Tuesday, January 31, 2017

You win some, you lose some

The weather was all gloom last week, and we were feeling it by the weekend. In spite of looming clouds, we decided to press ahead and go for a hike on Saturday.  Hubs found a trail a few weeks ago that is on the edge nearby town.  It's a rocky path that winds along the cliffs overhanging the sea.  My language teacher told me this week that in the summers, it's the trail into the nudist beaches that are set in the little coves. We will henceforth refer to this as our "winter-only trail." 

We got to the trail head and found it was blocked.  Flooding. After no small amount of debate and attempts at finding another route (there was one, but it would have included an in-use train bridge with three children in tow...and we'd seen no less than 3 trains run it already), hubs put us all on his back and carried us in like a pack mule.  Hero.  

Thankfully, the trail itself wasn't flooded and it was definitely a beautiful adventure for our little men. Hubs spent the next 6 hours in sopping wet shoes.  With ne'r a complaint.  You win some, you lose some.  Not our "best" day hiking, but I'd venture to say that we'll all remember it for quite a while to come.  

Monday, January 30, 2017


One of the perks of living on this side is that I get some shows when BBC releases them.  Hubs and I just finished up Season 1.  If you haven't been tuning into this on Sunday nights on PBS, you should.  

Definitely my favorite series this year.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

tucked in tight

Asher is fully in his sweet little toddler bed now.  The newness of seeing him cuddled up in all that cuteness makes my heart melt.  It's a new season with that wild munchkin. The terrible twos are well on the way.  But he's making up for it in cuteness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


You know we travel a lot.  And that means we usually have to figure out local transport fairly quickly.    Let me just note that there are, of course, some differences between our previous location and our current one. Generally speaking, I've been embolden by our history with local transport to try new things and branch out.

 We've darted through town in rickshaws, with children hanging on for dear life.  I once rode perched precariously on the back of a friend's scooter while pregnant.  You may recall our all-night train ride bumping to Chennai with two young kids.  (I still can't fathom what we were thinking.) I drove a car through wild streets with cows in front of me and every manner of vehicle around me.  I drive here now too and the city metro is becoming our friend, slowly but surely.

But I've developed a sort of aversion to buses.

I'm going to blame it on South Asia. Buses are also affectionately referred to in our home as "Bullies," because of their careless driving tactics.  To exit a bus in South Asia, you need to be able to jump while it it still moving.  You need to forgo all sense of personal space and be perfectly acquainted with chaos.  This, as you might imagine, caused me a sort of panicked sensation whenever I considered using a bus with the boys.  I never did get over my fear of buses.  I just found other ways around town.

But Barcelona is a different beast.  I'm beginning to see that if I really want to conquer the city, I'm going to have to use buses.  Parking is a nightmare.  I simply cannot drive to most places within the city center.  We would just have to circle and return without stopping.  The metro is convenient....except when you realize that you just popped out at a stop that has no elevator and you have three little people and a huge stroller.

I am a bit ashamed to admit that in four months, I haven't boarded a bus because I was scared. I just can't seem to shake my aversion for buses.

This weekend, I bit the bullet though.  And it was love at first ride.  The bus signs are clearly marked. The driver was courteous.  There is a little ticket machine that readily accepts my metro card. My phone actually outlines the bus route for me.

And guess what?  I never once saw anyone jump from a moving bus.  These buses stop at every bus stand. It was so orderly, so efficient, so European. The craziest thing that even happened was my own wild two year old.

And that stroller popped right on.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Science Museum

We found the perfect place for a rainy, cold Saturday! We'll definitely be back! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On the boys and school

Life is moving along here.  I had a longer class today and the other student didn't show.  So it was la professora & me speaking entirely in Spanish...for three hours. I feel like someone put my brain in a skillet and fried it.

I thought I would write a little here about how school is going for the boys. This, I know, will keep changing as time marches on. I don't want to forget that this was a loooong process, though.  This is hard work. It hasn't been easy.  None of us will wake up one day and be totally adjusted.  But we are making headway.  That's something to celebrate.  With four months behind us, even with all the struggle, I still think putting the boys in a local school with immersion-type language, was a great choice for them at this age.  Not easy. But good.

At the dinner table last night, Jude started quoting a poem in Catalan that he must have learned in his class before Christmas.  We've never heard him practice it.  I have no idea why he remembered it almost a month later.  But it was precious. To hear his little voice speaking what, to our untrained ears, sounds like very good Catalan, was definitely a gift.  (In case you're wondering, the boys go to school in Catalan, which sounds a bit like a mix of French/Spanish. David and I are learning Castilian Spanish.  The hope is, they'll eventually come out of this move as trilingual: English, Catalan and Spanish.) He recited it again for me this morning.  I think you'll be amused.

