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Four(ish) Months – Reflections and Updates

Since writing my reflections and thoughts on the upcoming year in my blog post Five Months and New Year, I have tried everyday to work on some piece of those goals.  I’ve written more postcards and emails to connect with people, I’m started my volunteer modules for Girl Scouts to be more involved and this month I have been able to get out and get active!


We’ve created a space for ourselves in the forest. The girls have a partial fort built and are pounding rocks into powder. I got creative and am using the rocks as weights/kettle balls to exercise with, a tree for kickboxing and an unstable rock for balance exercises.


We have our plane tickets home; we’ll arrive in Seattle on June 30th.  We don’t have a trip to Ireland planned but we are spending 2.5 days on a layover in Iceland.  In searching for the cheapest flights I ran across this option and jumped on it (hopefully, I won’t regret our hasty decision).  At the end of June, Iceland will have 20 hours of daylight.  It’s been on my “list” to experience this so I am beyond excited about it.

While we don’t yet have housing worked out we have decided that we will rent short-term, return to our condo in December when the tenants lease is up and prepare to sell it in the Spring 2016.  We’ll find out next week if Lavender made it into the Spanish-Immersion school kindergarten.  Although, even if she gets in it won’t be until the end of summer that the other two can try to test-in into the school.  So schooling is still up in the air – I am not having them in different public schools.  As always, I would like to keep homeschooling – as would the girls.  I have my eye on some rental apartments in the different school boundaries so we can keep the most possibilities open and I have my eye on new homeschooling opportunities.

We’re going to apply for summer jobs.  Jeff will apply to teach summer school.  I will apply to some different places for a summer job, including working in the office at summer school.  I am also going to try my hand at shopping thrift stores and garage sales for books to sell on Amazon.  It’s likely I’ll reach out to my previous employer(s) to check for any part-time work for the summer as well.  I would also like to volunteer for the Girl Scout day camp in our area.  Not only will it be getting me more involved, it will allow me to have a reduced rate for the girls.

Last month, I started feeling more upbeat and motivated and found myself with lots of ideas and projects (Onto Something to Do) to keep my busy.  Outside my June Cleaver duties that is!   I had wanted to come up with a new name and layout for my blog but in doing so I came up with an entire new blog (business??) venture that I am pursuing.  I feel really motivated and I have pages and pages of ideas handwritten in a notebook.  Everyday, I have worked on learning more about blogging including cross-marking, branding, affiliates, disclosure policies, copyrights, and best practices.  This is the reason you have not heard from me in a week.  My idea, it’s potential and the hopes I have, have been consuming me.

The potential of volunteering at Jeff’s school has fallen through but our neighbors want to meet with us regularly now to speak English and Spanish.  I was concerned that without a job here, I would have nothing to put on paper (i.e. Resume) for my time here.  But the experience itself is resume worthy and I’ve been working to put into bullet points what exactly that experience includes.  I haven’t made it far.  What I have decided is that in addition to creating a new blogging venture (and selling used books online and a seasonal job), I am going to pursue being a High School Student Exchange coordinator.  I’ve spent hours and hours researching different groups that bring students from around the world to the U.S. trying to determine which would be a good fit.   At the beginning of this exchange, I thought the language acquisition would provide the greatest employment opportunities when I returned but it would take more than a year exchange to be able to claim I am fluent in Spanish.   What I’ve realized is the experience of my exchange, in particular my day-to-day needs that I struggled through and the inherent ups-and-downs are my most valuable asset that I will be able to transfer to a workplace.  Becoming a student exchange coordinator seems like a good fit and use of my new found empathy and knowledge from this past year.  It will also tie into my new blogging venture; unlike selling used books.

So tell me….what’s new with you?




Trading Magnets

The girls are into these little magnets that they trade at school right now.  Scarlett talked several people into giving her some and then even convinced another friend to give October two as well.  I’m not really sure what the protocol is for trading trinkets at school or even among kids for that matter.  I never had anything I traded….oh…wait…maybe, Garbage Pail Kids?  I’m pretty sure I had some of these but I don’t remember an active trading market.  October was very excited when she found out we could buy them ourselves in Buitrago and they could have EVEN MORE TO TRADE!!

