Sunday, October 24, 2010


Um, obviously blogging isn't one of them, but I do have them and while some are perfectly innocuous - my quest for the perfect camel jacket/sweater/anything, Chie Mihara shoes - another is consuming me in a way that I can't explain. It's the dreaded mid-term elections and very specifically the Texas gubernatorial race. If you don't know this about me then you're not on Facebook - I don't believe I've been de-friended by anyone, but I'm pretty sure LOTS of people have "hidden" me. I understand, but in my defense living abroad, currently unemployed and unable to do anything but vote absentee and give a little money to my candidate is supremely frustrating! I have a lot of time on my hands and I just can't stand not being able to be among my people supporting my candidate - Bill White if you haven't guessed - and just getting out there. So instead, I read the news online; I read the blogs; I watch the interviews; I talk about it endlessly and I drive my husband insane. Lucky for him the fun ends Nov. 2. I'll be up all night damnit watching those numbers come in. Fingers crossed. Updates on the children: Brodie has started her Montessori school and really likes it, but complains about all the vegetables in the food. Sabine is in nursery school until 1:oo every day and is starting to adapt. Apparently she used to cry a lot, but that has stopped thank goodness. She strung together her first two words yesterday! "Bye bye, Mama." With this one's willful, independent attitude I have the feeling that she was establishing what will be a lifelong theme. She also got her first hair cut yesterday! Ok, so it's definitely the Javier Bardem "No Country for Old Men" cut, but I prefer to think of it as the Little Lord Fauntleroy. We might try to bring that look back. Photos to come. The image posted here was taken at Parque Guell in Barcelona about 3 weeks ago. Well that's it for now. It's weird, but our zero/end parenthesis key died. So no more parenthesis or smiley face emoticons - because I so love those - only sad faces. :-(

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don Chepito

I'm very sad to report that my sweet grandfather, Jose Nuila, died Aug. 2 at 12:10 p.m. On the other hand, it gives me great pleasure to report that he lived to be 108. 108! He lived his entire life in San Pedro, El Salvador where he was lovingly cared for by my uncle and his wife for all of his golden years. In his 70s and 80s he used to come to our home in Edinburg and stay with our family for a couple of months. I have very fond memories of us planting a garden together, tinkering on the piano and of him teaching me how to play chess. I think all of the grandchildren have always been mostly in awe of "papauito", a name given to him by my brother and is a cross between "papa" and "abuelito". He lived many lives and was an absolute renaissance man. He wasn't college educated (I'm not even sure he went to high school) but he knew how to play the piano, violin, was a voracious reader (my mother loves to brag that she was taught to read on the classics), the feather-weight boxing champion of El Salvador at one point, a pharmacy owner and of course a single father to his very accomplished and adoring children - and there are lots of children - let's suffice it to say he was indeed a ladies man. Sadly, we can't go to the funeral tomorrow, but my mom says the town is basically being shut town for "the alcalde"'s funeral. Everyone and I mean everyone knows and loves him and is expected to show up at some point to pay their respects. Should I live to be 108, I hope to go surrounded by all my family knowing that I did a great job. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The last two months in bullets.

I'm an erratic blogger, I know. I started with some vigor, but got off track with all the travel we've been doing and uncertainty as to how long we'll stay in Madrid. So many times I've been right in the middle of a moment and I'll think, I need to blog about this, but then I forget. Or I opt to nap instead. Anyway here it is in bullets: 1) We were told about a month ago that we'll be staying in Madrid at least until early spring. If it comes to that, I hope we'll be able to talk them into staying until summer 2011 because we enrolled Brodie into what I hope will be just the right school for her. It's called Madrid Montessori and we have very high hopes. It won't be easy getting there and back as it involves a bus ride, with a stroller and then some walking. That's not even factoring weather, but we think it's worth it. 2) I've done something to my wrist (maybe ligaments) that prevents me from doing yoga or heavy lifting. After about 3 weeks of this, I'm getting really cranky and soft and turning to food for comfort. I'm not joking - I JUST ate TWO croissants. Giant ones. 3) The summer sales have it! It's great! 4) Since May and not counting the Baltic cruise, we've traveled to Asturias and the Sierras, this weekend we're going to the beach near Valencia and next weekend we're going to the Pyrenees Mountains with some friends. It's so amazingly hot here, it really is best to get out of the city when possible. 5) I'm going home to McAllen on Aug. 12th! I can't wait to be in my home where I was raised and spend time with my mom and my girls!!! I look forward to: a good haircut, eating proper Mexican food, grilling on the patio, eating proper barbecue, sleeping in turbo air-conditioning, driving, and shopping at Target. That's it for now.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My weekend as a single parent

This past weekend Kyle joined some friends in Berlin and I stayed home with the girls. I knew it was going to be tough (3 days of full-time entertainment, meals, bath and bedtime), but I also knew/thought I'd have back up from our nanny who lives downstairs. Friday was Brodie's school carnival so I made cupcakes to contribute to the bake sale and then we headed over and spent 5 hours and 50 euros. It really was cute and it was nice to spend time with some of the other parents. Touria was very helpful that day and helped me bathe and put down the girls. The next day started early because Sabine has now decided that anytime between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. is her wake up time. Of course Saturday it was 5:30! Around noon we headed over to the Madrid zoo with my friend Ann Louise and her two girls. Oh boy. I've felt conflicted about zoos for a long time. There's nothing worse than visiting a sad zoo and I have to say the Madrid zoo is sad, sad, sad. The sadness sets in when you shell out the 35 euros for you and your under 8 child. I guess that's about $42. Anyway, it became clear right away that this was not going to be a habitat-sensitive zoo. First of all, there's concrete everywhere and the animals all seem to live within and on top of that concrete. Most of the "exhibits" only had one lone species representative, which of course makes them look even sadder. Also, zoo patrons were feeding the animals chips, nuts, etc. to get a closer look and nobody seemed to care! At the little goat petting zoo, you could buy food to feed them, but they were so obese looking I ended up throwing away the pellets we had just bought because it felt wrong. Finally, at one point we walked by a deserted "habitat" that was filled with green foam. Oh wait, that wasn't green foam, it was stagnant water that had a layer of algae so thick that a plastic bottle was floating on top and the lone duck that swam on/through it left a visible trail. So needless to say the zoo was a huge disappointment to me (really, it seemed almost third world!), but I kept my mouth shut and let Brodie enjoy it. I'll add that the dolphin show was quite nice as was the company so there's that. We arrived home around 8:00 p.m. and had dinner (skipped bath) and Sabine went right down. I was supposed to meet up with a girlfriend but Touria had a stomach flu and was unable to help Sat. or Sun. Ack! So I ended up staying home and reading "The Help" which I'm enjoying very much. Sunday morning we met up with Ann Louise and her family again, had coffee and took the girls to do crafts in our plaza. During the summer, the city sets up a little kids fair every Sat. evening and Sun. morning right in our plaza! I'm sad to report that Ann Louise and her family are moving back to Denmark at the end of the month. She is one of my closest friends here and our girls are close in age and get along great. I'm going to be so sad when she leaves and am trying not to think about it at the moment. Anyway, the rest of Sunday was spent walking around, watching movies and at the park in the late afternoon. Kyle walked in the door around 8:00 p.m. and we were all very happy to have him home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More about the weather

