Monday, March 23, 2015

What I Miss

After almost ten years as an expat in Spain, I can say that I´ve pretty much gotten used to the Spanish way of life.  And obviously I like it, otherwise I wouldn´t be here.  I can say this with certainty because we took off to the states for a year to compare lifestyles and we ended up coming back.  Still and all, there are certain things I miss from home that just can´t be replaced.  Aside from family and friends, in no particular order...

1.  Supermarkets open on Sundays.  I know that Sundays are for rest, and Europeans highly respect this, and if we want to get political some might even say it´s abusive to operate on Sundays, not getting into that either way but...I would be MUCH happier if I could get my groceries done on Sunday.  To this day, I will sometimes make a comment about going to the store on a Sunday and my husband will go ape shit because after 10 years I still don´t remember (all the time) that nothing is open.  It´s my brain refusing to accept it.

2.  Diners.  It is cruel not to have access to diner food.  I miss that SO much.  Eggs over easy, hash browns  toast, pancakes, waffles, chicken fingers, honey mustard, hot chocolate with marshmellows and whipped cream, a burger, or even chicken parm!  I don´t usually eat all that (really) but I´d like to have the option if ever inclined.  There are a lot of new places cropping up offering ¨brunch¨ these days, but I´ve yet to see anything that matches a diner experience.  If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.  

3.  Pharmacies.  I loathe not being able to go to the pharmacy and be able to pick out the headache, cold, flu, medicine relief of my choice.  Nope, I have to go and tell the pharmacist what my problem is and have him/her give me some options and then take whichever seems more appealing in a matter of seconds.  Also, as an adult I have no qualms about asking for a pregnancy test, but when we were trying with our second and being new to this ¨experience¨ you´ve no idea how irritating it was to go and have to ask for one while 10 other people were waiting behind you.  I´d much prefer standing in the Pregnancy Test aisle (yes back home we have an aisle just for that) and browse for an obscene amount of time till you find the one that suits you best.  Maybe an hour.  So what? I do the same for feminine hygiene and a million other things at the pharmacy.  If the pharmacy was back home.  Because at the pharmacy back home there are tons of things you can buy, make up, books, food, magazines, ¨As Seen On TV¨ those.  

4.  Target.  Yep, this lovely gets it´s own section. Great finds, designer like items, great linen, homeware, baby items, clothing, the list goes on and all reasonably priced.   Nothing you can´t find there,  nothing! 

5.  Wearing sweats out.  Back home this casual american wore her sweats anywhere and everywhere.  Mind you I also get dressed up to the nines for no particular reason, but if and when the mood strikes me I like my sweats.  Or let´s be honest, even pajamas.  I´ve worn pajamas with a winter coat over it to get chinese food.  To walk the dog, always.  Who hasn´t?  Well, it´s bizarre to do that here.  Unless you´re going to the gym.  Might just be the area I live in, it´s just not done.  I chuckle everytime I think of my first year here, going to the equivalent of Saks or Barney´s in my sweats, and the sales people looking at me like I was homeless.  Good times.

6. New England foliage.  So much color...beautiful.

So, just some random things I miss, and thrive on when I go back home.  Doesn´t mean I don´t enjoy living here, because I do, but we all miss what we miss.  The year we lived back home I missed so many things from Spain that I decided we had to move back.  And here we are, loving it.  Somedays the grass is greener on the other side, and some days it´s the most brilliant shade right where we´re at.  But we´ve found this gives us perspective and you learn to appreciate things a little bit more. 



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rebel Without A Cause: My Threenager

The other day I read an article about living with a "Threenager".  Are you living with a threeanger? There were 10 tell tale signs to help you decide.
- Yes, I live in constant fear of cutting up her sandwich the wrong way.  Of giving her the wrong colored cup, the wrong plate or wrong colored utensil.
- Yes, we go through multiple wardrobe changes in one day.   Every morning I dread getting her dressed, will she accept the outfit choice for the day without having a full blown tantrum? I know my desire to dress her warmly in freezing cold weather is baffling to her.  Clearly I make poor outfit choices.   Same goes for shoes, headbands, barrettes, coats, you name it, my pick is WRONG! I do let her have options by the way, the problem is the only acceptable options for her are pjs (the monkey dress pjs to be exact), princess outfits, and her stinky purple shoes.

