Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year in Review

Well, I suppose I should reflect back on some of the important events in our family from 2009. The two that come first to mind at the moment are finding out about Dani's peanut allergy (though that has proven to be a fairly low-key issue so far) and finishing all my coursework for my degree-- finally! Most of the rest seems like business as usual, generally, with some ups and downs along the way.

Looking ahead, I did have a fairly good idea of what I wanted to do with the first several months of 2010: exercise, healthier eating habits, do the courses and planning for the state exam, and keep the clutter monster under better control around here. However, at the last minute a possible job opportunity has cropped up-- it may not come through, and wouldn't be very convenient, but if it materializes there are enough advantages that it would be worth the hassles. But I won't find out whether I will be called for an interview for another week or two. So, it's kind of hard to do much planning in this sort of limbo state.

But, this year I am going to do that popular year-end meme of posting the first line of the first post for each month, just to revisit in blog terms our year. So, here goes:

January: I suppose I should be writing either one of those year-in-review posts, or one of those New Year's Resolutions posts, but for the moment I'll leave you with my best wishes for 2009 and a few photos-- I didn't get most of the food, but at least here's the turrón and the fruit and the twelve grapes to be eaten in rapid succesion at midnight: (click on the link to see the photos.)

Februrary: On the other blog, I have been writing some posts about my teaching degree program.

March: Overheard this morning when the boys were in bed: (again, click if you want to read it.)

: When I was pregnant with Elías, I attended a birth preparation class in which the instructor pointed to a chart and expounded upon the many ills that can affect womens' pelvic organs after childbirth (prolapse! urinary incontinence! and more!) (Yeah, you might not want to click on this one.)

May: it's kind of ironic. (Missing capital letter and all...)

So I signed up to participate in the Double-Daring Book for Girls book shower, first because I think Andi and Miriam rock, and I'd love to help get the word out about their book.

July: Well, we arrived safely in the US, but no blogging due to various factors: An impossibly slow computer, three hyper kids, jet-lagged human alarm clocks that get us up every day at 5:30am and make it extremely difficult for me to be able to put a coherent blog post together when I actually do get a free moment...

: ...but about to leave again, this time for the village. (The title for this post was "So we're back...")

: Back to school for another year.

: te cases ni te embarques. (Title for this post was "En trece y martes...")

November: Yep. (Post title: "We interrupt this Halloween to bring you... the flu.")

December: So Dani is coming up on 22 months (the 26th) and while he will occasionally deign to use an actual word, most of his communication comes in the form of gesture.

So I guess that about sums it up. 2009 was also the year of infrequent blog posts-- 58 for the entire year. In July I only posted once, and August twice, and in no month did I go over 7 posts. Somehow, though, a few of you continue to read. So, thank you! And of course, Feliz Año! May 2010 be a wonderful year for all of us!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

22 Months

Today Dani is 22 months old. He has said a few words over the past couple of days, like when he saw me get stuff ready to make cookies, and walked over and pointed at the oven saying "hot", or when he is excited for his bath, he goes to the bathroom and says "bath" (okay, what he says, more phonetically rendered, is "ha" and "ba" but the context makes it clear.)

But he continues to use gesture to great effect. The past few nights, he has been not going to bed when his brothers do (actually, he goes to bed when they do, but spends the next five minutes crying until he throws up, then gets to go downstairs for playtime and his parents' attention without his brothers there to compete. Yes, I know, I know...) So just now Santi was telling Dani that it was time for bed, and he shook his head no, and pointed at his brothers, as if to say "No, it's time for them to go to bed!"

Re-memoir that?

