Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Top Ten: Things I'll Miss About Portugal

It's hard to believe that we are winding down our time in Portugal. Just two more nights in our apartment before we board a plane to cross the wide ocean yet again. I actually feel pretty good about where we are and what we still have left to do, which is a first for me. At this stage of the game, I'm usually panicking because there is so much left to do and so little time to do it in! But this time, we've somehow managed to get mostly packed, and have just a few errands left to run and some cleaning to do before we're ready to go. I might actually even get some sleep the night before we leave! This afternoon, Rusty took Alex to the Oceanario, which he has been begging to do one last time before we go. It was supposed to be a family outing, but Stephen is coming down with a cold, so I stayed home with the younger two while Rusty and Alex have some father-son time.

While the house is quiet with napping children, I thought I would take the opportunity to sneak in a blog post before we leave. It only seemed appropriate to pay tribute to the country that has been our home for the past nearly two years by sharing some of the things that I'll miss when we're gone:
  1. Coffee -- I'll be honest -- Portuguese coffee just makes Starbucks' drinks seem even more overpriced than they already are. For around 1 euro (more or less depending on the type of drink you have), you can get a decent cup of coffee at any café (and there is one of those on nearly every street corner). The Portuguese like to drink shots of espresso from tiny little cups. I never got into that, but I enjoy a meia de leite (literally, "half of milk"), which is basically a latte -- espresso with steamed milk. Rusty is partial to the galão, which is the same thing as a meia de leite, only larger and served in a glass instead of a cup.
  2. Fresh bread -- The bread here is amazing! We can walk to three different cafés in our neighborhood, where they churn out their own freshly baked loaves every day. Rusty likes to go early in the day when the bread is still warm from the oven. Why buy factory-made bread when you can buy this?
  3. Pasteis -- Or, pastries, as we would say in English. The same cafés where we buy our bread also offer a wide array of delectable pastries to satisfy your sweet tooth. My favorite is the pastel de nata, or custard tart, but I also like the croissants filled with Nutella!
  4. Frango de Churrasco -- This is chicken, cooked on the grill, and it is yummy! We like ours with extra piri piri, a hot red pepper sauce. There is a great little joint, just down the hill from our apartment, called Princesa dos Frangos (we lovingly refer to it as the Chicken Princess), that turns out the juiciest, most flavorful chicken you have ever tasted. I requested this as my "welcome home meal" when Benjamin and I came home from the hospital.
  5. Yogurt -- I don't know what it is, but the yogurt here is just so much better than American yogurt! The Portuguese take their yogurt seriously -- at Continente, the big mega-store where we do a lot of our grocery shopping, there is an entire aisle (both sides) dedicated to yogurt. It was a bit overwhelming at first! But we soon discovered our favorites. Mine is the peach/passion fruit blend that we can buy in big tubs at Lidl, a German chain. The boys like to drink the liquid yogurt for breakfast in the morning.
  6. Oranges -- Portuguese oranges are so sweet and juicy. It's probably something to do with the Mediterranean climate they're grown in. And at many restaurants, you can order a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, usually for just a little more than what a soda would cost. Yes, please!
  7. Tiles and cobblestones -- The cobblestone streets and sidewalks give Lisbon such an old-world feel. And I've always been fascinated by the colors and patterns of the tiles that cover everything from buildings to fountains to tunnels to the interior of the metro stations.
  8. Foliage -- I was delighted to make the discovery after arriving here that Lisbon has many beautiful jacaranda trees! Other tropical foliage like bougainvillea abounds. Seeing these plants and trees brings back happy memories of my childhood growing up in Kenya.
  9. Our neighborhood -- I really love the fact that we live within walking distance of everything we need in our daily life -- bank, post office, supermarket, café, pharmacy, clinic, school. There's even an urgent care facility just up the street from our house! I love the park that backs up against our apartment building. Listening to the waterfall when the windows are open is so soothing and peaceful. I love that there's an IKEA close by, and that the beach is only a 30-minute drive away.
  10. People -- I saved the best for last, because aren't the people what you miss the most about any home? Ana, who has cared for Stephen during our language lessons, loved him like he was her own, and gone above and beyond the "call of duty" in so many ways. Eunice, so much more than a language teacher, she was also a counselor, confidant, and friend. And of course, our Lisbon church family -- so many people come to mind who opened their hearts and their homes to us, who were patient with us while we were learning their language, who taught and befriended our children, who joyfully helped us welcome our third son. They have loved and blessed us in so many ways.
We've lived in Portugal for a little less than two years now. At first, it was difficult for me to feel like this place was home. Mostly because I came into it thinking we'd only be here for 9-10 months. It's hard for me to really settle and feel at home somewhere when I know I'm only there temporarily. I felt like a perpetual tourist. I also didn't have a lot of my "stuff," the things that for me, help a place feel like my home rather than just some run-of-the-mill furnished apartment -- pictures for the walls and things like that. But slowly, as a few months turned into a year and then a year became nearly two years, that sense of home started to grow in me. I was walking around our apartment this morning, taking stock of what we still have left to pack, and thinking what a cozy home this has been for us. We've made some good memories here, had a lot of people in and out, celebrated Christmas and birthdays, instituted some fun family traditions, even welcomed another baby! I feel truly blessed to have spent nearly two years of my life living in Lisbon, Portugal. It has become our home, one of the many homes that we've had through the years, and we will miss it, maybe not in the same way that we miss Japan or even Oregon, but we'll miss it, nonetheless.

