Sunday, October 26, 2008

Renae Does Another Round of Firsts

I can put her hair in a teeny tiny pigtail! Finally!

First time to wear mittens and a winter hat! (Does anyone see Ethan?)

Walking to the park with Daddy.

This is not a first. She's quite the master of climbing this contraption.

"Do I go down this thing on my butt?"

First masterpiece to send to Grandpa! She takes after her art teacher Grandpa.
Renae's first and only girlfriend in Spain. All of her other friends are boys. So we like it when Emily visits.
Renae's first work of art. Period. Grandpa got the 2nd.

That scribble was done by me. The artist needed some inspiration . . or just some fine motor skills.

"So I just tap this thing on the paper over and over?"

Renae listens to the IPod with Daddy. Ok, so it's not a first.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Video for the Grandparents Who Keep Asking for Videos :)

Renae was really tired the other day. She was eating her snack while I read on the couch. I looked up and saw that she was starting to close her eyes while she chewed on her cracker. By the time I grabbed the camera, she'd woken up a bit. This is what I caught . . .

An Evening of REAL Chinese Food

THIS is real chinese food. And it was soooo good.

Jesse's Chinese class came over to make us supper! Let me clarify. I always say "Jesse's Chinese Class" when I really mean, "Jesse's Spanish Class." Because of course he's studying Spanish, not Chinese. However, his class last term was full of Chinese students. He was the only Americano and only non-Chino. So we've had them over once for American food, and then they returned to our place to make really, really good yummy Chinese food. Did I mention it was good?

I introduced them to the wonderful world of sugar cookies. Also, really really good.

And Celia (not her real Chinese name) had a birthday! So I made a sugar cookie in the shape of a cake. It supposedly says Happy Birthday in Mandarin Chinese.

Renae kept running from Elisa who just wanted a picture!

She sat still for Elisa while she drank her bottle.

Group shot from way far away. I said I'd crop it. But instead I'm posting it as is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cultural Tidbits from the Public Bathroom

Let's look at a few bathroom customs around the world. The Bathroom Diaries was most helpful in adding to the intellectual part of my post. I mean, peeing is a serious thing. And if you want to be culturally appropriate, you'd better learn how to do it in context.

For example, when in China, you may find babies with open bottom pants and no diapers. Why? Because their mothers teach them to pee on command. They hold the baby over some kind of opening (street sewer, empty bucket . . .) and make a certain noise. The baby pees. If you are a baby looking to visit China, you now know how to pee in public there.

If you are an adult visiting China, I'd recommend you NOT wear open bottom pants and pee when people whistle. Find a public restroom. It may be a squatty potty, it may be a hole in the ground, but DON'T pee as a baby does. That's gross.

Not let's move to Turkey. There, you will also find a squatty potty. Even your hotel and apartment will have one. Since Turkey is an Islamic country, you won't find women peeing in public. You may however find men peeing in public. Americans do this too: when they are drunk, when they think no one is looking, or when they have to go really really bad and a bathroom is nowhere in sight. In this instant they say: "Well, I'm a guy and men all over the world pee in public, so I will too."

So what do Spaniards do? They use public bathrooms. But once again . . . you are more likely to find men peeing in public than you would in the states. However, Spain is still different. Imagine you are walking with your 3 year old. She says, "Mommy, Mommy I have to go NOW!" What do you do? In the states, you would tell your husband, "We have got to find a McDonalds NOW. I didn't bring a change of clothes and I don't want to carry a wet child around." Nope. Not here. It's much easier. When your child cries, "Mama, Mama . . ." You simply find a tree, or a sewer, pull the child's pants down and help them squat. Ya esta. Oh-and then you pull toilet paper from your purse to clean up the child because you expected your child will need to pee in public. I have to say this is one custom I won't be adapting. Unless it's an emergency. And I can't find a McDonalds.

I'd also like to take the time to do a little confessing. One summer when I was young (think lower elementary age), I was at a church softball game. Yes. A church softball game. I was playing with some friends behind the outfield. I had to go to the bathroom REALLY bad. The bathroom was WAY over by the pool. I didn't want to walk all the way over there and miss out on the fun. So, I noticed there was a nice row of trees between the outfield and the highway. Yes, I said highway. So what did I do? I decided to urinate (I can't say pee-it makes me sound even more gross) quickly behind the tree. None of my friends saw, and I hoped no one on the highway (which I somehow failed to notice was there) saw. All was good until I went back to the bleachers. You know how they say Mothers see everything that goes on in their children's lives? Well my mother has binoculars for eyes. Oh yeah, she saw everything. She saw me playing with friends, then contemplate whether I would walk to the bathroom or not. I'm sure her heart dropped as she watched me make the stupid decision to pee behind the tree. Obviously I wasn't that well hidden since she saw me . . .

