Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

This Thanksgiving was a special one for me as I got to share it with both of my grandmothers. The last time I saw both of them together was nearly 10 years ago at our wedding (and both my grandfathers, too, although they have since passed on). My Dad's mom ("Nyanya") was here from Oregon for a 2-week visit. She left the day after Thanksgiving. My Mom's mom ("Grandmother") lives in southern Michigan, about a 2-hour drive from Livonia, so my parents brought her up here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.

I am thankful for many things this year... a safe move... Rusty being almost done with grad school... a wonderful husband and precious son... a healthy pregnancy... caring and supportive parents. But this year, as we sat around the table and feasted on turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato casserole, I was also thankful for my heritage of faith... for the godly women who raised both my parents to know the Lord, and in so doing impacted my life, my upbringing, my choices, and my own spiritual journey.

L to R: Grandmother, Mom, Dad, Laura, Alex. Seated: Nyanya. Not pictured: Rusty (behind the camera).

The Move to Michigan

Rusty and I were discussing our various moves the other night and trying to determine how many times we have moved since we have been married. By the most conservative standpoint, this move to Michigan was our eighth move in 9 1/2 years of marriage. That means we have averaged about one move a year in our married life. For the last four years, we have moved once every year, and it doesn't look like we'll be breaking that pattern in 2009!

As moves go, this one went very well. It was stressful, as moving always is, but we had no major catastrophes, and we actually spent very little money this time! Rusty took most everything in our apartment to our storage unit via multiple trips in our little trailer. Then, we packed the van and the trailer full of the things we would be taking to Michigan and began the journey north. We left the day before Thanksgiving, and arrived at my parents' house in time for the Thanksgiving feast on Thursday afternoon.

So, for the foreseeable future, the Campbell family will be living in Michigan with my parents while we continue to plan and prepare for Angola and seek out a congregation who will sponsor us in that work. We are thankful for their generosity during this time of transition for us.

And here's a picture of Alex "helping" with the packing. What is it about cardboard boxes and packing material that holds such fascination for a 2-year old?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Baby Dois: Sneak Peak #2

And here is the littlest Campbell at 19 weeks gestation (I am 22 weeks now). We are thankful that the ultrasound revealed a healthy, growing baby, and yes, definitely a boy! We are about 90% decided on a name. We have the first name picked out; we are still trying to settle on a middle name. However, as with Alex, we have decided to keep the name a secret until the baby is born. So he will continue to be known as Baby Dois for the time being.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall Fun

This is my catch-all fall post. We have enjoyed a lot of fun fall activities over the last few weeks, including HUGSR's annual Fall Fest, Highland's Trunk-or-Treat, a trip out to Priddy Farms, and Halloween. And I have fallen a bit behind on blogging what with all the other things we have going on -- like team meetings, packing, and getting ready for our move to Michigan at the end of the month.

This year, for the first time, Alex was old enough to really participate in Halloween and trick-or-treating. He and Mackenzie were quite the pair in their Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber costumes:

Hi, Bob! Hi, Larry!

So cute.

We enjoyed participating in the Highland church's Trunk or Treat this year:

The parade of costumes


One Saturday in October, we took a family outing to Priddy Farms. It was such a neat place. They had all sorts of toys and play equipment for the kids, a hayride, a pumpkin patch, and a really neat "choo-choo wagon" made out of old barrels. Alex loved it, and he cried when it was time to leave. Unfortunately, we left our nice digital camera at home, so these pictures were taken with our camcorder, and they are not the greatest.

The hayride out to the pumpkin patch

Alex in the "choo-choo wagon"

We carved our jack-o-lantern two days before Halloween this year. Alex picked out the design, but that was the only real hand he had in the process. I wanted him to help me scoop out the pumpkin guts, but he didn't want to get his hands messy. Go figure! He thought it looked really cool with the candle inside, though. We don't have any pictures of the actual carving process, because Rusty was at work, and I wasn't about to attempt to take pictures and carve a pumpkin at the same time. But here is the finished product:

Happy Halloween!

On Halloween night, we went to a Fall Carnival at the Methodist church where Alex attends Parents' Day Out. We invited the Gearsons to come with us and had a really great time. There were lots of games for the kids to play, a moon bounce, a mini trunk-or-treat, and free food. Alex and Mackenzie had a great time, but I was officially "Halloweened" out after this event, and glad that we weren't going to be bringing home anymore candy!

Playing ring toss

Alex and Mackenzie were both fascinated by this monster doll that danced and sang when you got up close to it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

And the Winner Is...

