Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tearless Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 30

Yay! Sydney has accepted her fate of going to school in Spain. All of the sudden she is acting like she loves school again and not once did she whine, cry or yell about not going to school in Spain. Everyone is very relieved and happy for her. I think she new her time was up. Tomorrow (actually today for me) I am starting a month long intensive Spanish course, starting with a test of course. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Up the hill

Monday, September 29

Sunday we were anxious to get outside after being trapped inside all day Saturday due to rain. We met up with our friends and climbed up the hill behind our apartment and went to a park called Carmen de los Martires (Carmen of the Martyrs). The park is right behind this hotel. If your wondering why such a change in the sky, I actually took this picture last Friday while killing some time before I picked up the girls from school.
Despite the name, the park was really lovely and we had a wonderful time walking around and exploring.
There were gardens, mazes, fountains, duck ponds, peacocks, great views and more.

Click here to see a few more pics.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One month...

Friday, September 26

I can't believe we've been in Granada for a month already. It doesn't seem like we've done much, but getting settled takes time. It just seems weird that we haven't even been to the famous castle that is just up the hill, the Alhambra. I am happy to say that I can now walk around town without looking at my map. I love offering my help to English speaking tourists, not that I know where everything is, but I usually know where I am on the map! I know where to buy most things that we need, although Kevin just found a grill and now we're on the search for some charcoal. I've heard they sell it at the hardware stores - I don't think I would have ever looked there.

I'm hesitant to write about Sydney, but I thought an update was in order. Things started out so well regarding her total immersion by going to school in Spain. Well, the honeymoon is over.

Here are a few things Sydney has said in the last 48 hours regarding going to school in Spain:

"If you let me go to Spain school, I'm not going to be your daughter!"

I like how she says I'm letting her go, not making her go. That makes me feel a little bit better.

Kevin's response: If she goes to school in Spain she won't be your daughter, she'll be your hija (pronounced ee-ha and means daughter in Spanish). Luckily Syd didn't hear him say this.




"I'll go to school today so I can go to the playground, but this is my last day, OK?"



"If you stay for the songs, I'll go to school another day."


OK, here is one that will make you feel a little better. Or maybe not. After school Friday she said:

"Guess what mom? I didn't cry today!"

As you can guess the last few mornings have been rough, but the teacher assures me that she is doing fine and even Kyla said she was a lot better at going back inside after recess on Friday.

Thanks goodness it's the weekend. Let's hope things will only get better, because starting Wednesday, I will be starting a Spanish immersion program that requires me to be in class from 9-1pm Monday through Friday.

On a happier note, they had a great time at the playground Friday and we even took them to Burger King. If you are wondering about Kyla, I almost forgot to say that she is doing great. She has started going to a Spanish tutor while the rest of the class does their reading. She seems happy to practice her new vocabulary words and has even signed up to start some extracurricular activities soon. Yay!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Cookie Bribe

Thursday, September 25

So Sydney has had a change of heart regarding school. She has informed us that she is not going to Spanish school, only Oregon school. So yesterday I stayed with her for several hours, hoping that she would get settled and to convince myself that it wasn't an awful place. I guess the novelty has worn off and she is fed up with the communication barrier. By 11:30am I was planning my escape, but there was no good way out. We played with Kyla at recess, but she still would not say goodbye. So when all the kids went back inside I had to kiss her, say "see you at 2" and walk away. There was a lot of crying, but with only two hours left, I knew she would be OK. So the cookies weren't really a bribe. But they were a reward for staying at school by herself for two hours. I've been collecting the ingredients over the last two weeks. I never did find an acceptable baking sheet. I did find a silicone baking sheet for a good price (it even came with a cake pan and a muffin tin). Of course I discovered that you still have to put something under those very floppy silicone sheets. So I used the broiling pan in the oven to support it. Kevin had to make a special trip home during lunch to replenish our oatmeal (only found at the fancy grocery store) supply since we had eaten most of it for breakfast over the weekend. I never really looked for chocolate chips since we lugged a bunch of Belgian chocolate all over Europe. Chopping the milk chocolate was fine, but the dark chocolate was not as easy.
We thought that using both kinds would make up for the fact that we didn't have semi-sweet. They turned out great, not exactly the same, but close enough.
The
recipe is no secret, just good ol' Quaker Oatmeal. I'm realizing that I should have a photo of the girls enjoying their cookies, but I don't so this will have to do.

