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Mud pies and hoping my kids stay young awhile longer

I will be sad when my kids no longer play for hours in the mud, trees and rocks.  I so enjoy sitting near as the use their imaginations to create out of nature.

Today, they worked to weave mats while we sat in the shadow of ruins and watched by cows.

The forest around where we live here in Spain may be the best part of living here.  Now, I know I there are lots of parks and green spaces in Washington.  And we take advantage of those as well.  But, here there’s not also the YMCA or the pool or the beach or the playgrounds or play dates to also occupy our time.

Over the last few weekends we have gone exploring, settled in and had a picnic in the woods.  And almost always, we see very few other people.

We visited a National Park one weekend for an amazing hike.  Sierra de Guadarrama Parque Nacional.  We went 5 miles round trip at an elevation of 6,600 ft.

We’ve been to forest on both sides of the river – although we’re always sharing the space with a cow or two.

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Craving Bacon and mourning cheap wine

With little over 30 days until we head home from our exchange year in Spain I have some things I will miss here in Spain and some things I am looking forward to upon our arrival.

Which should I start with?  Spain or Home?

Let’s start with what I am looking forward to upon returning.

Friends!  Specifically sitting poolside or around a campfire or around a table playing euchre but always with a cold Margarita in hand.  A homemade cilantro Margarita would be the bee’s knees.

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Grilling!  Oh how I have missed my grill.  I have been dreaming of grilling pizza on my pizza stone.  Kabobs! Grilled Kale.  Grilled baby bok choy.  Grilled Salmon.  It doesn’t even have to MY grill.  A charcoal grill at the park will suite me just as well.

– Bacon! Just a little slice with avocado and tomato on a crescent roll.  A BLT. An egg sandwich with bacon.  Do I even need to say more?

the Library! With all those books…in ENGLISH!  I’ve tried reading on my computer and on the kids tablet but it’s not the same.  I want to feel the pages in my fingers, I want to relax in bed without the glow of a screen.

Clothes shopping! I’ll admit to having too many clothes; especially ones that don’t compliment me or make me feel like a million bucks but after wearing the same two weeks worth of clothes for the last 10 months I’m ready to shop for clothes that look good and feel good.

My own bed! Soft sheets (I’m buying one new set) and my firm queen-sized mattress.  Oh, how have I miss you!  The rough, hand-me down sheets on a squishy, sagging double bed just hasn’t cut it.

a Drug store!  The pharmacists here are helpful and friendly but EVERYTHING is behind the counter.  I have to ask for everything from fiber pills to ibuprofen to decongestants to UTI medications to pregnancy tests.  I’m over having the two pharmacists in this small town know exactly what is wrong with my family or myself.

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– Possibilities!  Time away from our usual routines and life have me excited about the possibilities of what is to come when we return.  The experience of turning our world upside down has me willing to take risks and allow opportunities to unfold themselves.  Please let me keep this feeling when we return!

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So what will I miss from our life in Spain?

Outdoor Seating!  I absolutely LOVE the plaza’s in Spain.  It’s not only outdoor seating at restaurants but the common gathering space for people to come to together and enjoy the outdoors (and most likely friends, but since i have none here I’ll just assume this is a perk).

Seville

Seville

Jamon! The trade-off to bacon is Jamon.  Thin, freshly sliced is the bee’s knee’s.  Jamon is a dried and cured Spanish ham.  (Here it is hanging on the walls of this shop)

Madrid

Madrid

Walking!   I have really enjoyed being able to walk to the grocery store, school and all around town.  I will miss the ability to literally run downstairs and buy that missing grocery item.  The time spent together walking with my kids to and from school has been nice (most days; not all).

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Cheap food & alcohol!  Oh, how I am dreading the sticker shock of my first grocery trip in the U.S.  I’ve blogged about food prices before but last week we made homemade, fresh-squeezed lemonade and a bag of lemons cost 1.19 euros.  I’ve found great wines for 1.76 euros and a fifth of vodka is around 9 euro’s.

Cheap medications!  I haven’t kept track of every medication like I have with the food and alcohol but I can buy a 30 day supply of name-brand Concerta over-the-counter for 33 euros.  The ibuprofen comes in 600mg and is around 3 euors.  Cough syrup around 4 euros.

