Two Babies: Our New Normal

Not surprisingly, I haven’t had much time to blog over the last few weeks. Having a 13 month old and a one month old in the house has been a little time-consuming. It has been interesting being back to spit-up encrusted shirts and pulling the nightshift again. If I wasn’t a frumpy-frump before, I most definitely am now. In my head, long nights with a colicky newborn and long days with a mobile toddler justify my refusal to wear anything but yoga pants and never fixing my hair (and don’t even get me started about tweezing).

Also, I don’t know if it’s just in my head (or stuck in my nose), but I’m convinced our house smells like one huge sick-nasty diaper. Along with the smell, our house is now an unsightly obstacle course set with gates, clips, and locks in order to keep our curious daughter from trashing the place (even more). Oh, and the used baby bottles strewn throughout the house are reminiscent of a frat house after a drunken party (ex. I found one under the Christmas tree this morning).

IMG_3133

Don’t judge me for having a blow-up pool in my living room (Hannah).

When I do get out of the house, I’m amazed at the planning and strategy that it requires. I’ve been able to successfully cut down the number of hours it takes to get everyone fed, ready and out the door, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that while I once lived out of backpack for a year, I now have to pack twice as much gear to do some “quick” errands.

IMG_3149

Pure joy over peanut butter. She’s obviously my child.

Basically, I have a whole new respect for parents. The fact that some moms keep up with things like bathing themselves AND Pinterest is impressive.

Because I’d rather sleep than write, I’m going to jot down a few highlights from the last several weeks:

  1. Our fuzzy foster baby gained almost 2 pounds since coming to us a month ago (I told you we were chunky baby experts). His pediatrician is so impressed by how strong and healthy he is despite his prenatal circumstances. Praise Jesus.
  2. I have become a ninja when changing diapers. Baby boy parts cannot be trusted under any circumstances. #peeEVERYWHERE
  3. My mother in law has been a HUGE help to me and has even spent the night a few times. We have started to really work as a team and our relationship has been strengthened immensely through this.
  4. I’m starting to really enjoy watching how people curiously approach the subject of our babies’ ages. When we’re out in public, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will casually start a conversation for the sole purpose of finding out just how soon after Mariah’s birth Albin and I got back to making babies. I usually let them do the math in their heads before I mention the tiny one isn’t ours.
  5. I’ve spent somewhere around eight hours over the last two weeks waiting in the public health clinic lines to get fuzzy registered, screened, and checked up. Thankfully, this time around wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was with our first foster daughter since now the staff know how to handle temporary custody cases. I only had to go semi-postal on one miserable secretary that tried to override a doctor’s order in scheduling our next appointment (I still don’t know why she became so belligerent). I called her out and she became sickly sweet when she realized that I wasn’t some clueless foreigner and that I was doing a public service for a high-risk newborn. It’s rare that I’ll pull out my gringo directness on a Costa Rican, but when it comes to my kids…
  6. People have been incredibly generous with clothes and baby boy items. Friends, family, and even a Pharmacist from the free clinic have showered us with clothes and diapers. God bless.
  7. Sometimes I get in the fetal position and hold myself when both babies are trying to out-cry each other.

I can’t deny it’s been chaotic with two littles under 13 months, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Waiting in lines, dodging streams of urine, and fielding lots of curious questions are a small price to pay when I consider the privilege it is to get this little guy off to a healthy start in life. I am thankful that I can be a stay at home mom and love on these kids even if it’s not always pretty. I love falling into bed at night knowing that every ounce of my energy was spent loving on the precious lives God has entrusted to me. I know that we’re right where God wants us right now and that’s a good place to be.

Advertisements

Raising Our Kids: Top 10 Legacies We Want to Live

In my head, our 30’s will involve raising of A LOT of kids–biological, adopted and fostered. As we embark on this journey of being surrounded by little humans, I want to establish some healthy patterns that will hopefully stick with them throughout their lives. I’m thinking the word “legacies” works to describe the ideas we want to instill in our children. We’ve also realized that if it’s going to be a way of life for our kids, they need to see it from us- so I’ve included in italics how we’re trying to integrate these things in our lives.

IMG_3057First and foremost, we want worshipers of God. I want my kids to have the joy of the Lord
and realize that bringing glory to Him influences atmospheres, changes situations, and provides communion with our Maker. I want them to learn to worship him with their voices, but also with their actions and their lives. To initiate this, we’ve started to have “worship night” once a week at our house where we turn off the lights, put on some (good) worship music, and spend time with Jesus.

