American in Spain

State of the Offspring Address - March 2015

March 31, 2015
Ian Writes

March has seen several major milestones hit by the offspring, pretty much all by Nora, and I'm not even counting her sixth birthday or losing her first tooth, both of which were amazing sources of pride for her. Ian is still plodding along being adorable, friendly and so curious that he gets into trouble. He's just finally started getting out a third or fourth syllable to his thoughts, like "Let's go, Nora", or "Daddy, jacket!"


For a couple of months now, Nora has finally stopped wearing diapers at night, but her lackluster success in this area is entirely due to outside help, with a parent or grandparent waking her up various times each night to go to the bathroom. And she really only barely wakes up; she can support her own weight, but you have to direct each step to the bathroom and back.

However, several times this month, she has actually gotten up on her own to go to the bathroom. This is HUGE news! It's the first photon from the end of the tunnel. As a parent, I'm more excited about this than about the lost tooth.

I've also implemented a "If you wet the bed, you have to put the clean sheets on your bed the next day" policy, although it doesn't seem to be providing much motivation one way or the other. Since the children's bedroom doubles as our guest bedroom, rather than remake her bed when she wets it during the night, we just rotate her to one of the guest beds.


Ian has a new pastime: planking. Wikipedia defines planking as "an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a difficult position for extended periods of time".


And you thought you couldn't get six-pack abs while watching tv!

This isn't how everyone uses FaceTime?

What? You don't do transatlantic video conferencing with your grandparents in your robot pajamas while upside down planking??

I showed Nora the above photograph, and she was not to be outdone, so she replicated it the following day.

Upside down FaceTime

Oh, and they also breakdance.


Teacher Conference

Nora is just finishing up her third year of pre-school (the equivalent of kindergarten). She's had the same teacher, Viky, all three years. When we first sat down with Viky 2.5 years ago, she told us that we would have regular meetings with her throughout the years to go over Nora's progress. But even though we've heard of countless meetings other parents have had with her, we haven't had a single one...until this month. We specifically requested a meeting. Our main concerns were, firstly, Nora's lack of ability, or even interest in, being able to identify the letters of the alphabet or numbers. It's kind of hard to learn to read if you can't tell an P from a B. And secondly, we were worried about the impression we've been getting that a small portion of the class, three or four boys, seemed to have behavior problems that were requiring a lot of time and energy from teacher, which necessarily detracts from the time and energy that can be given to our daughter.

Viky informed us that the naughty kids are under control, especially after she implemented a play group scheme which breaks up bonds that Viky perceived as harmful. That includes separating the troublemakers, and also separating Nora from her best friend, which was forming into an exclusionary relationship, preventing them from playing with other children. We approved.

She also told us that the reason she hadn't contacted us for a meeting is that Nora is doing so wonderfully that there were never any issues to discuss. While Nora has started out on the shy side, she has been opening up gradually like a spring flower on a continuous trajectory. A few things that set Nora apart from her classmates:

  • Nora says yes to everything. When it's time to change activities, she never says, "No! I don't wanna do that!"
  • Nora's efforts are never minimal. Some kids when told to color in a flower will make a quick slipshod effort in order to get on with something more fun, but Nora will sit there and draw and draw, and say, "Not quite yet!" when asked if she's done yet.
  • Nora talks constantly about her grandparents. All four of them. None of the other kids in the class have such a great relationship with their grandparents.
  • The light of her life that she really won't shut up about is her brother, Ian. She's constantly, "Ian did this," and "Ian did that." And without a drop of jealousy. She talks about whenever she's playing with something, Ian wants to play with it, so she has let him have it and go play with something else. But she said it with no animosity whatsoever; it's funny and cute to her, not annoying. Other kids complain about their siblings, but Nora has never shown even the slightest bit of irritation.

Viky told us that she's been doing this for years (some of her first students are now parents), and she can tell that almost everyone in the class is right on the cusp of all the pieces fitting into place for reading to take place. When they sound out words or try to write, they are making all the common mistakes that a pre-reader does, and that even in the three months until the end of the school year, we will see some massive strides in reading and writing.

Needless to say, even though we entered the meeting a bit antagonistic, we left beaming with pride.

Adventurous Ian

Ian is so curious about the world and especially about anything his big sister is doing. Since Nora has been doing more writing, sometimes she has homework where she has to write a sentence or two, which really consists of copying letters that her parents write, Ian has been more interested in pencils and paper.

Ian Writes

Such concentration!

Big Sister's Baby Stroller

Somehow he figured out a way to crawl inside Nora's doll stroller.

Bar Kids

Spanish kids at the bar.

Bar Kids

Spanish kids under the bar.

In Daddy's Office

Several times this month, I have left Ian alone for no more than a minute and then found him up on my office chair banging on my keyboard or trackpad.