No artificial food dyes!  I try to avoid them in the states.  I know I am using my dollars as votes when I buy non-dye food but I really do like knowing I don’t have to worry that my yogurt has food dye.  Yes, the m&m’s taste different but it’s not like I stopped eating them.

Six-speed manual, diesel  cars with hill assist!  While I have loved the walk-ability of our town, I have felt free and lightweight every time I’ve rented a car while here.  ALL the cars here are manual transmissions and most have been six-speed.  (One lone, Ford had no hill-assist and was a 5-speed).  I like not hearing the car whine at 75 mph and I LOVE not rolling into the person behind me.

Uninterrupted family time!  We have lived a fairly simple life here.  We spend the winter months hibernating together.   We watched maybe too much Netflix but we made it through several interesting series and educational documentaries.  The girls and I also learned how to crochet over the winter months.  While we have a few activities we committed to, we have mostly been free to make our own schedule free of busy work-life-school schedules.

Alumencar, Granada

Alumencar, Granada

 

Schooling this past year

While homeschooling in the U.S., I’d often have people comment how how they don’t know how I do it.  In reality, I couldn’t imagine how they did it every day.

Getting up every morning, going through the same routine everyday to get their kids to school by 8am or 9am and then trying to get homework done, extracurricular activities accomplished, family dinner, kids in bed and still have time to spend their spouse.

And I do hate the morning routine of getting the girls to school here in Spain. And, their school doesn’t even start until 9:30am!  A lot has to do with us never establishing a solid routine – in the states I would have created a laminated checklist and bought a timer clock.

Here, I have been repeating the same directions every morning for the last 8 months.

I’m tired of it.  It often ends in yelling.

I get frustrated.  Why, is it not clear that breakfast is not the time to play hide & seek?

It breaks my heart when they beg me to stay home for the day.  It breaks my heart when they ask “can’t I just do my schoolwork with you?” I hate having to decide if they are too sick to go to school for the day.

I hate that my now five-year old groans when I tell her it’s a school day.  School days at our homeschooling center was something that was never groaned at.  In fact, if one of us was too sick, they groaned that they had to miss.

Sending the girls to public school here in Spain was certainly the right thing to do.  They could have never learned the language as quickly from taking classes in the US or even attending a Spanish Immersion program.

October has come SO far in understanding and speaking the language.

Scarlett has made a best friend that she adores.

Lavender understands and responds in Spanish but rarely lets on that she can speak any.

They all have the experience of going almost anywhere in town and knowing other adults and/or children.  The small town has been a very nice change of pace for them.

I would have been even more isolated than I already am if I had tried homeschooling them here as well.

And there are not the educational opportunities here for us to access as in the Seattle area.

For one, we have no car and two, they would all be in Spanish.  No science center workshops or zoo naturalist programs for us.  No large craft store for us to get supplies to make projects.  No wonderful library to check out boat loads of physical books from.  (Digital loans from the King County Library have been great!)

Scarlett went to an overnight camp in November and a burros ride (last week) with her class though!  They participated in a carnival parade through town.  All things we would not have done homeschooling.

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I’ll admit, I expect them to be behind their peers in the States in regards to their  English writing and mathematics.  Lavender can count better in Spanish than English and I haven’t even tried to teach her to read in English yet!  October seems to have lost the mental math gains she had from her Singapore Math curriculum and now only uses math equations.

I hope they will be ahead in their ability to try new experiences, having faith in their ability to face unknown and their overall belief in themselves.  I mean, if you can walk into a place where you don’t know the language, the routines or anyone else …. you can do anything!

But I really enjoyed homeschooling the girls.  It wasn’t easy but I preferred it to any job I had ever had.  I miss it.

I really miss learning with my kids on a daily basis.  I miss teaching them.   I miss the connection we established.  I miss having fun ways to interact with them – read alouds, craft projects, schooling projects, documentaries, science centers, museums, etc.

I still have the same “business” to attend to with them.  Dressing, feeding, washing, cleaning, etc. but now I have less time to accomplish these in.  It leaves little room for more fun activities like playing a game, going for a longer walk or long read-alouds.

But most of all, I miss the rhythm we had established.  I am less connected to my kids now.  And I don’t like it.

