet, we were surprised by the lack of mosquitoes-much to our delight. There were loads of iguanas, capybara and a wild monkey! Plus the blooms every where we looked made for a beautiful stay.

Seriously. Breathtaking.

We're grateful to Ben's parents who were kind enough to come with us in order to help watch the kids for the times when we had 'adult only' events. They had a fancy dinner one of the nights, and while it's not wildly visible in the photos above, the dress I got to wearing is actually my very first take on sewing my own clothing. Go big or go home right? Lucky for me the pattern was clearly laid out and the fabric forgiving!

I think my favorite part of the trip was the time we spent at the beach. The water was so clear and the kids had such a wonderful time. Also, the hammock included in each hotel room was a pretty nice spot too. The kids and I got full use of that.

While the jetlag back has been BRUTAL (why has it been so terribly hard this time around?!) We are deeply grateful for these experiences. At the moment of writing this its 1:30 local time with both kids quite literally scream-laughing and tackling each other while their dad tries to get some sleep before going to work in the morning. Just a little bit of real life for you. There's beauty to every season of life-and there's mildly miserable bits as well. Ha! At least I have pretty pictures to look at.

What a gift to get to see a (very small) slice of Mexico together.

Until the next adventure. Cheers!