Sunday, December 22, 2013

'Tis the season

Just a couple more days until Christmas and there are two wiggly, excited little bodies living in our house who can't wait.

Friday was the last day of school before the break, and they wont go back until January 8th. A nice, long rest from the daily commute to and from school.
Josh also has the same long break, and he's already been chipping away at the thesis he has to write for his class.

That's due in May.


Today we went carolling in Retiro Park with a group from our church, which was a fun experience. The city is so festive it's hard not to get into the holiday spirit, despite temperatures in the 50's.
We've walked around our neighborhood a couple of times to see the lights, or just enjoyed them while running errands.

Goya has gift boxes.

Serrano has circles, and I think it's my favorite. Pictures don't do justice to the lights.

Juan Ortega y Gasset has chandeliers.

And Velázquez has branches. This is our street. We live here.

Our neighborhood also has lots of stores that I'm too intimidated to set foot in. All of these are walking-distance from our piso.


Other randomness:

My boys on da bus.

I love not driving.
I went shopping with a friend this week at an outlet mall outside of the city center, and it was just strange. Driving to different stores, parking lots, very American. The weird thing is that it felt strange to me-- I guess a year of metro and bus rides will do that to you.

This is how we keep in touch with our family. The hard part is that the kids are usually in bed before anyone in the States is off work. Usually around 11am on a weekday, when the kids are in school and I've run any morning errands, I'll get the urge to call up a friend and chat. Of course, they wouldn't be my friends anymore if I acted on it. Dang time zones.

Last Saturday Derek had an open house at school. He sang a song with his class and gave his letter to the Reyes Magos. After the open house, we had a family from the school over to hang out and let the kids play together. We walked home through the park and it was so pretty we stopped and took pictures. Can't believe the leaves are still falling!

Here are the kiddos lined up for the Three Kings.
Derek has a sheep on his head; it was part of the song. That he sang in Spanish. Because my baby knows Spanish.

But does not seem to embrace the Three Kings. Nor did the sheep hat do anything for his hairdo.

This is my milk in a box.
Another thing that used to strike me as odd that just feels normal now-- the fact that you buy milk in a box, and an unrefrigerated box at that. The eggs are also not refrigerated here.

In the next episode I will tell you guys where we're headed next...
Here's a hint. It starts with an M and it's not nearly as cool as Monterey or Madrid.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Things that have happened since I last blogged:

1) I went on a field trip with Josh's class to a Spanish military parade. It was only for the foreigners in the class. These folks are part of the Spanish Royal Guard.

Highlights: The horses pooped in the middle of the parade route and fancy-pants military folks had to retain their military bearing while trying to avoid the steaming piles.

You can see the poop here. You're welcome.

 And now check out the guy on the far left. Score one for the horse.

Also. Wine, jamón, and queso at the reception.
This is my smile that says, "Well done Guardia Royal. Now where is the jamón?"

For some reason the picture also makes me want to sing "The Wheels on the Bus."

2) We went on our overnight getaway to Segovia.

Funny story. We'd been watching the weather; since the city is so close it makes sense that we would wait and plan to go when it would be nice out. Weather.com predicted highs in the low 50's with sun, so we booked a hotel and headed off.
As we drove through the mountains, we noticed the car's temperature gauge was reading in the 30's. This confused us. Was Segovia at a lower altitude, and the temp would warm up as we approached? Did we look at the forecast for the wrong city? Is the Carrola showing her age and the gauge is faulty?
We drove through a long tunnel. When we popped out on the other side, snow greeted us.
As did a sign saying Segovia was not too many kilometers down the road.
So we enjoyed a cold, snowy, yet scenic getaway while we wondered who checked the forecast for the wrong city.

Warming up inside the cathedral.

It was a good excuse for lots of hot chocolate.

Maybe too much chocolate. (Inside the Alcazar)

Derek was tongue-tied when he was born, so we had his frenulum clipped.
Just look at that range of motion he has.
I'm so...proud.

The Roman aquaduct was certainly the most impressive view in the city for us.

View from the top. See the red roof across the street? To the left of that is a white garage, and to the left of that is the hotel we stayed in.

After we got home, I looked on Weather.com again to see if I'd just made a mistake. Nope. It must be a bad link or something, because the site assured me that the weather that Saturday had been 50 degrees with sun. While my frostbitten fingers assured me that it indeed had not been 50 degrees with sun.
But it was a nice little city, and we're glad we went.

3) Josh and I had a date night with the Frenchies to see Flamenco.
Oye! Guapa!

It was fun, and muy español.

4) Thanksgiving happened.
It did not feel much like Thanksgiving, as the kids had school that day. Josh was given the day off from his class (only the two Americans, everyone else still had class) and so we used the day without the kids to see some of the places we hadn't yet visited in Madrid.

