Sunday, November 21, 2010

Her Father's Daughter

One day last week I dropped Amelia off at preschool amid a goopy glopy project that would be most preschoolers nirvana. We put Amelia's smock on and she dove right in with her classmates (who were already covered). When I picked her up I asked her to tell me about what she did at school I only got her usual generic response "have fun, kids." I asked her if she got really messy, and she said "yes." Then she continued "all cleaned up." When asked if it was fun getting messy or if it was more fun getting clean she replied "clean." She doesn't get it from me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two heads are indeed better than one

I’ve had a glimpse of single parenthood for the last two weeks, and I will be the first to admit I don’t think it is for me, and I am truly in awe of all of the folks who pull it off. I managed to keep the kids fed, bathed, entertained, in good spirits, and fairly well rested, though I wasn’t able to manage quite all of that for myself, particularly the last one. By the time I got them both off to bed and faced the dishes, laundry, toy pick-up, and all of the other basic tasks and fell into bed it was time for Tristan to wake up and eat.

I soon realized that one of the best ways to keep the house clean was to avoid the house as much as possible. So to begin with we spent a couple of days at the kids expo in town, it had perfect timing, arriving for 4 days the day after Dan left, with every bouncy castle imaginable there, plus a petting zoo and a wall mural for painting. This week we spent a day at the Portugal national horse fair, while Amelia loved this and got to sit on her first horse (OK, really small pony, but don’t tell her that), it was really for me. Some amazing horses there, mostly lusitanos that are gorgeous, and we went for the freestyle dressage, which is beautiful. We also got to spend a couple of afternoons and evenings at Amelia’s friend Bernardo’s house (thanks Priscila!), and when all else fails, we went grocery shopping. I’ve heard nightmare stories about other kids and their grocery store meltdowns, so I am thankful that Amelia *loves* grocery shopping. She sits happily in the cart and helps put everything in the basket, smiles and blows kisses to the adoring Portuguese grandmothers, and gives the credit card to the check-out clerk followed by waves, more kisses. After shopping she gets to ride the mini carousel and sometimes we get lunch together. All quite civilized, really. Tristan for his part usually sleeps in the front carrier the whole time, and only complains if I push it a little close to feeding time. So far I think I’ve got pretty portable kids, though I may change my tune after 3 weeks of travelling with them around the US in December, thank goodness Dan will be with me for that trip!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy 40th Dan!

So of course the biggest event in October for our family was Dan’s 40th birthday. When we first arrived in Portugal in September of 2007 we were scheduled to be here for a 3 year assignment, so I thought we could be arriving home for a big homecoming/40th birthday party and Dan would get to spend it with Greg. Since we extended our assignment there was no homecoming, and with Tristan’s arrival in August, it wasn’t feasible to even travel back to the US to let Dan spend the day with friends and family back home. So I tried to make it as special as possible over here. We had a dinner out at our favorite local restaurant with friends over the weekend, and I managed to find some king crab legs to serve up on the actual day. We topped it all off with a tiramisu cake that I made and I must admit it was scrumptious. But the real icing on the cake was all of the birthday greetings that made their way over here both on paper and electronically. For more photos of Dan's birthday and the kids throughout October, click here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Catching up

Sorry we have been a little distracted lately, though I can't imagine why! I have a few posts that I've started the last two months and just haven't managed to put up yet, so I am posting them today, however, posting date reflects the date I started the posts, so don't be surprised if you think you missed something. Our picture updates can be found by clicking here.

There is something I haven't told (some of) you...

I didn't share it not because I didn't want to tell you, but because until recently we didn't have much information to tell. We finally got some answers on Friday, so now I will share with you what it is that I have been worrying about lately.

When your child is born you count the fingers and toes and take a general stock that all is present and accounted for. The pediatrician also does an exam and assures you that you have brought a perfect little baby into the world. So when we were told that Tristan did not pass his infant hearing screening in his right ear I was surprised and scared that my illusion of the perfect baby would be shattered so soon. We were told to wait two weeks and then repeat the exam, and not to worry (yeah, right) since we did not have any of the risk factors for hearing issues and while 10% of infants do not pass the first time, most will pass the second time. We didn't.