When I was doing my column at Literary Mama, what now seems like ages ago, several of my fellow columnists were writing book proposals and getting publishing contracts. Heidi Raykeil even had a spot on the Today show to talk about her book based on her popular column, Sex in the Suburbs. (Note: I just noticed that the book is Bargain Priced at Amazon for only $4.85-- I'm sorry it's come to that, but on the other hand it is a great book, really well done, so if you're inclined to check it out, there's another good reason.) A couple years later, Rachel Sarah published her memoir about dating as a single mother with a young child. I briefly pondered attempting to put together a proposal myself, in what seemed like an auspicious moment for memoirs about motherhood (yes, before the publishing market tanked with the rest of the economy...). In the end, though, not only was I busy with preparations for my new goal of obtaining a teaching degree, but I also came to the realization that I just didn't, at that point in time, have a book in me. Or if I did, it wasn't that book-- I just wasn't ready to delve that deeply into the experience of mothering abroad and lay it all bare.

And laying it all bare is what is called for in a memoir. It's risky, and can backfire in multiple ways, but when it works, it draws the reader in and makes her care about the characters and the story, and eager to see it through. I had just such an experience this summer, reading memoirs by two other fellow columnists:
Mother in the Middle: A Biologist's Story of Caring For Parent and Child, by Sybil Lockhart; and Love in Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage, by Sophia Raday.

In Mother in the Middle, Lockhart reflects upon her roles as daughter, mother, wife, and caretaker, as her own mother descends into Alzheimer's right at the time that Lockhart herself begins a family. The "hook," if you will, is that as a neurobiologist Lockhart is able to understand-- and share with us-- the physiological changes going on inside the brains at key moments such as sexual arousal, gestation and childbirth; her children as they reach various stages and milestones, and of course, the deterioration of her mother's brain due to the onslaught of the disease. This is interesting, but what really drew me in was the story itself: the beginning, as she meets and falls in love with her husband; their early years and the birth of their first child at a time when her mother's illness first began to drop its first hints; her struggle to reconcile professional life and family, and finally coming to terms with the disease and its effects.

The subject of the memoir is not one that would have immediately attracted me, being far from my own experience, but I was such a fan of Lockhart's writing in her column at LM that I was excited to finally see her book. The writing is gorgeous, and she is able to find the balance between giving us enough insight to make us feel we understand and care about her characters, yet not so much that we feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Readers of the column may recognize some of this, but there is plenty new-- the book goes much deeper and is worth reading on its own.

Love in Condition Yellow is quite a different story: a Berkley peace activist falls unexpectedly in love with a police officer and military man. At first it is a unconventional love story, as we watch Raday and her man negotiate the differences between them, break down some prejudices, and find a true connection. Then after 9/11, her husband's military involvment ramps up and she finds herself living on a military base, surrounded by other "military wives" and trying to find a way to reconcile this new role with who she thought she was. I was really looking forward to this book, and was not disappointed.

It is becoming clear to me that I am not cut out to write book reviews-- trying to think of original language to use is really taxing my brain. But really, these are good reads!

A few more I've read--and liked-- lately:

Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes, by Emily Franklin

and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love, & Spain, by Lori Tharps. I really meant to write an actual review for this one, because as you might imagine, it touches on themes close to my heart :-). It also gives the author's perspective on her experiences as a Black woman in Spain, which I found especially interesting. You can read her blog here-- it's also a great read, and raises intriguing questions.

So if you were the lucky recipient of a gift certificate to a bookstore (as I was!) and are looking for some recommendations, here are mine!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rudolph breaks a leg!

Since the crisis has hit many families pretty hard this year, a local news station ran a special report from the North Pole: Santa announces that poor Rudolph has broken his leg, and implores the children to ask for fewer gifts this year because poor Rudolph can't pull such a heavy sleigh.

We didn't see this, since we mostly don't even watch the news (Santi reads it online, and I do too when I'm not sticking my head in the sand, my bad) but we did hear about it from other sources, so I looked it up. Interesting initiative.