Another food related news update: We finally found cheddar cheese! It's even at the nearby grocery store. Now, if only they sold it in a money saving 5 pound Costco size block. We've gone through two packs since Monday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I love Skype and zippers.

Wednesday, September 24

The internet is so great! I just got a Skype account, which you can download for free. If you talk to someone else that has Skype, it's totally free. For only $3/month I can make unlimited calls to landlines and cellphones in the US. For a little more I can have a US number that people can call and will ring on my computer. Did I mention how awesome the internet is? Well, I've talked to a few people and it's been great to be back in contact after going through summer with only a couple short calls. It's especially comforting now that Sydney is having second thoughts about going to school. She did so great the first week, this kind of caught me by surprise. She is really missing her friends and preschool back in Oregon. I'll elaborate more later. On a better note I was able to finally call the insurance company and they're ready to send our check for the stuff that was stolen in Barcelona.
On an entirely different subject check out the new (or old?) alternative to velcro. Sydney got these fancy new tennis shoes that as you'll notice lace up. But she never has to untie them. Look a little closer, there is a little side zipper that works like a charm. What a great idea.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Terrace View

Monday, September 22

Saturday morning around 10am I looked outside my kitchen window and spotted the moon.
This inspired me to climb the three flights of stairs of my apartment building (OK, actually I took the elevator, but I did walk down) to snap a few shots of the view from our terrace on the roof. It was so bright up there, I almost turned my sinus headache into a migraine. These are too exciting, but I had to do something to get out and distract myself from being sick.
Here is the moon above the the church Santo Domingo.Here is the bell tower of another nearby church.
Here is the church down the hill, the same one with the flowers from a few days ago. You can see the mountains just outside of town.
Some nearby rooftops...
My rooftop.
OK, that's about as far as I got this weekend except for an unsuccessfulll trip around the corner in search of some vitamin C. Just so you know, I'm feeling mostly better, definitely on the mend.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Aarr! Matey....Calling all Pirates

Saturday, September 20

If you are near Portland, Oregon this weekend and find yourself dressed like a Pirate, then head on down to the 3rd Annual Portland Pirate Festival. And at the risk of making myself homesick, please send any pictures of your wee pirates my way. I'll go first. Here are my girls with their mateys (is that how you spell the plural of matey) last year.

I just realized yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day. Here is the link for PG rated lingo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's not OK in Spain

Friday, September 19

Don't worry; everything really is OK here - except for the word okay. Long, long ago (18 years! could I be that old?) when I was an exchange student in Costa Rica I remember it being OK to use the word okay. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe I just used it and thought everyone understood what I was saying. So here in Spain when I'm trying to comprehend someone who is telling me something, I find myself saying OK, and then I have to correct myself and say Vale (pronounced vall-ay). I just wish I could say OK, that oh so reassuring word. At least I finally figured out what vale meant as I was hearing and overhearing everyone use it in every conversation. Vale, vale.

The only thing that's not OK here is that the girls and I already got our first cold of the season. Why did I think it would be different here? I thought maybe the dryer sunny weather would slow down those germs. So they only went to school three days and we were all home sick yesterday. We watched more Smurfs and the girls trashed the living room after finding the cereal box recycling. They proceeded to cut up about a dozen cereal boxes and used a whole roll a masking tape to make everything from tiger masks to cardboard armor to decorated fans. Not to worry though everyone is already back to school today - hope they are doing OK. I wish I had a thermometer for the girls, I just have to use the kiss on the forehead trick. Let's hope it was just a mild cold, although I think I'm a day behind them and have quite a sinus headache today. So glad it's the weekend soon. Have a good one!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Patron Saint of Granada

Thursday, September 18

OK, I didn't take the time to actually stitch these two photos together, so please use your imagination.

