30 November 2010

It All Began Wednesday

November 30, 2010 3
What a crazy few days we've had!!  Early in the Thanksgiving week I notified my kid's teachers that they would be out for Accion de Gracias (Thanksgiving).  Wednesday they had a field trip to a local theater.  I was excited for them to get to go.  What a fun way for them to finish up the week before their holiday.
Because of needing to do a bunch of cooking and cleaning I had arranged for the kids to eat lunch at school.  I had cleaned about half the house when I got a call, early afternoon, that Karis had a temperature and chills and they asked if I could come get her.

She had hardly eaten any lunch and one of the lunch break monitors was laying down in a room with her.  She did not look like she felt well at all, poor girl!  I got her all comfy on the couch watching a movie while I got back to cleaning before Brennan & Reegan got home.
That evening we were welcoming our dear colleague/friends from Prague, the James'.  They were here for the guys to do some work and to celebrate the holiday with us.

We had planned on joining thirty-something of our Madrid colleagues for Thanksgiving and figured we were going to have to change our plans, which we did.  Karis continued to have a fever and did for 3 days.   Thank the Lord and Lysol that no one else got it.  Seeing as Jerry practically used it as a cologne!  Ha!!  And now he's sick with his own thing, go figure!

We threw a very last minute feast together.  I was already in the process of making cornbread dressing and the good thing about living in another country on Thanksgiving is all the stores are open!!  The guys headed to the store and got some roasted chickens while us ladies got to work!  The only thing I really missed was having sweet potatoes. I've seen them, I just forgot them!  How could I when it's one of my favorites!!  Oh well.  We'll remedy that for Christmas!  Otherwise we had a nice little feast of chicken, dressing, green bean casserole, rolls and mock cranberry sauce.  What is our mock cranberry sauce you ask??  Why, lingonberry sauce from IKEA!  It's a great substitute!

We finished off the meal with pumpkin crumble, which was such a breeze to make last minute!  The rest of the day was just spent relaxing and catching up with old friends!

 By Saturday Karis was feeling better, but unfortunately the temperatures outside started to dip and no one was really up for braving the cold, plus our friends hadn't brought much in the way of cold weather gear.  So what did we do? Why headed to Starbucks, of course!!  The Starbucks in our town has some of those little kiddie rides that you pay a euro.  My kids have just as much fun climbing around on them without paying any money.  So, the kids played while the parents sipped away on their Starbucks drink of choice!

This was one of those weekends where I got to chatting away so much that the camera was just about forgotten.  I did get a few our last day together!

With 5 kids it seems like we did LOTS of eating!

Good Buds!

The boys, Steve & Jerry

And the girls, me & Julie

I took them to the airport this morning.  We were sad to see them go!  But, it's time to get back to life as normal!  Hope you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving!

23 November 2010

Young Love

November 23, 2010 7
Last Spring right after returning to Prague and while attending church we met a new family.  Instantly our kids hit it off!  In such a short time they were buds!  It was almost crazy at how quickly they took to one another.  They were a sibling group of 3 boys.  Their middle son is the same age as Karis.  He was (and still is) smitten with Karis.  At 5 years old!!

The dad was in Prague to film a movie that is suppose to come out soon called Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II.
I was sad to learn that they would only be in Prague for a short time (of course we left a year later), but we enjoyed the time we had with them.

The mom, J and I made a point to keep in touch through email and sent messages every few months.  A couple of days ago I got an email from C, her son, asking for our phone number so he could talk to Karis on the phone!  So later that day they called and they talked for 2 HOURS!!

Now, let me remind you that it has been a year and a half since they've seen or talked to each other!  And C still wants to marry Karis!  Ha!

Here they are last year.  Are they not the cutest little couple EVER?!  I absolutely LOVE this picture!

And here is Karis on their Skype/phone call (their microphone wasn't working).

We have plans to Skype again sometime!  Maybe one day we'll get this group together again!!  They are from the UK, but live in CA for now.  However, they come back this way from time to time, so it's a real possibility!

18 November 2010


November 18, 2010 2
I spent a couple of hours yesterday at my neighbor's home.  She's been a great neighbor!! Helping me in times of need and giving me a look into Spanish culture.  And we've had some fun chats!

We were talking in her kitchen waiting for the coffee to brew when I looked over and saw something interesting on her counter, so I thought I'd ask what it was.  They call it membrillo.  They explained the process of cooking it down with water and sugar and it turns into a kind of hmmmm, well, it's hard to explain so take a look instead.

