Barely. I came down with dengue fever on Wednesday (from a mosquito bite), and was in bed until we left early Monday morning. I had a really high fever, headache, and bad pain behind my eyes. El was super dad and took care of Avery, ran errands, and packed for us. But, now we are home, I'm finally feeling better, and we are loving being back in the good 'ole US of A.
Avery opening her first ever Christmas gift; a pretty red Christmas dress from Hap!
Saturday we took our good friend Ana and her two kids Dania (14) and Gregory (12) to the beach. It was Dania and Gregory's FIRST time ever at the beach. They absolutely loved it!! We picked them up at the bus station and they were grinning from ear to ear. They piled in the car and off we went! We went to the Guayacanes beach that is about 45 minutes outside of Santo Domingo. It was a gorgeous day. All three were like fish and barely left the water...except to bury Dania in the sand, of course! They thought the salt water was soooo strange, and very very salty.
Being with them at the beach was a reminder of how privileged we are....getting to travel, see new places, and experience new things. Can you imagine living on an island, being 45 minutes away from a beautiful public beach, and in 14 years never having the chance to go?
Here are some things that have been going on around here....
- Avery turned 5 months this week! It's really hard to believe. Her little personality is shining through more and more each day. She found her feet and loves them. Anytime she is laying on her back or sitting in her carseat they are in her hands or in her mouth. She learned how to roll over from her tummy to her back. She loves to make funny noises and blow air and bubbles through her lips. She is in the 50% for weight (13 lbs) and 25% in length (I think her chubby cheeks and legs push her into the 50% in weight!- ha). She loves evvvverything to be in her mouth...even my hair...and cracks up everytime because I think it tickles her tongue. So cute!
Some of our new friends let Avery borrow their swing. She loves it!
This is her new face that she does ALL the time.
-The cultural retreat we went on last month up in Jarabacoa was really great. They taught alot on the history of the DR (and the whole island of Hispanola) and showed how it still influences the way Dominicans live today. We also learned practical tips about driving, how to dress, how to greet people, etc. They taught us things that we do as Americans that can be offensive and/or send a message we don't want to send. For example, when offering a visitor a drink/food, you just bring it to them and then they have the opportunity to say "no thank you." Whereas in America you normally ask someone if they want a drink/food first before bringing it to them. Here, if you ask first, it sends them the signal that you really don't want to give them anything.
The Dominican culture is very formal (style of dress, style of furniture, way of greeting), so they had a formal dinner for us the last night. After dinner we learned how to dance Merengue and Bachata! (El and I still have a LOT of work to do on our new moves- ha)
-2 weeks ago Elliott had the opportunity to speak at the Young Life/Vida Joven leader retreat at Juan Dolio beach. He did wonderful job, and we had a great time spending time with the Young Life staff. Avery liked it too because she got to play with our friends' baby, Judah, who was born 5 days after her!
-God has been really generous and gracious to us over the last few weeks in providing new friends and new fellowship opportunities! This had been a prayer of ours for over a year. He is faithful to provide.
-Things are finally cooling off here (a little bit). I made chili and cornbread this week out of my excitement....we were sweating (in out shirts and shorts) all the way through dinner. Oh well!
-Monday is Constitution day here in the DR. Yay for Dominican holidays! I think we might head to the beach one day this weekend.
Sorry it's been so long since we last posted...here are some updates from our lives in Santo Domingo.
1. We moved! We found an awesome house about 15-20 minutes away from Bayona. Our time living in Bayona was SO worth it. We learned so much about the people and culture we are serving, and built relationships that would have been impossible had we not been living "with" them. But, it was time to move. We love our new home, and it's location! It has provided us with a place to rest, be together, and get away from the stresses of Dominican life. We are so grateful that God provided just what we needed.
2. Avery is 4 months old! She is still a little thing weighing 11lbs, 11oz (but chubby, chubby). She LOVES to make noises. It seems like she babbles all day long. She is still a really good sleeper. All I have to do at night is put her down in her crib, and she's out for the night...no rocking to sleep, and no crying, she just goes to sleep on her own!! (unfortunately its another story for naps). She loves Ridley....everytime she sees him she smiles or laughs. Whenever he is in the room, she watches him and follows him around with her eyes. She loves to grab her toys...and they go straight to her mouth. Last week, she had her first little cold, poor thing. She ran a fever and was really congested and had a bad cough. She was a trooper though, and was still as sweet as ever.