Overall, he seems to be doing well in school.  We met with his teacher before the break, and she spoke positively about his adjustment and seems to think he is progressing well for his age. The meeting was, of course, in Spanish. But from what we understood, it was all thumbs up.  Jude seems to mark his adjustment in another way.  When I ask him if everything is going ok at school, he assures me that "he never even cries at school anymore." This, of course, is a clue into how much he was crying those first few weeks.  It's tough stuff to not understand what's going on.  Sometimes I want to cry when they send another note home in Catalan.  Thank you, Google Translate.

Socially, he's our introvert, so it can be hard to gauge.  His book intake and love for reading has grown astronomically in this season. We're talking hundreds of pages a month. As a fellow introvert, I appreciate this as a way to de-stress and process a season of change. Recently, I've noticed a definite increase in his interaction with classmates right after school though.  He is more friendly, able to confidently greet them, and seems to be finding his place more.

Silas, our fun-loving extrovert, has taken the move a bit harder than I anticipated.  I though he would jump right in and, out of a love for people, be the fastest with language acquisition.  He has made several friends, and seems to have genuine affection for them.  His teacher speaks well of him and thinks he's doing fine. We even had our first successful Spanish playdate at our house with two classmates.  However, he often flatly refuses to use Spanish words in social situations. To give an example, I'll say, "Go say 'Adios,' to your friend." He responds, "No, Mom. He speaks English." And he'll shout, "Goodbye." To be clear, his classmates don't really speak English, but they do know how to say Hello and Goodbye.  Silas seems internally convinced that everyone actually can speak English, if they want to. This, I find both amusing and concerning.

He had a birthday party on Friday night. It was possibly the worst two hours of my time Spain thus far.  Part of it was simply that the venue was incredibly loud and overstimulating.  It made some of our Indian birthday parties look tame.  He cried because he didn't understand anyone. His classmates didn't play with him. He sat by himself at the snack table.  He would hardly let me out of his sight to talk with the other parents.  And overall, he just had a miserable time. Me, too.

A friend wrote to me after the party to assure me it was a very normal first-party-in-Spain experience and not to be too overwhelmed.  It will just take time. I did promptly check on extra children's language classes though in the city and am considering getting some outside-school language help for him.

As I read that back, it sounds dramatic.  It's really not all like that though.  Ninety-five percent of the time, Silas comes home from school happy and excited.  He has taken the move in stride and while he faithfully mentions and misses his friends in India, he's moving forward in healthy ways. He is learning and growing and he loves his teacher.  He usually only goes for the first half of the day, and spends the afternoon with Asher and me.  He's working hard on the BOB Readers and is making progress every day.  And by the way, he is absolutely one of the most hysterical kids I've ever been around!

Struggle is part of life, and I keep reminding myself that hard things can strengthen good muscles.

It is not fun to watch at times though.  It's not fun at all.  But I am praying and trusting that these hard experiences will build good things in their character.  You can pray that too, if you think of us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


My new best friend came in the mail this week.  Her name is Roomba.

My very kind parents came, saw, and said..."Merry Christmas! We think you need a new friend." Oh.  I am so thankful.

I think it's gonna be love.

And of course, I'm just kidding about that best friend part.

Kind of. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sturdy Children

All you parents, grandparents and teachers skip on over to the Circe Institute today and load this little podcast up on your phone or listen online.  Entitled "On Building Sturdy Children," it's well worth your ears.

So maybe this toddler mischief is making me re-visit the basics.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Hubs spent most of the weekend in bed.

Those ole hamstrings aren't what they used to be and he's not much of a stretcher after those long runs. He thinks it was a pulled back muscle.  Let's just say, we've been having some conversations about how we're not as young as we used to be. Thankfully, he's up and at them today.

At least he got caught up on his emails.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Good Morning, Brother

Those mothering moments you never really foresaw.  

When Brother #1 is in distress at 7:15am because Brother #2 woke him up too early with a gusty rendition of "Eye of the Tiger." 

We have a classic case of early bird/night owl going on in those bunk beds. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Grid

Let me just note here that I love living in a city that was, very obviously, planned.  It is a grid. Previously, I would not have considered this. But it really makes a difference.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Ildefons Cerda for beautiful sunsets every evening, even in a bustling city.  All I have to do is look west.

All architecture is great architecture after sunset; perhaps architecture is really a nocturnal art, like the art of fireworks.  

- G.K. Chesterton

Monday, January 9, 2017


We found snow.  (At first we only found heavy frost, but you can sled in that too. Further in and further up, we found the real thing.) The boys loved it. They said it was their favorite part of Christmas break.  I'll admit, after about an hour, I was ready to get back to our semi-tropical climate.  But it was fantastic to finally get a glimpse of the Pyrenees.