What's that sound I hear? Oh right, it's absolute quiet and it's deafening, I must say. The last two weeks have been filled with lovely visitors, quick trips, small ailments and lice. Yes, LICE. Or as they're called in Spanish - "piojos". Not to be confused with "pijo" which means snob. Anyway, Laura and Emma were here for almost a week and we had such a great time. Brodie and Emma reunited as though only a week had passed since their last visit and for the most part played nicely. Laura had no agenda other than to experience Madrid as a local might. No rushing off to every museum and sight, but rather lots of strolling, passive sight-seeing and of course, eating and drinking! Once temperatures rise the slightest bit, it seems that every Madrileno switches their drink of choice to the tinto verano. It's a simple combination of decent red wine mixed with either Fanta Limon or fizzy water with a slice of lemon over ice. I love the ice here - everywhere you go it's shaped the same - really big cylindrical cubes so that you only need one or two in a small glass. I believe Laura is already serving those up in Austin. Weather: If it seems like all I do is blog about the weather, that's because it's the only thing any one here can talk about. On top of being the coldest winter anyone under 50 can remember, it's also been loooooong. I wore a coat and boots ALL of last week. In fact, it sleeted last Thursday. Luckily, Kyle and I escaped this because he surprised me with an overnight trip to La Granja just outside of Segovia to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. I admit that when he mentioned we were going to a little mountain town, my heart sank a little. The last thing I wanted was to be in even colder weather, but I'm glad I kept my absurdly ungrateful thoughts to myself because once we arrived at the hotel I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness (and luxury) of it all. The hotel was stunning and as soon as we walked into the room, Kyle shared with me that the only thing I had to do that day was show up to my 4:00 massage. That's when the sobbing started - in short, I just felt very grateful to be married to Kyle. The 36 hours alone were fantastic, but somehow I still couldn't let go of the fact that I had a child with a cough and head lice waiting for me at home. I'll back up a bit. The night before we left, Brodie started scratching her head incessantly. Because I'd received no less than five notes from school about a lice problem, I knew what we were facing. After lots of inspection, I discovered them. I won't go into detail because I'm already itching just thinking about it, but needless to say it was tough to leave her and Sabine. Still, I'm glad we did because they both survived just fine and Kyle and I experienced what will always be one of my favorite memories. I also think it's good for the girls to see us as a loving couple separate from being parents. Maybe? Does that sound right? Excuses, possibly. Anyway, back to the weather. At last the weather is above 65 and we're finally experiencing some of the Madrileno lifestyle we were promised! This morning Sabine and I took our breakfast and coffee outside at one of the cafes and I read my kindle. Love, love, love the kindle, by the way. Classics are free!! It's going to be a Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy summer over here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 1 - Labor Day

Today, Saturday, is Spain's national labor day. Did I mention it's Saturday? If I were employed I'd feel totally ripped off about having the day off on SATURDAY. Maybe they should look into the whole holiday observance thing. Granted, the Spanish don't have much to complain about when it comes to paid holidays off. It's crazy how much time the Spanish have off to observe all kind of religious, national and regional holidays. I think in total it adds up to 44 paid days off a year including 22 holidays and 22 vacation days. By American standards, that's a lot time off. Also of note, Sunday happens to be mother's day in Spain. The fun never ends! This blog entry is already sounding crankier than I planned, but only because I've been up since 6 and didn't go to bed until 1:30 so that I could watch all of The Aviator. Anyway, May is going to be jam-packed with celebrations and visitors. In addition to this weekend's holidays, Monday is Kyle's 35th birthday, on Tuesday Laura and Emma arrive for one week, we have tickets to see Rufus Wainwright and that same day Kyle leaves to some island in the middle of the Atlantic for two nights (it's tiny and I can't remember the name), Kevin K. visits at the end of the month, and June 3rd we leave for two weeks on a Baltic cruise. I'm looking forward to all of it and I can't believe I'm already planning for June. We've been here a little over six months and it's almost 100 percent confirmed that we'll be returning to the States after one year. Only six months left? Where did the time go??? I can honestly say that I'll be sad to leave Madrid and would prefer to stay a little bit longer, but I guess that just means that we have to really pack everything in - no time to waste. Last week we were in Fuerteventura for five nights and I'm so, so glad we went. I feel confident that the Canary Islands is not a place we would ever have been able to visit were we not living here. Updates on that trip to come!

Friday, April 9, 2010


Too much time has passed since my last update but it doesn't feel like a whole lot has happened. The thing about not having a traditional job (read: being a full-time stay-at-home mom) is that your days are all kind of the same and start to feel like one, long-ass day. Last week, though, I had the great pleasure of spending two nights in Barcelona visiting with my girlfriend Cile from Austin! She and her mom stayed in the swanky hotel off Las Ramblas, and I stayed at the much less swanky but still chic Hotel Banys in El Borne. I had the best mini-break ever! It was so nice to be with old friends and oh so nice to sleep through the night without the slightest anticipation of being awakened by a baby's cry - thanks Ambien! I was shocked to learn that my orientation of El Borne and El Raval was still good and was happy to take Cile to some of my favorite old spots. On the food front, Cile and her mom introduced me to what is now one of my favorite restaurants ever - Bar Lobo. Cile and I ate there 2 times, which put her tally up to 3! It was that good. I didn't have a bad meal my entire stay, even the cafe we happened on was delicious. Sorry Madrid, but when it comes to dining I think Barcelona has you beat, way beat. Still you're lovely and I think Madrilenos are a tad bit friendlier. Cile and I returned to Madrid on the AVE (high speed train) where I slept so as to not think about the slight case of motion sickness I was experiencing. While Cile was here we had mostly nice weather days, but because of Holy Week, Friday was a complete loss with regard to shopping as almost nothing was open so we did a lot of strolling and sitting in the park. Saturday we visited the Thyssen, which had a huge Monet exhibit and took it super easy after feasting on a huge plate of NACHOS! The parade of visitors has begun and we're so happy! Next week our friends and newlyweds Jeff and Rachel will visit and stay with us one night. Then we leave to the Canary Islands for five nights - yay sun! In early May, Laura and Emma arrive and then in late May, Kevin arrives! It's so nice to have friends visit -hint, hint. In short, everyone's well - we did have one more visit to the emergency room with Sabine - but she's fine now and I think more than anything we're just anxious for the weather to turn hot. Not cool, not warm, HOT. It's April 9th and we're still wearing sweaters and boots. Boo.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cinco Meses

