Tuesday, 30 December 2008

This Is the Day

This my first time participating in So I See What You're Saying. Bram and I are very excited about being included into such a prestigious group. Plus, after cleaning the apartment I have to find a way to entertain my three year old until school starts next week.

So without any further interruptions...

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Look

As time goes by here in Spain, I have begun to become familiar with a "look". It happens in the following scenario: I'm speaking Spanish, and a strange word slips out. A word that is not quite English, and not quite Spanish, it's a word lost in limbo. And then comes the "look". I don't know what I'm trying to say, the person I'm trying to talk to doesn't know what I'm trying to say, and we're both trying to be polite and simply move on from this limbo word.

For example? Sure...

Yesterday, we were enjoying a lunch with Salvation Army officers on vacation from Barcelona. I was attempting to tell them that there is going to be a clown show on New Year's Eve in our local town square. I know the word for clowns (payasos), but for some reason I simply could not get it out. It kept mangling itself as it tried to free itself of this language limbo. At that point....I got the "look".

Now, it's not a mean look, per say. It's just a look of pity mostly. A look that conveys "I know you're trying really hard, but I simply cannot understand you." The empathy behind the look really depends on the giver. Some people are very patient and understanding, and some simply, well, aren't.

An example of someone who wasn't:

When I worked a summer in Argentina, I lived and worked with a Salvation Army family who knew absolutely no English, I knew bare bones Spanish. (It was a special treat trying to communicate with sign language). There was a moment when I was carrying on a conversation with a small group of people, and I really thought I was doing well, they were nodding their heads, smiling (should have been my first clue, I realize). I reached the end of a phrase and I was really proud of myself, I had just maintained a conversation!! When one older gentlemen looked straight at the officer (pastor) in charge and said "What is this girl trying to say?? I have no idea what she's talking about?? Can someone translate her?"

::sigh::...I would have preferred the look.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Skype Christmas

The sun is setting on our palm tree Christmas. I'm enjoying a cup of tea, some left over ginger bread cookies from our Christmas Eve service, and just basking in the Mediterrean pace of life that has returned to our household.

We had a wonderful candle light service last night, followed by the annual opening of one gift. It is incredibly difficult to convince toddlers that they cannot eat the large chocolate Santa Clause until tomorrow.

The boys were excited to ride their brand new tricycles. We took a little walk on the boardwalk outside our apartment. It's a balmy 65 degrees today...afterwards we treated ourselves to the Christmas menu at the restaurant below our apartment.
We've skyped all the family, and the boys have ignored the calls, like they usually do. (Getting toddlers to pay attention is a miracle. My mom had their attention when her Scooby Doo Christmas 'thingie' started singing...)
Christmas has come and gone. We've survived the first Christmas away from family. It can be done. Let's try this again next year....

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Family Christmas Card 2008

Here's the 2008 Carr Christmas Card...video version!

Christmas Carols

We've been doing a lot of Christmas carol singing lately. Our church band has been out playing different events. (Some events a donation for The Salvation Army is even taken up!) We've played for a British Christmas party, the local state run nursing home, the weekly Monday market in town, a restaurant, and later this week we'll play at the port carol sing in a town around the mountain from us.

All of this singing has caused me to reflect on various Christmas songs. There are 3 in particular:

1. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" BandAid.

You know the one, they play it on every Christmas rotation list in the States. It's on at least 2 Christmas CDs I own. You know, the one where you hear Bono scream "Well, thank God it's them insteeeeaaaadddd of yooouuu!"

The lyric that sticks with me is this:

And there won't be snow in Africa
This Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Is Christmas only defined by snow and nicely wrapped presents? I will admit this year the Christmas season seems "unseasonal" to me, personally. I'm celebrating Christmas with palm trees out my back door, not 10 feet of snow (which apparently just hit my midwestern friends). But it doesn't make it any less Christmas, right? I'm sure in Africa, no I'm positive, they still celebrate Christmas, it just may look different from mine, or your idea of "Christmas".

Which leads me to the 2nd song:

2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I think I have a strange 'attraction' to the minor keyed Christmas carols. I LOVE this song. It's always been one of my favorites. It has come to mind many times as I make it through my first Christmas so far away from friends and family. In those moments when I'm feeling lonely and homesick, I remember that this celebrational season is because Emmanuel came for me! So, though at moments I may sit "in lonely exile", those moments when the boys simply will not play together nicely, the cookies burned again, the Christmas tree is falling over, when I miss my family and my "normal", the Son of God will appear (to speak to me through new friends, new traditions, and lots of great coffee) and for that I shall rejoice!

