Category: Kids (Page 1 of 4)

Our Beach Vacation

We had a great family beach vacation this weekend! It was nice to relax and have our vacation be about spending time together and not on what monuments, palaces, castles, cathedrals, cities or other places on Spain’s must see list.

We returned to a camping resort in Biarritz, France on the Atlantic ocean. I’ve been watching the weather for months and really wanted a sunny, warm weekend we could lounge poolside and hit the nearby beach.

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After having Jeff gone for three of the four weeks in May, I was excited to get away together.

Without having to spend hours planning where to stay and what to visit. Having been there before, we knew where the grocery store was, where the beach was and we knew what to expect.

The only part we didn’t expect was that we now know that Lavender suffers from carsickness.  I could rephrase that and say we ALL suffer from her carsickness.

I had never heard of a camping resort, I assumed it would be something like a KOA.  Small cabins, a pool and some activities that few joined in.  But I was pleasantly surprised on our first visit with a nice little cabin, two pools (an indoor and outdoor), a free kids watch program, a bar with nightly themes and friendly staff that spoke English.

It’s a popular vacation destination so all the signs were in French, Spanish, Basque and English.

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The kids loved the pool, we enjoyed lounging poolside.  The pool was shallow in most places and had two water slides and two waterfalls.  We could grab a drink at the bar easily and have it there or to go.

Jeff and I tried our hand at archery while the kids got their faces painted in kids watch.

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The beach was 10 minutes away and had nice sand.  The girls played in the sand and surf for hours. I enjoyed playing in the surf with October and Scarlett. We all got tossed in the waves more than once.

Realizing that we were at a shirt/bikini top optional beach was amusing.  I leaned over and whispered to Jeff that the woman two towels down was topless. He smiled and told me, “You’re funny.  She’s not the one.”  It was then that I realized that most of the ladies were topless….of all ages.

I lathered up the ladies and joined in. When in France!

Most of the women though only went topless while at their towels, they did not wander the beach topless. There were a few exceptions. Like the woman who came to body surf in the waves next to October and I.

October was a bit surprised when the wave subsided and she saw a topless woman jumping and playing in the same wave as us.

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Back at the pool, the adult women kept their tops on but toddler girls to preteen girls wore only bottoms.  And while I find toddlers in bikinis absolutely adorable; wearing only bottoms makes better sense. Kids play hard and they should have a swimsuit that is functional. An itty bitty bikini on a kid just doesn’t stay in place.

At the resort the girls danced at the bar the first evening and we did karaoke the last.


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We played cards together.

We taught October how to play hearts and Lavender is now old enough to play Uno on her own with us.

We ate Thai food together.

We tired the girls out everyday.

We slept in most days.

We choose spaghetti at the cabin over taking the kids to a nice, French restaurant.

We drank Sangria by the pool.

We played in the water with the kids. Lavender even went down the water slide!

There was a bounce house at the playground for the kids.

We returned to the Caves of Sare to replace a  forgotten souvenir.

It was a great time had by all.

I was sad to leave. I really enjoyed the relaxation, the sand, the beach.

It was a great trip had by all. Now to find my discarded surf shirt before I return to the states.


We did squeeze in a quick return trip to San Sebastian so October could get another pinxto in a seashell. We also returned to Pamplona. This time without the long, wandering, never ending car ride. We drank a beer at Cafe Iruna, one of Hemmingway’s haunts. Walked a portion of the streets where the running of the bulls takes place. Took pictures next to statues of Hemmingway. Tried again the find the Museo de Encierro but again without luck (side note: a quick look on google vs. my Lonely Planet guide says it is permanently closed.  And had ice cream cones in the blistering heat before heading home.

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Rhythmic Gymnastics

The girls finished their last class of Rhythmic Gymnastics this week.  It’s the beginning of a series of lasts for this adventure.


Back in November we decided we should sign them up for something.   An active activity to keep them occupied, out of the house and moving.  They said no to soccer.   I don’t blame them; they haven’t years of experience kicking around a ball and October doesn’t like the whole ball flying at your face part.

There was martial arts; which I though was actually an art class.  Glad I found out before I signed them up.

There was basketball.  They said no.

There was dance.  I said no once I heard the price per month.

There was alternative sports.  I don’t know what this one involved, I just imagined this was the activity that parents of little Spanish boys who didn’t play soccer did.

So, Rhythmic Gymnastics it was.  It was $15 per month per kid and met twice a week for an hour each.