-I have gotten stopped about 10 times by people thinking that I was carrying around a babydoll. Then when they see that she's real, they are shocked. Even those that do know shes a real baby call her Muñekita (little babydoll). I think its the blue eyes, chubby cheeks, and white skin.
3. Her passport and birth certificate got delivered today! YEAH! A little guy brought it on a motorcycle in his backpack. Now we can actually leave the country....I feel like I should be boarding a plane right now to celebrate :)
4. God is doing some pretty awesome things through Elliott. In May he became the Ministry Director for Mission Emanuel. He is now in charge of the 9 Dominican team leaders. It is so cool to see all of the ways he is growing in this new role. I know its hard for him to see the impact he is having down here, but its HUGE. Needless to say, I'm a proud wife.
5. We are going on a cultural retreat this weekend up in the mountains. It is taught by an American woman that has lived in the DR for 26 years. She is going to teach on Dominican culture and values, and how to grow personally while living here. Even though we have lived here for over a year, I think we are going to learn a ton, and that it is going to help us minister more effectively and deeply. I'm also excited to get to spend a weekend in the mountains....cooler weather, I hope!
6. We are missing fall big time. It's still as hot as ever here. We miss the crispness in the air, leaves changing colors, college football, wearing long-sleeves and corduroys, and making chili and pumpkin spice muffins. So, please enjoy those things for us :)
Well, I think thats it for now. Thanks for reading! I'll post some new Avery pics soon...my camera battery is dead and I'm waiting for it to charge.
= a complete Sterchi family!!! (plus Avery and all the little ones to come)
YEAH!!! My brother John got engaged to Kate on Saturday morning. I am so so so so excited that they are getting married. I love Kate so much- she is so awesome. I can't wait to spend time with them as a married couple...holidays, family va-ca's...its going to be so much fun. Yeah!! Ahhh!! (Can you tell I am EXCITED).
Congrats John and Kate. I love you both so much. God has done amazing things!
Yep, thats right....Three years ago today, Elliott and I were pronounced husband and wife! Our three years of marriage have been so wonderful, each one very different. Our first year we were newlyweds and lived in Texas and North Carolina, our second we were nomads and lived out of suitcases traveling between NC, FL, CO, the DR, and Guatemala, and the third we have been gringos trying to figure out life in the DR.
Elliott is such an amazing husband. He loves me, serves me, and cares for me in so many selfless ways each day. He challenges me to surrender more of my life over to Jesus, and trust His loving hand. He is my best friend. I have loved watching him become a dad. He is a wonderful father. He loves Avery so much, and I am so excited for her to know her daddy more as she grows. I am so blessed to be married to a man who leads and serves his family. Thank you Jesus for Elliott Drake! Happy Anniversary El, I love you with all my heart.
She had a great second month... She got to meet her DD and Bear (El's parents).. Her Uncle John came for a visit. He made her smile ALOT She now sleeps through the night (8-10 hours...lucky us!!) She is starting to make little noises. She surprises herself everytime a new one comes out, and always looks so proud. Loves laying under her "discovery gym" Sucks both thumbs...is she going to be ambidextrous?
Her eyes are very very blue
We went to the pool on Sunday and Avery took her first dip...she loved it! She got more and more comfortable the longer she was in...by the end she was dunking her little fists in the water all by herself. Here are some pics...
We love you Avery! Thanks for being such a sweet, sweet daughter. We can't wait to watch you grow in your third month!
Tuesday morning I discovered our Dominican dog Lobo attacking a small goat. The goat was tied up in the field across from our house and Lobo was on his typical morning jaunt through the neighborhood. Anyway, all turned out okay when our friend and neighbor Lalo was able to free the kid from the stump and scare Lobo away by throwing a huge stump at him. I don't have much more to say except that next time I hope to respond more quickly and effectively to the sound of bleating goat and barking dog. I sort of just stood there and watched it all unfold...
Two nights ago we woke up at about 2:30am...this time it wasn't a crying baby wanting to be fed. It was the stillness and heat in our bedroom. The power was out and our inverter (the bank of car batteries that makes power when the power isn't on...about 8-12 hours each day) was drained. That means no fans. That means sweltering heat. That means no sleep. That means fussy baby and an unhappy mommy and daddy. In the morning, we found out that the power line on our street was broken. When it still wasn't fixed by yesterday evening, Jack offered for us to spend a few nights at a hotel until the problem could get fixed. So, we packed our bags and the pack-n-play, and off we went to AC and hot showers!!! (Sidenote: as we were leaving the house our water was also down to a trickle).