Yesterday marked 5 months since arriving in Madrid. In some ways it feels longer and in others not that long. I'll never forget that long day(s) of travel over here and how full of hope and fear Kyle and I both were. We knew everything was going to be fine because we were together and really how bad can moving to a beautiful, temperate, culturally bustling European city be, but still we'd left behind a whole lot and Madrid was an unknown. I can now laugh about the apart-hotel we had to stay in for 10 long days. It was by I think most people's standards an undeniable dump located in the not so desirable area ironically enough called "Prosperidad" (Prosperity). In any case, 5 months later and I think we've really found our footing. We have a small circle of wonderful friends (most of whom are Spanish) that grows with every outing. Additionally, Brodie has finally settled into school and has developed several strong relationships with some other boys and girls and her level of Spanish continues to floor me. Just the other day at the park I overheard her discussing play with one of her classmates and in perfect Spanish she said, "Yo soy la princessa y tu eres la bruja, vale?" (I'm the princess and you're the witch, ok?) I almost died, I was laughing so hard. Incidentally, they finally conceded to both be princesses. Last week, though, I knew we were truly a part of our neighborhood community when not one BUT THREE merchants let me take things on IOU. There's a guy who sells socks and sunglasses on the street almost every day right outside our building. I spied a pair of goofy green sunglasses, but had no euros so he told me to take them and pay when I could. Later that day, I started a membership at the little video/dvd club across the street. Again, I had no cash (they didn't take credit cards) so he let me take two movies to be paid upon their return. These guys are great - they're an older couple and run this tiny little shop with a small, but very good selection of dvds. They don't have a computer and they write all their rentals out on a ledger by hand. Finally, my third IOU was at the bakery. Again, they only accept credit cards for purchases greater than 6 euros and I only wanted 2 croissants - she let me take them to pay later. The trust and generosity of our neighbors really makes me feel at home and I'm happy to report that with every day we grow to love Madrid more and more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brodie's birthday weekend

I'm happy to report that much fun was had as we celebrated Brodie's birthday all weekend long and into Monday, too. Yes, we had to do have her all-class celebration on Monday because another little girl was having hers on Friday and we didn't want to detract from either girl's limelight. In all it was a lot of work, but I have to admit I had a great time planning, shopping for and directing it. I think the key was not asking what Brodie wanted and just making choices that I knew she would generally approve of. Giving children too many choices can lead to tantrums and meltdowns and your kid might get upset, too. Preparations included selecting decorations - we kind of went with a multi-color, Mexican fiesta theme and hung paper floral streamers and paper globes throughout the room. Then I had to plan and buy the adult food (wine/beer, manchego, bacon-wrapped dates, olives, cut fruit), select the kid meriendas (snacks) and select the goodie bags for her party on Saturday and the all-class party on Monday. These bags and their innards are called chucherias and are stuffed with bad candy and plastic little toys that pose a choking hazard to small children and will later live in the landfill. For the Saturday party we filled little paper cones with Jelly Bellys (these are exotic candies over here!) and for school we opted to do traditional candy and marshmallows in Disney princess bags. For both days I baked cupcakes and used my mother-in-law's recipe for butter cream frosting. They turned out great and seemed to be a hit with all the children and parents. Cupcakes as we know them are not generally made here and if you do find some form of them, they're usually too dry and the icing leaves something to be desired. Most importantly all but one boy's parents stayed and we all got to know each other. Everyone was so very nice and seemed happy for the opportunity to meet other parents. One mom said, "I love American birthday parties - especially the fruit!" That made me laugh, but she said that generally kids parties are nothing but sugar explosions. Sadly, Brodie was the only child who ate it! She's a little fruit fly that one. On Sunday we took Brodie and Sabine down to Fuencarral Street which they close to traffic every Sunday morning. Brodie's big birthday gift was a pink Orbea bike with training wheels! She was tentative at first, but pretty soon was cruising along on her own until she fell over. Ack. We all saw it happening (in slow motion, of course) and it was painful, mainly because I know how scared she was, but she cried into her daddy for just a bit, dusted herself off and said, "I want to get back on." I thought Kyle was going to explode with pride. It was a perfect weekend. The posted snap is from the Saturday party - Brodie is sandwiched between Jaime on the left and Jorge on the right.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Birthday preparations and Behavior Study

Last Saturday we attended a birthday party for one of Brodie's class mates named Alicia. Before then we had only spoken a handful of times to her parents who are very nice as well as to the lady that usually walks Alicia to and from school. The party was hosted at a place right around the corner from us called "En un Lugar en Chamberi" (loosely translates to "Some Place in Chamberi") Trust me I've more than once joked that I couldn't remember the name of the place but that it was "someplace in Chamberi", cracking up no one but myself, I'll add. Anyway, it's fairly small, but it's basically an indoor bouncy house with a ball bouncy area and a couple of slides. Off to the side there's another small room for toddlers and where kids can do crafts, they'll paint your face and make balloons. Needless to say Brodie had a fantastic time and we enjoyed getting to know some parents in the upstairs area where we could overlook the craziness. Pretty quickly, though, I realized that we were the only family from Brodie's school. Carmen (Alicia's mom) said that she didn't know any of the other moms and that I was the only one that she had ever really spoken to. I was stunned. I've been disappointed at the lack of parent involvement/opportunity to get to know one another, but I assumed that all the Spanish moms knew each other and were getting together frequently for sangria happy hours. I mentioned my disappointment in not knowing other families and she said "we Spanish are "cerrados" (closed) and we don't talk to someone unless we're spoken to first." Hmmm....duly noted. With this piece of information and the discovery of someplace in Chamberi (I can't remember the name) we decided right there to host a birthday party for Brodie! As fun as planning this party has been, it hasn't been without its hiccups and stresses. Under normal circumstances I would have insisted on inviting all 25 classmates to the party because I had no way of discreetly getting in touch with just a few of the moms and the last thing I wanted to do was create a situation where feelings were hurt. However, our party spot is not cheap and let's just say that for for the cost of inviting all 25 friends (plus 3 that don't attend her school) we could pay for a weekend getaway EASILY. At first I was adamant, but then Touria whipped out her iPhone and showed me the number, so that's when we decided to have Brodie list out who she wanted to invite from school. Fortunately or unfortunately she really did only want to invite about 8 kids from school. It felt wrong to not force her to be inclusive, but again we were glad she was able to narrow it down so easily and as Kyle pointed out, she's been in school almost 5 months and only been invited to one birthday party, so we're guessing it's acceptable to only invite closest friends. On Monday I bought invitations and the plan was that I would arrive early to pick up Brodie and then she would point out the friends we agreed to invite and DISCREETLY hand the parent an invitation during pick up. If only things had gone as smoothly as it had in my head. The minute she saw the pink envelopes she was jumping and waving them around and then yelling out to her friends!! ARGH!! If this were a movie we would have been in slow motion with a spotlight beaming on us and an exaggerated look of pain on my face. I felt terrible! Long story short, they got handed out and we ended up inviting one more little boy that wasn't on the original list. I'll never make that mistake again. Four year olds just do not understand the concept of discretion! But since then, all the parents of invited children have been strikingly chatty and friendly. Parents who never, ever even said hello now wave AND say hello. I think this confirms Carmen's assessment of Spanish culture. Maybe it's a generalization, but since handing out those little pink envelopes everyone has been way friendlier and almost in a relieved way. Like, ok, we've spoken, the seal has broken and now I can be friendly and you won't think I'm a weirdo! Anyway, every child invited is attending and today I start the cupcakes. Updates to follow. Posted is a photo of Brodie and Alicia at last weekend's birthday party.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bus vs. Metro