...Jamie Custer who guessed, A BOY! (Jaime, email me you mailing address -- rustyandlaura AT gmail DOT com). Since only four people guessed correctly, my job of selecting a winner was made pretty easy. I thought Teague had let the cat out of the bag when she said she thought it more likely that the tech noticed boy parts right away, but people still kept guessing "girl." By the way, that is exactly what happened. In fact, the conversation went something like this:

Tech: Everything looks great. There's the heartbeat. Placenta looks good.
Me: Wonderful!
Tech: Oh! (slight pause) Do you want to know the sex of your baby?
Rusty: How sure are you?
Tech: 100%
Me: Well, it must be a boy, then!
Tech: (nodding her head) It is.

So, Alex is going to have a little brother, and it looks like I am destined to be the only girl in this family, at least for awhile! :) We are truthfully very excited. I am glad that Alex will have a brother fairly close in age that he can play with, and it does make it easier on us since we can reuse all our "baby boy" things. Oh, and, they can share a room for the rest of their lives!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our little game... I had no idea so many people were reading our blog! I will have to have contests more often, I suppose. Also, thank you to those who left comments on this post. I have enjoyed reading your stories and thoughts and plan to follow up soon with more of my own. It's not too late to leave a comment if you would like. Just click the link above, or scroll down two posts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Finally, A Bit of a Bump!

There is this awkward stage of pregnancy (for me anyway) where I don't really look pregnant, just like I've put on a few pounds. Where I'm getting too fat to wear my regular clothes, but loose-fitting maternity clothes just look dumb. I feel like I've been at that awkward stage for about two months now... but finally, at 16 weeks, I'm starting to develop a more noticeable "baby bump." See for yourself:

I went to see my doctor again last week, and when she couldn't find the heartbeat, she sent me for an ultrasound, just to make sure all was well. This was not the routine "screening" ultrasound that is usually done at around 20 weeks, so I wasn't expecting to find out what we are having. HOWEVER, one of the first things the tech said was, "Do you want to know the sex of your baby?" So, of course we said, "Yes," and she told us we are having a...

And now it's time to play the "Baby Gender Guessing Game!" Leave your guess as to Baby Dois's gender in the form of a comment below by Friday, October 31st at midnight. I will draw a name from among those who guessed correctly and send the lucky winner a little something special!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chime In: Childbirth

Since discovering that Baby Dois was on the way, I have been doing a lot of thinking about birth and my birth options here in the United States. It should come as no great surprise to anyone that I am not exactly eager to repeat my first birth experience. Well, let me qualify that statement a little. I don’t want to be in labor for three days this time around! The only positive I can see from my lengthy first labor is that I now have an extremely high threshold for what I would consider a “short” labor. Hey, if I’m only in labor for half the amount of time with Baby Dois (32 hours instead of 64), I’ll be saying, “Wow, that was fast!” (And most people – Americans, anyway – will still look at me pitiably and say, “You poor thing! Why didn’t your doctor give you a C-section?” But that’s beside the point.)

No, this time around, I would like to order a shorter labor, if you please. And I think I’ve established that I’m fairly easy to please on that score! But in all other respects, my first birth experience was a very positive one. If I could, I would go back to Japan to have this baby. I really would! I miss the maternity system there (which basically gives you two free doctor visits during pregnancy and then reimburses you for your hospital expenses after the delivery). I miss my midwife. I like the OB I found here in Memphis well enough, I suppose. But going to see her is just not the same as going to see Kudo-san, spending the better part of an hour with her, drinking tea and talking, and ending with a wonderful and relaxing incense massage! Truth be told, I even miss my Japanese doctor, who, although he was old and gruff, and spoke next to no English, and smoked – in his office (!), was a true champion for natural childbirth. I am beginning to appreciate in new ways, now that I am Stateside, the gift it was that, despite my lengthy labor, I did not end up with a C-section. And the thought that a second lengthy labor might lead to one here in the United States terrifies me.

The fact that I will likely not be having this baby in Memphis is of some comfort to me. There are not many “alternative birth options” here, I’ve discovered, other than homebirth. There are midwives, but midwives don’t have hospital privileges in Memphis, so if you opt to use a midwife, you have to also opt for a homebirth. I am not opposed to the idea of homebirth, but my personal preference would be to give birth in a freestanding birthing center with a CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) or a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife). I have already begun to research my options in Michigan, and I’m reassured by what I am finding. There are several birthing centers within an hour’s drive of the Detroit area, and even a group of CNM’s who practice at one of the area hospitals.