So the lesson here is that no matter where you are in the world, you can pee in public. But you never know who is watching and what strange conclusions they might draw about you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

¡Marcha por la Vida!

It's been 8 years since I trained for, and ran in a race. I've been wanting to take up running again, but I needed some kind of goal to shoot for. I hate to run as a form of exercise, but I love to compete in running. Weird, I know. So my friend and I signed up for a low key race. So low key in fact that there were no registrations, no clock to tell you your time, and no way of knowing what place you finished in. A perfect way to jump back into running.

Contra el Cancer de Mama-Fight Against Breast Cancer

At the start of the race everyone let go of their pink balloons.
Laura and I didn't have a balloon to get rid of because we were running. Yeah, we're hard core.

The American Team

Fake running . . . because we were stuck in between hundreds of walkers.

The 1st runner for the American team!

As I finished the 4000 (approximate) meters, I worked hard to pass three people on my way in, and two of them were a sweet mother and daughter team. I almost felt bad passing the 9 year old who'd kept up with her mom the entire way.

The 2nd runner for the Americans!

All Done!

And what does every runner need when they are done running?

Why a can of coke and other carbonated beverages of course!
Seriously-there was no water in sight. Nor were there any Powerade beverages. Which was weird because Powerade appeared to be a sponsor . . .

Our cheerleader. Well, we think she saw us run.

Renae's more into gymnastics than running.
And we were into our bag of Avon goodies!

Renae helped us walk to the car.

But she got bored and walked with Daddy.

Then she got tired and almost fell of of Daddy's shoulders.

Wait! There she is!

Finally, Renae decided she was ready for her run.

And Jesse was feeling out of shape so he did a few quick exercises in the park.

We had to enjoy the first tire swing we've seen in Spain.

Ah . . . only in Europe.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Once Upon a Visa Day . . .

This is how our Visa day ended. But before I get to the place where we are on a crowded bus with a sleeping Renae, I must tell you the rest of the story.

Once upon a time, there was a little Princess. The Princess had a very important meeting to go to with her mother, the Queen. They got up early (7:00) to prepare.**

**Cultural Background Note: In Spain during this time period, days begin about 2 hours later than in the states, and end about 2 hours later than in the states. For example, many people in the U.S. go to bed around 10:00. Here, most people go to bed around 12:00 or later. In the states, people eat around noon. In Spain, lunch might begin around 2:00. So you see, when the Princess and Queen have to get up around 7:00, it's like waking up around 5:00 or 6:00 ok! It's hard!

The Princess was not too thrilled about this meeting. The Queen tried to tell her it would be a fun adventure, but neither of them seemed too convinced. They left there piso and took the underground train. Their meeting was very far away, in a distant land and it took a very long train ride to get there.

When they arrived, the found that they indeed were not the only ones invited to this special event!! There was a very long line of people anxious to enter the large gates. The Queen said a short prayer and walked past the very long line with her Princess in tow. She pulled out her official invitation and showed it to the guard at the big gate. He must have known her name was on the guest list because he let her in! When the Princess and Queen entered the inner courtyard, they found another much, much shorter line. They were asked to wait. The Princess was getting very anxious, and felt the need to stretch her dancing legs. Her Mother, the Queen, kindly allowed the Princess to run and dance for all to see. She played with the birds, and picked up interesting finds from the ground. The Princess's chariot saved their spot in the line.

After a short while, the Princess and Queen saw that is was their turn to enter the meeting hall! They entered through 2 large doors, and waited in 1 more short line. Soon after, a fair maiden called them to her desk. This woman talked with the Princess as she saw how beautiful she was. The Queen presented the maiden with a few gifts: portraits of herself and the Princess, and a form they had purchased at the bank. She received them both, and then asked the question that changed their lives forever, well temporarily: "Do you have the King's Residency card?"

