Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our first month

We are coming up on one month in our new home in this new country. What does that life look like?

New Portuguese Friends! Like Hita, our new housekeeper. I have decided that for the rest of my life, I will give up a night out a week, a vacation a year, new clothes, to have someone clean my house. Hita charges 30 Euros ($38 USD). That is less than a night out for dinner. Soooo worth it. And Abigail loves her! I plan to do a post on housekeepers in America and why no one has them in the near future. Stay tuned.
Hydrangeas! Our garden is full of them. In fact, they grow like weeds here on the island. We have tons of beautiful flowers in our garden. JB actually did a post on this on his blog asking for people to help him identify some of the species that are foreign to him. I love all the flowers but the hydrangeas have already nestled into a special place in my heart. (This picture looks like Abigail is lying down -- when in fact she is sitting against a tile wall.) I especially like cutting one of these and putting them in a vase in the kitchen.

Baby jail! Okay, so it's not a jail, technically, but this octagon shaped baby gate (loaned to me by Kristy) has been a LIFESAVER during our first few weeks here. I have no furniture to help section off rooms and keep Abigail out of the boys stuff. This gate is used in about 50 different ways everyday. I block off parts of the room, I let the boys play cars inside it, I block exit doors (since you have to leave your doors and windows open here for a good breeze.) I don't knwo what I would do without it. I even set it up outside and put Abigail in it with toys. She sort of feels like she is in on the action with her brothers from this vantage point.

Bed sharing! The boys are currently sharing a full sized bed. We actually have them sleeping in it sideways so that they both have more room. However, we often find them sleeping right next to each other. Elijah was actually "spooning" Isaac when we snapped this picture and both boys started moving. We love to go in each night and see how they fell asleep. (You'll also notice Isaac in full pajamas and Elijah in nothing but his underwear. This is each of their styles of choice right now.)

Borrowed superheroes! With our own toys limited right now, we've taken to borrowing things from other people. Our new friend Carla "thought" she was heading to the USA for a vacation (they didn't make the rotator and thus have to try again in a week) so we borrowed a bunch of stuff from them -- including this Spiderman costume whcih Elijah has been a huge fan of.  And puzzles. Those are our's, and Elijah LOVES them ... while Isaac wants no part of them.

Dogs Days! Scrubby isin heaven here at our new house. One, because he has a free run of a huge outside as much as he wants. Two, because he sit on the second floor balcony and see the whole world. And three, because he can get away with more since he isn't right under foot all the time. Here he is sleeping on the boys Elmo couch which we put in their Pirate tent. This was a clubhouse for them, but he took it over as a bed when night came and he thought we weren't paying attention.

Emotion! There's been lots of smiles, but lots of tears too for this little guy. He seems to have had the hardest time making the adjustment here -- first with bed wetting and now with a lot of tears and passion. He's settling in and still making us laugh as much as ever, but he's definitely had some growing pains during our first few weeks here. Here he is playing with chalk (and painting his bike with it.) He has decided, adamantly, that his name is Sidge. NOT Elijah. (I plan to do a whole post on this soon!)
 Acceptance! While Elijah has seemed to be struggling to find his new normal, Isaac has seemed to settle in a bit easier. He asks lots of questions, takes most everything in stride, and has liked to stay close to our new home when he can. (Opting to hang out with Mommy at home other than go to the store with Daddy for instance.) He is excited about taking swimming lessons with our neighbor behind us ... especially because every day he does a good job means he can go get an ice cream cone at the Red Cafe one block over.Here he is below, creatively coloring his pirate sword (aka as a piece of wood) with chalk.

And that is how our life is currently turning during our first 30 days in the Azores.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mom Humor

There's been a lot of funny "mom" things that have been floating around on Facebook. When I see one I really like, I save it so that I can share it on my blog. To share the humor with other people. And to have it for myself to look back at someday in the future.

Yesterday was a hard mom-day for me. I felt like I was doing the right things but not getting the right results. We are focusing on a "letter of the week." This is week one. This week is the letter A. We practice writing the letter. Watch videos on youtube about how it sounds. We draw it outside with chalk. We learn a Bible verse that starts with that letter. ("All things work together for the good of those who love Him.") We find stickers that have a little a or big A. We look for the letter while we are reading books. Just trying to be proactive with learning.

In addition to the fun A activities we did today, I cut up big cardboard boxes and made houses for the boys. Gave them a door and everything. We had an Easter Egg hunt in the garden with some old plastic eggs that made the trip here in a box that came to our post office box. I put a single Pez in each egg. We swam in the pool. We played with cars. They helped me make lunch.

And yet it seemed like, all day, everyone was miserable. Abigail has an ear infection. (JB has strep throat and even missed work two days ago.) Both boys, while not physically ill, just seemed out of sorts. There was lots of crying. Lots of time outs. Lots of whining. Lots of disobedience. Abigail is incredibly clingy, and the boys weren't cutting me any slack despite the extra appendage (i.e. Abigail) I've been lugging around.

As I have mentioned previously, I am always hesitant to mention any difficulties in my parenting on the blog. I never want my weariness to be misconstrued as being ungrateful. I am SOOOO incredibly grateful for these three little miracles. I would not change my life for anything in the world. But some days are still hard days. I want to make sure people who read my blog know that. That they know I don't have it all together. I lose my cool. I don't do a good job. My kids whine. They disobey. We try hard. But we are a "normal" family. I once had someone say that my blog makes me look like a perfect mom. This bothered me! That's not fair to other moms. To think I have it all together is not a picture painted perfectly. Remember, I write my blog the way I want to. I don't share the nights that JB and I fight or I break down crying (yesterday) because I just didn't feel I was good enough for this job.