Second, we want kids that live out the gospel. Not just kids who are well-versed in all the right answers and know what looking like a good Christian is. We want kids that get their hands dirty and whose first response is to help those in need. We want our kids to know our house is open to the homeless, our food is shared with the hungry, our clothes given to the naked, and our hearts are willing to love well. We want them to stand up for the kids being bullied and make friends with the lonely new student. We want this to be like second nature to them, so we’ve started to live like this: stopping to give away groceries to people begging, fostering needy kids, going onto the streets on Saturdays to talk with the hopeless, finding ways we can stand up for justice, etc.


We want adventurers and explorers.
We don’t want our kids to be afraid of getting hurt, fearful FullSizeRender (25)of the unknown, or planted to the couch watching TV. We want our kids to love being outdoors, to love finding new places, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. We want to raise inquisitive kids that ask questions and look for answers creatively. We want to teach our kids to look for solutions to problems and to not be limited by societal confines. To live this out, we’ve been planning family adventures at least once a month.

We want culturally-aware kids. Obviously, we love cultures and love learning about them. We want our kids to appreciate our Costa Rican and American cultures; but we also want them to have a love for all people. We hope they want to learn new customs, try new foods, learn new languages, and see new places. Obviously, we won’t allow racism in our house, but we want it to go above and beyond that–which means showing our kids how to be open-minded, accepting of cultural differences, and interested in the lives of others that are different from us. I feel like we have a head-start on this one since our family is a fusion of two cultures, but we also have been intentional about visiting other countries, understanding world issues, becoming friends with people from other cultures, and trying international foods.

We want family time to be important and fun. Somehow my parents succeeded in this area and I am grateful. Growing up, I would often choose to spend time with family over going out with friends. We played games, went fun places, respected one another, and had an honest, open relationship. I want that for my kids. I don’t want to be friends with them in a negative sense, but I want them to feel respected, accepted, and loved. I want our family to be a safe place for all of us. A place of trust and acceptance. To do this, one thing we’ve started doing is family game night once a week and the family adventures once a month.

We want individuals. We truly treasure different personalities and interests. We want to encourage our kids to be who God created them to be, not what society says they should be. We want them to feel free to express themselves and be different. I hope that we can encourage their different talents and try to provide them with opportunities to achieve their personal goals. We want to build on their interests, foster their gifts, and teach them to think for themselves. We’ve been trying to do this in our lives as well–to not worry about what people say, what their opinions are, or how they judge us. We’re taking steps to become more of who God created us to be, and learning that it is beautiful.

We want kids our kids to be respectful. We don’t want kids that talk back to teachers and know that we’ll defend them when the teacher calls. We want our kids to be a breath of fresh air for their teachers. We want sons who grow up to be good husbands and daddies. We want daughters who grow up to respect their bodies and hearts. We want a family that respects those in leadership, even though we don’t always agree with their decisions. We hope for a family built on honor: honoring God and honoring one another. In our lives, Albin and I have tried hard to have a mutual respect for one another and to foster a culture of honor in our home.

We want to raise hard workers that know it’s okay to make mistakes. We aren’t looking for perfect kids here, so we want them to know there is grace for when we fail. We also want them to work hard and do their best, so that even if they do fail, they know they gave it their all. We don’t want everything to be about success, failure, or living up to high expectations. We want them to work hard, live fully, and learn from their mistakes. I’ve learned a lot about what true success is in the last four years, so I’m trying to give up my perfectionist ways and live well.

We want kids with a sense of humor. I want our kids to be serious when they need toIMG_2388 be, but I don’t want to them to take themselves or life too seriously. They don’t have to be the class clown or be naturally witty, but I want them to have the freedom to laugh and realize how having a sense of humor helps us connect with others. Life application: 90 percent of my family’s conversations are based on witty remarks.

We want little givers. Something I have strived over for the last few years is being a good giver. I am selfish and I’m not a natural gift-giver, so I wanted to improve in this area. I want our kids to grow up with giving in their blood. I want them to come home hungry because they gave half their lunch to the kid who didn’t have one. I want them to pass a granola bar out the window of our car to the man begging on the street. I want them to value giving over acquiring. I want them to learn to use their money wisely so that they can give as much as they can to those in need. I want them to give their hearts, talents, and treasures to the glory of God. Since I turned 30, I’ve tried to be intentional and give one thing to someone everyday (whether its time, a treasure, or a talent).

Maybe trying to raise kids with all the above ideas is a lot to ask. That’s fine; but I want to have a guideline and start these kiddos young on a culture guided by these ten ideas. From the beginning, I want little people that know they have intrinsic value, but know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I really feel like this super long post could be summarized into one simple statement:

I want my kids to grow up knowing how to love well.

When you love well, everything else falls into place. That makes this list seem way less daunting. When your heart is full of love, the rest just overflows out of you naturally.