A jelly?  A paste?
It's thick enough to slice, normally.  They said this batch wasn't stirred properly and it was too soft, but the flavor was the same.   It is usually eaten with a sheeps milk cheese.
They didn't know the English word for membrillo.  We looked it up later and learned that it is called quince.  Still, I had no idea what that was.  I looked it up online thinking maybe it wasn't the American-English translation.  Sure enough it is, but it's not something we normally eat.  It looks like a cross between an apple and a pear.  You cannot eat it raw as it's really hard.

As for the flavor, well, it's ok.  My tutor and I discussed it today and she insisted that you must eat it with cheese.  I can't say that I'm a big fan of fruit and cheese together, but if that's your thing then give it a try!
I even found a recipe at Simply Recipes.  And there you have membrillo!

16 November 2010

Silly Band Craze in Spain

November 16, 2010 3

I don't think silly bands were big yet by the time we left the US in April 2008.  My guys were so little they wouldn't have been into it anyway.

I seem to remember seeing pictures some time ago of store aisles full of various silly bands!!

Well, the craze has hit Spain!  We haven't seen an aisle full, but I've seen quite a variety!

 My kids didn't know what they were until some older girls in our apartment complex started giving them some of their bands.  And now, my kids have purchased their own with their allowance and are doing all kinds of silly band trading!

Now, let me go back a few years!  My mother-in-law is the queen of stocking stuffers!  It's one of the things I look forward to (no pressure, Patsy!  Ha!)!  She can get pretty creative!
Several years ago she gave us a box full of animal shaped rubber bands!

I'm sure we'll be purchasing many more of these and they will probably find them in their stocking at Christmas!!

15 November 2010

Proyecto de brick de leche

November 15, 2010 4
Milk carton Project

I love how they call it a "brick" of milk in Spanish (although they also have the word "carton)!
We got a note sent home that the school will be having a "La fiesta del otoño,"  an autumn party on Friday of this week.  We were asked to make a milk carton into a type of basket and the kids could decorate it as they like.  They will use them to collect chestnuts.
Here are the milk boxes cut out and ready to be decorated!

I had to get my decorating juices flowing!  I like to be creative, but being crafty is not my strong suit.  I'd rather put my efforts into creating in the kitchen!  But, I wanted my kids to have a nice basket!  I thought it would be fun to decorate with cut out leaves.   My idea was to cover the whole thing with different colors and shapes of leaves, but Karis kind of nixed that.  A friend of hers had decorated with leaves already.
So I decided to cover the whole thing in construction paper and then glue cut out felt leaves.
Of course, later Karis told me her friend had decorated with real, dry leaves.  That's a bit different!
Anyway, I liked the felt leaf idea.
I kept wondering how I could cover the handles and decided to use some raffia.  I like how it turned out!!  Here is red for Reegan, black for Brennan & orange for Karis.

I found a template for Fall leaves on Martha Stewart's site to make a Fall leaf garland, which I'd love to make some time.  It was a perfect template for our proyecto!

 I must admit that my kids didn't help a whole lot with these.  They just wanted to scribble on the side of them and plaster them with stickers, so we compromised!

Karis stuck her stickers on the inside.  I made let Brennan decorate 3 sides with stickers and one side with a leaf.  I thought Reegan was going to do stickers on the inside only, but she went at it when I wasn't looking.  I'm trying to let go of my perfectionism and let my kids be kids!  Ha!  It is not always easy!

There are some more activities that will go on with this fiesta, so we're looking forward to that!
Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week?!!  Wow!

12 November 2010

Flashback Friday

November 12, 2010 0
I've decided to start doing a little serious called Flashback Friday.  Maybe it will be every week, maybe not.  We'll see.  At the beginning of this year I wrote 2 posts about the last 10 years of living in Europe, here and here.  There was no way to share every one of our experiences during those 10 years in 2 posts, so I had the idea to go through the tons of digital pictures (when digital cameras were big and bulky and only took about 14 pictures at a time! Ha) that we have taken and use it to share about our life experiences.
I wish blogging had been around 11 years ago!  I'm not one to keep a journal, but there is something different and refreshing about blogging that I love.  So, it will be fun for me (maybe you too?) to go back and do some reminiscing.
One of our first photos in Russia.

The big sign on the side of the building says "Мы строим коммунизм." In English "We are building communism."  And to the left of the picture, the widely known McDonalds sign!! 
I think they were cleaning the side of the building to put a new advertisement up over the communist sign, but it was funny all the same.
We frequented this McDonalds quite a bit in those days!  It was one of the few places where you could get American food.  Russia had a TGIFridays at that time, but we went there less frequently due to the cost.  We were amazed at the Russian craze over McDonalds.  Hoards of people stand in a big mass!  There are no lines.  It's a free for all to get to the front to order!!  Crazy with a capital "C!"  I always let Jerry do the ordering while I went on a hunt for a table.  It worked for us.  Or maybe it worked more for me because he knew how much I hated ordering in those UN-lines!