The second results were exactly the same as the first. Followed by more waiting for a test to confirm the screening results and determine the extent of the loss. We did an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test where I had to keep Tristan awake until his appointment at 2pm (this was impossible, but I managed to only let him have a total of about 20 minutes of sleep from 8am to 2pm), and then we had to hook him up to 4 electrodes to measure the activity in response to differing levels of sounds in each ear while he slept. We thought we would find out the results immediately, but were then told the doctor would call us after she had reviewed the results. Another 5 days of waiting, and then on Tristan's 2 month birthday we learned that he does have hearing loss in his right ear, but it appears to be mild, and the doctor thinks it is still possible that it will improve as the ear develops (though it could also get worse). We will continue to monitor it and see how it goes. Hearing in his left ear is normal, so this should not cause him issues if it does not worsen, and considering all of the possible obstacles that other parents and babies are facing right now, this is a very small issue, but no matter how small, a mother always worries. For now I am happy to have learned that Tristan's ability to sleep through the chaos of his screaming sister, barking dogs, and the cat trying to climb in the swing with him is just part of his sweet nature, and not due to his inability to hear the world around him.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

School Days

Amelia started preschool this month, and while Tristan and I attending as often as she did the first few weeks, she soon became more comfortable with the teachers and kids, and now she is running in without a second glance back at me. Though she does make me solemnly swear each time before I drop her off that "Mommy come back." Currently I think it is a bit confusing for her because she can not understand a lot of what is being said, and while the teachers do use a little english for her now and then, again I don't think it will be long before that is no longer an issue. She is only going two days a week, but each time I pick her up the teacher tells me she is repeating a lot of Portuguese words and using some on her own. Apparently last week one of the more talkative girls in her class was overheard telling Amelia "não 'kids', meninos," so she has some help from her friends as well! Even with the language barrier, she loves going, and gets very excited when I tell her it is a school day, let's hope that love of learning continues for many years.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Amelia Two Years Old"

(From September 7) This is the statement we heard over and over again today, along with "birthday party." And when I asked her what she wanted for breakfast she thought for a minute and replied "cake." Yes our little girl is now two, and while she has already had some moments of typical two year old frustrations erupting, she is still usually a happy, helpful, energetic toddler, and we hope that continues through the coming year. She is a wonderful big sister, and as soon as Tristan starts crying, she offers suggestions of "baby milk," "poopy," or "burp" (complete with delivery of burp rag), to try to help ease his troubles, and often she is right on target.
To celebrate the big day, I made a cake to share with her classmates and after dinner we opened some presents that friends and family had sent her. On Saturday we had a birthday party at our house, and we had a bouncy castle for all of the kids (and some of the adults) to play in. It was a beautiful day, and I know I had a great time, so I hope everyone else did, too!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome Tristan Alec Moffroid!

Tristan decided to make his arrival on Sunday morning, August 1, at 11:16am. After making us wait around for a few extra days, once he decided to come he was in quite a hurry, with the start of contractions to holding him in our arms only 3.5 hours apart. Our doctor had warned us that she was at a wedding for the weekend around 1.5 hours away, and she arrived in the delivery room only 10 minutes before Tristan appeared. Everyone is happy, healthy, and now home and recovering. Amelia is already a great big sister, and quite a little helper.
For the record books, he was 3.5 kg and 50 cm for those of you in Europe, and 7 lbs 11 oz and 19.5 inches for everyone on the other side. A few photos can be found by clicking here, and I am sure we will have lots more in the days to come!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Well, we can safely say we remained a family of 3 (plus furry family members, of course) through the end of our 6th year together. A few days late and no signs of our 4th family member yet, but I am sure he will be here before we get too far into year 7. Luckily baby's late arrival meant that Dan and I got to enjoy a wonderful night out by ourselves while my mom watched Amelia. I don't know when that will happen again! We decided to scrap all of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts (year of candy or iron didn't quite do it for us) and celebrated our 6th year with the gift of fish. Mmmm....sushi.

