Reentry: Post 1

I haven’t written a blog post since returning to the states. Our lives seemed like they were in the midst of chaos before we left Peru, and I can’t say that it’s gotten much better. I have several stories that I want to eventually record, but tonight I want to document something that happened a couple of weeks ago (on AG’s birthday).

First of all, culture shock hits a lot later than I thought, and I realize it will still creep up on us over the years. I left Peru stressed, and it has felt like a continual state of stress since coming back. There is a lot going on in my head. I am thinking so much about preparing for the future (getting my license renewed to teach, going through the process to get my license in a new state). I am thinking through the logistics of a cross-country move and what that will do to our eight-year-old that already is having a hard time dealing with this move. I am trying to be mom in a different routine and live with my parents (who I am beyond grateful for, but come on, who wants to live with their parents?). I am dealing with changes in the culture, and I am trying to fit how I have changed (which is a lot) into this new mold that I used to call “home” but doesn’t quite feel like home anymore.

On top of all of these things, I have allowed my grief for Peru to stay deep inside of me. If you know me, you are probably surprised. I am one to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but apparently I only have so much sleeve space, and my body just doesn’t have the emotional energy to focus on it all.

We ended up being in TX with Greg’s family on AG’s actual birthday. We tried to make it as special as possible. She got her ears pierced, and we went to see the new Cinderella movie (which I highly recommend). We had a special dinner with milkshakes afterward. She opened presents from her cousins and grandmother and us. I had picked out a birthday card for her and written a very long letter to her inside.

To me, this birthday was an important day to remember. It’s the birthday between two major life transitions for us. In the letter, I explained to her how proud we are of her and all that she has been through and will go through. I explained that she was one of my constants going to Peru, and I wouldn’t know our life there without her. And now we are making another life transition to a new place, and she will be right there with her brother, sister, and Daddy as my constants. She was so excited to open her gifts that evening, that when she saw how long my letter was in the card, she exclaimed, “Momma! I don’t have time to read this!” She wanted to play with her new things and share the fun with her cousins. She’s eight. I didn’t really expect her to want to read a big, long letter. 🙂

Fast forward to after all the family leaving, her little siblings in the living room engrossed in a movie… AG was not in the living room. I walked back to her bedroom in her grandmother’s house, and I found her laid across the bed, buried in her pillow crying. After she heard me come in, she sat up slowly to look at me, eyes red from crying and a tear-streaked face. She was holding her birthday card.

me: Ana, I am so sorry. I never intended for that card to upset you like this.

Ana: Momma, it’s just so sweet. (blubbering it out

She went on to tell me that she missed Peru and all her friends there so much. In that moment, I couldn’t hold it in. I began to sob with her. We held each other, and we cried. I told her that I missed Peru and my friends too. I told her that it’s okay to be angry and sad about it. I told her to cry as much as she wanted. I told her that I am scared to move again, but that I am so thankful to have her with me when we make the move.

Reentry is not fun. Transitions hurt. But one thing I feel that Greg and I have learned, it does no good to try and hide it from our kids. Ana is not in the dark on how I feel right now. We transition together. We cry together. We will rebuild together.

Our teammates that went to Peru with us just returned to the states yesterday. They will be coming to our home town in a couple of weeks to spend time with our sending church. Our sending church is dedicating a special Sunday to the work in Peru. This past Sunday the preacher just mentioned our teammates and how they were spending their last moments with the church family in Peru. I lost it. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I later told the preacher that if one simple comment makes me cry, I am in for a lot of tears at the end of the month at this special dedication service.

I look forward to that Sunday. I feel like it will give me some closure to a lot of grief I have kept inside. It will be so good to dedicate a morning with my church family thinking about all the things God has done over the past 7 years in the Peru work, and that will be good for my heart.

As for AG, I am so prayerful for her. It is still so hard to not focus on all the negative things that come from our decisions as her parents. A dear friend reminded me today that God is faithful. He called us to Peru, and we answered that call. He did things we never imagined while we were there. He is now calling us somewhere else. He will be faithful again. He calls. We choose to follow. We don’t serve a god of comfort. We serve a God that makes all things new. He will work for his glory. And AG is part of that plan.

“Some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Reentry: Post 1

Our ten favorite “date spots” in Arequipa

I wanted to list the places that have become special to Greg and me in Arequipa. We didn’t get to take a ton of date nights, but when we did, we would usually go to one of these places. Some of our spots are special because we went there with the kids, but this list is for us. These are “our special spots.” (and it is no surprise that they mostly revolve around food)