I envisioned graceful turns, hoops and ribbons waving through the air.  I pictured October’s gymnastics class back home; the structure.  I pictures the Olympics (what was I thinking?)  I remembered my own rhythmic gymnastics ribbons as a child that I spent hours working with to make them ripple prettily.

After staying to watch the first few classes, I learned it was better to just go back home and not watch.

The chaos, the yelling (not the children) and goofing off (yes the children).  It was better to just let it be.  Let the kids get in some exercise, some extra Spanish language time and have fun.

Months went by and when I learned there would be a gymnastics exhibition, I wondered how in the world would they have a routine together for it?  I mostly remember the chaos of the earlier months and the after-class reporting by the girls on who misbehaved this class.

A routine was going to be performed?  I assumed only for the parents of our village.

NO, it was a big exhibition in another town with the rhythmic gymnasts from 8 other villages and lasted for 3 hours.

And you know what?  They did have a routine they could perform.  Without the instructor leading them what to do in the peripherals.  Which when you consider the age range was 4 years to 8 years old.  It was a good accomplishment.

The day of the exhibition the girls were nervous and excited to be wearing their new costumes.


I had strict instructions that their hair should be in a bun.  With no FLY AWAYS.  You can see by the picture, this was not the case.  I just didn’t see the big deal and I haven’t used hair spray in years so it never occurred to me to slick their hair down.

They got to ride a “team” bus to the exhibition.

They got their hair glittered and sparkled and plastered to their head when they arrived.

They got to wear eye shadow and lipstick.

They were excited!

Lavender and I sat drove down to the exhibition in a rental car.  Luckily, I decided to follow one of the team buses otherwise I may not have made it to the exhibition hall.  I was given the wrong address and I made the decision on a whim to follow the bus rather than listen to the GPS.

October & Scarlett did a great job with the rest of their team.  It was fun to see it be an organized, big deal after I had been anticipating a hot, tiny gym with kids, parents and gymnasts running amok.

Nice job ladies!

(As a side note, I have spell checked the word rhythmic every single time I have used it in this blog post.  I didn’t spell it write once.  Grammar pun intended)

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Birthday Weekend

We celebrated birthday’s last weekend!  My baby, baby, baby girl is now 9 years old!  And my last baby turned 5 years old!  Exciting…but also how did this happen!  October looks so much older in the last year.

To celebrate we went horseback riding, had cake and opened presents.

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Happy Birthday my wonderful, sweet children!

Mud pies and hoping my kids stay young awhile longer

I will be sad when my kids no longer play for hours in the mud, trees and rocks.  I so enjoy sitting near as the use their imaginations to create out of nature.

Today, they worked to weave mats while we sat in the shadow of ruins and watched by cows.

The forest around where we live here in Spain may be the best part of living here.  Now, I know I there are lots of parks and green spaces in Washington.  And we take advantage of those as well.  But, here there’s not also the YMCA or the pool or the beach or the playgrounds or play dates to also occupy our time.

Over the last few weekends we have gone exploring, settled in and had a picnic in the woods.  And almost always, we see very few other people.

We visited a National Park one weekend for an amazing hike.  Sierra de Guadarrama Parque Nacional.  We went 5 miles round trip at an elevation of 6,600 ft.

We’ve been to forest on both sides of the river – although we’re always sharing the space with a cow or two.

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On Appreciating what we have

I understand the desire to WANT things.  I “window shop” online for clothes and bathing suits when I’m bored or when I’m longing for something new.

I rarely make a purchase.

And I am excited to get back and buy everyone (including myself) new socks and underwear.  I picture myself sitting poolside in a new bathing suit.  I have several on my “wish list.”

I am looking forward to thrift shopping for new clothes for myself.  For everyone, really.  We are stepping back and moving away from new; second-hand is better in so many ways.

I don’t feel like my anticipation or my “window shopping” has or is consuming me.  And I recognize the folly in wanting versus needing.  This past year has been about fulfilling needs each person has in regards to clothes or shoes.  Not wants.

The kids clothes have holes I have attempted to sew.  Shoes have holes in them (a few new ones have been purchased).   I can’t tell you about the state of our “unmentionables”.

I basically packed each person to have two weeks worth of clothes.  Plus, some warm weather and cool weather clothes.  Wearing the same two weeks worth of clothes for the entire school year has taken its toll on the clothes we brought with us.

Few items will make the return trip.

We brought Lego’s for the kids and they each brought one quart-sized ziplock bag of miscellaneous toys. This has been a stark contrast to the overwhelming number of toys they had in Washington.

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

They’ve made a doll house from a cardboard box.  Spent days playing with window clings.  Created with recycling materials.  Drawn magical landscapes on paper for their trading-card magnets.

