Thursday, November 27, 2008

FYI... Santa's got a new reindeer this year!

We were sitting around the dinner table a couple of nights ago, laughing about my husband's redneck version of the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." He sings "Billy Bob the Buck-Toothed Reindeer" instead and it always makes the boys crack up, and I admittedly find it rather amusing too. Yeah, okay, so it doesn't take much to entertain us. We're low maintenance and can totally make our own fun.

Talk turned to Santa's reindeer, and we began naming them, one by one. Our youngest son piped up and said, "What about Dixon?"

We all looked at one another, very confused, and I asked, "Who's Dixon?"

Little man said, "One of Santa's reindeer."

Giggles soon turned into howls of laughter as it dawned on us that he's talking about "Vixen," and had apparently thought "Dixon" was the reindeer's name for all 9 years of his life. What an epiphany for the little man!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recess - 1 Parents - 0

In his preparation for school this morning, our 9-year-old realized he'd forgotten to show us a paper that was sent home from his classroom yesterday. He hurriedly brought it to me to read. The first thing I noticed was that it said, "Deadline November 26." Hmmm... isn't that TODAY? Gee, thanks for the heads up (both the school and my son)!

The note was sent in reference to holiday crafts that kids could participate in making as gifts for their parents. The gifts would even be wrapped. Sounded like a great deal, right? Of course the parents had to send in money for these gifts, which is comical to me, but I understand that these things aren't free... somebody has to pay for them.

My son was all about making a craft for his dad and me until we read the next line, which indicated that participation would mean skipping recess. My son's expression totally changed in that instant. He uttered one syllable. "Oh."

I looked at his pathetic little face and said, "You don't have to give up your recess to make gifts for Mom and Dad."

He flashed this bright smile and quickly took the easy out and said, "Okay!" and promptly threw the paper in the trash can.

I guess I know where my husband and I rate... definitely somewhere BELOW recess.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Visiting Arcos

Veteran's Day found our family visiting nearby Arcos, a city located in southern Spain atop a rocky limestone ridge, known for its "pueblos blancos" (white villages) and stone castle walls. There are some absolutely beautiful views from below as well as atop the ridge! Here are some of the highlights of our trip...

See the castle up on the hillside in the distance? (Just click on the picture for a closer view.) That's where we were headed from down below. What struck me as being rather funny was the fact that these magnificent centuries-old structures were within our view and then we looked to the right and saw the very modern, contemporary new building going up.

Here's a closer view of the castle, which is now the palace of the dukes of Arcos. According to Rick Steves (You know the big-time Travel Chanel dude), te 11th-century Moorish castle is reportedly where Ferdinand and Isabel held Reconquista strategy meetings. Aren't you impressed? We were!

We started at the bottom of the ridge and began the hike to the top. Luckily it was a rather steady uphill grade, nothing too agonizing.

We were probably only a third of the way up the ridge when we stopped to take this photo. The white-washed villages are really quite beautiful.

Orange trees lined the streets as we continued our journey.

This dog was simply sitting on top of a building, watching the world go by.

Narrow streets are certainly the norm here in Spain, but we were AMAZED at how much more narrow they became as we got closer to the top. We couldn't imagine we'd see cars being driven on many of these streets, but they kept coming. At times, we had to duck into doorways to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic.

This is just one of several churches we saw that day.

Of course duty still called as my husband answered emails on his Blackberry, affectionately referred to as "the crackberry" around our house.

We took a photo of a group of folks traveling together, and one of them returned the favor by taking this photo of us.

Hello? Anyone home?

Look at the massive size of these doors!

The architecture is so detailed, isn't it? Makes me wonder just how long it took to build this church.

This is the bell tower of the same church.

Now we're at the top of the ridge and here's the beautiful Church of Santa MarĂ­a located in Plaza de Cabildo, which is the main square in the city. This church was actually built atop a mosque after Arcos was reconquered from the Moors in the 13th century.

Just beyond this arch is an incredible view of the fertile valley near the Guadalete River.

Boys, that's a LONG WAY down!

Wow! Can you imagine having this view from your home every day?

Beautiful countryside, isn't it?

A little different view.

More of the white-washed houses.

This is the top of the castle, which is now in private hands and closed to the public.

Can you imagine living on this cliff? There's even a big crack in the rock down below. Scary!

Here are the boys in their typical "thumbs up" pose.

Just a "normal" pose this time.

Here I am, returning from the surprisingly clean and fully-stocked restroom facility. Peace be with you, friends!

We were told the nuns at one of the local convents make and sell cookies and cupcakes. We went to the window you see here, rang the bell and a nun appeared. We asked for "galletas" (cookies) and she put them on a lazy Susan and turned it around so we could make our choice. We then paid 6 Euros for a box. The boys thought this was really cool.

Here's the box of cookies we chose.

Mmmm... hazelnut cookies!

Muy delicioso!

We did a little shopping in here for postcards and a Spanish welcome tile to hang by our front door. My hubby is paying for our purchases.

This is what we bought.

Beautiful view of the cliffs from below!

See the castle perched on top of the ridge?