No sooner were the words "spring is springing" written and winter decided to rear its ugly, annoying head. This week has felt like hardcore winter that doesn't plan on ever going away, but despite the cold I decided to explore the Madrid bus system today. Since arriving almost five months ago I've only ever taken a taxi, used the metro or walked to reach Point B. Figuring out bus routes and schedules seemed daunting and I also envisioned packed, standing-room only scenarios. No thanks. But, I recently realized that not using the bus was really limiting our exploration of the city. Although the metro is fast and efficient, there are very few stations that have elevators. This creates a huge problem for me during the day when I'm alone with Sabine as most stations have multiple stairwell areas and you have to physically pick up the stoller to make it down or worse, up. Again, no thanks. Well this past weekend we were in the park and we ran into Brodie's frienemy, Jorge "Pepinosa" and his father. We got on the subject of public transportation and in a not so subtle way he informed me that the metro is for weirdos and the bus is for a higher caliber of people. Really???? Hmmm...I have very little experience with city buses, but I have to admit I've always kind of imagined city buses as a place where winos and hobos go to nap. I thought the metro was the smart choice as long as you kept your purse zipped and didn't pass out late night so as to have your bag cut away from your body while you "slept" (this actually happened to someone we know, btw.) With this new information in hand I decided it was time to test the bus system and after many mis-steps and multiple calls to my now rightfully annoyed husband, I managed to find the right bus to take me to a store called "Taste of America" (where I buy Jif PB) and then find the right bus back to our neighborhood. Pros: Clean, you're above ground to view the city, you can push the stroller right on, filled with seemingly harmless well-dressed elderly people. Cons: Traffic, stops way too frequently, longer waits for the bus. I think the pros outweigh the cons and I plan to figure this bus thing out without having to SOS my ever patient husband.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring is springing

It's finally starting to feel like spring around here. I'm sure I've mentioned that this winter has apparently been the coldest anyone can remember - so glad we were here for that! The last two days the high has been around 50 degrees (I try to avoid using Celsius and the metric system if at all possible) and the sun has been out all day. In truth, I think it's for the best that we experienced a hard winter right off the bat because it will make spring that much more pleasurable. This weekend the cafes broke out all their outdoor tables and chairs and the parks were packed with families. I admit I look forward to leisurely breakfasts and lunches at one of our cafes while letting Brodie tear up the playground right within our view. From the moment moving to Madrid was presented to us, the primary images in my head were of all of us outside enjoying a slow-paced life. This past Saturday we made the 30 minute train ride to Toledo. We went only for the day so again we stuck to the very charming city center. We mainly just walked around, shopped and did the obligatory cathedral visit. I'm not sure if this makes me unsophisticated or just a plain heathen, but I don't think I can take another visit to an opulent cathedral. No doubt, this one was beautiful and probably had more El Grecos than the Prado, but I think I've reached my cathedral capacity. Dare I say it? They all kind of look the same to me. Sunday we headed over to El Rastro which is a "flea market" that takes place every Sunday in La Latina. We've found a couple of treasures over the months, old bird cages, textiles, books, but this weekend I found what are now my favorite sandals (see photo). They're a really dark red, hand made in Madrid and they were only 18 euros! They assure me they'll have them all spring and they have up to size 42 which I know will excite at least one visiting friend. The shopping in Madrid is unbelievable and it's been hard to reign it in. I've mainly bought only sale items (stuff only goes on sale twice a year in February and then again in August and I'm told stores very rarely stray from those sale periods) and books. Spring fashion is hitting the stores, though, and it's color, color, color. This is a welcome departure from the mostly black we saw all winter long and I cannot wait to stick the boots in the back of the closet and break out my red sandals.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our little coquette

It's come to our attention that our little Brodie is without a doubt either boy crazy or impatient with girls. She used to mention some girls as friends, but now she says that the girls are mean and she only likes the boys. I'm pretty sure not all the girls can be mean, but it does make me worry. Isn't it way too early to be dealing with this? I thought I had at least until adolescence to learn how to offer the best advice and support - she's not even FOUR yet. Anyway, I've mentioned the threesome of Tirso, Jaime and Jorge "Pepinosa", but we've confirmed that Jorge is definitely not a crush and is someone who just annoys her and that Jaime is definitely her first crush. We arrived from Sevilla on Sunday and not long after Brodie wanted to cut Jaime's picture out of the school magazine, paste it along with hers onto a piece of paper and give it to him at school. She art directed and I did some of the work. We pasted each photo on a green piece of paper, wrote each name under the photo and wrote "Amigos" at the top. At first I thought this was a charming gesture, but it soon dawned on me that Jaime may only be the OBJECT of her affection and that he may not actually share her clear adoration. I immediately envisioned him laughing at her, crumpling it up and throwing it at her feet as he laughed villainously. I went through a couple of scenarios preparing her for other reactions from Jaime mainly emphasizing that he may not understand her or her intentions and I was sure he would never hurt her feelings on purpose. I stayed up Sunday night worrying about this and discussed my fear of her heart breaking with Kyle. The next morning we headed out with the card in her pocket and Kyle asked me to call him to tell him how it went - he was worried too! Sadly, it rained so she wasn't able to see Jaime because he's in another class and they only see each other at play time. The next day, Tuesday, just as we arrived at school, Brodie shouted, "There's my friend, Jaime!" Perfect, I thought, I'll lay the groundwork for the card exchange. I introduced myself to him and told him that Brodie had something for him. He said that he knew because his teacher had already told him. (Brodie had given it to her teacher for safekeeping and she must have then told Jaime's teacher - what a stir we were causing!) I asked him if he knew what it was. "Yes, a photo." "Do you want it?" He smiled, "Yes!" Ahhhhhh! I could quit worrying about my baby's heart! Then right out of a cheesy Hallmark movie, they walked off into the schoolyard and after a few seconds grabbed hands. Seriously, I can't believe I allowed myself to get all worked about this. But still, I know that from here on out kids only get older and meaner. I know I'm projecting my own fears and experiences (in 6th grade I begged my mother to let me switch schools because some mean 8th grade girls made fun of the way I dragged my feet. They'd say "scuffle, scuffle, scuffle. I had NO idea how easy I had it!) onto Brodie, but I want to protect her from all things mean! I think all signs point to me having wayyyyyyyyy to much time on my hands. Something tells me if I had a work deadline looming I'd be less neurotic. And that brings me to child #2. What is it with babies crying? Have you ever noticed that? Honestly mine doesn't cry all that much, but I've decided I'm just a nervous type of person and don't handle crying all that well. If it were 1952, I feel certain that I'd be described as afflicted with a "bad case of nerves" and I'm pretty sure other members of my family would agree. Fine then, please ship me off to the country to sit in therapeutic waters and sip hard liquor. Dare to dream.