That being said, I think making jokes and getting laughs and realizing that other moms feel the same way is helpful. It makes me smile. If you are dealing with infertility, PLEASE don't see this as a complaint of motherhood. It's simply embracing the humor of this crazy life -- be it through adoption or pregnancy.

Let's start with a poem that I really love. I've been reading a series of stories for the boys on "If you give a ___ a ___." Things like, "If you give a mouse a cookie" or "if you give a pig a pancake." When I saw this poem (below), it made me smile. Mainly because I could really see the truth in it.

If You Give a Mom a Muffin ...

If you give a mom a muffin,
She'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will reminder her she has to plan supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook. (101 Things to Make with a Pound of Hambuger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She'll smell something funny.
She'll change the two-year-old.
While she is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She'll remember that she wants to phone a friend to come for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some.
And chances are,
If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

And here are some photos from Facebook that hit home!

This might seem extreme, but I actually think it is true. I really love to walk around, even the Base Commissary, by myself. It's a vacation!

 Can I get an "Amen?"

While JB is the chef in our home, even when he cooks dinner, I usually do make something for Abigail and the boys. They might eat a bit of what we do, but I often do something simpler for them as well. (Especially Isaac who is a wee bit picky.) Three kids x three meals is nine meals a day I have to come up with. That's a lot of creativity, prepping, and cleaning up! (And I usually don't even formally make something for myself.)

 I also love the expression, "Cleaning with kids in the house is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing." (I stole this from Joia -- although I don't know she originated it.)

So, let's have a good laugh at the craziness of motherhood! Email me your best at: (or put a link in the comments if it is online.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Friday Funnies (featuring some birds and bees)

The birds and the bees are a major topic of conversation right now in my house. Here, is just one example. (I'll spare you too many of these conversations as I'm not a big fan of writing the word penis on my blog.)

Isaac: "Did Abigail have a boo boo on her penis?"
Me: "Abigail doesn't have a penis."
Isaac: "What?"
Me: "Yeah, she doesn't have a penis."
Isaac: "Because she's a girl?"
Isaac: "Boys have penises?"
Isaac: "Do Mommies have a penis?"
Isaac: "Mommies are girls?"
Isaac: "And daddies are boys."
Isaac: "Do daddies have penises?"
Isaac: "Do husbands have penises?"
Isaac: "And mommies are all mommies?"
Isaac: "Okay."
Elijah has become quite proficient at doing puzzles. But he keeps thinking he needs help. I told him he had to flip over the pieces. "You need to turn them over so you can see what's what," I said. He looked at me funny and said, "What's what with what Mommy?"
While taking a walk on the boardwalk that runs along the ocean by our home, I stopped to tie my shoes in a place that was on a slight decline. Abigail was in her stroller. The boys were on the their three-wheeler bikes. I thought I put the lock on Abigail's stroller, but I guess I didn't because suddenly I hear Isaac saying, "Mommy! It's an emergency! Abigail is going on a joy-ride." I've been teaching the kids to tell me when there is an emergency with Abigail -- when she is somewhere unsafe. But where he learned joy-ride from is beyond me.
As often happens to doctors, a new place to practice means all kinds of new bugs. JB actually got strep throat. So I was putting the kids to bed by myself -- something Daddy usually does -- so he could rest. As we were praying I said, "And let's pray for Daddy too. Dear Jesus, please help heal Daddy. Amen."
Elijah: "Is Daddy sick?"
Me: "Yes. He doesn't feel good."
Elijah: "How does Jesus heal us?"
Me: "Well, he helps our bodies feel better."
Isaac: "So we don't get sick?"
Me: "Right."
Isaac: "I don't like to do the throw up."
Me: "Me either."
Isaac: "What color is your throw up Ma Ma?" (He's been calling me Ma Ma all the time lately.)
Me: "Same color as yours. It's whatever was in our stomach."
Isaac: "I don't want to do the throw up after ice cream. I like ice cream."
 Me: "C'mon guys. Put the toys away. We are going to go over to see our friends. Noah and Jonah are going to be there. And Jackson and Max."
Elijah: "And we are going to be there too?"
Me: "Yes, and we will be there too. That's the whole point!"
Isaac: "What causes smoke?"
Me: "Fire."
Isaac: "Fire causes smoke?"
Me: "Well, maybe not. Because sometimes there is smoke but no fire."
Isaac: "What causes fire?"
Me: "Things getting too hot."
Isaac: "Is the sun hot?"
Me: "Yes, very hot."
Isaac: "It would burn us?"
Me: "Yes. You can't touch it."
Isaac: "But we could touch the moon?'
Me: "You could."
Isaac: "It's not hot."
Me: "It's not."
Isaac: "It's kinda soft I think."
I made Elijah a snack and set it down in front of him. As I did, he looked at it and said, "I'm still hungry." I informed him, gently, that he cannot make that statement prior to actually eating the snack I gave him. The kids just loves to eat.
Both boys, but more Isaac, have been obsessed with emergencies that might occur while on planes.
Isaac: "If there is an emergency, the slide will come out and we will slide down it."
Me: "Yes. We will slide down and be safe on the ground."
Isaac: "But if there's an emergency, that would have to be a really long slide to go to the ground."
Me: "Yes, it's a long slide."
Isaac: "But it can't reach from the sky to the ground."
Me: "No, we would only use the slide if we were on the ground and there was an emergency."
Isaac: "But what if there is an emergency while we are in the sky?"
Me: "Well the captain would land the plane."
Isaac: "Like if there was smoke?"
Me: "Yes."
Isaac: "What causes smoke?"
Me: "Sparks."
Isaac: "From what?"
Me: "From ... um ... let's see if there is a video on this on youtube. Or let's wait until your Daddy gets home."
We were looking at a picture of flying saucer on the play dough container. "Can you make that?" Isaac asked me. I told him I thought I could. "What is it called?" Isaac asked me. I tried to thinking of the words flying saucer but couldn't get my mind to remember. So I just said, "It's a ship that goes to space." Isaac nodded and said, "You mean a flying saucer, Mom?" Right. Yes. Exactly.
I was lynig next to Isaac, trying to take a nap with him. He's basically dropped his nap so sometimes I will sleep with him as my chances of him going down are higher. So we are lying there, and I'm trying to sleep. I'm so happy because Elijah and Abigail are asleep, and all I have to do is get one more kid down and I can take a nap. Isaac, however, has other ideas. He is talking. And keeps talking, "Could you be a little quieter?" I ask him. Isaac shakes his head as he continues chattering to the myriad of stuffed animals which he calls his "stuff" that must sleep with him each nap and evening. "Mom," he begins. "I need to talk to my stuff." I say I understand but wonder if he would consider whispering to his stuff. He shakes his head again, "Mom, my stuff have loud voices."
I realized that when I asked Isaac if he wanted to live on his own when he grew up, and he told me, "Yes, but I don't know how to build my house by myself," that he got that from The Three Little Pigs.
Lying (or twisting the truth) has become a new and emerging issue in our home. Here are two examples of Elijah's little have truths.
Me: "It's time to go to bed."
Elijah: "Okay Banana head."
Me: "Please don't call Mommy a banana head."
Elijah: "Okay Banana."
Me: "Elijah! Did you hear me? Don't call me a banana!"
Elijah: "I didn't Mommy. I just called the ceiling a banana."

