Monday, October 25, 2010


Reese didn't have school on Friday the 1st so we decided to head to the Rock of Gibraltar!

'The Rock' is about 90 minutes south east of our house and we left home around 9am. (Zeke was getting a little annoyed by all of our day trips - leaving him all alone all day long). It was a beautiful drive down - lots of farmland and grazing cattle and sheep. And before too long we could see 'The Rock' emerge through the midst.

We were warned NOT to drive into Gibraltar, a British colony at the end of Spain, because it's technically leaving the country and there are long lines crossing the boarder, etc. But, my adventurous husband is never one to go on hearsay...and we drove right over the boarder...the British guards checked our passports and let us through...we drove along the tiny streets, happy to see signs in English again! And just navigated toward the rock...we found ourselves right at the foot of the summit at the Cable Car place which had a parking lot - a FREE parking lot! What LUCK!

We parked and got ready to take the scary cable cars up...But on our way there, we were persuaded to take a private tour up the mountain with a driver/guide and it was GREAT! No scary cable cars...and a native Gibraltan!

He purchased all the tickets to each of the sites along the way and drove us up, giving historical facts all along the way...he even warned us about the thieving monkeys! They warn that monkey's will take your food...but we saw several people purchase ice cream bars (for 6 British pounds each) and have them promptly absconded by the Monkeys...hahahaha

The first stop was the Pillar of Hercules. There is some legend about Hercules splitting the continents (Africa from Europe) and that he stood on the Rock of Gibraltar to do it, hense the spot where we are sitting the 'Pillar of Hercules'

I was never very good at remembering Greek mythology. But it still makes for good photos!

Another little bit of history...The Rock of Gibraltar is on the Straits of Gibraltar, a small body of water that connects the Meditterean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean...and supposedly, whomever holds the power to the Straits of Gibraltar (presently the British) controls the access to the Med. The Spanish do NOT like this fact...which is why there is not ONE sign signaling Gibraltar on the drive to Gibraltar...(for instance, you will not see a sign that says, Gibraltar 80 km).

From that pinnacle, you could see the African coast! It was awesome! (behind us)

The next stop was to a cave where there were beautiful stalagmites/stalactites...

Reese thought it was creepy and couldn't get out quick enough. Rayna liked it. They also gives concerts in the cave and we were told the accoustics are amazing...I could only imagine. Although, I don't know if I'd like to sit in there for long periods of time, as the cave was DRIPPING constantly!

But still...pretty cool!

Then on to the top of the mountain to see the monkeys...

I couldn't believe how brave the girls (and my MOM were!) I was pretty freaked out. Val was smart and stood back!

Our guide warned us about the 'mean ones' and told us that he was friends with some of the monkey's and he'd help us get pictures...they must have recognized him because two of his little friends jumped right into the car looking for his stash of chocolate that they must know he carries. And with which he used to get them to jump on our shoulders...head, arm...

They have feeding areas for the monkeys because apparently over the years the monkeys have gotten used to human food and to keep them in the hills and not down in the village stealing food, they feed them on the hill. The guide said there were hundreds of monkeys living there, but we saw about 50...tiny babies and some HUGE mafia looking monkeys...

On the way down the hill, we stopped in the war tunnels where they housed the cannons and held off the Nazis during WWII. Awesome history.

And lastly, the last fortress from which still hangs a British flag...

After the tour, we went to the city center for some shopping...

Rayna even got to take home a monkey from Gibraltar!

It was kind of funny to be in Great Britain while really on the southern tip of Spain. We even saw the little British red phone booths!

and to find some authentic British Fish and Chips for lunch. Our guide told us Roy's had the best and to Roys we went!

It lived up to the hype...DELICIOUS!

Good times!

A 4 year old Bumblebee!!!

Some of you may know this, but when I was 26 weeks pregnant with Rayna, I was admitted to the hospital for preterm labor. With my history, this wasn't a huge shock, but we were praying and hoping to get to the golden 32nd week which is considered the safety zone for preemie babies.

Well, I lasted another 2 weeks in the hospital starting and stopping labor contractions each day and Ms. Rayna came at 28 weeks...a good 12 weeks/3 months early. She was just over 2 pounds at birth, in fact, her birth certificate doesn't even say 2 says 1058 ounces or something.

Anyway, my little bitty Bumblebee came out, screaming BLOODY murder, which was a blessing in and of itself, since no one wants to hear silence after a baby is born...and had excellent APGAR scores (9s) before they whisked her off to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and hooked her up to all kinds of IVs for nourishment, monitoring, etc. and put her in an incubator for the first weeks of her life which helped maintain her body temperature. We bathed her through a tiny hole in the incubator with Q-tips and cotton balls...she was SOOOO little.

