Adventures in Health care

It truly is never a dull moment here. Nick and I were out with friends on Friday night when I received a phone call from Joe asking when we were coming home. He hurt his shoulder walking home from babysitting. He was walking along a short wall he said, jumped off and fell when his ankle rolled. He landed on his right shoulder. He said he could move his arm fine. So I advised him to ice it and take some advil. It was still bothering him when we arrived home shortly after. And when he woke in the morning unable to lift his arm we went off to the ER.

We went to Teknon, ,a private supposedly American run hospital. Spanish health care is really very good. But we go to Teknon in the hopes of finding an English speaking doctor. And we actually never have. When we checked in I asked for a doctor who speaks English if possible. (in my bad spanish which was further marred by the Laryngitis that I woke up) No pasa nada, she said, Tranquila. Translation...Don't worry about it.

The nurse who welcomed Joe spoke some English and we were able to get our story across in English, in which we realize that Joe's small wall was actually higher than 3 feet. I started to lose hope that he'd just bruised something.Then the doctor came in and she didn't speak any English. But the good thing about it is when forced to use Spanish it turns out that we do ok. Not completely fluent but overall communication is achieved. A few x-rays later we found out that he indeed fractured his arm, high up right below the shoulder joint. No cast...just a fancy looking shoulder immobilizer. And advil...the wonder drug.

He's looking at 4-6 weeks of healing time. We've got a follow up appointment on Friday. I'm taking bets on whether or not he speaks English.


Going my way

Hi All,
I owe you about a twenty posts from our trips this summer. And I promise to get to them as soon as I can. The kids start school next week so we're currently preparing for that. New families and faces to welcome. New supplies to acquire.But I had to post today because, truthfully, I've been a bit down lately. I suppose it's normal after such a fabulous summer of travel. And returning to a different landscape of friends as many left again this summer. Nick is away picking up the dogs so it's just me and a house full of teens. But I pulled myself together for some errands and I'm so glad I did.
My biggest pet peeve about driving to my house is not that I have to drive four blocks past it to drive four blocks back due to the one ways in the neighborhood. My biggest pet peeve is the one street closest to the house that I can turn up to go to my street is a two way street with cars parked on the side that is NOT wide enough for both lanes AND cars parked, not to mention trees that line said road. So often I'd want to turn into the street and would not be able to enter because a car was parked near the entrance and another was going down...so there I was blocking traffic until I could actually turn in. And it's not like these cars didn't have three other options to turn down that I didn't have to use as an up. It was a legitimate gripe.  To make matters worse they recently repaved the intersection and repainted the road line where I make my left up the street. Imagine my confusion when we returned from our trips to see a solid white line at the intersection seemingly indicating that I could NOT make the left there. As there was no other sign there...and I absolutely refused to drive another three blocks to the next left, I hoped that it was an oversight of the recent re-paving and kept my fingers crossed that a cop didn't see. Imagine my delight when I noticed this morning that the white line had black lines painted over it, creating the dotted line which indicated that indeed I could make my turn at that intersection. But there was also confusion as the also recently repainted stop marks on the ground for traffic coming down had also been repainted black. That simply didn't make sense. You can't read black paint even if the road is sort of tan. I started to hope against hope...and there it was at the top of the hill, a beautiful new "do not enter" sign. My pet peeve resolved. I gave a shout of triumph as I turned the corner.
Ah, it's the little things. I change a little and Spain changes a little and we meet in the comfortable middle. But, boy oh boy do I like days when things go my way. And it looks like that will be happening more and more often.


things gone by...

We're gearing up for a great summer full of exciting travel and there are a few things I've neglected to blog about during this time. So here are some things you might have missed...

1. Three hour tour...Nick and I took the kids (and Joe's friend) out on the boat...It started by accidentally paddling onto a protected area (who knew birds needed a beach sanctuary so close to the airport). And ended with a three hour wait for the Guardia Civil (think Spanish Coast Guard) to tow our "oops it looks like we've drifted onto the beach"ed boat. Fun was had by all until the motion sickness set in. (being towed backwards does NOT feel good)...and the boat was not damaged at all.

2. So long and thanks for all the fish...after 7 fabulous years, Nick finished his time at Vistaprint at the end of June. They had a very touching going away party for him, which they invited the whole family to. It was such a treat to have the kids hear the fabulous things others' had to say to about their Dad. We're all looking forward to spending time together. Nick is now officially a full-time slacker. 