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be                                                 something you do but someone you raise.”

–Andy Stanley

October FFO

I was so excited to post about our new foster baby last week that I didn’t post about our family outing for October. By the way, all is going well with our precious baby. Besides the exhaustion that comes from waking up to feed a baby every three hours during the night and then chasing around a one year old all day, we’re feeling great. He is a really chill baby and sleeps well. He’s putting on weight and already losing those skinny, little chicken legs he had a week ago. Albin and I like to think we’re experts in growing chunky babies, so it shouldn’t take too long for this one. We’ve only gone out a little bit, but I love to see how people look at us. Surely they think Albin and I breed like rabbits with these two little people in tow. I LOVE our little family of four.

IMG_3045 IMG_3052 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I committed to documenting our family adventures, so here it goes for October. We decided to make a weekend out of it since I was also celebrating my 30th birthday. We drove south down to a beach on the Pacific coast called Dominical. From there, we explored several different places and tried out a lot of new foods (coconut ceviche and berry stuffed french toast with coconut syrup…life changing). We had SO much fun together as a family and of course I was able to satisfy my deep need to get out the city and try new things, so it was a win for everyone. I’ll highlight our two favorite places:

First, we went and explored Playa Ballena (Whale Beach), which is know for the beach shaped like a whale’s tail and also for the common whale sightings at this beach. We didn’t see any whales, but we did make the trek out to the whale’s tail, which is only possible during low tide. We explored in the rocks, swam and played in the sand. Mariah loved it and Albin is so happy that he finally has someone that will play with him at the beach. When we left, we asked a local how to get to an overlook to see the tail from a distance. We went up a scary mountain road, but it was well worth almost losing our transmission (jk).

FullSizeRender (19)FullSizeRender (20)

 

 

 

 

 

 

d

IMG_2976

The picture I took…

playa ballena

The picture I wish I took… Photo credit: youtube.com

The next day, we hiked the Nuayaca Waterfall. Amazing. It probably ties for first place on my favorite waterfalls in CR list. The hike was 8 km and pretty strenuous, probably around an hour and a half each way with a lot of hills. Once again, the waterfalls were well worth the trek. Absolutely breathtaking. I would definitely recommend it.

IMG_2986

nauyaca-waterfalls

I didn’t take this one either… photo credit: tripadvisor.com

Overall, the trip was a total success and I’m so thankful we got a chance to get some hiking in before we received our tiny, fuzzy baby. We’re not quite sure what November’s adventure will look like, but honestly, just leaving the house and running errands with those two littles seems pretty adventurous to us :).

Our Family’s Newest Addition…

We’re (foster) parents again! This time around we were asked to foster a newborn baby boy. He is precious and so very tiny due to being born premature. Unfortunately we can’t tell you his name, give too much information, or post a picture of him for legal reasons, but we’ll just affectionately refer to him as our “little fuzzy” because he has the cutest fuzzy head of hair. Anyway, we are so thankful to receive him into our home and for an opportunity to serve God in this way.

What’s really neat about this whole thing is how God prepared our hearts to receive this fuzzy little babe. When Mariah was born, we spent a lot of long days in the NICU. One of the things that absolutely broke our hearts was seeing the “social service babies.” Whether the mother was deemed unfit to care for the child or she decided she couldn’t take care of him/her, the babies were just left in the hospital until social services knew what the next step was. Sometimes that next step was an orphanage, a foster home, or being claimed by a relative. Until then, the babies just waited there. The nurses did their best to give them attention, but they had so many babies to care for. Albin and I have talked and thought about those babies a lot since then, so when our social worker called us asking if we wanted to take this newborn baby boy, we didn’t have to think about our answer for too long. Just a year after we saw those babies in the NICU, God gave us an opportunity to change the situation for at least one precious life. For as long as we have him, we’re going to shower him with love and celebrate his birth. On top of that, we were experienced with premature babies since we had a crash course when Mariah was born. It wasn’t nearly as daunting to be handed a five pound baby this time around. Funny how God uses our experiences like that…

A few weeks ago I posted about how God was speaking to us about walking like Jesus did and living out the gospel. There is no doubt in our minds that fostering and adoption are close to God’s heart since he’s adopted millions of us into His family and commands us to take care of orphans all throughout the Bible. As we change this tiny person’s diaper, suck the snot out of his nose, and wake up every three hours to feed a child that doesn’t belong to us, we have thought about how this must be close to what Jesus meant when He said to “care for the least of these.” If we are honoring God with this act and changing a child’s story, it is totally worth the sleepless nights.

