Our Story continued

I left off our story here, where we met for the first time.  I’m now going to skip ahead a little to the bit of time before our getting engaged:

My second year at college began differently than I had imagined.  I was enrolled as a full time student but shortly before the drop out deadline I turned in my papers to get a refund for that semester. I began instead to look forward to spending a month in Haiti working at an orphanage.  The month taught me a lot about the wrong ways to do ministry in Haiti, and a couple of the right ways.  I did however find myself completely excited for mission work and for serving God. I scheduled a dinner with Abigail at Pei Wei when we she was back in Kansas City for Christmas break. I don’t remember what she ordered, but I had Kung Pao beef with brown rice :-). I remember that Abigail was dating someone else at the time, and they had actually been together for quite some time. We talked about all sorts of mission related things and I was really able to share my excitement and love for God with her. I vividly remember looking at her during the meal and praying to God, “If she ever becomes single again I would marry her”.  I think this is when I really began to fall in love with her.  It was the first time I was able to see her fully for who she is, I was able to see this woman who was kind, gentle, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, and so much more! Unfortunately for me she was leaving in a few weeks to study abroad in Ecuador, and it wasn’t until a bit later that we started dating, but I like to look back on this and think that it was the beginning of me seeing her for who she really is.

Check back soon for the next installment and find out about our time as a dating couple!

Sunday Confessional: Our story

I confess that today is my wife’s 26th birthday. We’ve been married a bit over five years at this point and I think I should share a bit about how we met. Over the next week or so I will chronicle a bit of our together story. Here is goes:

It wasn’t until the spring semester of our junior year (3rd) in high school that our paths finally crossed. Our choir took a ten day trip to the Republic of Ireland, where we toured around the country. This trip was essentially a whirlwind of activity and I’m sure I did a poor job appreciating the weight of everything that I saw. What I was able to appreciate was a few of the new friends I had made on the trip. It was the year 2006, fat drops of rain fell onto the windows of our tour bus, the sky had opened up like the angels themselves were crying.  Our high school choir had just finished singing to the rhythmic crashing waves at the enormous Cliffs of Moher when we had to make a mad dash for the bus. As our group pulled out of the parking lot we all began to talk.  There were two girls in the seat in front of mine and I introduced myself. Abigail was one of them, and during the trip we talked frequently enough that when we returned home we stayed friends. We would get together sometimes as friends and go for walks together. At this point we had no idea that we would one day fall madly in love with each other, which is good because I had not yet met Jesus, and begun my walk as a Christian. When high school ended we stayed in touch and it is through staying in touch that we were able to take our relationship from friendship to marriage.

I’ll tell the some more of that story in another post this week, so make sure you check back in if you want to read some more.

I confess that I’m in love with my wife! I also confess the blood of Jesus as my redemption!

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that today was a good day. And that Sundays are my jam.

I love Sundays. I often leave the house an hour early so that I can be there for Praise Band rehearsal, and I treasure the few minutes I get to myself as I walk down to the community centre where we meet. A few minutes to think, pray, and take a breath.

It’s especially fun (i.e. interesting) to sing at church on a day when John is preaching. As we’re finishing up going over the last couple songs before the service begins, I see John come in wrangling both boys on his own, always playing the part of “Super Dad” with the superpower of endless patience. I give them all a quick hug before I’m back up front for the service to begin. While singing, I get to watch my boys worship in their seats. Moses likes to call out in his loud baby-voice whenever he hears music, so there’s that, but also there’s my big boy clinging onto his daddy. He doesn’t know it, but that’s a huge way his little body can praise God; enjoying a few minutes where his mind can hear the music and listen to the love-filled words while safe in the arms of his earthly father. At some point Hosea goes off to the creche and as we sing our last song, I quickly get to my seat and take over being in charge of the baby. This is when John goes up to the front and starts to preach. Then, once he’s finished, we swap places again when it’s time for the praise band to close the service with more music.

I love these “tag team” Sundays, and I missed this experience last week! Hosea’s first few chicken pox had just started appearing so John stayed home with him (and Moses). The worst part was when I left the house and Hosea was crying his little eyes out,

“But I want to go to church! I love church! I don’t like my chicken pox! I want to go to church!