The other day we walked about 10 minutes down the hill with our friends see a huge display of boquets at the church called Nuestra SeƱora de las Angustias (Our Lady of Anguish). According to my friend Antonia, it was the patron saint of Granada day and "hundreds of people spent the day today queuing up to hand over (flowers) in homage to her. " Here is Sofia, Kyla, and Sydney standing in front of the wall of flowes.
Here they are again chillin' at the library near the church.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First day of school/Spanish immersion

Monday, September 15
Here is a photo I snapped as we rushed out the door to the girls' first day of school. They are going to the neighborhood public school and everything is in Spanish! Except for the two times per week that they give the kids English lessons at which time the girls will probably be sent to a special teacher for - you got it - more Spanish. I thought about finding them a private bilingual school, but you know me, I couldn't resist a free school that was less than 4 blocks away from our apartment. Kyla was nervous, but excited. It helped that we found out from our playdate last week with some English speaking locals that there would be a boy in her class who speaks English. Sydney only recently realized that everything was going to be in Spanish and was a little stressed about it. I hate it when you think that your kids are informed only to find out that somehow they been left out of the loop. I purposely didn't focus on the "only in Spanish" thing too much for fear of stressing them out. When Sydney got her school books last Friday and I was showing them to her and reading some of the words, she asked why it was all in Spanish, I replied that school was going to be in Spanish. "WHAT!?", she said. I wish I had an audio clip for you. Think shock. I wonder if she really knew - I'm sure I told her - she is sooo dramatic.

So Kevin took the day off from work so each girl could have a parent in the classroom, but after the general assembly (welcome and intro of the teachers, I think) and about 15 minutes in the classroom we were politely kicked out. Kevin and I wandered around town, our first time away from the girls in 2 1/2 months, numb from nervousness as to how our poor non Spanish speaking kids were holding up. Probably better than us.

Kyla got to sit next to her new friend Sam in a class with 14 boys, she is the only girl! Sam translated everything the teacher said and everything went well. They worked on writing out their schedules and Kyla was so happy that she already knew the days of the week. Her only complaint - no toilet seats, toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms. Sam actually went and found her some toilet paper - how sweet.

Sydney's teacher said she did great. Yeah! Sydney said she was only unhappy (even cried a little) at recess because no kids wanted to play with her. Then Kyla showed up and played with her for a bit. She seemed happy enough, but reported that it not as good as her old school at home. "There are no toys on the playground!" Only a few balls and hula hoops. Yes, it would be hard to compete with Cathedral Park Preschool full of fun toys and old friends. We miss you CPCP. Luckily Sydney has a bathroom in her classroom, complete with toilet seats and paper.

Needless to say Kevin and I are very relieved and happy that the girls will be able to attend school everyday from 9-2pm. So now I'm thinking that I should go to school too. It would be a crime to not work on my Spanish while I have the chance. I'm looking taking classes 3-4 hours a day for the month of October. In the mean time I'm going to study with another American mom I met at school.

Several people have asked about the playdate we had last Friday and I'm happy to report it was a big hit. We met a wonderful family with two girls ages 2 and 5. The mom is Scottish and the dad Peruvian, but they have been living here at least 15 years. There were actually 8 kids all together along with 5 parents so it was quite a play date. My first social outing in 2 1/2 months - yeah!

On Sunday we took the bus to a nearby beach in the town of Salobrena. We enjoyed the ride giving us a chance to view the countryside and the Sierra Nevada mountains for 45 mins. We had perfect warm and sunny weather and the water was cool and clean.
Click here to see a few pics.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Best playground so far

September 12

Yesterday I convinced the girls that we should brave the sun in attempt to find a good playground. We haven't been to one for weeks, so far all the playgrounds we have found in Spain are all the same and compared to others in in Europe, a little lame. Mostly they just have a couple swings and a small slide in a dusty pebble pit.