3. College tours....I think this one may deserve a post of it's own. Lots to talk about on the college front. Andrea, Alexa and I went to look at 5 colleges, Chapman University, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, Ithaca College and Syracuse. Interestingly enough the favorite fell off the list, the last minute add on ended up at the top...and we're still not sure we found the "it" school.

4. Home is where the puppies are... and they're on the Jersey Shore. Actually, that might be an awesome reality show. With all the travel we have planned it didn't seem right to leave them behind with a sitter looking in on them. So they are staying with Grandma and Grandpa. We all miss them terribly and the house feels empty. I'm counting down the days until they are back with us.

Soon we're off for the northern cruise...and then to Thailand where we're hoping to meet up with friends while touring exotic locales. It will be a summer to remember. I found a t-shirt for Nick at the airport in LA..."these are the good old days." I think that about sums it up.


Cambiar Sentido

Hola todas,
This just in, Nick passed his driving test. This was the actual driving test, in Spanish. And he passed the very 1st time! We're so proud of him. Now he's all legal. He had to learn some Spanish phrases in order to take the exam, things like, "When you can, turn right." etc. And one of them, struck me as particularly fitting at this point for us. Cuando puedas cambiar sentido. When you can, make a u turn...or more literally, change direction.

Just a few weeks ago we learned a change in direction was coming for us. While we thought we'd be in Spain for a few more years it looks like we're heading back to the US sooner. We're not sure where we're going to end up at the moment and we won't be going anywhere until Andrea finishes high school. But we do know that Nick is going to be able to spend more time with us in our celebration of our last year living together before the oldest goes off to college. We're looking at traveling more and enjoying each others company. So all in all, good stuff.

And Congratulations Nick for passing the exam on the first try!



 One of the things I love about Spain are the Castellers. These are groups of people who make human towers. It's amazing to see them standing on each others shoulders, the power in numbers and the bravery of one small kid who climbs to the top, waves and then they all climb down. The last time we were at Tibidabo, actually the church that is on the top of the mountain there was a small competition of Castellers. 

My sister in law and I were up on the balcony of the church when we heard the announcements and went to observe. Below is the group in gray shirts building their tower. The matching shirts show that they all belong to the same group. Before they started it was announced that the smallest kid who climbs to the top was making his first public climb.

starting off...the large group at the bottom and the first circle on top

They climb up, getting a foothold in the large black belts that are meticulously woven around each casteller before they start. It usually takes at least one other person to get this right.

second tier is added.
Now I want you to pay attention to the circle at the bottom. In order for the tower to build up, support is needed at the bottom. You need a lot of support to keep those people high up. What started as a group of gray shirts has grown to include all the colors. At times, at large public competitions even the crowd is encouraged to participate.

Now the final part of the tower is added, sort of a bridge over the top two. You can see the small climber going up on the left.

he/she waves quickly and heads back down

Then, as carefully as they climb up, they climb down. This is when I have seen towers crumble. It's always scary watching people fall off, however, I've never seen anyone hurt. People are always caught. You will notice that the youngest ones at the top all wear helmets, though. It is not without risk.

climbing down

Because it was this castellers first climb they gave him/her a special tribute as they stood and waved on the way down and received an ovation.

first timer
I love the beauty of these towers. I love the lessons we can learn for them. The importance of preparing together in getting the belt right. The need for broad support if you want to climb high...what a great metaphor for building a person. It truly takes a village. That in the end the safety and success of each team is more important than the competition. And that there is always someone there to catch you when you fall.  It really is an amazing thing to watch.


And the years go flying by...

 I used to say when the kids were little that the days lasted forever but the months flew by. Now it seems like years are passing us at the speed of light. It doesn't seem like it's possible that it has been 16 years since this picture was taken...my little peanut. Born 5 pounds and 6 ounces...the tiniest thing I had ever seen...we had to fold over the newborn diapers to fit. She went home in preemie clothes

 But 16 years have passed. And last Saturday night we partied in style.  Here is Alexa getting ready with her friends who flew in from Massachusetts to spend the week with her.

Joe looking good...
Alexa and her cake
family who came for the special night

the room
Younger siblings with their best friends
Me and Alexa
We ate upstairs in a room that looked out over all of Barcelona. Then, we went down to the Disco for the dancing.
The evening was a great success. A good time was had by all. And my little peanut felt like a princess for the night. What more could we want.
waiting for taxis


Lord, what fools these mortals be....