Since probably December 2014, I have let Nora walk to school by herself. Normally I go with her, but on days when Ian was sick, to let him sleep in, I would go down in the elevator with Nora and help her cross the one street (right in front of our house) needed to get to school and then let her walk the other 200 meters around the block to school. Gradually, I pulled back how far I took her, reminding her every time to look both ways before crossing the street. It's a one-way street, but I feel like enforcing the "look both ways" habit is best. Now, if I need her to, she can go all the way from home, pushing all the right elevator buttons and crossing the street by herself. I'm not too terribly worried about her street crossing going to school because there is a lot of pedestrian traffic at that time and all the cars going by are parents who have dropped their kids off and are aware that they are in a school zone minutes before the bell rings.

Mouse Nora

This past Saturday, my wife had gone to Santander to run some errands, and I was in charge of both kids all morning. I managed to get them bathed, go do the grocery shopping with them both, and we had headed out to the playground at Nora's school for some play time. When we got there, Nora insightfully observed that Ian would be a lot happier if we'd brought down a ball for him to play with, because he could not take his eyes of the ball some bigger kids were playing with (what is it that Y-chromosome and ball-related sports?). I agreed and said, "Okay, well, let's go back home to get a ball."

At this point, Nora suggested that maybe she could go get the ball and come back. It was the same street crossing, between home and school, that she knows so well, and she's been practicing using the keys to unlock our front door, so I agreed. I figured the worst case was that she would lock the keys in the house and we'd have to wait thirty minutes for my wife to get back. I watched, from the playground, as she walked around her school and up to our house. She had a little trouble getting in the door to the lobby, but another resident happened to leave as she was struggling, so she got in that way. Several minutes passed, and she appeared with the ball and a ginormous smile on her face. When she returned to the playground, she stated, "You know, I could go anywhere now," fleshed out a minute later with, "Once I learn how to drive, I can really go anywhere!"

It later came to light that, while she was at home, she had answered a telephone call from her abuela and had chatted for a few minutes. Amazing.

Bread Run

The following day, I intentionally forgot to buy the daily bread on my trip to the local grocery store. Upon returning, I exclaimed, "Oh no! I forgot to get the bread! Nora, do you think you could go buy the bread?" She leapt at the opportunity!

To get to the store requires the same road crossing as to get to school, plus one additional low-traffic road crossing. I was sure she was up for it, but I had mentioned the plan to the folks at the grocery store so they wouldn't be too worried.

Bread Buyer

She took the 1€ coin to buy the bread and left. I went to the window to watch her journey. Just as I started looking, the doorbell rang. She'd realized that she needed to use the bathroom before starting on her quest.

Again she left, and I went to the window to wait, while inattentively turning pages to "read" a book to Ian, who was angry with me for not sitting down to read to him properly. I waited and waited, but I didn't see her. What could be wrong? I went to open the front door to maybe go down the elevator to find her, but she appeared, having walked up six flights of stairs. It had occurred to her that maybe she should take the house keys to get back in. I had told her that I would come down to meet her in the lobby, but maybe she'd missed that. So off she went again with the keys and the money.

This time, she crossed the street and walked down the block, crossed the other street and went into the store. A few minutes later, my mobile phone rang. It was Andrés, the grocer, asking what kind of bread Nora should get because the kind we usually get was sold out. I made the executive decision and hung up. Shortly after, I saw Nora appear, proud as can be with her bread. I went down to meet her in the lobby and congratulate her. She was so happy.

I would later learn that she ran into two friends from the neighborhood along the way and had had a conversation with them about how she was going to buy the bread.

Father's Day Mug Disaster

Nora presented me with a beautifully painted mug for Spanish Father's Day, March 19th. I was surprised by how much something as "silly" as a painted mug meant to me when I received it. It was quite lovely.

Father's Day gift from Nora - March 19, 2015 Father's Day gift from Nora - March 19, 2015 Father's Day gift from Nora - March 19, 2015 Father's Day gift from Nora - March 19, 2015

Unfortunately, the very same afternoon that she gave it to me, it got a little wet, and the paint all smudged and smeared. It really broke my heart to lose it. Who the hell makes a mug that you can't get wet??? On the plus side, the mug has totally left Nora's mind. She hasn't mentioned it once since she gave it to me, so it wasn't nearly as important to her as it was to me. Oh well. At least I took photos!

Interest in Ballet

Nora continues to love her dance class, and is unable to be still upon returning home, going over dance moves. She even sometimes requests that we play pop songs for her to improvise dancing to. She seems to really have some talent in this area, and we need to foster it. Through the YouTube for Kids app, released last month, which I highly recommend, she has discovered a cartoon called Angelina Ballerina about a mouse at a ballet dance academy, and she has since been practicing ballet moves she sees the mouse do. This flame will be stoked!

Closing Credits

That's about all the news for this month, so we'll finish up with some cute photos and videos from this month...

Ducky Ian

Ducky Ian

Bath time with Tweetsie Railroad cup.

Ian in the bath with our Tweetsie Railroad cup. All selective desaturation was done on my phone.

Missing Ian

One day I lost Ian in the supermarket. Can you see him?

Pork Eater

The smug look he gives when he's managed to coerce us into letting him get back up from his crib to stay up a little later.



Dizzy kids. "¡El mundo gira!", Nora says. "The world is spinning!"

One morning, when I went to wake up the kids, this is what I found.

Early Morning Sibling Love

The state of the offspring is strong!