Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 82)

Horseback Riding

Amelia got the experience of horseback riding for Christmas.  And last weekend we went.

Last October when we went, Jeff & Amelia did the trail ride while I walked a horse around in a circle for an hour with Clara & Violet taking turns.  I was nervous just walking next to the horse.

This time, I went for the trail ride with Amelia.  I was pretty nervous but the idea of walking in a circle with a horse for an hour seemed the less “fun” alternative.

I know I’ve ridden a horse since I fell off my best friend’s horse when I was a teenager.  But honestly, the only part I can remember is being afraid and having no fun.

And when I could barely lift my leg into the stirrup and hoist myself up, I was more than a little concerned.

Jeff admitted laughing at me from the sidelines.

But, I had fun.  It was a little unnerving when they horse would start to go fast.

In fact, I relaxed enough to even take some pictures and a selfie!

It was unnerving when I was separated from Amelia in the pack.  So I would slow my horse down and she would catch up.  I’d anxiously ask how she was doing.  To which she would reply, she was GREAT!  She would then proceed to give me advice on how to handle the horse.

And that she LOVED it when the horse went fast for her!

Violet & Clara got to ride a pony this time around.  Unfortunately, there was a large tour group there that didn’t share so well so they only got a few rides on the pony before they felt sorry for it and decided to stop riding.

We will be celebrating Amelia & Clara’s birthday with a return trip!

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The Streets of Seville

On our trips here in Spain, I have walked many narrow and winding streets in the cities we’ve visited.  Always surprised when a car would come zipping through while we stood with the kids plastered to the nearest wall to allow the car room to pass.  The streets really seem like sidewalks and in the absence of sidewalks you are prone to walk right down the center of them (usually with a crowd around you) or walk right out into them without a second thought.  Clara nearly got hit by a car when we visited Toledo.  She was trying to balance on a thick-chain link fence as her sisters were doing but she lost her balance and tripped into the road at the same time a small car came zipping though then swerved, slammed on its brakes and the driver began yelling in Spanish at us.  We were all upset, rightfully so.  The streets in the old parts of many cities are small.  Many American cars simply wouldn’t fit.

Buitrago has some smaller streets that when I first started renting cars here, I planned where I parked to that I could strategically avoid the narrowest streets.  HA!  I booked our hostel in Seville which the knowledge that there was parking on site (for a reasonable fee compared to others) and that it was within close walking distance to many places of interest.  That’s all I knew.  Had I known more, I would not have booked this hostel.  But had I known more, I would have missed out on a great adventure and some excellent bragging rights.

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We had to be admitted to drive in old town by the traffic cop.

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Then the street got a little smaller while the GPS tried to keep up.

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The GPS then told me to turn here. Hmmm….really??

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And make this turn. At this point I’m picturing us getting stuck, literally.

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I’m pretty sure this lady stopped to watch me. And while I made it out of here fine, I did go down the one-way street right after this. The one that the red circle is telling me not to.

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This is the hostel there on the left. The door to the place opened inward.

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This is the parking garage. Back where Amelia is where the hostel staff move the cars to. I never could have made it back there.

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Another shot of the garage. We parked right in the door and then the hostel staff ask for your car keys (my rental car keys!!) so they can move the cars around in the garage. We did end up with some small scratches and green paint. We buffed it out and us a cover-up pen before returning the car.

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Here’s the street we just drove down! The one with the lady watching! Craziness!

 

 

Remiss

I admit I have been remiss in my blogging.  Rest assured though that I still have lots to say and lots to share.  After Christmas we went on an eight day road trip to the south of Spain (it just sounds cool, doesn’t it?), we visited three different cities and the Mediterranean Sea, we attended the Reyes Mangos festival, and returned home to a freezing cold house and a supersized electric bill.  Ironic, huh?  I have thoughts on the upcoming year, hundreds of pictures to organize, upload and comment on, thoughts on the ubiquitous Spanish plazas and on everyday life here.  I have more Spanish to learn and more trips to plan.  I have kids to get caught up on their “American” school.  And quite clearly I have to share with you!