It seems appropriate to close with one of my favorite quotes, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: "I am a part of all that I have met; yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Second Month

For me, the second month is usually when I feel like I finally find my new groove with my new baby. A routine begins to emerge. Certain tasks become automatic. I've figured out what he likes, what he needs, and when. I have time and energy once again for things besides baby. Life starts to feel normal again.

Benjamin is now sleeping in his own bed most all night. He still wakes up once or twice to eat, but he usually goes right back to sleep without any fussing. Recently, he even slept the night through -- from 10:00 p.m. until almost 6:00 a.m. I had forgotten how great several hours of uninterrupted sleep could feel! His daytime routine is still a bit unpredictable, but that is probably related to the fact that our own schedule is pretty unstructured right now. Whatever sleep-wake rhythm I take the time to help him establish now is only going to get messed up with the upcoming transition back to the States. So Benjamin sleeps whenever he's tired and wherever we happen to be at the time -- at home, at school, in the car, at church. He doesn't seem to mind.

At his 2-month check-up this week, Benjamin weighed in at 5.7 kilos (about 12.5 pounds). He's developing fat rolls and a muffin top -- obviously, this kid loves to eat! I went ahead and moved him into 3-6 month size clothes, mainly so that I could leave behind all his newborn and 0-3 month clothes. The less we have to haul back from Portugal, the better. He's become quite smiley and is starting to interact and coo more -- so fun! He still takes a paci, but he also enjoys sucking on his fist, and once or twice, he's managed to get his thumb in his mouth. Maybe we'll have another thumb-sucker?

Here's Ben's two-month picture. Adorable, no?


Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I thought about just ignoring Halloween this year since we are in the midst of packing and getting ready to leave! But Alex would have none of that, so we are celebrating, but keeping it pretty low-key. Last week, we made a few homemade decorations for the apartment, and on Friday, we took the boys to a Halloween party at Alex's old school. They dressed up in their costumes, and I made cupcakes topped with candy-corn to take to the party. Alex enjoyed seeing all his friends again, and we were able to say goodbye to his teacher and give her the present we made for her. Yesterday, after we got home from church, the boys painted pumpkins and Rusty carved two jack-o-lanterns. And we'll take the boys trick-or-treating tonight -- Rusty called around and made arrangements with a few friends in the neighborhood!

A cowboy, a zebra, and a train conductor
Alex's costume -- a toy gun set and a cheap hat from the Chinese store, plus a bandana and Mommy's boots! Rusty gets all the credit for the creativity here. I told him he can be in charge of Halloween costumes from now on.
Pumpkin carving
Pumpkin painting

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nyanya and Babu's Visit

At the end of last month, we enjoyed a two-week visit from my parents, known to our boys as Nyanya and Babu ("grandma" and "grandpa" in Swahili). We so enjoyed hosting them and introducing them to Benjamin and our life in Portugal! And we managed to pack a lot of fun experiences into the time they were here.

For the first few days, we showed Mom and Dad some of the sights in and around Lisbon. We spent an afternoon in Belém -- having lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, the Estrela de Belém, seeing the Monument to the Discoverers, touring the Jerónimos Monastery, and sampling yummy pasteis de Belém (the world's very best custard tarts).

