The Portugal Years: Year Five – Not The Momma!

Susie in the Jumper.
Susie in the Jumper.

After two years and four months with my compliant first-born, I had, I thought,  certain understandings about babies. One of them was that when people want to hold the baby, that said baby would entertain those people in an adorable and engaging manner. Another expectation was that I would have ten minutes a day all for myself.

In the early 1990’s there was a TV show called Dinosaurs where the baby dinosaur was  attached to his mother. His response to any other people was “Not the Momma.” Though we were still in the 80’s and the show debuted in the early 90’s, I am convinced that Susie was the prototype for the show. She had no time for other people, but she was a real cuddle bug with me.

I fell in love with her in spite of the lack of time alone. After she was crawling, I tried to get a solo stint in the “necessary” one night. I snuck out of the living room and tiptoed down the hall. I didn’t turn on the light or close the door. She missed me and began the trek down the hall and passed the bathroom saying “Mama, Mama………..” in time to the sound of her knees.

Sweet as she was in her devotion to me, it presented certain challenges. Her “fussy hour” coincided with time to cook dinner. I could nurse her until she fell asleep and before I could open a cookbook she was singing her “I’ve been abandoned” song. I tried putting her in the “Johnny Jump-up”  over the doorway. The idea was that she could be able to see me. Except she was crying with her eyes shut.

One day I remembered the front carrying baby tote I had received when Bethy was a toddler. I looked at the gas range and the length of my arms and decided that if I was careful, I could bundle her into it while I made dinner. It worked! Susie slept and I knew she was fine. Bethy lost her worried look because Susie was not crying and Daddy came home to a peaceful house with dinner on the table.

And the summer and the winter were the fifth year…

The Portugal Years: Acampamento Palavra de Vida (Camp Word of Life) I

When Word of Life USA began to work in Portugal, one of the long-term goals was to build a camp that would double in winter as a Bible Institute. Finding the right property took patience and time. In 1981, we bought a  property from which we could see the Atlantic Ocean and the village of Ericeira. It was a place of possibilities, pine trees, fresh air and little else. And the work began.

camp work 1

Little by little the property began to take shape. Trees fell; walkways were constructed. In the distance is the village of Ericeira.

bunks for campers

Buildings started to sprout in the sandy soil. This is one of the dormitories.

dining hall

The dining area has a fireplace and a full-sized kitchen where the cooks and helpers prepared some wonderful meals. Below the dining room is a room for singing and teaching.

apartments, soccer field

In the background you can see the apartments where staff lived in the summer. They also served as a place for visitors to stay. If you look carefully, you will see the soccer field. You really can’t have a camp without a soccer field in Portugal! Eventually, a grounds man would work on making the place beautiful He planted fruit trees and made repairs.

camp pv

A few years ago a plane flew over the campground. Can you recognize some of the buildings that you saw being build in the above pictures?

The Portugal Years: Year five – Our First Family Vacation(s)


Susie trying to open the door to the varanda so she could go out and read.
Susie trying to open the door to the varanda so she could go out and read.

Susie early established herself as Mommy’s girl. She was always content and happy as long as Mommy was in sight. If Mama was not in sight, oh my did she ever let her displeasure ring loudly and long. And, if Susie was not happy, no one was happy.

One evening we were in the living room and while Susie was busy, I tried to sneak out of the living room down the hall to the bathroom just to have five minutes for myself. Well, I got out of the living room, and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open and the lights off. I scarcely made it in the door when I heard her. She was creeping down the hall looking for me and every time her hand hit the floor she complained, “ma-MA….”

She also loved books from an early age. Do you see that twinkle of mischief in her eyes? Stay tuned for other photos that clarify that.

Bethy eventually decided that Susie could stay.
Bethy eventually decided that Susie could stay.

Bethy soon got over her fear of being overtaken by the new sister and began to practice the prerogative of the elder sister: she started to try to boss Susie. Fortunately or unfortunately, Susie had a mind of her own, and only minded Bethy’s admonitions when it suited her.

Susie in one of the colorful fishing boats in Nazaré.
Susie in one of the colorful fishing boats in Nazaré.


Most of the traveling we had done up until this time was work related. Now, with a car and some vacation time, we packed up our little family and headed for Nazaré, Portugal. Nazaré is quite possible the most famous beach in Portugal. Not for great treasures, but for the feeling of having walked into the past. We stayed in a Pensaõ, (kind of like a bread and breakfast) and spent a few days there.