Those first days in Russia seem like a life time ago!!  We just passed our 11 year mark at the end of October.  Where has the time gone?!  

Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoy my time of reminiscing!

11 November 2010

November: National Adoption Month

November 11, 2010 4
Adoption is near and dear to my heart.  So I felt compelled to join in on mentioning that it is National Adoption Month.

We adopted our daughter when she was 5 months old from a Czech orphanage while living in Prague, Czech Republic.  God has bless our family in so many ways because of adoption.

Czechs tried to discourage us from adopting a Roma (also known as Gypsy) child.  During our process we were told that a Roma child would most likely love to sing and dance, be defiant and try to run away when they reached the teenage years.

I beg to differ.  Well, she does like to sing and dance!  Ha!

 When a psychologist told us this very thing I wanted to pipe up and say "What about a loving Christ-centered home with constructive discipline??  My hubby discouraged me from saying anything and we decided to use the nod and smile approach.  That was one of those times it was hard to bite my tongue.

The orphanage she came from was a good one and took very good care of her and the other babies.  We were so impressed with what we saw.  You could tell that it wasn't a front.  It was noticeable in the faces of these babies.  They were loved by their caregivers.

Karis had a very independent nature early on.  And quickly it became evident that this was a strong-willed child.  I had no idea what to do with one of those!  Ha!
 Seeking the Lord and LOTS of chocolate (hee hee) we're making our way through.  It hasn't been easy and there have been moments of tears for everyone, but in her short life she has endured a lot!  Lots of changes, lots of languages around her, several different places we've called "home."  So I can't really blame her!  But oh, the stories she'll be able to tell and the experiences she's had!! 

 Through difficult times I have often thought back to what that psychologist told us.  Maybe there is something to say for the Roma gene running deep?  But ya know, it really doesn't matter where her strong-willedness comes from.  Hey, there are plenty of biologically born children out there that are strong-willed!  The fact is, she is a child of God.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
All that to say, I wouldn't change a thing!  God knew what He was doing when He knit us together as a family!
If you are considering adoption or have adopted, I'd love to hear your stories!  Please leave a comment or send me an email!  I'd love to hear how adoption has changed your life!!

09 November 2010


November 09, 2010 1
I've been thinking a lot about this word lately, especially with our recent move.   My perspective on life and the world around me is going to be so different from the next person.  So many things will contribute to each one's perspective.  Where they've lived, experiences they've had, things they've heard or been told, the Lord in their life and how He has spoken to them

Our perspective: we have found the Spanish people to be warm, friendly, and patient and the country being more like home than anywhere we lived (besides the US, of course).  But that is our perspective.  Other Americans we've met haven't had the same experience of friendly neighbors or kind cashiers (ok, not ALL our neighbors or cashiers have been friendly! Ha!) or they don't find the culture to be easy.  And that is there perspective.

The other day when I was reading through facebook.  I came across an ad about Prague.  It made my heart pitter patter a bit and I had to take a look.  What I found was a blog for people looking to visit Prague.  The blog writer wrote a post featuring top 10 signs that you're in Prague.  He featured things like the Czechs love of baking with poppy seeds, leaving your shoes at the doorstep, how carp is eaten for the Christmas meal, Easter traditions, knights on the metro on their way to a medieval reenactment.  My personal favorite,

men wearing socks with sandals.
This is a funny site I came across while researching this post.  Men with socks and sandals, a whole site of it!  Cracked me up!

My perspective in Prague...it has to be dark socks, not light ones mind you, but dark socks with sandals.  Then add a pair of men's capris to that!  Now that's a look!  Ha!

One of his top 10s however, was way off from my perspective.  That is tram etiquette.  This man wrote
"Nowhere else I’ve seen people so promptly give up their seats to elders or disabled people; and I’m not talking just about the reserved seats assigned to them. But what happens quite often is that, even with no disabled in sight, on a full tram, most would hesitate to sit on a free seat, failing to realize that it might even save everybody some space."


Ha Ha!!

I HIGHLY disagree with this perspective!!  I guess he was never on the trams I road!!  Typically I saw people clamoring for a seat!!  And he sure wasn't on the tram I got on a few years ago, hugely pregnant and NO ONE would get up to let me sit down until I somewhat loudly said to a row of people "Prosim!"  (that's please in Czech).  And did I mention the woman who just about pushed me over to get to one of those seats and then wouldn't even look at me when I said anything or at all for the rest of the ride, for that matter??!!