We have friends arriving this week!  We are SO excited!!  The girls have been counting down the days for months now.  They are SO excited to have friends that speak English.  It’s a little hard to play, especially make-believe play, when the other kids don’t speak the same language.  The girls play with their friends is much more physical….tag, piggy-back rides, pushing, wrestling, chase.  Activities that connect but don’t require a lot of verbal cues.  It was interesting to realize and watch how they found a way to connect.  We’ll be out and active and travelling while our friends here as well.  And more importantly, we’ll be refreshing our souls with good friends.

Burgos

We took a day trip to a city north of us, Burgos last weekend.   I wanted to go visit the Castle ruins that are there as they have siege tunnels underground you can walk through and large winding stone staircases.  It wasn’t a must-see attraction online or even by reviewers.  Many reviewers had said it would have been way cooler and the siege tunnels even better had the damn French and Napoleon not blow the place up.  Unfortunately, by the time we found our way to castle it was closed.  We missed it by a few minutes! Argh!  There was a complete lack of signage to the castle.  It was clear the the castle ruins was not a major tourist attraction but nonetheless, I was disappointed.  We did find a rather impressive playground (at least for those we have seen in Spain – they are all pretty plain and generic with few pieces) that we promised we’d take the kids back to.  And after leaving the closed castle, being shuttled into one-way narrow streets and out to the main road we eventually found our way back to the playground.  I’m sure this will be the highlight that the kids remember.

We left the house late, we got lost, we had few snacks, we had no extra clothes.  It really wasn’t a well planned out trip but it did end up being a great one.  At the playground, Clara had an accident (remember no spare clothes??) but luckily Amelia had pants on under her dress so her pants got sacrificed to Clara.  And while Clara now had dry pants, she had pee soaked tennis shoes.   We leave the playground to go find the cathedral.  This is on the must-see lists so we were off to find it.  And we could see it.  But we just…couldn’t….get….there.  The snacks have all been consumed.  Amelia’s hungry and letting us know every….three…seconds.  I continue driving in hopes of finding the cathedral, taking some pictures, finding some food and heading home.  I don’t have lofty goals at this point.  I do however find the castle, the closed castle, again in searching for the cathedral.  We find a dirt lot by the castle wall, park and head off to find food.  I’m really not hopeful.  It seems like the place is shutting down for the night.  It is a Sunday on a holiday weekend.  I see the top of the cathedral poking over some buildings and hastily snap some pictures.  I assume this is as close as I’ll get.  Clara is holding up her pants as we hurriedly look for food, to which we stumble into a major plaza of Burgos right off the Cathedral entrance filled with holiday lights, holiday vendors and restaurants.  Burgos is known for it’s Morcilla or blood sausage.   Unfortunately, we were too hungry to try anything local.  Pizza it was!  I inadvertently ordered morcilla last time we were in Madrid (I thought it was hamburger) and it was good.  It was even Amelia’s favorite tapa that day.  Jeff told me what it really was and I just couldn’t order a second after that.

Having our bellies full.  We were able to explore and enjoy the plaza.  It was cold.  Amelia had a dress on and no one had their hats with them but I was the only one who seemed to mind the cold.  The girls rode the Carousal, we went for a tourist train ride around the city, the girls had a gigantic doughnut, Jeff had mulled wine, we took pictures and enjoyed seeing all the holiday vendors.  I was really glad we didn’t quit and leave after we, also, couldn’t find our way to the cathedral.  I was really glad we stuck around for the holiday lights to come on.  The town was just coming awake after dinner and we would have missed it.  And I’m really glad that Amelia’s internal thermostat is set high!  I never could have wandered around for hours with bare legs!

See all of our photo’s here!

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Well she looks a little cold here. But we’re on our way back to the car!