Nazaré is famous not only for the fishermen mending their nets on the beach, but also for the women whose fancy skirts covered seven petticoats of various colors. Fishermen’s widows sit on their stoops dressed all in black. They weave a warm a wool that they make into shirts or double-sided cape with a hood by request. You can see some photos of Nazaré here.

On the beach in Nazaré.
On the beach in Nazaré.

Another favorite vacation that year was Curia. Curia means “healing” for the hot springs where people still go for “the cure.” The Romans discovered it when they were in the Iberian Peninsula  We stayed in The Grand Hotel for a few days. It was like a trip back to the 1920s in style. The service was superb as were the meals. Our suite was quite spacious enough for all four of us. Elisabeth discovered a table by her bed that, when she took the drawer out, she could hide inside –  one of her favorite things to do.


Curia - Mom and Susie
Curia – Mom and Susie
Daddy with girls.
Daddy with girls.
view from window
view from window

garden at curia

What is your favorite place to vacation?

The Portugal Years – The Fifth Year: One Plus One Is More Than You Think

Bethy was almost two-and-a-half when Susie was born. She looked so big and grown up next to her baby sister. And, I had some expectations. One of my goals was to get her out of diapers before the baby arrived, and I really thought we had achieved it.

The problem crept up slowly, and eventually became a visible pattern. Every time that I sat down to nurse Susie, Bethy would prance in front of me and tell me she had to go to the bathroom, and she needed help. So, I put the hungry baby down and dutifully attended to my eldest daughter. Then I spent some time calming down my hungry infant.

Two weeks later, I realized that she was playing m,  and it was not a good thing for Susie or for me. So what’s a mother to do? Reluctantly, I reunited my daughter with her diapers so that Susie could eat in peace. It was only a couple of months later before Bethy shed the diapers for good.

 Bethy and the flower

Bethy continued to grow. She loved to look at things in the farm across the street. One day we were walking and she suddenly exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy it’s salad. I questioned her because it sounded like she was saying there was salad, and when I looked sure enough, there was lettuce growing in one of the fields. On this particular day, she found some wild flowers in the field.

Susie on the bed

Susie grew and was a happy sprite as long as Mommy was nearby. She did refuse to eat baby food – it got to where she would gag on pureed food and threw it up if I insisted. The pediatrician examined her, and said she was perfectly healthy and was gaining weight properly and to just let her drink mother’s milk until she wanted to give it up.

Along about her 8th month, she was sitting on my lap in the kitchen and pointed to the bread and said “pão,” which is bread in Portuguese. A month later, she pointed to a ripe pear on the table and allowed as how she wouldn’t mind eating that.

By the time she was a year old, she decided to try some broccoli. But she continued to find comfort in mother’s milk for quite some time.

The Portugal Years: Year Five, Waiting

Portugal is the university for learning how to wait. Maybe not waiting patiently, but waiting. For instance, if you want a marriage license, first you must stand in the queue with all the other happy couples who are about to embark into wedded bliss.  No one really hurries the process through. An important part of any transactions with the government includes a variety of stamps to affix to the legal document in question. After the government official carefully stamps the paper he hands the certificate over to the owner. Had a baby? Be ready to stand in line. Need a passport? Start really early to apply.

Yep, you need to obtain the correct paperwork and stamps or nothing happens.  That was, however, seldom the end of the story. After the person, relieved  to be done with it, often discovers that it was not the end. Upon arriving at his destination with the correct documentation, he has to give the paperwork to a supervisor to verify it. Whereupon the second official discovers that some stamps are missing and the man has to return to the end of the first queue. The only way to hurry the process is to cross someone’s palms with silver. It’s officially illegal, but if you want to move forward, you need to grease the hand of the one who can hurry things along.

There are ways to help move babies forward, too, but  they reserve those methods for emergencies. Our new baby girl was dilly-dallying in making her début. Her original due date was near the beginning of the new year. Harry was rooting for January seventh – his birthday. She scorned both dates and chose January tenth, which proved from the beginning that she was a girl with a strong mind of her own.  She was Sarah Susanna (Susie), and though she made us wait for her to arrive, she could not want to wait for the delivery room crew to hand her over to her mommy. She protested with great lung opening testifying to her wrath, which stopped as soon as they laid her on me. Harry is wont to say that she had screamed loud enough to peel the paint off of the wall.