I called Jack today to thank him and told him that Avery has had the best day of her life...literally. She has been so happy and content since we got here. I don't think I realized how much the heat affects her at home. Elliott had to go into Cielo to do some work today, but Avery and I just enjoyed a quiet and relaxing day here at the hotel. This morning we read, listened to some music, and played. Then Elliott came back this afternoon and we spent some time relaxing by the pool.
It has been a great little retreat for us. God knows just what we need...even if He has to use broken-down power lines!
Sweet Avery has gotten to wear her long sleeve sleepers that she doesn't get to wear much at home
Last week we went with Elliott's parents to the Botanical Gardens in Santo Domingo. I have been wanting to go ever since we moved here. It was really beautiful, quiet, and peaceful...three things that are hard to find in this big city. I think it is going to become a place that we "escape" to quite often. They have lots of trails, so we could even go there to run. My favorite part was the orchid exhibit. They had dozens of different kinds of orhids....all different colors, some big, some small, even fragrant ones (those were my favorite because they smelled SOO good). We had a wonderful time...it was good to be outside, enjoying nature and each other.
There were lots of mosquitos...Avery is getting quite used to viewing the world from under a net. Poor thing.
One year ago from now we were sitting in the Orlando airport eating sushi and drinking one last Starbucks as we waited to board the plane to make the big move to the DR. Oh, what a year it has been. It has been great in so many ways and hard in others. We have learned so much about ourselves, each other, Dominicans, and God. We are definitely not the same people we were when we left the U.S. a year ago. It feels really good to have finally reached the one year mark. Besides adjusting to having a newborn, we feel settled here and feel like we have found a good "rhythm." Thanks SO much for all of your prayers....we wouldn't still be here if it weren't for them.
Some of our first year memories:
-Constant noise...bachata music, people selling things over a loud speaker, roosters, motorcycles
-HEAT!!!...taking cold showers and barely drying off before hopping in bed to make it through the night
-Finding out we were pregnant 1 month after moving here
-Hosting lots of birthday parties for our friends and neighbors
-Learning to live more simply
-Giving yourself 3 hours minimum to make a grocery store run
-Introducing Dominicans to American food
-Our 2 day trip to the Campo...Elliott still loves the Bestia
-Elliott's men's bible study in the garage every Tuesday night
-Learning to drive like a crazy dominican...we are no longer phased by the traffic and lack of order on the road
-Everything breaking a month or so after you buy it
-Getting out of traffic tickets (that we didn't deserve) by speaking only English
-Still struggling to communicate in Spanish
-Line drying clothes
-Lots walks with Ridley in the park....people are afraid of him and move to the other side of the street when they see him coming
-Being able to travel around and see the beautiful Dominican beaches and mountains
-Floating in the sea off of Bahuruco
-Termite infestation in the guest room closet
-Giving birth to our precious little Avery
El's parents are here and will be baby-sitting tonight as we go out and celebrate the BIG one year anniversary!!
Sometimes it is hard to express all that we feel, and experience living in a foreign land, serving as a missionary. As we will celebrate our one year anniversary of living here next week....these words written by missionary Amy Carmichael pretty much sum up our experience over the past year.
"a door was opened for me into a new life and I took the first step in...Today as I thought of all that has passed since then, of the little little one has learnt or done or been, I felt as if one has not taken even a step into the land which opened out before one ten whole years ago. Tonight in my evening reading this verse came: "In His quiver hath He kept my close." I never noticed it before. It is the revised version of Isaiah 49:2. Is it not beautiful? And does it not fit into the verse linked always to me with September 23, 1886, "able to keep you from falling"? Dear friends, I don't often write of these inner heart things in my Scrapperies, but to the glory of His name let me witness that in far away lands, in lonliness (deepest sometimes when it seems least so), in times of downheartedness and tiredness and sadness, always always He is near. He does comfort, if we let Him. Perhaps someone as weak and good-for-nothing as even I am may read this. Don't be afraid! Through all circumstances, outside, inside, He can keep me close."
Its hard to believe that at this time last week little Avery was about to come into the world! This first week has flown by, and she is growing and changing so much already. We have had a great first week! Our love for her grows by the minute.
Look at my chubby cheeks....I'm a really good eater.
Well, we've been parents for about ten months now, but it's hard feeling like a parent when you haven't yet met your child. About 5 days ago we had the privilege and joy of meeting our daughter, Avery Elizabeth Drake, when Linds gave birth to our precious, 6 1/2 lb, 50cm little treasure. She's absolutely beautiful in every way, and we can't wait to know her more and more as she grows and develops.