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A few small victories

It’s been pretty isolating not speaking the language so little victories are important.  Last Friday, I had an English speaking woman from Jeff’s school ask if I was interested in teaching conversational English and if she could give out my contact information.  I said YES, Please!  On Sunday, I got a welcome to Buitrago email from a family that lives here, speaks (well at least writes) English, who have two daughters the same age and have lived in Michigan for a year!  It was nice.  We’re getting coffee (?? I don’t drink coffee but hey…) on Thursday.  I managed to go to the Pharmacy buy Prilosec for Jeff, kids Ibuprofen, band-aids, and a thermometer.  The thermometer was the most expensive item!  I managed to communicate through lots of hand gestures and my english/spanish pocket dictionary that I needed Violet’s glasses fixed.  I’m pretty sure they are being sent away to be soldered and will be 15 euros when they return in a week.  I managed to get light bulbs for the kids night lights and an electrical splitter and the hardware store shopkeeper told me he was excited when I come in because (well…you know, wink, wink).  Yeah, I’m hilarious huh?  Because he likes trying out his English with me.  And the VERY BEST PART!!!  There was reliable internet at Jeff’s school and I could update photos, post to my blog, order slippers from Amazon.es (which is how I found out I had my address wrong), purchase a book on Amazon Kindle, order AND download “Learn in your Car Spanish” and CALL MY MOM using Viber!  We still haven’t managed to get internet at home….but I feel we are getting closer (now that I have my address correct!)

“Pisses Day by Day”

Clara only began speaking the English language at most 2 years ago.  And truthfully she is still quite hard to understand so I´m not sure it really phases her much that she is attending school where no one (ok, very few) people speak English.  She was SO excited to be heading off for school!  No tears or sadness, just smiles and waves.  Yesterday, she ran into a boy in her class on the way to school and he wanted to hold her hand.  It was cute and they proceeded off to school hand and hand with me trailing far behind with the other two.  When they got to the gate the boy´s mom suggested that Clara might want to say good-bye to me.  Otherwise, she´d have just gone right in without looking back.  She came back that day with a braclet and pronounced that it was from her boyfriend.

Amelia was pretty hesitant at first.  And I don´t blame her.  She was being encircled by students speaking to her in Spanish wanting to know where she was from, what was her name, how old she was.  I watched her through the school yard gate and at one point she just covered her ears with her hands and closed her eyes.  Yeah, my heart was breaking.  But the bell rang and off she went into the classroom and out she came at lunch pick-up smiling and saying how everyone wanted to know about her and HOW big the group of kids circling around her was.  In the days since she has commented how “all day, everyday school” isn´t so bad.  So that´s positive.

Violet had tears and was shy.  And even now she cries and tries to hold onto me so I don´t leave.  But when pick-up comes she tells me with a smiling face how her day went and what she enjoyed.  The first day she told me all about how she had her own desk and how she was friends with everyone in her class, except the one boy who has “some problems following directions and getting along.”  Ah – yes, there is always at least one.

I had a meeting with Clara´s teacher to go over the rules and recommendations for the class.  I also had Amelia¨s teacher give me a list of things she needs and Amelia has come home and told us what everyone else has.  Which does include a spinning top, the toy she purchased on her own from the China shop, and is very popular among the kids.  I haven´t heard much from Violet`s teacher about what she may need.  But Violet did tell me this morning she needs a towel, soap, and spray in a bag for gym class.  When gym class is, I have no idea.  All of these documents are given to me in Spanish.  I try to translate with my little english/spanish dictionary but some of it makes no sense.  Now that I know some shopkeepers that speak English, I take my list there to get the supplies.  The paperwork I received from Clara´s teacher was the most descriptive and they even had a copy in English!  As always there are some parts that get lost in translation or maybe not as much lost in translation but rather the choice of words is hilarious.  Here is one of bullet points for Clara´s paperwork:

“Nobody is taking care of the others when the teacher is changing a child.  So, if a child pisses day by day, we will call the parents so that they come to school for changing him/her.”

I about died laughing.  Luckily, I was not in the classroom as I read this.  But Amelia really wanted to know why I was laughing so hard.  I tried to explain; but I think it was lost in translation.