I am so happy to have spent this last year with such a wonderful partner and friend, and I am looking forward to spending the next years with our growing family. I hope you all can be so lucky.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So Long My Friend

So one of the things that we decided we needed to do with the impending arrival of baby #2 was get a more family appropriate car. So yesterday was the day that my adorable little Mini got traded in for a station wagon. With plenty of room for strollers, dogs, car seats, and who knows what else, my Laguna is very practical, but lacks some, or I should say, all, of the pizazz that the Mini had. Ah well, I had my fun, and Dan says we can talk about getting me another one when the kids are in college.
For those of you eagerly awaiting a more interesting post with upcoming baby news, well, so are we. With my due date only a few days away, we think we are just about ready for the little guy to arrive. Though I have a few projects for work I need to finish up, and packing my hospital bag has been on the to do list for a while now. Dan made me promise I would do it today, so I guess I am off to do that. When he does arrive, you'll be the first to know (well, one of the first anyway).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This time I didn't do it!

Sunday night I was putting Amelia to bed while Dan was walking the dogs, when from downstairs I hear "We have a problem." At first I was worried one of the dogs was sick or something had happened to one on the walk, and then Dan appears in Amelia's room with this little bundle of fur tucked under his chin. "What do we do with it?" he asked. To make a long story short, he looked for a mother, put the kitten in the area he saw another cat, the cat ran away, the kitten ran up a tree, got stuck, and when we checked on her later she was still there, so we eventually got her down with a ladder and Biju's scratching post for her to climb onto, though not before Dan broke a branch and scratched himself up trying to climb the tree. She spent the night in our bathroom and in the morning her eyes were nearly sealed shut with pus, but after a deworming, defleaing, and a couple of days on antibiotics she is much better. And once again we find ourselves trying to find a good home for a deserving stray. She is quite sweet and purrs a lot, and so far is very tolerant of Amelia's overly loving tendancies.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What I did with my weekend vacation...

I had forgotten the freedom of life before baby, but this weekend I caught a glimpse of it again as Dan and Amelia were off to France to visit his parents. Truly amazing both how much and how little you can do without a toddler around. Here is a smattering of what I was able to do with all of my new found time:
  • Went furniture shopping for a toddler bed for Amelia, couldn't find anything I liked, so gave up and...
  • Planned and built a toddler bed for Amelia (just need Dan to paint it, no fumes allowed for me)
  • Went to the market and bought lovely organic blueberries, strawberries, rasberries and lots of veggies

  • Spent some quality time with our original kids, who have been feeling a bit neglected lately

  • Sat on the couch and read a magazine
  • Finished a project for work
  • Took a ridiculously long shower
  • Watched some soccer and a really bad movie on TV
  • Bought and installed a bell on Amelia's tricyle

  • Started organizing the office
  • Baked muffins

  • Wrote a Blog :)
  • Slept all night long and didn't wake up until I was ready!

There must be more I've left out, but it was a great blend of productivity and relaxation, and I'm feeling very refreshed. I was really looking forward to seeing Dan and Amelia when they got home yesterday afternoon, and got to have a picnic in the park while watching Portugal on the big screen. Of course the 7-0 win was a nice bonus, too! Here is Amelia's victory dance:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer is Here!

I'll keep this short since it is sunny and there is much playing to be done today! Amelia's favorite words right now seem to be play (which specifically means go outside to play), dirt (which also means sand), and water (as long as it is for playing in). With those essentials, plus a bucket, shovel, measuring cup, and a cake pan, she has already spent hours entertaining herself by mixing and pouring and moving from one place to another. Dan and I spent part of the last couple of weekends building a sandbox and digging out a corner of the yard to put it in, so that combined with blowing up the kiddie pool, means we are all set to take on summer. So here we go!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Costa del Sol

Earlier this month we spent a week on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, or as we now like to call it, the Costa da Chuva. Boasting more than 300 days of sun per year, and average rainfall in May of only 20 millimeters, we timed it perfectly wrong. It was chilly and rained 5 out of the 6 days we were there, and we were bookended by weeks of beautiful sunshine and the week after us was downright hot. Luckily the rain was only a portion of each day, and we still managed to do quite a bit of exploring and Amelia didn't mind that when she played in the "dirt" (sand), the sun wasn't shining on her.