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were really tough. Poor Hosea was itchy all over, had a fever and incoming molars, and even had chicken pox on his tongue (which made eating VERY difficult)! He was really achy (who can blame him?), so we held him most of the time. He was hungry but broke into tears with every bite because of his swollen gums and sore tongue…So he ate a lot of homemade popsicles. He was sweaty from his fever, and a greasy/sticky mess from the anti-itch cream I made him. We couldn’t really go anywhere because he didn’t feel good and so we watched movies, drank tea, gave him oatmeal baths, read a lot of books, and cuddled on pillows and blankets in the living room.

As the week progressed, things started to improve, and we were able to get outside for a bit, and thankfully made it to church this morning! A day to focus on God, family, and rest? Yes please! Sunday morning is our family’s favorite part of the week. The people there are our Northern Irish family, and it stinks when we don’t get to see them! I told Hosea that I was soooo happy we could all go to church together today and he said, “me too!”

I love Sundays, but I especially love that Hosea loves them too.

I confess that I’m not always grateful when the hard days come around, but today was made better because we got through hard days this week.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Dinner in the Garden at El Jardí

Even after a long day (we went to the monastery in Montserrat), we decided to venture out for dinner. After walking through the bustling Barcelona streets for only 10 minutes, we ended up at an adorable outdoor restaurant called El Jardí. It’s tucked away in a courtyard of sorts so it’s quiet except for the happy chatter of other restaurant customers. Before entering, you’ll notice the courtyard has a giant chessboard & pieces, plus several trees and even nice benches to sit on. There were a lot of people there enjoying the warm weather in this shaded area.11411923_3509496654777_3512938180592776513_o

The restaurant has a calm, fun atmosphere but my favorite part was the lovely garden and its paths! Just the right size for our 2 year old, he was happily occupied during dinner. We were able to keep our eyes on him and let him wander as he pleased.

11393327_3509496214766_1351906999960376541_oWe got plates of assorted cheeses and meats, pan con tomate, and patatas bravas (potatoes covered in a spicy mayo-type sauce, our new favorite food item!). Our 2 year old had a milkshake and our baby happily munched on meat/cheese in his chair. We sat  in a corner booth with comfy pillows and cushions.

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One of the main reasons we purchased this specific baby carrier (the Onya) was because it could transform into a seat! We ate so much sensational food during our week in Barcelona, but only ONE PLACE offered us a high chair! This was surprising to me. El Jardí was the first place where we tried out the Onya’s seat feature and it was so brilliant. Our baby loved it, and we were hands free to enjoy our conversation and meal together. After all, this was our anniversary trip!

I recommend this restaurant to anyone, not just people with kids!

When we first arrived there was a group of older ladies finishing off their afternoon drinks and as the night went on, families started arriving for dinner, groups of friends came in for tapas, and couples found tables for date nights.

Our waiter was kind and never rushed us, and the food was delicious! I’m glad he recommended the pan con tomate (basically toasted bread with a tomato sauce on top) because, while it wasn’t anything super-impressive, I’d heard it was a staple and had been meaning to order it! And as he suggested, it tasted great with our cheese and meat plate 🙂

Dessert for Breakfast at Escribá

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If you visit Barcelona, I hope one morning you find yourself eating breakfast at Escribá. It’s located on Av. Las Ramblas almost right next to La Boquería market. Passersby tend to notice it because of all the gorgeous cakes and chocolates in the window! The first time we popped in, it was to admire the fancy desserts. We weren’t going to get anything because it was only just after 9am. That’s when I glanced at a displayed menu and saw the word, desayuno. “(GASP) They have breakfast here!”, I whispered excitedly to my husband. So then we got a table. What could be better than breaking fast at a dessert place?! We ended up with café con leche, a spinach & goat cheese quiche, hot chocolate, and ensaimadas. First let me tell you about the traditional Spanish breakfast pastry called the ensaimada. It is like a flat swirly croissant made from brioche bread and topped with powdered sugar. It is super tasty! On our second and third visits (yes, 3x in 6 days!) we ordered ensaimadas carmelitzadas which I would equate to a grilled ham and cheese that uses an ENSAIMADA instead of bread. This may have been the yummiest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! You’ve got to try one. ry=400-6

