American in Spain

State of the Offspring Address - February 2015

February 27, 2015
Ian Barfly

The shortest month of the year has come to a close. I spent the first dozen days of it the the States playing golf, and then we had the biggest event in February for the kids, Carnaval. The weather has been particularly terrible this month, so we've done almost no outdoor activities. The other day I noticed it was starting to rain, and pointed this out to Nora, and she said, "Ugh! It's ALWAYS raining!" That's how we all feel. This week, an app I have on my phone, called TimeHop, that shows you your old photos from the same date in previous years reminded me that it was two years ago that Nora started learning how to write letters, and has made almost zero progress since then. She can copy letters that she's looking at, which is a step up from tracing, but if you ask her to draw an 'A', she doesn't know how. It's really frustrating that whatever needs to click in her brain to make her see the patterns in letters and to understand numbers has yet to click. The other day, I gave her a simple word problem: "If we have six Tic-Tac™s, and you eat two every day, how many days will it take you to eat them all?", and she looked at me like I was asking what God's face looks like, or some other unknowable query. She likes to ask what time it is, because she hears other people do that, but if you tell her that it's 4:30 and that she has dance class at 6:00, she has no idea whatsoever what any of that means. And it's not for lack of trying to explain it; it just hasn't clicked. It will happen eventually, of course, and I've learned that no good can come from stressing about comparing your kid to another kid of the same age, so we're just waiting patiently for it to happen. It's just really hard, because there are so many things that I want to teach her that require basic reading and math skills.

The Rice-pocalypse

One day this month my mother-in-law was left alone at home with the kids. She had just added some rice to the pot in the kitchen and had gone upstairs briefly to tend to something, leaving the children alone watching television. When she came downstairs, she found that Ian had reached up and pulled down the bag of rice that she had left a little too close to the edge of the counter, making our kitchen floor look like the steps of a church at a wedding. Thank goodness it wasn't the boiling water he had pulled down (that's one of my parenting nightmares).


I returned home only minutes after the incident to find this. Their body language says it all, I think. They were having such a good time, and their joy was so infectious, that it was impossible to scold them. We all had to laugh with them.

Eye Flaps

Ian discovered this month that he has little flaps of skin over his eyes.

Eye flaps!

And he hasn't even seen Clockwork Orange!


Nora has learned all about The App Store and that it's full of good and shiny things. One day this month, she and my father were talking to each other on FaceTime on iPads, and using iPhones to try and download and play the same game. Which, if you think about it, is a tough thing to do without knowing how to read. My father described the experience thusly:

Nora's idea to was that we would both download the same game from the App store and then watch each other play it. I chose "MY ANGELA". Nora told me to write it down and show her so she could type it into the App store search line. She then told me I was using the wrong letters. I thought maybe her iPad was set to the Spanish keyboard, and had her show me her keyboard, where the letters were all lower case. When I wrote "my angela" and showed it to her, she was off and running while verbally mimicking her Grandmother - "a, a, a, Where is that rascally a".

Later that day, I found this written on a piece of paper.

App Store

Two-Syllable Echo

We have a little toy parrot, that has a microphone, a simple chip and a speaker, that will record whatever you say and repeat the last bit of it back to you in a slightly higher pitch. My prayers have been answered and its battery has died, but Nora also found an iPad app that does something similar. The reason I mention it is that it's pretty much exactly what Ian does, as he's learning how to talk.

This sounds adorable, but it leads to some serious communication problems. It's really, really hard not to talk to him as you would to anyone, so it's common to say, "Do you want an apple or a banana?" To which he would say, "'nana!" But if you turn around and ask, "Would you like a banana or an apple?" He'd echo back the "Apple!" to you. If you're not careful to double check, you'll assume he's making reasoned decisions and just happens to be choosing the latter option every time. It's pretty cute.

But he doesn't always echo; sometimes he comes up with his own words. His favorite command is to reach for your hand and say, "Come!" He's already taught his Spanish grandparents the words "come", "down", and "shoe". I've finally got him saying "More?" to me, rather than "¿Más?" when asking me for more of whatever he was just eating.

That's Enough, Daddy!

I have no idea where he learned this, but one word that Ian says perfectly in context is whenever he sees someone pouring something, he will hold up his hand and say, "Ya ya ya ya!", which is how Spaniards say, "Enough, stop pouring!" I mostly hear it in bars when the bartender is making a highball and the customer doesn't want it to be too heavy on the alcohol. He even uses it when we're pouring milk for him, so I don't think he really knows what it means, just that it's a thing that is said while pouring. He also enjoys the laugh that it gets when he tells his daddy to stop pouring wine.

Ian Barfly

Crack Jumping

Ian has gotten interested in parkour.

It can take us a long time to get places.

Loose Tooth

Nora is extremely excited to have a loose tooth. A couple of the kids in her kindergarten class have already lost a tooth, and her best friend and archrival at all things competitive claims to have one that moves as well. But Nora's moves a lot! I'll be surprised if it lasts another week.

Loose tooth

It's the incisor that is lowest in this image. You can even see how it's bent forward so you can see the back of the tooth. Yes, she has a filling.

Stay tuned next month for a blog post about the Spanish tooth fairy, who is not a fairy, but a mouse.

Too many cooks

This is a pretty cute photo I took when Nora and Ian were "helping" their mother bake a cake. It was going well until an argument broke out about whose turn it was to lick a spoon and they had to be banished from the kitchen.

Baking a cake

Hiding from the grown-ups

The day that I took the photos you are about to see, I was talking with a married couple who grew up here and is about my age, and I mentioned that both Nora and Ian really like this little nook. They both said that they played in the same spot thirty years ago as kids.

Nora and Ian play together much more than they fight. I think Nora deserves most of the credit for that at this stage; she really is an amazing big sister to Ian.

Hiding from the grownups

Can they see us?

Hiding from the grownups

Surely not, because I can't see them!

Hiding from the grownups

Uh oh!

The state of the offspring is strong!

Under the table and dreaming