Dream Field Farms :: Sprague Adventures

10.13.2017


While last month we went to the Aquarium, this month we wanted to do a trip a bit closer to home, so we decided on a pumpkin patch just 30 minutes away. We were planning on going on an official homeschool day the farm had planned, but with the impending hurricane/tropical storm, we decided to visit the Saturday prior.

It did not dissapoint. I had read they had some fun kids games set up, but they had a fantastic set up. Bouncy houses, corn pits, hayrides, cornmazes, animals to look at, and lastly getting to pick out the pumpkins. You better believe Eowyn found the BIGGEST pumpkin she could find. We told her if she could roll it, she could get it. Perhaps we underestimated her strength because it resulted in us having the biggest pumpkin we've ever had. She's quite proud, as you can imagine.

We spent about two hours there, and still hadn't done all the activities, but our little kids can only handle so much. So we went on our way to go home. The location as free parking and is stroller friendly. They also have restrooms on site. They had a lot of delicious food offerings as well, but we didn't eat any (a lot of it is state fair-esque food, and our european guts have yet to acclimate...) but I imagine its quite delicious.

The price for us to go was around thirty five. While kids two and under get in free, it is a worthwhile expense for the amount of fun activites they had. It really was a wonderful time!

And as a bonus, I ran into a fellow nicu mom who delivered the same week I did! How fun is that? We got a picture with our babies and it was so fun to see how well her little man was doing (both of us had our boys at 35 weeks.)

Eowyn's highlight was definitely getting to hold the duckling. She absolutely loved it. Our favorite bit was watching Elias go down the bouncy slide-first terrified, then bold. We laughed solid belly laughs at his faces as he went down. Goodness, that kid is a risk taker. He's keeping us laughing and on our toes.

What a wonderful place. We'll definitely head back next year.

Rowan Grows :: 4 Months

10.09.2017


Praising the Good Lord for you, little man.

We delight in getting to raise you. Your mom and dad deeply value you, Ro.

Georgia Aquarium :: Sprague Adventures

10.07.2017



One of my favorite parts of homeschooling when I was a kid (homeschooled for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades) was the field trips we would go on. My mom planned some pretty cool adventures for us. So when we began thinking of homeschooling our little ones, coming up with places to explore was top priority.

Living in Montgomery, geographically we're smack dab in the middle of some of very cool cities. While Montgomery itself doesn't necessarily offer any large attractions outside of its historical significance, it is close to Atlanta, Birmingham and the ocean.

We made it a point in September to venture out for the day to the Aquarium in Atlanta. We actually planned this trip before, in June, but Rowan decided to arrive the day we had planned to drive out! So this time, we just made it a day trip. There's still so much of ATL we want to see (and we have dear friends there we hope to visit) but the aquarium was certainly a good introduction to Atlanta.

It was amazing. Just as everyone says it is. We hiked out there on Labor day and expected it to be packed. So we took everyone's advice and arrived at opening. This proved the most useful tips.  We had the place nearly to ourselves for a whole hour. By the time we left around lunch time it was quite crowded, but we still were able to see all the shows (sea lions, dolphins, and a cool presentation about the whale shark) and we took our time looking at all the sea life. Eowyn and Elias even got to pose with the scuba diver feeding the fish!

We deeply enjoyed our time there.  A month later and our daughter is still aiming at being a 'deep sea diver.'  It looks like the aquarium left its mark on her. :)

To make your trip to the aquarium easier: I'd recommend buying your tickets in advance and buying a parking ticket in advance as well. This made it seamless for us. Show up to the show line a little bit earlier, to make sure you get a spot-all the shows are worth going to! It is very stroller friendly and has stroller parking (like Valet, the give you a ticket) for free for during the shows. I'd recommend visiting the tank with the Whale Shark first (on the right when you walk in.) since it does get pretty busy and it's cool to get to have the place somewhat empty. We didn't purchase any food, so I can't vouch, but there were several places to eat in and around the aquarium. If you buy a ticket in advance you select a time you will arrive. Word on the street is you have a 30 minute grace period that when particularly busy, they hold more strictly to. So be mindful of time changes etc. When scheduling. 😊

We look forward to going back  when Rowan is a bit older so he can enjoy it too. It was well worth the ticket price.


Rowan Grows :: 3 Months

9.03.2017


Rowan has been such a wonderful kid. These past three months have been gentle on us. For a couple who would previously have said we were NOT fans of the newborn stage, this is a gift. We're newborn converts! 

Coming back to the newborn stage for the third time (and most likely the last time) it feels very sweet to experience. The first time mom gitters have been long gone, and our very difficult newborn Elias prepped us for some pretty brutal days and nights.

So to have Rowan come and be the sweetest, most chill baby ever? We can't help but keep praising this little man. It helps the other two are just as wild about him as we are. Elias perpetually is looking for him (and we've had to get on to him more than once for sneaking into the babys room while he sleeps to share toys!) and Eowyn loves her baby brother. We've had to have a few conversations about not exclaiming that Rowan is her favorite over Elias :P We'll wait and see how she feels when she has to share her toys with Rowan too!

These past three months have been a gift. Being a family of five has been incredible.


Life Lately + Homeschool Update

9.02.2017


September is officially here! I can't believe it! Today we have a 3 mo (update post coming soon) and we have a month of homeschooling behind us. The weather is starting to cool down (which means highs of 80's instead of 90-100) and it all feels wonderful. The promise of autumn always does.