Right now, for me, I feel like I have too few positive, fun interactions with my kids.

I know that a big part of this is me and the rhythm I’ve established.  I got used to having a quiet home and retreating into my own little computer generated world.  Breaking free into a noisy, messy household is difficult.  Life here has been difficult for me.

When I am able to get ahead of feeding and cleaning and we can spend most of the lunch siesta reading together or creating together…I feel great.  I rented a car one weekend and we went on an amazing hike together!

I’ve become unaccustomed to the whining and bickering of the kids.  Maybe they just got older and into a new phase of sibling rivalry.  Maybe, they are no longer in the rhythm of spending the entire day interacting together.

Regardless, the arguing and bickering is driving me completely bonkers!

And maybe, they got accustomed to needing to be loud to be heard in their classrooms.  Maybe, they got accustomed to the norm of questioning the directions of their teachers or the negotiating every request with them.

Maybe, they got accustomed to having more children than adults to be influenced by (the numbers are pretty close in a homeschooling center!)

One of the biggest reasons to my ever wanting to homeschool was that I wanted more time for our family to spend together; for us not to be splinted out by age into our own little worlds.  For us to build strong relationships within our family unit.

Coming here and not having them attend the public school would have been a mistake.  But I miss homeschooling.

I’m not sure what the fall will hold for us when we return.  There is a strong possibility (and a strong hope) that October will get into the public Spanish Immersion school back in the states. There is also the possibility that some the girls will be homeschooled and others not.

And while I am concerned that my feeling of disconnectedness will continue, I have faith that by being active, being involved and being connected  that my concerns will not be realized.

We will resume going to science centers, museums, libraries and parks regardless of the kids schooling.   And with the girls getting older, we will have even more opportunities to participate in activities as a family.

I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

 

 

 

Active! Involved! Connected!

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Since writing one of my favorite blog posts, Five Months and New Year back in January, I have spent a lot of time trying to work toward making being active, being involved and being connected my focus.

So how I am I doing?

1. Be Active

It took me until April to really get active.  The winter was cold, we were under prepared and we lived in cold stone house.  But when I finally did get active in an intentional way, I made it the number 1 priority for the month.

I exercised a total of 21 hours for the month of April.  I ran, I resumed tennis lessons and I started Jillian Michaels 30 day shred program.  I am not a fan of working out at home or even to a video but I was determined.

I decided I would work out twice a day.  And I succeeded many days of the week!

I complete one 20 minute video of the 30 day shred program then go running or wait until later in the day and do a different workout video.

For the month of May, I am continuing to workout with twice a day workouts but I am also going to eat more fruits and vegetables and cut out alcohol while I’m at home.  No more wine with lunch….and dinner…and before bed.

Since I have no full-length mirror or even a mirror that I can see below my shoulders.  AND no scale, I am relying on photo’s.  I’ll post before and after photo’s in the future.

2. Be Involved

I have not been involved in my community here or even the kid’s school community here.  I’m more of a Spanish hermit than a social butterfly.

What I have been working on is completing various Girl Scout training’s so that when I return I can be more involved with the Girl Scouts.  I’ve taken the base classes to become a troop leader and am continuing to take online training’s to be able to take a more active role.

I would like all of my  girls and myself to have a richer experience with the Girl Scouts.   I would like to find a community of people to be involved with.

I will be volunteering for the week-long Girl Scout day camp this summer.  Which will be an entirely new experience for me.  It will also jump start me connecting to a new community and being involved.

3. Be Connected

Since I first made this a priority it never occurred to me that this could be construed as being electronically connected.  While it certainly doesn’t exclude using electronic means to be connected, I had more personal connections in mind.

I have tried to reach out over the Atlantic by sending postcards and personal emails.  I need to get a few more postcards out in the coming weeks.

I sent several dozen “Thinking of You” cards and was overjoyed when responses came back to me.

I want to reconnect with friends that I’ve fallen out of contact with since motherhood took center stage then homeschooling and working an opposite schedule to what it felt like nearly every other person.

I want to strengthen connections with some friends that have only been acquaintances or coworkers for much too long.

