Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Video for the Grandparents

Pictures of Christmas will be coming soon, but I thought I'd post a little video of Renae opening her presents for the Grandparents. They like to see this kind of stuff. The 2nd thing she opens is a DVD set of her favorite Spanish TV program "Pocoyo." She absolutely loves anything Pocoyo and quickly identified the main characters on the tin. You'll hear her say Pocoyo, Pato (spanish for duck) and Elly (the name of the elephant.) This will be like a little bit of "home" for her when we return to the states and hopefully will make her transition a little easier.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In Preperation for Christmas . . .

. . . we did some baking!!!

Sugar cookies . . .

I have many memories of making these with my Mom growing up

Decorating all those sugar cookies using paint brushes this year.

After awhile Renae just decided to play with the salad spinner.

We also taught some friends how to make a Jesse Tree.

Sammy didn't help bake but he enjoyed wearing his cute outfit from Aunt Tarica.

Of course we had to be silly . . .

That's how we roll in the Masson household.

A rare moment. Jesse reading a book, and Renae snuggling. Ahh . . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Renae Reads in Spanish

Renae is reading a book about counting cheerios. She's saying: "Here there are 2, "Here there are 3, etc etc." Each page has a different number of cheerios on it. And then she just wanders away from the book and starts counting to 10. My personal favorite is her 4, "quackta"

And speaking of languages . . . .

Most countries have a place where their language is spoken "without accent," or where it's spoken clearly. Here in Spain, it's in a place called Valladolid. My university used to send Spanish students there so they could learn clear and correct Spanish. Here in Madrid, I think the Spanish is also pretty clear and easy to understand (especially compared to the south of Spain!!) so I'm glad Renae is learning her Spanish here.

So where is English spoken without accent in the United States? A long time ago, I had heard that Nebraska and Iowa were accentless. I believed it because as I listened to national news anchors they all sounded like people from my state. Then I noticed that people in the movies and in television also spoke like me (unless playing a character that specifically needed to have an accent from another part of the US).

Now you can imagine what some of the southerners I've met along the way have had to say about this tidbit I'd heard awhile ago. :) I'm the one with the accent according to them. Well a few days ago I was using good old Wikipedia ("If it's on Wikipedia, you know it's true."-Michael Scott) to see how English in the US changed from the British accent, to what's now called the American accent. It was really interesting to read about and I found that there is something called "General American" English. It's the accent people in the national media are taught to speak in. It's accentless. It's clearly spoken.

And guess where this General American is spoken?

That's right! So some crazy tidbit I'd heard forever ago turned out to be pretty true. Therefore:

  • Kari, be glad you are married to an Iowan because sometimes you may need to be reminded how to speak correct English since you grew up speaking French and Georgian English.
  • Valerie and Kristi, I told you us Iowans are good for something.
  • Bea, you get to practice English with someone who speaks clearly. (And you speak clear Spanish for me too!)
  • My family who grew up in Wisconsin . . . we TOLD you, you had an accent. :)
  • All of you ex-Iowans who emigrated to Minnesota-beware . . . that Northern Midwest accent will be in your bones before you know it, don't you know.
  • To all of my Southern friends . . . when we went back to Iowa after being around a bunch of you in Virginia, my family said I was speaking with a southern accent. So I guess the General American accent can be changed into the "true" accent. Bless your heart . . .

Let the verbal jabs begin . . . P.S this General American has nothing to do with written English, just spoken. So, ignore all of the poor gramar in this post . . . did I even spell gramar write?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Giving Birth in Spain: Applying for US Citzenship

Two important items in the process

This may come as a surprise to some, but because Sammy was born on Spanish soil, that doesn't automatically mean he is a Spanish citizen. And it also may interest you to know that just because he was born abroad to parents with US citizenship, the US government doesn't just miraculously give him his birth certificate and passport. And yes, he does need a passport. Many people are shocked that a baby would need a passport but anytime a US citizen leaves the country, they need a valid passport. Therefore to get back IN to our country we'll need passports for all 4 members of our family. I'd really hate to leave Sammy at the airport . . .

So here is what we had to do in Spain to get all the necessary documents for Sammy to become a bona fide American.

1st, we had to head to the Registro Civil. Here is where we registered Sammy as being born in Madrid. We needed to bring with us a document filled out at the hospital containing all of Sammy's info (birth date, weight, etc), his parents info, (names, our parents names, marriage date) and information from the hospital (doctor info etc). We also filled out some other forms there. By the time we left, we had a simple version of a Spanish birth certificate, and his Libro de Familia. The Libro de Familia is something all Spanish families have here. It contains information on each member of the family and it's needed for the next step in the process.