This last month of homeschooling has held days of us getting into the groove of co-op, mini-field trips (and one big one to the ATL Aquarium!) and doing our school work. We saw some fun strides with our girl starting to grow confident in her work and we're seeing little man follow along suprisingly well. The two have grown in their friendship at super warp speeds and that makes me thrilled. Eowyn is having a blast at co-op and being around other homeschooling parents is both encouraging and enriching (I've loved to see the different teaching styles and have benefited from  all the clever songs parents know for teaching concepts.) Eowyn has been asking to do school time even on days that aren't official homeschool days, which is encouraging. The hurtles are still there: keeping Elias entertained when we have written work to do, accomplishing what we need to do while having a newborn, balancing the whole mom + teacher +home-keeper act, but each week it gets easier. We're feeling comfortable enough to add some fun crafts to the already assigned schoolwork.

Some of our favorite activities have been making raisins from grapes, understanding a sun dial, playing astronauts and being "space geologists" by collecting 'samples' of dirt from the moon (and getting a bit too much moon dirt on our faces.) ;) Our girl is a huge fan of math and science. She loves processes and comprehends anything she gets to act out. When certain work is proving difficult, chocolate chips per page completed have saved the day!

Basically we're keeping it fun.

Our school time doesn't take much time every day (2 or so hours max-with interruptions.) This befuddled me for a little while until I realized that traditional teachers have to spend a great deal of time in classroom management. So I'm grateful we get to spend the extra time doing fun things like going on adventures to the parks, making 'moon cakes' etc.

In other realms, we're finding ourselves officially settled in. We had our first game night a week ago and I feel grateful to have dear friends to invite over. We're finding our budget, routine and the like normalizing.  Everything seems to feel very ordinary. What a gift! Rowan is the best baby we've had yet (more about why in the 3 month post!) and the other two are pretty awesome too. We've a great triad of kids. All our library visits have given me opportunity to pick up some good reads, and so I'm enjoying some cleverly written YA novels in our evenings alone (we J-type introverts schedule our alone time :P) Ben is back to building video games, and I'm completing more craft projects.

There's a calming feel about this season of ordinary. Especially after years of everything being new, I'm grateful that it doesn't feel quite so intense anymore. I'm ready to catch my breath and see it as a deliberate act of God's kindness that the transition into three kids and homeschooling hasn't left us feeling like we're drowning.

The autumn holds pumpkin patches, science museums, and other mini adventures. We won't be on social media as much as we have been for the remainder of the year. So be sure to check here on the blog from time to time for updates.

Have a wonderful labor day weekend!

First week down! :: Sprague Homeschooling

8.11.2017

Well folks, we did it!


 We made our way through our first official week of homeschool. It's been a good week overall. We're praising God for that!

Here are five things we've already learned:

+ Co-op is the bees knees.  Eowyn getting to see her mom as a teacher for other kids really enforced the idea that this school thing is for real. Also having other children who are homeschooled is wonderful for my girl who loves to have a group to belong to. Elias has a hard time being away from his mom, but we're working on that.



+ Eowyn is, like a whole lot of other kindergartners, a gal who loves movement for learning. The activities and games really allowed her to lay hold of ideas. I'm a big fan of the curriculum so far.

+ Having activities that are exciting to Elias (but not totally exciting to Eowyn so as to not distract her,) are key to getting through some of the more concentrated bits of schooling.

+ Getting to see my girl build on new skills is seriously exciting for me. I knew I loved the planning element of homeschool, (I'm a researcher at heart!) but I was wondering if the actual plow-meets-the-field would feel a bit rough. While figuring out how to motivate my girl is something I'm still navigating, we're figuring each other out. Also, the ground work we laid in preschool really has payed off.

+ We had a really rough day out of the five. Even in that, it allowed me to see the absolute beauty of homeschooling. When you're a homeschool family, learning isn't confined to a certain set of hours. We have a 'field trip' that goes along with her unit happening tomorrow (saturday) and if she isn't able to complete her work M-F, we have saturday and sunday to make sure we're ready for the next unit. The flexibility in learning and commitment to making sure my kids understand concepts is what is nailing down this whole thing for me.



What we're looking forward to:

+ Each week this curriculum grows. We'll be adding more math elements as well as reading elements in the upcoming weeks. I think Eowyn loves seeing that she knows so much, but a good challenge will be good.

+ Continuing on at co-op. While there's only one other kindergartner in her class (the rest are 1st graders) I love the nature of the co-op and what it'll mean for her. I think being able to see what her 1st grade friends are able to do will spur her on to also try new things.

+The flexibility of being a homeschool family has me excited even for next year. We have Ben's fast pause (a month long sabbatical of sorts) that we plan to take overseas, Lord willing. Getting to do this and not worry about interupting her schooling (but actually enriching it!) is a gift I can already anticipate enjoying.



+ Elias learning right along side Eowyn. Tell you what, he is picking up little bits of information all along the way. I'm really curious how much he'll have picked up come the end of the school year. What a gift to be able to be exposed to these concepts early on. Also, he looks pretty great as a box robot. :)

+ Growing in confidence. I'm still working out kinks around when to do certain bits of schooling, juggling a newborn, and entertaining a toddler. All the while trying to keep our house from insanity. This week showed some promise for rythyms and I'm hopeful that come the end of the year we'll really feel like we know how to get on with our days and weeks. I'm becoming more successful in involving them in my daily activities of cleaning and the like, so even in that, it's been fun to see our kids grow in their responsibility.


It's been an eventful week. With Ben having to work through the weekend last weekend, and Eowyn needing to have her tooth pulled due to it starting to hurt last week, I'd say we rolled through the punches and are landing on both feet on the other side. One week down, several more to go.

To follow along on a more regular basis, follow my instagram @simplespraguehomeschooling 

Cheers to the weekend! While the learning doesn't stop, we'll be leaning hard into rest.

The Game Plan :: Homeschooling the Sprague babes

8.02.2017



Here in Alabama, school gets started a little early. Now that we find ourselves in August, school supplies are selling out and in the next weeks kids will hike out and begin the school year.

This year, Eowyn is in kindergarten! It's crazy having a school aged girl. When we talked over what we hoped for her education and looked at our options (public, private, homeschool,) after considerable prayer, research and hours of conversation with eachother and those we trust to have a voice in the decision, we decided. We're going the homeschool route.