We truly enjoyed our day in Arcos and hope to visit again as we've heard the people put on a fabulous live nativity during the Christmas holiday season.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mmmm.... churros!

A couple of mornings ago I went out for coffee and churros with a few girlfriends. I wasn't even really sure what churros were before moving to Spain. Let me just say that they're the ultimate in high-calorie carbohydrate-rich foods, which naturally means I LOVE churros! A churro is like Spain’s version of a donut. It's deep fried, so it's crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. From what I understand, once the churro is fried, it's traditionally rolled in hot cinnamon sugar, but I haven't always seen that here in the local area. I've seen mostly plain churros. One of my girlfriends brought her own cinnamon sugar mixture from home and we rolled the churros in that and they were SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD! Most cafes in Spain offer churros in the morning, but they can be ordered pretty much any time of day. The most traditional accompaniment for churros is a cup of hot chocolate, which people use for dipping. We had some of that the other day too, and it was good as well. Hello! It's chocolate! Need I say more? Mmmmm... churros!

Come on, help me find a birthday card!

It's a sad state of affairs when parent and child together can't browse the greeting card aisle in the store for fear of viewing inappropriate messages. How do I know this? I was the parent, my son was the child and we were browsing the card aisle together a couple of nights ago.

My son and I were in search of a birthday card. He chose a card that appeared to be generic and simple, but after opening it and reading the message inside, he immediately brought it to me. With very big eyes and quite the concerned expression on his face, he told me this card should be pulled off the racks. I decided to check it out for myself. To my surprise, the card had the words "bitch slap" on the inside. How does one explain these two words to a 9-year-old anyway?

We put the card back and moved down... WAY DOWN the aisle.

Twice my son pulled out cards that had naked bottoms on them, and he was again appalled, saying, "That's disgusting!" Now... he's no goody-goody in that he's a typical little boy who laughs at typical litle boy things such as bodily function references, noises and the like. He just thinks naked body parts are shocking. That's okay with me. I'm sure it won't last, so I'm enjoying this phase in his life while I can.

The last straw was when my little man picked up a card that made reference to someone "being screwed." He wanted to know what that meant and frankly, I was not prepared to answer him right there in the middle of the store. I simply told him it was a slang word (true) and it wasn't a nice thing to say (also true).

We then left the card aisle, and I'm fairly certain I'll never return with my kids. I'm just waiting to hear what the little man will tell his father when asked what he did while Daddy was away. I can hear it now... "I learned some new words and I saw naked bottoms in the store." Oh boy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

He's growing up, but he's not grown up yet!

My youngest son is 9 years old, which still blows my mind even though his birthday was nearly 3 months ago. I suppose all parents feel this way as they watch their children seemingly grow up overnight. You turn your back and look what happens... They've sprouted 5 inches and are no longer calling you "mommy."

My son and his older brother are very much into Wii and have acquired lots of games to go along with this wildly popular gaming system. Among their favorites is Guitar Hero. It's hilarious (and yet a tad disturbing) to hear my little man belt out Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Lovin' You." He doesn't even understand the lyrics; he just likes the beat of the music.

Sidebar: For those of you old enough to remember... American Bandstand's Dick Clark did this "rate a record" segment during the show. How many times did the person rating the record say, "It's got a really good beat"?

Yeah, okay... I digress. I'm just saying that my son isn't alone in the way he interprets music.

Guitar Hero has also introduced my child to rock groups that were popular when I was much younger. He can't seem to understand how it is that I know these bands and their music as well as I do. For a while I was going with the whole "Mom is cool" story, but I finally let the cat out of the bag that these bands had been around for YEARS. Let's just say I'm very familiar with their music.

My son walks up to me just a few days ago and declares, "I LOVE Aerosmith!" That's like the last thing I would have expected to hear him say just a few months ago. Of course the day after he expressed his undying love for this rock band, I caught him intently watching and very much enjoying an episode of Sesame Street. (Please don't tell him I told you!)

I feel so much better. My little man may be growing up, but he's not grown up yet!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You want me to park WHERE?

There are some sights here in southern Spain that simply require taking a photo or two and sharing them with others. The following is one of those sights.

One might think these are merely vehicles parked out in the middle of a field. Maybe it was necessary to park there due to an overflow event, right? Hmmm... perhaps.

Folks, this is actually the long-term parking lot for vehicles at the Jerez Airport. I kid you not. See the sign on the side of the bus? Just go ahead and click on the picture for an enlarged view. Go ahead... I'll wait...

See? I told ya so!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Movie Theater Tipping

The boys went with friends to a movie yesterday while I attended a baby shower (The hubster is out of town). They each had spending money for tickets and snacks, and my oldest decided to take his euro coins, although he didn't need them since they were attending the movie on base. I think he thinks carrying euro is cool, and I like that he's embracing the culture here a little more all the time, so whatever makes him happy is fine with me.

At the dinner table last night we were talking about the movie when my oldest told me he left a tip for the folks who run the snack bar. I was rather surprised and proud of my young man. He sees us leaving tips at restaurants, so I suppose he felt as if he wanted to follow suit, and it probably made him feel more mature, especially in front of his younger brother and friends. Perhaps he felt he was setting a good example as well. Would he even have thought to tip if there hadn't been a tip jar on the counter? I don't really know; I just know I was impressed.