The Monument to the Discoverers
Another day, we went to Sintra. While my parents toured the Pena Palace, Rusty and I hiked some of the trails on the palace grounds. We then met up for a picnic lunch on the grounds. Mom and Dad also toured the Moorish Castle before we headed home.

The Moorish Castle
On Saturday, with all the kids in tow, we went to Sobreiro. The boys enjoyed showing Nyanya and Babu around the craft village, and Mom even got to do a little souvenir shopping!

Nyanya and Stephen on the playground at the craft village
Sunday, of course, was church... followed by lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant.

Let's face it -- this is the real reason Nyanya and Babu came to Portugal!
Then, for the entire next week, we enjoyed a trip to Spain! Early Monday morning, we loaded up the van we had borrowed from our friends, Ricardo and Diana, and headed out -- destination: Málaga, Spain. Around lunchtime, when we were still in southern Portugal, the van started having problems, so we pulled over. After losing a few hours visiting several different mechanics to determine the problem, we realized that we were going to have to stay the night and continue on our way the next day. Ricardo drove down from Lisbon with the church van (bless him!), arriving later that night, and then took his van back to Lisbon to his mechanic there.

We found a quiet pension in the sleepy little town of Olhão in southern Portugal. It wasn't a bad place to be stuck for a night! The boys enjoyed playing in a nice park right on the waterfront; we had a yummy seafood dinner; and the next morning, we discovered what Rusty called "the best breakfast in Portugal" at the cafe around the corner from our pension. Then we were on our way again, finally arriving at our condos in Málaga later that afternoon.

We enjoyed swimming in the pool... hanging out on the beach... playing games... reading... I even managed to find some time to write on two different afternoons while everyone else was napping! We did most of our own cooking or got take-out, but one night, we all went out to eat.

Alex and Babu in the pool
At the beach
Mom and Dad wanted to visit Morocco, so they took a day-trip with a tour group, while our family headed for Gibraltar. I half-expected Gibraltar to be really lame, but it ended up being totally cool, and we wished we could spend more than just a few hours there! After we finally got across the border (we sat in traffic for an hour because a plane needed to take off and they had closed the road, which crosses the runway), Rusty decided he wanted to drive around the island -- just for fun! We had the quintessential British lunch of fish 'n chips at a fun pub called The Horseshoe. Then, we took a "taxi tour" of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Highlights included St. Michael's Cave, the Apes' Den, the Great Siege Tunnels, and of course, the Top of the Rock, with fabulous views! We were really glad we did the taxi tour rather than trying to hike everywhere with our three kiddos, plus our guide was pretty funny. The only thing Alex was disappointed about was that he didn't get to ride the cable car.

At the Apes' Den -- and no, I wasn't too happy about the monkey being on my back!
The view from the Top of the Rock
Another day, we all went together to the town of Ronda, one of the old frontier towns of Spain. The town straddles a deep gorge, and the two sides are connected by three gravity-defying bridges. It was a lovely town to just walk in, all the while admiring the stunning views. Rusty and the boys also toured the bullring, the oldest in Spain, while Mom and Dad and I did some souvenir shopping.

The New Bridge -- Ronda, Spain
Back in Lisbon, we spent the two days before Mom and Dad left doing more sight-seeing. We spent one day downtown, driving through the Alfama district, going to some of the miradouros (viewpoints) and having lunch near the Praça do Commercio. The next day, we visited the Tile Museum, a really fascinating place, and had a lovely lunch in the museum restaurant afterwards. Then, it was back home so they could pack for their flight the next day.

Looking over lovely Lisbon
For more pictures and commentary, you can click on either of the two links below to view my Facebook albums. These are public links, so even if you don't have Facebook, you should still be able to see the pictures.

