American in Spain

State of the Offspring Address - January 2015

January 30, 2015
Kitty Nora

Early January saw the passing of "Second Christmas", Kings Day, in which Nora wrote a letter to the three wisemen welcoming them into our home and offering some snacks that were laid out for them. Nora got a toy microphone, some clothes, some other toys, and several pairs of earmuffs, which no one wears (and therefore are nearly impossible to buy), but apparently they were talking about them in school. Ian got the big present: a pedal-less bicycle. Unfortunately he's not quite big enough to use it even at the lowest setting, and Nora is just too big to use it at the highest setting (more on that below). Nora got up first, of course, and then she got so frustrated that she couldn't "help" Ian open his presents that she actually started crying at the injustice of it all. When we got Ian up, he really didn't seem to have any understanding of what was going on, barely paying attention to Nora ripping open his presents. Shoes for Kings Day

I still don't understand fully why shoes are involved, but it seems to be Spanish equivalent of stockings, which I also don't really understand. Best not to ask too many questions about stuff like that.

Kings Day Eve

In their pajamas the night before.

Christmas Tree 2014

After the kings came.

Kings Day 2015

Nora left out some cookies, milk, and pistachios for the kings and their flying (?) camels to eat, as well as a letter.

Kings Day 2015 Letter

_Queridos Reyes Magos,

Bienvenidos a esta casa. Esperamos que os guste la comida que os hemos dejado. Ya hemos oído en la tele que venís muy cargados.

Adios, muchos besos y abrazos y que tengas una Feliz Navidad!

-Grandpa, Grandma, Erik, Marga, Abuelo, Abuela, IAN, NORA_

Dear Magi Kings,

Welcome to this home. We hope that you all like the food we have left. We heard on TV that you are carrying a lot.

Goodbye, many kisses and hugs and may you have a merry Christmas!

-Grandpa, Grandma, Erik, Marga, Abuelo, Abuela, IAN, NORA

I thought it might be a clever touch to put some camel prints on the letter, so I found some clipart online.

Kings Cake

The Roscón de Reyes, which one of my Facebook friends observed looks a lot like a giant cream cheese bagel.

I saved the present opening on video for posterity. Pardon all the coughing; it sounds like Christmas at a tuberculosis hospital.

The worst present was the little digital camera. But it was only 15€. First of all, let's all marvel at the fact that you can get a digital camera with a postage-stamp-sized LCD preview screen and USB cable for 15€. I would think the screen would cost at least 10€, and the USB cable and port and circuits would cost at least 5€, and then there's a flash and lens and memory...amazing. It's pretty close in quality to my first digital camera back in 1999, which I think was just over $700.

Nora playing with Simon

My gift was the one most played with that morning, a semi-vintage Simon™ memory game. The newer models involve swiping, too, which I didn't like the sound of. It's a lot of fun.

Doorjamb Head Bang

On the evening of January 7th, Ian and his sister were careening around the house as they do most days, and Ian fell while making the sharp turn into the kitchen and hit his head on the doorjamb. I scooped him up as I usually do when these things happen, and he was trying to cry so hard that he wasn't actually making noise, just gasping for breath to cry harder. When I saw his head, the look on my face made my wife drop what she was doing and rush over to examine him. His forehead swelled up to the size of about half a golf ball. I'd only ever seen head swelling like that on cartoons after a character is hit by a falling anvil.

Noggin Bump

It was nearly impossible to get a non-blurry photograph of the swelling, as he was squirming around so much. This photo is from a few hours later.

I quickly threw on some clothes and my wife and I took him to the local doctor's office, which has a little 24-hour emergency section. We felt a little silly when we got there, because the five minute car ride holding ice to Ian's forehead was all that he really needed. The swelling had gone down considerably. Amazingly, the skin didn't break. It's pretty incredible, also, that Ian made it a full month longer than Nora did before going to the emergency room.

Ian Forehead Bump

The next day he was fine.

Mop Rider

As anyone with small children will tell you, they are nothing but help when it comes to cleaning the house. One day this month, I did a double take as I saw, through a doorway, Ian gliding effortlessly across the floor. We then tried to recreate the activity on video.