Who is this tyrant that makes me live in fear? My full of sass, cute as a button three year old who loves nothing more than to cuddle and whom I am completely in love with.  SOME OF THE TIME.  I won´t lie, a lot of the time I want to pull my hair out.  I want to go the bathroom, lock the door and wait until she turns four.

We went thru something similar with my oldest, but not in the same way.  Her rebelliousness was best described as the terrible three´s, as it was a continuation of the terrible two´s.  Tantrums, trying to get her way, wanting to wear the same outfit all day everyday...similar to threenager behavior, but without so much drama and a lot less attitude.  Challenging nonetheless but not as exhausting.  Once she reached four it was smooth sailing (most of the time).  How quickly one forgets, and how quickly you get used to the easiness that comes with them getting older.

Whilst I live through the daily bickering with the little one, my oldest shares knowing looks with me.  Gives in when the threenager targets her, ¨Fiiiiiine, fine, fine....¨ she´ll say in an almost condescending tone and even shakes her head as if she were forty-five instead of five.  It is the comic relief I need, to maintain my sanity, to remember that it WILL get better.  Five, the golden age.

Yes, I have a threenager, a little rebellious person who wants nothing more than to assert her will and negate mine for no reason whatsoever other than to prove that she can.  I remind myself that she needs this phase to test boundaries, to figure out right and wrong, to become a confident independent four year old and angelic five year old.  Mostly I remind myself it is just another phase. Deep breaths, lots of deep breaths, some yelling, some crying (both of us), some guilt for said yelling, for thinking I handled it poorly, for wishing I´d done it better.  And somehow at the end of the day, however it turned out, I always know my threenager is in love with me too, and nothing beats that.  (I know because she follows me to the bathroom and if I lock the door she pounds on it like a 300 lb man til I open it).

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Goodbye Winter Break

Hello January! The girls will be going back to school tomorrow and we are all more than ready to get back to our normal routines.  The whirlwind of Christmas and New Year´s and the addition of Three King´s Day this year has been fun but exhausting.  Tomorrow I will drop the girls off at school and head over to the gym to resume my fitness routine (sounds fancy but its not, its sweaty and I don´t much enjoy it, except for Pilates).  After that exercise high, which I´ve yet to experience,  I´ll attempt to get my house in order after which I´d love to meet a friend for coffee before the school run.  Nine to two...five hours, how I´ve missed you!  Don´t get me wrong, I loved spending more time with the girls, loved having the time to enjoy lazy breakfasts and go on day trips we normally don´t get to make.  But oh how many things get put aside, each day that goes by creates another task to the “after the holidays” list. (And let´s not talk about the overindulgences in the food and drink department, save that for another post).  I warn you, this is a long one, making up for my two month hiatus...

These two go back and forth between fighting and adoring each other.  The fighting usually comes from the little one who wants nothing more than to shine brighter than her sister.  Lately I see a shift happening, and suddenly I spy more moments like these.  Talking, laughing, playing...finding their way to the deepest of friendships.  Until the next bickering session, which if I recall correctly ocurred five minutes after taking this shot.  

One of my favorite traditions in Spain is going for a ¨vermouth¨ before lunch.  Usually on the weekend, this is a staple bringing people together to enjoy a  glass of wine, beer, coffee, whatever you fancy while enjoying some pre-lunch tapas and conversation.  We have become fervent followers of this tradition.  When in Rome...

After returning to Spain from the states, one of our goals was to travel more, not only abroad but within our own region.  Soon after coming back, we discovered Llanes, a small fishing village an hour away.  We love it there.  Spent many summer days enjoying its beautiful beaches, some of the best in the north of Spain (in my opinion).   And while we now feel almost like locals, this was our first visit in winter.  Just as charming.  If we win the lottery we´re setting up a summer cottage there, preferably right on the beach, but one of these village streets would do as well.