Where one can speak with an American . . . ahhh

2nd, we secured an appointment at the US embassy. For our appointment there, we had to bring our passports, the Libro de Familia, a translation of the Spanish birth certificate, our marriage certificate, proof that we've lived in the US recently (old tax forms), Sammy's passport application, social security number application, and form for obtaining a US birth certificate.

5 weeks old . . .

We also had to bring passport size photos of Sammy. All I have to say is taking a picture of a 5 week old with eyes open in one of those photo booth thingies is no easy thing . . . This was the best one we could get. Luckily, the guy we had was really friendly, easy to work with and had children, therefore he said the picture we submitted was just fine. Whew!

Sammy's first passport . . . it's good until he turns 5!

A few weeks later we received Sammy's passport in the mail. Along with that came his birth certificate which looks completely different than Renae's and even ours! His is actually called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. Both the certificate and the passport state that Sammy was indeed born in Spain. I love that his American passport will always say Spain in the Place of Birth slot!

Sammy the luchador . . .

So no, Sammy is not a Spanish citizen, but is now officially an American citizen! And most importantly, he can come back with us when we return to the states . . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making the Ultimate Sacrifice

I. Love. Chocolate. So much so that one day, after Jesse and I had been married about a year, he asked me if I could make a dessert that was not chocolate based. I remember standing in the kitchen staring at him and asking, "What do you mean?"

When I think about satisfying my sweet tooth, chocolate of any sort comes to mind. Not pies, not fruit, not even the very accesible candy from the candy stores on every corner here.

My cupboard of American goodies is filled with brownie mixes, chocolate cake mixes, chocolate almond bark, chocolate chips . . . you get the idea. I. Love. Chocolate.

So imagine what went through my mind when I read that chocolate should sometimes be avoided in nursing moms. Psh, I thought. I ate tons of chocolate when nursing Renae, and when I was pregnant with Sammy. Shouldn't have any problems . . .

Then after a few weeks of a very fussy baby, I started to look at my diet. For a few days I'd been eating a brownie before I took a nap and I could never get to sleep. I wondered if the chocolate could affect Sammy too. So that night, I enjoyed an oreo/chocolate syrup ice cream treat for the last time. The next day I avoided (with great difficulty) any kind of chocolate. Twenty four hours after I had my last bite of chocolate, Sammy was a new man. He was happy and content. Gosh darn it.

The secret of the fussy baby had been discovered. I continuted to avoid chocolate that week and each day I saw what a happy baby he was. Usually a happy baby=happy mother. Not so that week as I went through the grieving process of saying good-bye to my beloved chocolate. Just so you know how drastic of a life change this was for me, let me recap what I had been eating during and prior to the very fussy weeks . . .

Brownies (at least 2 a day for 3 days), chocolate chip cookies for an entire weekend when a friend was here, Snickers bars from the candy store across the street (at least a few each week), pieces from a large dark chocolate bar, chocolate milk about every other day, chocolate cereal . . . I would go on if I could remember it all.

Sigh . . . so as you can see, I am making the ultimate sacrifice for my child. Breastfeeding sure saves us a lot of money so I really can't justify my selfish desire to eat a pounds worth of chocolate each week. I guess at least it will be good for my waist line. So think of me when you enjoy that next piece of chocolate, and don't ever take it for granted!

P.S. I also have to avoid peppers, onions, caffeine, and spicy food. Looks like I'm in need of some new recipes!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sammy Talks

Our (not so little) man has started smiling and cooing. I can't seem to get a good picture of his adorable smiles, but trust me, they're there!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Beginning to Look Like a 2-Year-Old Helped Decorate . . .

I'm pretty sure Renae wasn't as tall as the pole last year . . .

The night we put up our Christmas tree began the list of "lasts" for me. This will be our last Christmas in Madrid. Sure, it's also only our 2nd, but as much as we love this city, it definitely feels like we've had many Christmases here.

Sammy wasn't much help . . . and eventually he fell asleep.

Every year at Christmas time I like to think about where we were the previous year and where we will be the next year. It's weird to think that just one year ago, Renae was still bee bopping around our place and had no interest in the tree decorating process. Sammy didn't even exist. Next year, Renae will be so much more aware of Christmas, and Sammy will be bee bopping around, probably terrorizing the Christmas tree. We'll also be living in Kansas City while Jesse attends seminary. What a difference a year can make!