School started today and everyone made it through. There won't be any more galavanting for a while now.  But it feels good to be back in the saddle!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tres Reyes

In Spain, most children don't wait up on Christmas Eve for Santa to come down their chimney. Saint Nicholas is present in plenty of displays, but he is certainly not a central theme.  The nativity is very central in the Christmas celebration.  We are, after all, in Catholic territory now.

The big day for kids is The Three Kings Day.  The magi, who travelled far to worship Christ, are sort of magical men who also happen to visit houses and leave gifts for little girls and boys.  The children write letters to them, and wait with eager anticipation for this January morning.  School is still on holiday, primarily, it would seem, because everyone needs to finish up with this grand celebration.

Last night we attended Los Tres Reyes parade through the city center.  The Kings arrived on a boat at the port and paraded through the city with a grand array of floats, dancers, and even a candy throwing machine.  It was spectacular! Think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, only with a bit more flare.  We met up with a few Americans to take it all in.  The boys had a front row spot (while the parents and Asher enjoyed more of a crowd view).  We all loved it!

 At the end, the coal truck came by.  Might be my favorite float of the night.  If you're naughty, those Kings just might leave you a little coal instead of gifts.

And they finished off with candy canons that fired into the crowd. You can imagine the boys' excitement.  This was definitely a highlight for them! I'd say there's a good chance this will be a new family tradition for us! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

the metro

Just in case you've ever wondered what we look like when we ride the metro.  Here's a little peek. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Silas and I are reading this little gem together in the evenings.  It's hilarious to a four-year-old.  (And to a thirty-six-year-old, to be honest.)

A highly recommended read-aloud.  The chapters are short enough to keep things moving and funny enough to hold the interest of wild little men.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Corre, Papa!

Hubs ran his first Spanish race this weekend.  And the boys wanted to make the sign in Spanish, including "Papa" instead of "Dad."  Progress. We're making language progress! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Bubble Man

We took a stroll through the park for New Year's Day and found "the bubble man." 

The kids love this guy.  And I'm seriously considering this as a retirement plan for myself.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Farewell, 2016

A new year always feels like a fresh page too me.  Full of all sorts of possibilities.  But before moving forward, I want to make my annual list for 2016. 

The year in review: 

  • It was, within the past decade of my life, the most unexpected year of our life together.  If you had told me last New Years' Eve that I'd be writing from a settled apartment in the heart of Barcelona, I am not sure I would have believed you.  This move has the marks of kindness all over it, and yet I am still in awe of our lavish, intimate Father who gives gifts like this. 
  • It was the year we left our home of almost five years, and we left with both sorrow and joy. Sorrow over all that we lost in leaving a place and people we had grown to love deeply, and joy because God is the one who made us love it.  The sorrow I have felt in this loss surprises me still. He made a way for us in a hard land, and it was beautiful to watch it unfold.   His faithfulness was a marker moving forward.  
  • A verse that I will always associate with this year is Psalm 107:7, "He led them by a straight way til they reached a city to dwell in. "  Our way forward could not have been straighter.  In a  season of uncertainty, we had clarity in all the right places.  
  • In our family life, 2016 was the year Asher learned to walk, talk, laugh big laughs (and throw big fits). Silas is all together a boy now, with very little trace of baby but an awful lot of winsomeness.  Jude has grown in inches and understanding. His growth is perhaps the most startling to me of all. When I am alone with him, I remember how quickly this will all pass.  
  • It was the year when we made the unexpected trip home for five weeks of visa work and family time.   We got to go to the beach with family, hug my sister spend time with cousins, see a few old friends, and enjoy the refreshment of being back in our hometown for a little while before starting again.  We've even welcomed a set of grandparents in our new 'hood. Grateful seems a small word. 
  • Language study began again. And it's better this time around. Our brains are a little more stretched and the pressure is a little lower.  The boys are at an age when their intake is higher and it's so fun to watch them grow into bi-lingual little men. Even Asher says "hola" now.  
  • Personally, if I had to use just one word to sum up this year, I would say it has been humbling.  Humbling in the sense that I have met with my own sin and been brought low. I am not as good as I thought I was and it is very uncomfortable to behold. The gospel is for me, and I need it.  I need it far more than I actually realized.  It has been humbling to see the provision and care for our family through the body of Christ.  At every turn, we have had just what we needed. It has been humbling to start over again in a place where we know very little of the culture. We are back at square one, and we have a lot of work before us.  We are learners.  It has been humbling to see the Father's abundant, kind, detailed provision for us. It hasn't just been provision either, but tiny detailed kindnesses from a Father who sees.  Grace comes where we don't deserve it.  The many good gifts this year have borne unmistakable marks of grace.  
So we walk forward as those who have received much.  There is work before us, and we are supplied the grace moment by moment to do it. 

Onward, 2017.