Monday, February 22, 2010


This past weekend we made the trip to Sevilla. I must congratulate the Spanish for the creation of their triumphant AVE high-speed train system. What would have been an approximately 6 hour car ride was only a 2 hour and 20 minute almost luxury train ride. It's very clean, they show a movie, there's plenty of leg room, you have an assigned seat (no Southwest Airlines cattle calls here) have a bar/car and you can escape into the luggage car with your screaming baby so as not to annoy others. But the best thing? You can show up MINUTES before your train leaves and you'll be just fine. Really, you couldn't ask for a more comfortable way to travel. Our hotel was lovely and right across from the Cathedral and right in the thick of the "old town". Sevilla is the third largest city in Spain, but we stuck to the very center. Yes, it's a little touristy but that's because it's where most of the places of historic and architectural interest are located. With only 2.5 days to see the city, staying central was the key to an easy trip. The sights in a nutshell: the cathedral (largest gothic in the world, 3rd largest overall in Europe), the Alcazar (royal palace built with strong Moorish architectural influence and still used by the Royal Family), former royal gardens, a horse and carriage tour, the Musuem of Flamenco, two amazing Flamenco shows and dining al fresco whenever possible. Our last meal was at an Italian restaurant that I had read about and was not far from the hotel. It was described as "inexpensive and popular" so I was kind of expecting the Home Slice of Sevilla. When we walked in we were surprised to find it was in a very, very old subterranean building that was beautifully decorated. The food was amazing and the service as friendly as it gets. I highly recommend San Marco for any future travels to Sevilla! All in all a very nice trip free of illness, accidents and disaster. My next post will be about how my almost 4-year old is driving me crazy with her boy-crazy love shenanigans!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot Model/Actor Alert!

Yesterday my mother and I were walking around the neighborhood when we saw what I can unequivocally say was the HOTTEST Spanish man I've seen in person. So hot, in fact, that we gawked and kept turning back around to look without even a thought of what he might think. Usually I try to play it cool but there was no playing it cool, all dignity went out my eyeballs that were boring a hole into that poor man's face. (Kyle can't get mad because I know he felt the same way when he saw Brooklyn Decker at Whole Foods.) So this morning we're having coffee and I happened to look at a newspaper on the counter and there he was front and center. Turns out the hot Madrileno is named Jon Kortajarena and is actually from Bilbao. He's ranked the 8th most successful fashion model in the world and is in Tom Ford's "A Single Man." How do I know all this? Because I had to race home and Google my star sighting! Alas, my excitement was killed when I read that his interests are "watching independent films, reading books by Paulo Coelho, sunbathing, going to the mountains with friends, and music." SUNBATHING???? I guess he doesn't have a publicist yet.


Today Colegio Sagrada Corazon de Jesus celebrates Carnival by allowing the 3-year olds to attend school in full costume. Even though Brodie already has a pretty spectacular princess costume, my mother saw this as an opportunity to fulfill Brodie's every fairy dream. I give you Brodie Rodemacher: Spanish Snow Queen. What you can't see are the gold leather heels (flamenco shoes) underneath. My mom keeps saying,"Just like Suri Cruise!" and this really creeps me out. Did anyone else see those startling photos? Maybe it's a Scientologist thing. Anyway, Brodie continues to be less than dazzled by school and continues to plead to stay home with "[her] family" but I'm hoping today's Carnival celebration and tomorrow's trip to a farm will convince her that school isn't so bad. One thing we've figured out over the last few weeks is that either Brodie is a guy's girl or just plain boy crazy. She only ever talks about boys in her class, namely "Tiso", Jorge "Pepinosa" (should be pronouced "Espinosa") and Jaime. I can't tell you how much this reminds me of myself. From kindergarten to 5th grade of my four best friends only one of them was a girl. Tiso appears to be her best friend, Jaime seems to be the crush and Jorge Pepinosa is her frienemy. She likes him some days and others not at all, but all signs point to a crush on both their parts. She's very conscious of her upcoming birthday, but we're not going to throw a big party. We don't know any of the parents and without a yard, it just seems like a bad idea. Instead we'll take a cake to school, party hats and goodie bags for the kids. Last night when I suggested this to Brodie, her only complaint was that Jaime wouldn't be able to participate because he's in the other class. Definitely a crush. I'll leave you with the three things this week I love about Madrid: 1) On the weekends when you purchase your movie tickets in advance, you get to select your seat. Anyone who has arrived at the Alamo Drafthouse an hour in advance just to ensure a good seat will appreciate this. 2) ANOTHER cervezeria opened two doors down from our building and they have an excellent beer selection. Its first two nights of business, the beer was free. FREE! 3) We can buy Cuban coffee!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kyle's Mother-in-law visit: Day 3 of 35

And now for the exciting conclusion of "Is Ana in the house?" Oh is she ever. After all of our fears that Kyle would be unable to find her in the airport, it ended up being moot. At around 10:00 a.m., I received a call from Kyle saying that her plane had arrived early, but that he still hadn't seen her so we both assumed she was just held up in customs. Well as it turns out, he didn't find her because after 30 minutes of waiting (says she) she hopped in a cab and headed over to our place. You can imagine my surprise when less than 10 minutes after hanging up with Kyle I hear my mom's voice (she was one floor below us and and our door was closed, by the way) asking for the Americans. Poor Kyle! He has the patience of a saint, I must say. If he was irritated he didn't show it and came straight home to say hello. Also, it's hard to be mad at someone who has packed pancake mix, Easy Mac and your Christmas Kindle in their luggage for you. We've taken the first few days slowly so that she can acclimate to the time change and have mainly just strolled and shopped a bit. After taking Brodie to school the three of us, including Sabine, went to Cafe Comercial for a coffee and pan con tomate. Right as my coffee arrived, Sabine woke up and I realized that to maximize the day we were going to have to ditch the baby. Luckily our friend Touria who babysits on demand also provides pick up service. I know I've gone on and on about our amazing nanny, but every time she sits for us I still can't believe our luck. We need a babysitter at odd hours and sometimes only just for an hour and as a college student she needs to earn money. Because she lives directly beneath us and has a very light schedule we have a babysitter virtually whenever we need it! I can't imagine Madrid without this kind of flexibility - I think I'd feel horribly deprived. Anyway, she met us at the Cafe and then we were on our way. Today we went to Mercado San Miguel where we drank cava, ate various types of foods and watched the fur coat parade. Madrilenos are not afraid to break out the fur, that's for sure. On the way back we discovered an amazing litte shop called El Ganso, which I will force all of our guests to visit. This is my new favorite shop and all the clothes are made right here in Madrid. Tonight dinner and a movie!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ana's in the House, maybe.

My mother arrives from McAllen today. We've been in a frenzy preparing the extra room for her and generally just anticipating the whirlwind of Central American loco that is Ana Bergh. I use loco affectionately, truly. It will be so nice to have her company and to do all the things I've been holding off on doing knowing that when she arrives I'd have to do them all over again. The first time I visited Madrid and all of its amazing art museums was more than 10 years ago with my mom and my sister and I'm looking forward to returning. All visiting friends don't have to worry because I'll gladly revisit them with all of you, too! Anyway, Kyle has just left to meet my mom at the airport. This is the exact flight information I received from Ana about a week ago: "I will arrive in Madrid at 9:45 A.M. on the second of February, I will have three suitcases, one of them huge, and a carryon, so I will need a full size cab. Bye now, Mom." Last night when Kyle starts pressing me for additional details, I realize how absurd this flight information is and even more absurd is that in my mind this was plenty of detail. Once my mom and I attended a wedding at the Pebble Beach Resort (where we were hosting a bridal brunch no less) and only when we were in the rental car almost there did we realize that neither of us had bothered to make room reservations thinking that the other had taken care of it. As charming a trait as this may sound, I sense that Kyle wonders how either of us functioned in this big world before his little detail-oriented self married into the family. To add insult to Kyle's injury, I griped that he was keeping me up with his online research of international flights arriving at 9:45 today. I'll end up paying for that somehow. Update on how the airport pick up goes to follow....