Here you find me. In front of the Templo de Debod, which if you can believe it is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid.

For dinner, I made some of the traditional side dishes and we ordered a bucket of KFC.

Yes, yes, have your laugh. My oven is small, okay? It would only fit the side dishes, not a turkey and side dishes. And Josh has no faith in my bird-cooking abilities.
And let's face it-- what tastes better, healthy turkey or unhealthy fried chicken?
Yeah, that's what I thought.

5) Christmas season arrived.

(With the tree in Plaza Sol)

We hadn't brought our tree with us, since we weren't sure how much storage space we would have here. But we have some American friends who are going back to the states for Christmas, and so they let us borrow their tree. Perfect! If not, we were going to buy a real one here, but they're quite pricey so this worked out better.
We decorated on Thanksgiving night with the limited things we brought along, and since then we've had lots of Christmas music playing in the background, the daily Advent calendar opening, and lots and lots of online shopping. This equates to lots and lots of trips for me to the Embassy mailbox, but since my work schedule is light (ha.) it's not a problem for me to swing by often.
Besides it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish with José the friendly mail guy.

6) The kids are excited about the Christmas season of course, and now the lights are on in the city which makes it super festive. We haven't gone walking with the camera yet, but we will soon. The weather's still really nice with highs in the 50's, except if you want to visit Segovia of course.
Alex has been wanting a guitar for the past 6 months or so, and I can't wait to see her face on Christmas morning! She's counted her money numerous times over the past months, not wanting to wait to see if she'd get one for Christmas but naturally not having nearly enough to buy one.
Her wish list includes: "A guitar, or 33 euro" which is the amount she would need to make up the difference between what she has and how much she needs to buy one.
Derek brought home his stationery for the Reyes Magos from school (Spanish kids get gifts on January 6th from the Three Kings) and promptly sat down and wrote his list, in Spanish of course as the Reyes Magos don't speak English.

He put down 1) A package of shiny gogos 2) A collection of gogos and 3) Legos.
Gogos are little plastic figures the kids collect and play with here and cost 1 euro at the kiosks. So, it will be a cheap Christmas for the little guy. Ha ;)

Josh normally takes charge of Derek's gifts, mostly because he likes to look at the action figures. Young at heart maybe?
Anyway, he made sure that Derek was getting not one, but two light sabers so that they can fight each other with real ones, instead of the pretend ones they use now when they wrestle.
Every night.
Right before bedtime.
It's quite conducive to a quiet, peaceful bedtime routine.

7) Other than that, it's been life as usual. Which is a very good thing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A month

Josh pointed out to me yesterday that it's been a month since I last posted. How did that happen!?

Life has been going on as normal, which is a good thing when I so enjoy my normal.
Except for when Josh got the flu. That wasn't enjoyable.
But it was enjoyable that the rest of us did not get it.

The weeks just fly past and already I see the men out putting up the Christmas lights displays throughout the city. I've heard that it's quite the sight when they turn them on. I'll have to go on a photo tour and share them here.
I've been chipping away at the to-do list for the holiday season-- updating addresses for cards, ordering gifts, etc. I'm hoping that an early start will make it more of a joy than a chore.

I'm looking forward to our first Christmas at home together in a couple of years. Last year we were in transition moving from California to Spain, and the year before Josh was in Afghanistan. It will be nice to have a quiet Christmas in our own home.

But for now I'm happy to be enjoying a gorgeous fall. I never did manage to get the kids dressed up for pictures in the park, but I snapped a few of them dressed-down in the park.

Not too shabby for our neighborhood park ;)

At the end of October we had a visit from some fellow Air Force friends who are stationed in England currently. We met them when Josh and Matt were in squadron officer school together for 6 weeks in Alabama, many moons ago. But we've kept in touch since then, and were happy to get an opportunity to see each other again. The kids were all fast friends and had a great time together.

5 munchkins playing dress-up. 2 gymnasts, 1 Fairy, 1 tiny princess... and Iron Man.
Derek was outnumbered :)

We've been keeping with our plan to tour the nearby cities during the fall. Two weekends ago we went to Toledo, a cute little city about an hour from Madrid.

It was a beautiful day!

Every turn you took in the city was another narrow winding street. Some people braved driving around, but we were happy to leave the car outside the city walls and walk.

Gorgeous views from the top of a church.

And yet another menú del día. This time outside on the terrazza because the day was so nice.

Where is my baby? He's getting way too big.

This coming weekend we're going to take a mini-getaway to Segovia. It's only about an hour and half from here, but we thought it would make it more fun to stay the night.
And so we shall.

Hasta luego...