Bicycle Practice

We're really trying to push Nora on learning to ride her bicycle. We had heard from a cyclist friend that a good way to learn is to take off the training wheels, and also the pedals, to just work on the balance. I'd never heard of taking off the pedals, but he told us that it was possible on most bicycles. Nora's, however, is a fairly cheap bike from a department store, not a bicycle shop, and her pedals are actually welded to the frame in a way that it would be impossible to remove them. However, they get in the way for pure balance practice. So we got out Ian's new pedal-less bike and cranked the seat all the way up, and had Nora practice going down some small inclines to maintain her balance. She got pretty good at it and we showered her with all the praise we could muster, but it just doesn't seem like she gets any intrinsic joy out of it. From our parental point of view, we know that not only is riding a bicycle something that every child pretty much must learn, and failure to learn it will result in peer ridicule very shortly, but also that she will enjoy the freedom and independence a bicycle provides a child in a small town once she gets the hang of it. It's very reminiscent of the dance class problems we had a few months ago. It's incredibly frustrating to be putting so much effort into helping her learn and having her show not one drop of interest.

After mastering the small ramp at the local church, we went to a bigger hill.

On about the tenth time she went down, I told my wife, "I'm amazed she hasn't crashed yet." Less than a second later, she lost control and collided with the stone wall you see to the left. We scooped her up and dusted her off. She didn't even properly skin her knee, just a little scrape. At the time, she looked like she was dying, but when I asked her how her leg felt that night at bedtime, she couldn't remember which leg it had been.

Both Nora, literally, and we, figuratively, are going to need to get back on the bicycle and keep trying until we get this licked.

Winter Colds

Sleeping Ian

It feels like Ian has had a cold for months, with on-and-off fevers and weird sleeping patterns for most of December and January. Nora had a stretch right around Christmas where she had a fever every afternoon for a fortnight. In retrospect, I think we can attribute it to a growth spurt, as she's noticeably taller than she was in November. There have been some nights when Ian, having taken sickness-induced naps during the day (he never naps when he's well), would need to stay up very late with me reading books or watching cartoons. Whenever I take him downstairs, he says triumphantly, "Good night, Nora!" as I carry him down the stairs. Cheeky lad!

Here he is exhibiting some new behaviors. One is saying "Good night", with some pretty good pronunciation, especially on the final T. The other is that his Aunt Belén has tried to teach him to give the "V" gesture with his hand like Japanese people do when they pose for photographs, except that Ian just crosses his fingers, and says, "Photo!" whenever he sees me filming him.

Fun with Unai at the Mall

Unai, Ian and Belén

Last weekend, we really, really needed to get some shopping done at the local mall, various articles of clothing were needed for various members of the family. In the first store we entered, we were incapable of looking at anything because Ian was screaming and tugging on us to go somewhere he had in mind for all of us to go, and Nora was doing her best teenager, "OMG! I'm sooooo bored!" whine. Luckily, we were soon met by my sister-in-law, Belén, and her boyfriend, Unai.

Eating with Unai

The kids got to know Unai a little last summer, and more in December. Nora likes him a lot, but Ian is absolutely head-over-heels in avuncular love with Unai. They get along extremely well. We got a lot of very important shopping done because we were able to leave the kids with Belén and Unai for an hour. Towards the end of our visit to the mall, the kids talked us into buying a few tokens for these awesome little animal rides. They would be more fun if there were fewer people, but I was envious of them getting to zip around riding a tiger.

Cute Photos

I'll leave you with some cute photos and miscellaneous videos.

Street Urchin

Ian has begun hiding from us. Not for any particular reason, I don't think, but sometimes we call him and call him and then go to investigate and find him under a table or crouched in a corner.

Nora Tree

Nora tree.

Ian with new shirt

Looking spiffy in a new shirt.


Slow motion grooving.

]( Morning Orange Juice Drinkers

Freshly squeezed orange juice is a morning ritual.

Feeding pigeons.

Kitty Nora

Some face paint at school. Meow!

Up late, playing with each other.

One weekend morning, my wife and I were too busy with household tasks to give Ian his morning bottle of milk the way he likes it, sitting on someone's lap, so Nora offered to help her little brother out.

The state of the offspring is strong!

Nora and Ian