We stayed near the small town of Sabinillas, had an easy walk to the beach, and a slightly longer walk into town. We spent much of our first day exploring some of the small and picturesque white Andulusian hill towns (los pueblos blancos), including Casares, Gaucin, and Ronda. Ronda is particularly popular, since it is set high on the hillside and split right down the middle by a high gorge. Amelia wasn't as enthralled by the setting, but she loved the playground in the park at the top of the town, and we loved the cliffside views.

On Tuesday we were off to the city of Jerez, birthplace of Sherry wine and home to the Andulusian Royal School of Equestrian Art. We saw a dressage performance from the schools students' and professors (sorry, no photos allowed), and after letting his horse-crazy girls have their fun, we treated Dan to a sherry tasting, though we agreed that Portugual's port wine has more to offer.

Wednesday we explored some of the local coastal towns, and went for dinner in Gibraltar, which was pretty much a really big rock with a British town and some pubs with bad food at the base, though the biggest disappointment was that the Brits feel the need to lock up their playgrounds at 7 0'clock, so our promises of playtime that evening had to go unkept.

Thursday we took the ferry to Tangiers, Morocco, which if we recollect correctly, was Amelia's first time on a boat (and officially her third continent before her second birthday, although it's sort of like going to Tijuana and saying you've been to Mexico). Since she is just learning some of her transportation words (plane, boat, truck, car, biiiiiig bus) she was pretty excited, and we heard the word "boat" about 200 times that day. We hired a guide to walk us around the city through the markets and the Casbah, had a great Moroccan lunch, and made it through the obligatory shopping sales pitches before taking the ferry back to Spain for the evening.

Friday we finally got some sunshine, and stayed close to home for the day with some pool and beach time. And then Saturday it was time for the long drive home. We stopped in Seville for a nice tapas lunch and took a carriage ride around to see a few of the sights. Now I wish we had planned to stay a few days, as it was a beautiful city, and had a great vibe to it. Amelia was a champion traveler yet again, with over 8 hours in the car each way, and I was quite happy that I got to satisfy my Thai food craving on two separate nights, since we don't have any in Aveiro. So overall, a successful trip that could have been enhanced by a litle more sunshine. For more photos of our trip, click here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Alec

What do you say to someone who is not here anymore, but is anything but forgotten? I love you, I miss you, I think of you often, I wonder what it is you would be doing today? For some reason the anniversary of your death in March did not hit me nearly as hard as the anniversary of your life. Today you should be alive. You should be doing all of the things that 24 year olds do, plus so much more. Today I am sorrowful that you are not here to celebrate with me. However,

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for all that has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

You brought so much delight into my life and into this world with your smile, as big as whatever room you were in. Your ability to not merely accept peoples faults, but instead to find the strengths within everyone. To see and love them as they were, and to not expect them to be different based on any outside expectations. Your wisdom was indeed beyond the short years that you were among us, and I count myself lucky to not only have been your sister, but to have been your friend. Rest well little brother.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saying Goodbyes

Amelia isn't quite old enough to really understand good-byes yet. Sure she knows to wave and say bye-bye when we leave and she loves to blow kisses, but to actually comprehend good-bye for an extended period is still beyond her. So it is too bad that she has two long-term good-byes this week.

The first is to her friends at Gymboree. We were quite sad when they announced in April that as of May 1 they would be closing. Nuno and Filipa started Gymboree here in Aveiro when Amelia was only 3 months old, and we have been going weekly ever since, so they have been a wonderful presence in her life. While they think that it will likely open again in a few months under new management, we had to say good-bye to Gymbo on Friday not knowing, and Filipa and Nuno are heading back to Lisbon, so it was a sad day.

And tomorrow we are off to Porto to send Scout, aka "New Doggy" off to the US to live with Dan's brother and his family. So a happy ending, but we will miss her quite a bit, as she has been a lot of fun to have around, though we definitely have learned that three dogs is one too many for our family, especially in addition to a cat, a toddler, and a baby on the way.
For those of you that don't know about Scout, we took her in as a temporary guest at the begining of March. I had noticed her for a couple of weeks visiting the school across the street from our house looking for handouts. When I saw her over there one weekend day I felt the need to provide her with a good meal, and of course that is how it always starts.

