Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend was so low-key and relaxing, and we enjoyed every minute. The boys had school on Friday, but my hubby had a free day. Lately I've been volunteering in my youngest son's class on Friday mornings, and I asked my hubby to join me as a surprise for the little man. M was so thrilled to see both of us (particularly his dad) in his classroom. Later we strolled around downtown Rota and ate lunch at a cafe/bar kind of place where the food was fabulous.

Saturday the boys were supposed to have had baseball games, however, since many families were on weekend trips, the games were cancelled, but both teams had a practice of sorts. Later we joined the crowd at the opening of the base pool. It was a warm day, but the water was frigid and my hubby and I let it be known upfront that we were NOT going to be taking a dip. We watched the boys swim and play, but we didn't get in. Of course it was quite the social event as everybody knows everybody here in Mayberry.

Sunday we went to church and then packed some food for a short road trip to Cape Trafalgar, Spain, a little over an hour away from Rota. We'd read about this historic location and figured we'd go check it out. What we found were beautiful beaches, a lighthouse and lots of livestock. We also learned a few historical facts about the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805).

FYI from Wikipedia.... "a sea battle was fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition (August-December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). The battle was the most decisive British victory of the war and was a pivotal naval battle of the 19th century. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost."

There you have it... your history lesson for the day. Now, moving on to the sights we saw while visiting this beautiful area... Take a look at the brilliant blue colors in the sky and water! What a beautiful day!


I don't know about you, but I had never seen cattle grazing near the beach before this day.


I must have invaded this critter's privacy as it did a 180 on me the minute I zoomed in for a photo.


If you know me very well at all, you know I love lighthouses, so I was thrilled to see this one.


We asked someone to take a photo of us standing on the walkway surrounding the lighthouse, overlooking the water, and he happily obliged. We don't seem to have many photos of all four of us, so we took advantage of the opportunity.


Pretty wildflowers were scattered here and there over the dunes.


The boys initially weren't very excited about our excursion as I think they would have preferred to stay at home and play Wii, however, once we got there and they saw the sand dunes and the water, they changed their tune. They explored for two solid hours and had a blast.


We took our tri-pod with us, but naturally we left it in the trunk and were too lazy to walk back to get it, however, we managed to sit the camera on a rock in order to get this family photo. Wow! Two family photos in the same day... that must be some kind of record for us.


I couldn't resist another photo of the lighthouse. Actually, I took like 10 more, but I won't force you to see them all.


Yeah, I'm thinking I could get used to sights like this...


... or this...


... or this...


... and maybe this...


M loved playing in the sand and surf, although the water was C-O-L-D!


D in his usual "thumbs up" pose.


Partners in crime


We thought this was an interesting form of recycling at the beach.


The boys climbed this sand dune, and then attempted to slide down, which didn't exactly work out. They wished they'd had a sled or one of those round discs to ride, but who knew this would have been a possibility at the beach?


Time for a refresco (soft drink) and M chose his favorite... Fanta Naranja (Fanta Orange). Of course the bottle makes for great entertainment too.


Ditto to all of the above!


Here's MY partner in crime! He was responsible for planning our little excursion. Good choice, babe! You can plan all of our trips.

The rest of our weekend included the hubby playing a rare round of golf with a friend, movie rentals and a BBQ with lots of neighbors. What an awesome weekend!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Exercising restraint

Today I went to the commissary, and as I was placing my items on the conveyor belt to be scanned and bagged, an employee approached me and asked if I wanted a whole case of Snickers candy bars for only $1.80. I must have given her quite a confused look because she repeated the amount. Evidently they have ordered Snickers in excess and are trying to get rid of them.

I thought about it for only a second before declining the offer. Mind you, I LOVE Snickers! But then I thought about having an entire case of them in my house and could envision eating them, one after another, until I was sick, and... I. JUST. SAID. NO!

