Harris Hawk

I forgot to include the story of our end of the summer adventure. About two days before Nick joined us in NJ, our neighbors informed him we had a bird of prey nesting on our terrace. I guess with the kids and I gone it was a rather quiet place for the bird to vacation. She was however concerned about the dogs and our kids, as well as her own dog. Nick couldn't do much but ask our dog walker to keep an eye out and call the local Forrestry people. According to Jane, our dog walker, the forrestry people came out daily for an entire week in teams of six, with nets and rigging determined to catch the bird, which was now identified as a Harris Hawk. They only succeded in scaring her away. So, Jane contacted a falconer who talked her through luring the bird in by feeding it daily in the hopes she would stay still long enough to get a net over her. If we succeded in this then the falconer would come and retrieve the bird, take her home to his place and read the band around her foot so she could be delivered home.

On a tree by our house: The second day after we were home, Jane once again showed up on our porch to feed the bird and as luck would have it caught her in the net. She placed a large vented box over her and shakingly called the falconer. I'm not sure if she was more afraid that the bird would hurt her or if she had hurt the bird. There are some sharp talons and beak on that bird. The falconer arrived and was able to get her out of the net, put a cap on her head and then leather lassos around her legs so she couldn't fly away.

She got her talons caught on the blanket we used to keep her wings contained as he put the hood on...either that or her grip was too strong.But either way the cap had to come off to help get her to release herself from the towel so she could sit on his gloved hand.

Success and a few pictures for posterity. Here is our beloved dog walker Jane with her Hawk.

Even Leticia our housekeeper wanted in on the action.

Then they talked me into it too...I didn't want to stand too close. She was still pretty unsettled.

Once again though the neighborhood is safe for stray cats and small animals. The dogs and kids were never in danger. Apparently they use these birds by the airport to get rid of the geese so they don't fly into engines...as well as several taller buildings in the city to control the bats. It's illegal for them to be out free as this one was because they are not indigenous to Spain.
We were all relieved to know she was well taken care of and on her way home.


First Day of School...

Hi Everyone!
It's been a fabulous summer. We spent our days visiting family and friends in the States...and playing in Orlando. Now we're back in Barcelona and looking forward to a successful school year. This morning the kids were up and ready to face the challenges that await them... at the bus stop... Our Sophomore
Joe...8th grade

and Alexa ready to start highschool...

Not an elementary school student in the house.


"he touched the but"

I am very behind in updating the blog. We've had so much going on here. I completely missed putting up a blog for Joe's birthday. Girls, can we use this as proof he's not my favorite? The girls all seem to think I favor Joe, which I don't but there is no arguing. Anyway...Happy belated birthday to my little man who is now a teenager!! Three teens in the house. Let the fun begin. The day was not Joe's best day as it started out with him being sent for milk to the cow machine, a story for another blog, to fill our glass bottle with milk. On the way home he dropped one of the bottles in the street. Then he brought the fudge I had made him into school for his friends. I kept it in my glass casserole dish and one of his friends tripped him, joking around. The fudge went flying...the broken glass made the fudge unedible. Poor guy. We eventually took him out to eat to celebrate but it was just us. So, pretty low key. When Andrea turned 13 we took her and several friends to see Mamma Mia in Boston and then to dinner. Alexa had a quick weekend in Milan. So, Joe was given some choices for his big outing. One of which included running with the bulls in Pamplona, part of me thinks he's a bit crazy for passing on and part of me is very releaved. He chose taking a few friends on a boat trip with Nick and our new boat. And that brings me to the title of our blog for today....

Have you seen Finding Nemo? It's one of my favorite Disney movies and not just because it turns out Dorie does know how to speak whale. Anyway, the title of this post...He touched the but...comes from Finding Nemo when the little fishes are on the edge of the reef and they are daring each other to go out into the open water near a boat, which they pronounce but. He touched the but...makes me laugh everytime because of the amazement in the fishes voice that Nemo actually did it. Anyway....I think of that line everytime I tell someone Nick bought a boat. Maybe it's because there is still a part of me in awe that he actually did it. We're still learning the ropes, literally...and all that is entailed in using it safely. Here are some pictures...

The main cabing downstairs... opposite view of the same area....the cooktop is under the cooler
Um, this picture is sideways. If you tilt your head to your left....this is one of the bedrooms. back to the left is another cushioned thing that is supposed to be a bed.
The front room...
Joe at the wheel
Joe hanging out while we're on the water...

Back at dock....

Aqua....all ours.

So Joe has a promise that once we've got this boating thing under control him and a few friends will go up to the Costa Brava for a weekend. Lucky kid!


Andrea IFF

Andrea singing at IFF... She followed one of her friends who sang the song Find me someone to love...and rocked it. So she was doubly nervous. But I think she did ok..


jessica dance 2

Jessica's second dance with only the 4th and 5th graders. Sorry this is a bit out of order.

Jessica dance

Jessica's first dance from the International Food Fair. This is her hiphop class she took afterschool one day a week through out the year.