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Monday List

It's Monday. Let's have a list, shall we?
Things we've been up to...


Attending classes, studying, reading, writing.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

He has papers and presentations every week, all of which take three times as long to prepare since they are written and presented in Spanish, and the references as well come from Spanish resources.
He's such a good student-- plugging away at projects that aren't due for weeks.
This is a completely foreign concept to me, as I did not realize you could write a paper or study for an exam if it weren't the night before the event.

Right now, he's away on a short "field trip" for his class. He's getting to see the northwest area of Spain, which we haven't had a chance to visit before.

(Side note-- this trip is the first direct impact we've had from the government shutdown, as normally they would pay Josh a per diem amount for food/lodging, which they wont do now because all education-related travel has been cancelled. Thankfully we've been insulated from the other cuts here in Spain.)

This past Saturday was the Fiesta Nacional de España, and Josh's class had special seats for the military parade. They were seated in sight of the President of Spain as well as the Prince and Princess, how fancy.
The kids and I opted to watch on TV while sipping coffee and/or playing Legos. I'll let you decide who did what.

Josh's class is mostly full of Spanish military (all branches of services), but there are also representatives from other countries as well, and he's made good friends with the guys from England and also his work-boyfriend from France.

True fact, the French cannot not pop a collar. It's forbidden. Their adorable French children are always dressed perfectly, and their little boy once sported two popped collars. At the same time.
Tres chic.

It's been fun to get to know people from so many different parts of the world. Last week, I had coffee with Claire, from France, and we conversed in Spanglish/Miming. And I had tapas and a coffee date with my new English friend, Deborah.
Look at me, being so social with my European friends.

This week I'm hermitting to make up for all the interaction. It wears a girl out.


Coffee dates, lunch dates, Strolls through the city.

Rinse, lather, repeat.
Ha. My life is hard, but someone's got to do it.

I've been trying to help Josh with his work by doing some of his readings and then giving him a de-brief on the topic. The material is mind-numbing, but it's good Spanish practice for me.

Hmmm. What else?

This is a little embarrassing. Apparently I don't do much.

Oh yes, I help out with the kids Sunday school at church.

Um. Does grocery shopping count? Laundry?

Dangit, I'm not earning my keep and I know it. Just leave me alone already.


She's still loving school this year. We had a parent-teacher conference last week, and she's doing well. Still lots of room for improvement in her Spanish, of course, but she's participating now in those classes and we were pleasantly surprised by some samples of her writing.
The art classes she wanted to take were cancelled for lack of participants, so instead she does dance twice a week, which she enjoys. We love that their "extracurriculars" happen during the school day.
She has her second birthday party of the school year coming up this weekend, for which I have to drive. Pray for me.


Derek's new favorite day is Monday, because that's his swimming day. We have a countdown all week until Monday, and then on Monday afternoon he asks me how many days until Monday.
I'm glad he likes it, because it was the source of some stress for mom and dad.

Once we got our questions answered from the gym teacher about how he plans to keep our son alive during swim class, because said child believes he can swim but in reality cannot, we then had to work out the details of how his epi-pen would be traveling with him to the pool and back.

This did not go well, and we became concerned overall with how seriously his allergies were being taken.
This resulted in a meeting with the director, which I am happy to say went very well, and Josh and I feel much more comfortable now with their preparedness to handle an allergic reaction.
Food allergies are not nearly as common here, and Derek is their first student at such high risk for anaphylaxis.
If anyone needs a guest speaker to present allergy-preparedness in Spanish or English, I'm your girl.

Here's a picture of the little dingbat during our run-through of "how to change into and out of your swimsuit."

I gave up about halfway through the run-through asking him to keep things off what is sure to be a wet floor. Now we're just hoping he brings everything back with him, in whatever shape it may be.

Other than swimming, Derek has expanded his world from just Legos and Squinkies to also include a lot of detailed drawings of people and aliens, who happen to be pooping.
I'm sorry, but it's true. Bodily eliminations are one of his new obsessions.

He's lucky he's so cute or else mama might not survive this phase.

We have his parent-teacher conference coming up this Friday.

We'll end with some pictures.

We took another trip on the teleférico. A little metal box in the sky is probably the safest place to be when a storm's approaching.

This is how city kids blow bubbles.

Extra points if your bubble hits a bus or pedestrian.

Drying sheets = Fort fun

Yes, our walls are barren. We didn't hang anything.

Ready for school

Good Morning, Madrid. Glad we don't drive in rush hour.

Things I pass on my walk home from school drop-off.

Vertical garden.


And lots of streets to wind down, around, and through.

And now, I shall take advantage of an absentee husband to watch a chick flick.

You are the weakest link. Goodbye.