I think I've gone through all the emotions that are customary to taking on educating your little people. The anxiety of doing it well, the hightened stress of planning, the giddiness at the potential learning, the somberness at the weight of what we're doing. Overall, we've reached out into our community and chosen curriculum and we're all pretty pumped about this upcoming year.

We chose MFW (My Father's World) Curriculum and have already loved it. We were guided that the curriculum, like any, is lacking in some areas, so we'll be supplementing in math.  We've bought all our materials and begun a few test runs with some of the manipulatives / working with Eowyn while entertaining Elias. So far, so good.

One of my main concerns was how we were going to do this with my 2 year old tagging along. So far it's been incredibly reassuring. Having him around seems to put my girl's mindset into being the big sister and thus trying more things on her own. When it's just her and I (which I was intentional about when doing preschool work with her) she often would ask me to do things for her repeatedly. To see her take a stab at most things by herself, repeatedly, then try to teach her younger brother is encouraging. I think we'll see a lot of progress in independent learning and in actually absorbing the information. Nothing makes someone remember information more than wanting to teach it!

Since we're simultaneously adjusting to being a family of five, we've been trying to transition slowly into more structured days with a lot more deliberate outside time. We've had a few cooler days (high 80s) so we've been taking advantage. Right now we're keen on collecting bugs and examining them with our magnifying glasses. I had to laugh when Eowyn hollered to her little bro this morning "Come Elias! Quickee! Let's go outside! We don't want to miss a DISCOVERY!"



Perhaps having a little sidekick will make this year even more exciting.

We also joined a co-op where she'll be doing math, english and PE with several other kids. This was in part for her, in part for me. Having some other families committed to homeschooling and  seeing them weekly will be a great deal of encouragement. Especially so during the weeks where I question if we made the right decision.

Combine this with the field trips we have planned for the year and the couple of extra-curricular classes we're looking into and I think we'll have a good time. We're fighting busy and keeping realistic expectations for ourselves, so we're working hard to not structure her days drastically, yet still engage our girl enough so she can wake up excited (because E, like her mama, likes a little structure to her days.)

Thankfully my mom, who previously homeschooled us for a short season, continues to give her kind words to us. It's given a lot of courage and boldness to persue this in our moments of "can we do this?" Thank you being a wise and thoughtful cheerleader, mama.

We've had a few mamas, some of whom are also homsechooling, also give wisdom and encouragement. It's been a blessing to be surrounded by support.

Thank you all for that.

Cheers to making decisions "based on our hopes and not our fears."  And cheers to kicking off Kindergarten! Hope you follow along with us!

I hope to be posting here along the way, but you can also follow us on instagram @simplespraguehomeschooling for regular updates.

TWO MONTHS :: Rowan Grows




2.5 :: Elias Grows

7.28.2017





I sometimes imagine what God's face was like when he made my children. With Eowyn I picture a smirk on his lips with a tenderness in his eyes. God was showing us his beauty-fierce and gentle. She's always been someone who works to be noticed and blossoms when she feels appreciated.

 When he crafted  Elias you know what I think he looked like? I see him with wild happy eyes, head thrown back in laughter. God was showing his delight. This boy when he cracks a joke that has us all laughing? I get a glimpse of it. He shows me what it means to drink life up.

You've brought us laughter, my boy.

Five :: Eowyn Grows

7.13.2017



I'm a big fan of five years old. Often helpful, exploring her world, getting to journey along side my daughter has been a serious delight. She's a special kind of wonderful.

Today was filled with butterflys and mermaids. We're having cake tonight and having a small party come Saturday.  We get to have grandma and grandpa here, so life is looking pretty good these days.

Happy Birthday my girl.

One Month :: Rowan Grows

7.03.2017


Click on image to appear larger

Happy One Month  Ro-ro. So glad you're ours.

Family of Five

6.19.2017


We've closed out Ben's week of paternity leave and he went back to work today. Fortunately, he is pulling half days for a while in order to ease us into the transition. Day one of me with the kidlets is officially under our belts. While it was a bit of a classic first day nightmare (giant spiders and nose bleeds included,)  we've done the hard work and it's behind us. Praise the Good, Kind, Faithful Lord.

Last week, I made mention that I would love to set up our little tripod and have a go at taking  a few pictures of all of us while we have a newborn. Ben, being the forever good sport he is, went for it. By now he's quite accustomed to me always wanting to snap a few pictures. We grabbed the marshmallows and chocolate chips to bribe the kiddies into thinking it was fun and managed to get a few sweet shots in between breakfast and snacktime.

For yet another DIY, they're precious to me. Especially considering how fleeting and tender these days are. Their little feet has me feeling all the tender feelings.



While everything feels a bit crazy right now as we adjust to this new dynamic, I couldn't feel more grateful. I've definitely pulled a few weeping minutes just thanking Jesus for how deeply beautiful this little boy is. While I ache in the grief we've experienced with losing children, when we then get to be surprised by this little soul-it just feels all so tender and miraculous. It was a very big kindness, him letting us get this little man.

Thank you Jesus for this precious family of mine.

Rowan Benjamin :: It's a BOY!

6.10.2017


On June 2nd, at 10:13 in the morning our sweet baby BOY arrived! My mom and sister (and nephew, Cyrus) drove down at the crack of dawn to be able to help watch the kids while we stayed in the hospital. When our boy, Rowan was born he was having trouble breathing. Being born 5 weeks early translates to lungs that didn't get quite the amount of time they needed. He ended up living in the nursery for the next 4 days, and 'rooming in' with me the night before we were discharged. I had to leave after 48 hours, meaning a long and emotional week going back and forth from the hospital for feedings.

But we're here! We've survived a rough week, and with the incredible help of my sister and mom, everyone is alive and well. We aren't sure how we would have made it without them.