It’s has been wonderful.

Holidays have also been sparse in terms of gifts and in fulfilling wants.  The Easter Bunny and Santa brought the few toys they have gotten while here in Spain.  We have fulfilled the needs and provided experiences.  Santa brought the playdough.

But as we near the end of living abroad experience, we each are suffering from homesickness.  I have great empathy for the kids.  I understand.  I’m homesick as well.  I would love to go to Costco or Target and get everything I need (want??) in one place.

Last week, the kids were feeling down.  They were tired of the toys they had.  And I empathized.

I suggested “window shopping” at for Lego’s.  I suggested them making a wish list.  I thought it would fill the homesickness/longing void as it had for me.

Except they are children.  Everything to them is a need, not a want.  They weren’t able to be satisfied with “window shopping” as I had been.

Needless to say one thing led to another and pennies were being counted and new Lego’s were on their way.  I had hoped a few new sets of Lego’s would fill the gap between now and when we leave in less than 60 days.

It hasn’t.  It’s been the exact opposite.

Fulfilling a few wants has fueled more wants.

And while I so enjoy watching their happy faces at getting a new package and how I love watching them spend hours focused at putting Lego’s together (which I firmly believe is a life skill for when they have to put together their IKEA furniture), I am sorry I ever let them “window shop.”

Everyday now is counting money, asking which stores in town are open and sell toys (few) and negotiating with me on purchasing more Lego’s online.

We’ve worked so hard to emphasize living with what we have.  Living with what we need.  Living to have experiences.

And we’ve lived with holes in our underwear, holes in our shoes and holes in our pants.  I’ve lived with 5 plates, 5 bowls, 3 pans and no microwave.  I’ve lived with no phoning it in to “Papa Johns” when I couldn’t think or contemplate yet another meal to make.

We’ve survived the winter, wearing nearly every piece of clothing each of us owned.  We survived (and thrived) cuddling together watching Netflix and learning to crochet over cold winter months.

Yet, in those few minutes of weakness (and empathy) that I suggested my children “window shop” I seem to have unraveled the entire fabric we’ve created over this last year.

The two hours of window shopping, countless hours anticipating their package and the four hours of assembling their new Lego’s wasn’t worth the erosion of the experience/needs based values we had worked so hard to build upon this last year.

Somehow, I thought there would be a happier ending.  Appreciating new toys.  Appreciating the anticipation and savoring the new toys.

After so many months with living with what we had, I expected less want and more appreciation on receiving new toys.

Lesson learned.

Poisonous Caterpillars????

As every Spanish child knows, don’t even think about handling the hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth ( procesionarias in Spanish).

Quoted from The Grapevine Magazine.



But my children aren’t Spanish children.  We didn’t know to avoid them.

Not until Lavender took the little cute caterpillar in hand to show her friend.

To which the mother came quickly over to us, told us to put the caterpillars down and immediately go wash our hands (all in Spanish but I got the basic idea).  When Lavender didn’t immediately put the caterpillar down, the mother shook it from her hand.

I said thank-you and off we went home to wash our hands.  October commented on how embarrassing that was and how that mom shouldn’t have shook Lavender’s hand.  I didn’t even notice that part.

Embarrassing, I agree.

Back home in the states, the girls routinely picked up tent caterpillars and collected them while we were at the park. They make little “homes” for them. They pet them.  They let them crawl on their shirt and on their hands.

And since those in the states are considered a nuisance, I don’t give it much thought if the caterpillar finds his final resting place in the “home” my kids have created for them.

BUT, we have learned our lesson.  You should not pick up random bugs or caterpillars you find in the forest or on the sidewalk.  At least not in Spain.

It was on Wednesday as we were walking home from school, I saw a string of caterpillars traveling butt to nose along the sidewalk.  I pointed them out to the girls to have a look.

They of course wanted to move them from the sidewalk so they wouldn’t get stepped on.  We stopped and I let them move the caterpillars.  All ten of them.  October put one on Lavender’s shirt.  Scarlett let one crawl all around her hand.  The caterpillars would curl into a ball, fall to the ground and the girls would pick them back up.

It was at this point that Lavender picked one up to show her friend and the mother told us not to and wash our hands immediately.  October & I were embarrassed.  Scarlett wanted to know why we shouldn’t touch them.

Of course, I didn’t know.  And like with anything you don’t know – I googled it!

The results were shocking and concerning.

I started to freak out!

Because here are the headlines that popped up when I googled “caterpillars in spain”:


I took the girls back to the bathroom and scrubbed their hands with a kitchen sponge.  I changed their clothes.  I gave each of them Benadryl.