Unfortunately, the nursery nurses did not understand Susie’s language. After her birth, they made her wait an hour before they figured out that they needed to bring her to her mother. Then they went all official when they came back later and discovered us doing what mothers and newborns have done since the beginning. They did bend the rules and left her in my room; Susie made sure that she didn’t have to wait anymore.

The next day I waited for Harry to bring Bethy to meet her new sister. Bethy sat on a bench and held Susie on her lap and waited to see what would happen. She wasn’t quite certain what to do with this small person. We waited for three weeks to hear Bethy’s thoughts. Then she looked at me and said, “When are you taking her back?”

Saturday morning and daddy doesn't have to go to work!
Saturday morning and Daddy doesn’t have to go to work!
Sunday morning and time to dedicate the baby.
Sunday morning and time to dedicate the baby.



The Portugal Years: Great Expectations

Well, we all had some expectations after the flood. Bethy was expecting to watch the television after the rain let up, and we were back in our own home. Twelve days without electricity was a long time for a two-year to wait, but her expectation came to fruition and she was once again nestled in her chair  watching her Abelha  Maia.

Abelha Maia
Abelha Maia

Bethy also anticipated being able to ride her bike outside. That was also an expectation  fulfilled –  but only in part. The garden and the paving stones were in the process of being rehabilitated from the muck and slime. But, she did well on the front varanda safely over the the part of the neighbor’s farm that had come to rest at our abode.

Loving riding on the varanda.
Loving riding on the varanda.

Thanksgiving peeked around the corner and prompted our gratitude for all that we had in spite of the mess. Our house was intact, and we had an electric radiator that we could move from place to place in the cold winter temperature. The rooms all had doors that we could close to keep us warm in whatever we needed to do.

We were healthy, and had enough. Our salary was not generous, but we had enough for our daily bread and a little more. Our expectation was that our Heavenly Father would continue to provide – and He did. We had Elisabeth. Each day I marveled as I saw her growing and learning.

Soon our expectations of Christmas crept up on us. Money and presents arrived from family and friends in the states. It was only Bethy’s second Christmas, and she had few expectations. Nevertheless, we enjoyed shopping for her. We had decorated the tree shortly after Thanksgiving, and her eyes were wide with joy,  wonder and a bit of apprehension. But, we had another expectation in that Christmas tide.

'Twas the night before Christmas....
‘T was the night before Christmas….
Christmas Morning
Christmas Morning

Our other expectation was about a very young lady who had yet to show her face. She had a name (Sarah Susanna) and Harry’s expectation was that she would be born on his birthday, January 7th. The doctor said she could come at any time. With that expectation in mind, we bought Bethy a baby doll named Susie, and a crib to put her in. We hoped thought that it would help Bethy make the transition from only child to  big sister. The time was getting close, but not soon enough for me.


Elisabeth with the baby doll and the cradle.
Elisabeth with the baby doll and the cradle.


The Portugal Years: Year Five – Part 3, The Aftermath

It wasn’t just the television that we missed. My washing machine would not work without “light.” Not a happy thought with a toddler in terry cloth diapers being potty trained. Night came early in November and even earlier when there was “no light.” And there were the clothes and other items that we had stored in the garage under our flat, plus the stench from the mud and drowned livestock. Some of the baby clothes were irredeemable.

No refrigerator meant “to market to market” every day. Milk was the ultra-pasteurized in a box kind, which was better than nothing but did not taste like fresh milk. We were thankful for our propane gas cooker as we tried to create some  kind of “new normal.”  At least I could cook.  I read books to Bethy, and she played with her dolls and dressed up in my cast-off clothes to entertain herself.

The back garden was one deep puddle of river mud. The grasshoppers were not impressed. One sunny day my friend Ana Maria and I opened the windows on the varandas to help dry out the humidity. When we opened the windows, a five-inch-long grasshoppers hopped in. It was some time before I stopped freaking out. The back varanda was, for a time, abandoned.

One morning I decided that while the refrigerator was empty, I could easily clean the inside of it. It was large  for a the Portuguese appliance, but it was short enough that, at 5-feet 8-inches of height,  I could look over the top of it. I got a sponge and a bowl of soapy water and opened the refrigerator. Then I stepped back. The air carried the reek of death. I had missed one small package of chicken livers, and they announced their presence rather strongly.