Our mr. Rowan is proving to be quite the peaceful little man. While some of it is still newborn, the contrast between Elias at this stage and Rowan at this stage is vast. They're quite a bit different. Elias was a hard baby from the start. Rowan, on the other hand, already seems far easier. Or perhaps we're just pros now? ;)
Thank you to everyone for the prayers as he made is early entrance into the world. While this past week has been a bit of a crazy one, we've been carried and been very aware of God's kindness to us.


Welcome to the world, little Rowan. We all deeply love you.

Life Lately :: May 2017

5.27.2017


Today is the day we celebrate three whole months since moving back stateside! There's a weird tension of feeling like we've been here for ages and yet, not here long at all. We're officially settled in, and this month arrived the last bits of furniture (we ordered a couch and it took 12 weeks to arrive, but it arrived just in time to have my parents help set it up. Thanks Mom and dad!)

The pool opened on Mothers day, so we've been hitting that up weekly. This means lots of sunscreen, lots of freckles, and lots of working on learning to swim with little people. It has been a pretty great time though, and it's looking like I'll have two little fish on my hands pretty soon.

The braxton hicks this time around are intense. I have a pretty bad case of diastasis recti, so I'm curious how it'll all play into recovery this time around. With Eowyn, I had her just a week and half from where I'm at now! With Elias, I had him just over three weeks from now. Hopefully we can hang tight till around the 39 week mark (a little over four weeks away) so that we can have family here to help. Luckily we have a few new friends who have already offered to help if I have this one early. God has been kind in leading us to some pretty solid families.

We're getting back into the groove of figuring out budgeting, planning out our year with vacation and work, and ironing out some details for the fall when we start Eowyn in Kindergarten. We're homeschooling her this year and it has been a good thing for me to prepare for. I'm really grateful that we have the option to do this (I was homeschooled for a short season as well) and am looking forward to getting to be there for these early years.

Elias is turning into a daddy's boy overnight, which is a deep grace from Jesus. Just a few months ago I wasn't sure how things were going to go down with a new arrival, especially with how clingy he was. Eowyn never really had much preference for me... perhaps its a boy thing? So, to see him transition into really loving to be with his dad is huge, and perfectly timed.

The crazy labor dreams are happening nightly. I have dreams on the regular with different genders, so I personally am still not convinced of one or the other. I'm grateful I dont have any real 'inkling' since it makes the surprise all the sweeter. People have asked if we have a specific gender we're wanting, and while on any given day I can give solid reasons why one would be better than the other, the very next day I can support the opposite claim. Ultimately, we're excited. This baby was a surprise gift, and I'm excited to celebrate whatever God's decided to give us.

I'm large and uncomfortable. At the point of waddling. Measuring two weeks ahead. A woman walked up to me today and rubbed my belly-first time that's ever happened to me. I've gotten regular "honey, you're gonna pop!" "what's going on in there!" " goodness, any day now" on the regular from women.  We are definitely not in Helsinki anymore. I honestly dont mind though. Perhaps having to field the honest questions of a nearly five year old makes any sort of blatant comments come past me unfazed. Eowyn regularly tells me "mom, you're belly is humongous!" so I suppose a few jokes about me popping fall in line with the regular run of the mill stuff. Eowyn is absolutely fascinated with babies, and being a woman and so right now we're all about questions and observation. It's been a really tender time for me getting to explain the joy of what being a woman means. Teaching her to be proud of her body for what it is able to do-for its strength. Showing off scars and explaining answers to all her questions has given me a grace with this pregnancy body that I haven't had in years past.

We met with the pastors of the church we've been attending for the past month or so and were deeply encouraged. God has been kind in leading us to this church and I'm excited to partner alongside them for however long we stay here. We're quite open handed with all the details....leaning into the rest that this season seems to be offering us. It's quite the contrast to the hard overtime we were growing used to.

Ben commented a while ago that he actually doesn't remember much of Elias' first year. This was mostly because he wasn't around. He would go to work before Elias would wake up and was back well after Elias was down for the night. So to have the chance to spend quality time with this baby seems to be an ultra special gift. I'm grateful for how hard working he is and even more grateful for the ways he has worked to be present with his kids. It's meant a lot of changes for us but I praise God for his boldness to pastor us so well.

We've been hit with sickness like you would not believe. Ben and I both have had flu like symptoms (intensinal bugs) several times over. Eowyn has too. Elias, fortunately has only had a fever once. Eowyn had a very scary one a few weeks ago....we aren't a fan of all these new germs.

Hopefully as time goes on we'll get used to it and we'll enter into a season of relative health. Hopefully well before baby arrives in a few weeks.

So, we're leaning in and setting up shop and finally settling in. These next few weeks we have a trip to Atlanta planned and then we're hanging tight till this bundle of baby comes.

Crazy to think that by mid july we'll be a family of five!


32 Weeks :: Baby #3

5.13.2017



It's a sweet gift to be carrying a baby on the weekend of Mother's Day. After losing  two sweet little persons between Eowyn and Elias, this pregnancy has felt tentative, tender, and we've had all sorts of emotions throughout the weeks and days. This has been a gift. One that I had set in my mind I would never receive. Yet, here we are.

These children have brought me laughter. They've proven to me that our story is far from over, and that the good Lord has a plan much more beautiful than I could dare hope.

I'm so grateful to add this soul to our story, and to point them to the true joy giver.

Happy Mothers Day. I deeply hope each of you reading this has happy moments, be it from children of your own, family you treasure, or the hope of what is to come. May God answer your prayers and fill your hearts with the awe that he is far more kind than we deserve.


The yoga ball

5.06.2017



Amazon prime delivered a bright blue yoga ball to my house yesterday. After my kids and husband pumped it up, we all played with it like it was the toy of the century. After about three minutes and twenty seconds I reminded the little ones that this was "mommy's ball and it's time to be done."