I have also been doing a lot of thinking about what I wish I had known the first time, what I wish I had done differently, and what I plan on doing differently this time around. I recently became “blog friends” (through some of my Internet research on prodromal labor) with another woman who has had labor experiences similar to mine, and she encouraged me to do some thinking and reflecting about this. And so I have, and I plan to post some of those thoughts here in the next few days. In the meantime, I would like to invite any readers who have either experienced or would choose a “natural birth,” whether at home, in a birthing center, or in a hospital, whether here in the United States or overseas somewhere, whether recently, or many years ago, to chime in with your thoughts, stories, and suggestions. I am especially interested in answers to the following questions:
  1. How did you arrive at your decision of how and where to birth your baby?
  2. What books, websites, and other sources of information did you find particularly helpful?
  3. Did you write a “birth plan,” and did you find it helpful?
  4. If you chose a hospital birth, did you hire a doula, or labor support person?
  5. If you chose a homebirth, did you have a backup plan? (In other words, did you receive “shadow care” from an OB or family doctor in case complications arose during delivery, requiring a hospital transfer?)
  6. What childbirth method did you choose? Did you take childbirth classes, and did you find them helpful?
  7. Would you make different decisions (i.e. choose a different birth attendant or birth locale) for any subsequent births?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Angling Towards Angola

(Thanks to Rusty's Uncle Lyle for this catchy -- and admittedly cheesy -- play on words!)

Time for an update on our plans to do mission work in Angola!

Since returning from our Survey Trip three and a half months ago, we have continued to plan and prepare with our team. We have now decided on a location in Angola to base ourselves and our ministry. We will be living and working in the city of Huambo in central Angola. There are many reasons that we as a team arrived at this (unanimous) decision. I will not go into them all here. Suffice it to say that Huambo was one of the cities hit hardest by the war, so there is a great need; and as far as we know, there are currently no missionaries (from any denomination) working in Huambo. Click here to review the pictures of our time in Huambo.

We have continued to meet monthly with our team. Part of our preparation involves completing several workshops put on by Missions Resource Network. This month, we will do a Theology Workshop, and in November, an Interpersonal Relationships Workshop. Next year, there will be several more workshops to complete. We hope that these will be beneficial, not only as we plan and prepare for the mission field, but also as we weather the "storms" that will inevitably come during our time there.

On a personal note, Rusty is winding down his time at Harding Graduate School. He will complete his degree requirements in December and graduate next May. To say that he is looking forward to being finished with school would be a huge understatement! But the fact that he will not be taking classes next semester has forced us to make a decision about where to go from here. We do not have a sponsoring congregation yet -- if we did, this decision would be easy! But as we are still waiting on God's perfect timing, we needed to figure out what to do in the meantime.

So, we are moving out of our campus apartment next month, putting most of our stuff in storage, and going up to Michigan to live with my parents for a few weeks (or months) -- until we find a sponsoring church or until they kick us out, I suppose! We are looking forward to some extended time with them, especially around what will probably be our last holiday season in the U.S. for quite awhile. Rusty is looking into a job transfer to a Starbucks store in the Livonia area, and I will go back to being a stay-at-home mommy.

So, those are our plans for the immediate future!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Baby Dois* Sneak Peek

I went to my first pre-natal appointment yesterday. I was so nervous -- odd, I know, since this is my second pregnancy. But it is my first time to have an OB as my primary care provider, and my first time to give birth in the United States. More thoughts on all that to come... for now, here are the ultrasound pictures:

I have no idea what you are looking at, so don't ask! Perhaps someone more adept at deciphering ultrasound photos can enlighten us all.

4-D picture. This one is easy. Baby's face on the right, arm and little hand on the left.

The doctor said everything looks great (hopefully, I'll start to feel great soon!), and gave me an "official" due-date of April 10, 2009. If this little one comes nine days early like Alex did, I may end up sharing a birthday with him/her! April Fool's babies do run in my family, after all.

* "Dois" is Portuguese for "two" (I know, we are so original!) and is pronounced "dosh" with a long O sound.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adventures in Potty Training... and an Announcement!

Alex has been wearing big-boy underwear now for almost three weeks. I must confess that I approached potty-training with a fair amount of dread and trepidation (never having done it before), but so far, it seems to be going well. We have had our fair share of accidents, of course, and we are still using pull-ups for naps, night-time, and when we go out, but he seems to be "getting it" and keeps himself dry pretty consistently at home. I have noticed lately that he does a pretty good job about keeping his pull-up dry when we go out, also. Last week, he came home from Parents' Day Out wearing the same pull-up I had sent him in, and it was dry! So we are making progress. Maybe one day soon, I will be brave enough to attempt an outing in big-boy underwear rather than a pull-up.

I am anxious to complete potty-training with Alex so that I can enjoy a precious few diaper-free months.

I'll just let that sink in for a minute...

Figured out where this is going yet?

Yes, for those who haven't heard the news, we are expecting our second child! He or she will be joining our family in late March or early April next year. I am 11 weeks today (almost past the first trimester, yippee!) and my first doctor's appointment is scheduled for next week.