I paid for my groceries and got the heck out of there before I changed my mind. Right now I'm feeling rather proud of myself for exercising such restraint, but tomorrow, when I'm craving something chocolate and sinful, I'll be kicking myself for passing up such an awesome deal.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Flip Side

Upon re-reading my previous post, I felt a twinge of guilt over having pointed out all of the out of character, frustrating behavior my oldest son has recently displayed. I've decided to take a look at the flip side and concentrate on the creative, positive things my 6th grader has involved himself with lately...

As you already know, the big man is playing baseball. He really wanted to play spring soccer, but because our base community is incredibly small, there simply aren't enough kids to be able to offer two spring sports. He chose to sit out last season (in Virginia) as he didn't particularly enjoy the season prior. We think it was because he was asked to pitch, and pitching makes him extremely nervous as he feels added pressure. He actually has pretty good form, especially considering he's not very experienced.

During Wednesday night's game, the coaches were trying to decide who should pitch. My husband leaned toward me and whispered, "I wish the coach would just ask D to pitch," knowing that D wouldn't step up unless asked, and that's exactly what happened.

D not only pitched, but he pitched well. Mind you, this is a kid who hadn't pitched in two years. He had a few wild pitches, but overall, he did an excellent job, striking out several players from the opposing team. We found this very interesting, especially since D has "Poland Syndrome." Unfamiliar? So were we when he was first diagnosed. He's basically missing the major pectoral muscle in the chest/arm region.

So the fact that D can throw the ball across the plate at all is pretty amazing. The older he gets, the more challenging pitching will become because he'll probably never be able to throw any "heat," but we're really proud of him for his willingness to step up and help out his team when asked. And he was pretty psyched about his performance on the field, which was so encouraging for him.

D recently participated in the 6th grade talent show, performing in three different acts. He "beat boxed" while a friend danced, he and another friend changed the words and then sang the theme song from "Iron Man" and lastly, he performed a mime act, which was actually quite entertaining. In fact, there were kids mimicking his act for the remainder of the afternoon and for days following the show. One of D's teachers said he was a natural performer. I guess we have the kids' choir director at our former church to thank as she helped D get over stage fright and inspired him to use his talents. The picture quality isn't the best in the following video, but you can get the gist of D's act...

video


D has always enjoyed expressing himself through detailed drawings, creative writing and designing his own comics. One of his teachers hung several of his drawings on the wall in the classroom. His teachers have given us very positive feedback and have told us he has a wonderful imagination and shows a great deal of talent. What parent doesn't want to hear these kinds of comments?

D also plays the trumpet in beginning band. Last night the elementary and middle school band performed for the first time and they did a nice job. Here's D blowing his horn...

D is quite popular with the kids next door. MJ and J love playing with D because he chases and "scares" them. Like I've said before, these two ring my doorbell multiple times a day wanting to know if D and his brother can come play with them. I've shown you photos of MJ and J before, but here's one of them with D...

Yeah, I suppose I'm shamelessly bragging on my kid, but sometimes I need to take a step back and look at the whole kid, and remind myself of what a terrific person D really is. I'll always be proud to be his mom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Give me strength!

It's that time of year when kids are starting to completely tune out their teachers and are quickly becoming total slackers, the time when teachers are holding a collective breath and praying for patience and courage to make it through another day. Yes, my friends, it's the last month of school.

In mid-June my oldest will no longer be in elementary school. I can hardly believe I'm saying that! It just doesn't seem possible to me that he could be ready for middle school. He'll be a teenager in the fall!

Of course I hope my son actually makes it through 6th grade. He's been putting off studying, thus receiving a less than stellar grade on a recent test. He's moodier than normal. I thought mood swings only applied to girls!

My 6th grader can't seem to remember anything either. He had no idea he had a baseball game last night even though I'd told him multiple times during the course of the week. Last week information was sent home to parents of band students regarding tonight's performance. He gave it to us just last night and we quickly discovered he didn't have the appropriate attire required for the event. Luckily we were able to run to the NEX to buy him a new pair of pants.

He left his homework at home this morning and called to ask me to bring it to school. He's like the Absent-Minded Professor! I have enough trouble remembering things in general. I can't be responsible for reminding him of every little thing! Can my son possibly be ready for middle school when he can't remember squat?