This warning came after a near death experience of a few of my fragile keepsakes. A few bounces in their direction and I was blaring the whistle. These are things I want to be left alone. Treasures meant for me. Things I can look at and protect and keep from sticky grimy baby hands.

thank you very much.

And much like those keepsakes being threatened by a big blue ball and a fore mentioned tiny fingers, I've often side eyed the very thing the ball was purchased for: This pregnancy. In similar fashion, I've been eager to blow a whistle. Desperate to try and remind somebody, myself really, that the rest, the peace, the quiet I've been waiting for is not allowed to be interrupted. I'm due for it, alright?

While we're on the topic, I'm not too keen on the reality that me and that yoga ball are looking like not-too-distant relatives.

I don't want anything to come and mess up the tiny teensy little square of space that looks like my feigned control.

But that's exactly what this pregnancy has done. It's come and it's taken the rest and has ushered in the thoughts that drive out the quiet. (Oh the thoughts of a new baby, It makes my heart all so fragile and desperate to make sure only the best of things comes its way. Fighting fears left and right.) This pregnancy has made my insides come up every few hours for months and left my body aching and not sure what to do despite eating well and moving and "I'm doing it all right and nothing is working." It's reminded me that the 'peace' I keep chasing after is illusive and non-graspable and actually is more like self preservation. It's reminded me that I'm not my own.

We've lived in a giant change vortex for what seems like centuries and what has been years. we've embraced change like we're built for it. We've  allowed the waves to rush over us. Many, many points over the past few weeks and months and years we've had too big of waves, too much water, too many moments where there was a desperate need of saving from life's undercurrent.

And perhaps that is what this is all really about, I constructed in my mind that setting foot on my familiar soil, after due process, would equate to a kiddy pool of sorts. Familiar rhythms would make way for not so much saving. I could command the water for once.

And perhaps that is exactly why we have been given this great big beautiful gift right now: A hard pregnancy. With every ache I've been reminded forcefully that there is never a second where we won't need saving.

 He is the one that calms the seas, after all.

So I'm left looking over at that ball, currently being rolled around by my other big beautiful gift. The one who has taught me laughter like I've never known and a surrender to grace that surprises me at times. He has brought with him grief and joy.

I'm reminded that bringing that ball into our home invited both.  Yes, it has the potential of messing up all these little things I've set up for myself. Give it a week and I'm sure I'll be looking at something broken....

But that yoga ball also has already brought a great deal of joy. And comfort. It has offered stability and a realigning of posture. That yoga ball has given an ease to my body that makes its value larger than the 14 dollars I spent on it.

And while it's just a yoga ball, and lord knows I don't need another metaphor bouncing (budumpchh) around in my brain, it has been challenging me with every glance. This life was made for many things. The human experience, with all its grief and ache, has with it joy and hope.

If we allow for it, if I allow for it, that grief and ache can often metamorphose  into the latter. A woman labors and is given the very best of joys. A aching heart made whole. A controlling mother learning laughter.

This pregnancy has looked a great deal like obedience. A great deal like labor. If I am unwise, I will forget the great joy set before me. If I am unwise I'll choose to disregard that even in this I can grow in Christs likeness, as I learn how to respond to my own minor sufferings.

It's just a yoga ball, but it's been a great grace to me. Reminding me of the joy set before us. Reminding me that my body, my heart, my emotions may feel broken at times. My control, my sleep, my self-confidence may be sliver-thin but with it, just like all the best of things, unbridled joy will follow.

"Because of the Lord's great Love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Fourteen dollars well spent.

29 Weeks :: Baby #3

4.18.2017



29 weeks! There's something about being on the cusp of the 3/4 mark that gets me excited. What isn't so exciting is that Elias has gotten particularily clingy. We're back to a season of 'only mama.' In addition, he's getting scared at night so we're doing all sorts of fun trouble shooting with getting good sleep happening in the Sprague house again.

Although pregnancy + good sleep isn't really a logical combination.

The good news is, it's all pretty normal. Just google two year sleep regression or anything else and you'll get a accurate description of our son right now. I'm enjoying the extra cuddles and choosing to cherish the time of having him as the baby of the family. It's wild to even consider him no longer being the youngest.

What they say about the third kid is true. People for the most part leave you alone. I think by this point most assume you are atleast familiar with what you're doing and leave you to it. Here in Alabama it's fortunate that many families have three or more, so I find myself resting at ease. The city is a pretty child-friendly place which is a blessing to this mama heart. Couple that with kind grocers that will help me with my groceries to my car and I'm living cloud 9.

Over the next few months we will be chipping away at unpacking more boxes, goodwill runs and building the last of any furniture (we have a dresser and a desk left over!)

We have all but a handful of things for baby, and if it's a girl we'll have even more clothes for it (I unpacked a box or two of all my favorites of Eowyns and I may or may not have squeeled.) If we get a boy, I'm confident I'll find a way to find cute clothes for him too :P Either way we've got ourselves nearly ready for the newest addition.

Pregnancy with a toddler and a preschooler is hard. I read on a friends blog many moons ago about 'finishing well' when discussing her third pregnancy. I keep repeating those to words to myself. What does finishing well look like in this season? Mostly, I'm prioritizing rest and cherishing these two kids. I'm giving our whole family permission to be instead of perpetually do (even though the impulse in me is to do all the things before baby arrives!) and I think it has made a world of difference. Very few things on my to do list MUST be done as soon as possible. But, these kids? and the extra requests to 'nuggle' and play and paint? I'm trying to treat it all as priority, even if the baby in my belly seems to not be too keen on both kids snuggling me at the same time (four in a chair!)

Cheers to the third trimester. Hoping to get atleast one more photo in before baby arrives :P

Life Lately :: April 2017

4.15.2017

I've started this post a good three to four times. Then, some other task arises and by the time I find my way back to this space, I can't remember what my train of thought was and so I start fresh.

