In Retrospect: My Word for 2016

Aside

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I never have, but thought this year might be a good time to start because I’m really good at adding things to my already full plate. When I was trying to come up with a resolution for 2017 I just kept thinking of things that were more fitting for a bucket list. Visit a new country and continent (New Zealand in July, check!), master a new song on the ukulele, eat leafy greens with every meal, and visit all our favorite Kansas City places before we move. These things also remind me of my to-do lists where I write down things that I’m already planning on doing so that I can check them off. I’ve already decided we’re moving to New Zealand, so does that count?! And we’ll already be visiting all our favorite KC places before moving, so that probably doesn’t count either… Another thing I thought of was inspired by a fellow Holy Yoga instructor that I follow on instagram. She is committing to doing ten sun salutations every day in 2017. Wow! “That is a great workout”, I thought. Doing ten sun salutations would tone my arms, my abs, get my heart rate up, and would be amazing!

But then I thought, “Hmm… would I actually do that?!” Or would it just be another thing on my list that I never accomplish so it gets moved to the following week? Would I forget for a whole week and then start the next Monday with the burden of completing 70 sun salutations to make up for what I missed?
I’ve already confessed that I expect a lot from myself and so I’m thinking I have a couple choices here:
1) Commit to ten daily sun salutations and fail.
2) Not commit to ten daily sun salutations.
Maybe I could do it every day in January, maybe even February too. But I also know we’ll be traveling several weekends to speak at different churches and staying in other people’s homes. I know we’ll be MOVING TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD in July and our days will be messed up for a bit. I know that parenting is hard, and there’s often no time “on my own” to complete ten sun salutations. I know that challenging myself is good, but I’ve found it’s also wise to have realistic expectations. When would I do these sun salutations? After a long day of momming and teaching where I DREAD this commitment? Or setting my alarm early so that I wake up angry about missing an extra half hour of sleep? No. As much as I want to see myself commit to this and succeed, I just can’t do it. Not this year at least! As yoga has taught me, I’m learning to LISTEN to my body and not force it to do something that would eventually cause damage.
Almost everyone I know chooses a word instead of a resolution for the new year. Some call it a phrase, a mantra, or an intention, but it’s basically something that you focus on and it can encompass many things. The end of 2015 was hard for me (and I’ve talked about that in a different post), but I was not prepared to select a word for 2016.
Retrospectively, my word for 2016 was “renewal”. My emotional and physical health has been renewed and because of that, my relationships are stronger, my marriage is better, I can offer myself grace, and I can extend more grace to others. My expectations for myself are becoming more realistic, I’m getting better at letting go of things that are unimportant, and also at focusing on things that are truly important to me and my family. This renewal didn’t occur in one simple moment, but has been an ongoing transformation that will continue throughout my life.
We will see what 2017 brings and what word I find myself holding once December rolls around, but for now I feel myself moving from “renewal” to “embrace”. 2017 will involve SO MUCH CHANGE that may make me feel compelled to go hide in my introvert’s corner, but I want to be an active participant in this change and truly embrace it. I don’t know the extent of what my family will be embracing in 2017 but i know it will include a new home, a new country, maximizing time with old friends and meeting new ones, getting rid of meaningless stuff and acquiring new things, creating fresh routines, and finding what’s normal for us. It will require a boldness to move forward when things are difficult, a humility to lean on each other and those who have offered their support, and a faith to continue trusting God with our lives.
(photo cred: Hannah Beers at harperrosephoto.com)
Happy New Year!
Embracing 2017,
The Carr Family

Our October Baby (Thoughts From a Year Later)

I slept terribly the other night. Maybe it was too many thoughts racing through my head, or maybe it was the coffee I didn’t finish until 4pm. Either way, I had a difficult time falling asleep and slept a grand total of about 3 hours. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to transition “home”, and asking where exactly is “home” now? I can’t help but think about how different our life was just a year ago. We were in this sweet joyful season of expectation. Expectantly waiting an international move, and expectantly waiting on our second child to be born. We had a happy and calm two year old who never gave us any trouble, and my belly was swollen with a 39-week-old mysterious life inside. I loved everything about being pregnant and was SO EXCITED to welcome this new baby, but not entirely ready to give up the amazing feeling of fullness that comes with carrying a child inside you.

