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...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Anniversary Trip to the Algarve

At the end of May, Rusty and I were able to spend two nights in the Algarve (southern coastal region of Portugal) in celebration of our 12th anniversary -- one last trip for just the two of us before the new baby arrives. Thanks to the Meyer family and the Reese family, who each took a night keeping our boys while we were gone!

We headed out of Lisbon around 11:00 a.m. and drove south across the Rio Tejo to the Parque Natural da Arrábida, between Sesimbra and Setúbal. We had lunch at a restaurant right on the water (literally!) and overlooking the bay. Then, after fighting beach traffic for almost two hours, we finally made it to Setúbal and the expressway and headed south to the Algarve.
Waiting for our lunch
Hilltop view overlooking our restaurant and the bay
We stayed in a lovely, quiet bed-and-breakfast on a small family farm near the town of Rogil on the southwestern coast, within walking distance of a gorgeous clifftop view of the ocean:

The first night, we had requested to have our hosts prepare dinner for us, and we were so glad we did, partially because we arrived pretty late and were tired, but also because it was a truly wonderful meal, probably one of the best and most authentic Portuguese meals we have ever had. Multiple courses, including freshly grilled fish and regional specialties, served to us in their dining room. The family ate in the kitchen, which surprised us at first, but we ended up really enjoying the peace and quiet and uninterrupted conversation.

The next morning, after breakfast, we went exploring! We drove all the way down to the southwestern-most point in all of Europe, the Cabo de São Vincente, stopping to admire the views of the coast and even take a few short beach walks along the way:

After lunch in the town of Sagres, we found a nice beach and spent the afternoon soaking in the sun and watching the waves. We had dinner that night at a beach-front restaurant, and the sunset was spectacular:

After breakfast the next day, we headed to the beach again for a couple of hours. Then, after lunch, it was time to head back to Lisbon. We had a wonderful time -- it was the perfect blend of relaxation and sight-seeing. And the Algarve truly is as beautiful as everyone says it is -- just don't go there in August with everyone else in Europe!

12 years!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Adeus, Angola Team!

Despite my best intentions, I just can't seem to get back on the blogging bandwagon and stay there. I thought after our team left for Angola and life slowed down a bit for us, I would have time to get caught up on several projects, blogging being one of them. But, here it is, 3+ weeks after they left, and I still haven't posted a single entry.

So, yes... we said goodbye to our teammates on July 8th and sent them on their way to Angola. We were excited for them, that this long-awaited day had finally arrived. At the same time, it is always hard to be the ones "left behind." Following their adventures from afar via email, Facebook, and the occasional Skype call, our lives seem almost normal and boring by comparison. Our schedule is suddenly lighter, and it's a lot quieter around here! It's strange to think that they aren't just a phone call away anymore.

I thought it would be fun to recap the last several months with some snapshots of some of our team events. These will go back to mid-February when we returned to Portugal from the States. First, some people pictures:

Me, Teague, and Katie at the church Valentine's Day Dinner

Rusty and the Reeses, soaking in the sun.

Stephen loves his Auntie Jordan!

All dressed up for church, waiting for the subway.

Stephen and Biruk, sharing a seat on the bus.

And now, some events:

In March, we held our first ever Angola Team Track and Field Day. Events included relay races, a game of kickball, and tug-of-war contests, followed by a picnic lunch.
Helping the dads and kids build a pyramid together

In April, we hosted our second Passover Seder at our house. This year, the entire team was able to join us, except for Nathan, who happened to be the U.S. at the time. 
Ready to begin the service.

One of the things we have really enjoyed doing as a team is celebrating the holidays together and creating some of our own unique traditions. This year, we had our first Easter Party. The kids did an Easter craft, and hunted for Easter eggs on the lawn at the Bible Institute (where the Meyers and Jordan lived). We followed all that up with a yummy lunch of brisket, made by Robert.
Showing off their Easter crafts

In May, the Meyers hosted an American-style barbeque and invited all the friends they had made while living in Portugal. The rest of the team helped out by bringing American desserts like brownies, peach cobbler, and chocolate chip cookies.
The grill-master

After their visas were finally approved, life was a whirlwind of activity for a few weeks. There were travel and logistical arrangements to make, packing to do, and many goodbyes and thank-yous to be said:

One of the people we especially wanted to thank was our language teacher, Eunice. We decided to have the kids do a group craft project for her. One of the things they know her for is always having chupa-chupas (suckers) on hand to give to them when they visit the school. So, we had them paint a box that she could keep her chupa-chupas in, and we put a picture of all the kids on the top, glassed-in part of the box.
Hard at work, painting the box

The picture we took to put in the top of the box. If you look closely, you can see that all the kids have a chupa-chupa -- yes, even little Sophia!

Goodbye lunch with Eunice

On their last Sunday at the Lisbon Church, the team provided breakfast during the fellowship time between class and the service. At the end of the service, the church did a special goodbye for the team. The children all sang a song, and then some of the leaders of the church prayed over them.
Apparently, Alex thinks he is going to Angola with everyone else. Too bad he doesn't have a visa yet!

Kevin and Angelina Mullins hosted our Fourth of July get-together this year. The Mullins are an American couple who are in Portugal to do church planting and have been attending the Lisbon church for the past few months while they learn Portuguese. We had a cook-out and a devo, and Robert treated all of us to a truly hilarious performance of "The Star Spangled Banner." We even had sparklers for the kids (but we forgot to actually get them out and use them)!

Praise time

My flag cake -- it turned out super cute, and yummy too!

On the day of their departure, we went to the airport to say goodbye. There were a few tears, and a funny moment when Stephen started chasing after everyone as they were walking to the security check-point, yelling "I want to go to Angola, too! I want to go to Angola, too!" But for the most part, we were full of joy and excitement to finally send them on their way, after so many months of planning, waiting, and praying:

Stephen giving Aunt Teague a ride on the luggage cart

Goodbye hugs

"Safe travels..."
 And finally, our most recent team photo:
July 5, 2011

Celebrating our teammates' visa success