MK–AQP “lasts” 2014

One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.

Maggie Kate, you were our first AQP-born TCK. You were a full head of hair with two giant blue eyes…


and we are leaving Perú with you looking like this…

taken in the Yanahuara Plaza by Eternity Fotos

You are in Kindergarten with your big promoción (Kinder graduation) coming up at the end of the month. You are so excited to get to wear a “princess dress” like your sister did for her graduation (we will rent the dress). Your class picked the color “lila” which is the same color as Sophia the First. 😉 We are excited for you, and what makes your graduation extra special is that Pop and Gram will get to be here for it!

You told me in the taxi this morning that Daddy told you (while I was gone somewhere) that it’s okay to be sad this coming month. You know we are moving back to the states, but you are at such a great age to make the transition. I am so delighted that you completed all three years of preschool in Spanish. Now, you are most excited to get to live near your cousin Ruby and to start in a new school.

It was a little bit harder to get your “lasts” recorded, but we will try our best to make your last memories here some of your best! We love our Maggicita!!!

Places to visit:

  1. the zoo (your school just had a field trip there this past Friday)
  2. Shaye and Cora’s house

Foods to eat:

  1. Manuela´s Ají de Gallina (surprise, surprise. It is on the menu for every other week until you leave!)
  2. Etelvina´s Papa a la Huancaína (We are making a date to eat this with her while Pop and Gram are here.)
  3. King Burger (I had to write it out just as you said it. It’s Burger King, and it tickles us that you have nooooooo idea what a good hamburger should taste like. Living on an angus beef farm for 6 months should cure that.)
  4. Chili’s cheese dip (you would request this at almost every restaurant birthday meal)


What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?

going to Shaye and Cora’s house and play with each other

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

Ají de Gallina and Papa a la Huancaína

What will you miss the most about living here?

 Miss Yomara (your teacher that you have had for all three years of preschool)

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

We will see Ruby and Sam… and Judah, and that I am going to start a new school.

Anything else???

  • I am going to miss my best friend from my school, Ana Paula.
  • I am so excited about my promoción!
MK–AQP “lasts” 2014

AG–her AQP “lasts” 2014

One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.

Anastasia Grace, we brought you to Perú looking like this…

taken right before coming in 2008

We are leaving Perú, and you have turned into this…

taken right before coming in 2008

Where does the time go? You are very aware of what is taking place. Your daddy and I have already seen your emotions come out about the move that approaches. You are nervous, scared, happy, excited, apprehensive… all at the same time. Kinda like me. 😉 You are a lot like me because you show your emotions, and it usually comes out in the form of tears. We have told you that it is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry. It is even okay to be mad at us. But it is not okay to not talk about it. It is not okay to lash out at others around you. This will certainly be a journey for all of us, and we realize that out of all three children, you ‘get it’ the most.

Sweet girl, you were born in the states, but you call Arequipa home. You have your favorites, and when I asked you some questions about places you’d like to see and “say good-bye” to before leaving, you didn’t hesitate. I want to remember this list. It will be fun to look over years from now. It will be even more fun for you to visit these places when you come back to AQP for a college summer internship 😉 .

We love you, Anita. What a journey you have already had in this life.

Places to visit:

  1. your jardín at Francisco Rojas School, specifically to say goodbye to your preschool teacher, Miss Kathya
  2. “Ana’s park”–as we call it. It was the great big park that sat diagonally across from our house in Miraflores.
  3. Manuela’s house in Naranjal
  4. the Plaza de Armas

Foods to eat:

  1. crab empanadas and ceviche (good choice, girl. Since it’s on my list too, maybe we should go twice?!)
  2. Manuela’s Atomatada
  3. anticuchos (beef heart) and picarones at Festejo on Ejercito
  4. Ibérica Chocolate
  5. the Lambramani food court
  6. Manuela´s Adobo


What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?

Our church… we get to see our friends, and sometimes Arelí takes us out.

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

 That’s a hard one. I have two. Crab empanadas and Adobo.

What will you miss the most about living here?

 I will miss Manuela the most, because I love her dishes (food) and where she lives.

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

Going to a new school and making new friends

Anything else???:

  • I love Misti, because it reminds me about friends and family from our church in Arequipa.
  • I am excited that I will still get to see Shaye in the United States.
  • I am going to miss all of my friends in school, especially my teacher named Miss Angela.
AG–her AQP “lasts” 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

pecan, pumpkin, and apple crumble

I am at that point where I all I can think about is the sadness of leaving Peru. That is a really miserable place to be. It isn’t constant, but it hits quite frequently now. My kids will move in less than a month. That is crazy. And I don’t want to think about it, but I have to.

