Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Big Five

I can hardly believe it myself, but I am now the mother of a five-year old. Sometimes I look at our Alex with an odd sensation of disbelief. Did he really grow in my womb? Was he ever really a tiny baby? A toddler just learning to walk and talk? I look back at pictures and know he was, and yet I still have difficulty imagining him as anything other than the smart, lively, energetic boy he is today.

Alex had his fifth birthday at the end of February. Once again, we spread out the celebrating across two continents. From Chuck E. Cheese and cake and icecream with his grandparents and cousins in America (see last picture on my previous post), to his school party and team party here in Portugal:

Birthday cupcakes with his class at school

Birthday cake for the team party -- he asked for a Star Wars cake, so I took the easy route and made a chocolate sheet cake and put a few Star Wars toys on top. He thought it was cool, and he loved that he got to keep the toys after we ate the cake!


Just before opening presents from his friends.

I had intended to make a slideshow of the first five years of Alex's life to show at the team party, but sadly, it was one of those things I just didn't get around to doing before his birthday. I still plan on doing it at some point, but it won't be a "birthday slide show." But I did think it would be fun to take a little walk down memory lane by posting pictures from the first day of each year of Alex's life so far:

Less than 1 day old - Mito, Japan

1 year old - Portland, Oregon

2 years old - Memphis, Tennessee

3 years old - Little Rock, Arkansas (living in Detroit, Michigan at the time)

4 years old - Lisbon, Portugal

5 years old - Lisbon, Portugal

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Top Ten: U.S. Trip

I feel as though some sort of explanation is in order as to my long absence from this blog. Life has been very busy these last months, it's true, but there's more to it than that. I've been struggling to work through some things recently, and I'm unsure how much is appropriate to share in a public forum such as this. This blog is mostly just a "chronicle of days," snapshots of the Campbell family's life, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. But, like most of us, I would imagine, we usually take pictures only of the good things, the fun things, the things we want to remember. We don't pull out the camera to capture the cluttered house, the defiant children, the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the embarassing language blunders.

So... how to capture the good as well as the bad, the difficulties as well as the joys... this is what I've been trying to figure out lately. But that will really have to wait for another post. For now, as the title of this post indicates, I need to recap our recent trip back to the United States.

And how to do that in just 10 pictures? Our six weeks there were filled with so many fun memories. We saw both sides of the family, spent some time with Hillsboro (our sponsoring church), visited with many supporters, including the Somerset church in Pennsylvania, and met up with many friends, both new and old. I limited myself to just 10 pictures to highlight our trip, but I'll try to fill in the gaps with a little commentary along the way.

We began by spending a few days in Michigan with my parents (and my sister and her family who happened to be there, too!):

Celebrating Christmas in Michigan with Nyanya and Babu and the cousins... highlights included the obligatory pic in front of the tree, opening presents (my parents gave us a Wii -- yay!) and tearing down and eating the gingerbread house.

Seeing the model train display at the Henry Ford Museum.

Indoor playgrounds galore! Jungle Java in Detroit, the Monkey's Treehouse in Nashville, Playdate PDX in Portland, and of course, McDonald's Playplaces!

Lots of fun in the snow, in both Michigan and in Pennsylvania -- besides helping build this giant snowman, Alex got to go sledding one day with Daddy and Michaela!

From Michigan, we headed south to Nashville, where we spent about a week with the Hillsboro church. A big highlight was the time we got to spend with Hillsboro's new preacher and his family, the Hopes. They have two kids about the same ages as our two boys. We love them already, and we're so glad they are at Hillsboro! We also took a day and drove to Huntsville where we met up with Rick and Marinda Trull, our team coaches, as well as some of Rusty's extended family who live in the area.

From Nashville, we flew out to Portland, OR to spend a few days with Rusty's sister and nephews. Robbie and Johnny are seniors in highschool this year, and they are both starters on the varsity basketball team. We were able to go to one of their games while we were there, which was a lot of fun! We also saw several friends and visited my grandmother (my dad's mom) who lives in Portland.

Cousins ("My big cousins," as Alex calls them!)

From Portland, we flew back to Nashville, and then began a roundabout trip back to Michigan... driving first to Virginia to visit my "oldest friend," Michelle, and her family... then to Pennsylvania to spend some time with our friends Jimmy and Natalie and the Somerset church, also one of our supporters... then finally back to Michigan, stopping along the way to have some down time as a family at the Kalahari Resort in Ohio, home of the largest indoor water park in the U.S!

Stephen liked to float on his back in the giant wave pool while Alex and Daddy had fun on the waterslides!

Back in Michigan, we enjoyed almost two more weeks with my family before we headed back to Portugal.

We took a day and drove to Coldwater to visit my other grandmother (my mom's mom).

There was lots of grandparent time. Stephen liked to use Babu's chest as a ramp for his trains.

Music time with Nyanya... she would play from this book of kids songs she's had forever, and the kids would dance around the living room, playing with noisemakers or pretending to be a choo-choo train, or any number of other things, as the songs dictated. The kids also enjoyed finding the candy hearts that Nyanya would hide around the living room... like an indoor Easter egg hunt.

Celebrating Alex's 5th birthday with his cousins... he didn't actually turn 5 until the end of February after we got back to Portugal, but how often are we going to be able to celebrate with his cousins who live in South America? He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so we did that one evening as part of his present, and then opened presents and had cake and ice-cream at home the next night.