For years I watched my Grandma crochet. She would sit for hours with yarn and projects on her lap while we played around her or watched tv together. Several times over the years she had tried to teach me how to crochet and thinking back it wasn’t hard. I think I just had other things to do. I didn’t have the patience or stamina to complete a project or to even practice so I could feel proud of what I did accomplish. She was, in fact, a very crafty person and I have many fond memories of working on new crafts with her. My dining room table still has the stains from some of her last projects. It’s the reason I put up with the uneven table legs, mismatched leaf and the need to replace the random screw that falls out periodically.
I completed hook and loop rug projects. Ok, I think I completed at least one but now that I really think about it I can’t actually picture a finished project. We painted ceramics together. I tried cross-stitch. I made a pink, punch & loop pig craft that I was proud of. I excitedly wore it to school, sewn on a pink sweatshirt with matching pink pants and was devastated when black ink was spilled on it in art class. We made pine cone crafts, clothes pin crafts, baby bottle crafts, good-luck bingo crafts (you know, so that one has an advantage at bingo). She would visit craft shows and would buy an item so that she would have the pattern to make it herself. I fondly remembering going to one craft show with her and getting Cabbage Patch Kid stickers to stick on my pencil box. Her basement rivaled the likes of Michael’s craft stores.
Over the last month, I have been learning how to crochet. And in fact I have not only been learning but completing projects. It’s relaxing. It’s a great activity while sitting with the kids as they do their homework. It’s a nice activity when I’m feeling restless with nothing much else to do. It’s been a great winter activity. October and Scarlett learned right along with me. I was really quite impressed with their ability to handle the crocheting needle and follow along with their pattern. The entire family would gather in bed under blankets, away from the cold, watching Netflix and myself, October & Scarlett crocheting together. It may be my fondest memory of this winter yet. Yet, the speed at which their projects were coming along discouraged them and their projects slowed to a crawl and then a stand-still. I offered to help pick up the pace for them while they were at school. They of course agreed and they also maintained their ownership of the completion of their project when sharing with others. And that’s just a-o.k.
I smile to myself every time I see the girls wearing their scarfs. I did something I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time. And not only did I try it, I succeeded in making what I set out to make – Infinity scarfs. I love feeling cozily wrapped in the afghan blankets my grandma crocheted and I picture my children wrapped in the same love and coziness as they wear the scarfs we created together.
One of the great thing about Spanish cities are the plaza’s and outdoor eating spaces. It seems whatever the weather or the time you will find people outside enjoying drinks and food while kids play in the peripheral. It’s been a great experience and one that we have been woefully under dressed for. Not so much in terms of cold weather clothes but in terms of fashion. We have functionally warm outer wear while it seems all around us there are people wearing fashionably warm outer wear. They might be wearing their pajama’s underneath but I am certainly the one that sticks out.
It’s great letting the kids play nearby while we enjoy a drink and good conversation. Whether it’s been mid-day or 10pm their are always other kids out and about playing while there parents are also enjoying the day/afternoon/night.
Our family has gone into hibernation. This is really the best way to describe it. It’s cold and the wind chill factor is simply brutal. Something about being in a mountain valley along a river? The highs have been around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the lows around 10 but the wind is at 20 mph with gusts to 30. Lavender just about cries every morning on our walk to school.
October, Scarlett & I have learned to crochet and are all working on scarfs. I’m quite impressed with how the girls are doing. October is almost done with her scarf and has gone through an entire skein of yarn. In this cold weather (and cold house) we have begun to hibernate. After school we all gather in beds together. We crochet, cuddle and watch Netflix. We get out of bed to have some dinner but then we all gather back in bed to cover up and crochet some more and watch Netflix. I’ll required American schoolwork be done but it will also be done in bed. Other nights the girls have a rhythmic gymnastics class before we gather in bed together. We might gather on the beds in the girls room or more often we all pile into our double bed in a jumbled mess of bodies, blankets and yarn. Around 9pm, we send the kids to their beds and everyone goes to sleep for the night. Yes, that includes Jeff & I. We all slumber for 10 hours or so and repeat the next day when we will again gather in bed together. This routine isn’t helping me reach my goal of being active in the new year but the cuddles and quiet time together as a family makes me smile.
In exactly five months our visa’s will expire and we will need to leave Spain as well as the entire Schengen area. And according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary it certainly has been an adventure: 1) An exciting or dangerous experience. 2) An exciting or remarkable experience. 3) An enterprise involving financial risk. The last definition caught me a little off guard when it popped up, but it is certainly true nonetheless. Being here has been an adventure and a challenge and awe-inspiring. I have loved seeing the history – the Roman aqueduct, castle ruins, the tomb of Christopher Columbus, the tombs of Queen Isabel and Ferdinand, restored castles, old tapestries, Islamic palaces, Catholic Cathedrals, roman mosaics, and the cities that have lived on for so many, many more years than anything we have in the U.S. I haven’t loved the isolation, frustration and loneliness that comes from not speaking the language and having no where to go during the day. I am awe-inspired when someone speaks Spanish to October or Scarlett and she responds back! It’s amazing to me the fortitude of my kids. Day after day I have dropped them off to spend five hours a day immersed with people that speak very little English (if any) and in a culture that was completely foreign to them only four months ago (both the Spanish culture and the public school culture). That part really is amazing.