Is it hormones? Is it end-of-school-itis? What is the deal? All I know is I need this school year to end before I lose it altogether.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In 1492... Columbus sailed the ocean blue...

Do you remember that little diddy from elementary school? I certainly do! Columbus and his historic journey come to life in an all-new way living here in Spain.

A few miles south of Huelva, where the Tinto and Odiel rivers meet, lies La Rábida, the place where Columbus (known as "Cristóbal Colón" in Spain) stayed between 1491-92 waiting for financial backing from the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, for his voyage to the New World. We visited this area during a recent weekend getaway. I'll share with you some of the sights...

Muelle de las Carabelas (Harbour of the Caravels) is a waterfront exhibition with life-size replicas of Columbus's three ships: the Niña (right), the Pinta (far left) and the Santa María (center). It's amazing to think men sailed these tiny ships across the ocean to America!


D checks out the view above deck...


... and M checks out the view below deck.


A rare photo op for my hubby and me.


Here the men in my life humor me by posing for a photo.


We always find time to clown around on our trips.


These Native American statues brought about lots of giggles.


This ship is a replica of the Pinta.


The museum next to the boats has details of Columbus's life, regular video screenings and a café.


Of course it's necessary to have a little fun with the knight in the museum.


The boys pose with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.


Just up the hill from the museum and ships is a monastery where Columbus and his crew are said to have prayed before their voyage.


Unfortunately we didn't get to see the inside of the monastery as tours are conducted during a very short period of time, which we missed by about an hour.


Beautiful gardens surround the monastery, making it a lovely place to visit.


Beautiful scenery + educational experience = a great time!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Put me in, coach!

Baseball season has officially arrived here at Rota NAVSTA. We're constantly on the go with practices and games, and the boys are having a lot of fun. Because it's such a small community here in "Mayberry," leagues have few teams and a very wide age range. For example, both of the boys' leagues have only three teams each, so in order for all the teams to play every week, one team has to play twice. The girls' softball league only has two teams. Guess it's not hard to figure out who they're playing every week, huh?

This was taken on opening day. The color guard marched out onto the field with the Spanish and American flags (as well as the Navy flag), and the anthems for both countries were played.


I LOVED seeing the American flag flying as it's a rarity here.


All the teams gathered in the outfield and made their way to home base, where they shook hands with the base skipper, who threw out the first pitch. "M" plays for the Mets. He's the one right smack in the center, totally posing for the photo.


."M" is in the 7-9-year-old league.


"M" saw me with the camera and automatically froze and posed. I think I'll have to be a little more discreet with photo taking as I don't think his coaches would be thrilled if a ball got past him while he was posing for photos.


"D" plays for the Athletics. He's on the far left, the one who needs to have a sandwich or two.


"D" is playing in the 10-12-year-old league, however, I'm told there are a few 9-year-olds as well as a 13-year-old on the team. Long story short, some kids had to move up in order to have enough players for the league, and I don't think there's a league for kids over the age of 13. Evidently most of those kids play on the high school team.


On second, hoping to make it home.

Yep, baseball season has arrived, and I'm sportin' the farmer's tan to prove it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Uh-oh...

Ever have one of those mornings when nothing you attempt to do turns out right? That would accurately describe my morning. I just couldn't get it together. Need an example? I got one for ya...

I was making a layered Mexican dip to take to a friend's house for a small gathering. The first layer calls for a mixture of cream cheese and French onion dip. I'd mixed the two ingredients in a ceramic bowl, and was emptying the contents onto a platter. I was using my rubber spatula to remove every bit of this creamy mixture, when the bowl simply slipped out of my hands and hit the stovetop. Not a good thing...


We have one of those flat glass stovetops and apparently they're rather fragile, as photos will prove. The stovetop is now cracked and chipped in multiple places. This was a brand-new stovetop as of August, so I don't think the housing folks are going to be very happy with me, do you? I'm not looking forward to making the phone call.


I suppose there's a possible bright side to this unfortunate accident. I probably shouldn't be cooking on the stove as it might be a safety hazard. Wouldn't you agree? What a shame!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day... sort of


Mother's Day was... different.