I'm jabbing fun a bit (at the writer anyway, not about my tram experience while pregnant, that really happened).  Most people do let the elderly have a seat, however, I've seen some that didn't.  And most people did not get up for a pregnant woman.  Again, my perspective though.

We all are going to have different perspectives.  I think the important thing to remember is that we don't see our perspective as superior to others.   Are we being a witness when sharing our perspective?

I guess I need to adhere to what I preach because in this situation I think my perspective is correct over this article writer!!  Hee hee!

06 November 2010

Best Dressed Park

November 06, 2010 6
Several people had mentioned to me that our town of Alcobendas, had a Pirate Park.  Today we finally went in search of it.

The structure is in the shape of a ship complete with what looks like waves around the ship.  Kinda fun!

What I was not expecting when we got there was kids in their Sunday best, as I call it.  To play at the park?  Really??

Why yes, really!
 He is one of my favorites with his coat wrapped around his shoulders and buttoned at the top, corduroy shorts and knee high socks!

 Corduroy short's brother.

 Aren't these girls cute in their dresses?!

 Even complete with a kid in a tux on a moto!! Ha!

The only explanation I have for such a nicely dress park is it's close proximity to a very well known and swanky area of Alcobendas called La Moraleja.  And no, we don't live in the swanky part!

After my obsession with well-dressed kids I took a few pics of my own kids.  I think we'll stick to our t-shirts and holey jeans when it comes to the park!  I'm not keen on my girls getting rips in their tights!!  Ha!

 The girls made a new friend.  It was cute watching them play!!

 Brennan wanted to take a pic too.  He didn't do too bad!

We finished it off with lunch at Burger King in our little neck of Alcobendas.  What a fun day!

05 November 2010

On Learning Spanish

November 05, 2010 6

Have you ever studied another language?

Somehow I got all the way through highschool and 3 years of college without learning a language.  I have had a passion to travel Europe since I was a kid!  But that passion never included learning another language!  Ha!  I remember even saying that if I were to go to another country I would learn the language of the locals.  I would try not to rely on English alone.

Funny how things change when you're in a situation.  Ha!

When we moved to Russia I knew we would be learning the language, going to class 4 times a week for 3 hours a day.  Russian is tough.  The letters are Cyrillic, the cases are hard, the endings change.  I was a slow learner, but I was getting it.  We studied on this schedule for 14 months, going 4 days a week.  Then once we moved to our city of Bryansk, we still continued studying, but it was more like twice a week. 
But then we moved to Prague.  By this point I was burned out on language learning that I couldn't even comprehend trying to learn Czech!!  However, I was ready to leave Russian behind and concentrate on Czech.
Because of our roll in an office setting we didn't get much language learning.  I think we had a tutor twice a week for two hours.  It wasn't much at all, but we were getting the basics.
God decided to keep us going in the Russian language as we began to meet Russian speakers who had immigrated from Moldova, Ukraine and many other Russian speaking countries.  And God saw fit for us to be a part of a Russian speaking house church.
During those first couple of years in Prague we were speaking English during the week at work, speaking Russian on Sundays and various hours here and there throughout the week and a little bit of Czech learning in class or when going to the store.
Our Russian began to suffer, our Czech increased a bit and our English probably suffered a bit too because we began to blank out on English words!  Ha!

And then.....enter Spanish!!  Now, I was really excited to be able to speak Spanish.

Did you see how I said that??

Excited to be able to speak.  I didn't say excited to go through the pains of learning Spanish.  Hee hee!

As you can see, I am not much of a linguist.  I would love to be one of those people who could spout out some Russian, turn around and spout out some Czech and then turn and spout out some Spanish.  I could probably do it, but it would take a minute for my brain to do all that switching.   I'd love to be really good in one or two of those languages.  But honestly, I stink at learning languages.

And of course there are all the excuses I could come up with.

"I'm 10 years older than I was when I learned Russian."


"I have 3 kids now, I have no TIME to study!"


"I'm sick."

"I need to put some laundry in."

"I need to go grocery shopping."

It is very easy to come up with all kinds of excuses not to study.  However, I am not going to be able to communicate unless I put my nose to the grindstone and get busy.  So, I must.

About 2 weeks ago I started meeting with a tutor, once a week for 2 hours.  It isn't much (we don't have much budget for language), but she is wonderful and the time I have with her is helping!  I needed that planned meeting time to keep me motivated.  Otherwise it is to easy for me to say "mañana (later)!"