I want to create new connections through volunteering.  (See above)

I want to create new connections for both myself and my husband through a mutually fun family activity, preferably an active pursuit.  I’ve seen the connections built by my good friend through roller derby and I want those types of connections.  Connections not based solely on our children being the same age.  I’m not going to be joining roller derby anytime soon though!  Actually, never.  Softball? Running? Amateur Adventure races?  Kickball?

Be Active. Be Involved. Be Connected.

It is my hope that by focusing on these three priorities I will have a happier and more fulfilled year.  It is my hope that by having a focus, upcoming decisions will be less complicated and more satisfying.

It’s been a long time since I’ve verbalized a focus for the year.  Do you create a word or a focus for your year?

 

 

On Appreciating what we have

I understand the desire to WANT things.  I “window shop” online for clothes and bathing suits when I’m bored or when I’m longing for something new.

I rarely make a purchase.

And I am excited to get back and buy everyone (including myself) new socks and underwear.  I picture myself sitting poolside in a new bathing suit.  I have several on my “wish list.”

I am looking forward to thrift shopping for new clothes for myself.  For everyone, really.  We are stepping back and moving away from new; second-hand is better in so many ways.

I don’t feel like my anticipation or my “window shopping” has or is consuming me.  And I recognize the folly in wanting versus needing.  This past year has been about fulfilling needs each person has in regards to clothes or shoes.  Not wants.

The kids clothes have holes I have attempted to sew.  Shoes have holes in them (a few new ones have been purchased).   I can’t tell you about the state of our “unmentionables”.

I basically packed each person to have two weeks worth of clothes.  Plus, some warm weather and cool weather clothes.  Wearing the same two weeks worth of clothes for the entire school year has taken its toll on the clothes we brought with us.

Few items will make the return trip.

We brought Lego’s for the kids and they each brought one quart-sized ziplock bag of miscellaneous toys. This has been a stark contrast to the overwhelming number of toys they had in Washington.

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

They’ve made a doll house from a cardboard box.  Spent days playing with window clings.  Created with recycling materials.  Drawn magical landscapes on paper for their trading-card magnets.

It’s has been wonderful.

Holidays have also been sparse in terms of gifts and in fulfilling wants.  The Easter Bunny and Santa brought the few toys they have gotten while here in Spain.  We have fulfilled the needs and provided experiences.  Santa brought the playdough.

But as we near the end of living abroad experience, we each are suffering from homesickness.  I have great empathy for the kids.  I understand.  I’m homesick as well.  I would love to go to Costco or Target and get everything I need (want??) in one place.

Last week, the kids were feeling down.  They were tired of the toys they had.  And I empathized.

I suggested “window shopping” at toysrus.es for Lego’s.  I suggested them making a wish list.  I thought it would fill the homesickness/longing void as it had for me.

Except they are children.  Everything to them is a need, not a want.  They weren’t able to be satisfied with “window shopping” as I had been.

Needless to say one thing led to another and pennies were being counted and new Lego’s were on their way.  I had hoped a few new sets of Lego’s would fill the gap between now and when we leave in less than 60 days.

It hasn’t.  It’s been the exact opposite.

Fulfilling a few wants has fueled more wants.

And while I so enjoy watching their happy faces at getting a new package and how I love watching them spend hours focused at putting Lego’s together (which I firmly believe is a life skill for when they have to put together their IKEA furniture), I am sorry I ever let them “window shop.”

Everyday now is counting money, asking which stores in town are open and sell toys (few) and negotiating with me on purchasing more Lego’s online.

We’ve worked so hard to emphasize living with what we have.  Living with what we need.  Living to have experiences.

And we’ve lived with holes in our underwear, holes in our shoes and holes in our pants.  I’ve lived with 5 plates, 5 bowls, 3 pans and no microwave.  I’ve lived with no phoning it in to “Papa Johns” when I couldn’t think or contemplate yet another meal to make.

We’ve survived the winter, wearing nearly every piece of clothing each of us owned.  We survived (and thrived) cuddling together watching Netflix and learning to crochet over cold winter months.

Yet, in those few minutes of weakness (and empathy) that I suggested my children “window shop” I seem to have unraveled the entire fabric we’ve created over this last year.

The two hours of window shopping, countless hours anticipating their package and the four hours of assembling their new Lego’s wasn’t worth the erosion of the experience/needs based values we had worked so hard to build upon this last year.