Me: "Elijah, did you take your chalk and color all over all of Isaac's drawings?"
Elijah: "No."
Isaac: "Yes he did!"
Me: "Elijah, did you do it?"
Elijah: "No. I didn't. I was a robot. And the robot did it."

The best country in the world

If you are like me, your basic needs are met. Your kids are fed. There may be tough times, but you have never had to experience a child going to bed hungry. Many people see me, a doctor's wife, as being a woman of privilege. I would say that that is true now.

However, I did not grow up as a doctor's wife. I grew up in a lower midle class family. So did my husband. But even though there were not a lot of extras in our family growing up, I never went hungry. We skipped Christmas a few times. We couldn't do things our friends did sometimes. It was hard for my parents to tell us "no" to things they wanted to let us do. But we never didn't eat. I can't imagine going hungry.

But believe it or not, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of America with our loved ones and debate "hot dog or hamburger" at picnics, there are children in our own country that are wondering when they will have another meal at all.

I remember during our mission trip to Nigeria, I mentioned to one of the Nigerian men we were working with that there are a lot of homeless people in America. He was shocked. "In America? Why would you have homeless people there!?"

It's hard to believe that even before the recession, America had one of the highest poverty rates in the industrialized world. And today there are a staggering 15 million children living in poverty in the United States.

My husband and I have supported World Vision for many years. They came to a church event early in our marriage, and we decided to sponsor a child.

World Vision has a Gift Catalog. This allows you to help a child and/or family in the U.S. or somewhere else in the world by making a gift in someone's name. One year for Christmas, we were preparing to move, and I couldn't imagine getting any gifts while packing. So I asked family members to consider making a donation in my name to World Vision. A few family members chose to do this, and they told me that it ministered to them as much as it did to me.

You can watch a video to see how the Gift Catalog works by clicking here.

I am not sharing these details to pat my own back. I am sharing it to make you aware as holiday seasons begin to start falling, the possibility of giving someone a gift for their birthday or Christmas. Or making a gift to celebrate the freedom we experience as Americans.

Would you consider making a donation in someone's name? Would you consider making a donation in someone's name to our organization Because of Isaac? When you donate to the organization, simply let us know you are making this donation in "honor of" someone. If you provide their name and address, we will send them a special card telling that someone made a donation in their name. A donation to Because of Isaac will allow us to help a couple adopt a child and give that child a family forever.

Also, I'm quick to tell you that our organization is not the only organization you could donate to. There are tons of organizations that are trying to help children and families. World Vision is one of my favorites. You can help feed a family in the USA for three days for $48, or provide a week's worth of food for $112.

Let's try to think of other people this 4th of July. We live in the greatest country in the world.. Okay, I don't actually live there right now, but the USA is my country. As we celebrate our country this next week, let's consider helping

The Invisible Mom -- Building Cathedrals

My friend Erica shared this on Facebook. I am sharing it now. I don't know who wrote it, but it is a reminder that being a mom is an important job. That it is okay to say it is hard. (I find this especially hard to voice after dealing with infertility.) To those of you who are waiting to be moms, the time you are putting into making yourself a better person and praying for the children you will hopefully one day parent, cannot be emphasized enough. I am praying for you today too. Especially for a dear friend who, as she prepared to go in for an IVF harvest this week, had the cycle scrapped due to reasons outside of her control. Praying for you. And praying for all those moms out there who may have had a hard day today.