So, if we go missing in action for a couple of weeks, now you know why. Having an extremely active one year old and brand new baby has brought an interesting dynamic to our household. It’s definitely a challenge, not always comfortable, and we know it will be hard to give him up someday, but the Spirit keeps reminding us that living out the gospel is ALL that matters. We’re excited and thankful that at this time the Lord has entrusted us with the huge responsibility of raising up and loving on two precious little babies. Please pray for our family as we transition to this new way of life and for our little fuzzy, his biological family, and the case workers during this time. Please also celebrate this new life with us!!! Thank you!

 

Mariah’s First Birthday

Today we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. One year ago our precious daughter was in critical condition and her prognosis was bleak. Today she is a healthy and happy one year-old and we couldn’t be more grateful. For those of you who haven’t heard the long version of Mariah’s incredible story, you can read it here.

The short version goes like this: our daughter was born six weeks early with a deadly bacteria. Within 24 hours, her body started to shut down; she had a collapsed lung and her blood was septic.  When the doctors told us that she may die, we were heartbroken and started crying out to God. After two hours of praying and singing in the hallway outside of the NICU, the doctor came out and told us that Mariah had amazingly stabilized, that her lung “mysteriously” inflated on its own, and that her body had started fighting. From that moment on, every complication from her illness began to disappear.


IMG_1301

For the thousands of you who have prayed for Mariah, I’m going to take a moment and be specific about how your prayers were powerful and effective.

  • Mariah’s lung inflated on its own which allowed her heart to get enough oxygen to pump the medicine through her blood more effectively.
  • Her body began to stabilize its erratic sugar counts.
  • Her heart rate and blood pressure stabilized.
  • Her blood became bacteria-free.
  • Her brain scan came back normal and she has no brain damage from the many seizures she had during her first 24 hours.
  • She was able to skip the Intermediate Care Unit and went from the Intensive Care Unit straight to the General Care Unit.
  • Her virtually non-existent immune system at birth has fully recovered. White and red blood cell counts as well as platelet counts are leveled.
  • Despite being born premature, she has reached her developmental milestones.
  • Her umbilical hernia has closed up and healed.
  • Her hearing test came back perfect despite the doctors’ concerns that the strong antibiotic would cause deafness.
  • The initial concern over her inability to gain weight has clearly been erased.
  • As far as we can tell, she has outgrown her dairy allergy.
  • She has overcome the sensitivity in her arms from being tied down and stuck with many IV’s.
  • God sustained us through that difficult time in the hospital and for the four months after that we spent in isolation as we waited for Mariah’s immune system to develop.
  • We’ve gotten the opportunity to share Mariah’s story with thousands of people, many of whom were going through heartbreaking circumstances with their own newborns.

Man, we’re just thankful. There is nothing like seeing God work so directly and completely. We share her story everywhere we go because we just can’t keep quiet about it. Hearing doctors and nurses call Mariah a miracle and marvel at how there aren’t any residual side effects is such a testimony to God being the great Physician.

Obviously, we’re experiencing a lot of emotions today. I remember the trauma of hearing the doctors bluntly use the word “death” and of the nurses asking if we wanted a priest to come and say her last rites. I remember the heart wrenching sound of my strong husband’s grief-stricken sobs. I have the image of my tiny baby girl hooked up to tubes and monitors burned into my mind. I remember the feeling of complete helplessness as I held my breath willing her chest to continue its rise and fall. I remember the feeling of stroking her little hand and crying silent, hot tears about not being able to hold her as she cried.

IMG_2905

At the same time, I remember the absolute joy I felt when I heard her cry for the first time. I remember the doctor telling us she had stabilized miraculously. I remember the Spirit whispering to me that she wouldn’t fall. I remember singing my heart out in that dark hallway even though I could barely move after the C-section. I remember when I was finally able to hold her again and how I would sit for hours singing to her. I remember panicking when a new orderly was unsure of why my daughter wasn’t in her normal NICU bed (she had been moved to the general room). I remember the absolute relief it was to call the hospital early every morning and hear the nurse say that Mariah was stable through the night. I remember belting out the song “I’m Overwhelmed” through tears of joy in that dark hallway after the doctors moved her out of the NICU. I could go on and on…

So as we celebrate her first birthday today, I know we are blessed. We have a little girl that can scream at the top of her healthy lungs, that can lick the bottom of her shoe and have her immune system kick in, that can express herself with that strong-willed personality that fought off death, and that can bring hope to others with her testimony.

Glory to God! He has entrusted a treasure to us  and we are eternally grateful for what He has done!

Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.