Monday, February 1, 2010

TV and Near-starvation

We gave in yesterday and bought a TV. We've lived without a television for three months, but when the opportunity to buy a great TV for cheap presented itself we took it. Even though we haven't had an actual TV in the house, we/I haven't lived entirely without television shows. I've still been able to keep up with a few of my favorite shows via and Brodie watches some videos on, but I definitely don't do the kind of mindless television (computer) watching that occupied WAY too much of my time prior to moving to Madrid. While cooking, folding laundry, washing dishes I'd turn on the TV just for noise to fill the quiet and make mundane chores bearable. I really don't want to go back to that kind of robotic TV watching - it crowds the brain. Our main hope is to watch Spanish TV to help reinforce our Spanish, improve our vocabulary and of course to watch DVDs that we aren't able to watch on our lemon of a MacBook Pro. Moving thing I still cannot get used to are the restaurant hours here. Restaurants open at 1:00 p.m. for lunch (at the earliest) and then close again at 4:00 p.m.; they re-open at 8:00 p.m. and then close again around 11 or midnight. This generally isn't a problem unless it's a Sunday when EVERYTHING but restaurants are closed and you want to eat between 4 and 8 p.m. Well, this is exactly what happened to us yesterday. Our schedule was off because I ate some bad mussels that woke me up at 6:00 a.m. After getting sick, Kyle had to get up with the girls while I tried to sleep. Anyway, we finally made it to coffee and breakfast at around 11:00 a.m. so we didn't even think about eating again until 4:30 when we realized that all the markets and restaurants were closed. For this family of hungry hippos few things are more terrifying than the thought of not being able to eat anything for an entire four-hour window and no clear options at the house. Seriously, we were in a full panic when Kyle pulled out the peanut butter at the back of the cupboard and we made do. I'll note that the reason the peanut butter was at the back of the cupboard is because this stuff is like gold for us Americans here in Madrid and I like to hog it all to myself. We have to buy it at a shop that specializes in American foods and it costs - are you ready? - NINE DOLLARS. Luckily Brodie isn't a fan! This week I plan to stock the pantry with enough food to feed a small family of hippos. The posted picture is how I found Sabine in her crib on Friday night. Too cute.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This little dog has got to be the most popular breed of dog in Madrid. I see at least 2-3 Westies a day just walking to and from school or the market. Isn't he cute? On a side note, this is also the breed of dog the Austonian uses in some of its collateral - classy dog! Anyway, today I pulled the Haiti card. After the earthquake I felt it was important to explain to Brodie what was happening there. I wasn't graphic, but I think it's important that she understand that bad things happen. Anyway, today she decided to throw a tantrum because I wouldn't buy her a treat. It was ugly and I was angry so I went on to explain how children in Haiti are suffering and in need of basic needs and that she should be grateful for all her blessings, which I then went on to list. I'm not sure if this is good or bad parenting (and I don't want to know) but I do know that I don't want to raise an entitled child, oblivious to the state of the rest of the world. So here's where it gets weird. After I went on and on explaining all of the above this is what she said to me, "But mommy, candy is how I celebrate the world." Are you kidding me? I don't know if this is strangely charming or sociopathic and I'm kinda scared.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More on the Hood

I know some of my observations about life in Madrid must seem rather obvious to people who live or have lived in major metro cities like San Francisco and NYC, but every day I still find myself marveling at the convenience of living in an urban environment. I can't think of anything we might want to consume, purchase, experience or imbibe that can't be done or found within a 15 minute walking radius of our apartment. On our plaza alone there are eight cervezerias, 1 shoe store (we bought Brodie's school shoes there), a music school (Brodie takes movement and music here), an English language book store, a shop specializing in tea, a wine store, a flower vendor and a natural food shop. That's a lot of life just right there. I realize that upon returning to Austin or wherever, the biggest adjustment will be driving everywhere. Even in Austin where we lived walking distance from a park, shops and restaurants I often found myself driving just because of the heat and humidity. Ah! Another thing I love about Madrid - NO HUMIDITY. But back to convenience: last Saturday night we met some friends out who now live in our neighborhood so we decided to first hit a cervezeria that specializes in German beer. Before I knew it we were eating dinner at the Chinese restaurant just down the street (at 11:00 p.m. mind you) and then headed home. Our big night out was spent just one block around the corner from our piso - I love this. It's also nice to feel as though you're contributing to the financial stability of your neighborhood. It's clear by the many shuttered windows and for lease signs that lots of small businesses have not survived Spain's financial crisis. I try to shop in the neighborhood mercado as much as possible (instead of the big chain grocery store also just up the street) but I worry for these little guys. Every time I go in I seem to be one of maybe 5 shoppers in the entire market. You can tell that at one time this was a major market because of the number of stalls, but I'd say at least half of them are now closed. There's one man who is SO nice that sometimes I buy stuff we don't need just to buy something. On a totally different subject, we have a new baby! Well, it's actually the same baby (Sabine) but seemingly overnight she's developed a different personality. Not that she wasn't lovable and adorable before, but when she was cranky and super needy it was more of a disposition that only a mother could love. Just in the last few days she's like sunshine on a stick. She sleeps through the night, rarely fusses, is trying to walk, babbling all the time and really experimenting with communication and signing. Putting her down for the night has also become this miraculously easy process. We used to have to time it perfectly, rock her, then lay her on her side while patting her, and so and so on. Now she takes a bottle, we brush her teeth and then lay her down and that's it. THAT'S IT. So needless to say, we've decided she can stay.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brother Trucking Neighbors

In many of my posts I've made mention of the "mean neighbors" without much detail, but today I'll give the blow by blow because we've reached an absolutely absurd level of incivility. It started right before the holidays when we were letting Sabine cry it out instead of tending to her in the middle of the night. I'm the first to admit that this is a form of hell I'd rather not go through again, but there's no way it was worse on the neighbors than it was on us. Anyway, at least on three or four separate occasions the neighbor from across the hall (his bedroom must share a wall with Sabine's) let his displeasure be known by banging on the wall. The last time this happened about 3 weeks ago, Kyle was standing in her room with Sabine in his arms and he instinctively banged right back and yelled out an expletive that rhymes with "brother trucker" and "other sucker" - you get the picture. Before then on Jan. 6th, we had the misfortune of locking ourselves out of the apartment as we were headed out to a parade. We realized it immediately and as we were standing in the lobby trying to figure out our next move, our neighbor Fatima came to our rescue once again. She insisted on walking me to a place that she thought could get it open, but no one was there. We headed back to our place and she said she knew a way to get in. She whipped out a huge X-ray film of her back and with the help of Paco our porter and a lovely neighbor I had never seen before or since we all tried to jimmmy the door with the x-ray. No luck. Lucky for us our next door neighbor (not the mean ones) arrived right as we were about to make the call to the locksmith and let Kyle use her window to get into our kitchen window. We're only one story up, but he was at least 20 feet up and it was a dangerous operation. Anyway, we got in and were so grateful to the FOUR people who came to our rescue. The next day I learned from Paco that the mean neighbors complained that we were too loud. TOO LOUD. It was 7:00 at night - most people are still at work for God's sake and they were complaining that our personal crisis was an inconvenience to their a-hole ear holes! The next day I saw the son in the hall and he said hello, but I ignored him. I've never been so deliberately rude to anyone - it was hard, but I had been stewing. Since then I've seen the father and mother a few times and we exchange mumbled "holas". Based on what happened this morning, I'm guessing it's been decided that we are to be avoided. We had just stepped off the elevator and and I stopped to put Sabine's hat on. Right away I heard footsteps on the stairwell and then I heard them stop. I looked over to see who was coming but there was no one there and then it hit me. It had to be a member of the mean neighbor family and they were waiting for us to leave so they wouldn't have to mumble hola. I didn't even try to conceal that I knew he was there, I strained my neck forward and could clearly see him (the dad) through the elevator grating looking down on us. I took my time before finally leaving. When I got about 10 paces away I turned around and there he was walking out the door. What a wuss! I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I so want to prank them. Like in a huge high school way. In my best robot voice I keep telling myself: MUST TAKE HIGH ROAD, MUST TAKE HIGH ROAD.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Observations

