Sunday, March 31, 2013


Howdy everybody!
We are back home in Madrid after a lovely Semana Santa on the Mediterranean. We saw a lot of neat places, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of Crema de Irlandes, but unfortunately did not see a lot of spring weather. 
Unless you count clouds, cold, and rain as spring weather. 

But not to worry, a good time was still had by all, except for my waistline which I'm fairly sure was not prepared for two cruises in 6 months. 
Boy, are we spoiled rotten!

Let's start the recap, shall we?

Our cruise left on Saturday out of Barcelona, which is a 6 hour drive from Madrid. Since the kids had Friday off of school we left early and decided to stay the night. 
This worked out great, as it made the drive more relaxing and we got to explore Barcelona as well. 

Halfway down the road is the city of Zaragoza. We planned a pit stop there because they have a castle and who doesn't like castles? We intended to go inside, but there were some diplomats having some sort of meeting there and they weren't allowing anyone to go in. 
This info was nowhere to be found on the website we had checked the day before, but that my friends is quite typically Spanish. Planning and forethought are not high on their priority lists.
No pasa nada, we took some pictures and got back on the road...

...where we passed through the marker for Greenwich Mean Time, or prime meridian.
At which point I became confused. Because I am easily confused.
Isn't Europe considered part of the Western world? But this line is telling me that part of Spain is in the Eastern hemisphere.

Then I stopped thinking about it because I kind of had to pee.

We stayed the night in a hotel in Barcelona, and took the metro down to the Old Gothic quarter where we saw a beautiful cathedral and some other impressive landmarks.

But the most impressive we saved for the following morning, when we visited the Sagrada Familia.
This church is still being built; it was started in 1882 and is slated to be finished before 2033.
It was designed by Gaudi, and it is really incredible.
Pictures can't quite do it justice. At least, not pictures that I take.

My culturally-minded children were enthralled with the history and grandeur park out front.

I guess if you can't appreciate greatness, you can at least play in it's shadows.

When we got closer while waiting to go in, we could start to see some of the incredible detail that is carved into every surface.

And the inside. My goodness.

All of the inside walls are or will be full of stained glass.

There is a separate museum-like hallway that shows how Gaudi used nature to inspire his design. It was neat to read some of that and then go back inside to see it again, with a better understanding.

The other side was done in gothic style.

This model shows what it will be like when it's finished. We couldn't believe that as huge as it is now, the only high pillars that have been built are the ones underneath that black line I drew. It's going to be ginormous.

I'm not the most culturally aware person out there, so I'll just say: It shore wus perty.

And now our recap has made it onboard the cruise ship. 
There was a dress-up night, and so we enlisted the help of our 7 year old in taking a picture of us. 

It did not go well. 
This is one of about 20 snaps and it will have to do.

Proof that we dressed up:

With the photographer herself, whose tummy looks like she already had dinner.

Spanish cruise lines follow Spanish customs, and so we ate in the "Early Seating" at 7:30pm.
Sheesh! I would have been asleep in my lamb chop if we'd gotten the late seating. 

We booked through an American company, and so they seated us with a group of American college students who happen to be studying abroad in Madrid for this semester. 

They were young. And I felt old. 

 And next time we'll get to the heart of our cruise-- seeing Italy and France! Oh, and a zombie apocalypse.
For realz. Do not get in between zombies and their apples.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Absentee Blogger...

And it won't be getting any better this week.

Just wanted to pop on and say we're alive and well.
Today we drove from Madrid to Barcelona and spent the evening exploring the city. Tomorrow we're going to see the Sagrada Familia, which looks incredible from the outside, and get on 'da boat.

Then we shall eat and drink our way around the Mediterranean.

Happy Spring Break!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Settling in, and getting out

We've been in Spain for 9 weeks now, and we're actually much more settled than I thought we might be at this point.

We love our piso. It's in a great location. The kids are adjusting better than we'd hoped for. We can get around town with no trouble. We have a church home.

Vida es buena. 

So now it's time to see some more of Europe!
In researching where we'd like to go during spring break (Semana Santa, or holy week, which is the last week in March), we realized that all that talk of taking trains hither and yon through Europe is not exactly what we thought it would be.
Train travel is way more expensive than we'd expected!

So I am disappointed delighted to tell you that the most economical way to get the most out of our vacation time is to go on a cruise.

Yes, again.
I know, I know.
We are living large, no?

You see, we are not world travelers. We're not the kind of people who would be home in the States and plan a vacation to Europe. I despise long flights and jet lag.
So now is our time. And I mean right now, because once Josh begins his formal class in the fall, his schedule will be much more rigid. 

So, in a week and a half, we'll be driving to Barcelona (a little under 6 hours from here) and embarking on our ship. We're taking a Spanish cruise line, because, well, we need to practice our Spanish.
From what I've read, we can expect to be the only or almost-only English speaking people onboard.
No worries. We're used to being the odd ones.

Our ports include Rome, Pisa/Florence, Genoa, and Nice. (The actual ports are sometimes fairly far from those cities, but those are the touring areas associated with the ports.)