Somehow, I thought there would be a happier ending.  Appreciating new toys.  Appreciating the anticipation and savoring the new toys.

After so many months with living with what we had, I expected less want and more appreciation on receiving new toys.

Lesson learned.

Horseback Riding

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

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

This time, I went for the trail ride with October.  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 October 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!

Scarlett & Lavender 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 October & Lavender’s birthday with a return trip!

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Poisonous Caterpillars????

As every Spanish child knows, don’t even think about handling the hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth ( procesionarias in Spanish).

Quoted from The Grapevine Magazine.

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But my children aren’t Spanish children.  We didn’t know to avoid them.

Not until Lavender took the little cute caterpillar in hand to show her friend.

To which the mother came quickly over to us, told us to put the caterpillars down and immediately go wash our hands (all in Spanish but I got the basic idea).  When Lavender didn’t immediately put the caterpillar down, the mother shook it from her hand.

I said thank-you and off we went home to wash our hands.  October commented on how embarrassing that was and how that mom shouldn’t have shook Lavender’s hand.  I didn’t even notice that part.

Embarrassing, I agree.

Back home in the states, the girls routinely picked up tent caterpillars and collected them while we were at the park. They make little “homes” for them. They pet them.  They let them crawl on their shirt and on their hands.

And since those in the states are considered a nuisance, I don’t give it much thought if the caterpillar finds his final resting place in the “home” my kids have created for them.

BUT, we have learned our lesson.  You should not pick up random bugs or caterpillars you find in the forest or on the sidewalk.  At least not in Spain.

It was on Wednesday as we were walking home from school, I saw a string of caterpillars traveling butt to nose along the sidewalk.  I pointed them out to the girls to have a look.

They of course wanted to move them from the sidewalk so they wouldn’t get stepped on.  We stopped and I let them move the caterpillars.  All ten of them.  October put one on Lavender’s shirt.  Scarlett let one crawl all around her hand.  The caterpillars would curl into a ball, fall to the ground and the girls would pick them back up.

It was at this point that Lavender picked one up to show her friend and the mother told us not to and wash our hands immediately.  October & I were embarrassed.  Scarlett wanted to know why we shouldn’t touch them.

Of course, I didn’t know.  And like with anything you don’t know – I googled it!

The results were shocking and concerning.

I started to freak out!

Because here are the headlines that popped up when I googled “caterpillars in spain”:

  • DANGEROUS SPANISH WILDLIFE
  • DANGER!
  • EDUCATIONAL AND WARNING VIDEO
  • CATERPILLARS CAN KILL YOU
  • ALERT OVER POISONOUS PINE CATERPILLAR SEASON
  • DOGS AND KILLER PROCESSIONARY CATERPILLARS
  • DEVSTATED DOG OWNER WARNS OF LETHAL EFFECTS

I took the girls back to the bathroom and scrubbed their hands with a kitchen sponge.  I changed their clothes.  I gave each of them Benadryl.

And I went back to searching the internet for symptoms and treatments not just warnings.  Which there were a lot of.  The lack of information on what to do if you should touch them was alarming.

The reactions in humans of touching the caterpillars or inhaling their hairs ranged from an itchy rash that lasted up to 3 weeks to anaphylactic shock.

I could feel my own tongue, eyes and hands swelling.  I popped a benedryl myself; even though I did not touch them.  I was near them!  I held Scarlett’s hand!

These websites were warning folks to be careful of even standing under pine trees between February and April. They recommended always carrying an anti-histamine with you in the forest.

My kids were playing with them!

I know my swelling hands and eyes were psychological but I was freaking out.  I took a shower and stopped scouring the internet.  (The last story I read was of the toddler that died after one fell in his mouth while sleeping under a pine tree).

We have been picnicing in the forest; under pine trees!!!

We made the girls stay in the living room with us and watch movies.  We didn’t take them back to school.  They didn’t go to gymnastics (it’s further away from urgent care).  We stayed on the couches together until bedtime.

Jeff & I got up throughout the night to make sure they were okay.

October ended up with some itchy, irritated hands and Scarlett has a small rash on her cheeks, neck and shoulders (both her neck and shoulder were covered by her clothing) that is slightly itchy.  Lavender is fine.

My adrenaline has returned to normal; although I feel like an idiot.