Nyanya and Babu Visit Portugal
Spain and Gibraltar

Friday, October 14, 2011

This is How I Go to School (Part 2)

This is the second of two videos that show Alex going to school. (For the first video, click here.) One thing that the first video doesn't really show is any footage from the window during the bus ride. This is because, on the first day, when Rusty started to get on the bus with the camcorder, the bus driver told him to put it away! He was not at all happy about Rusty filming on the bus for some reason. On this day, Rusty waited until he got on the bus and then surreptitiously began filming after he and Alex were settled in their seats. In this video, you'll be able to see the city of Loures and some of its environs.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This is How I Go to School (Part 1)

Rusty shot this footage of Alex on his way to school about this time last year. Turning it into a video and uploading it to Youtube so we could share it with others was always on my list of things to do, but for one reason or another, I never seemed to get to it. Lately, one of my ongoing projects has been creating and organizing our family videos from the backlog of footage that was on our camcorder. A lot has changed in our lives since Rusty took these videos. For one thing, we have a car now, so we don't have to ride the bus and walk to take Alex to school. For another, Alex isn't even attending Peixinho Azul anymore. Last month, he started Kindergarten at the local elementary school a short walk from our house.

I hope you enjoy this peek into part of daily routine while we lived in Portugal! Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The First Month

Wow! It's hard to believe that our Benjamin will be six weeks old tomorrow. Time seems to go by so fast in the early weeks with a newborn, when you can almost see them changing before your very eyes. At the same time, there are moments when this phase seems interminable, usually in the middle of the night when I'm dealing with an infant who can't seem to stay asleep anywhere but right on my chest!

Rusty and I agree that Benjamin has definitely been our fussiest baby. Of course, after laid-back Stephen, any baby would seem fussy, but Benjamin can be pretty colicky. There are times when he grunts a lot and acts like his tummy hurts, and he spits up more than my other two. I haven't figured out yet if it's something I'm eating or not. I have basically stopped eating spicy food for awhile and have cut back the amount of caffeine I consume. That seems to be helping somewhat. I probably should give up caffeine entirely, but I just can't resist an occasional cup of iced coffee or a coke on pizza night!

In the last week, Benjamin has started to settle down a little bit. I wouldn't say he has any sort of routine yet, but he is starting to sleep longer stretches (in his own bed!), to self-soothe, and even to put himself to sleep on occasion. When he's awake, he is alert and interested in his surroundings. He loves to sit in his bouncy chair and watch the world go by! He nurses well, takes a paci, and sucks his fist on occasion. Alex and Stephen enjoy singing to Benjamin, and if he is fussy, he usually calms right down when he hears them.

At his first doctor's appointment when he was two weeks old, Benjamin had already gained over a pound. He has another appointment next week, and I am curious to find out how much weight he will have gained by then. He has already outgrown several of his newborn-size outfits and onesies. They certainly don't stay little long!

Here are a few memorable moments from Benjamin's first month:

First time in the sling
First Sunday at church. They said a very special prayer of blessing for Benjamin and our entire family.
Brotherly love
Napping with Daddy
Meeting Nyanya...
...and Babu!
First time in the Chicco front-pack. This photo was taken in front of the Cruz Alta (High Cross) on the grounds of the Pena Palace in Sintra.
One month old!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Top Ten: Uses for the Bidet (Besides the Obvious)

Time to get this post out of the draft folder...

A common feature of many bathrooms in European homes is the bidet. The bathroom in our apartment has one, and while at first I saw it as a waste of precious space, I have discovered during our time living in Lisbon, that it is actually a very useful bathroom fixture! If you don't plan on using your bidet for its intended purpose, here's a list of top ten alternate uses:
  1. Bath toy storage -- This has been the main function of our bidet. It keeps the boys' bath toys from cluttering up our tiny bathtub/shower.
  2. Kiddie-height sink -- I never did this, but I heard of one family who put a bar of soap on the back of the bidet, and that was where their littles washed their hands. It kept them from having to climb up on a stool to reach the actual bathroom sink. Genius!
  3. Step-stool -- Alternatively, a child could use the bidet as a step-stool to reach the bathroom sink, which is what Stephen is doing in the picture below.
  4. Baby bathtub -- Our language teacher told us that she knows some people who have used the bidet to bathe their small babies. I haven't actually done this, since our kitchen sink is pretty large, and bathing Benjamin there keeps me from having to kneel down or bend over. But it could work.
  5. Doll bathtub -- If I had little girls, I'm sure that they would find the bidet the perfect place for giving their baby-dolls a bath! You could also use it as a water table.
  6. Receptacle for sandy shoes or swimsuits after a day at the beach -- I just throw our sandy things in the bidet and rinse them out later after everyone has had a shower.
  7. Overflow laundry hamper -- Now that there are five of us in this family, our laundry basket fills up rather quickly. The bidet works well to hold overflow dirty laundry, keeping it from piling up on the floor.
  8. Stand-in bucket -- For soaking stained clothing, or even for mopping the floor, the bidet is just the right height to function as a bucket.
  9. Counter-space -- Our bathroom doesn't have a counter, so flat surfaces to set things on are in short supply. Rather than putting my clean clothes on the (sometimes) wet, dirty bathroom floor while I take a shower, I just put them in the bidet.
  10. Foot bath -- Again, I have never used it this way, but I was sorely tempted during the final weeks of my pregnancy to use the bidet as a place to soak my swollen and aching feet.
And there you have it. Who knew this strange device had so many wonderful uses?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