Let's face it, mothers are usually the ones who do the prep for any and all special events and holidays. Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong. You can't do it, can you? When she's the one who's being celebrated, it's up to the other people who reside with her to take charge. Sometimes they really come through, and sometimes they... well, they try.

My hubby was gone all last week on a business trip. He returned on Saturday afternoon, after I'd spent 7 hours at the ballfield for three games. I looked like I was there for the long haul as we had snack duty for two of the games. Add that to our own personal snacks, drinks, sunscreen, camera, camp chairs, etc., and I believe you have a visual. It was also unexpectedly cold, misty and windy.

Ugly thoughts can tend to creep into one's mind during these unpleasant times and one can start to feel a tad resentful. Of course I'm not referring to myself, but some people do have these thoughts. One can also start to ask questions such as "Why is this always my responsibility?" or "How come he never has to do this stuff by himself?" Of course, once again, I'm just suggesting that some people might ask these kinds of questions.

We had take-out for dinner that my hubby picked up, therefore I didn't have to cook. And thankfully he'd managed to get his laundry done before returning from his trip, so I didn't have that to do before he left again the following morning on another trip. Yes, he left on Mother's Day. I know it wasn't his fault. Really. Duty called, as it has a tendency to do.

He was hitching a ride to the airport with a co-worker and his wife, and they were to arrive at 7:30am to pick him up. At 7:22am, my hubby rolled over in bed, and upon seeing the time on the clock, immediately jumped out of bed and yelled, "The alarm didn't go off!" I don't think I've ever seen anyone move so fast.

I went out to the driveway, in all my morning glory (You know, in my jammies & robe, with unbrushed teeth and bedhead hair... Yeah, LOVELY!), to chat with our friends while my hubby hurriedly got ready. I know he was really glad he'd repacked the previous night.

Right before my hubby left, he ushered the boys and me into the dining room where my Mother's Day gifts were waiting to be opened. I received a new watch (Remember what happened to mine recently?), a Yankee candle and some Croc sandals. I also received some very sweet cards from the men in my life. This all took place in about a 2-minute timespan. My man had to get out the door! We said our goodbyes and he was gone again.

Now the boys were briefed the night prior about things they should do for me for Mother's Day. My hubby knew his being away on Mother's Day meant that he wouldn't be here to do the planning and prompting. He told the boys they should serve me breakfast in bed (a little hard to do when I'm in the driveway stalling the airport shuttle service), get ready for church without being prodded (That's actually possible?) and invite me to brunch at the base chow hall.

I hopped back into bed for a while so that I could have my breakfast of cereal, toast, banana and O.J. brought to me on a tray. My youngest son and I hung out and watched a cartoon, and just as I was starting to get ready for church, the phone rang. It was my husband. Seems my man forgot his Blackberry and sunglasses. He said he could make it through the next couple of days without them, but...

Yeah, right... he can make it without them. Are you kidding me? If he could make it without them, he wouldn't have called, would he? I know how attached my man is to his "Crackberry." He'd surely go through a severe case of withdrawals without his extra appendage. I threw on some clothes and headed to the airport to deliver the forgotten items. The look on his face told me he was very happy, and yet a bit embarrassed to see me.

I made it home just in time to finish getting ready for church. I could hardly believe it, but the boys had gotten ready in my absence. Wonders never cease! We arrived a few minutes late to church, but we were there. The boys took me to brunch afterward and paid my way with money their father had given them. It was all very sweet.

Later at home, my youngest asked to have a friend over. I mentioned that since it was Mother's Day, his friends might actually be doing something with their moms. That's the general idea, or so I've heard, on Mother's Day. He sighed heavily and looked as if he'd lost his best friend. Are you feeling the love here? I caved and he and his brother ended up playing with a couple of other kids who were also blowing off their moms on Mother's Day.

When I tucked the boys in last night, my youngest said, "I was a little bored today because Dad wasn't here." What? I'm evidently not his first choice of playmates as I don't know how to play any Wii games. Yeah, well, I thought Mother's Day was about me, not you! Yeah, Mother's Day was... different.