Of course, here there is the added complication of Three Kings Day on January 6th, which used to be the main gift-giving day (and still is, in many families.) But the man in the red suit has also been adopted by many. Aside from the unrelenting cultural influence of other countries (one in particular), presents on the 25th mean that kids have more time to enjoy them over the long holiday break (they go back to school January 11th.) Since we are a bicultural household, we have full license to do both, however.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Local resources for bilingual families

I just wanted to mention a couple of sites I ahev recently become aware of.
Bilingual Readers is a new company that publishes bilingual books for children aged 0-7, but they also publish a blog and a newsletter with resources for bilingual families. They are a brand-new company and at the moment only have three books on offer, but more will be added soon. If I end up teaching very young learners I may well be purchasing some (or all!) of these! Their Resources page is worth a look, because they have articles and links about a range of topics of interest to bilingual families (not just Spanish/English speakers.)

The other site (which I may have mentioned before) is Kids in Madrid, which is a guide to family friendly activities in Madrid. It's written in both English and Spanish, and they have a blog and other resorces geared toward both locals and visitors.

Adventures in Multicultural Mothering

That is the subtitle of Call Me Okasaan, a collection of essays that was named one of Japan Times's favourite books of 2009. It is also home to my very first essay published in an anthology, and I have been meaning to write nice long post about the book. However, I will have to settle for a short post: great book! A wide range of topics, experiences, and cultures are represented, and those of you who are mothers (fathers too) and participate in two or more cultures will probably identify with many of them.

I'll link to the page about the book on the editor's website, because that will give you more information than I can right now. Also, the Amazon page (it's also available in a Kindle edition!)

Go read!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Random notes

Real post coming soon. In the meantime:

1) Dani has discovered that, when presented with a banana chocolate chip muffin, one can merely pick out the chips and eat them, leaving the rest of the muffin forlornly on the table. Smart kid.

2) I hate my new coffee maker. In fact, I hate it so much that I had a draft post going enummerating its many design flaws. I also brought up the topic yet again in the car the other night to Santi, not as a disguised plea to buy yet another one (we don't have the original packaging, so can't return it), but rather merely to vent my frustration. Men, however, are not necessarily good at being at the listening end of a rant when there is no action expected on their part to remedy the situation. So, I assured him again that I was not in fact angling for a new coffeemaker. But guess what happened the next day? When I pulled the filter basket out of the drainer after washing it, I discovered the spring and the little attachment that goes on to the bottom as a "no-drip valve" lying broken beside it. Santi tried to fix it, to no avail, rendering the whole thing unusable. He is graciously pretending to believe that this was not a deliberate act of sabotage on my part but truly, it wasn't.

3) What does it mean that I have developed a sudden compulsion to listen to old Smiths's singles? I have been loading them on YouTube to play in the background (as a brief departure from the all-day Christmas music fest I undertake every December.) "If a double decker bus..." Sing it with me now, folks. It's funny to read the comments on the videos, made by young folk who weren't around for the original glory-- to them this must feel like a discovery! So what does this mean? I ponder. Perhaps it means that I should invest in an MP3 and download me some tunes, once I start working (which may be sooner than I thought... more later.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


So Dani is coming up on 22 months (the 26th) and while he will occasionally deign to use an actual word, most of his communication comes in the form of gesture. For example, the other day when his brothers were excited to wear some new winter hats, he too got excited and patted his head, as if to say, "Where's mine?" (Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore off and he then refused to wear a hat. Oh well.) Or the other day when I stopped at a café after doing some errands in town. I pulled his stroller up to the table, but he looked at me and patted the seat of the chair next to him, letting me know that he wanted to sit in the chair like a regular person.

And this morning when all three were eating their Rice Krispies at the table, the older boys on their second bowl, Dani on his first. He seemed to hesitate at one point and seemed to be about to thrust his hand into the bowl, so I told him, "Dani, eat your cereal with your spoon, like Pedro and Elías." Then I looked over at Pedro, who was eating his cereal dry in a way that I did not want Dani to emulate (don't ask), so I quickly ammended my instructions, "Dani, eat your cereal with your spoon, like Elías." Well, he looked right at Pedro, pointing an accusatory finger as if to say, "He's not eating with his spoon!"

I think we're going to be in trouble when this one starts to talk!