And I went back to searching the internet for symptoms and treatments not just warnings.  Which there were a lot of.  The lack of information on what to do if you should touch them was alarming.

The reactions in humans of touching the caterpillars or inhaling their hairs ranged from an itchy rash that lasted up to 3 weeks to anaphylactic shock.

I could feel my own tongue, eyes and hands swelling.  I popped a benedryl myself; even though I did not touch them.  I was near them!  I held Scarlett’s hand!

These websites were warning folks to be careful of even standing under pine trees between February and April. They recommended always carrying an anti-histamine with you in the forest.

My kids were playing with them!

I know my swelling hands and eyes were psychological but I was freaking out.  I took a shower and stopped scouring the internet.  (The last story I read was of the toddler that died after one fell in his mouth while sleeping under a pine tree).

We have been picnicing in the forest; under pine trees!!!

We made the girls stay in the living room with us and watch movies.  We didn’t take them back to school.  They didn’t go to gymnastics (it’s further away from urgent care).  We stayed on the couches together until bedtime.

Jeff & I got up throughout the night to make sure they were okay.

October ended up with some itchy, irritated hands and Scarlett has a small rash on her cheeks, neck and shoulders (both her neck and shoulder were covered by her clothing) that is slightly itchy.  Lavender is fine.

My adrenaline has returned to normal; although I feel like an idiot.

I’m grateful to the mother who came to tell us.  We would have likely stayed playing with the caterpillars and I would have never given them Benadryl or been on alert for any reactions.

I’m glad we were in town and not out in the forest where no one would have seen us playing with them.

In a twist of irony, the photo’s at the top of this post were taken by Jeff nearly a week before this incident occurred.  He had found these processionary caterpillars in the forest while walking with Lavender.  He didn’t let her touch them – he thought their behavior odd.  He meant to tell me about them and look them up himself.  Instead, we spent the day cuddled up with our kids; on high alert to any sign that we should rush them into urgent care.

Processionary Caterpillar Rash






The experience of living abroad has been a positive experience.  One that I would and hopefully will seek out again.

One that I believe has been great for my children.

When I speak with people here I am often asked if we had been placed in a big city like Madrid rather than a small, rural community if I thought my exchange program experience would have been better.

Some facets of daily life certainly would have been an improvement for me but those same facets would have been a detriment to my kids Spanish experience.

October Fresh Baked Bread

It was a big change for all us coming here.  For me, I went from homeschooling three kids all day and then leaving for work in the evenings.  I had play dates, field trips, Girl Scouts, school classes, exercise classes and a community of friends that filled my day.

I also had tasty take-out, a fully stocked big chain store, and a car we had fondly named “Sally”.  I do miss Sally.

Being here in a small town without a job or homeschooling, field trips, classes and kids to fill my day was a BIG transition.

A very lonely experience.  An experience that would have most likely been vastly different if I was in a big city.

Sshhh……I think maybe I like being in a small community!!

I’ve experienced life here.  And I can imagine life here….with a car and language acquisition.

Buitrago Collage

Last summer when we could only imagine our life abroad, I looked forward to walking more and eating more fresh foods.  And these two experiences alone have been so positive it will influence where I will choose to live in the future.

I have never eaten as healthy as I have here.  There are lots of fresh food options that are inexpensive in comparison to the U.S.  Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, seafood and bread are all readily available.

There is also not food coloring additives nor nearly the number of junk food items in the store.

When I want a chocolate fix; a GOOD chocolate fix; I am forced to make my own chocolate chip cookies.

The inexpensive wine and booze are another story!

Back home the girls couldn’t go into a store on their own; let alone walk there on their own.  Here the girls have had the opportunity to go into stores on their own to make purchases.  We have sent them to get cilantro, bread, orange juice, etc.

They absolutely LOVE the opportunity and freedom to go to the store themselves.  (I remember going around the block to buy cigarette’s for my Grandma when I was a kid!  She’s send me with a note and cash and back I’d come with her goods!)

This would NEVER happen if we were in a big city.

I feel safe letting them go on their own.  Plus, from our apartment I can spy on them most of the time they are gone and I know that the store owners know who they are.

Ali's Fruit market

Scarlett's Cilantro

Another freedom that will be revoked when we return to the states is their ability to stay home alone.  Yes, I said it.  Sometimes we leave the kids at home watching a movie or playing Lego’s while we go grocery shopping or **GASP** out for a drink!

Grocery shopping, having a drink with friends or by ourselves while our kids are at home is a very new experience for us.  It’s a little bit of wonderful!