IMG_2925

 

Short Trip to ‘Merica

Sorry I’ve been MIA recently… we decided to take a short trip to good old Ohio. October is a month of celebrations (which is making me very pensive and I will share why soon), so we kicked off this month with a few parties. First we had my beautiful cousin Sarah’s wedding where we danced it up in a sweet barn. My old-lady knees are still sore from too many rounds of Cotton-Eyed Joe in heels. Of course my Latino lover was a hit on the dance floor and was recognized for his mid-dance poses he likes to refer to as the “statue.” lol

Next, we celebrated my little cousin Grace (for whom my daughter Mariah Grace is named after) because she has finished her 2.5 long years of chemotherapy and is cancer-free. We are so thankful that the Lord healed her and so her parents threw a “no-mo-chemo” party to thank everyone for praying. Watching her take her last chemo pill that day made me want to break into song and do another few rounds of dance moves. She has fought a long battle and won. Praise God.

Besides that, we’re just doing normal ‘Merica stuff. I’ve eaten my fair share of Chipotle and Skyline Chili while haunting the aisles of TJ Maxx and Carters. I haven’t been home for fall in a long time so I am doing all things pumpkin. I had a minor breakdown in Meijer’s because there were SO MANY baby food options. Costa Rica has a whopping six kinds of premade baby food, so I usually make all Mariah’s food myself. When I got to the baby food aisle here, I literally stood there for 20 minutes deciding while other moms tried to maneuver around me in my dazed state. I couldn’t decide, so I bought a bunch to stock up for travel days, the beach, etc. I even got a bunch of those awesome little puffs for the plane. Here’s the best part: Mariah hasn’t liked any of it. She gags on the puffs (are you kidding me?? What kid doesn’t like puffs?), and she turns her head away from the baby food. Go figure.

While she wasn’t loving the millions of food options, she was loving shoe shopping with grandma and grandpa. I was loving it too because now she is stocked up for the next year and grandpa covered the bill (bless ’em).

Shoes

Finally, we did a little early birthday celebration because Mariah will be turning ONE! soon and I will be celebrating the big 3-0 soon. As you can see, she wasn’t a fan of the sombrero they put on her at the Mexican joint. She was, however, a fan of the guac and beans they served up and was far more excited about that than any sweet potato, turkey, and apple parfait that Gerber whipped up. Saludos!!

bday

The Gospel, Dumb and Dumber, and Radical Living

“We got no food, no jobs…our pet’s heads are falling off! What the heck are we doing here Harry?”

This ranks up there in my favorite movie quotes, and believe it or not, while Dumb and Dumber wouldn’t win any awards for its profundity (or wholesomeness if we’re being honest), Albin and I have found ourselves asking each other this same question over the last few months. Thankfully, we have food and jobs (well Albin does), and fortunately our pets’ heads aren’t falling off, but as we’ve been confronted by the gospel in the last few months, we’ve looked at each other and said, “What the heck are we doing here?”

Albin and I have been passionate followers of Jesus for a long time. In the past, we’ve served Him in many different ways: overseas missions, ministering, leading bible studies, fostering, etc., but in the craziness of trying to survive our bicultural marriage, we feel like we’ve lost a little focus. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t justify what we’re not doing now. More importantly, living out the gospel is a way of life. Are we walking that out? We might have food and jobs, but there are millions who can’t say the same. Hopefully, no one’s pets’ heads are falling off, but being dead serious, billions of people are dying without Christ and without hope.

What the heck are we doing here Harry?

Recently, God has been wrecking us all over again with the gospel. I wouldn’t say it was a complete overhaul since we’ve known about this for a long time, but definitely a paradigm shift about who Jesus really was, what He really did, and HOW he really lived. His way of life was countercultural, radical, uncomfortable, and completely challenging. Albin and I have begun asking ourselves, “Do we look like Jesus? Are really living the countercultural, radical life that Jesus has called us to? What are we doing here?”

I’ve been reading two books recently that I would totally recommend. The first is Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker and it has challenged me immensely. Not only is she hilarious and doesn’t always use a filter (kindred spirit), but I love how she, her family, and her church have changed their focus from “blessing blessed people and serving the saved” to living missionally in order to reach the “least of these” in Austin. She challenges Christians to live out their faith according to Isaiah 58 (loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor with shelter, clothe the naked, take care of your own) and Matthew 25 (being a faithful servant and stewarding what He has given us, and feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc.).

The second book I am reading is called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis Chan. Again, he and his wife talk more about changing their perspective from focusing on their marriage to focusing on how they can help each other impact the kingdom for eternity. As a result, they spend way less time worrying about the little annoyances in marriage and spend way more time on loving others and serving Christ…which in turn has blessed their relationship a million times over. Something he said that has stuck with me the most is this:

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing. This caused us to experience Jesus deeply-what could be better? Eternal mindedness keeps us from silly arguments. There’s not time to fight. We have better things to pursue than our interests. Too much is at stake! God created us for a purpose. We can’t afford to waste our lives. We can’t afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness.”