ry=400By the way, my simple café con leche was divine because it was served with a small chocolate bar to stir in and let melt in my coffee. Umm, why have I never done this before?! Here’s a picture. Mine’s on the bottom left, and you can see the chocolate there on the saucer! The mug on the top right is my husband’s hot chocolate (he doesn’t like coffee) but can I tell you what was actually inside that mug? MELTED CHOCOLATE. This was no ordinary “hot milk with chocolate powder stirred in” type drink. This was literally a mug full to the brim of creamy melted chocolate bars. Unsweetened too! It was served with sugar packets! 100% chocolate folks. And whatever toppings you like. Twice he got the raspberry sauce and this photo here is of the hazelnut/praline option. AMAZING! I think these particular beverages will be served in heaven <3

11393693_3509442973435_4921978299425943423_oWe ate outside during 2 of our visits and this would be my seating choice again if we were to go back. Eating inside was a bit cramped with the energetic kiddos, but still lovely. My 2 year old was actually kept quite occupied by admiring all the desserts in the display windows!

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On our last day in Barcelona, we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary by eating at Escribá. We let our toddler have cake for breakfast… it was a chocolate orange cake with melted chocolate poured on top. If I remember correctly I think it was called “El Escribá”. He chose it from the window and was super excited about how delicious it was!

I highly recommend visiting this place. The wait staff were very friendly and seemed to enjoy trying out their English phrases on us. Prices were reasonable and all the food we tried was sensational! I would definitely go back to try the horchata they had on tap inside; it looked amazing!

Traveling with a Toddler… How?!

ry=400Besides benefits for baby, there are also benefits of wearing bigger kiddos! In an overstimulating world, toddlers can retreat to the security of their carrier and feel safe on mom, dad, or the loved one who’s wearing them. Being worn helps toddlers to overcome meltdowns before they escalate, and provides a safe space to calm down if a meltdown has already occurred. Practically speaking, being up higher can help your toddler enjoy the same sights you enjoy, whether at a museum or on vacation in a new place. Also, it makes holding conversations with your toddler much easier! You wouldn’t believe the sweet comments my 2 year old has made while riding comfortably and happily on my (or my husband’s) back. Sometimes he even tucks his arms in to “hug” me from inside the carrier. I cherish these moments! <3 ry=400-14

ry=400-13Our toddler could easily be worn in our baby carrier because the weight limit on it goes up to 45lbs. We decided to purchase a Toddler Tula because it is specifically designed for use with older children and because, well, we need to use our baby carrier for our BABY. Ha! Glad we thought that one through 🙂 Our toddler calls the Tula his “big boy carrier” and loves the rocketship design. It has a wider seat for a toddler’s longer legs, a taller back for a toddler’s longer torso, and cushier straps for the wearer to support the extra weight. Most of the weight rests on your hips anyway due to the hip belt. We usually wear him on our backs, but it can be used to wear on your front as well. Oh, and it has a removable hood too just in case your toddler happens to fall asleep on you (*gasp*)! ry=400-1

The BEST IDEA I EVER HAD was purchasing a toddler carrier so that my husband could wear our 2 year old on vacation to Barcelona. (I wish we’d had it in the airport during our recent move from the U.S. to Northern Ireland!) I wore our 8 month old in our Onya and, paired with the Toddler Tula, the two carriers were a dream team! We were able to navigate the streets, metro, trains, and buses of Barcelona with so much ease.

The boys were able to observe their surroundings without feeling overwhelmed and “out there” in a foreign city.

They also napped on us while we got to continue exploring during the day, and we weren’t ever worried about our toddler running off somewhere to explore on his own! ry=400-4

When our babies are on us, we as parents are able to observe our surroundings better too. I’m certain we had a much more enjoyable trip to Spain because we weren’t preoccupied with our children, they were happy being worn and we were happy wandering the streets of a new city. Carriers are also great for taking hiking expeditions where strollers would be too difficult!