The Invisible Mom:

"It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’ I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals. We have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make everyday, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, not cut you've cared for, no cupcake you've baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no baseball game, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my child to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All at once ...

Our little Abigail is doing some mighty cool things. It's like that fountain of learning has just turned on. She is starting to:

  • Try to put anything "on". Here she is wearing my ear warmer for running. (Picture above).
  • Drink out of a sippy cup. This is from having big brothers. She drinks out of any cup she can find lying around. (Picture above.)
  • Climb into anything and everything. She always liked to go under things but now she will climb into cabinets -- especially ones with clothes in it. (Picture above.)
  • Give you a kiss when you ask her for one. If you say, "Can I have a kiss?" she opens her mouth real wide and slobbers on you.
  • Put items into a container. If you hold out a can or a tub and give her things and say, "Can you put them in?" she will do it. Here's a video of her doing this.
  • Hand you things, and if your hand is closed, turn it over and open it so you can take what she wants you to take.
  • Go into the snack cabinet and start eating food that she wants. We have found here eating animal crackers and raisins.
  • Sign "please". She can now sign "please", "all done", and "milk" although she is SOOO stubborn about it and seems to not do it just because she
  • Play peek-a-boo with you. She does the ducking (behind couches, tables, etc.) She also loves to play with her brothers when they are all eating a meal together.
  • Hold a phone to her to talk. This really amazes me since we don't really use a phone here much. 
  • Walk more and more. Today she took 10 straight steps. She still totally prefers crawling, but she is definitely closer every day to walking. I want her to walk! With two big brothers, she's getting filthy trying to follow them everywhere.
  • Try to put clothes on. It is the cutest thing. She also loves to put on the toy stethoscope (which was a favorite of Isaac's for many months.) Here's a video of that.

Winning Balance Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to read and review* Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson. I know I am not alone in my love for watching gymnastics. In fact, I am already counting down the days to the London Olympics which will allow me to watch more of this fascinating sport! 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Shawn Johnson's story, she rose from a virtually unknown to a gold medal hopeful in non-traditional fashion. She spent almost half as many hours in the gym as her counterparts, trained away from the glitz and glamour, but still managed to earn a spot on the 2008 Olympic team. Favored to possibly win 4 gold medals, she ended with 1 gold and 3 silver. She then retired from the sport, participated in and won Dancing with the Stars and then tried for a return to gymanstics. She hoped to be in London this summer but injured her knee skiing and was forced to retire again.

While I enjoyed Shawn's book and found it an easy and interesting read, I think that it is much more pertinent for young girls -- teenagers and even young college-aged women. Shawn is a fantastic role model for women of our society who are inundated with unhealthy images of beauty and success.  Shawn's work ethic, faith, focus, and ability to balance her social and athletic lives is second-to-none ... as is the books secondary messages of the dangers of Hollywood and unhealthy body images. 

However, I couldn't help but thinking, despite all she went through, "Okay, but she's twenty years old. She's let a pretty easy life. Do I really have anything to learn from her?" In addition, her tales of boyfriends and first loves caused me a little bit of eye rolling. I don't consider myself old, but I suppose fifteen years puts me a whole generation ahead of Shawn. And this book made me feel that.

But young girls need look no further than Shawn Johnson for a quality role model. If my daughter were to grow up with the character, integrity, and work ethic of this young woman, gymnastics aside, I would be thrilled. These are the types of sports heroes that we need more of.

And of course, what would a book review be without a giveaway? I'm going to mail this to my friend Tara, as she is a sports biography junkie. But she said she would gladly read it and then mail it to the winner of my giveaway. So leave a comment with your name and email address for a chance to win a copy of this book.

*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Our "stuff"

I'm starting to really grieve not having our "stuff" here yet.

I know it is just "stuff" but my choice of clothes is starting to get to me. And I most miss my bed. The last time I slept on it was back in early April! I miss my rugs. Not having any rugs makes for a loud house and a lot of dust bunnies. I want all the 18 month clothes that I sent for Abigail thinking that there was no way they wouldn't be here by now. I also miss our toaster. And our saucepans. An our broom sticks (the heads made it but the sticks did not.)

You are allowed to send over 1,000 pounds of stuff via air. We did. Only our movers messed up a lot of that shipment. Half of the things we wanted here early, aren't here. We put a bunch of transformers (outlets designed to let you plug American electronics into European electronics) but they are not here. We sent our bikes. But they are not here. We sent our toaster. I know we did. It is not here.

When we moved to Turkey from Eglin back in 2010, we sent our stuff on June 29th. It arrived by August 18th. Just over 1.5 months.

This time, we mailed our stuff on April 9th. We thought that it would probably beat us here. April 9th was early! Instead, we have been here for coming up on a month, and we still dont' have our stuff. We are coming up on three months without our stuff. That's a long time!

It could be way worse. We are a nearly furnished home. We have everything we need. But you just want to stop having things in temporary places. You just want it to feel like your home. The kids want their toys. We want our computer. We just want to make this home. If you are only here for 2 years, 3 months is a huge portion of that time.

We are fortunate enough to have a friend from Turkey. Her name is Pam. She and her husband Randy came over here just a week or so before we did. Their stuff is on the same boat as us. Their car is on the same boat as our's. She works on Base and has been able to keep tabs on where stuff is.

JB got an email from Pam. Rumor has it our van is due in next week. Yippee for that. But no update yet on our big shipment (HHG).

Would you join me today in praying that our "stuff" gets here soon. We'd really like it.  We don't need it. But boy do we want it!