Jerry was given some study money and is in the midst of a semi break from work until December to study Spanish.  He is attending Universidad Complutense de Madrid one of the oldest universities in the world.  He is learning a ton, but the demanding hours has been a bit difficult for our family.  We know there is an end in sight and we'll push through until the end, December 21st at 5 pm!  Ha!

So, I will do my best to get myself organized, laying out a plan to be faithful to study the Spanish language.  Here's praying anyway!!

And because my girls can't be left out of a picture, here they are!!  Sweet things!!

03 November 2010

Pumpkin Crumble

November 03, 2010 3
I haven't made Pumpkin Crumble yet this season, but I plan to!  It WILL get made, I promise you that. 
I am joining in on We Are That Family's  "Work For Me Wednesday" where we are sharing Fall recipes.
I blogged about this Pumpkin Crumble last year when I found it on Our Best Bites, but I thought I'd mention it again and actually add the recipe.

For Pumpkin Crumble I had to have a cake mix and I don't have that. Oh, we can get it here. I'm just not willing to fork out $8-$10 for a box of cake mix when I can make a perfectly good cake at home. However, I still needed one. So, to the internet I went in search of a recipe for a cake mix. And I found a few! So first, I set out to make the cake mix for my crumble.

After making cake mix that yielded the equivalent of 3 cake mixes (Woohoo!!), I started on the crumble.

Easy Pumpkin Crumble

1 boxed yellow or white cake mix
1-2 sticks butter (see notes in instructions)
1 16 oz can pumpkin*
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/3 C chopped pecans
1/2 t additional cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 350.

Place 2 cups of the cake mix in a bowl. Cut in 3 T chilled butter. Just use your fingers to crumble the butter until it's in small crumbly pieces. Place mixture in a 9x13 baking dish and press flat with your fingers.

Mix pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices until smooth. Pour on top of the cake mixture in the pan.
take the rest of the dry cake mix and mix in 1/2 t cinnamon. Sprinkle it all over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Use a measuring cup so you have a rough measurement of how much you're putting on. For every 1 C of cake mix you sprinkled on top, you'll need 3 T of melted butter.   Drizzle it right on top.  Next sprinkle on the chopped pecans.  Pop it in your 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or so. A knife should come out without globs of pumpkin on it and the topping should be nice and golden.

02 November 2010

The Line Up

November 02, 2010 1
Every day I continue to be amused and amazed at the school line up.  I think I've mentioned it before, but the preschool (ages 3 - 5) is connected to the elementary school.  They do however, line up at a different door than the big kids.  There are 2 classes for each age, making a total of 6 lines of kids.  The classes don't have more than 20-25 in each class.
The majority of the kids don't have a problem lining up, grabbing onto the backpack or shirt of the kid in front of them and walking together to class.  But usually, every day there are a few screaming straggling kids, *a-hem*..... sometimes one of mine being among the stragglers.

Each school and most apartment complexes in Spain have a concierge.  Our school's concierge is awesome!!  I think he knows every kid's name!  And it is him who is ofttimes dragging these kids into class.  I've even seen him unglue a child from his/her mother's arms!!  He doesn't do it in a gruff or mean way.  Just as gentle, kind and as helpful as he can with a smile on his face.  Seriously, I am so impressed with him that I have gotten a little teary.  Ok, I know, that may sound weird but when it is your child that he is graciously dragging into school, ya get a little teary!

Then there is another aspect to the line up.  The coveted spot.  Karis and her killer competitiveness to be first in her class' line.....

or basically anything in life!

Oh my!!

Seriously, it's baaaaad!!!

I've told her before that there is no way we can get to school early in the morning JUST so she can be first.  Not gonna happen!  But, I've told her that we can try to be first, sometimes, when we go back from lunch break.  There are only about 4 kids in her class that go home for lunch, but there is always one girl, S, that is there early.

Now, I try and understand Karis' competitiveness.  There is a part of me that wants to see Karis beat S to school.  Bad mama, I know!  I guess her zeal is rubbing off on me.

But why is it that they always have to be so early every single day?!  Come on!  Ha!  S' mom is always the first one at school to pick up her child and always the first one to drop off her kid.
Of course, we have beat S and her mom, but only a few times.  Honestly, it's starting to wear on me a bit.  Karis is asking me over an hour before we go back if we can go early and she won't stop for nothin'!  Then if she's early I've seen her race to be first on the cherry (that's her line, the cherry line) to go back to class without even saying "Hola!" to S.

So, I am in the midst of trying to teach healthy competition and grace.  Not an easy feat!  Please Lord help me!!  Ha!


  Deeper - adj. 1. extending or situated relatively far down from a surface: a deep pool. It's been a long time since I've ...