This marks our last Thanksgiving in Peru. We have spent 6 Thanksgivings here. Our dear sweet Manuela has spent every single Thanksgiving with us. This year, with the new families present, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving as a team on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (which is tomorrow). When I told Manuela this, her facial expression told all. She was truly bummed. So since she works for us on Thursdays, I decided to make a Thanksgiving meal for just our family and include her. It was so special to celebrate with some of our favorite family dishes and share them with her. And she kept telling me “thank you” over and over again.

Some of my family was together on the actual day, and I am always sad to miss out on family gatherings, but I dealt with it okay. We have made our own Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions here in Peru with our children and with our team. It seems normal now to be away from home, even if it still makes me sad to miss out on being with them. Yesterday, as I was preparing the food, I reflected on missing home and how I felt compared to years past. I vividly remember bawling my eyes out as I cooked by myself that first Thanksgiving there in our first apartment in Yanahuara. I also happened to be pregnant with Maggie, but if you know me, I cry easily when I am not pregnant. I missed being with siblings and parents terribly, and it makes it so much harder when you know that they are all together without you. The first holiday season was definitely the hardest. But as the years passed, it got much easier.

So this year, it is just a super weird feeling. I don’t know why we chose to move right after the holidays. It is a super emotional time without the extra emotions that come with moving from a place. Thanksgiving morning, Cohen was running a high fever and had absolutely no appetite. Ana had the chicken pox last week without the first symptoms. All the kids have been vaccinated, but we are waiting to see if Cohen wakes with pox tomorrow morning. He has consistently run a fever for two straight days now. That was bummer #1.

Thankfully, I was able to participate in our little family Thanksgiving with Manuela. I made my Granny’s yeast rolls, 2 of my MIL’s casseroles, my mom’s sweet potato casserole, and I did what was easiest and bought rotisserie chickens. I also had a can of jellied cranberry to add to the mix (that I was able to buy in the states last month) and made a pumpkin pie. We ended up watching the Macy’s Day Parade from last year (ha!), and it was a fun time even though the boy was sick.

Today, I made everything in prep for our team Thanksgiving. I was stuck at home all day with a sick Cohen… poor thing. We also had a dinner date with some of our dearest Peruvian friends, but because Cohen was still running a fever, we had to cancel. Reality set in tonight that I wouldn’t be able to take Cohen to our team Thanksgiving tomorrow which is just all around a big, fat bummer. It is our last chance to celebrate a team Thanksgiving, something we have done with the Smith family for the six Thanksgivings we have been in Peru, and I am going to miss it. As I was moping about this fact, it dawned on me that I am supposed to have a list of all my kitchen stuff ready to sell next week for people to see.

I love my kitchen. Cooking and baking is therapy for my soul, but I realized tonight that these were the last Thanksgiving pies I would be baking here. And almost all of my kitchen stuff, I will be selling in less than a month. It seems so silly, but I started bawling my eyes out that I would be losing all the stuff that created such beautiful memories for us in the form of food, hosting, and holidays. And can I just tell you that my Christmas Kenny G. music was NOT HELPING with the emotions I was feeling. Some Christmas music can be so depressing!

So… I guess it has definitely begun. The downward spiral of having to let go of all the things that have made Peru “home” over the last 6+ years. I wish there was a happy ending to this blog post, but as of now, there isn’t. I would be super joyful if Cohen just has a 48 hour bug and wakes with no chicken pox tomorrow. 🙂 Here’s to hoping.

I thought it would be fun to record some of my Thanksgiving memories from our years here:

1. The Williams spent Thanksgiving with us our first year here in Yanahuara.

2. Alfredo, who was just our language teacher at the time, invited us over to his mom’s house to have Thanksgiving with the peace corps volunteers. His mom made a big turkey, and I remember some of our language teachers coming over.

3. Cutting up broccoli for “Green Rice” made me want to vomit. I was having really bad morning sickness with Maggie our first Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stand the smell of Rotisserie chicken and I was so thankful for Larissa’s frozen fruit cups that she made (they were the only thing that sounded good to me).

4. In order to make a casserole here, there are no cans of cream of “fill in the blank.” I learned from my language teacher, Elsa, that I could buy a packet of soup mix and mix it with milk. From trial and error, I learned that one soup packet mixed with one cup of milk made something very close to cream and condensed soup.

5. I figured out how to make homemade Cheesewiz b/c of Thanksgivings here. Two of Greg’s favorite casseroles have that as an ingredient.

6. Yeast rolls always come out dry in high altitude.

7. Pecan pies have to be cooked on the stove top first, before baking in the oven, if you don’t want a Pecan Pie volcano eruption in the oven.