I always started dinner early so I could have enough natural light to cook. When Harry arrived at home after the sun set – around 7 p.m. –  we ate. Since it was fully dark by that time, we rinsed the dishes and left them in the heavy-duty marble kitchen sink to wash in the morning. The ants, whose homes the flood disrupted, took a little longer to surface than the grasshoppers. I woke up four days into our adventure to a kitchen overrun by the displaced ants. Cleaning up the kitchen by candle light became our romantic evening activity.

We didn’t have to wait as long as Noah did for the flood to end; we had no electricity for only 12 days. I can sympathize with Mrs. Noah in the cleanup afterward though. Some of the things in the garage were salvageable. Thanks to the neighbor, we had our car. And we were not harmed (though we harmed a few ants and grasshoppers). Bethy’s last Christmas as an only child lay ahead, and 1984 would arrive just before her baby sister would arrive.


The Portugal Years – Year Five: Part 2, No Lights


Flood Zone
Flood Zone

As we talked about how to get our two-year old daughter upstairs and out of the flooding, someone outside knocked on the bathroom window. It faced the steps up to the landlord’s flat. Harry opened the window, the landlord told us to hand Elisabeth to him and he would take her up to their flat. Bethy was duly handed through the window, which was large enough for her, but definitely not big enough for her parents to pass through.

Down the steps from our front door we went with me and my baby belly first. I wondered if we would have anything at all after the flood. At the bottom of the stairs, the brown river was already almost up to my shoulders. The neighbors watched us, and told me that it would be easy for me to swim since I already had a beach ball  on my belly to float on. Then, they giggled. If ever I had any dignity, it was gone.

Finally, we reached the top of the stairwell soaking wet and shivering from the cold. Our landlady offered to let us shower down in her bathroom, and I gladly accepted it. The water heater ran on gas, so we even had a hot shower.  They enfolded us up in voluminous blankets and we all sat sitting in the dark which we  alternated with looking out the window at the flooding.

About 6 a.m., dawn reluctantly began to peep through the clouds. The swirling waters rippled like an enormous vat of Hershey’s Chocolate. The water had slowed down and stopped just after it reached the next to the fifth step of our flat. By sunrise, the waters had abated and we were able to trudge back up the steps to our home.

Our flat felt alien to me. The long night had left us exhausted. As a very pregnant woman, I was a bit miffed. The slimy earth was slippery and emitted a peculiarly unpleasant odor.  Everything that we had stored in the garage lay ravaged by the flood. And we had no electricity.

I ventured into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. We did not have an enormous amount of food in that small appliance, but most of it did not make the cut. I cooked what was salvageable on our gas stove, and reluctantly threw the rest out. That was when Bethy found her way to the kitchen and asked to watch Abelha Maia . Having been saturated in Portuguese language the all night, I  automatically responded in that language: “Não há luz.” Bethy translated it in English as a question: “No lights?” A detailed explanation concerning lights and electricity followed that, sadly, landed on mostly deaf ears. “No lights” became her daily battle cry.

To be continued….


The Portugal Years: Fifth Year – Bethy’s Summer (Photo Essay)

Bethy was a busy little girl the summer that she celebrated her second birthday. She explored her world and began to learn to dress herself. At that age, she was all about doing what I did. Scarcely a day passed by that I didn’t find her in the my wardrobe trying to dress in my clothes. She especially loved clacking around the house in my shoes with heels.

Dress up

My friend, Ana Maria, had a son about Elisabeth’s age named André. They played while Ana Maria and I cleaned the house. A large African violet on a table and one day it got knocked off onto the clean floor. Ana Maria cleaned it up in a blink and the violet bloomed more than it ever had.


One of the things that Bethy liked to do was to play on the varanda. The Portuguese mothers taught me  to keep a hat on the children’s heads in the summer. Bethy didn’t always follow the letter of the law, but she got into the spirit of it. She liked to be where she could see people in the street and people in the house. She still remembers our neighbor who worked in her night gown all day. Just before her husband came home, she showered and dressed. She said it saved wear and tear on the clothes.

cover your head

We had a real Portuguese birthday party for Bethy’s second birthday. We invited all of the loving adults in her life as well as the children she knew. The house was full of people, confusion and noise. There were all kinds of Portuguese finger foods, sweets and of course, her cake. It was fun, but it would be four more years before I would repeat it. Tia Lilia was Bethy’s godmother. She wasn’t a fairy godmother, but she could do magic with her professional sewing machine. She made a sailor dress for Bethy’s second birthday. About that time, we learned that the baby we were expecting was a girl.


And today is her birthday once again. Happy birthday to my beautiful and wonderful daughter.