A Bull-Filled Day (Part II)

So, after we watched the bulls run, it was time to attend a bull fight. We were fortunate enough to run into one of Nick and Kristy's friends, Tanya, who is from the island but speaks pretty good English. She was able to give us a crash course of education when it comes to bull fighting.

Here we are enjoying our kid-free evening in the arena. The seats are incredibly squished and uncomfortable and you can rent a cushion to sit on for a euro (which we did.) However, there isn't a bad seat in the place. Everyone has a great view, and it was fascinating to watch. It's amazing that different people are totally into things that we have no awareness of at all. It was nice that our friends gave me the seat with the most leg room. If my legs are cramped, they will start cramping, literally -- and there would really be nowhere to walk around here.

Portuguese-style bullfighting differes in many way from the Spanish-style bullfighting that we as Americans understand. Especially unique are the cavaleiros and the forcados.

A Cavaleiros is a horse rider. He or she (all three of our's were men), is dressed in traditional 18th century costumes and they fight the bull from horseback. The horses are Portuguese Lusitanos especially trained for the fights. These horses are amazing! They are so incredibly trained and are dressed up for the event with their hair braided.
Here is one of our three cavaleiros. Each of them comes out two different times and fights two different bulls. That means there are a total of six bull fights for the evening. Our first rider was an older man -- obviously the most skilled. This second rider is the son of a famous rider. Our third rider was very young, but very good. He was also a crowd favorite because he was an island local. (The other two were from the mainland of Portugal.) In the past, horseback bullfighters were often members of old aristocratic families.
The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandarilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull. They have to get very close to the bull in order to do this which is what is so exciting.

Here is one of our three cavaleiros fighting the bull. Those colored poles on the bull's back are spears that the rider has stabbed the bull with. The spears do not kill the bull, but the bull bleeds so it obviously does not feel good. It is semi-barbaric. It wasn't bothersome enough that I wanted to look away, but it is confusing to see people cheering as an animal is injured. It's just hard to wrap your mind around. It is so apart of their culture but there is no way our society in America would ever allow it.
By far the most fascinating part of the evening came inbetween each bull fight. After a cavaleiro fought a bull, a group of men (forcados) would come out into the arena. Forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection or weapons of defense. In other words, they are absolutely insane! The first time a group walked into the arena, we were utterly unprepared for what was about to happen. All of a sudden we saw a group of men line up and then begin to challenge the bull. Many people who watch Portuguese-style bullfights in the United States use the term, "suicide squad", to refer to this group of eight men. I can see why!
The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a face catch. The front man secures the animal's head ...
 ... and he is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued. (Forcados were usually people from lower classes who, to this day, practice their art through amateur associations.)
Here they are successfully subduing the bull. There were two teams of forcados at the bull fight we attended. They each took three turns subduing a bull. Sometimes they got him on the first try. But sometimes it took as many as three tries to subdue the bull. These men were getting very hurt -- which probably explains why they performed the sign of the cross dozens of times before they went into the ring. They had extra men on the sides to help if they needed it, and they even had a coach who was "calling the plays" watching from the sideline. If they did a good job, when the rider came out to take his bow to the crowd, so did the lead man on the forcado team.

 This is our group, moments before the forcads came out. Seriously, we were all completely confused as to what was going to happen, and we literally looked at each other and said, "Are they trying to get that bull to charge them?"
JB took two videos of the forcados at work. You must watch these. CRAZY!
When you are watching the videos, you will also see a bandarilheiros - These men are the matador's and/or cavaleiro's helpers in the arena. These men are what we Americans associate with a bullfighter. But here in Portugal, they are used for distraction. They are skillful and wear the suit of light as the matador, except not with the gold sequins. While in the arena, they are holding the gold/pink cape to distract or position the bull.

Most Portuguese bullfights are held in two phases: the spectacle of the cavaleiro, followed by the pega which is where the forcados try challenge the bull. In Portugal, the main stars of bullfighting are the cavaleiros, as opposed to Spain, where the matadores are the most prominent bullfighters.

The bull is not killed in the ring. In addition, if they canot get the bull successfully back into its pen, they will send out a group of cows who are supposed to interest the bull enough to lead him home. This only happened once when we were there, and the bull didn't care a lick about the females.

A bull only goes into the arena one time! That's it. These bulls are four years old, they go into the arena once, and then their career is done. If they are good bulls who charge well and entertain well, then they are cleaned up after the fight. Then they are allowed to live, graze in the pasture, possibly breed, and then they run in the streets in future years.

However, if they are a nice bull, they are butchered after the fight. Go figure! The nice guy dies in the end.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. I was not bored in the slightest. It was great fun. But I can't say I'll go again. The treatment of the bulls did bother me and was at the back of my mind the whole time. But what a look into a completely different culture!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Bull-Filled Day (Part I)

We have been fortunate to have met, through Nick and Kristy, Carlos and his wife Julie. Carlos has been working on our garden for us. (Pictures to come! Man does it look beautiful!) Julie babysits and cleans for Americans. On Sunday, we decided to take a long overdue anniversary "date day" and have Julie come over and babysit for us. This was hard for me as we are new to the area, and we don't know Julie that well. But Kristy and her friend Carla both use Julie. Everyone raves about her. So we decided to get some time together and leave the kids -- hard as that might be.

Bulls are a huge part of the culture in Portugal and on the island. It's a very foreign concept to Americans (who could never do anything like this in fear of PETA and other lawsuits.) The day starts with the "Running of the Bulls."