The Queen nearly fainted. She had statements from law officials in her motherland, she had stamped forms and multiple copies. But she did not have the King's residency card. What was she to do?

Of course, she did the only thing she could do. She called her Prince Charming and asked him to bring her his card. The kind maiden told the Princess and the Queen that they could wait outside for the King's card to arrive. They wearily headed back out into the inner court yard where more people had entered. These guests were not getting along very well, and more guards came in to tell them to get in line, and stay in line. The Queen tried to entertain the Princess as much as she could.

They waited and waited for the King to arrive. In the meantime, the Princess made a big dookie in her pants. The Queen was forced to discreetly clean up the untimely mess.

After 3 quarters of an hour, the King, the Queen's Prince Charming, arrived and saved the day! He presented his residency card, and the Queen and Princess were ushered back into the meeting hall where they placed their seals, and portraits on a peace of paper. They walked away with a slip of paper that said: Come back in 40 days to pick up your residency card. Alas, they would make this journey one more time. The King escorted his Ladies home, and they all lived happily ever after, as almost Spanish residence holders. The End.

The author of this book would like to recommend the following book:

5 Main Reasons You Should Have Children Rather Than Horses
By J and J Masson

1. They fit in small spaces so you have no need to purchase a lot of extra equipment.

2. They are also very portable! You can literally take them almost anywhere!

3. Children are useful when going through security at an airport. With a small child, you get to move past the long line of weary travelers. People are usually willing to hold your baby (if they're cute) and help you unload all of your gear. This is REALLY something you couldn't do with a horse!

4. Children help you make friends. Would that neighbor really strike up a conversation with you
if you were all alone? Come on- you're not THAT interesting. No, we need children to make friends. (Authors note-this point has been contested due to the fact that if you had a horse with you when walking past someone on the street they may in fact start talking to you.)

5. Young Children allow you to skip the 6 hour long wait at the visa place!!!! Well worth it folks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reunions, Residence Cards, and Renae! UPDATED!

Jesse's back! And Renae (our non-cuddler) couldn't seem to let go of Jesse. He didn't mind one bit.

And Jesse is finally official! After the long, not-so-fun residency process, he finally has his card in hand. I get to experience the long line fun tomorrow. With Renae. Oh joy.

We headed to Ikea to pick up a few household things.

Renae really enjoyed the berries.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When The Cat's Away . . . The Mice Will Play

Renae and I are kickin' it solo this weekend. Jesse's away at a business meeting so we're learning to live life without him! I started thinking about all of the things we've done since Jesse left, and I realize we have done a lot! However, with that realization comes the truth that I'm somewhat boring all by myself. Here is what we've been up to so far: (I've broken them up into 2 categories for easy labeling. When Jesse comes back, he'll want to know how much I did and did not do of one thing particular thing . . . .)

1. One trip to the American store. (Shopping.)
2. One fall afternoon listening to street performers at the Plaza Mayor. (Not shopping.)
3. Two lunches spent watching American TV shows online and enjoying a nice cool Dr. Pepper . . . (Not shopping.)
4. One afternoon at Ikea and a children's clothing store. (Ok, this was supposed to be no shopping, but I couldn't resist a new lamp for our living room, a pair of house slippers, and a candle. Shopping.)
5. One afternoon enjoying tea with some other American women here. (Not shopping.)
6. One evening watching High School Musical 1 and 2. (Not shopping . . .yet. I may have to buy those movies!)
7. One morning at Carre-Four. Buying food and stuff for Renae. (Does this count since everything I bought were necessities? Ok. except for my favorite chips. Fine. Shopping.)
8. One afternoon chatting with a good friend from home, then talking with my Mom, then my mother-in-law, then another woman I know here. (Not shopping.)
9. One evening cleaning the house, cooking Italian Bread Bowls, making Cheesy Potato Soup, and a Waldorf Salad, all because I really wanted to! It's 1:30 a.m. and the soup is almost done. (Not shopping.)

10. Countless late night hours reading a book. Then going to bed wishing my husband was there with me. Sigh. (Not Shopping.)

Ok, so I didn't shop quite as much as I usually do when I have free time to myself without Jesse. This either means I'm growing up and taking more responsibilities seriously, or we are just shorter on cash than in the past. I'm thinking it's a little of both . . .

Now your turn. What do YOU do when your hubby's out of town? (Jess and Mandi, please keep comments under 200 words ;)