I will disclose that when we do have a drink out, the kids know where we are and even will run between our home and the bar to come check in with us.  There are two bars very close.  Neither require a street crossing.

You, yes you, in the states….CAN YOU IMAGINE!!??!!??

Jeff Jo at bar

In the states, the girls attended a homeschool program that was outside of our local district.  Still close, but not so much that we would often run into families we knew while walking around town, at the library or out on a hike.

We had begun to build a community with the Coal Creek YMCA.  We would run into other families from the Y in all sorts of places while we were out and about.  But, we also had begun to recognize those from my work or the Issaquah library or Parks & Rec classes.

But because the girls did not attend their neighborhood school we weren’t recognized as we walked around the neighborhood.  And to be honest, we lived in a large area.  There are 3 “neighborhood” schools within two miles of our house.

Here, we are well known in town.  The girls often have friends run over to them to say “hi” while we are walking to the grocery store or out for a stroll.  I think the sense of community they are experiencing here is a welcome change for them.

Admittedly, it can be odd as well.

Participating in celebrations on a smaller scale has been nice as well.  The girls Carnival celebration went through the streets and the Three Kings Festival was a manageable crowd.

The outdoors is the piece I appreciate the most being here in a small, rural town.  When the weather has been nice, I often go for a run after dropping the kids off at school.  There is beautiful scenery and a seemingly unending forest.

It feels so relaxing.

For the kids, the forest has been a great place to play and explore.  We have carved our own little spot in the forest and call it the fort.  The girls have tried to make a fort here and I’ve gathered rocks to weight lift with.

It’s really a nice quiet place in the forest.  The walk there is 20 minutes and we rarely see other people out there either.

Natural Area Buitrago Collage


Outside of our town, I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel.  To see new places and historic places.  We have all learned and appreciated our travels.  I hope our kids forever remember these experiences.

Through living abroad together we have learned to:

  • Explore together as a family.
  • Have more patience.
  • Have more flexibility.
  • Try new foods.
  • Be more independent.
  • Live with what we have.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Be courageous and brave.
  • Be more understanding.
  • Communicate despite language barriers.
  • Speak some Spanish (some of us more so than others).
  • Cuddle more.
  • Live together as a family better.

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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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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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In 30 Years…

In 30 years, I wonder what the girls will remember of their year living in Spain.  Lavender is only 4 years so many of her memories may be vague or based on what she hears from her sisters but Scarlett and October most assuredly will have memories.  Will it be their school experience?  The castles? The long-walk through city streets their parents took them on?  Being dragged around Cathedrals, Mosques and Temples?  The long-bus rides?  The historical sights?  They will all remember bits and pieces and I can almost picture them grown and reminiscing together.

Although based on the current topics discussed, I’m afraid the most lasting memories may be of Jesus and penises.  I know, the irony.  We’ve seen a lot of historical and religious monuments.  We are living in a very Catholic area; exploring on foot so we have more of chance to really see the world around us.  Much more so than if we were whizzing by in a car.  They talk about all the different paintings and sculptures of Jesus.  Along with the various states of blood and destruction surrounding him.  They want to know how he could hang their like that and why people killed each other so much in those times.  And why they painted pictures of it!  They debate whether or not he’s real.  There is also nudity in all sorts of places – artwork, sculptures, school, and the science center.  We went to the Science Center in Granada and at the time they had an exhibit on the Human Body.  There were sections for your cells, circulation, heart, digestive tract, nerves, reproduction and your bones.  If you had to venture a guess as to which section had the most nudity, you’d guess reproduction.  You would also be wrong.  The bones section had a video about how your bones move and what type of joints are in your body.  Except that the man and woman in the video were completely naked.  Full frontal, full back, side….you know so you could fully appreciate their joints.  The man would stand there naked and lift his arm to show how his shoulder joint worked and the shot would turn in a 360 view so that you could see how his shoulder muscle worked from all angles.  Except if you were one of my children you weren’t looking at his shoulders.  And really, how could you?  It was so out-of-place; the nudity not the body parts.  The woman was completely nude as well and she was showing you how the ball and socket of your hip moved your leg.  So there she was, raising her leg to the back and rotating it around to the front and back down.  And then repeating it in the opposite direction.  Naked.  I’m pretty sure you could have put either of these models in a nude suit or even a bathing suit! And still got the images across.  They weren’t muscular models and the exhibit wasn’t on muscles. I really should have taken a video.  I was concerned about seeming like a creep though!


Mezquita Cordoba


Here are Scarlett & Lavender discussing Jesus


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