International Food Fair

IFF is my favorite school event. It is a time when the school's International community really gets a chance to shine. There were tables from Greece, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Thailand , Italy, and more. Of course, Spain had a table as did the US. This year they added an entertainment feature. Jess's hiphop class performed two dance numbers. Alexa did a little jazz number that her class made up. Joe sang with the glee club. And Andrea performed a solo, On my Own. Other kids did traditional Asian dances, and performed games from Gana. But it's all about my kids so...here is Jess after her hip hop performance. Our friends, Nils and Carina with their Thai shirts...Sujaree was manning the Thai table..mmm so yummy.

In front of the US table where we were having a Chili contest... This is Sofia, one of the girls in Joe's grade who was in Godspell with the kids. Jacob, who is a friend of Alexa's...and you know Alexa and me.

here is Jessica Ziegler, you'll remember she had us over for Thanksgiving this past year. It was her concept to do the Chili cookoff...the kids all thought she resembled Jessi from Toy Story 2. I think they have a point...

My friends Kristen and Nancy by the Cosmo's. Another cool thing about Spain...alcohol is a mainstay at every school function.

Videos are being uploaded as I type to Youtube and then I'm putting them here...so. Be warned. This is a family blog to keep you all feeling close and loved...so we're sharing the love.



Where everybody knows your name...


One of the things about Spain I love is that upon entering a store, doctor's office or really any shared space people give a general greeting to those around...Bon Dia (good day in Catalan) or Hola....sometimes Buenas Dias. It's pleasant...and people respond cordially and then we all go back to pretending we're alone. But for a moment it always reminds me of those scenes in Cheers when Norm enters and everyone calls out his name.

We've been to the doctor's a lot lately. I've put it in the "be careful what you wish for." category as the beginning of this year I made it a goal to figure out the medical system here...and get a pediatrician for the kids. Mission Accomplished. Thank you God. It started out with Alexa and this black stuff on her toe...sorry for TMI but there you have it. My friend Marilyn recommended her doctor's office in Sant Cugat because the docs speak English even though the office staff don't. Well, the office staff were incredibly tolerant of my very bad Spanish. Roughly translated to ...my daughter has black things on her ...um foot. And we were in to see a doctor without an appointment within 10 minutes. Score one for Socialist medicine. Our doctor did in fact Not speak English but was more than happy to use google translate to make sure we understood...." please to upload her foot on the chair." Note to self...don't trust google translate.
We walked a block to the farmacia where we got some ointment and oral antibiotic for for under 10 Euros...Score two for Socialist medicine...and we had an appointment to go back in a week.
Within the next two months I had to go to the doctor's for my back three times...(thanks to a weird zombie dream....or bumper cars, depending on which version you like better) saw two different doctor's neither of which spoke English managed to get an xray. Learned that I had to go to the farmacia to buy the anti-inflammatory injection and bring it back so they could give it to me.( weird)...and eventually found an English speaking chiropractor who is fixing me one vertebrate at a time...no small feat.
And I had to go back for a sinus infection..also twice. And the funniest thing about this whole ordeal is that I gave them my ID card when I first went...and it says my name, Brenda Ann Ruotolo...but because of the way they do names here. They continually call me Ann. (grin) It's like they gave me a nickname. I love that. And bonus, my Spanish is so much better than it was two months ago.



We prepared all year for Andrea, Alexa and Joseph to be confirmed in the Catholic Church this year. I was their lucky teacher...or they were my lucky students depending on how you look at it. After the English mass at church we'd sit down somewhere comfortable and go through a book they provided that discussed what it meant to be a Catholic. Finally the day arrived. Because our English congregation is rather small and Confirmation needs to be done by the Bishop, we piggybacked on the Spanish Congregation's Confirmation mass. We had a quick practice last week that was given in Spanish. My friend Angela came along as she said she'd stand in for the sponsers and she translated for us. Then we were back Friday night for Confession...which was a mass, given by the Bishop, which we didn't know at the time. It was also all in Spanish although when they got to the part in the Gospel, " el muerte pues el viva." I said aha!...Prodigal Son and was able to follow a bit until the end...which was really a bit because those of you familiar with the story this line, "he was dead and is now alive." comes when the father is explaining his joy over his errant son's return. They arranged for an English speaking priest to help out with Confession, which was nice for my kids.
When Sunday morning dawned we were all a little bit nervous about what the day would bring. I have an example I use about what it's like to live here. I tell the story about how when we first got here I ordered a chicken dinner at a restaurant. And it came out with a fried egg on it. I thought I understood enough on the menu. I know the Spanish word for egg...and still wasn't expecting what I got. So, I say, living here, you think you understand what is going on and sometimes...you get egg. Not that it's always a bad thing. A fried egg can be delicious...just a bit of a surprise. So, we were all a bit worried about the egg.
Regardless, we took plenty of pictures for our family who we missed very much and who we know wishes they could have been here too.
Charlie's Angels...
Hamming it up for the camera

Joe joining in the pictures. Our three Confirmation Candidates..

All the kids

At the church...

The whole family..