It's been so dreary the last couple of days so we haven't been outside as much as we would all like. This kind of weather has always made me blue, lethargic and mopey - I'm a ton of fun right now. All it takes, though, is one sunny day and I'm back to normal. The other night we met up with my old friend Nick who lives in Barcelona and was in town on business. We had dinner at a little cafe that specializes in Galician food, which as far as I could tell wasn't all that different from what would be served in any Madrid cafe. We shared tapas and ate pan-fried pulpo, calamari, a meat dish, patatas bravas, a dessert plate and washed it all down with a delicious white wine that was served in porcelain little bowls - evidently that's traditional of Galicia. Nick is English and his friend is a Spanish national raised in London. During after dinner drinks we got onto the tricky subject of class. I'm completely unqualified to make any kind of sweeping assessments regarding a perceived Spanish class system, but I have made some observations that I'll note here. Most notably, individual immigrant groups seem relegated to work specific jobs. For instance, I only ever see Chinese people working in their own all-purpose market, at Chinese restaurants or at night as street vendors selling wares (beer, snacks) from their market. In fact, these Chinese-owned markets are so pervasive and so typically owned by the Chinese that the Spanish call them simlpy "los Chinos". There are two types of markets owned by Chinese families, the little food market type and the bazaar, everything-under-the-sun type. There are at least 10 of these within a 5-minute walking radius of our house. The first time someone directed me to go to "los chinos" I was shocked and immediately made a judgement and even though it still makes me cringe, I realize that in the mind of a Spaniard it's an accurate description and not even perpetuating a stereotype since almost 100 percent of these types of markets are actually Chinese-owned. South American women seem to be relegated to childcare. At the park during the day, they all gather and chat and let the babies roam around. They're called "chicas" - the girls. I realize that when I'm with my blue-eyed Brodie I must look like a "chica" - until I yell at her like only a mother would. ;-) Nick's friend said that there's a prestige in having a Spanish chica over a South American. O-kaaay. Then there are the African immigrant men. These guys are typically selling pirate cds, dvds and fake designer bags. Finally, I've noticed that most porters are Spanish. Porters generally maintain and clean the building and in the case of ours, Paco, serve as a point of complaint about all your mean neighbors. I've noticed that all the porters on our street look like they could be sitting behind a desk at any bank or office doing white-collar work. They're always dressed nicely and just seem to take a general pride in their work. When I pointed this out to a Spaniard, he again said that it's a point of pride to a building's tenants to have a Spanish person in this job. I'm not drawing any conclusions, I'm just saying....Anyway, I point these groups out not because I don't think they work in other types of jobs, I know they must. But in these SPECIFIC jobs you will never see (at least I haven't) a person of another immigrant group doing that job. For instance, I've never, ever seen one of the alimentacion markets run by anything but a Chinese person. I've never, ever seen a Chinese person or a person of any other nationality or ethnic group selling pirate cds, etc. So there it is. And, no joke, the sun just came out - must go chase it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sad Truth No. One Revealed

I'm certain that many truths (some sad, some joyful) with regard to parenting will be revealed to me over the course of my life, but yesterday I experienced my first gut punch one. It was Brodie's first yoga class and she had been beyond excited. Every day she would ask, "Do we go to yoga today?" At last it was time. We went right after school and changed into her yoga pants and t-shirt (Target specials both) and then I accompanied her into the classroom and together we waited for everyone including the instructor to arrive. All was well, she was chatting and imitating some of the other girls who were stretching. She's always asking me to show her some yoga poses, but I'd never done anything more complicated than downward dog. So while we waited I decided to break out my headstand. I've done it a million times and every day at yoga practice. I got up on to my head, gently kicked my legs up and then boom! down they came behind my back into a very ungraceful backbend or something akin to that. I looked at Brodie and I said, "Want me to try it again?" She said, "No." And that's when sad truth number one was revealed to me: I'm already capable of embarrassing my daughter and she's only three.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Western World Bubble Syndrome

I finally got around to doing some constructive reading on the web today and was stunned to see the immense damage and loss of life in Haiti yesterday/today. This morning Kyle mumbled something along the lines of "Haiti can't get a break" and pointed to a headline, which just barely registered as I went about my morning routine. I know that life goes on, you have to keep going and all the other platitudes people express in times of crisis, but it just feels wrong to worry about anything other than the people living this kind of crisis. This isn't history - this is today - right now. I can't believe I was just wrestling with what size of shoe to order, I dedicated a whole 20 minutes to this. It all goes back to my mission to live more consciously. Sadly, it seems like there's a catastrophe of this magnitude at least once a year but why must I wait for one of these to happen to be reminded of how much I have, how little I truly need and how lucky I am to have born into the jackpot of civilization called the US of A. I'm not saying tomorrow I won't be griping about something silly regarding baby poop or puke, I'm just saying I want to be more conscious of how good I have it and live gratefully EVERY day, not just when I'm reminded of how much suffering there is in the world.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We woke up to a snow-blanketed Madrid on Monday and it was indeed lovely. The snow was new enough that it was powdery and Brodie and Kyle were able to make a tiny snowman. Despite the fact or maybe because of the fact that Brodie's been out of school for three weeks, she did not want to go. We tried to convince her that she loves school and loves playing with children, but she wasn't buying it. That girl really knows how to work the guilt angle already. She said she wanted to stay home "with her family and keep mama company." My other favorite is, "but you're my mama and I love you!" How do you resist that?! Anyway, everything went pretty smoothly considering we've been way off any kind of morning schedule and we were out of the house about 15 minutes earlier than usual. It was so nice to stroll to school leisurely and play our language games instead of mad dashing and cursing under my breath everyone in my path. However, when we got to school it was clear something was up. It was absolutely empty and the gate was locked. Some cigarette-smoking teenagers leaning up against the wall informed me that it was a snow day and school was closed. Argh......I have to admit I was looking forward to managing only one child (the crying one, not the whining one) and maybe even getting a nap in. Cursed snow. So we were all trapped in the house and no one was happy about it. Tuesday was a whole different day. Brodie not only went to school, but she's now staying the FULL day, which means I don't pick her up until 4:45. I have to admit this feels too late, but that's the only option. She was leaving at 12:30, but that was a special concession to help her transition more easily. Now she stays for English class (I'm hoping this will help her forge relationships with the other children and boost her confidence) lunch, a little nap and a whole other hour of lessons. She's resistant and there were tears today, but I finally figured out that what she was most opposed to is having to eat the served lunch. She's super picky, but I'm hoping that this will force her to try some new things. Tuesday night we had some success with this as she ate and actually enjoyed the chicken curry soup I made for dinner. (See how casually I dropped that I made homemade curry soup?) We're having trouble with the neighbors again, but I'm going to save that rant for later. I may have to write an ode along the lines of counting the ways they suck.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Four Sales and Two Old Ladies