  1. Zig Zag: voted best restaurant in Arequipa. Besides the delicious tuna steaks and meat trilogies they served on sizzling volcanic stones, “our” favorites were “The Sexiest Salad of Perú” (think artichoke hearts, fresh asparagus, mango, shrimp, quail egg, goat cheese, and red bell pepper with a balsamic honey glaze drizzled across the top), the creamed quinoa (to die for), and their homemade bread.
  2. Crepísimo: the same owners as Zig Zag, but a nice date lunch spot. They have a whole menu of salty crepes and an entire selection of dessert crepes that can be served with or without ice cream. Their salads are amazing, and their fresh juices are divine. It is a perfect outing to share a salad, salty crepe, and chocolate crepe with the man I love.
  3. TGIFridays: When a girl’s hometown is located 15 minutes from the tiny town of Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniels, there is a great sense of homeyness that one feels in Fridays. Even though the burgers taste nothing like the pictures in the Peruvian menu, Greg and I always shared the buffalo wings with mojitos–they were fantastic. Sometimes we splurged and got the ribs with JD sauce. Yummo.
  4. El Gaucho: good beef, great all-you-can-eat salad bar and best fries in the city (and that says a lot for a restaurant located in the potato capitol of the world).
  5. Capriccio: They serve the best cakes in the city, but Greg and I love their menu selection. We would usually always try something different, but we seemed to always want to share the fried mushrooms as an appetizer. The fried chocolate filled churros topped with ice cream were pretty hard to beat as an after dinner dessert.
  6. Ekekos: This restaurant is part of a whole store, my favorite place to look for tourist gifts, but the restaurant has an unbelievable menu. There is so much to choose from, and Greg and I were never disappointed with our plates.
  7. Ras El hanout (Moroccan cuisine): Greg and I LOVE Indian food, and we found that Moroccan food had some similar flavors. We are sad to hear that they have gone out of business, but we sure did enjoy some meals of tender lamb, hummus, and falafels there.
  8. Chili’s and Starbucks in Lambramani: Chili’s is certainly a favorite of our whole family, but when just Greg and I went, we would do chips and queso, an appetizer and drinks. Chilis was comfort food to us for sure. Chilis is located in one of our favorite malls. Right across from it sits Starbucks. So basically, it would be our appetizer, dessert-coffee date night. And we could walk around the mall with our coffees to walk off those calories afterwards. 😉
  9. Hong Kong Express: Arequipa is full of mediocre Chinese food places, but we loved this place for its egg rolls. Most Chinese restaurants in AQP only have wantons on the menu, but Hong Kong didn’t disappoint us with their egg rolls. We would just order egg rolls from them. Such a fun date night. Unfortunately, they went out-of-business around two years ago.
  10. Cine Planet:  not much can beat the Jumbo popcorn and two drinks that we would order to eat with a movie. Besides our movie tickets costing about 3.50 a piece, our popcorn and drinks were around $7. I don’t think you can find that deal in the states. 🙂 We will certainly miss that.

I hope I didn’t leave any out. I will let Greg correct me if I did. These are the ones that have given me the best memories for sure. I am excited to find our new “date spots” in the next chapter, wherever that takes us.

Our ten favorite “date spots” in Arequipa

Full Circle

When we moved to Arequipa in 2008, we found an apartment that was “almost ready.” “Almost ready” turned into six weeks. If you know Greg at all, it won’t surprise you at all that he had to have… a coffee maker. We lived in that room with our 17-month-old, nine suitcases, her pack-n-play, and a coffee pot for those six weeks.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture today after we cleared out the rest of the furniture. First of all, a pic of Manuela with JUST the furniture she is taking home with her. Her house will be transformed with a “McKinzie touch” I do believe. It makes us happy when the things that made our home here end up in homes of those we love so dearly. Here is Manuela and her new boatload of furniture…

2015-01-07 06.11.57Here is what we have left to sustain us through tomorrow (teammates feeding us tonight will obviously help in the eating category). Coffee, water, and internet: what more do we need? Aside from not having a 17-month-old with us, full circle! 😉

2015-01-07 08.10.53The other fun “full circle” story is our office for CUDA (the non-profit we started in the first year that we lived here). We lived one block from the Plaza in Yanahuara and our office was located in Alto Selva Alegre, one block from Holy Spirit Park. Now… we live in Alto Selva Alegre (about 3-4 blocks from Holy Spirit Park) and our office is in Yanahuara about 3 blocks from the Plaza. How crazy fun is that?!

Full circle, people. But we got crazy and flipped the office and house locations. Full Circle.



Full Circle

A new chapter… in 2015

Every tear I have cried in our final days represents a hundred smiles over the past six years.


And those are the memories I want to keep close to my heart in this final week that approaches. It is fitting that a new year has begun. It is natural to reflect on the past when a new year begins. The first phase of our transition has passed, moving the kids to the states. They have been happily playing with their cousins on the farm the past few days. My heart ached so much to see them say goodbye to our Peruvian family here. But my heart is comforted in knowing that they are with blood family that they love in the states right now.

Greg and I are finishing up the final details of moving out of our home. We have a few big pieces of furniture left to sell, a lot of people that need to come pay and pick up the furniture they reserved, and getting rid of all that little stuff that accumulates (food, pens, toys, etc). We are having our final garage sale on Monday. And one week from Monday, we will be reunited with our kids at the farm. I can’t wait. I miss them so much.

