We've had a lot of fun firsts lately.
First time hosting California grandparents!
First real game for our little Aventura jugadores de fútbol!
First time inviting friends to our apartment for a traditional 'comida'!
Here are some highlights from these great days...
On Thursday Señor Aventura's amazing mother and her warm, gregarious husband arrived. We call them 'Los Extraordinarios,' for they are remarkable people that we adore and look up to greatly. They were here to visit us for only one night before they departed to visit Croatia (called Croacia here). Tomorrow they will return to stay with us for a week, also generously caring for our kiddos for a few days while Señor Aventura and I take a short kid-free adventure to celebrate our upcoming anniversary!
The children could not have been more thrilled and excited to see Los Extraordinarios. In our family, grandparents are rockstars of the highest order. All five living grandparents are adored, and quite rightly so! Each one brings something unique, irreplaceable and magical into the lives of their grandkids... and sometimes, Little Angel looks up at the sky wistfully and says, "I just wish I had met your father, mommy, because then I would have known ALL of my grandparents."
Grandparents are special people!
It was beyond beautiful to watch my kiddos reuniting with their adored Abuela Extraordinaria when they jumped off of the school bus Thursday afternoon. The kids mobbed her with hugs and kisses, and every child wanted to talk to her first.
"How long was your flight, grandma?"
"Where did your plane stop along the way?"
"When did you get here?"
"How long can you stay?"
"Where is Abuelo Extraordinario?"
Sharing our neighborhood and the life we've built so far with Los Extranordinarios felt great! We all loved pointing out our favorite parks, shops and restaurants while explaining our new daily routines. We even got to introduce them briefly to some of our Barcelona friends, and that was special too.
Finally we sat down and shared an evening meal together at the famous "Bar Tomas" in Sarrià. As though no time had passed since we'd last seen each other, Los Extraordinarios caught us up on all of the family news. We shared juicy details with them about the children's school life and teachers, our respective travels, and much more. In a lovely way, it felt perfectly normal. Just a family sitting at dinner (albeit 6,000 miles from home!) talking over their week.
Later Los Extraordinarios showed infinite patience for an hour while listening to the kids describe the unique attack powers of each of their individual Pokemon cards in minute detail (something that could easily drive any adult to drink, without the filter of grandparent love). The kids were so excited, they scampered around our apartment long past bedtime, giggling hysterically and keeping each other awake. Señor Aventura and I reminded them approximately one million times to go to bed. The usual!
In the morning, Los Extraordinarios left for Croatia.
"When will grandma be back?" asked Soccer Dude wistfully.
"In just one week!" I smiled.
"Oh good!" his face lit up. "I have so much more I want to tell her about Pokemon!"
Next, we enjoyed our first "Soccer Saturday" in Spain. Games will take place on Saturdays for the rest of the school year, and we were surprised and gratified to learn that our boys would have their first matches just a week after practice began.
Sadly since Soccer Dude is still healing from the broken wrist, he could not play in his fourth grade team's game... but we decided to go to the game to support the team anyway. He had fun hanging out with a few of his teammates in the stands! One of his little fourth grade buddies is a Chinese student newly arrived from London. They had a very good time playing together on Saturday with little toys and a 'thumb war'.
The Scientist was elated to suit up for his very first Spanish game playing for one of Agora's sixth grade teams.
"MOM!" he confided one day before the game, his face luminous. "They're playing me tomorrow as a forward!"
"What?!?" I asked. "Really?"
"Yes!!!" he responded. "I scored two goals in practice yesterday and the coach has been playing me all week as a forward."
"WOW! That hasn't happened for years! At home the coaches normally play you as one of the defenders or the goalie."
"I know! I guess they just couldn't see my potential as a striker in America!"
I looked at his shining eyes and knew that this was a very big deal to my eldest son. "What a great opportunity!" I smiled.
Sure enough, on Saturday when we arrived at his game (without the correct team uniform, sigh) we learned that The Scientist is indeed being played as his team's center forward! A striker! For those who don't know much about soccer, this is a really key offensive position! Top strikers in the world today include famous Barcelona players like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr.
"Good for him!" smiled my husband. We settled in to watch the game.
It's truly amazing what a vote of confidence from a coach or teacher can do for a kid. Our son's new coach placed him in this key striker position and told him in Spanish that he was doing a good job. And then, over the course of an hour, our son The Scientist scored his first ever 'hat trick' - THREE GOALS! - plus another amazing curved corner kick that a teammate assisted straight into the goal box.