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in Matthew from the Bible and just observing how Jesus handles situations. Wherever He went, the lame could walk, the dead were raised, the sick were healed, the blind saw, and the mute spoke (Matthew 9). In the same passage (vs. 9-12), Jesus is criticized for hanging out with drunks and “sinners” and he tells them to do something that has struck me profoundly:

“Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

What does that mean? To me, that means to stop doing religion and start living as Jesus lived: with mercy. That means to follow the example set in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

So again, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here Harry?” Are we living lives that mirror Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25? I know people shy away from the term “radical” because of its uncomfortable connotation, but seriously, are we living radically? Are we focusing inward to have the perfect marriage or focusing outward to use our imperfect marriage to impact the kingdom? Are we wasting our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness, rather than being eternally minded?

People want to see the church rise up and look like Jesus, not just hide behind facebook and bash whatever topic is the new political flavor of the month. Jesus called us to live a completely different way of life, not just trying to follow all the rules and look religious, but to:

Act justly (This means taking action for just causes)

Love mercy (Love serving the least and those in need)

Walk Humbly with God (Acknowledge our need for a Savior and walk it out accordingly).

Where does that leave Albin and me? We’re still working it out. We’re not setting out for Aspen like Harry and Lloyd; but we’ve refocused and are trying to walk this out. It’s not always pretty, but we know it is the Holy Spirit in us that is going to teach us. All we know is that we need to do it. Put our faith into action and make it a way of life. Will you join us in this journey? I’m writing about this because I want to be held accountable and I want others to join us in this. I want to see two normal and imperfect people on a journey to countercultural living and using our marriage to impact eternity. I want our kids to grow up expecting our family to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and invite the homeless into our home. We want to leave that legacy and we realize that we can’t just sit around, read about it and talk about it. We need to live in a new way. Jesus said to “Go and learn” what He means when He says that He “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” That’s what we want to do … continually position ourselves in places where we can go and learn how to live out the gospel and look like Jesus.

“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living, we must live our way into a new kind of thinking.”

-Richard Rohr

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Family Adventures (aka let’s keep mommy sane trips)

I’m currently loving life as a stay-at-home mom. Who knew? I thought I would be restless, but I really enjoy it. I’m so thankful that my husband works hard so I can stay home with Mariah. Most days I’m pretty content to be home all day, but there are days that I get a little stir crazy. Some days Albin pulls in the garage to find all four of us (i.e. Mariah, Rocky, Luna, and me) all waiting at the door poised and ready to jump on him in our excitement.

On one such day Albin came home and saw that crazy look in my eye and made an executive decision that we needed to all get out of the house more. He told me to set aside at least one Saturday a month and plan for a family adventure. Well, that spoke right to my heart since experiencing new things together is basically my love language. In fact, when we first got married I struggled a lot because I had just come off of an 11-country mission trip that was a constant adventure and suddenly I found myself settled down with a 9-5 job. It was ugly.

Anyway, back to the present. We decided to go through a Costa Rica guide book and write down places we’d never been and wanted to go. I also found this great website called “Two Weeks in Costa Rica” which details the travels of a couple that moved to CR after falling in love with it during a vacation. We found some new places and made a point to set apart a Saturday that didn’t involve cutting the grass, birthday parties, or other usual Saturday tasks.

Both of our family fun outings (FFO’s as coined by my parents) so far have been to waterfalls here. There are a lot of beautiful waterfalls in CR and taking a day to hike to them satisfies some innate need I have to explore. Not to mention we’ve really enjoyed being together as a family and getting out of the city. It’s something small that has gone a long way to make all of us a little saner. Totally worth it. I used to travel all over CR during my first two years here, but now our calendar always fills up with everyday stuff and sometimes it is so easy to just settle into mundane routines. I want to document them on my blog for my sake, but also maybe it will motivate you to get out there and plan some FFO’s with your family.

Here are some pictures from our August trip to Las Cataratas Los Chorros:

FullSizeRender (17)FullSizeRender (21) FullSizeRender (20) FullSizeRender (19) FullSizeRender (22)FullSizeRender (18)

September trip to Catarata del Toro with some dear friends:

IMG_9504 IMG_9530 IMG_9478 IMG_9510 FullSizeRender (23) IMG_9540

Marrying a Family

There is a saying out there that says something to the effect of “you don’t just marry an individual, you marry a family.” In my case, I feel like I married a country. At any rate, I’m going to go ahead and assume that I’m not the only one who felt a little out of place with my new tribe.