But we find ourselves with a quiet evening and better now than never!

We've lived in Montgomery now over a month (!!!) and in that time have set up a home, purchased a car, set up ikea furniture and misc. amazon furniture, broke down boxes, lived with a broken fridge, unpacked half of our minnesota boxes, adventured with family (we've had family visit already 3 times!) discovered bugs, and played hard.

Now we're hitting a stride of relative calm before the new baby comes.

Phew.

People have been kind to check in and ask us how we're feeling with this big leap in culture and adjusting back into the american life. Honestly, there's things I absolutely love and missed and am happy to be reunited again, and then there are things that I struggle with deeply.

Ultimately moving back has been a very tender process.

We're grateful that we foound a church we think we'll be joining. We're grateful for a home that accomodates guests when they come (we were able to provide beds for my sister and her crew of 6! wouldn't have been able to do that in Helsinki!) We're grateful for grass outside and warm weather. For an obstetrician who is kind and chill and seems to be a really good fit. I'm grateful for a mom group that is an inter-denominational one and meets quite regularily. I'm grateful for a home with a bathtub for this sore body. All the unpacking and ikea building and hustling in my now third trimester has me one tired mama.

I struggle with how it all feels normal and different. I both delight and feel stretched by the merging of the two worlds-our life in Europe and our life in the states. I catch my breath at how easy and how hard it all can seem to feel all at once. I'm not convinced we ever went through a honeymoon stage with the culture shock. Friendships feel weird. Everything just feels weird.

We've always said this and I'll say it again. There's something to love about any place you live. There's something to own and to grow and to decide to commit to in each little space God has brought us to. So we're seeking out places that we can love, seeking out faces to love even more, seeking out reasons to celebrate.

One of the more easy things to celebrate is family coming. We've had Ben's parents visit twice and my sister and her husband came through on their kids spring break. The photos in this post are from the couple of times I grabbed my camera with them.


What a blessing it's been to be closer to family. Next time we see the crew we'll be welcoming cousin #7 to the crew!


23 Weeks :: Baby #3

3.09.2017



After digging out my camera and stacking all my pillows on top of eachother, I snapped a few pictures, because the weeks are racing by, and I dont want to only have one set of pictures from this pregnancy.

This has been the most challenging of pregnancies out of the lot I've experienced. The naseau was absolutely impressive. Lasting well into the second trimester, and the lack of kicks made my heart feel anxious during the initial meetings with an OB when they begin asking if we've felt kicks yet. With the other two I felt them by 14-15, so to wait till 18/19 to feel them for certain, it made my heart hold its breath.

But praise God, right before the we moved I prayed that I would begin to feel this baby, with all the uncertainty, it was all the more difficult to fight worse case scenario thoughts. Then, sure enough within the next few days I began feeling this little one regularily.

God has found all sorts of little ways to be kind to me. While many of the prayers I've prayed (like "please God make this sickness go away!" ) haven't happened in the timing I would have liked, He has proven himself trustworthy.

We just scheduled our first OB appointment here in Alabama. I'm curious how it will feel to go back to the American system of healthcare after going to the Finnish one. They asked me to bring in all medical records, which I think will be funny. When I hand them documents in a very complex language,  I wonder how useful those papers will be. Perhaps much of it is medical jargon and so it will be easily translatable.

I was sharing with Ben that this pregnancy is entirely different in every way. With Eowyn, my thoughts were often on how it would change our family. I daydreamed about our little baby coming new and making me and Ben parents. When Elias was growing, I absolutely delighted in daydreaming about the big sister Eowyn would be. Now with this pregnancy, I often find myself trying to calculate the logistics: "okay, so how do parents take three kids into a grocery store when solo?" and "how should we organize the carseats in our van?" (P.S.  we bought a minivan. No going back now.)

While on one hand, I sometimes feel at a loss at the hustle of this pregnancy-as if this baby isn't getting quite the attention the others have-on the other hand, I feel like my hopes and prayers have shifted entirely. Parenting a newborn feels much less about all the responsibilities, and I am now more excited to discover who this little person will be. See, I know that the logistics work themselves out. We've figured everything else out twice over. I do know it will be entirely different, but in the same breath, I have a comfort of the history we know. When it comes to kids, God is kind in leading us through.

So, I pray for wisdom as I discover who this new son or daughter of mine will be. I pray for kindness as I grow to manage three kids in our home, and I pray for joy in the midst of the crazy.

I especially am praying for the wisdom to recognize how wonderful the sweet moments are. There's a quote I love by Kurt Vonnegut that says 

" I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

We're finding a lot of those little moments, and I'm certain that when you arrive, there will only be more.

16 weeks left, sweetheart. Looking so forward to meeting you. I imagine i'll think something like that quote above when I first lay eyes on  you. "If this isn't beautiful, if this isn't pure blessing, if this isn't such an overflow from my Jesus,  I dont know what is."

I am humbled by the reality of getting to be your mother.


Montgomery Rain


I was very much looking forward to seeing what the kids would think of the torrential southern rains. Helsinki doesn't get much for the downpour that this place does. We went out when the rain was still falling a bit more gently and they were thrilled. Later in the evening the rain was pouring down so hard our kids were saying "ow" when putting there hands into it. Ha! Elias, ofcourse was absolutely enthralled and wept upon having to leave it. Eowyn thought it was pretty fun, till she was done. Girl knows what she wants and when she's had enough.

There's something special about a good hard rain. Filling the house with the smell that comes with it. I can't help but think of the lullaby lyrics we sing every night to our kids

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus there's just something about that name....like the fragrance after the rain."

It's such a sweet smell, such a glimpse into the gospel to see all the dirt and grime and chalk wash away from our sidewalks and leave it clean.

