Friday, November 17, 2017

The way the city changes

We have been in our "piso" for over a year now. We're situated in the heart of downtown, in a metropolitan European city.  It's a different life than what I imagined us living.  Traffic rushes past our windows 24/7, my kids have races on the balcony and in alleyways, and I can give a fairly accurate estimate of how many kids will be in the park at any given time of day.

I guess I always thought my kids would be traipsing through fields at this age or, at the very least, building treehouses.  Instead, they're growing into skateboards for the concrete, and handling massive intersections like traffic-safety champions.

While I'm always glad to get out a bit, for the most part, we like living in the city.  It's been a fun adventure to be downtown in a place like this. Some of the best museums, parks and architecture in Europe are in our backyard.  We play in the shadow of a church with a history almost as long as my home country. I pick up a fresh baguette for lunch on my way home every day.  When I forget to grab diapers, I can literally run downstairs and buy them. We walk everywhere.

One of the aspects of city life that I've been noticing lately is the sensation that it is smaller than it was when we first arrived.  It doesn't feel like a blur of buildings and traffic to me anymore.  I don't get anxious when I have to jump on a bus.  I can even give a decent restaurant recommendation or two.  It feels like my neighborhood. When I walk out my door, I usually bump into people that are familiar.

The man who runs the eyeglass store around the corner greets me each morning as I walk to the gym.  I see him later taking his granddaughter to school on his scooter.  We buy bread from the same shop, and I usually don't even have to tell them my order any more. I left my cell phone at the local grocery one afternoon, in a city known for cell phones pickpockets.  When I returned 3 hours later, they waved as I walked in and pulled it out of the cash drawer for me.  I've run into people that I know 3x this month...on the subway.  In a city of 5 million.

The city is shrinking for us, and I like it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quotable Kids

The words flying out of little mouths this week that had me laughing:

Jude, while walking to school on a crisp winter morning munching on a carrot, " Mom, I wish you could have warmed up this carrot for me. I have cold hands in a coooold world." 

Silas, while riding the bus with the after school teen crowd, sighs longingly, "I sure wish I could have a cell phone, Mom." I cannot even bring myself to imagine that kid in the teen years.

Asher, hiding under the covers in our bed, screams, "I can't see my eyeballs!!! I can't see my eyeballs."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Apple Slab & Lullabies

 It's getting cold around here. And I love it! The leaves outside our window are turning the colors of fall. (One of the perks of being on the 4th level is that you get a great view of the tree tops.)

In honor of autumn, I made this fantastic apple slab recipe.  David and I ate the entire thing. It's quick, easy and so worth the calories!

These cuties got their winter pajamas this weekend. I'm wondering how much longer they'll all get so excited about matching? I'll take it while it lasts!

Speaking of pajamas, a sweet friend sent me Christy Nockel's new lullaby album: Be Held.  You should go now to iTunes and purchase this gem.  Head to Toe, a lullaby detailing the Armor of God, is on repeat (for momma) these days in our house.

And when I wake, the final week of the Spanish intensive begins.  The exam is on Thursday and I'm already shakin' in my fall boots.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

skates and spanish

The day our month 'o' visitors ended, I started a three-week language intensive.  It's a review of the tense that's giving me lots of trouble. A tense I really need to master to move forward.

Jude illustrated how it's going with his new roller skates.  I did not purchase these skates, a friend gave them to him. I almost gave them back.  I also almost backed out of this class. But we're trying to be a persevering people.

1. This was the first week.  I was eager to be back in class, ready to a challenge, and feeling steady on my feet.

2.  Then we started using words like desde, hace, despues and the detested preteretito imperfecto with it's bjillion irregular forms.  I started to stumble. I lost my balance.

3. This photo mostly aptly sums up my current state.

Tomorrow morning may come a little too quickly. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation Day, 500th Anniversary

We are so close to Germany this year that I really almost booked tickets.  How amazing would that be? I actually think I've been to the church in Wittenburg, but it was well over a decade ago.  I love the story of Martin Luther.  

Tonight we had our annual Reformation Day Dinner.  We had to postpone a night due to the chestnut festival in Catalunya yesterday. (More pictures on that later.) I did forgo the nailing of the Theses this year. The door is glass😬. And I wasn't quite prepared enough to get the monk costume together. Mom fail on this 500th anniversary, right?

However, we did draw pictures of the church, and watched this fantastic little video (made with Playmobil animation?!). Then there were the hammers. The kids still don't always remember Martin Luther's name, but they totally remember that I make "hammers" out of cut up donuts and kebab sticks.  It's one of their favorite traditions.

The 500th anniversary celebrations have certainly prompted some great discussions about his life.  Click over to read this article entitled, Here We Stand

Grateful for a man who stood.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

flags, fountains, and friends

The Catalan government finally declared independence, on David's birthday.  There was cake in our house, and marchers with flags in the streets.

The weekend was full of demonstrations and rumors.  Madrid officially took over the region.  The news this morning said that the Catalan president is in Belgium, most likely seeking political asylum. Drama.