I’m grateful to the mother who came to tell us.  We would have likely stayed playing with the caterpillars and I would have never given them Benadryl or been on alert for any reactions.

I’m glad we were in town and not out in the forest where no one would have seen us playing with them.

In a twist of irony, the photo’s at the top of this post were taken by Jeff nearly a week before this incident occurred.  He had found these processionary caterpillars in the forest while walking with Lavender.  He didn’t let her touch them – he thought their behavior odd.  He meant to tell me about them and look them up himself.  Instead, we spent the day cuddled up with our kids; on high alert to any sign that we should rush them into urgent care.

Processionary Caterpillar Rash

 

 

 

 

 

Eating in San Sebastian, Spain

I wasn’t looking forward to going to San Sebastian over our Easter break.  I’ll admit it.  We’ve been to lots of gorgeous, interesting and historical cities.  I’ve seen castles, monuments, tombs, cathedrals, roman ruins, mosques, palaces, and museums.

I’ve felt the heat of car engines as they pass along narrow, stone-cobbled streets while I press myself and the kids flat against the nearest wall.  I’ve driven the very same roads.

And I’ve enjoyed seeing all of it.

Except maybe now, I was feeling a little done with the constant on-the-go of our vacations and instead feeling the real need to relax, enjoy some nature and just be still.

If Jeff had not been so excited about San Sebastian, I would have chosen a beach along the Mediterranean.  We would have seen a town or two but another city would not have been on the itinerary.

Which would have been a real loss.  It was a culinary delight!

The food of San Sebastian was amazing!

San Sebastian Food Collage

I had been saving our food budget dollars since December in anticipation of this trip.  We watched Anthony Bourdain’s travels to San Sebastian and Spain on Netflix.  I mapped out great Pinxto Bars in Lonely Planet.

But truthfully, I didn’t expect the sheer mass of food at every Pinxto bar we entered.

I didn’t expect to have the same experience as I saw on Netflix or read in Lonely Planet.

I’ve been disappointed by the food in so many other places, I really wasn’t prepared to actually experience of the full bar line-up of food in San Sebastian.

Pinxtos

Bar Nagusia

By and far our favorite Pixto bar was Zeruko.  It had great tasting and innovative food.  We found this at the end of second day and it was hard to leave.  It also ruined us to other places.  THIS place was THAT good!

The tomato looking appetizers actually were stuffed with a tuna-type filling.

San Sebastian Zeruko

Zeruko

Here are the places we ate or drank at:

  • Zeruko – See the collage above.  AMAZING food!
  •  Bar Borda Berri – We had Veal cheek and pig’s ear.
  • Astelena – A fried, pistachio encrusted Vegemite pintxo was our favorite.
  • Bar Nagusia – October loved her a fried ham pintxo.
  • Bar Goiz-Argi – The stuffed pepper was great!
  • Sirimiri Atari Akademy – Wonderful, fresh pintxo’s.
  • Casa Alcalde – I had octopus here.
  • Jatetxea – October had to have a pinxto in an especially large shell.
  • Museo del Whisky – Jeff had a wonderful (two wonderful) Old Fashions’

Bar Borda Berri

Bar Nagusia

Bar Goiz-Argi

Casa Alcalde

Whiskey Bar

Sirimiri Akademy

Jatetxea October

 

 

These shoes are made for walking…

And that’s, just what we’ll do.  But instead of walking all over you, we are walking on rough roads.  And walking a lot.  Since we’ve been here the kids have worn out or grown out of several pair of shoes that were new in September.

And I have to admit, I’m pretty excited myself to have a new pair shoes on the way.

The back-to-school budget for shoes will be larger than normal this year!

Worn shoes night cobblestone street

Living Abroad – My Review

The experience of living abroad has been a positive experience.  One that I would and hopefully will seek out again.

One that I believe has been great for my children.

When I speak with people here I am often asked if we had been placed in a big city like Madrid rather than a small, rural community if I thought my exchange program experience would have been better.

Some facets of daily life certainly would have been an improvement for me but those same facets would have been a detriment to my kids Spanish experience.

October Fresh Baked Bread

It was a big change for all us coming here.  For me, I went from homeschooling three kids all day and then leaving for work in the evenings.  I had play dates, field trips, Girl Scouts, school classes, exercise classes and a community of friends that filled my day.