She was sickeningly skinny, but a real sweetheart, very easy going, friendly, gentle with Amelia, and now very grateful to have a constant source of nourishment and attention. I took her to the vet to check for a microchip and to pick up flea and de-worming medication. Then we found out she was pregnant. Due to her malnourishment, the vet did not think it was wise to allow her to have the puppies, so we decided to have her spayed and let her stay with us while she recovered and we tried to find her a new home. At first she stayed outside, and was very nervous when we tried to coax her to come into the house. Then she started to come in and lie down in a corner where she would collect soft things (Amelia's stuffed animals mostly) and take them to sleep with her. The vet thought they were her surrogate puppies. Now she is one of the family. Going on walks with us, relaxing on the couch, getting Tazzy and Biju (and even Blaze sometimes) running around to play for their daily excercise.

We decided she would be the perfect addition to our family, if only we needed another addition to our family! Since we did not, we found the next best thing, and we are very happy she is going to live with our extended family where we can visit her again in the future. We originally didn't give her a name, since that could only mean she was staying with us, so she was dubbed "New Doggy" for the first few weeks, and got Amelia also referring to "New Tazzy" and "New Da-Da." Once we found New Doggy a family of her own, our niece Isabel named her Scout, and now she is off to live with them in Vermont and enjoy all of the pleasures the Green Mountain state has to offer our four-legged friends.

For some more photos, click here!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

First Trip to the ER

Our streak lasted 19 months. That's how long we made it without having to take Amelia to the ER, or even to the doctor except for check-ups. But it came to an end last week when we got to experience the Portuguese socialized medical system first-hand for the first time.

While playing in our backyard she took a tumble off of the 4-inch step from our patio area onto the grass. When I picked her up her mouth was bloody and I couldn't see one of her top front teeth. I thought it was knocked out, but couldn't find it in the grass. As she settled down I saw a little white in her mouth, so then assumed the tooth was broken. Dan left work and met us at the hospital and a nurse saw her right away and gave her some pain medication. After that the waiting game started (a common thing in hospitals, but especially where the care is free). About two hours later a dentist at the hospital looked in her mouth and said that the tooth was actually pushed partway back up into the gum (I didn't know that could happen), and he assumed it was still whole, but he wanted to do an x-ray to make sure. Since the x-ray machine in Aveiro was broken they wanted to send us to the pediatric hospital in Coimbra, an hour away. No problem, but we weren't allowed to drive her there (liability concerns). Instead it was more waiting. An hour later the ambulance was ready to take us. Only one of us was allowed in the ambulance, so Dan had to follow in the car. At the hospital in Coimbra we experienced the Portuguese specialty of "Oh, you have a the front of the line you go." So we saw a dentist very quickly there and the x-ray showed that the tooth is still whole. They told us they see this in toddlers daily, and it should come back down on its own over the next few months. So lots of trauma but it was okay in the end. Poor Dan had to hold her down for the x-ray while I had to stay outside of the room, due to my pregnancy, listening to her yell "mommy, mommy" as loud as she could. No fun for any of us.

So 7 hours later we made it home and were able to put our exhausted baby to sleep. The next day her upper lip and gums were pretty sore and swollen, but she looks normal now. Well, normal for a professional hockey player since when she smiles there's a tooth missing. She also shakes her head and says "no, no, no" whenever anyone approaches her that she thinks might have any interest in poking around in her mouth. Poor little thing. Anyway it was a happy ending to our first trip to the ER. And I must admit it was nice to simply walk out of the hospital at the end with no need to stop at the cashier's office and have to decide how on earth we'll manage to pay the bill. We spent $0 and zero minutes filling out paperwork which helped ease the trauma of an otherwise difficult day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Baby Update

Our most important current news is that our next arrival will be a little BROTHER for Amelia. All indications so far are that he is doing well, and we are expecting him to make an appearance around the end of July (my money is on an anniversary baby, July 31).