In the midst of it, we celebrated thirty-seven for this guy, with his lifelong bud, Aaron.  When we showed up for our double date to a Spanish guitar concert, they were even dressed alike.

Mrs. Dawkins sent a picture of the kindergarten days so we could revel in the nostalgia.  We did revel in it. Today those sweet friends flew away, and our hearts are full.  Life together, even for a week, is a grace gift.

Don't worry.  We made them drink from the famed fountain, that is supposed to ensure a return trip to Barcelona.  While I don't think the magic of the fountain will secure it, I sure hope God will bring them back this way again soon!

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Not a lot of words this week, 'cause it's busy around here with this gal and some seriously sweet grandmas from their church.  

Tomorrow night we get a double date with those cute boys from our high school that we used to slurp milkshakes with at Steak N Shake;) 

Monday, October 23, 2017


Play is really the work of childhood.  
- Fred Rogers

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Traditional Paella Recipe

As a farewell gift, Kayla treated me to a class at Cook & Taste Barcelona.

Ya'll.  I would never have gone to a cooking class. But here's the beauty of hanging with friends who are really different from you.  It's her thing, it's like a vacation tradition that needed to be fulfilled.  So I went.

And I had a blast.  

We left stuffed with good food, a lot of laughs, and a pile of fantastic recipes and kitchen tips. I wanted to share the Paella recipe with you, in case you're up for adventure.  

Traditional Valencian Paella 

Ingredients (Serves 4) 

300 grams corn fed chicken, chopped (Traditionally this recipe actually uses rabbit.) 
150 grams tomatoes, grated
100 grams green beans
150 grams red pepper, chopped
100 grams sweet onion, diced
100 grams butter beans
320 grams Bomba rice (any risotto rice) 
1 litre chicken stock 
15 saffron threads
olive oil, salt to taste
smoked paprika


Brown meat in olive oil in a paella pan, salt each time a new ingredient is added. When the crust gets darker than gold, turn heat down and put the meat on the edges and caramelize onions and peppers in the center. Crush garlic and saffron and add to pan.  Next, place crushed tomato in center and let the liquid evaporate completely. Add the remainder of the vegetables, sprinkle with smoked paprika. 

Add rice and stir at low heat for a few minutes.  Distribute evenly and pour in boiling chicken stock. 

Do not stir anymore, make sure the rice has enough liquid to cook. When the rice is dry, cover with a cloth and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The day it rained

Today, it rained.

A lot.

I got caught in it at some pretty inopportune times.

But now, the city air is fresh and the chill of fall is rushing through the windows.  I'm about to eat Ben & Jerry's and finish an episode of Victoria.  I'll be glad to go to bed tonight and start a new day in the morning.

I had my driving exam today. The one that has been in process for about eight months now.

At 8am, I had bike trouble and then bus trouble. And it was raining.  But thanks to hubs, I had a buffer.  Though in the end, I did have to run up Montjuic to make it on time. I told myself the whole way up the hill that this is what I go to the gym for anyways, right? To meet the demands of life. As it turns out, I beat the Spaniards there by a good thirty minutes.

 I had heard rumors about a female examiner with short hair who is really rough on students, particularly foreign females.  When the examiners finally did arrive, a cafe con leche was needed before getting started. The students were crammed in a car while the heavens broke open. When I saw her walking toward the car, her hood was up.  As soon as she got in and pulled it off, I saw her hair.  Short haired female, and definitely not very sympathetic to foreigners.  She spoke a mile a minute.

You test in pairs, and my counterpart was an older Belgian woman, whose nerves were getting to her.

She went first.

I was so tense when she made mistakes that I had to restrain myself from audibly groaning.  When it was my turn, the examiner looked at my residency card, which is in renewal process, and told me I couldn't test until it was renewed.

I tried to explain my case in Spanish.  She said my Spanish was so bad that she couldn't understand a word of it. Ouch.  Hello, humility.  A gift of language acquisition. There was some negotiation with my teacher, pleadings from me to call my lawyer for the details, and finally we drove us back to the test center to consult with the big boss. They said it was fine.

This could have impacted me in the opposite way.  I was actually resigned by that point to the thought that passing an exam on a day like today would be nothing short of a miracle. My nerves let up a bit.

I took the wheel, and drove.  For thirty minutes.  In the pouring rain.  Really it was torrential.  Sometimes it was so loud that I had to ask her to repeat her instructions.

When we finally pulled back in, it was still raining.  She told us in rapid Spanish all the ways we didn't drive properly, then let us know our results would be posted.  Basically, I cross my hands underneath when I turn the steering wheel, etc.  (In her defense, it's not exactly her job to be nice to us. So, no hard feelings, right?)

I got lost going home.  In the rain.

And I spent most of the afternoon recovering my courage to live in a foreign country.

Then, I went to pick up the kids. In the rain. I can't push a stroller with an umbrella in my hand. And my rain jacket has no hood. I don't know why I bought a hoodless rain jacket 5 year ago, but I did.

But after I walked in the door, I got a message from my driving school.

I passed the exam.  It's like a small miracle. If I ever see that examiner again, I'll thank her, in Spanish.

Ya'll. I hope it's sunny tomorrow.