So now my job is to research what to see and how to see it at all of our stops. It's a rough job, but someone's got to do it. ;)

What else?

-- We met with Alex's teachers over a week ago. They were...severe stern serious. I don't know if it's a cultural thing, maybe parent/teacher meetings here are just more focused on problem areas, but there was none of that "sandwich style" feedback.
You know, sticking the bad in between a couple slices of good.

Who needs the bread, anyway? ;)

So we've been spending more time with Alex in the evenings working on reading in Spanish, and continuing to help her catch up to her peers in multiplication facts.
Just in the past week I've noticed a lot of progress with her reading, which is encouraging. And she enjoys doing it with us, so it's not a struggle.
We plan to take some material with us on the cruise as well, to keep up the progress.

I'm really so proud of both of them for jumping into such a hugely different environment with apparent ease.

The schedule is still an adjustment-- not getting home until 5:30 doesn't give us a whole lot of time together in the evenings. I've started making dinner during the daytime so that we can just hang out together in the time that we do have.

-- Derek had fun at the birthday party last weekend. I stayed at the center where it was held and did my best to chat with the other parents. It was good practice for me, but I had to concentrate so hard that my head was about to explode by the time the party was over.

-- I mentioned that we have a new church home. It's an English-speaking church that is very diverse. There are Spaniards, Americans, British, Africans, Asians...it's really neat to hear all the different accents represented there, worshiping the same God.
It's the one time a week we use our car. We took the metro before we had the car here, but it takes 15-20 minutes to walk from the station to the church, so driving is more convenient.

-- Let's wrap up with some pictures, no?

Josh, with his princess backpack, buying some licorice treats at the Atocha train station.
Because sometimes a twizzler wont cut it, and you need a two foot long, cream stuffed candy.

Heading home on the bus. It's a good day when we all get a seat.

The first Wednesday of the month is free to go up in the Old Post Office observation tower.
Only, we didn't know you needed to get (free) tickets first, and the line was too long.
So, we'll try again next month.

Plaza Cibeles.

Finally some pictures of our new place! This is my favorite room, check out the ceiling.


It has three balconies with a great view of our street and lots of light.
Comes furnished with two children.


Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Update

Contagious Disease Report:
The Small Schores are healthy. I repeat, healthy.
I myself am feeling better. On the mend, you might say.
My dearest husband is afflicted. Tuberculosis maybe? Pneumonia mayhaps? Just a really terrible cough? Probable.

But it is rather severe.
And I have been sleeping in another room to avoid the noise and body-wracking bed movements.

So we laid low this weekend. Very low. Like, Derek and I left the house once to exchange a pair of shoes, and no one else left all weekend.
But we were productive invalids.
On Friday, Josh and I had run over to Ikea and bought the rugs and light fixtures, and he spent several hours on Saturday installing las luces. 
And there was light.
And it was good.

Now all of our piso is useable at all hours. What an improvement!

Josh also decided that the time was right to introduce our eldest child to the phenomenon known as Star Trek Wars.
(He hates it when I confuse those two. Apparently one is much more important than the other. I am mostly ignorant of this because I did not see either of them until adulthood.)

Alex likes any movie in which someone bears the title of Princess, and so she enjoyed herself.

This is a fairly busy week homework-wise for Alex. She has a timeline project we worked on over the weekend, and also an Invention Fair coming up in which she must, well,  invent something.
And actually produce it.

Thankfully, science is one of her subjects taught in English.

We have our first meeting with her teacher after school today (they have quarterly parent conferences at the school) and hopefully we can find out more about how she is doing in class.
She's on track to say her "Sietes" today in math. She's doing great with the multiplication, only sometimes the answer comes to her in English and she takes a minute to remember how to translate it.

I still love seeing them in their uniforms.

Derek has a field trip on Friday, and asked me three times this morning to confirm that it is this week, and how many days of normal school does he have to go to first.
Also, he is going to a birthday party on Saturday for three of his little friends from school.
It's so cute to hear him pronounce their names-- he has a much better accent than me or Josh!

Making the RSVP phone call was rather painful for me. Speaking on the phone without the use of body language is so hard. Hopefully she got the message that we're coming.
I would have preferred to skip it altogether, but I know it's important for the kids to be "normal" here, and I suppose birthday parties are part of normal. 

We've been so busy trying to get into a routine and finish settling in that Semana Santa snuck up quickly! The kids will have the week off of school, and since we have the opportunity to live in Europe, we want to do something...European.
So we're trying to research where to go and what to do, all rather last-minute.
Hopefully we'll get a chance to see some other countries, but if not we'll definitely do day-trips to the smaller towns around Madrid.

Here is a picture of a big baby head. It's outside the train station and also where we transfer busses on the way home from school.

It faces another baby head, but this one is sleeping. I like it better, because as any mother knows, a sleeping baby is the best kind.

This picture is rather non-descript. However, I am in it.
And if I were to die a sudden and tragic death, it would be nice to have a few pictures by which my children could remember me. 

 And that wraps up the Monday Update.