From wikipedia: The Running of the Bulls (in Spanish encierro, from the verb encerrar, to fence in, to lock/shut up, to pen) is a practice that involves running in front of a small group (typically a dozen) of bulls that have been let loose, on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town's streets. Unlike bullfights, which are performed by professionals, anyone older than 18 may participate in an encierro. The purpose of this event was in origin to transport the bulls from the off-site corrals where they had spent the night, to the bullring where they would be killed in the evening. Youngsters would jump among them to show off their bravado.

As employees of the American military, John and Nick are not allowed to be on the "other side" of the wall to run with the bulls. (Like they would do it if they could -- I think not.) But coming to view the running from a safe place is a huge cultural event around the island and especially in the town of Angra, the largest city on the island.

We had no idea what we were in for. We had gotten directions from Julie and Carlo which basically included "find a safe place and don't come out of it until they blow multiple cannons to indicate the bulls are safely enclosed again."

So how does it work? First, you find a safe place. For some this includes trees, a roof, flatbed trucks, hillsides, etc. For us it included an enclosed structure with vending stands inside. The owner knew enough about the runs to know that you couldn't even open the sides of the structure for viewing because runners would change their mind and try to jump in (and then subsequently jump on people). So he opened two of the windows where bulls were less likely to charge, set up some vendors who served fantastic food, and let us watch in relative safety.

Some "machismo" men decide to go in the streets and taunt the bulls, run with them, run at them, try to touch them, etc. I have no idea why one would want to do this, but apparently, they do.

Here we are in our lookout fort -- that's Kristy's Mom, her brother Matt, and his girlfriend Betsy.

Nick and Kristy and their boys were also there. Here is Kristy with Jonah.

Prior to the bulls being let loose, men wandered the street (and often changed their minds and jumped in trees.) 

Here I am debating the wisdom of this decision to participate in a "bull run" ... (if only as a spectator.) A cannon would sound, indicating that a bull had been let loose. Six cannons, for the six bulls participating in this event, were let loose altogether.

I had two main thoughts while watching this. The first was that these men, out in the streets with the bulls, must have a screw loose. The second thought was that this was just not a nice thing to do to an animal. While I would never align myself with Peta, it's hard to watch animals being teased and "forced" into agression.  

We witnessed two very close calls during the event. The first was this man, who was not a crowd favorite when he antagonized the bull and it chased him into this crowd. He got up saying he was fine, but he had to be pretty banged up. And the crowd was FURIOUS at him for putting all of them in danger too. (Even though their "protection" was on the steps of the building. Not too smart if you ask me.) 

 Another view of the close call. This man actually tried to go back into the streets again -- but his fellow spectators refused to allow him to do so.

Many men and young boys would hang from trees, and then pick their feet up when the bull got close. 


 This man was the second close call. He was flipped by the bull and scraped his head on the pavement. It's one thing to decide to run as an in-shape young man. Why overweight, middle-aged men made the decision was even more confusing to me. (And notice -- there are NO women present. Not a one!) 

He came over to our "wooden box" under a tent to get some napkins to clean up his scrape. 

As the running ended, men with no training at all, would try to tie up the bull and lead him off his circular street running path and take him back to the crates that held them. When they were successfully returned -- all six of them -- a series of cannons would strike signaling it was safe to return to the streets. 

Here I am on the beautiful streets of Angra -- after the running was over. Thankful to be free, uninjured, and able to go to the bathroom.

We walked back to our vehicles after the running and headed to the arena for the next part of our bull-filled-day: the bull fights in the arena. I agreed only because these are "nice" bull fights (supposedly) and the bulls are not killed. But again, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

What a day! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My online twin

I bet you all didn't know I had a twin sister?

Okay, so we don't have the same mom. Or the same dad. And we aren't the same age either. And actually, we've never met each other (in person) before.

But we still consider ourselves twins of the heart.

Once upon a time, we met on -- a discussion board for women traversing the road of infertility. Amy was a few years older than me, but otherwise our stories were very similar. Married a long time. Married a long time with no children. We lamented together. Encouraged. Supported. Cried. Begged. Prayed.

And remained infertile.


Amy moved away from infertility treatments first. She adopted one adorable little boy. A few months later she discovered she was pregnant.

Sound familiar?

As most of you know, I would adopt my own adorable little boy shortly thereafter and then find out that I too, was pregnant. Amy was one of the first people I told. I sent her an email that said, "You and I have a lot in common."

She knew instantly what I meant. She had boys about one year apart. I had boys just under one year apart. And we both knew that while everyone (and their mother) was constantly saying, "That happens all the time," it really doesn't happen all the time. I wrote about this "myth" on a past blog entry here.

And gosh darn it, wouldn't you know, our stories weren't done being written. I got pregnant with a little girl ... very unexpectedly. And so did Amy -- long after she believed that her family was complete.

She just delivered that little girl the other day. And with her birth, I felt the need to give a big "online hug" to my friend Amy. A big congratulations.

Our stories cross even more, however. Rewind to 2010. A few months before we moved to Turkey. Amy lives in San Antonio. She attended a MOPs group there. My friend Sarah Stebbins lived in San Antonio. She attended the same MOPs. They didn't know each other well, but Stebbs mentioned she was moving to Turkey. Amy mentioned that she had a friend she had never met who was moving to Turkey. She connected Stebbs and me. Stebbs and I started corresponding via email long before we moved to Turkey.

And then, take a look at the picture above. It was taken by my friend Sarah Ashmore ( Sarah was my friend in Turkey. Sarah moved to San Antonio following their Turkey assignment. Amy contacted her to do photography.