First off, the sheer number of this new clan was devastatingly intimidating. I didn’t take me long to realize that a family get-together included my mother-in-law’s eight siblings plus their children and grandchildren. I kept confusing Uncle Dagoberto with Uncle Rigoberto and couldn’t remember if I’d already talked to Aunt Eda or if that was actually Aunt Nidia … or wait? Second, I was still speaking three year old (or worse) equivalent Spanish when we got married. Very few people speak English in Al’s family, so I had to prove how cool I was while speaking toddler. Most of them would just stare at me … probably because I was a hot mess. Speaking so much Spanish would give me shaky hands and sweaty everything else.

I guess I assumed that I would seamlessly slip right into the family because I’m generally comfortable in new social situations. The difference with this situation, however, was that I married these people and we didn’t understand each other at all. As I’m typing this, I am asking my mother-in-law (who is here playing with my daughter so I can write and clean the house, bless her) what the hardest part of me becoming part of the family was for her. Here were her top 4 (and I think she could have thought of more but she had mercifully stopped after the overarching statement “your way of life”):

  1.      Language: She said the language was hard because “they had no idea if I could understand anything they were saying.” I thought that they knew I could understand because I would answer their questions, but apparently I was wrong. I remember on two separate occasions my suegra showed up with preschool level books and tried to get me to repeat the most basic Spanish verbs because my accent was bad. Shot to the heart.
  2.      Food: She said that they didn’t know what to offer me or feed me because I was from a different culture. Valid, but I will generally eat anything that isn’t still moving, so I had no idea this was a concern of theirs.
  3.      Physical touch: They love to greet each other with a kiss and they are very touchy. They weren’t sure I wanted them to touch me. I can handle the fake kiss on the cheek when greeting, but I guess they were afraid to go further than that?
  4.      My way of life: She said I did a lot of different things and they didn’t understand. I’m not going to elaborate because that one definitely goes both ways; basically, they thought I was a weirdo whenever I did anything.

Okay, so being the only white girl in the family was challenging and still is at times. For a while, I tried SO HARD to just become one of them, which made me feel like a wanna-be imposter in Costa Rica and a dirty cheater on my beloved ‘Merican heritage. I had a minor identity crisis. I finally realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was always going to be really tall (almost 6 feet, which is like a foot taller than most Costa Ricans), really white (no matter how much I tanned), and really loud (my whisper voice is basically non-existent). I finally swallowed the fact that while I could improve my pronunciation, my accent was permanent because I didn’t learn Spanish as a kid.  I stopped trying to impress them with my Costa Rican cuisine expertise and made them gringo delicacies like Thanksgiving stuffing, zucchini bread, and all things pumpkin. It’s just now setting in that I can go around and kiss everyone when I enter the room, but also that they understand not to be offended if I do just a general “hola” addressed to all. In short, once I got over myself and my insecurities of feeling like I needed to fit in, everyone got a lot more comfortable.

Now that we have almost four years under our belts and my Latino family is used to me being tall, loud, white, and weird, I am finally myself (well, I try to be). I listen to the opinions they have (Oh, and do they have them. Especially about my daughter :-/), I respect their customs, and I embrace the parts of their culture that I love. It’s also okay that I’m my own person and bring my opinions, customs, and culture to the family as well.

These past few months I’ve been working hard to acknowledge Albin’s family as “my family” instead of me always referring to them as “Albin’s family.” Does that make sense? Because it’s not “my family” or “Albin’s family” anymore. It’s our family. That clan of Latinos that think my accent sucks is my family. That big white wave of gringos that can’t say Albin’s last name correctly is his family. It’s become our family and we love the madness that comes from our cultural collision.

Albin's gma, mom, and me. I'm leaning, but I'm still giant.

Albin’s gma, mom, and me. I’m leaning, but I’m still giant.

What If I Married the Wrong Person?

What if I marry (or married) the wrong person? Is there one perfect soulmate out there for everyone?

Those questions seems to resurface all the time and I’ve always wondered lost sleep over them. I mean, that is a whole lot of pressure. You have to find that one perfect man out of the 3 billion(ish) on the planet? What if I make a mistake? Does that mess up the whole order of perfect soulmates because I married someone else’s perfect mate and now they’re endlessly wandering the earth trying to find someone that’s already taken? And if I do make a mistake and I don’t believe divorce is an option, am I just stuck with the wrong person till death do us part? Thinking about how I could be miserably mistaken my whole life or about how I could possibly screw up the arranged order of the perfect soulmates of the world is enough to give me an ulcer.