After all, there are only a few times in our lives when we get to hold our babies so close to our hearts.

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10659405_3133219208076_7199090142194771931_nMoses came to us after only 5 hours of labor, 4 of those spent at home. It all started in the middle of the night; It was like I went to sleep with one son, and woke up in the morning with two! The first few months were rewarding, and difficult. The things I’d learned with Hosea weren’t applicable with Moses. I quickly learned that he was completely different from his brother in every way! After dealing with a tongue tie and breastfeeding struggles, a dairy sensitivity, packing up our important things and moving to Northern Ireland, and after settling into a new rhythym of life on the other side of the world, I learned to take a breath. 

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After all, we only get to experience our babies’

first year once.

11412265_3509443213441_5349062205543739562_n If I could choose one word to describe Moses, it would be ‘passionate’. Boy oh boy, is he a passionate fellow! He loves to imitate his brother, joyously screeching as loud as he can. He hears music everywhere, real music on the radio but also imaginative music in the banging of a highchair tray or the slamming of a cupboard door. He dances wildly and can do a million squats in a row with those chunky legs. He’s got the biggest 6-toothed grin and lights up when he sees Dada, Mama, or Bubba <<3 of his words. He also signs more, milk, food, and I’m pretty sure he said ball yesterday. When it’s warm (not too often in this climate), the sides of his white-blond hair curl up and I call him “Mozo the Clown”. Other nicknames include “Mosey Bear”, “Mo Bear”, “Little Mo Mack”, and simply, “Mo”. When we lie on the floor, he sees that as an invitation to jump and wrestle, pretend-biting any patch of skin where clothing has fallen loose. One of his favorite toys is a toothbrush. Our exercise ball is our lifeline; I used it during labor, but we also bounce him to sleep on it every night. He walks by cruising along the edge of the sofa and the coffee table and will walk all over the house if we hold his hands. As they say in Northern Ireland, he is “all go”! He loves all food, especially berries, and still nurses quite a bit too. He’s just transitioned to one nap during the day, a sure sign that he is indeed growing up. 

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After all, this first year can’t last forever and God’s presence is so evident in his growing up. Sometimes I wish he’d stay little, but then we wouldn’t get to witness his growth, inside and out.

11221295_3566285114453_7600441103134910882_nHappy 1st Birthday, Moses! You are a true joy, your passion is inspiring, and we praise God for bringing you into our family and allowing us to be your parents. 11393085_3520222162908_6188649816407841100_n  11402959_3512188762078_5919977489000002218_n

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.

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 🙂

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!

Barcelona Zoo

For some reason, my family loves to visit zoos when we travel. It’s always neat to see different animals and learn about them, especially conservation efforts for those endangered. Our 2 year old loves experiencing various zoos and wildlife centers! When we were researching family-friendly activities in Barcelona, the zoo kept coming up so we decided to try it out. Tickets were cheaper online, so we purchased them the night before. The next morning, the zoo employee was able to scan the barcodes on my phone. Easy peasy! And we saved a few euro.

ry=400 Situated in the gorgeous scenery of Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona Zoo showcases a variety of animals among beautiful flowers and walking paths. If you enter Citadel Park from the Northwest Corner, you’ll get to pass under the massive Arc de Triomf on your walk to the zoo, definitely worth seeing!

We thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours spent walking around the zoo! We saw so many animals, chimpanzees, giraffes, elephants, flamingos, komodo dragons, giant tortoises, peacocks, and many many others.

ry=400-2ry=400-5ry=400-4There were several highlights of our zoo day. The first was the dolphin show. I waited in line with the baby while my husband wandered around some more with our toddler. There are benches and plenty of places to roam! The line moved super fast and we were soon shuffled in; and we got a great seat! Our 2 year old absolutely LOVED this show and was old enough to understand the trainer/dolphin “jokes”. He thought the tricks were impressive and there were many audible gasps and exclamations! The show was free, and just long enough for everyone to stay attentive throughout.

ry=400-8One of our other favorites was letting our son ride a miniature pony. He loves horses and has recently been showing off his bravery, so this was the perfect opportunity to have what he calls a “big boy treat”. It cost around 4euro but it was definitely worth it! He got to choose which pony to ride and my husband was given the task of walking the loop with him. Such great fun! Weeks later, he still talks about “his” horse named Magic.

ry=400-6Another cool thing about the Barcelona Zoo is the farm animal area. It’s set up a bit like a petting zoo and houses cows, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, mice, and guinea pigs, etc. In this area is also a great little playground! There was hardly anyone else there so we had the run of the place.