Small world or what?

I am still trying to figure out how two of my friends have gotten to meet Amy, and I haven't yet! I really hope that some day, she and I, can sit down and chat. In real life.

Until then, we'll remain twins from afar. Congrats Amy!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nick & Kristy

What a HUMONGOUS blessing Nick and Kristy S. have been to us in our military careers. John and Nick attended residency together at Eglin. Nick and Kristy were our sponsors when we came to Turkey. And they sponsored us again coming to the Azores. Sponsors are incredibly important to a move, and a bad sponsor can make things incredibly difficult. Sponsors answer questions and help arrange details of your arrival.

In Nick and Kristy's case, they went above and beyond the call of duty. They got power of attorney and got all the mail we mailed to ourselves (and to them). They signed our lease and got our keys and got our house ready for us (including stocking it with groceries and sheets for the beds and pillows and gates for Abigail and a high chair and anything else you could think you would need.) They have fed us and showed us around and let us borrow their vehicles. Their friendship and help cannot be properly expressed in words. It was instrumental in providing a smooth transition for our family.

A week after we arrived, Kristy's mother, brother Matt, and his girlfriend Betsy arrived for a two week visit. So not only was Kristy taking caer of us, but getting ready for their arrival too.

Here are a few pictures of some of our fun times at their house (which is right around the corner from our own.)

Kristy had a group of people over for a "cultural potluck." Her friend Katerina (pictured) is from the Azores and made a delicious Azorean dish. Her mother is from Peru and made another equally delicious dish. Kristy's father is Italian so she contribute an Italian dish. JB contributed a dish from his own mind since he is an American mutt. I made a casserole (as the Dutch would do.) It was fantastic. Here we are relaxing outside before the rains started. (Take a look at Elijah in the background -- aaahhh, life with boys.)
Here are all the kids eating dinner. The two older children on the far left are our other neighbors. Their mother just deployed, and they will be living with just their dad, Charles, for the next six months. Kristy and Nick's boys are on the far right (Noah and Jonah.) And yes, Elijah has his shirt on backwards. He insisted. We have since made a rule that shirts can only be worn backwards at home. When we leave, they have to be turned around.

I am pretty sure Abigail is in panic mode. "This Jonah kid is going to try and take my car. I don't think so."
Here is a great picture of Noah with his grandmother. Noah is an incredibly sweet kid who talks like a twenty year old. He plays fantastically with my boys. I think they are going to be great friends.
And here is Kristy with her youngest son, Jonah, who is 18 months old. Kristy is an incredible person (both inside and out.) We didn't get to spend as much time together in Turkey as I would have liked because right after I arrived, she storknested in the States to have Jonah. And then, right after she got back, I left within a few months to storknest to have Abigail in Germany. And then, they left the day after I returned from Germany with Abigail. We will have at least a year together here in the Azores before they either go to another military Base, get out of the military, or decide to extend in the Azores. They have a wonderful home with chickens and a rooster, and two dogs, and a vegetable garden. It's a lovely home!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Funnies

Often, if the boys have to go to the bathroom, they will try to take whatever snack they are eating into the bathroom with them so that Scrubby or their sister or their brother doesn't get it. I have been reminding them that food does not go in the bathroom. They need to leave it on a kitchen counter. Today Isaac said to me, "But why doesn't food go in the bathroom? Because people could pee on it?" Yeah, something like that.
A fly smacker a fly swatter in our house. By both boys.
The boys were cleaning up their toys.
Elijah: "Isaac is not helping me."
Me: "Well, if he doesn't, you can watch the movie, and he can't."
Elijah: "Now he's helping me Mom!"
Isaac: "I'm not helping you. I'm helping myself."
Isaac continues to call crazy names. His latest, "Stop it you taste tester."
Elijah: "Why you call Mommy a bun?"
JB: "No, I called her a babe."
Elijah: "Why?"
JB: "Because she's my babe."
Elijah: "No, she's my babe."
The boys did Vacation Bible School this past week. They seemed to love it. The theme is "sky" and they are using airplane and birds and things that fly to illustrate God's infinite love for us. Sometimes, however, three year olds fail to make the connection.
Me: "So what did you guys learn about in VBS today?"
Isaac: "We learned about airplanes."
Me: "Airplanes. Really?"
Isaac: "Yeah."
Elijah: "No Isaac. We didn't learn about airplanes."
(At this point I think, Okay, Elijah is going to say what it actually was they learned about God as it related to airplanes ...)
Me: "Oh. You didn't? What did you learn about Sidge?"
Elijah: "We learned about birds."
When you pass gas in our house, we encourage the kids to say, "Excuse me." Isaac did just that and when I asked him what he should say, he said, "P.U."
Ever since he read about Jesus dying, death is a subject of infatuation in our house. This morning JB picked up his Ipod and said, "Oh man. It's almost dead." Elijah quickly turned and said, "What Daddy? It died?" Time to explain the difference between batteries (which can be recharged) and people.
Getting a little out of breath, Isaac put his hand on his chest and said,"Is that my heart beeping?" I smiled thinking that was very cute. Elijah then asked why a heart beeps. Isaac went on to explain the emergency defibrillators (AED's) that he saw around Base. He had been questioning these so repeatedly, that I asked JB to please explain them. Isaac's explanation was, "And then if the beeping stops, you gotta put that thing in the BX on the wall on your chest."
Elijah: "When I get bigger, I am going to brush my teeth and spit it out."
I was retelling JB about a conversation that the boys and I had had earlier that day. "Elijah told me he wants to live with me forever," I said, as the boys looked on. "But Isaac said he wants to get married and have his own house." Both boys nodded, but then Isaac commented, "But I don't know how to build a house all by myself."
Every evening, Elijah wants us to come into his room multiple times to "fix his blanket." This is a constant battle. We have started telling him, "You go try it first. We know you can do it. You are very smart." Tonight, Elijah replied, "I'm only a little bit smart." He is constantly trying to work things out so we will go in there and fix his blanket!
I was showing the boys a picture of their great-grandmother, JB's father's mother, Theresa. I explained that she was in heaven. Somehow we started discussing burials. I told them that they we bury people in the dirt. Isaac was aghast. "But we can't see in the dirt!" he said.
Isaac has been very into relationships. Who my parents are. Who JB's parents are. Yesterday he saw a picture of JB and asked me, "Is that your husband?"
I guess I tell the kids a lot, "Hold on. That was funny. I gotta go write it down on the computer." (And no writing it down on paper first -- that's just an extra step.) Today, during lunch, Isaac held up a cheese stick and a square of PB & J and had the cheese stick say to the sandwhich, "Here's my boyfriend." Then he turned to me and said, "Do you need to write that down on the 'puter?" Then he put the cheese stick on his head and said, "Is there something on my head?" and then, "How 'bout that on the 'puter Ma Ma?"
Me: "You guys already had a snack. If you are still hungry, you can have some fruit."
Elijah: "Or what?"
Me: "Or nothing. You can have fruit. You can have a banana or an apple or some strawberries."
Elijah: "Or some chocolate. Right Mom?"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lotsa little changes ...