And Three-peat Makes Five!

Many of you already heard the announcement on Facebook, but Baby Three-peat was born last Saturday, August 27th, in Lisbon, Portugal. He arrived at 12:40 p.m., weighing in at 3420 grams (about 7.5 pounds) and measuring 50 cm. long (about 20 inches). And yes, the little guy does have a real name, which we now proudly announce to the world: Benjamin Levi Campbell.

It's hard for me to believe that little Benjamin is already a week old. I have been meaning to sit down and post some pictures ever since I got home from the hospital, but what with two other little ones to take care of, and the running around we've been doing to get the paperwork started on Benjamin's travel documents, it's been hard to find the time. And when I do have a few minutes (or a few hours) of peace and quiet, it's much more tempting to snuggle my sleeping baby or take a nap myself! Rusty has been doing a great job helping me out around the house and playing Mr. Mom with the older two. And we have had help from our neighbor, Ana, as well. So, we are surviving. It will take some time to settle into our new "normal" as a family of five, but so far, things are going better than I expected. The boys are absolutely thrilled with their new brother, smothering him with kisses and always begging for a turn to hold him. I worried that Stephen, especially, would be jealous of the new baby, but he seemed to accept Benjamin as part of our family from the beginning and is always the first to run and tell me when he hears him crying.

I am working on writing down the details of Benjamin's birth while they are still fresh in my mind. I have now given birth to three babies on three different continents, and each one was a unique experience! I wouldn't say that this was my easiest birth, although it was short (only about 5 hours of active labor), but it's definitely been my easiest recovery. Aside from the normal tiredness and soreness, I feel pretty great -- none of the utter exhaustion I had after my prodromal labor with Alex or the debilitating back pain that lasted for almost two weeks after Stephen was born.

So, more on the whole "giving birth in Portugal" experience later. For now, enjoy some pictures of the first week with our newest blessing:

Outside the Santa Maria hospital, just before being admitted.
One of the first pictures we have of little Benjamin -- he was about 5 hours old (it's a long story).
Our first "family of five" photo!
We even had visitors in the hospital (besides Rusty and the boys)! Celestina from church and her two daughters, Amanda and Noémia, stopped by after church on Sunday.


Leaving the hospital on Monday afternoon
Coming home
We have had a steady stream of visitors since arriving home -- our neighbor, Ana (shown here), her friend, Bella, and the Neves family from church.

Big brother lovin's
A good dream
First bath at home -- he wasn't too happy with me, but I swear I was more gentle than that dang nurse at the hospital!

More pictures on Facebook!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cha de Bebé (Baby Tea, aka Baby Shower)

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely ladies at the Lisbon church threw a shower for me and Baby Three-peat. We really didn't need much in the way of baby items -- thanks to hand-me-downs from teammates, a friend in the States, and my sister, we have all the baby gear and more than enough clothes for this little one. So, although we're unable to reuse all of our own baby things since they're buried in a storage unit in Nashville, we are well-equipped for at least the first few months of life with this new one. Still, I was touched by the desire of the women of the church to celebrate a new life by giving gifts and offering blessings. Most people brought diapers, wipes, baby bath gel, and other consumable-type items. So, now we are well-stocked in that department as well, and I won't have to use my cloth diapers for at least the first few weeks, which will make life a little easier in the beginning!

They always start off the baby showers with a short devotional. Diana led the devo, using Psalm 121 (reprinted below in its entirety) as her text. It's always been one of my favorite Psalms (how did she know?), but it seems especially applicable at this time in my life -- getting ready to welcome a third little one to our family, wondering how I'm going to juggle it all, looking ahead to several more months of transition and unsettledness...