As per usual, we leave everything to the last minute, and so it was with xmass shopping.  Some key items were taken care of way in advance, but some last minute things always come up.  Heading to our local shopping center the day before Christmas Eve is almost like running with the bulls. This year however some brilliant person in management decided to set up a Beer Fest bar right in the middle of the mall.  Not only that but there was a child play center available for kids to enter for one hour whilst the adults enjoyed this:

Needless to say, shopping was a little less stressful, a little bit more amusing, and a tad more generous.

Christmas Eve 

Christmas Day, coookies have been eaten, milk has been drunk and only a small piece of carrot remains.  Not sure why the reindeer left it on the plate and not on the floor.  Glad no one asked about this.

Selfie time with the littlest before New Year´s Eve dinner with the fam.  There was a war going on between myself and those cute little purple shoes.  She refuses to take them off when at home.  They are hand me downs from her older sister, and so two sizes too big for her.  No objection there.  However after being worn day in and day out 24-7, not only by her but by her sister (who most likely did the same) the smell eminating from them is well, not pleasant.  But I am picking my battles.  Look at that smile...if stinky feet means infinite cuteness, so be it.

Big breakfast on Three King´s Day, this is HUGE here in Spain.   Day of the Epiphany when the three wise men bring gifts to all the little children.  We decided early on that Santa would be the tradition in our home, as well as setting limits with gifts. The three kings do not make a stop in our home, but they leave just a couple of things at Grandma´s...a nice compromise I think.  

After this delicious meal and the lunch that followed, I am quite ready to get back to the grind, back to healthy eating, and back to working on the things I love.

Winter break, its been fun, but I´m glad you´re leaving...see you next year! 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Emma´s At-Home Birthday Party

All my birthdays as a kid were celebrated at home with balloons, confetti, party favors, a table full of home made snacks and treats and of course a cake .  I have pictures from age one to ten that look almost exactly the same, me blowing out the candles while an assortment of cousins and friends stand around me trying to get to the cake.  Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes halfway and sometimes not at all...but my mom is not picky about those things and they are in the family album for all eternity and for all to see!  While I sometimes cringe at some of those shots, looking at them always bring back great feelings of many happy birthdays.  Hopefully I can help build the same memories for my kids.

When it came time to prepare Emma´s 5th birthday party over the summer, she had a few simple requests: everything had to be pink (not surprisingly) and we had to have cupcakes (easy enough).  Since we don´t have a Party City in these parts of the world we went to a little shop downtown called Hascot Kids.  They have a great selection of party decors, DIY crafts, and various knicks and knacks you can´t find anywhere else.

Emma picked out the pom pom decorations hanging from the ceiling.  I have saved them for future use, although it took awhile to fold back to it´s original shape and will be curious to see their state when they come out again.  Regardless, I loved the look of them and how lively it made the room.

The cake part was tricky.  Back home I probably would have gone to the nearest ice cream shop and ordered your regular ice cream cake with Frozen characters on the top (we are still obsessed with Anna and Elsa).  That idea doesn´t work here though, mostly because I have no idea where to get one.   Not sure it´s even done around here...I certainly don´t know where to find one (if anyone local does please let me know for future reference!).  I tried a few places that had decorative cakes which were ok, but nothing I felt was worth the price tag.  In the end I went to a local bakery downtown and got the tastiest strawberries and cream layer cake with fresh strawberries on top.  Kids were licking their fingers and adults asked for seconds, success in my book.

The birthday girl generously allows little sis and bff to take turns blowing out the candles.  (Not shown are a couple of pictures of each trying to hog the cake screaming ¨me first!¨ until somehow they agreed to take turns).

Opening gifts so fast I had no idea who gave what.  Thank you notes were therefore not possible, must come up with new approach next year.  

Frozen purse gift...major hit!  

And last but not least, the classic family picture which includes a pair of closed eyes and a little sis that did not want to cooperate...not perfect, but a real moment we will always remember fondly.  



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rainy afternoon...IKEA?