... add up to big changes when you are moving. There are so many things to relearn and unlearn and try out and do and undo.

What has been nice is that all the boxes we mailed and our UB has allowed us to have a lot of stuff already here and to start figuring out where things should go. JB bought me a label maker (which Wendi-the-organizer loves!) We've been using the label maker to go around and label the abundance of switches to help us figure out and remember what turns on what.

This house has a ton of light fixtures ... and when your furniture is sorta scattered and you are six foot three, you accidentally hit your head on those more than you care to acknowledge. There's so many step ups and step downs to remember so you don't trip.

The entire house is 220 volts. Everything we own is 110 volts since Base housing in Turkey had 110. Before we left Turkey, we had a bunch of people leaving the overseas life give us their transformers. These are big electrical boxes that allow you to plug a 110 into a 220 without blowing it out. But those transformers didn't show up. Seems our movers decided to put them in HHG instead. Some stuff can handle being plugged into a 220 with a simple converter. But other things (like our vacuum cleaner for example) cannot. So we can't use that until a transformer finds its way to our house.

Some other learning experiences include:

Our refrigerator, for example. By far the smallest one we have ever had. The good news is that we have a huge freezer in the laundry room so we are trying to think about items we can freeze instead of refrigerate. You really have to think about it while you are shopping.
A picture of our little European fridge (and its itty bitty freezer.) The one thing I've realized is, that while it is tremendously smaller, space is maximized with extra little shelves (look at the ketchup on the very top shelf laying flat.)

We did purchase another small refrigerator for the guest suite on third floor. We can use that if we get in a jam now. Not that our kitchen is lacking. It's quite a spread:

I am also getting used to my washer and dryer. The Base has made the decision that they will not provide us with any appliances. This means, we have to make due with what we have. Small refrigerator, small/crazy washer, and strange dryer. My washer and dryer features a video showing off these appliances. My housekeeper, who is Portuguese, has told me she refuses to try to work my washer. She is way too intimidated by it!

We are really trying to live greener and greener (and hopefully cheaper and cheaper) so we are trying to avoid using the dryer and opt. for the clothesline whenever we can.

But it rains a lot here. And apparently, the current season -- summer -- is nothing compared to the winter and the rain that will come. So I've decided to do like the locals and leave my clothes drying until they are dry. Sometimes it takes three days (and multiple rain showers) before I can get them down before the rain comes on again. But I'm learning. It's my first time hang-drying my clothes. And while it takes much longer, there is something empowering and invigorating about successfully drying a load.

More adjustments though. Many more.

Our garage? Craziness! Check out this video of it sliding into the hallway of our home. This is only the second time in our married life that we have had a garage. Our first two homes in Kentucky did not have one. Our first homein Minnesota had a detatched garage, and our second home in Minnesota had underground parking. Florida -- no garage. This is new to us and quite strange as well!

Bummed that we don't get Pandora here on our computer. Apparently you can't listen to Pandora overseas and off-Base. (We got it on Base in Turkey but not off Base in Turkey.)

We are also still waiting on both our vehicle and our HHG. I'm starting to get a little frustrated by not having my things and really just want them back! Little things are so much harder. Like, we don't have any big garbage cans. Just the little ones that came with the house. So we have to use grocery bags for trash and then throw those in a box outside of the house until we can walk it to the trash. Or Abigail's clothes. She has totally left behind 12 month clothes, but I had sent all her 18 month clothes with the movers. We need the next size!

And the thing I miss the most? RUGS! Man, not only for the softness but to cut down on the noise and echoing! C'mon stuff. Get here!

Oh and check this video out.  It's one of my favorite videos ever of Abigail showing off her ability to "change." Actually, it is her trying to put clothes on. Just in this last week, she has started changing like crazy. She is signing please now. She is putting things around her neck and on her head. She took three steps today. She's following directions and handing us things when asked. So fun to watch the changes in her.