Psalm 121 ~
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.  3 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.
 5 The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.
 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore.

Diana then invited the other ladies to chime in with their own words of blessing, advice, or encouragement. And then it was time for presents! They usually play a game where the mama-to-be has to guess the giver and sometimes what is inside before she opens it. If she guesses wrong, she gets her face (and sometimes her belly -- lucky me, I was wearing a dress!) painted with make-up. At first, they were disappointed because no one remembered to bring any make-up, but then one of the young ladies dug around in her purse and pulled out a tube of the brightest, reddest lipstick I think I've ever seen! So, I was not to be spared that embarrassment!

After all the presents had been opened, it was time for refreshments. I had prepared (with the help of our Portuguese teacher) a few words of thanks to say to all the ladies. I practiced it a couple of times at home just so I was comfortable with the pronunciation, and I thought I would be fine. However, I was not prepared to become so emotional when I started talking. I barely got through my little speech with all my blubbering. Dang pregnancy hormones! After I was finally done, they all practically piled on me with hugs and encouragement! Feeling the love and support of family in Jesus is truly a wonderful, beautiful thing!

Here are a few pictures from the afternoon:

Just before opening presents -- thanks to Angelina for loaning me this super-cute and amazingly comfortable maternity dress. I want to live in it for the rest of my pregnancy!
Inês painting my face

All finished!
A few of the presents, and some of the party favors.
Group photo

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten: Our Summer So Far

We've been having a fun summer around here. Besides trying to beat the heat (thankfully, there have not been many hot and humid days -- nothing like the heat wave of last summer), and waiting for Baby Three-peat to make his grand entrance, here's some of what we've been up to:

Alex had his end-of-the-school-year party at the beginning of July. He's still going to school every day, at least until the end of the month, but basically, it is just play-time and social time now -- no formal instruction going on.

Alex with Stephen and one of his favorite school friends.
 We went to the Snail Festival in Loures. Stephen chowed down on the snail curry, and Rusty decided he wanted to try the large, grilled snails that come with a garlic butter dipping sauce. Alex was less than impressed and said he liked the smaller snails better. I would have to agree. The larger the snail, the harder it is to ignore what you're actually putting in your mouth!



We took a family camping trip at the end of July. With the new baby coming, it was our last time to travel as a family for awhile. We went to Ericeira on the coast. The boys had a ball, of course, but Rusty and I were joking on the way home how it was probably one of our worst camping trips ever. It was too windy for a campfire, so that meant no s'mores, which was a bummer. Our little campstove (a recent purchase) didn't work as well as we were hoping it would and took forever to cook our food. We didn't have any of our sleeping pads here in Portugal, so that meant just sleeping bags on the ground, which was not the most comfortable thing. Thank goodness our teacher loaned us her little camp cot, which I laid claim to as the 8-months pregnant mama. It saved my back and probably my sanity as well! I still had to get up 15 times a night to traipse down to the bathroom to pee, though. I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to a camping trip in my third trimester. At least it didn't rain.

After our first night of camping, we packed a picnic lunch and took the boys to the craft village in Sobreiro. Read more about the village in this post (scroll to the very end). They enjoyed exploring all its nooks and crannies and playing on the playground.

 

After our second night of camping, we drove back to Lisbon along the coast. We saw some amazing views, like this one at Azenhas do Mar:

Note the ocean-water swimming pool at the base of the cliff.
And we found a beautiful beach where we spent most of the afternoon digging in the sand and playing in the waves:


We also visited Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in all of Europe, and took the obligatory picture there. That was about all we did -- despite the blue sky and sunshine in the picture, it was very cold with the wind whipping around the cape:


Earlier this summer, Alex learned to ride his bike without training wheels! He is very proud of his new talent and eager to practice every chance he gets. The other night, we took the kids to the city park where there is a large plaza and some nice walking trails. Alex rode his bike, and Stephen rode his little train.

About 20 minutes after I snapped this pic, Alex managed to ride his bike into the canal / fountain around the edge of the plaza!
Stephen sporting his new buzz haircut!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Pregnancy Updates

It's been awhile since I posted an update about the pregnancy and upcoming birth of the newest member of our family, "Baby Three-peat." And, seeing as my official due-date (Aug. 31st) is less than one month away, I'm running out of time to blog about it. Alex and Stephen both came early, so I'm hoping for an August, rather than a September birthday, simply because I don't want to be pregnant in the summer heat any longer than necessary. Ha -- now watch me go overdue with this one!