Not sure if this is a european thing, or if it happens in the states too.  Imagine it does, although I wonder because one of my bff´s back home has never been...not once!  I´m a little bit obsessed, I must admit.  IKEA doesn´t just have amazing home furnishings, with simple, beautiful nordic designs.  It also has a play center (Ikea Smaland) where you can drop your kids off while you shop.  There´s also a huge restaurant with a child play area that actually allows you to take a few consecutive bites before having to attend to your kids. 

Having an IKEA 15 minutes away has made us regular visitors on those rainy days when there´s absolutely nothing else to do.  The fact that Emma loves to go and can spend an hour of hard core kid action in the play center, leaving her thoroughly relaxed and ready for bedtime, is a bonus.

Although our youngest is not yet old enough to get checked in, she still enjoys running around the place and stopping at the many play stations they have set up throughout the store.  And because I can never stop decorating (or redecorating) our home, I will never decline a chance to go.  When we woke up one morning recently, and saw the dreadful gloomy day ahead, I immediately thought it would be a perfect day to go, get lunch and spend some time browsing thru their bedding section (I wanted a new duvet cover).  But since I know how much my husband dreads the place (because it´s always beyond crowded, everyone brings their kids and it´s basically a circus) I held back from suggesting it.  However, after 15 minutes of seeing the kids running like tornadoes throughout the house, bored out of their minds,  he asked if maybe it was a good idea.  Casually I responded that I ¨might¨ have some things I needed to get (yes!).  He doesn´t know that I have decided Ikea´s 2014 collection contains items that absolutely belong in our home.

As per usual, once there we immediately realized 90% of our state population had had the same bright idea.  But we went in anyways knowing it would only get worse from there. People with kids, people with screaming babies AND kids, older folks out for a stroll with no intention of buying a single thing being completely oblivious to the flow of traffic, just ¨browsing¨, not moving as you try to maneuver your stroller around them.  But it´s ok, because when I´m here I act as if I don´t have kids and very discretely slip away into their many room areas...leaving the chasing duties to my husband.

In the end, after Emma has played and Kate is covered in ice cream from head to toe, after we´ve waited an obscene amount of time at the checkout line, yes, we come out a little bit stressed... but the kids are exhausted, I´m happy with my new acquisitions and my husband is thrilled we´re finally headed put the kids to bed!  An afternoon well spent.  If you´re like me and visit IKEA regularly you´ll know what I´m talking about, if not...go and have a visit.  Let me know what you think!



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why blog?

Some time ago I heard or read something, somewhere, about blogging.  Nothing that interested me, in the least.  Strangely enough, through my two pregnancies I avidly followed other pregnant women´s journeys on youtube (something I also heard or read somewhere) and yet that had managed to catch my attention.  I think because I saw them live, heard the concern in their voices, the excitement and anticipation of their upcoming motherhood that was so much like my own, I connected to them.  

I admit I never really read a blog, anyone´s blog until very recently and so I really had no basis to write them off entirely.  But just like when you hear a new word or expression, you suddenly see it it was with blogs for me.  A few months ago a friend of mine told me of her new project, she was starting a blog.  Very enthusiastically she told me about her search for finding a personal space, in which to pour her creativity, share her thoughts and perhaps even create something new for herself. She had been following blogs for some time and had seen working moms like herself, dedicating time to blogs that were an outlet for creativity and inspiration.  Some had even created businesses out of them.  Not intentionally,  they had found a niche in which to share ideas, advice, just about anything they wanted and people were paying attention.  

Interestingly enough, I was just starting a ¨project¨ myself,  a children´s clothing store online. I was curious and began to investigate, reading a few here and there, suddenly realizing it was a whole other world I had not been privy to. The more I read the more out of touch I felt.  I suddenly felt like I needed to write as well...(warning, cliche ahead) a need to be heard?  I imagine this comes from raising two kids under the age of 5, you crave creativity - the adult kind!  I realized I needed time to share my thoughts, express ideas, if even just for myself, at the very least it might be therapeutic. So here it is, welcome to my blog...stay tuned, more to come!