We had to go to the store, which is actually a candy store, immediately at lunch time so they could see if they were really there.  I succeeded in asking the store clerk if he had these and how much they cost.  I called it a victory.  The girls were so excited that I bought them each one packet – 1 euro.  After gymnastics class we also had to return to the candy store so they could buy more with their own money. Scarlett spent 5 euro’s in one day on trading magnets and tic tacs.  I guess she’s been seriously craving some tic tacs!

I’m going along with the whole trading magnet hoopla.  It’s good for them to have something to interact with the other kids with.  October already traded one she didn’t really want but that way she had a more complete family.  And Scarlett lost one so she didn’t take them to school today either.  These trading magnets may be over my next week!

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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.

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Poo Free

Since I’ve heard about the shampoo-free hair method more than a year ago, I’ve thought about trying it.   But I never wanted to go through the “icky” period of greasy hair.  It occurred to me last month that since I was wearing a hat nearly 24/7 and already not showering regularly due to the cold, NOW would be the perfect time to give it a try.

What is the shampoo-free hair method?  It’s based on the idea that when you use traditional shampoos and conditioners, your scalp is stripped of its naturally occurring oils and to compensate for this even more oil is produced resulting in oilier hair that needs to be washed frequently to keep it looking good.  In my reading, people had many different reasons for going “poo-free” including the desire to use less chemicals on their bodies, be more frugal by buying fewer hair care products, it’s better for the environment, and have generally healthier looking hair with less maintenance.  I fall in the last category.  I wanted healthier looking hair that didn’t need to be washed every or every-other day to look good.  The shampoo-free method involves using baking soda to “wash” your scalp and apple-cider vinegar to “condition” your hair.  It’s not, not washing your hair.  My husband was more than a little concerned he was going to have a wife with dreadlocks when I told him of my experiment.

I started my experiment by not washing my hair for 9 days.  It was cold, I wore a hat 24/7.  Actually, I had two hats.  One for the day and one for sleeping.  I had planned to go for 2 weeks without washing it.  My thoughts were that I’d let my scalp go crazy producing oil that hopefully, I’d get the “icky” stage of going poo-free over with more quickly.  At 9 days though, I couldn’t take it any longer and decided day 9 was going to be the day I tried the poo-free method.  I wet my hair, shook some baking soda into my hand and scrubbed my scalp.  Focusing on the crown and near the part of my bangs.  The baking soda exfoliates, lifts dirt and eliminate odor from my scalp. I didn’t wash or scrub the rest of my hair.  I didn’t try to finger comb the baking soda through my hair or try to detangle my hair as I showered. Only the scalp.  I rinsed the baking soda out with water and then used apple cider vinegar to condition my hair.  I dribbled a little vinegar on my head and let it absorb for a minute before rinsing well.  A salad was not the scent I was going for.  I didn’t try to finger comb while in the shower and I was dreading the knots that I believed I would inevitably be combing out for the next hour.  How could I possibly not have a tangled mess?  I was quite surprised. It was amazing!  No tangles.  My hair combed out as easily as if I had used a traditional conditioner.

I need to have a better system for distributing the baking soda and vinegar rinse; such as a premixed water bottle for the baking soda and a spray bottle for the rinse.  My current method doesn’t really allow for any fine tuning as the amount I use varies greatly from one shower to another.  I am certainly using more than I’ve read others recommend.  Overall though, I am pleased with how my poo-free experiment is going.  I’ve washed my hair 4 times using this method and between each shower my hair is looking less and less greasy.  The sudsy lather of the traditional shampoo I do miss.  It seems so luxurious to have those suds!  But for now, I am going to keep up the poo-free method in the hopes of even shiner, healthier hair without the extra grease!


Prior to poo-free. 9 days without washing.


Prior to poo free – 9 days without washing.


After first poo-free wash and air dry.


After first poo-free wash and air dry.


Washed poo-free 5 days ago.


Washed poo-free 5 days ago.


After second poo-free wash.


After second poo-free wash. Air dried and brushed. No products.




Carnival in the Streets

Carnival turned out to be a big deal.  Students and teachers were dressed in costumes they had been working on in school for weeks.  Each grade cycle (a two-year span) was a different ancient civilization. The parade though the village was much bigger than I had envisioned.  I pictured something similar to my grade-school experience of the Halloween costume parade that snaked through the school and while a big deal, not all that exciting.   But this school parade had a crowd of parents and people following them through the village snapping pictures and cheering.  The student body, teachers and the crowd of parents ended the parade at the school and each cycle presented a song to the crowd.