First, a couple of recent belly shots:

25 weeks
Almost 35 weeks
Rusty's idea of funny
Umm, yeah... I'm huge. And awkward. And uncomfortable. I feel like I'm about to burst open. I just can't seem to get comfortable at night, and I wake up every morning with a back-ache. My feet are starting to swell -- one of the fun side-effects of a summer pregnancy, I guess. (I never dealt with much swelling with either Alex or Stephen, both winter babies.) The baby is riding so low in my pelvis that I swear he's squashed my bladder completely flat. Or maybe it's because he's been using it as a springboard for all his acrobatics -- he sure is an active little guy, even at this point in the pregnancy when he surely must be running out of room in there!

With our language teacher on her summer vacation for the past two weeks, baby preparations have been kicked into high gear. I have been washing, drying, and organizing clothes, cleaning up some of the larger items that were handed down to us, like the carseat and bouncy chair, and finishing up the last of my freezer cooking. My little freezer is now stocked with over 10 meals, plus some things like chicken nuggets and individual taco pies for lunches -- hopefully, they will make meal-times in the first couple of weeks after Three-peat's arrival a little easier on all of us. I'm trying to be prepared for the fact that I won't have my mom around to help out right in the beginning, like I did with both Alex and Stephen.

I had another doctor's appointment last week -- my first at the actual hospital where the baby will be born. Up until now, I've been going to the local Health Center in our city for my check-ups, but after 35 weeks, they transfer your case to the hospital where you will deliver. The hospital seems fine... it's huge and seems kind of "institutional," but everyone was very kind and friendly. And all the medical staff, from the doctor to the lab technician, spoke English! The doctor, who at first I thought was the nurse, partly because we saw her first (usually, you see the nurse first and then the doctor, just like in the States), and partly because she was so young, let me struggle with my Portuguese for about 5 minutes before she said, "We can speak in English if you like." I'm sure we could have managed with my Portuguese, but it was so much more comfortable to speak in English, and it really helped set my mind at ease to know that communication won't be the problem I thought it might be. Although I can handle most daily situations in Portuguese now, I'm not sure how much of it I will retain at the height of labor!

Then, I went to see the nurse, and she was also great. She seemed a lot more harried than the doctor, but she took the time to explain some things to me about hospital procedures and gave me a list of things I need to bring with me to the hospital. Because we are using a public hospital, a lot of the things that they supply you with at hospitals in the States, and probably at the private hospitals here, are not provided. For example, I have to bring all my own clothes for me and the baby (no standard-issue hospital gowns, not that I'm complaining), diapers, wipes, towels, etc. I went home and got started on gathering the things on the list and packing my bag.

So, I'm feeling a lot better about things, especially now that I've actually been to the hospital and met some of the staff. There's no guarantee that the doctor I saw last week will be the one who delivers Three-peat, though -- it could very well be someone I've never seen before! And I have yet to see the actual maternity ward. Another thing the nurse did was schedule my hospital tour. But because it's August and the hospital is operating at half-staff for most of the month because everyone is taking their summer holidays, they couldn't get me in until Aug. 24th. Incidentally, they also couldn't get me in for another prenatal check-up until Aug. 23rd. It's entirely possible I'll go into labor before then, so my next trip to the hospital could be to actually have the baby!

If this were my first baby, I think I would be freaking out about all the unknowns. But I've done this twice before... I've had a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy so far... and I'm confident the doctors and nurses know what they are doing and that I'll be in good hands. So, I'm trying not to worry too much. Someone asked me awhile ago if I felt like we made the right decision to stay in Portugal to have this baby. And the answer is -- yes. In the beginning, we thought seriously about trying to push on to Angola with the team and just have the baby there. I told Rusty I thought if we could get there by mid-June, it would be doable, we would have enough time to figure things out. In the end, after a lot of prayer and discussion with several people, we decided to stay here. Of course, what we didn't know at the time was that the rest of our team wouldn't be able to leave for Angola until almost mid-July because of hang-ups with the visa process. So, looking back, I feel like we made the best decision. And there have been some other benefits -- such as more time to focus on language study.

More ramblings and reflections about this pregnancy in a few days...