Amelia is thriving in the spring weather that has finally arrived after a very dreary and wet winter. All I have to do is mention going to play outside or going for a walk and she is at the door collecting her shoes, hat and jacket and ready to go. She loves to go for "nature walks" in the woods by our house, and explores flowers, grass, pinecones, dirt, candy bar wrappers, and anything else she can find. She is also quite the animal lover, and her first request upon getting up from her nap is for Blaze, Tazzy, "new doggy" (more on that later) and Biju. She can make quite a few animal noises on request, and Tazzy, also known as the most tolerant dog ever, has been standing in for a pony on pretty much a daily basis.
Her communication skills are growing daily, but are starting to lead to growing frustrations as well. She knows what she wants, but we're not always able to understand what she's saying, despite our increasing proficiency in yet another foreign language, e.g. an apple is an "osh" and an olive is an "arf". So she gets frustrated until we finally guess right and then everything goes back to normal. Plus while she generally only knows english, she does throw in Portuguese words for us now and again as well, so we get "mais (more in Portuguese) juice."

All in all, we're having fun playing in the sunshine with Amelia and waiting for the next one to arrive, although admittedly with some trepidation. If any of you are willing to offer some advice for coping with a newborn while a 2-year-old is running amok, we'd be grateful.
Dan and I are both working more than we should be for the month of April, so are looking forward to a much deserved family vacation in May, we just have to figure out where we are going!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Birthday Present?

Happy 33 to me. I'm not really in the mood for celebrating, with Blaze's recent diagnosis and the anniversary of Alec's death approaching. However, through a combination of denile of Blaze actually having GME (it is hard to accept a disease that is diagnosed by exclusion of other possible causes), and wanting to give him the best treatment options possible, I sent his records to a neurologist in Boston who is known as the expert on the disease. His answer? Probably not GME! He has recommended testing for some additional infectious diseases, which if positive are treatable and he can have a full recovery, or, if they are negative, he believes that Blaze has had a stroke, which while he may not ever recover his full neurological function, he shouldn't get worse, and he should be with us for a while still. On his advice, I stopped Blaze's GME medication, and if he does not relapse in the next few weeks he thinks we can safely assume Blaze is in the clear for this one. And that would be something to celebrate!

After showing all of this to Blaze's vet here in Portugal, she asked if she could send all of his records to another neurologist in Bern, Switzerland as well. So no matter what, Blaze seems to have a team of vets in 3 countries spaning 2 continents worried about his well-being, not many dogs can say that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


From Dan: It’s been a difficult month of vet visits and sad times. Our beloved first pet together, Blaze, has been diagnosed with GME (granulomatous meningoencephalitis). It is a progressive autoimmune disease of unknown origin. On the morning of February 13 when we woke up he wasn’t quite himself. He had a very low energy level, wasn’t eating, was a bit unsteady on his feet and had lost some vision in his left eye. After lots of tests, including a CT scan and a spinal tap, the vet’s best guess was GME (it’s a diagnosis by process of elimination), although she was not ruling out other causes like a stroke or a brain tumor. Through some connections (that’s still how things work in Portugal) we were able to get him an MRI at a human hospital yesterday. The result was lesions consistent with GME.

We got Blaze, a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd, from a rescue program. His early life in West Virginia included beatings, and those of you who know him know that he still never quite got over that and has forever been skittish around strangers. When Katrin and I first met him he was being fostered in Washington Heights in New York. We took advantage of a trip to the city for Ben and Sohui’s wedding in 2004 to introduce ourselves, and of all the people who had considered adopting him we were told that we were the only ones he even thought about approaching to greet. So after a short walk around the city and some contemplation about taking on a dog with such “issues” we decided that he should move to Burlington.

We’ve had some great years with Blaze. From that first nervous walk around NYC, he became a great pet and even learned to do agility with Katrin. He never became comfortable around strangers, but is extremely loyal and sweet with those he knows. We still hope to have many more years of his trying to do anything he can to please Katrin (and by association, me), but the disease unfortunately has no cure and so we don’t know much about his future. We will keep helping him live the full life he deserves and stay forever hopeful that he will be with us long enough for Amelia to remember him when she grows up.

From Katrin: We are told he will likely be with us less than a year, though it could be much less, and it could be much more, depending on how he reacts and responds to the various treatments. We have put together a team of veterinarians to help us do whatever we can to fight this and give him the best possible life for the time he has left.