The teeny tiny preemie diapers had to be folded twice to fit her. Yet, as tiny as she was, the wonderful NICU staff allowed and encouraged Johann and I to hold her against our bare chest with blankets over her (called Kangarooing), which helped her regulate her own body temperature and breathing. I loved seeing her numbers soar when we held the incubator by herself, her heart rate and oxygen levels would be around 89,90, 91...but when we held her, the numbers would jump up to 99%!

The NICU can be a scary place with Doctors and Nurses rushing around, checking on babies whose monitors are beeping because they have stopped breathing or their blood pressure has dropped too low. There were babies that would not make it and babies that weren't just early deliveries, but severely disabled and parents who were on the verge of a nervous breakdown, praying against heartbreak and for miracles.

Well, our little miracle was such a trooper...she was nursing on her own after 4 weeks, skirted a 'hole in the heart' surgery (which the Father closed on His own, instead of having to have a medical team cut her open to close it - Hallelujah!), she was growing like a weed and a favorite among the staff ;-)

Rayna was born on October 2, 2006...her due date was Christmas Eve - December 24, 2006. They told us when she was born that she would likely stay in the NICU until December 24th and that she would likely have chronic lung issues, eye problems - preemies of Rayna's gestation often have their retinas detach because the eye is still forming at that time (28 weeks), they said she could have gastric problems and any number of other things due to her early birth...

But, as she progressed, we were able to bring her home over a month before her scheduled release date. She came home Thanksgiving week at just over 4 pounds.

Well, Rayna has not stopped amazing us. She is now, at 4 years old in the 85th percentile for weight (at 42 pounds) and the 95th percentile for height at 41 inches! (Just 3 centimeters shorter than her 7 year old sister). She has never had any eye problems, and has only mild asthma which has completely ceased since we've been in Spain! She is our miracle girl, she is funny and smart, she lights up any room she walks into...and Rayna NEVER just walks into a room...she sashays or bounces or dances in. She LOVES shoes and dresses and wearing perfume and pink nail polish. And she loves to cuddle and sneak into my bed every morning around 3am.

She loves her sister, she is a Daddy's girl and always wants to be with Mommy. I am so proud of her, my little Rayna Devron! Her Grampy's 'Suga-Ray'!

This year, she is continuing to blossom with her Spanish in Spanish class on base - her teachers LOVE her, she is one of my TOP students in Sunday School (I teach her class), she loves tea parties, playing soccer and watching Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang!

And singing the song we made up about her in Paris - "Rayna D is in Par-reee ~ Rayna D is in Par-ree ~ Eating baguettes and cheese, chocolate croissants on her knees...Oh, Rayna is in Par-ree!"

Happy Birthday Bumblebee! - Here's how we celebrated your birthday!

First we went to Reese's soccer game - you sat happily drinking your soy hot chocolate from the NEX!Reese won her game 4 - 0!!!

Then home to open presents...

Reese helped you read your cards...

And as we were recovering from our trip to Gibraltar the day before and preparing for our trip to Ronda and Marbella the next day, we played at the house and napped the rest of the day until we sat down to the dinner you requested: Cheese covered, baked spaghetti, salad and garlic bread....You got to sit at the HEAD of the table (in Daddy's chair!!!)

You got your favorite plate (Ariel) and Reese didn't even fuss!


And then an ICE CREAM cake from Baskin Robbins to finish things off!

Cha Cha Chaaaa!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birthday Fun!

As R&R's birthdays are 8 days apart, we have been lucky to be able to celebrate their birthdays together for the last few years on the shared weekend in between.

The original plan was to have a swim party at our house, but as the birthday weekend drew nearer, the weather became cooler and we thought it safer (and MUCH less stressful) to have the girl's party at the bowling alley on base.

Not only was it less stressful, but the kids (and adults) had a ball! There is no Party City in Spain so I asked my mom to bring some Tiana gift bags, and some Pin the Tail games to help supplement the fun.

The festivities began at 3pm - the children (and their parents) all arrived promptly and began to bowl!

We broke for PIZZA ...

and then tried to pin the tail on the donkey and the nose on the clown...

And then it was time for CAKE!!! Chocolate for Rayna and Vanilla for Reese! Daddy decorated the girl's cakes.

Our dear friends spoiled Reese and Rayna with lovely gifts!

And then it was time for more bowling and DANCING!