We had thoughts that when our Visa’s were up we would travel around Europe. Ireland was at the top of the list. But as the time approaches and our homesickness grows and our wallets shrink, I think we will find ourselves on a jet plane sooner than we had anticipated. We’ve started looking ahead to what we want our lives to look like when we return. Almost everything is up in the air. Jeff will return to his job but I won’t be returning to mine. And I’ll need a new one. Our condo is rented until the end of November so we won’t be returning there either. We have yet to decide whether the girls will continue to be homeschooled or attend a Spanish-immersion public school or a regular neighborhood school. The opportunities are both exciting to imagine and overwhelming to consider all at the same time.
I’ve spent a lot time thinking about what I want when I return. Here it is: 1) To get involved. 2) Create connections and foster relationships. 3)To be physically active. In striving to not be over-run with the busyness that can come with a job, school, working opposite schedules as your spouse, and kid activities I failed to create and foster a deeper connection with people, my community and organizations. Usually in the way of remaining on the peripheral at school or girl scouts, not reaching out to meet for a drink or not making advance plans – so that I could be free to enjoy where ever the day took us. And I appreciated not feeling overwhelmed by places to be or things to do. I rarely scheduled more than one activity in a weekend. I liked being able to head to the beach or the creek or the forest or just reading by the fire or an impromptu get together with friends, free from other commitments. Yet at the same time, I have missed out on the sense of community that I long for. That I realize I need and I want. So in the new year, I hope to meet with friends more often, reconnect with old friends, create a support system among other friends raising their family far from family, go on more dates with my husband, become more active with the girl scouts, host parties, volunteer in the community I end up living in, join a fitness or sport group/class, enjoy more hikes in our area, learn with my family and create lasting traditions outside my family.
Being away from home, away from friends and family, away from traditions can derail your holiday spirits. And while it seems the girls are wholeheartedly embracing the idea of a simple, family Christmas they are listing all the dolls, fairies and toys they would also like. We spent last weekend listening to non-stop Christmas music, putting up purchased decorations, making decorations and watching Christmas movies together. The girls have made foam ball snowmen and lots of paper snowflakes. I decorated stockings with glitter glue. We have big pine cones beckoning us to pour glitter on them and tie them with ribbons. I bought a little artificial Christmas tree (stealing one from the forest was seeming like an increasingly bad idea). At home, I like my Christmas tree to look nice. Or maybe I should say I like it to look the way I want it to look. Organized, color-themed, symmetrical, non-commercial. I have red and silver bulbs with with white and red lights. I have homemade ornaments and store-bought ornaments and but for one Maxine figurine I have no tinkerbells, barbies, pooh bears, or other cartoon characters on my tree. But I decided here to buy non-red ornaments, colored lights and to let the kids completely decorate it on their own.
It also snowed a bit. The kids thought it was amazing! They went out and ran in the snowflakes, we took a hike in the woods. It certainly wasn’t going to stick. It didn’t even look like snow as it hit the pavement or the grass. Either way though, the kids loved it!
It’s been four years to the day that my dad passed away. Every July, to celebrate his birthday I bake a cake and we sing Happy Birthday. To help keep his spirit alive for my girls we talk about how much he liked to tease, kiss his grandbabies and build things with his hands. This past July, we were finally able to gather as a family at the cemetery. This was my first time returning to his grave since the memorial. The girls had never been to a cemetery so of course they were very curious. It was hard to have them running around happily and asking to have all the gravestones read while I was there to say hello to my beloved dad that I’d like nothing than more to see in person and actually talk to. We lit birthday candles (and I’m sure we sang, although I don’t actually remember), the girls cleaned and decorated his grave, we took pictures, we toasted him, we hugged and we lit sparkles. Had I past a larger fireworks stand I would have gotten something with a little bit more kick to better celebrate. While the dichotomy of happy children and a sad heart was difficult, I was glad to have had them visit, I was glad to finally visit, glad to have us together, glad to have them see us celebrate and see us all shed tears.
But in November, I don’t share with the kids this day. We don’t celebrate. Jeff & I will usually go out for a quiet lunch and a beer. I’ll buy a Busch beer; and most of it will go down the drain. I always hope this day will be a little easier, a little softer, a little gentler, a little less raw. I hope that for this year as well. It’s been four years and I still find myself thinking “oh, my dad would get a kick out of this.” I’d still like to call. And every now and then I’ll play his voice mail message to hear his voice. The girls have grown so much in the time he has been gone. I’d love for him to see how big his first granddaughter has grown. I’d love for him to see Scarlett’s blue eyes and crazy personality. I’d love for him to be able to tease Lavender for telling him no (as she does to everything and everyone these days). I’d have loved to have him with us for so, so much longer. We love you, Mark R!
Thanksgiving is not an internationally celebrated holiday. As such, on Thursday the girls had school and Jeff had work. Interestingly, Jeff asked students if they knew what Thanksgiving was. A few did but mostly they wanted to know if he went shopping for Black Friday. During the day I picked up some last minute supplies up for our planned Friday Thanksgiving celebration — although in reality the stores were open as normal if we did need something. We watched a live streaming of the Macy’s Day parade when the kids came home from school. And while we had our celebration planned for the next day, it was really hard not to feel a sadness on not spending the holiday with family. On not knowing how the food we had planned for tomorrow would turn out. On not being part of a larger celebration. It was hard evening. I hadn’t anticipated that. My bottle of 1.66 wine didn’t really make it any easier either. But….
We celebrated Thanksgiving today. (I’m not really sure why the schools in Buitrago were closed. It wasn’t a national holiday). And it was nice. It was good. Jeff and I spent most of the day cooking and listening to Christmas music. The food turned out great. Everything was homemade. Actually, now that I think about it I don’t even own a can opener. We had scalloped potatoes with ham, baked beans, green beans, squash, homemade mac & cheese and an apple pie. We watched a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. We all shared the things we are thankful for. It was really nice. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!
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