I've never been told beforehand that I have a limited amount of time left with a loved one. What a hard place to be, caught somewhere between starting to grieve before they are already gone and savoring every moment you have together. As Dan mentions it has been a rollar coaster of a couple of weeks trying to figure out a diagnosis. Yes he is a dog, but he is a member of our family, and a very special member at that. He will do anything in his power to please and protect those he loves, and even though his energy level is at an all time low right now from the disease and the medications, he still finds it necessary to lift his head and howl every time Amelia cries, and to alert me if I am not quick enough getting up when she wakes up, he still goes crazy when the doorbell rings, and gets excited when Tazzy and Biju start playing, though instead of joining them as usual, he just goes and supervises the play session from near by. As I write this he is curled up on the couch comforting me because I am sad for him.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Home for the Holidays

So now that it is February, I am finally getting around to posting an account of our trip home for the holidays. Amelia and I started the journey with just the two of us, and I was rather nervous making the trip from Portugal to Oregon on my own with a 16 month old, but there was no need to be. She was such a great traveller on the starting leg, that I told her I wouldn't care if she screamed the whole way to Vermont the next week (in hindsight probably not the best thing to have told her, and I am really glad she didn't take me up on it). We arrived in Portland tired, but relatively on time and with all of our luggage, so a good start to the trip. We spent the next week visiting with friends and relatives, Amelia loved seeing everyone, as did I of course, and she took quite well to the very social routine that is so different from our fairly quiet life here in Portugal.

Dan joined us after a week, a day late thanks to the snow storm in Newark stranding him there for an extra night. We celebrated Christmas eve with my family and got up early on Christmas morning for the cross-country flight to Vermont. We made it in time to join in Christmas dinner, and it was great to have all of the little cousins together (Isabel 10, Calvin 8, Jasper 2.5, Nathan 2, Coco 19 months, Amelia 15 months, and Oliver 3 months) and to distribute and recieve the news of the two newest cousins scheduled to arrive at the end of July (that's us!) and in August (Julie and Jim).

We spent the rest of the week with more catching up with friends and family, sledding, lots of appointments, and topped it off with the big New Year's party at Mary and Pierre's. Amelia didn't quite make it to New Year, as she finally went to sleep at 11:40 pm, maybe next year.

After all the festivities we had to say our good-byes and get on the plane for home. Amelia treated us to another hassle-free trip, she slept the entire flight from Newark to Lisbon! We loved seeing everyone, and since we don't know when Amelia and I will be able to make it back to the US, we will have to be satisfied with all of the great memories we have from this one. For a few photos of our trip and some more Amelia shots, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Roma, Italia

It seems like a long time ago now, but before the holidays we took a trip to visit Rome. We decided to make a Tuesday holiday into a 4-day weekend and go somewhere. Katrin had been there once before but this was my first visit, despite a half-dozen trips to Italy. The goal was to find somewhere fun we could go without changing planes, and Rome was the winner over Amsterdam and Geneva.

When Katrin and I moved to Portugal we had grandiose plans of visiting all corners of Europe. Ski trips to Switzerland, summer holidays in the fjords of Norway, and beach vacations to Ibiza. Well, a baby came along and sort of altered our agenda. But we’re still trying to get out and about.

Walking around Rome was all sorts of fun. It is truly an easy city to see on foot, even while pushing a stroller. Amelia will surely have wonderful memories of the coliseum, forum, Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, etc., etc. The whole city felt like an outdoor museum of archeology, history, art and culture. But the two highlights of every day were lunch and dinner. We all know how fabulous the pizza and pasta are, although until you’ve tasted the real thing in Italy (or at Peter and Jane’s house) you don’t know what you’re missing. But the ambience and comfort inside a restaurant are harder to describe. Sort of like the feeling of home, while casually eating a delicious pasta dish with porcini mushrooms and sipping a tasty Chianti.

What made the trip all the more enjoyable, though, was the ease of traveling with Amelia. She’s a good traveler (after all, she averages more than one plane flight per month of life so far), but the Italians are truly a baby-friendly populace. We get sort of spoiled here in Portugal, which is a very baby-friendly culture (getting ushered to the front of every line, parking spots designated for parents with young children), but in Italy it was the individuals themselves that were head over heels for babies. No matter where we were, whether restaurants or subways or museums, Amelia was given tons of attention. Everyone wanted their turn to smile at her and help make her comfortable. Italy certainly has its political and economic troubles, but when it comes to children and quality of life, they are a very advanced civilization.

For more pictures of our trip to Rome, click here.