Elias is counting down the days till the next rain. That boy is hooked. :)

Making Alabama Home :: An Update

3.03.2017



An ocean has been crossed, as have many items off our to-do list and I find myself with a quiet moment while Ben builds a bedframe with his dad and I put the kid's down for a rest at our hotel.

I just poured myself some cold chai in under a minute, something I've longed for regularily for a very long time, and I'm marvelling at how much we have been able to accomplish in just a few short days. What feels like weeks can be counted on just a few fingers.

Here we are. We found a home that feels extravagant and luxurious compared to our sweet little Helsinki flat.  To be honest, I'm wrestling with the reality of such a large home. While it is nothing to everyone here, having so much space (like an actual garden area/yard and beautiful tub) feels too much. I want to treasure what a sweet gift it is, and simultaneously am honestly overwhelmed. It is obviously God's kindness, (even if we had a smaller place, it would be His kindness) and so I'm choosing to just look forward to the ways God will fill in all the space that right now feels so empty.

We've nearly set up everything we need to survive in the house and our kids are officially starting to sleep on regular intervals. God be praised. I think all of our emotions and feelings are really unstable and highly influenced by sleep/what we eat/what decisions we've had to make. So trying to problem solve this week, or have rational conversations seems to involve a bit more effort. You never really can plan for all these things can you?

But, even in the crazy of all this, there has been glorious kindness. God has come before us and is making it known in the sweetest of ways.

For instance, A few days ago we went to a Chick-Fil-A (a fried chicken chain restaurant) and the kids were playing in the play place. The first kid Eowyn has played with since moving here, was a little girl who arrived in the playplace as well.  Her name was Sadie. This is significant because Eowyn's closest little friend back in Helsinki is also named Sadie. So to discover that theres 'another friend named sadie!" was straight up God being extra sweet to my daughter. What was especially kind was that a few minutes later we met her mom, who happened to be a pastors wife at a local church and they invited us to check it out. I was crying in the kids play place when Eowyn shrieked at this tender hearted girl telling her name. I was humbled by the conversations after.

God, you're kind to my mama heart.

Ben's parents have been here helping enormously. With watching the kids while we sign three hour leases and shopping with us and getting us through all the hustle that is moving into a new place. The decision fatigue for us is greater than what I've ever known, so it's nice to have someone think clearly when really I've grown quite numb to this whole experience.

Our kids are doing okay. Elias is still hanging on to his cough, and his sister has taken over the sickness duty in his recovery. I think Eowyn has felt it the hardest out of the two. The lack of structure and complete unfamiliarity is hard, but I think its especially hard for a four year old girl.

And so we keep plugging away. Reminding ourselves it's only the first week. Patience is worth its weight, and to not panic. Our home is humbling, the logistics of cars and appliances and couches and things are falling into place, and we found a bumble bee the size of a small rodent. We're marveling at every angle of Alabama.

The biggest blessing has been how unfounded my fears were. I feared brash and passive agressive, and all I've met is kind and soft spoken. Thick drawls really do make words sound sweeter. We've already learned from years past that just because it's different doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. Alabama is full of beautiful. {It's also full of bugs. But, they're beautiful in their own right (once they learn to stop flappin in my face.)}

We've carried our dark and mildly sarcastic humor back from our British friends and it has served us well. Praise God for humor, it keeps the hearts warm and lets out the struggle.

For all of you praying for us, can I just pause here and say thank you? Thank you. This has been hard, but there has been a very clear sense of God's hand here. There have been things that have gone totally crazy, and yet we've been carried. Our patience hasn't run out, despite the pure reality that we struggle with this lack of structure, and there's been gentle reminders to have grace with eachother when miscommunication is happening, or when the kids are lashing out (and it really has been more lashing, then just acting) due to all the change. Thank you for praying. Your prayers matter.

Please pray we find a good obstetrician (Alabama is the worst state to deliver a baby in. Womp womp.) and that Ben's transition into work is wonderful, and for time and patience as we get all the details like drivers liscenses, library cards, and the rest all sorted. Pray we're able to buy the things we need, we've had to call our bank a few times because of purchasing SO MANY things in such a small time frame. It's been a hastle to try and work through. So many todos.

Looking forward to when our beds are set up and we stay in our house for the first night. Having the kids run outside in their first torrential thunderstorm, getting to the fun parts of decorating a home, and beginning to find friends.

And in the inbetween, grateful for family to help with the transition, God's kindness in allowing us to begin saving money a year ago (when we initially hoped to move) so that this transition would be easier (we have a gap of three years of no US history, so we have a lot of 'down payements' to secure heating, electricity etc.) and I'm especially thankful that we are making progress, day by day.

Day by day.

Give it all you've got.

2.07.2017



We're less than three weeks away from boarding a plane and landing in a place we've never been.

We're just a few weeks away from doing the hard, gritty work of setting up shop and refusing to set up walls. Being vulnerable all over again. We're a few weeks away, I say! And as I process all the goodness that these past nearly three years have gifted us, I have one thing I want to remind myself of:
 "Give it all you've got."
 This doesn't mean pretense. This doesn't mean my best self or a well curated version of it (as much as I'm tempted to present the very thing.) It doesn't mean a functional theology of getting myself in and out of messes and only allowing people to see the accomplished version of conquered sin and heartache. It means messy.  It means all we've got.

Because rarely does living honestly mean neat and pretty and alluring. We've learned that haven't we?

When we landed in this place, Helsinki Finland, the place that now owns our hearts, I fell pregnant with Elias. I then spent the next three months sick at the smell outside my door. Our couch and Daniel tiger were our first friends. One's we relied on for an entire three months. They were faithful, but found wanting.

And then the sickness waned and the culture shock crept in and with it all sorts of anchored tethers bringing me downward & swallowing me hole. The dilemna came when Ben floated along just fine. And so began the slow decline into the worse scenes our marriage has lived through.