Every new year for the last couple, I've had a conversation with myself about living more consciously. Having children has definitely helped me weed out the embarrassingly frivolous (arrivederci Gucci shoes!) and focus on using less and spending less. Right now, though, it can't be helped and imperfect as I am, I capitulated to the urge to mega-shop. That's right - it's the SALE season in Madrid. Yesterday all the stores put all their winter merchandise at up to 50% off and it's loco on the streets of Madrid. In fact, I think the first day of the sale season must be an unofficial national holiday because despite the fact that it was sleeting and then snowing, the streets were bustling and there were lines, lines, lines. I admit it - I subjected my children to wind and snow in the name of a good deal, but I feel no shame and have no regrets and both stops were less than a 10 minute walk from home. First stop was ZARA kids and it was as if the shopping spirits were smiling over me. First, Sabine fell asleep in the stroller right away and we were in the store no longer than 5 minutes when I looked down and there was a 20 Euro bill. What? Lightening striking twice? Yippee. This time I didn't bother trying to find its rightful owner (Anyone lose 20 euros?!) and made a mental deal with myself to give it away gradually to people who need it (lots of pan-handlers in this town.) I quickly found what both girls could use (long pants, sweaters) and then got in line. Here's where the shopping spirits are less generous. Memo to Madrid dept. stores: Buy more cash registers. Are you kidding me? One register for the ENTIRE STORE? This is problematic even when the stores aren't teeming with deal-seekers, but during the sales it's torturous. I waited in line almost 30 minutes (twice the time it took me to find the items I bought) and then had to stand in front of the most annoying old lady ever. There I said it. Just because you're old (really, really old with a bad wig) does not mean you get a free pass to be a pain in the ass to every stranger you encounter. First, she was the most egregious offender of personal space invasion and most of the time I could feel her bags up against me and THEN she told Brodie (in Spanish, of course) that she was too old for the stroller. How do you say, um, let me see...shove it? This brings up another point I've been pondering: What age is too old to be strolled around? It does seem like most kids Brodie's age and size are walking around town, only infants are strolled. We've tried to make Brodie walk, but she refuses and cries. I suppose this is a better problem to have than the reverse, but at what point do you demand they walk? Anyway, back to shopping. We made one more stop at a cute French-based kid's chain called DP AM. Luckily we were in and out in less than 15 minutes and Sabine slept through the whole excursion. I thought I was shopped out, but alas this morning the siren sale song lured me to a few more tempting dens. At least it's sunny, but still colder than yesterday and very windy. As we raced to a little children's boutique in search of winter hats another little old lady stood firm in my pathway. I don't know what that's about, but this happens a lot here - it's a form of pedestrian chicken. Anyway, as we came upon her, I thought "out of my way lady, I'll run you down." I'm not kidding, that was my exact thought. So much for living consciously.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Style Report

The first thing I noticed about Madrid style is that it doesn't seem THAT different from what you would see in Austin. There are no super of-the-moment trends (that I've seen) and there's a lot of the sameness, but with uptown and downtown versions. I attribute both the lack of distinct trend and sameness to the season, though. For the most part, walking down the street everyone is typically bundled up so it's hard to see what's under that long puffy winter coat (that's a popular style of coat) and as for the sameness I think that winter demands more of a pragmatic uniform than say spring. I don't believe Kyle and I stand out as Americans based on how we're dressed and I guess that means we've blended in. Before he opens his mouth, Kyle is more often mistaken for Italian than American - huh? It's true. Here are some of the style observations I've made. 1) The tulip hemline is popular in coats and skirts - I personally love this hemline and it seems to flatter all body types. I hope it last into spring. 2) Harem pants are popular among young, hip Madrilenos. Another description might be MC Hammer pants. I know, it sounds very bad and like every trend there is definitely a bad version, but there's also a good version. I was just about to write that I don't think I'll ever do this trend, but I also swore I'd never do skinny jeans, so....3) When I lived in Barcelona the hair trend was what we like to call the "fashion mullet" - shorter in front, thinned out on the sides and back and long. Again, sounds bad, but actually worked on young women with super straight hair. This has now been replaced by heavy, straight bangs (think Chan Marshall). 4) Shorts with tights and tall boots. This is generally worn by younger women, but really I've yet to see a really good version of this. It generally just looks uncomfortably cold. 5)The Spanish winter uniform isn't so different from what I imagine most urban dwellers wear in winter - tight pants or heavy tights, tall, fitted boots (the taller the better) and a fitted coat. The uptown version is worn by women who live in the Salamanca area (Madrid's Upper West Side) and the best way to describe it is faux-questrian. Lots of boots, belts and bags with mini-bridle bits. The downtown version is skinny jeans, tall leather boots and a motorcycle-type of jacket. 6) The quilted farm jacket is everywhere and here to stay. In fact, the English-country, just-off-for-a-quick-hunt look is quite the popular style here and I'm told that it's preferred by "pijos", which literally means snobs, but is what Spanish people call the super nationalistic and generally wealthy Spanish. I'm not sure why, but there it is. So that's it. Nothing ground-breaking. In general, I think Madrid is pretty conservative when it comes to fashion (especially compared to Barcelona), but again I'm thinking that once the coats come off I'll be dazzled by lots of style.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Big sigh.........Alas, our winter holiday is wrapping up. Kyle's at work today and our days of holiday leisure are behind us. I'll admit that I've been feeling very sorry for myself and frustrated for lack of sleep, multiple doctor (4) and emergency room (2) visits due to sick children. Now that we're past the worst of it, I feel very small and selfish for this. It's made me realize that I have got to work on my coping skills and learn the art of hunkering down. While I pray that this is never tested, I strongly believe that in case of real crisis, I'll be the quiet pillar of strength and patience my family deserves. I've found that yoga and sleep really are critical to my well-being and I'm committing to both whole-heartedly - such sacrifice! I absolutely love my yoga class that I take twice a week. Ingrid, our instructor, is adored by all of her students as evidenced by the loooong, tight hugs she receives by everyone at the beginning of class. Class is a nice combination of relaxation, that builds to a fast flow and ends with great stretches and then a long savasana. Savasana in this class is like a mini-spa treatment - Ingrid goes around to each student and places two pillow under your legs, a fleece blanket over your body and, a flat pillow under your head and a lavender-filled pillow over your eyes. Always impatient, I used to use savasana to make a grocery list or checklist of to-do's in my head, but this savasana is extravagantly relaxing and I've even fallen asleep. Ahhh! I've also found that cooking is very relaxing and am slowly building my repertoire. Tonight it's Mexican chicken caldo. Above is a photo of Brodie pretending she's "the bride". Sigh. She doesn't get it from me.