We are blessed. And we rejoice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Survey Trip Report

Click below to view our most recent newsletter, which is basically a report of our survey trip. If you contributed financially to our cause, you should have received a paper copy in the mail. This is for everyone else who encouraged us and offered up prayers for us during our journey. Thank you!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Stephens Family Vacation

I've been putting off writing this post for two reasons: 1) I had about a bazillion pictures to look through, and 2) I knew that looking through them all would make me miss my family. The last time we were all together was three years ago, in 2005. My brother was graduating from high school, and Josh, Julie, and tiny 6-week old Michaela were getting ready to move to Texas. Now, three years later, the Marcums live in Bolivia and have three precious girls, we went to Japan and back and had a baby of our own, and my brother Matt is starting his senior year at ACU. A lot has happened in just three years. A lot more will probably happen in the next three or four years, or however long it is until we are all together again. It is painful to think of all that we are "missing out on" by not living closer to each other. Honestly, this is one of the things that grieves me most about the missionary life.

Alright, enough of that! We had a wonderful week at a totally awesome lake house in Port Sanilac, Michigan, right on the shores of Lake Huron. The weather was absolutely gorgeous the entire week, with the exception of one rainy day. Here's some of what we did:

We played at the park...

Alex and Uncle Josh

Michaela and Alex

Laura and Eliana (Isn't she the cutest?)

We played games...

Scotland Yard is a favorite!

So is Risk.

We swam in the lake, played in the sand, and threw rocks in the lake...

Uncle Matt, Alex, and Rusty

We swang (okay, I know swang is a word, but that just looks weird)...

We blew bubbles with Nyanya...

We read stories...

Reading in the pea-pod was a favorite activity!

Story-time with Nyanya

We helped Nyanya in the kitchen...

As you can see, Alex is not afraid of exploring his feminine side!

Of course, we had lots of yummy food...

Rusty and I made a Japanese meal one night.

And we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores out on the patio.

We celebrated Matt's 22nd birthday...

We snuggled with Baby Jana...

Some other favorite shots:

The cousins, all together for the first time!

Alex and Michaela

Uncle Rusty loves his nieces!

Auntie Laura and sweet Jana

Sisters, friends

For lots more pictures (as if you haven't seen enough!), see Julie's post at the Marcum blog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Catching Up (Part 2)

Our friends the Gearson's have a family membership to the Children's Museum of Memphis, a truly amazing place. They have taken Alex with them a couple of times this summer, and Rusty and I even got to tag along once! We had so much fun -- there is so much to see and do! An added bonus -- it's a great way to escape the summer heat and humidity.

Curious George putt-putt

Riding a police motorcycle

In the cock-pit of the Fed-Ex plane

Fireman Alex

This was one of his favorite things -- a pretend river with plastic boats and fish magnets that you could "fish" for. He would have played here all day!

In July, Alex got to go to Esther's birthday party at the Little Gym. He had so much fun climbing, running, jumping, bouncing, playing games with the other kids, and of course, eating cake and ice-cream!

Playing with a parachute

He absolutely loved bouncing on this thing!

"Wookit me, Mommy!"

Sugar rush!

And finally, just because I think they are cute, here are some pictures of Alex in one of Rusty's old T-shirts. KPRB is the name of the radio station Rusty's dad worked for when Rusty was Alex's age.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Catching Up (Part 1)

Well, after the frenzy of posts (35!) last month, you may be wondering if we have fallen off the face of the earth. Rest assured, we are still here; we have just been really busy. It feels like we have been on the go all summer. Probably because, well, we have! So, bear with me as I try to catch you up on all our (non-survey trip related) goings-on. Lots of pics to follow!

This first set of pics is from July 4th, which we spent in Thyatira, Mississippi with our friends Jeff and Angie. We had a barbeque and swam in the pool. Pretty low-key, but we enjoyed our visit with them.

Alex and Jesse had a great time swimming in the pool together!

Taking a break with Daddy

Alex and Mackenzie were so happy to be reunited after five whole weeks apart! Mackenzie didn't hardly want to let Alex out of her sight the first few days. I think she thought we might whisk him off to the other side of the world again while her back was turned!

Two all-American kiddos!

Bath-time fun

I love this picture!

Life at Harding Grad is super exciting!

Park Avenue (our church) hosted a community ice-cream social with a petting zoo for the kiddos. We invited the Gearsons to come with us, and everyone had a great time.

Petting the goat with Mackenzie

Feeding the sheep (I think it's a sheep!) Instead of taking a handfull of the pellets, he kept trying to shove the whole bucket in their faces!

Alex and Mommy

The next week, we went to Chuck E Cheese with the Gearsons. It was Alex's first time to go. He was a little bit overwhelmed at first, but he had a great time. He keeps asking when we can go again! Unfortunately, not anytime soon, since it was rather an expensive outing!

A game of air hockey

I love the look of intense concentration (on both their faces!)

Posing for a picture with Chuck himself

He was so excited when he realized he got to turn in his tickets at the end of the night and get a prize -- a new Hot Wheels car!

Special thanks to Laurel for letting me bum a bunch of the above pictures from her Facebook albums!