So we walked across town and it was pretty sunny by the time we got to Parque Federico Garcia Lorca. It's a huge and beautifully landscaped park, with palm trees, fountains, flowers and rose gardens.

And a big playgound! It was still dusty, but we didn't mind. They even had a zip line, which is always a big hit with Kyla. There is Syd a the bottom of the slide.
We call these diggers, although I'm sure there's a more technical name.

At one point there were six kids crammed into this swing all asking to be pushed higher. Then we met Kevin at the University to eat lunch at the cafeteria and check out his workplace. We had to walk home during the hot part of the day, but we stopped for gelato on the way and stayed in the shade. The day was officially a success.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Smurfin' in the rain

September 10
This is actually a picture I took at a park in Milan. You just never know where those Smurfs will pop up. There was a big thunderstorm last night with showers most of the morning. We were all a little tired from staying up too late the night before, so the girls have been watching the Smurfs on the computer. A first time for them and I must say it's been so long for me that I don't really remember anything. I forgot how often they actually use the word smurf, it can be a verb, noun, or adjective. How smurfy! So you know your kids have watched too much when the big one yells from the bathroom, "Who smurfed the smurf paper?!" Translation: Who got the toilet paper wet? OK, the rain has stopped and we will try to get out as soon as I take my siesta.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Art

September 9
Here are the girls standing by some graffiti about a block away from our apartment. The graffiti girl doesn't look as happy as I remembered, maybe because she is right next to that scary monster. Hopefully she'll cheer up now that our girls are in the neighborhood. I have seen some kind of good graffiti here, I'll have to make a photo album of the interesting stuff I find.

Here is a piece of artwork done by Kyla titled "The Cat Band". I think their instruments are a flute, a tamborine and a drum.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Day in Paradise

That was the name of pool we went to this weekend, El Paraiso. It wasn't fancy or perfect, but I think it really was the closest I've been to paradise (with kids) in ages. It really felt like we were on vacation, the sun, the Reggae music , the grill, a Sangria, and the big cool pool. It was a 30 minute walk on a perfect sunny day with occasional clouds and lot's of shade to get a break from the heat. This was the last day the pool was open for the summer and the entrance fee was a bit pricey, but totally worth it. What I couldn't believe is how not crowded the place was. Maybe the Spaniards thought it was too cool outside (below 90) to swim in an outdoor pool. The water was pretty cold, but we all eventually made it in.
The girls took lots of quick dips followed by wrapping up in a towel and getting warm in the sun. We stayed about six hours and it was hard to find a reason to leave. The only reason we left before bed time is that we were getting hungry again and I didn't want to pay for another meal to share with the yellow jackets.
We'll miss you El Paraiso.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Leaving Limbo

We've been in Granada for almost two weeks now and yesterday we finally got internet connection and received our boxes from the states (a whole other long and complicated story). What a relief! So even though we've been making progress towards settling in - we moved to our new apartment, Kevin has gone to work and I have registered the girls at the neighborhood public school (starting Sep. 15) - it still feels like we've been in limbo. It's weird transitioning from vacation mode to settling in to live here mode. We haven't even done any sightseeing here except for walking around to do some shopping. The girls are totally burned out on sightseeing and it's entirely too hot to be out walking anywhere in the heat. I was trapped here for a few days eagerly awaiting the arrival of the boxes. Now that I have internet I wouldn't mind we a little trapped, but I am finally free to leave the apartment and stop harassing UPS. Kevin has gone to the University, but couldn't start any actual research until the boxes arrived. It's starting to look like home here, more clothes in the closets, and multiple laptops set up in the living room. It's so nice to have a big keyboard and screen after spending the summer on the mini-laptop. I love having a mouse. I can't wait to look at all my pictures again on the big screen. It also seems weird to be buying actual groceries. We have a door full of condiments in our fridge and I keep finding myself thinking how will we use all this by the end of the week. Oh yeah, we don't have to move out at the end of the week. Ahh.
Actually today it seems quite cool, we are even waiting for it to warm up before we venture out to find a pool since we promised to take the girls swimming.
It's good to be leaving limbo.