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It seems like we always come across toddlers and babies throwing fits while in buggies, strollers, or on leashes, and I just want to run over to the parents and say,

“It’s okay! We’ve all been there! …But have you ever thought about wearing your baby instead?”

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The Secret to Traveling with a Baby

ry=400-3My husband and I are big fans of babywearing. We love the many benefits that come with keeping your baby close to your heart! Babies who are worn cry much less, resulting in reduced stress hormones in baby’s brain. Because of this, they can calmly observe the world around them, match their heart rate and breathing patterns to the wearer, and have the feeling of being held. When we wear our babies, we are more in tune with their needs and can meet them before crying even begins! I’ve owned and utilized many different slings and carriers; from woven wraps, a moby wrap, an ergo, a beco, and done all sorts of carries: front, back, and hip. All of these have various pros and cons and I used to be seriously obsessed with my woven wrap, but I must say that my absolute FAVORITE carrier has been my Onya Baby Carrier. ry=400-10

This is called a soft-structured carrier and is very comfortable! People always assume my back must ache after a day spent wearing my baby, but because of the hip belt, most of his weight is resting on my hips so no, this carrier doesn’t hurt my back! There are two different pockets on this bad boy which are super convenient for being “on-the-go”. I always stash my phone, keys, cash, cards, etc. in there with easy access. It also has a hood for baby that can get tucked into a pocket when not in use. I  use this all  time when he falls asleep on me!

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ry=400-2 ry=400-12Another feature that makes the Onya the most brilliant carrier ever, is it’s ability to turn into a baby seat. Yep, anytime you have access to an adult-size backed chair, you can turn the onya into a “high chair” of sorts! This is so handy.

We recently moved from the U.S. to Northern Ireland with our 2 kids and having our onya baby carrier in the airport was a Godsend. We were able to coast through checking into our flights, baggage claim, security checkpoints, and never once had to worry if baby (or big brother, read about that HERE) was upset in the stroller and needing to be held.ry=400-7

We spent a week in Barcelona, Spain and I wore my Onya all day every day! It was so brilliant for navigating an unfamiliar city. Baby felt safe and comfortable, and I didn’t have to worry about him feeling upset or getting poked by strangers (because he was in my personal space bubble). Wearing your baby also makes discreet nursing super easy. Carriers are also great for taking hiking expeditions where strollers would be too difficult! ry=400-11

There are great benefits to wearing your big kid too! We use a Toddler Tula.

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Friday in Barcelona

ry=400Friday, June 12th was the actual day of our 5th wedding anniversary! The whole reason we came on this trip was to celebrate our love for each other and how much our relationship has grown. Unfortunately, this was our last day in Barcelona, but we made the most of it. We started out at our favorite breakfast place and sweets shop, Escribá. Because it was a special occasion, we let our 2 year old have chocolate cake!

Before going back to the flat for our bags, we walked around some shops to see if we could find a last-minute souvenir. ry=400-1There were so many neat artisan shops we’d seen all week that had beautiful painted mosaic gifts and pottery. I found a great pair of earrings with mosaics on them, modeled after some of Guell’s work. Earrings are my favorite souvenir to bring home from my travels because they’re small, and I get to show them off periodically and tell people stories from the trip. ry=400-2We took in our last few minutes in our neighborhood, with the narrow streets and closely situated apartment buildings/storefronts. There is some beautiful architecture!

We retrieved our bags, checked out of the flat, and made our way to the Barcelona Arena in Plaça de España. There is an elevator you can ride up to the top for a gorgeous panoramic view of the city. We killed some time here and the view was definitely worth the 1euro we paid to get to the top! ry=400-6ry=400-7

ry=400-5We caught the bus from Plaça de España to the airport and checked in for our flight back home to Belfast. The boys obviously had a great trip, they both fell asleep on the 2 hour flight! We are so grateful for this time together as a family to explore the amazing city of Barcelona <3

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Read about the rest of our trip to Barcelona too! Have you been? What was your favorite part?