Our day, however, began with Scarlett vomiting and October complaining her socks were wet because she had stepped in it.  *Sigh*  And of course, I had volunteered to help in her classroom that afternoon.  She rested an hour, felt as good as new and began counting down the minutes until her sisters returned home for lunch.  The carnival celebration was in the afternoon.  After experiencing the carnival, I would have been really sad for her to have missed it although I’m not sure the girls would have been as sad.  The major feedback I heard about being in the parade was that “It was really squishy!”

Lavender was Greek.  Scarlett was an Aztec.  October was an Egyptian.??????????????????????????????? IMG_3132 IMG_3130 IMG_3111 IMG_3121 IMG_3122 IMG_4538 IMG_4530 IMG_4567 IMG_4580

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I attended a party with high schoolers tending the bar and got locked in a bathroom stall while at the city sponsored Carnival Fiesta last weekend.  Like so many other of our experiences it was tinged with both the familiar and the novel.

Carnival is not something our family usually celebrates.  I know its celebrated around the world and in the U.S. the most famous carnival is Mardi Gras celebrated in New Orleans.  The girls were familiar with New Orleans thanks to Tiana and Disney.  But more familiar to us is making and exchanging Valentines Day cards, a nonreligious holiday and therefore still acceptable in American schools.  While Carnival itself is not a religious holiday, it’s roots are in Roman Catholic countries and is most decidedly celebrating the religious season of Lent.  Carnival occurs in the week (or so) leading up to the beginning of Lent.  The festivities include dressing in costume, eating, drinking, dancing, parades and celebrating before Lent.

Here in Buitrago there was a city sponsored Fiesta for children and another for adults last Saturday.  On Thursday, the kids school held a parade through the village which each grade level dressed as different Ancient Civilizations.  They have been working on their costumes at school for quite some time.  October is Ancient Egypt.  Scarlett’s class are Aztecs and Lavender’s class are Greeks.

An hour before the city sponsored Carnaval Fiesta last Saturday, I read the flyer the kids had brought home from school.  Come dressed up!  So the girls dug out their Angel and Cowgirl costumes from Halloween, put on their wings and cowgirl hat and off we went.  There was face painting, crafts and a magician for the kids.   For the adults there was a cash bar that was supporting the city soccer team.  The high school athlete’s themselves were tending bar.  It was quite out of place for us to see a bar in the school gym, cans of beer alongside crafts being made and even more odd for the high school sophomore and juniors to be tending the bar.  Jeff wanted to order a mixed drink just to say he was served by high schoolers.  And the bathroom stall I was locked in?  I should have known better, October warned me of the pitfall of this particular locker room toilet, but modesty got the best of me and I wanted the door shut.  I went in, I shoved the door shut only to then realize the handle didn’t actually work and I was no unable to open the door.  There was an eight inch clearance at the bottom so up and over I climbed!

At the end of the celebration, all the kids were called up on stage in groups of 1 or 2 to model their costumes.  October & Scarlett went up on stage.  The MC was so confused by English speakers in Buitrago.  A couple of the moms I know, yelled up on stage “They don’t understand!” in Spanish.  To which the MC laughed and said “Ingles en Buitrago??”  I felt a like maybe I was the butt of a joke.  I probably am more often as well…I just don’t know about it!  We do stick out and we do live in a small town and I was climbing over the walls in the locker room bathroom.  We ended the evening with the task of carrying home wet, glitter glue craft projects several blocks in the cold.   At home, we all clamored in bed together to watch yet more Netflix.  There was also an adult party hosted by the city at the school gym that started at 11:30pm featuring disco and dancing.  Jeff & I stayed hibernating in bed with our three little girls.