One such scene took place in our tiny side-bathroom. Hardly enough room to turn around. At the most tender point, I found myself locked in there, and weaping. I did the crazy wild thing of throwing deodarant bottles around (you know, just plastic. Recklace anger with a side of reason.)

Eowyn asked through the crack of the door what was breaking and all I could muster was "my heart."

And then God answered prayers slowly, didn't he?  He floated us up somehow. God brought in healing and understanding and hope.  He gave us people with souls whom would fill up spaces and give room to heal. Our Jesus would prove that even when we don't know the next step for our marriage, for our time here, for our children, he does. And his plan and his kindness blew us out of the water I once was sinking in and into a peace we hadn't experienced before.

And in the midst of all this, Elias came and he screamed for a year, and we hardly left the house all that winter. We learned yet again that life could be brutal and so lonely. We learned a take on sacrifical love that we hadn't ever known. It was a heavy season, until we were reminded again we don't have to do this alone. We had friends come in, didn't we? Who cheered us on and understood our anxieties. Who called our baby 'little Pterydactl' and were unfazed despite an anxious mothers fears.

and with their faithfulness, a sweet season ushered in. When the walls fell over and we were left presenting ourselves wanting, our friends put anxieties to rest, and laughed with us and let us belong.  Despite this season being crowded with overtime, and hardly seeing one another, it was sweet when we were together.

And then we were gifted a good gift of another baby, and that good gift also gave me a first-turned-to-second-trimester perpetual throwing up that rocked me to my core and made me learn a whole new level of helplessness. More times than not I have wept on that bathroom floor and up at Jesus. And what happened then? Kindness, food brought to us, bold prayers prayed over us (because so often I did not have faith to muster them) over and over and over and over and over until they were answered.

Yes, that is what these three years have been. Bold prayers. Over and over. Until Answered.

Time passes, and here we are. Boxes and suitcases and kinderegg toys overwelming.

When we look back at the realities of these past three years, they were bleak and helpless and bright and hopeful. This was a season where our marriage felt fire and our faces felt ice and our hands learned to stay folded and our eyes learned to look upwards.

It was three years of learning how to be a friend by our friends. They have been the best we've ever known and have set the standard for the rest of our lives. Oh Jesus, let me be as kind as they have been to us!

And oh how we laughed! Tears rolling. Embarrasingly loud laughter. Shared secrets we've never shared before. Vulnerabilites exposed. Grace received at our insufficiencies, at our histories. Giving our hearts over, and yes, at times, feeling them broken. Yet so often, they've come back to us even stronger. These people here. They are undoubtably the greatest gifts of our time here.

As I collect all these fragments, as I recollect all the blog posts and happy moments of adventures and laughter had during our time in Scandinavia, we now know what it means to be stuffed full of Christs goodness.

It has meant being broken wide. It has meant getting filled in ways we aren't comfortable or familiar. It has meant owning the soil of a place unfamiliar and staying when all we wanted was to leave. And it has meant learning the voice and face and realities of a tangible Jesus. He's come to our house and fed us food and helped our hearts and reassured us in our fears. He's talked with british accents and with finnish eyes and has let us know love with silly phrases and unwaivering boldness.

And so....

as I'm mastering the taping of boxes, and approaching the waddling season of this pregnancy, and as my heart catches in my throat every time I give half a second to even consider leaving this place, I say to my soul with boldness:

Dear heart, take courage.

Open up those doors, invite people in. Serve that food, and be okay if they don't like you (or the meal,) if the kids are misbehaving (they will be,) or if the house is messy (its a perpetual state of being.)

Then, invite them over again.

Find something, ANYTHING in that soil that you can own and own it. Be it trees, or a burger place or the way sun shines on the dirt.

If you fail, fail boldy. But please, do yourself a favor.

Give it all you've got.

Because goodness, we did that here and look how heartbreakingly beautiful it has been.

I'm all too aware of how little it had to do with us. I know where our best thinking gets us, and it isn't this. So Jesus, thank you. Your kindness knows no bounds. I'll never have enough words, and that's just been the past three years.

Eowyn Grows :: Four + Half

1.31.2017


This is coming a wee bit late, but she's all sorts of wonderful regardless. 

We love this four and half business. Even in it's challenges, seeing our girl figure out the world is one of the most beautiful parts of parenthood.

Elias Grows :: TWO YEARS!

16 weeks :: Baby #3

1.17.2017






It's been a bit more of a task trying to get photos of this little one.  With Elias, I took time to do so during my daughters nap. Now my girl doesn't nap any longer and by the time I get around to doing any sort of photos-the light has long since left our flat. Because of the poor lighting conditions and my distain for florescent lighting, the pictures come out rather grainy.. On one hand it can be a bit of a dissapointment, on the other, it can make for some emotionfilled photos (deep contrasts and the like.)

I noticed with my last pregnancy, I often didn't include photos of my face. Perhaps it was out of insecurity? I'm not sure. but I think I'll do it a bit differently this time around. I imagine these pregnancy related posts will come a bit more sporadically. Perhaps every month or so? We'll see.

This pregnancy has slayed me. I have cried over my incredible insufficiency to love my kids well during this season. In the past four months my Elias has gotten good at flushing the toilet for me while my head is in it and patting my back . He then is sure to say "eww, yuck."
I agree son, I agree. Eowyn has told me I don't need to worry, Jesus will take care of me. It's been a real act of hope and faith agreeing with her. When I felt my most desperate, her little voice telling me to turn to Jesus was more profound than I think she realized. But kids are good at that aren't they? Being profound in their innocence; in their easy grasp of truth.

This past week I've been catching my breath and I think we're on our way out of the nausea. I know I'm getting off easy compared to some friends of mine. I find myself praying for sick mamas all the more.

Hopefully next month we'll have sunny sunshine to help our pictures be brighter? If not, oh well. But here's to hoping!