We are blessed with 4 very dramatic, expressive kids. Once a year it is my absolute pleasure to share them with the world when the school presents their annual production. This year, with a new director, Mr Torbush, they worked on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mr Torbush added some fabulous touches to the show by choosing Clockwork Orange type costumes and adding contemporary musical numbers. It was just the thing to get everyone interested in learning Shakespeare's English...which was basically a second language for everyone. Andrea was cast as the King Thesius...why my beautiful daughter is forever cast as men I will never know. Alexa was cast as the king's servant, which we all find exceedingly hysterical. Joseph, with his natural gift for comedic timing was Bottom and Jessica was Peas Blossom, the fairy who eats.(Maybe he was sending her a message that she needed to eat more?) After several months of practice it came down to the last week of practice. Doesn't it always...when on Monday I watched shaking my head and on Friday I couldn't have been more proud of the job they all did. What a difference a week makes...and an audience!

They had three shows. One Friday night and 2 on Saturday.
 Below is Alexa before the Matinee on Saturday with her makeup on.
 Andrea onstage with Mr Santos, the school Principal who was the angry father.

 Joe as Bottom, who was reading his script when Puck, played by our good friend Annie, whom he can't see took the book from his hands.
 Joe having been turned into an Ass, being adored by the fairies...

 Above: Jess sleeping on stage. (she had come to me after the Matinee and said she didn't feel well. I could tell right away she had a fever. We went home, I gave her ibuprofen and sent her to sleep for an hour. It was just a fever, no other unpleasant symptoms. I told her it was ok if I went back and told them she was too sick to go on. She had already had two shows. Her part could be skipped or given to another fairy. And she looked at me and said, "Serious actors go on even when they are sick. And I want to be a serious actor so..." and we went with the understanding that if at any time she felt worse she was to bow out. And she performed fabulously.

 Above: Andrea and Alexa discussing which evening entertainment to pick

Below Left: Alexa signaling the arrival of the theater troupe. Below Right: Joseph breaking character to explain to the King that his curse was a cue for the actress to enter.

Dancing to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, which really seemed to fit the play within the play.

They all had a great time. I surely was the proudest Mom there with all 4 kids in the play. But I was just as proud of the kids who were not mine. It was not easy to learn all those old English phrases and speak them with feeling so the audience knows what you are saying. And they performed this all in the library, where we had continuous technical difficulties because the lighting system kept shorting out the fuse. Hopefully next year we'll get a theater...there is some talk about some renovations needing to be made on one that comes with our new property. (keeping fingers and toes crossed that this happens.) But that is for another time. The kids never faltered, remembered their lines and delivered three fabulous shows. And , the curtain closes for another year. Rumors have it that we'll  be doing Little Shop of Horrors...stay tuned to see what actually happens.


Habitat for Humanity

When Nick and I were discussing whether or not we would extend his contract, one large point in favor of staying was the opportunity to for the kids to explore the world. The kids' school has sent a group to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity each year since we've been here. First it was Jordan, then Senegal and this year the trip was to Ghana. So we signed up Andrea and Alexa, got their requisite shots and loaded them up with bug spray, mosquito nets and epi pens. We were a little panicked about the use of peanuts in local cooking. It was a long week for me without my two A's...and without any contact. I'm so used to being able to text and call when we wanted. We did get a text when they arrived safe and sound, a few emails that were sent by the school that sent very generic "they're ok" messages. But I wasn't satisfied until Friday when they figured out how to do the international calling, that everything really was ok...despite the news that Alexa had indeed eaten food with peanuts in it and that Andrea was covered head to toe with a rash from the bug spray. But, as she said, she'd rather have a rash then malaria so she toughed it out. Andrea constantly amazes me. And Alexa recognized the peanut right away in the chocolate paste and didn't swallow it, so the reaction didn't require an epi pen...only benadryl. And all was well when we spoke and that was all I needed to know. Here's some pictures of their trip.
They spent the first day at the beach in Accra.

       met some kids who could do amazing acrobatics

 then traveled to the small village where they'd be staying all week.

 the kids were very friendly. Alexa was amazed that all the women carried everything in large containers on their heads. And most of them while carrying babies on their backs in a sling, much like the sling that this little one is carrying her bear in.

 working hard (there are no pictures of Alexa working...I like to think it's because she was taking the pictures)

 Laundry day

 Alexa said that they made pinwheels out of sticks and leaves and ran around. She was amazed that they could create their own toys and be so entertained. I think that is what this picture is of.
 Alexa said that they loved her sunglasses

All in all, it was an experience they will never forget. Both are looking forward to going back next year.