Our December Team Arequipa newsletter went out to subscribers a couple of days ago. I wrote my last team article. I wanted to share it here on the blog:

The time has come. This is my last Team Arequipa newsletter article. I was listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” the other day while washing dishes. The weirdest feeling came over me. I remember bawling through that song our first Christmas here, because I missed my home and family so much. I know that many of my new teammates will be experiencing this same emotion this Christmas. But this seventh Christmas in Perú, the sentiment is different. Arequipa has become our home, and we are about to say goodbye to all things familiar to us here. The song causes me to bawl my eyes out but not in the same way.

We have scheduled final dinners and meetings with our loved ones. We have sold furniture and kitchen items that have been part of our hospitality ministry for so long. Our children have cried over seeing many of their toys and puzzles being sold one-by-one with the move approaching. We have made lists for eating our favorite foods and seeing our favorite places “one last time.” Greg is finishing up his theology classes with CUDA. I finished my final year in the library program. Ana will be an angel in her final school performance. We will attend Maggie’s Kindergarten graduation program. Cohen completed his first entire year of preschool all in Spanish. Lots of things are coming to an end.

Little things make me cry. I wrote out the final food menu for my kids’ time here (my parents will be flying them back to the states on December 28). Their favorite Peruvian dish is Ají de Gallina. I started bawling when I wrote those words for the last time on my kitchen menu board. Manuela has started bawling when we talk about the kids leaving. It is so hard to be so close to the move and see the effect it has on those around us.

The first two years we lived in Arequipa, I felt an incredible sense of loneliness. I struggled with the language. I missed friendships from home. I remember Greg telling me that he would pray for me to find a kindred spirit in a Peruvian. That seemed impossible at the time. Last week, I got back from a four day trip with one of my dearest Peruvian friends, Arelí. We traveled through parts of Perú that I had never seen. We laughed. We cried. We shared life. I can’t help but smile about that trip. God’s faithfulness is so evident to me. There are so many in the church here that have become the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to our children during our time here. That is God’s faithfulness to a girl that worried so much about raising her children on the foreign mission field.

My dad and I were walking from the city center back to our home, and he asked me, “Are you apprehensive about moving home?” I didn’t have to blink before I answered. Yes, I am apprehensive, because I don’t have a place at home. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have a job. My kids are unfamiliar with everything that is about to happen in their new schools. We have just sold everything that created what became our physical Peruvian home, and I am so sad. I feel like I am in a dream. Everything seems so surreal. But if God has taught anything to this Tennessee girl that struggled so much with learning a new language and doubted how in the world she could make a difference in another country, he taught me that he is faithful. Because even though I am not making it through many days without crying, every single teardrop is representative of hundreds of smiles that come from my memories here. This journey was so hard at times, but here at the end it has been so completely rewarding.

Greg and I see next year as the beginning of a new chapter. It can be scary to travel into the unknown. But we are confident that God is faithful. He is constantly preparing and molding us for things that he can do that are more than we ask or imagine. And he promised to bring to completion the good work he started in us. We have seen his faithfulness in Arequipa. We are so excited to continue to see the story of his faithfulness in Arequipa through our Peruvian brothers and sisters and in our new team members. Please pray for our family and the Smith family as we have some major transitions ahead. But take time to praise God for his faithfulness, and the incredible testimony of living for his name’s sake wherever we find ourselves in his story. Thank you all for encouraging us along the way. Thank you for your words, your gifts, and your generosity. Greg, the kids, and I are all very excited to see many of our stateside friends and family in less than a month. We look forward to seeing how God makes our new home among you.

A new chapter… in 2015

CT–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.

The boy. Our sweet, Cohen Timothy. You entered the world as an Arequipeño looking like this…


You will leave as an Arequipeño looking like this…

taken in the Yanahuara Plaza by Eternity Fotos

You couldn’t be more excited to go to Pop’s farm in less than a month. You have no clue what is about to take place.

You cried that Manuela wouldn’t be at the house the last time we returned to Arequipa. You are upset when you don’t get to say goodbye to her when she leaves for the day. When we dropped Etelvina off after spending the afternoon with her, you cried that she wouldn’t come to the house to spend the night. (Ha!) You have such a tender heart, and you have won the hearts of two Peruvian grandmothers for sure. You will miss them so much, but you are so young, your memories will probably only be captured by the pictures we have taken, and believe me, I have taken plenty. 😉

I still thought it would be fun to ask you about your AQP favorites. You have completed an entire year of preschool all in Spanish with your 3 year old class. We are so proud of you. You will change so much by the time we return for our first visit back.

Places to visit:

  1. the playground close to our ASA house
  2. the café (unfortunately, it shut down a few months back)

Foods to eat:

  1. Ají de Gallina
  2. chicken enchiladas (apparently AQP style)
  3. apples and strawberry/vanilla yogurt
  4. Queso Helado

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

firetruck birthday

What is your favorite Arequipa dish?

 Ají de Gallina

What will you miss the most about living here?

 Daddy and Mommy and Manuela (you apparently understand that we aren’t going with you in December)

What are you most excited about moving to the states?

the playroom (Pop and Gram’s) and playing with bicycles and basketballs outside and their playground castle

Anything else???

I am going to miss my playroom upstairs.


CT–AQP “lasts” 2014

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.