And finally:

3. Noche de Paz (Silent Night, in Spanish)

Noche de paz, noche de amor, Night of peace, night of love
todo duerme en derredor. All around is sleeping
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz, Between the stars which scatter their light
bella anunciando al niñito Jesús. Beautifully announcing the baby Jesus
Brilla la estrella de paz, Shines the star of peace
brilla la estrella de paz. Shines the star of peace

We sing this song often here. I appreciate how the words are slightly different from the English version. The part that sticks with me this Chistmas is the word "peace". Some how, without the assistance of a major fundraising effort, I have managed to overschedule and exhaust myself this Christmas! And I always thought kettles was to blame. God will often bring this song to mind when I start to think about how I just wish the season would be over with so we could rest again. The point of the season isn't to rush around buying things, or going places, or carting yourself all over town to entertain. It's a moment of peace. A moment of love. I hope that these last few days I will stop to notice that the stars still beautifully announce Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

I'm joining in on Thankful Thursday .

1. I'm thankful for cookie recipes. Through blog hopping, family recipes, and new Spanish recipes I have all kinds of recipes I'm dying to trie! (This weekend: sugar cookies (I have powdered sugar now, so the boys can decorate them) and date pinwheel cookies) And now with the care packages from the States we just got, I can actually make them!

2. I'm thankful for that liberating feeling of doing something that scares you, and being successful. For example: driving by myself. I made it (WITHOUT the GPS) from a church member's house to the mall, then back into town, then to the boys' nursery school...and I didn't hit or scratch anything!

3. I'm thankful for Christmas sales! I took a "mental health" day and did some Christmas shopping this morning. I found tricycles on sale buy one get one 70% off! I was trying to figure out how we were going to pay for 2 tricycles for Christmas and God answered my question!!!

4. I'm thankful for potty trained children. I purchased only ONE package of diapers today. (Even though it's still a mad scramble to get the triple locked door open when Bram looks up and says "Mama, I gotta go potty"....but it's still better than changing diapers.)

5. I'm thankful for the sunshine that returned today. It's been chilly, and our little butane heater was doing overtime keeping us warm. We're still adapting to the fact that it's just as cold inside as it is outside. But today the sun is out and it helps warm up our apartment (of course we did go buy another electric heater this morning, just in time :) )

Friday, 12 December 2008

Because I like playing these games...I just don't email them back and forth

A Christmas Tag......

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I've only found hot chocolate here. And it's goooood. Remember when Starbucks had drinkable chocolate one Christmas season, it's like that only you also have to have churros to dip in it and it's available year round..mmmmmmmmm

2. Does Santa wrap the presents or just sit them under the tree?
He places them under a tree. It was one Christmas tradition that my husband's family tradition and my family traditions agreed on

3. Lights on house / tree are colored or white?
White....and NON BLINKING. I think God is laughing at all my little "control issues" upon moving to Spain. I can only find colored lights that blink uncontrollably here...

4. Do you have mistletoe?
No, but I can buy fresh holly.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
This year we put them on the weekend of Thanksgiving. Typically it's any time between then and the middle of December. I've gauged that Spain puts up decoration on Day of the Immaculate Conception (this past Monday) because our entire town became Christmas central over night.

6. Favorite Holiday Dish (EXcluding dessert)?
Green bean casserole with slivered almonds.

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child?
Opening up the box of "my" Christmas ornaments every year to put on the tree. And my mom has even parted with them so I could have them on my own tree now....except this year. Glass ornaments + marble tile floor + eager toddlers = disaster

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
We were sitting in the car at a convenient store (I think) and I remember saying to my mom "There's no such thing as Santa Claus is there?" when she didn't answer I said "Then there's no Easter bunny or Tooth fairy either, is there??". I was in 2nd grade.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. Thankfully another holiday tradition that our families both practiced.

10. How do you decorate your tree?
I have come to love ribbon and the idea "less is more". This year: styrofoam ornaments. (See #7)

11. SNOW. Love it or dread it?
We don't believe in snow on the Mediterrean coast, sorry. :)

12. Can you ice skate?
um..........I plead the 5th.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I got this great bride doll one year we spent Christmas in a hotel. I was really excited because I was in a doll collection phase in my life. In fact I think those dolls are still in my mom's basement....

14. What is the most important thing about Christmas to you?
The celebration and reminding my boys that it's about Jesus being born in a barn...er, well that's our toddler friendly rendition.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Molasses sugar cookies. Omigoodness, they are so good and they say "it's Christmas" (ooo, magic cookies!)oh, oh, I love fudge too! My mother in law makes incredible and amazing amounts of fudge this time of year. I wonder if that ships?