Being that we´ve not been in public school I really have no idea how common these things are to have or what kids are expected to bring or not bring and will be provided for them.  As I said before, the purchasing of the books and their cost was a BIG surprise.  It would have been nearly $600 U.S. for all three kids plus the additional material fee´s paid to the classroom.  The school does have a textbook assistance program and we were lucky enough to have the school decide to provide all the books for our kids.   Clara needed a smock to wear with her name on it and a ribbon for hanging it; which I finally got yesterday but you remember how each success creates two other problems?  Point proven.  She also has to have $35 euros and two passport pictures.  Amelia needs a tracksuit, trainers, soap and a towel for gym.  I´m not sure I can visit 1983 to get her a tracksuit.  Shorts and a t-shirt will have to suffice.  A “flute” and $7 euros for music class.  The flute is a recorder.  Four notebooks, three pens (black, blue, red), pencils (which by the way have no erasers here), a see-through folder type thing, ruler, eraser and $8 euro for classroom supplies.  Like I said, I have no list for Violet but have heard there is a classroom supply fee.

Yes, getting a smock should be easy.  I was told the store to purchase it at.  Which after three attempts the store was open.  I don´t think I mentioned that most stores here open from 10am – 2pm, close and then reopen from 5:30 or 6pm to 8-10pm.  As is standard and expected by now, no one there spoke English.  I think I did a fairly good job of asking for what I needed and the shopkeep was very friendly.  I browsed as well.  And then it was time to pay.  And I wanted to use my credit card.  Which is not the norm here in this little town but I also can´t just keep paying cash either.  The shopkeeper had an issue with the machine.  She told me about it in Spanish.  I smiled and shrugged.  Offered to pay in cash.  She shoke her head and told me about the problem with the “paper”.  I assumed she was telling me the transaction when through but she was out of paper to print a receipt for me.  Okay, fine.  But then she tries the machine again and again.  I pull out my dictionary to try to ask “Paid?”  No go.  I eventually figure out that I do indeed need to pay in cash, so I do so and she gives me the little paper that my dictionary translates into “locked.”  Now, I assume my account has been locked.  Maybe I forgot to tell the credit card company that I moved to Spain.  oops.  I go about my day, figuring I will call the credt card company with Jeff´s new cell phone later.  Meanwhile, the shopkeeper has decided maybe the transaction DID go through and has called Jeff´s school (since it´s a small town and everyone now knows the American is working at the school).  To which she speaks with the front office, who then tells Hema (my spelling not hers) who then tells Maria Hose who is working with Jeff that there was a problem with a purchase I had made in town.  I don´t find out about all this until I meet Jeff after school.  And then I try to call the credit card company but of course I can´t.  I either don´t know how to call internationally or there is a problem with the “collect call” number on the back of the card.  And I can´t look it up on the internet….because I HAVE NO INTERNET!!!

All and all the kids seem to be doing fine in school.  Violet is learning her letters — while at home when we do our American homework she is learning to read, subtract and add.  I have no idea what Clara does during the day.  She did have music yesterday which she thought was great.  And she´s rode some bicycles down a hill and had a fire drill.  Amelia just tells me they had gym…again!  Then they went for a walk outside to look at trees and then they just sit in the class.  I asked her if they did math.  She said she wasn´t sure.  Hhmm….numbers are numbers?!?  The school did start pulling Violet & Amelia out for personalized Spanish lessons.  I guess that would be considered special services in the U.S.

Stubborn 3rd born

My, my is Clara a stubborn child!  For 20 minutes this morning she walked around with her pants around her ankles, crying and saying “mommy, mommy!”.  She’s 2.5 and we pretty much do everything for her and she likes it this way.  Somehow, okay not “somehow” but because she is the baby of the family and didn’t have a pregnant mom or newborn sibling to compete with it has slipped our minds to require her to do a few things for herself.  Like learning how to pull up her own pants or taking her own shoes off when she comes in the door.  After helping her get her feet in her pants this morning, I asked her to pull them up.  She just looked at me and said “Mommy!”  When I tried to show her by grabbing her hands to pull them up she refused to let her hands touch the waist of her pants, started crying and screaming “mommy!”  This continued to 20 minutes!  Yes, 20 minutes she walked around with her pants around her ankles while I refused to pull up her pants for her and she refused to even touch the waistband.  Finally (after being told she was going back to bed), she pulled them up and I gave her a high five.  She was not impressed.  This evening, she refused to take off her own shoes.  I know full well she can do it because she takes them off in the car and whenever she is in a shopping cart.  But refuse she did.  At one point, Violet bent down to take them off for her but we wouldn’t allow it (She not only gets us to do things for her but also her sisters).  She rolled on the floor, stiff armed us if we tried to guide her and generally threw a fit while yelling “Mommy!”.  Not until threat of going to bed did she begrudgingly take her shoes off.  Again, we high fived her.  And guess what, she still wasn’t impressed.