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Onto Something to do…

While I still have plenty of domestic chores to do, I am finding for myself more projects that I am excited about.  I’ve finished my first ever crocheting project.  An infinity scarf.  It’s better than I pictured my first project coming out but not as good as I would like it to look.  I’ve moved on to helping Scarlett finish her scarf.  I’ve started reading aloud our history book to the kids during lunch break.  They’ve been getting into it and so have I.  We’ve read about the Spanish kings and Queen Elizabeth beheading her cousin and we’re now stuck on Jamestown.  It’s actually really interesting so we have stopped to learn more before we move on.  I am really quite ignorant about history and I have loved reading and homeschooling on history over the last two years as I have learned so much.  Last night during dinner we watched a Youtube video on the Jamestown colony.  (It’s not completely accurate as it’s presented from the English point of view)  I have plans for today to watch more.  I’d also like to get to more documentaries on Spanish history, Queen Isabel and Ferdinand.  I am also trying to make my website better.  I’d like a new name, one that doesn’t include our last name in it.  I have hopes for a greater reach for my blog and writing.  I’m working on an interactive map of where we’ve been together as a family – both here in Spain and in the U.S.  I’m trying to research possible work from home opportunities/businesses.  I’d like to get some Girl Scout training done so I can be more involved when I get back.  I have lots of ideas for more blog posts.  I’m working with the girls on making Valentines Day cards to share with their classmates.  I’m making hearty meals from scratch.  Really, yummy hearty meals without a recipe.  Last night was potato soup.  I’ve never eaten it or made it before and it was yummy!  I need to send more postcards.  I need to plan our spring break trip.  I am supposedly going to start volunteering at Jeff’s school but as with everything here the process here is slow.  Plus, there is always learning more Spanish and I’ve started Parenthood from Season 1 as well.  Whew!


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.

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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.

Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a…..

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.
-Flowers on the Wall by Statler Brothers

No, I really have nothing to do. And recently it has been driving me a little insane.  For much of January, I’ve been ill.  The kids have been ill.  Jeff’s been ill.  It’s been really cold.  I’m tired of wearing five layers.  I’m homesick.  I’m thinking ahead to swimsuit season.  So a month ago, I would have combated my loneliness by going for a run or walking the castle stairs or most definitely indulging in a giant chocolate bar dipped in peanut butter.  This month, I feel trapped in the house and the less I do in a day the worse I feel. I’ve been finding myself wasting time on the internet, daydreaming of life when we return.  I’ll look up houses for rent or jobs available or what’s new at the Science Center or what activities the girls could be enrolled in.  Since I have been here, I have gone on a few coffee dates with other moms wanting to practice their English but unfortunately, this month it’s been more missed dates than made ones.  I do have some ladies I can go running with…if I weren’t sick.  I take tennis lessons on Saturday mornings but we’ve either been gone or I’ve been sick.  I’m really looking forward to not being ill and the weather getting a little warmer.

And in reality, there isn’t much here for me to do even when I’m not ill.  It’s a small town and I don’t have a car to travel to a bigger one.  I do a lot of household chores; which are never ending and mind-numbing.  We have five plates and a dishwasher that doesn’t really work; even when I use the correct soap.  I make breakfast and walk the girls to school, go pick up groceries for the day, wash the dishes, write a blog (maybe), practice my Spanish online (maybe), do some laundry and then it’s time to go pick up the girls again for their two-hour lunch break.  Some days I’ll go to the post office, the bank or pharmacy.  I’ll make lunch for the girls and we’ll do a small amount of American schoolwork.  I’ll walk to the girls back to school for the second part of their day; which is also when all the shops close down for Siesta.  When it’s warmer this is when I had been going for a run or a hike or walk the castle stairs and taking a shower.

I try to stay motivated and busy.   I make to-do lists.  I’ve been trying to keep up on blog writing.  I’ve been trying to keep up on organizing my photo’s.  I’ll plan our vacations.  I might watch a Netflix documentary.  I had planned to start the Julian Micheals 30 day SHRED via youtube but I’ve been sick and I can’t walk to school without getting out of breath and coughing so Julian will have to wait.  I’ve read a few books.  I check face book about a hundred times a day.  I’m just downloaded the history book we would have read this year and will be reading it both as a read aloud to the kids and to myself.  It is a part of our homeschool curriculum that I have missed.  I learned to crochet and am working on an infinity scarf.  Shouldn’t I be entertaining myself with TED talks and learning some part of history that I’ve missed?  I could take some of the online Girl Scout modules so I’m ready to volunteer when I return!  I could be learning via podcasts!  With so much time, shouldn’t I be fluent in Spanish by now?



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