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Cookie making. I remember my mom spending a lot of time baking during the holidays, so I've kinda adopted it as my own too. (And when back in the States, it's a nice way to spend the quiet evenings while the boys sleep and Jeff's still at church building finishing up kettles for the evening.)....side note: since I have your attention, your local Salvation Army officer is incredibly busy right now. They probably don't even eat a proper meal, let alone make Christmas cookies. They're working 18 hour days in order to raise funds just to keep their community programs running (most places this seasonal collection is the majority of their operating budgets)..if you're not too busy, maybe you could find your local Salvation Army officer and drop off cookies, or a hot meal, or some drinks, or gift certificates to Starbucks (oh, wait that would have been if I were your local Salvation Army officer)...

17. What tops your Christmas tree?
an angel, which she's apparently too heavy for our tree because it's leaning a different direction every morning..

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving gifts?
I prefer it all. Giving a great gift is exciting! and getting a great gift can be just as exciting.

19. Favorite Christmas Song?
"Not that Far from Bethlehem" by Point of Grace....and "Dominck, the Italian Christmas Donkey"

20. Candy Canes, Yum or Yuck?
please,no...no, don't give them to my children and then walk away...who's going to clean up this sticky mess!!??

21. What do you want for Christmas?
already got it: an entertainment center for our apartment.

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party?
no. Typically on Christmas Day we are sleeping (we're recovering from Kettles) so you're not allowed to knock on our door or call us until noonish. We do go out for a nice dinner (read: Red Lobsters) on Christmas Eve once all the kettles are counted and the money has been deposited in the bank. It was a tradition that my husband's family did, and we adopted it.

23. Do you usually dress up for Christmas Eve or wear PJ's?
PJ's (see #22, we're usually at home in PJ's from Christmas Eve until New Year's.)

24. Do you own a Santa Hat?

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
See #22. We often will travel to family's the week following Christmas and take some vacation into the New Year.

26. What is your favorite Christmas decoration and why?
Nativity sets. I have begun collecting nativities, but unfortunately was only able to bring a few with me to Spain. Here nativities are incredible expanse (known as Belen). Our boy's day care even has a set that is practically the entire town of Bethlehem, complete with numerous chickens! There are nativities every where, and I have already warned my husband I WILL NOT leave this country with out my own "Belen".

Sunday, 7 December 2008

What makes Christmas...Christmas?

The boys have been getting up entirely too early the past few mornings (ie: 3:00am) and crawling into our bed. I'm not sure if is a noise outside, the need to "go potty", or habit at this point. But it makes for early bed times because they practically fall asleep in the bathtub. So, now that the boys are asleep, I can write down some thoughts...

I've mentioned before that this is my first holiday season outside of the States, and I'm learning each day what it's like to be away from everything you associated with Christmas.

So, a thought has been running through my head today: what makes Christmas Christmas?

Is it cookies and fudge? I did make my mom's molasses sugar cookies and they were a hit. I always knew when those cookies were made it meant it was the holidays. I always enjoy baking enormous amounts of cookies at Christmas,and will miss the post holiday sales when I typically pick up needless amounts of holiday cookie tins. (It's an unhealthy obsession, really.)

What about cultures that celebrate big things on days other than December 25??? Some Dutch congregation members brought the boys St. Nicholas Day gifts (which was last Friday I think). And Spain has larger celebrations on Epiphany, rather than Christmas day.

Is it the community holiday events that create the holiday spirit? This weekend is the Medieval Market in Denia. There are a bunch of booths set up with vendors dressed in costume, and fire jugglers, and strolling minstrels. All good fun for the boys.

Is it the presents? Specific decorations? A specific nativity set? The great family gathering? Are you turkey or ham people?

This Christmas, because I don't have the "normal" Christmas things...or should I say, my tradition of Christmas, I have the opportunity to reflect on what really makes Christmas...well, Christmas.

Our sermon series for Advent is based on Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Christmas, regardless of whether you exchange gifts on December 5, 25, or January 6, whether you put up Christmas trees or stick to nativity scenes, whether you bake cookies or make mountains of fudge, whether you have Salvation Army kettles or no...Christmas is the moment, the experience, the realization that we have a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace..and for that we celebrate!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Never ending Story

It's a never ending saga with the residency. Today, after acquiring all the appropriate paperwork, number of copies, and right sized photo, we headed for the Foreigner's Office in Alicante. Only to be turned away. Rather than tell the long, frustrating story of meeting several friendly government officials, several not so friendly ones, being scolded via phone calls by a lawyer, driving back and forth between 2 offices on opposite sides of town, and a lovely woman named Begonia who finished us up...the boys and I are 10 euros away from being legal residents of Spain! (:::sigh::: While making copies of paperwork & visas, I had brought a copy of Jeff's passport but not the actual passport...he has an ACTUAL APPOINTMENT to come back next Tuesday to finish his finger stamping process)