Thursday in Barcelona

ry=400-5Even though it was sunny and beautiful outside, we decided to take some time indoors and check out the children’s science museum, CosmoCaixa. Only a short metro ride away, this turned out to be an excellent choice. We all had a fun time exploring the exhibits, plus the underwater ecosystem and rainforest is super cool!

Remember when we ate at BuenasMigas a few days ago? Well, we found another one and decided to eat here again! This is a great option for a cheap, delicious meal in Barcelona. ry=400-4

After catching the metro back to Las Ramblas (where our flat was located), we relaxed a bit and let our 2 year old greet people on the street from our balcony. He thought this was so hilarious! It’s the little things in life, isn’t it?ry=400

ry=400-3For our afternoon adventure, we changed into our swimsuits and caught the metro to the coast. We were headed to Ocata but spontaneously got off when we saw a nice beach. It turned out to be a great experience filled with locals; we were the only tourists. The water was a bit cold but the boys mostly like to play in the sand anyway. We soaked up some afternoon sun, listened to the waves and seagulls, watched our boys wrestle in the sand, and enjoyed some calm time on the shore. Also our baby ate a lot of sand 🙂

ry=400At this point I started getting hungry, so we walked about 3 minutes down the shore to a restaurant under a tent. I don’t think it had a name, just one of those beachfront pop-ups. We shared a grilled cheese sandwich, and tapas (of course!): chili nachos (from the “international” section), and patatas bravas (our favorite!) while our 2 year old used his imagination in a playhouse nearby. It was fun to eat at a place where the staff didn’t speak English. I love being able to use my Spanish and it’s just more fun! ry=400-1

What a great relaxing afternoon and evening <3 ry=400-2

 

 

Wednesday in Barcelona

Wednesday morning marked our 4th day spent in Barcelona. So far, we were having a fantastic time exploring, sightseeing, and trying new foods!

ry=400-6Our first stop was to revisit Escribá, the sweets shop, for breakfast. We had such a wonderful experience a couple days before, that we decided to go back for more! And it was only a couple minutes walk from our flat, so can you blame us?! Read about how much we loved it HERE.

 

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After breakfast we took the metro to Parc de la Ciutadella or, Citadel Park. You should definitely try to use the metro while you’re in Barcelona. It is super easy to figure out and trains come every couple of minutes, so you can get most places pretty quickly! We came here on our first day but we didn’t realize how close we were to the zoo. We entered the park from the Northwest corner and walked under the Arc de Triomf. It is huge and I highly recommend walking to the zoo this way! It’s a gorgeous walk anyway, you might as well add in the splendor of the Arc de Triomf.

We had a fun few hours at the zoo and it ended up being our 2 year old’s favorite portion of the whole trip! Read about our experience here.

ry=400-1After our exciting morning visiting zoo animals, we ended up a bit farther North to check out the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. But first we went to a nearby restaurant to fill our bellies. All this walking got us consuming a lot more food! We went to Tossa, recommended on trip advisor as a family friendly restaurant. I wouldn’t say that it was super family friendly necessarily (no high chairs) but the staff were kind enough! We enjoyed a tapas selection of little sausages in cider, patatas bravas, meatballs, and a baked potato with roquefort cheese. We also used our onya carrier as a high chair!

ry=400-2The Sagrada Familia Cathedral is one of those “must-see” sights when you visit Barcelona. Our boys don’t do particularly well in places where they’re expected to be silent and I was nervous about going inside and disturbing everyone. They’re joyous little noisemakers after all! When we got there, we found a queue out the door that would’ve taken a few hours to wait in. So, the decision was made for me: We’ll just admire it from the outside! This was the perfect choice. We gazed up high into the sky at the towering cathedral meanwhile enjoying all-fruit popsicles from a shop across the street. I’m sure the inside is gorgeous, but I also feel like we had a great experience walking around the entire thing and catching it from every angle.ry=400-5ry=400-3

On our way home, we passed through La Boquería market again. It’s just so fun to explore! This time we got more fruit and some fresh goat cheese for a snack later that night.ry=400-7

Again, we wouldn’t have been able to survive this day without our Onya baby carrier or our toddler Tula!

Check out all our posts about Barcelona!