I’m pretty sure I did almost get an ulcer early on in our marriage because there was a small part of me that wondered if Albin was really the one for me. It was terrifying. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know we had a rough start, but apart from all that, I felt like he didn’t even know me. Like didn’t know what really made me tick. I assumed that if we truly were soulmates, he would just “get” me. He would understand what I needed and it wouldn’t require me spelling out everything. He would always make me laugh, he would understand all my vague comments, and anticipate my needs. Basically, he just needed to be a mind-reader because “happy wife, happy life” … right?

Wrong. Painfully wrong.

Not only did I find myself feeling misunderstood and lonely, I found myself with a husband who was frustrated because he couldn’t make me happy. I had no idea what was going through his mind and that frustrated me as well. I had an illusion that we would always be on the same wavelength and when that bubble was burst, I started to question whether we were right for one another. Some of it was selfishness (like the hope that he would anticipate my every need, bahh), some of it was an expectation that we would naturally be interested in the same things (like… where to go out for dinner), and some of it was just our deep-down desire to know and be known. As we’ve worked through these things, we’ve had a big breakthrough: truly becoming “soulmates” takes time, effort and practice.

It’s finally sinking in that we have to work hard to be soulmates. We have to put in some effort to learn what makes our spouse “tick.” We literally have to practice being the right person for our spouse. It’s all about being intentional. I’ll be sincere and admit that being intentional isn’t necessarily my forte. Being intentional requires effort, forethought and selflessness. It requires me putting myself aside and choosing to do something that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me like it does to him. It requires him to ask me if I want to talk about something even if he’s tired and has no desire to open that can of worms. It requires both of us to be interested (or at least try to be) in what gets the other person excited.

The problem is that it’s so much easier to think about how my needs aren’t being met. It’s far simpler to sit and lament our differences than it is to surrender our will and actively pursue a compromise. It is so much easier to sit around and think about what Albin doesn’t do for me or how he doesn’t “get me” than it is to flip it around and think about what I can do for him or how I can engage him more fully so that he feels fully known.

For example, discussing politics doesn’t appeal to me and I usually avoid political conversations at all costs. Albin, however, loves getting into a good political debate. For years, I’ve literally blown him off every time he tried to start a conversation about politics. Basically, it would go like this:

Albin: What is your opinion about [insert current issue]?

Me: I don’t know, maybe [insert quick generic answer].

Albin (silently waiting for me to return the question, which doesn’t come because I’m avoiding the conversation): Well, I’m not sure I agree.

Me: Okay. What do you want for dinner? [End of conversation.]

Rude, I know. I’m a slow learner, but almost four years into this, I’m realizing that Albin gets some sort of intellectual satisfaction from hashing out a political topic. If that’s something that he is interested in, why do I have to be a jerk change the subject? Is it really that hard for me to ask him what his opinion of the topic is and (heaven forbid) actually listen to his rationale? He listens to me spout unimportant crap all day and doesn’t blow me off. So, I’ve tried to be intentional and engage in a conversation that interests him. Maybe a little effort on my part makes him feel like he has a partner that values his opinion and with whom he has an intellectual connection. If that’s the case, me taking five minutes out of my day to debate about the government is worth it. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy these conversations now because he gets me thinking about current events and things in the government that I actually should be pondering.

An example for me would be something that Albin did recently. Playing games is one of my love languages and something that I associated with family. I love to play games, specifically Nerts. Albin will play games, but it’s not something that satisfies some deep inner need of his, and plus I think he hated Nerts for a long time because I may or may not go overboard and get too intense when I play. Anyway, it really bothered me that he never wanted to play games with me. It was like pulling teeth. Like how hard was it to sit down a play a few games of Yahtzee for goodness sake? It’s silly, but I actually wondered why I hadn’t considered this game drama before we had married. Would I have married this guy had I known he wouldn’t always be up for a game of Scrabble? Does he even know me at all?

Finally, several months ago, Albin suggested we started having game nights once a week. He said he wanted to get better at Nerts and he thought it would be something for us to look forward to on Thursday nights. I ripped his clothes off right there. Just kidding, but his offer spoke to me on some deep level. He’s gotten really good at all games since then and now we really do love game night. He was intentional and sought to engage me in something that was important to me and that I associated with the concept of family…which made me feel like we were more of a family in a way. Like maybe we weren’t on two completely different wavelengths after all.

Albin and I definitely are not experts and clearly Albin is the deeper of the two of us (deep theoretical conversations vs. my board game needs), but we’re learning and I like our progress. As we become more intentional, we get along so much better, agree on so much more and feel more fully known. Even silly things like (finally!) agreeing on a restaurant, conversing about legislation and keeping a running Yahtzee tally going forms a connection and creates room for us to become soulmates for one another.

En fin, I’m trying to learn from my own lesson today and think about what other areas I can put myself aside to be intentional with Albin. What ways can you be intentional and engage your spouse today?

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4