Renae "fluffing" the branches

But for now . . . we are here in Madrid and we're trying to soak up every last bit of our time here. Spending time with our friends is high on the priority list. Enjoying Madrid at Christmas time is up there too. I love Madrid at Christmas time. The major streets are decorated with lights, the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor, Cortylandia, and of course Three Kings day is another fun holiday celebration.

"Here you go Daddy!"

Eventually we'll have to face all of the lists of lasts. Last time to shop at the market where I get amazing meat and produce and chat with the nicest vendors. Last time to use the wonderful public transportation. Last time to attend our Spanish church. Last time to eat at Maceira's. The other last's I can't even talk about or I'll cry. (Bea, you know what I mean . . . )

Renae's way of fluffing left all the branches folded in half.

So, although we don't like being away from family, we are actually looking forward to a pretty simple and small last Spanish Christmas this year. We get to enjoy our little family of four, and presents will be a snap because we don't wany any more stuff to take back with us in January. Therefore, presents are limited to very very small packages!

Chili and the Polar Express. Not a bad combination.

And just incase you though I was getting too serious on this blog . . . we added to our Christmas tree tradition this year by watching a Christmas movie while enjoying the traditional chili and Christmas lights. I was so excited to see Renae enjoy the movie. Well . . . let's just say she must not be old enough to enjoy "The Polar Express" as she was more concerned with everything in the movie being "too loud" and ended up climbing on Jesse and I, giggling and tooting it up. Oh well. Next year may be different.

We're ready for Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cortylandia and a Visit to Bethlehem


Today Bea and I took our kiddos to a famous Madrid spot at Christmas time. El Corte Inglés
is a large department store chain (think Dillards times 10) and each year they make a mural with characters that sing and talk. People who grew up in Madrid have memories from their childhood of coming to see Cortylandia each year at Christmas time. If Renae can remember it, she'll remember that she LOVED the music and the story! (And probably understood more than I did!)

Two friends enjoying the show

Renae could hardly take her eyes off of the show!

Jaime on the other hand . . . he got bored with it real quick.

As you can see, Sammy felt the same way.
The Three Wise Men crossing a bridge . . .
After a quick stop at a Starbucks, we walked from Sol to the Plaza de Colon to see the city of Bethlehem! In Spain, each family puts out a Belén (Bethlehem). It's a Nativity scene, but way more detailed. Bea said her Mom's Belén even has a river!! This particular Belén is HUGE. You know those people who have train models in their basement along with a very detailed town? Imagine that.
Just without the train.
And without the modern towns.
And add in Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Oh, and the local weaver.

Bea y su hijo precioso . . .

And me with a very tired Renae (she walked the whole way!)

"Ruth, we have a new customer, and I thnk she's a Philistine."

"Come. I show you my rugs."

Bea gives out snacks if you ask really nicely.

Dos amiquitos

Awwww . . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Last Visitors . . .

We head home in less than 2 months so unless someone is coming for a surprise visit . . .

. . . Julie . . .

. . . and Scott were our last visitors!
We had a great time showing them the sights and the people of our 2nd home. I'm not sure anyone slept all that great considering our apartment is really small and Sammy still wakes up at night . . . but thankfully they have 2 cute little girls so they know what it's like. :)

Jesse was the official baby man as he carried Sammy in the Baby Bjorn all over the place.

Renae shows Scott and Julie the Plaza Mayor.

And Jesse shows Julie how to enjoy churros!

I stand corrected. Renae shows Julie how to eat churros.

Back at home Renae is her usual goofy self.

Thanksgiving day was a hit!
Julie and I were busy in the kitchen and I was so glad she was there to help. My first hand at hosting Thanksgiving dinner was last year when my Mom was here to help. My second time, I had my sister in law. How lucky can I get?

Jesse stole the "man" apron so Julie had to settle for Renae's . . .

The guests . . .
My American friend Tep, and my Spanish friend Bea is holding Sammy the sudo-Spaniard.

As you can see Jose LOVED the food! I was so happy he did.

Bea . . . best Spanish friend and faithful blog reader.

Renae . . . I love this little girl.
Friday we headed to Segovia, our favorite little Spanish town. Before we left, I jokingly said, "Good thing the weather isn't like last year when we took Mom and Dad. It was cold and wet last year!" I spoke too soon . . . it turned out to be a cold and rainy day. Oh well.

The Masson family waiting while Scott and Julie climbed the tallest tower, in the darkest castle . . .

My big brother and his sweet wife.

Oh my . . .

The 2 Julies!

And we can't forget about this little guy . . .
Sammy was a real trooper. I think he nursed in a coffee shop, on a park bench, in a van on the side of the road, at the Gallego tapas place, and even in the Plaza Mayor. Whew!