I guess thats a pretty rare thing for someone to say one day before their due date. But, in the DR, pregnant women are treated like celebrities. There is a common phrase that everyone says..."pregnant women don't wait in line." So, I don't have to wait in line to use the bathroom, order food, pay our cell phone bill, check out my groceries, etc.....it's great! As soon as I get in line, the person in front of me will turn around and push me to the front of the line. At first, I was a little shy and would stay put, but then I realized that I better take advantage of the royal treatment while I could. Elliott has milked the "pregnancy privileges" as well. We will be out, and he will ask to do something and then throw in, "my wife is pregnant," and immediately the person will throw up their hands and say "claro, claro," (of course, of course). So, while I will not miss carrying around a watermelon, the backaches, the heartburn, and all of the other annoyances that come along with being pregnant, I will miss being a member of the pregnancy elite!!!
Please pray that little baby Drake will grace us with her presence before my dad has to go back to Orlando early Saturday morning.
-Sorry its been a while since we last posted. It seems like alot has been going on, but not too much to write about. Just trying to tie up loose ends before the little one enters the world. I was also on bedrest 2 weeks ago, and have been trying to slow down the pace of life since then.
-Well, we are now a week away from Baby Drake's due date!!!! We went to the doctor today and got a great report. Over the last 3 weeks we have had some complications, and they were worried about her growth. But, today they told us that she is definitely growing, and as far as they can tell all looks healthy. Our hearts are rejoicing!!!
-My mom and dad get here on Saturday! We can't wait! We are hoping that the little one decides to come before my dad has to leave the following Saturday. It is going to be such a blessing to have them here with us.
-The Americanos are rolling in to kick off the summer projects. It is kinda strange knowing that we won't really be involved much this year because of having a newborn. But, it really is great to see familiar faces. In the "missionary world" we have found that it is rare for someone to be the only Americans living and working on the field like we are. Most have a team of Americans that they work with. So, for us, it is great when our "team" comes to join us...even if it is just for a week, or a month.
-Its mango season around here....and in my opinion they are better than ever this year. Mmmmm. Now we are just waiting for the avocados to ripen up and join them.
-When the power is on we are now ALLLLOOOOTTT cooler. We got an AC unit for our bedroom, the guest room, and Baby Drake's room. I think it is the best investment we have ever made. Now if the power would just come on more often so we could actually use them :) But, I really think they are going to help us rest and relax alot more, because when it is hot and humid out (and in the house) it is a whole lot easier and more comfortable to just keep moving than to stop and rest. So hopefully they will help us not run ourselves so ragged like we have been prone to do these last 11 months.
One of the hardest things about living in the DR is being away from our families....especially on days like today. We have two of the greatest moms in the world! They love us and support us in countless ways. They have both done amazing jobs at loving us across the miles. We are SOO excited for them to be grandmothers in a few weeks!! We can't wait to watch them love on our little one. We are so blessed because they are both coming down to stay with us for a few weeks after she is born...Mia (Lind's mom) in June and DD (El's mom) in July. We can't wait to get to spend an extended amount of time with them both. On the verge of becoming a mother myself, I am so lucky because I have two great examples of what it means to be a loving, sacrificial, wise, encouraging, giving, and nurturing mother. Thank you God for Michelle Sterchi and Debbie Drake!! We love you SOOO much mom and wish we were there to give you a giant hug today...but we hope you feel it from afar.
Last Saturday night, Zeneida and Rosario threw me a surprise Baby Shower. It was really fun to celebrate with friends and family...the Breuls came down from Jarabacoa, Sally Dulap came in from Santiago, my parents were here, and many of our Dominican friends joined the celebration!!!
They had the top floor of the Nazaret school all decorated with baby clothes, a HUGE stork, and a 7 ft. waterfall with lights!! Bet you have never seen a waterfall at a baby shower before! We played some hilarious games....quiet the crying baby, and sing your favorite lullaby. Dominicans love being dramatic, so you can image how those games went. Then, everyone had to give Elliott and I some new parent advice. We ate some yummy food, and then we opened gifts.
Quiet the crying baby
With Javier and Rosario in front of the pink waterfall!
Mia and Pops!!
The Breul Boys
I really was soooo blessed by the shower. We have had our ups and downs living here this first year, but it really made me realize how loved and supported we are. It is definitely a night I will NEVER forget.
A few weeks ago my mom's friends threw me a Skype shower since I couldn't be there in person. It was really fun too!
Here I am on the Big Screen!
My mom and all of the hostesses.
We have been loved from afar in so many creative ways during my pregnancy. Love can not be bound by distance!!