One of my friends, Isabel, had never been Confirmed. Her daughter received First Holy Communion this year. We convinced her to join our classes.
I tried to get a picture inside the church but I didn't want to use my flash...The quality is a bit blurry. This is the Bishop as he prepares for the Confirmation. The kids were all holding their baptismal candles which we had lit and given to them. Our kids are on the right side of the Bishop so you can't see them.
Our friend Angela stood in for Aunt Mo as Alexa's sponser.

I stood in for Aunt Beverly as Andrea's sponser.

Nick stood in for...well, eventually Joe will ask his cousin Frankie to be his sponser. He still has to make the phone call and ask.
The kids picked Saint's names. I understand it's not something that is done much anymore but I remember the process of picking my name out pretty vividly, especially considering I don't remember much else from 6th grade. So, even though they weren't used in the ceremony they all have their Saint's names now. Andrea picked Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first female American Saint, and the namesake of Seton Hall University (which had nothing to do with her choice but made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside). Alexa picked Joan of Arc, because she listened to God and followed his word in spite of the cost to herself. Joseph picked Saint Nicholas, for a number of reasons among which is it's his father's name...and he's the patron saint of Slovakia and sailors.

It was a beautiful ceremony. The mass itself was in Spanish, Catalan, Latin and English. It lasted 2 hours, which was a bit on the long side if you ask the kids. I tried to follow along with the Spanish and understood some, but it impressed upon me the vastness of our church. The latin brought me back to my highschool latin class...but more importantly spoke to the timelessness of our church. The Catalan as usual just confused me. And the English was comforting. It was hard not having family there to share it with us. But I was moved to see members of our English congregation at the mass to support us. Joe's friend Ben came as well as Alexa's friend Gabby. The Mom who taught Isabel's daughter's first Communion class was there with her family. And the Lasso's were there, with Angela who agreed to stand up for our kids. So, while our Family was not present, we had a different kind of family there for us. And that made all the difference in the day. I expected to attend a Spanish mass with some token English parts for us for the kids Confirmation. I received something infinitely more beautiful. This time...the fried egg was perfect.
Afterwards, the Lasso's, Marino's and us all went out for dinner. I mistakenly ordered a 7th plate of pan con tomate as an appetizer...still not sure how that happened.lol But managed to order an amazing pork dish for my meal. They were kidding me after we ordered saying I ordered a suckling pig, one of those whole baby pigs, talk about getting an egg. But it wasn't. phew. And for dessert the kids enjoyed ice cream.

Our Confirmation class...

Fooling around as usual...

It was a great day.




BFIS Pre-prom pictures

Because the highschool is so small the invite the entire school to prom. Andrea and a few of her friends decided to go together. One of her best friends, Chantal is moving at the end of this school year so it became a little more important that Andrea attend. No prom is complete without the pre-prom photos...so I give you Daddy and daughter Mom and daughter
Andrea by the rose bushes (that have taken a bit of a punishment from mother nature with rain every day for the past two weeks)

Andrea and her friend Chantal...

Two girls ready to have fun.
There are times as the kids have grown that it hits me, their aging. Tonight was one of those days. When they were little I'd play a game with them as they'd sit on my lap and try to get up. I'd say, "wait wait wait...one more kiss." and pull them closer for another kiss. And we'd repeat the process over and over giggling as I pulled them in for one more kiss. Tonight as she stepped out of the car towards her friends. I had the urge to call after her..."wait wait wait...one more kiss." but she was out the door and off to join the fun. Tomorrow I think, I'll just have to hug her a little tighter...while I can.


Easter Activities...

So April happened...
I woke up Easter morning with an amazing back/shoulder pain. Not sure what I did the night before to hurt myself but hurt I did. We suspect it may have had something to do with the bumper cars from the week before but it's more fun to blame it on the zombie dream I had that night. Stupid Zombies.
The pain is finally tolerable without medication but still there and it really sidelined me for the entire month. My apologies for being late in updating...
Easter was a beautiful morning that turned into afternoon showers. We went to Church and the kids had their baskets, full of Old Monmouth Candy, thanks to my fabulous mother in law. In the evening as the rain was clearing we were gifted by a rainbow...

Nick's Mom, Sister in law, Faith and neice Nicole came to stay with us the day after Easter for a week. I'll try to upload those photos next. It was a great week dispite my shoulder pain and we had the kids' Godspell performance which was phenomenal. After the Ruotolo's left we held our 2nd Annual Easter Egg Hunt. We had fun hiding the eggs all around the yard. One of our friends even loaned us an Easter Bunny Costume that Andrea dressed up in to the delight of the younger kids. It was a great excuse to get together and let the kids overdose on sugar.

Some eggs were a little harder to get to than others....

But we were confident that our middleschoolers would rise to the occasion.

Everyone had a good time...

Afterwards we settled in and relaxed...
I owe you all another blog on our visit from the Ruotolo's. Alexa has some great pictures from the trip to Tarragona that I didn't manage to make because of my back. I have to figure out how to upload those pictures. The month has gone by quickly and my spanish has improved a great deal since I've had to visit doctor's office so many times...but that is for another blog.
Also...today is moving day...have most of our belongings on the truck and will be starting to unload at the other house in about twenty minutes. Eventually I'll catch you all up on our comings and goings.
Miss you all!!