I also had tasty take-out, a fully stocked big chain store, and a car we had fondly named “Sally”.  I do miss Sally.

Being here in a small town without a job or homeschooling, field trips, classes and kids to fill my day was a BIG transition.

A very lonely experience.  An experience that would have most likely been vastly different if I was in a big city.

Sshhh……I think maybe I like being in a small community!!

I’ve experienced life here.  And I can imagine life here….with a car and language acquisition.

Buitrago Collage

Last summer when we could only imagine our life abroad, I looked forward to walking more and eating more fresh foods.  And these two experiences alone have been so positive it will influence where I will choose to live in the future.

I have never eaten as healthy as I have here.  There are lots of fresh food options that are inexpensive in comparison to the U.S.  Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, seafood and bread are all readily available.

There is also not food coloring additives nor nearly the number of junk food items in the store.

When I want a chocolate fix; a GOOD chocolate fix; I am forced to make my own chocolate chip cookies.

The inexpensive wine and booze are another story!

Back home the girls couldn’t go into a store on their own; let alone walk there on their own.  Here the girls have had the opportunity to go into stores on their own to make purchases.  We have sent them to get cilantro, bread, orange juice, etc.

They absolutely LOVE the opportunity and freedom to go to the store themselves.  (I remember going around the block to buy cigarette’s for my Grandma when I was a kid!  She’s send me with a note and cash and back I’d come with her goods!)

This would NEVER happen if we were in a big city.

I feel safe letting them go on their own.  Plus, from our apartment I can spy on them most of the time they are gone and I know that the store owners know who they are.

Ali's Fruit market

Scarlett's Cilantro

Another freedom that will be revoked when we return to the states is their ability to stay home alone.  Yes, I said it.  Sometimes we leave the kids at home watching a movie or playing Lego’s while we go grocery shopping or **GASP** out for a drink!

Grocery shopping, having a drink with friends or by ourselves while our kids are at home is a very new experience for us.  It’s a little bit of wonderful!

I will disclose that when we do have a drink out, the kids know where we are and even will run between our home and the bar to come check in with us.  There are two bars very close.  Neither require a street crossing.

You, yes you, in the states….CAN YOU IMAGINE!!??!!??

Jeff Jo at bar

In the states, the girls attended a homeschool program that was outside of our local district.  Still close, but not so much that we would often run into families we knew while walking around town, at the library or out on a hike.

We had begun to build a community with the Coal Creek YMCA.  We would run into other families from the Y in all sorts of places while we were out and about.  But, we also had begun to recognize those from my work or the Issaquah library or Parks & Rec classes.

But because the girls did not attend their neighborhood school we weren’t recognized as we walked around the neighborhood.  And to be honest, we lived in a large area.  There are 3 “neighborhood” schools within two miles of our house.

Here, we are well known in town.  The girls often have friends run over to them to say “hi” while we are walking to the grocery store or out for a stroll.  I think the sense of community they are experiencing here is a welcome change for them.

Admittedly, it can be odd as well.

Participating in celebrations on a smaller scale has been nice as well.  The girls Carnival celebration went through the streets and the Three Kings Festival was a manageable crowd.

The outdoors is the piece I appreciate the most being here in a small, rural town.  When the weather has been nice, I often go for a run after dropping the kids off at school.  There is beautiful scenery and a seemingly unending forest.

It feels so relaxing.

For the kids, the forest has been a great place to play and explore.  We have carved our own little spot in the forest and call it the fort.  The girls have tried to make a fort here and I’ve gathered rocks to weight lift with.

It’s really a nice quiet place in the forest.  The walk there is 20 minutes and we rarely see other people out there either.

Natural Area Buitrago Collage

 

Outside of our town, I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel.  To see new places and historic places.  We have all learned and appreciated our travels.  I hope our kids forever remember these experiences.

Through living abroad together we have learned to:

  • Explore together as a family.
  • Have more patience.
  • Have more flexibility.
  • Try new foods.
  • Be more independent.
  • Live with what we have.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Be courageous and brave.
  • Be more understanding.
  • Communicate despite language barriers.
  • Speak some Spanish (some of us more so than others).
  • Cuddle more.
  • Live together as a family better.

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