8. I have still never prepared a turkey. When Rachel lived here for her 2 year apprenticeship, she prepared the turkey. It was so good when she made it.

9. The Finns brought donuts to Thanksgiving when they lived here. 🙂

10. I learned that sweet potato casserole with the pecan/butter/brown sugar topping is one of Kyle Smith’s love languages. It was always a joy to hear him tell me how much he liked my casserole. (I am sending a huge casserole with Greg to the team meeting tomorrow.)

11. Larissa is an awesome Thanksgiving organizer. I also loved that we rotated back and forth from our houses like families do.

12. We invited Peruvians our second year to dinner, but that was the last because there were too many to feed. One year, we invited a bunch of our Peruvian friends to just have the dessert part. That was a lot of fun.

13. There is a large gourd here that I have used for making pumpkin puree. Last year, Adela actually sold small pie pumpkins. I learned how to make homemade pie filling while here.

14. Greg’s mom was here for Cohen’s first Thanksgiving. That was pretty special to share that with her.

15. Thanksgiving will be huge this year (fifteen adults and nine kids). Kyle is preparing a Turducken. We planned a Thanksgiving blow-out since it is our last. What a bummer that I won’t be there for it.

Thanksgiving 2014

The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.

I am not one to put out Christmas decorations or listen to Christmas music until at least after Thanksgiving. This year has been different. I am dreading the tearful goodbyes that I know will come during this Christmas season. Dad and Mom arrive on the 17th, and they will be taking the kids on the 28th back to the states. So… all that aside,

I decided to start listening to our Christmas music early. I am really enjoying it. I made cookies this week. Ana, who has a mild case of chicken pox, has been cooped up in the house with me this week. She asked if we could get the Xmas decor out of the box. I took the majority of our decorations back to TN in October, but I kept our stockings and several homemade adornments the kids have made me in our time here. I sold our tree, garland, and lights after the 2013 Christmas season to Manuela’s family. I am glad I did, but we can’t have Christmas without a tree! So… Ana and I decorated today while Maggie and Cohen were in school. This afternoon, we blasted the Christmas music, and all three of the kids and I made homemade ornaments and a paper tree.

Take that, “international move that isn’t going to take our Christmas tree away!” I miss the string of lights, but the kids seemed very happy with our large homemade tree. We are going to make the most out of Christmas cheer until it isn’t so cheerful. 🙂 Making memories 2014!

Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.


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photo credit to Eternity Fotos

Home is where the heart is, right? Or is home where you feel the most comfortable, where you were born, where you actually live out life?

One of my dearest friends attended a missionary re-entry class at the Global Missions Conference last month. She was trying her best to learn some things to help us with our upcoming transition. One of the little nuggets of wisdom that she shared with me is to never tell returning expats, “Welcome Home.” Instead, one should use a simple, “Welcome back.”

This is a wise thing to do. I certainly won’t hold it against anyone who tells me “welcome home” in January, but for our children, it isn’t home. We moved to Arequipa when Ana still had a paci and was just barely starting to speak English. We enrolled her in a Spanish-speaking preschool while we attended language classes, and she became fluent in Spanish along with English. Her memories of her “home” country are only traced through pictures that we took of her.

Just the other day, I was teaching her the pledge of allegiance and our national anthem so she would have a clue. The girl can recite every verse of the Peruvian national anthem (and there are a lot of them I assure you) by heart. Where do you think she calls home?


While Ana only has a US passport, her younger two siblings are actually Peruvian. Both Maggie and Cohen were born right here in Arequipa. I honestly don’t think Cohen had any real idea of the states until our last visit, because of his age. They are both speaking Spanish, and when they speak English, they mix up the sentence structure because they literally translate the Spanish to English in their head.

The only place they have ever referred to as “going home” is our house in Arequipa.

They know their grandparents and uncles and aunts, but they have more collective memories with their Peruvian abuelos and tios and tias at this point in their lives.

They are our three little Peruanos, and for them, Arequipa is home.


So don’t welcome them “home” when you see them in January. Maybe it will become home in the future to them, but their home is where the llamas live, where big red and white flags flap in the breeze, where a huge volcano towers off in the distance from the city, where Manuela cooks delicious Aji de Gallina for them and Etelvina offers to make Papa a la Huancaina. Arequipa is home, because Arequipa is where their hearts are. And a big chunk of their Daddy and Momma’s hearts are in Arequipa also.

photo credit to Eternity Fotos

I am confident that our hearts will rest in new places that we will call our new home. But for now, two months from today to be exact, a “welcome back” will do.