My son spent less than $7 total at the theater (I know... great prices!) and yet he left a tip of 4 euro, which means he left approximately a $6 tip. I tried very hard not to laugh, reminding myself that I once gave an airport employee something like $15 for checking two bags or something (It was a mistake). We had a short discussion on who and when to tip and what's an appropriate amount. I told him it was very nice that he wanted to tip, but next time he should ask us (or the adult he's with) if a tip is in order. What can I say? My son is VERY "generous" and he gets it honest.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lessons Learned

We had a hankerin' for some mini corndogs.

Notice the top of the bag is resealable, which is generally an important thing to notice...

... except we didn't notice that.

And this is what happens when one doesn't pay attention to those kinds of things. Let this be a lesson to you. Glad to be of service.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Visiting the "thoh-oh-boh-TAHN-ee-coh"

The boys just enjoyed a 5-day weekend due to parent/teacher conferences and Veteran's Day. Even though we're still trying to unpack the last few boxes and put up pictures in our house, we decided to take advantage of the time off, especially since we're between sports and there were no games scheduled.

We visited a couple of places, Jerez and Arcos, but I'll just focus on Jerez for this particular post. Jerez de la Frontera (literally translated "Jerez at the Border") was once a natural border or barrier between the Christian and Moorish regions of Spain. The city is a bit north and east of Rota (where we live), and is well known for its wines, horses and flamenco (a very distinct art encompassing song, dance and guitar).

Now... did we actually visit Jerez to sample wines, see the horses or watch/listen to flamenco? No, we did not. We visited the Zoobotanico (pronounced "thoh-oh-boh-TAHN-ee-coh" here in southern Spain), which is the local zoo and botanical gardens. From what we could gather, the facility has been around for 55 years, and while people were telling us not to expect anything grand (as in "It's not like the San Diego Zoo"), we were quite impressed and really enjoyed our day.

We saw LOTS of birds of all shapes, sizes and colors, as well as many varieties of beautiful plants and trees. The cactus and bonsai trees were particularly beautiful, as were the hibiscus. Here are a few sights of the animal variety we saw during our visit...

This ostrich looked like it might have had some serious mental challenges, or perhaps the zoo staff spiked the water that day.

These critters look rather vicious and do you see what they're eating? Looks like some kind of red meat to me... hopefully not human.

I had to follow up that last photo with a friendly-looking bird.

"Pssst...dude, think you could see about springin' me from this joint?"

This photo screams "Madagascar!" to me.

"Pardon me, I'm having an extremely bad hair day."

What the...? Well, I never!

"If I don't look at the humans, perhaps they'll just go away."

"For the love of all things sacred, get me out of here!"

Again... can you say "Madagascar?"

Is this the sweetest face or what? I love giraffes!

Yes, I realize this is yet ANOTHER giraffe photo, but I simply couldn't help myself. I was tall and gangly at one time (not anymore... unfortunately) and I think I felt a real kinship with these creatures.

Would you KILL for those eyelashes, or what?

"Hey, fellas! I think we got a stalker over here. This lady keeps takin' my picture. I'll give her five minutes to walk away and then I'm calling security!"

This cat doesn't look very approachable to me. I took my photo and made a quick exit.

"Do you mind? Stop your gawkin' and get out of here! I need my privacy!"

Cowardly lion or king of the jungle? I believe the latter is more fitting for this guy. He was roaring LOUDLY and often, and he paced constantly. I was glad he was behind glass.

"Zzzzzzz..." The hippos were snoozing comfortably.

These aren't zoo animals! These are my kiddos, having fun at the zoo.

The boys were checking out the hippos in this photo.

Wave everybody! My poor family... they have to tolerate me and my camera everywhere we go.

I just wanna say, you guys did a GREAT job delivering my new niece. She's a real keeper from what I hear. Thanks! (I'd never seen storks in real life, if you can believe that.)

"You got anything to eat, lady?"

Elephants are way cool, aren't they? This one was definitely a crowd pleaser. Everyone, my kids included, gathered around and tried to feed it peanuts.

Little man attempts to feed Senor Elefante, with much success.

Big man tries to duplicate his brother's technique, however, he was forced to throw the peanut and missed. Oh well...

Who knew elephants had eyelashes like these? This guy seriously needs a trim! Okay, no more elephant pictures... I promise.

"Okay, let me give this lady my most pitiful face. Maybe she'll throw me some food."

Playing possum? Hung over? Dead? It's hard to know. These critters were sprawled out all over the place and didn't move.

"What're YOU lookin' at? Didn't yer mama ever tell ya starin' ain't nice?"

"Excuse me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

Sssshhh! This bird is in prayer... let's move along, shall we?

"I'm sorry... it's not you... I'm just really shy."

Big man was drawn into a staring match with this bird. The bird won.

Man, I took LOTS of photos, didn't I? I really tried to whittle them down and only share a few with you, but I obviously got carried away. There were lots more I could have shown you. Hey, I could always post more tomorrow... uh... hello? Hello? Don't go! Hello? Is anyone there?