There is a cafe here too, but it seemed a bit pricy to me. Bring your own food or just eat before/after your visit to save some money! But it’s good to know it’s there in case you have people in your family like mine, who get “hangry” when we have low blood sugar 😉

On our walk back through to the entrance, I spotted a welcome sight. A room for breastfeeding moms! Thanks to my Onya carrier, I don’t ever have to stop what I’m doing to sit down and nurse my baby, BUT for moms that need a few minutes rest or are uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, this room is a great option. It was wonderful to see! I stepped inside to check it out and there was a sink, a comfy chair, a microwave, magazines, and a changing table. Way to go, Barcelona Zoo! Thanks for making nursing mamas feel comfortable.

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Day Trip to Rathlin Island

ry=400-2At some point we realized that all of the kids would be off school here in a couple weeks and everything would start getting super busy. We’d talked about visiting Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island for a while and so we made an impromptu trip to go see what we could find.

The ferry to Rathlin Island leaves from Ballycastle, a nice town on the North coast. You can find timetables on this website. We arrived just in time to catch the next departure and got seats on the roof for our 25 minute journey. Our 2 year old enjoyed the view and waved “bye bye” to Northern Ireland as we sailed away. The baby, on the other hand, must’ve been trying to compete with the wind and waves because he sure was making his voice heard! ry=400-1

Once we landed, we decided to pop in and get some food at McCuaig’s Bar. Arriving a bit before the lunch rush, we had most of the place to ourselves! Any feelings of awkwardness from bringing our children into a pub (totally normal around here) were quickly dispelled by looking at the pub’s only other customers at the time, another family with two young kids 🙂 Our fish and chips were delicious by the way! I should note that there is an ATM inside just in case you need cash.

ry=400This is when we stumbled on a nice playground and let our 2 year old run off some steam. Swings, a see-saw, slides, etc made him really happy! There’s even a few picnic tables inside the enclosure so you can bring/eat your own food.

After getting some wiggles out at the playground, we hopped aboard the Puffin Bus for a trip up to the sea bird viewpoint. It was maybe a 20 minute journey and the driver stopped along the way to point out interesting “fun facts”, like the hill that is said to be a viking burial site! Rathlin Island is supposedly the first place in the whole of Ireland where Vikings settled.

ry=400-5We entered the viewpoint through a Visitor’s Centre (they had water and biscuits available, too!) and took some photos of the gorgeous view we saw!

You know that bird poop smell? That’s what filled our noses over here. BUT, it didn’t take away from the stunning panoramic coastline views!! There were binoculars available for use and a kind employee offered a child’s pair to our toddler. He was absolutely thrilled and LOVED “taking pictures” of the birds. All the black and white dots on these rocks show the vast variety of seabirds that the island receives every year. We learned about puffins, fulmars (in the albatross family), guillemots, kittiwakes, and razorbills. I’ve never been super interested in birds but it was fascinating to see so many and ask questions of the knowledgeable staff members. ry=400-6

Instead of taking the bus, there were several groups of people who chose to hike or cycle up to the viewpoint. If we’d had the foresight, we would’ve checked with the bicycle rental company to see if they offered bike trailers for children. Next time we visit I hope we can walk one of the 8 hikes and/or cycle too.

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“Look, mommy! I can see a puffin with my binoculars!”

 

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We caught the Puffin Bus back to our starting point and admired the coastline for a while longer. We didn’t see them, but supposedly you can watch seals splashing in the sea during the summer!

ry=400-3We had a wonderful day trip to Rathlin Island and it would be fun to go back! We even saw accommodation; I think this would make a great overnight trip.

After riding the ferry back to Ballycastle, you can round out your day with a Maud’s Ice Cream and more playground time (both within walking distance of the ferry car park!)

ry=400-8 Have you been? What did you think?!