Cookie time!

Amelia is once again selling girl scout cookies!  So far she has about 55 boxes of her 80 goal.  Amelia has done all the selling, I have not taken her form to work or asked on her behalf.  She even wrote the email to folks asking if they wanted to buy a box!  I am also the cookie mom again this year.  So far, it’s going alright hopefully it will continue to do so.  This year, I am not bringing all the cookies to my house to sort as there are 17 girls in the troop and at this point I’m not even sure how I’ll transport all the cookies!

Hiking Boots

We have upgraded all the girls from hiking in rain boots to having ACTUAL hiking boots.  Which purchasing hiking boots for little girls and not spending more than $30 each was a bit difficult but I’ve managed to find a pair for everyone (the most expensive being $25).  Violet wanted girl colors but I had to explain that they simply don’t make little girls hiking boots..and they don’t!  Clara’s pair aren’t as hevy duty but I figure her feet are growing the fastest so I’ll have to replace her’s soon anyhow.  Since we have been hiking nearly every weekend and going about a mile and a half to two miles it seemed only appropriate to get them some hiking boots. 


Amelia’s hiking boots!  She was so excited!

Found a new trail near our house.  More hills though and the girls tired more quickly.

Bathroom Remodel

Back in September, I posted about our bathroom remodel.  I wrote how the toilet worked now but the vanity still needed to be placed along with the mirror.  I’m happy to report that 4 MONTHS after the post the bathroom is ACTUALLY finished!  Yeah!  Sometime in August it came “undone” and now it’s finished.  One of the things holding Jeff up was that he really didn’t like the the brown and white stripe’s I had painted and was unhappy about the construction of the fairly inexpensive vanity we purchased.  Of course the longer the vanity sat in our house, the more we owned it.  There was no taking it back.  Combine the vanity with crappy paint colors and he was less than enthusiastic about finishing the bathroom.  I decided I’d repaint the white stripes with a chocolate brown to match the stripe in the girls room then we’d have dark brown and light brown stripes.  Only this looked even worse!  So I was sent off to the store to look through some magazines and come back with some paint samples.  I spent nearly two hours at Lowe’s and Home Depot but I came back with some paint colors.  After two hours, I was a little tired of looking at paint colors so I choose a booklet titled “red-toned neutrals” and decided that I was picking from this brochure as the vanity has red-toned wood. And the colors that I choose surprised me!  But no matter how odd it seemed the colors really pulled the bathroom together. 

Here’s what the walls looked like in August when I painted the brown/white stripes.  Nice, crisp lines but pretty bland overall.



Here are the paint samples that I came home with.  An ivory, a shade of brown and a purple color.

Now, I really debating bringing the purple home.  It seemed like a crazy choice especially since when we bought our house the entire master bedroom was a deep purple color that I hated but lived with for much longer than I cared to — maybe three years??.  Here’s the master bedroom color that I hated:

So I thought Jeff might say “hell NO!” when I came home with a purple in my paint sample.  But seriously, it was in the red-toned neutral’s booklet and when I held it up against the vanity it looked really good.  So I painted the bathroom….again….

We debated which wall to paint purple as the rest would be a slightly different (darker) shade of the same brown in the rest of the house.  I decided to go for it and paint the main wall purple.  Who would think that a purple and brown would go together.  But it looked good and Jeff finished up the vanity in a week.  I am pleased to have the girls out of our bathroom and have the bathroom completed.  We need a few new accessories to add and I need to paint the white grout around the vanity but it looks so much nicer!

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