When he shot his first goal, the American soccer-mom in me sprang out of hiding full-force. I felt my arms shoot straight up into the air as I screamed out his name with zest and joy. "That's my boy!!!! Great job!!!! WooHoooo!!!!!!" Suddenly I remembered I was in Spain and realized I was literally the only mother in the stands cheering for their kid. A few people seated around us in the stands turned to look.
Whoops!!!! HaHaHaHaHa!!! I ducked down behind my husband (who had also cheered, but less loudly) and we both began to giggle like teenagers.
"Yup, we're Americans all right!" we laughed quietly, as I blushed.
Needless to say, his team won their game and The Scientist was absolutely psyched!
Even better, his outstanding performance on the field earned the instant respect of his new teammates. We'd noticed from the stands that before the game began the other boys on his team had been sort of excluding him... hugging and high-fiving each other, but not him.
However, after each successive goal those same teammates got friendlier and friendlier on the field. By the time he'd scored his third goal, every boy on his new team came over to shake his hand and hug him like an old friend. He'd proven himself without words, and though he barely speaks their language, he'd courageously and confidently won their trust. Without help! Our boy is really growing up. The level of play on their team was very high all-around, so it was a credit to our son that he performed so well within the group.
Señor Aventura and I felt incredibly proud. We're still cheering... quietly!
On Sunday we hosted our first ever 'comida' at our place! The Spanish comida is a long daytime event where you get together for a meal served in multiple courses. Children enjoy swimming or playing together while adults talk and laugh.
The big meal is served mid-day (around 2:30) rather than at night. It typically starts with appetizers, a salad or a soup, followed by an entree or two, and finished up with fruit or a pastry. Coffee and wine are served, of course. On weekends in Spain, an entire day might be devoted to preparing and enjoying a comida with family and friends.
The Aventura family was extremely excited getting ready for our first comida. We buzzed around the apartment all morning listening to Ennio Morricone while cleaning, tidying up, setting the table and preparing food.
The friends we'd invited for lunch are a delightful family of five... two amazing parents and three beautiful kids. Since we first met by chance in March, these wonderful people have gone far out of their way to help us get settled and feel comfortable in Barcelona. From viewing apartments for us in person (as we tried to search for a place to live from California) to connecting us with specialists when we needed medical care, to hosting us at their home for a 'welcome' playdate on the very day after we first arrived... they have been true friends from the very start!
I call this 'La Familia Vive la Vida Plenamente' because they live their lives fully and enthusiastically, embracing the whole world!
The mother is an extraordinary traveler, writer, chef and business owner. Not to mention, she's raising three fantastic kids! She is the kind of woman who deeply inspires... I could talk about her all day! For the purposes of my personal blog, I'll call this lovely friend 'Viva' (as I expect her to be a recurring character) but that is of course not her real name. You can meet her 'for real' by checking out her amazing travel and hotel website Tengerenge (she has visited some of the most exotic places in the world, off the beaten path) and also their gorgeous family-owned group of restaurants, Panino Silvestre. (Some of our favorite spots to eat in Barcelona!)
Viva and her family have done so much for us this year, we could not wait to celebrate them with a delicious lunch.
Around 2pm, Soccer Dude excitedly positioned himself on the balcony to watch for their arrival.
"What time is it?" he shouted to me every two minutes.
"What does their car look like?"
"How soon will they be here?"
"Is that them?"
Soon they arrived and the real fun began. Little Angel spent hours coloring pictures with Viva's precious daughter, the two of them running around the house laughing with stuffed animals. We do not have many toys with us here in Spain but the girls certainly made the most of what we do have! Little Angel speaks almost no Spanish and Viva's daughter almost no English but the two of them played cheerfully all day and had a fabulous time anyway.
Señor Aventura had created two exquisite paellas (which he tells me were more like 'arroz' dishes as he apparently broke most of the Spanish rules about what should be included in a paella). I am always so proud of his tremendous skill in the kitchen.
As the hours passed we also enjoyed a salad, platter of fruit, gelato and Viva's sumptuous carrot cake. Each of the six children came back for second and third slices! I believe her secret recipe for this cake includes love as a key ingredient.
While the adults laughed together and enjoyed sharing stories of life, travel, business and raising children, our kids ate a bit more quickly and then amused themselves with art, jewelry-making, playing chess and cards, and (for the older boys) futbol and tennis.
Five hours passed in the blink of an eye. Around seven-thirty, we all strolled together down into the park and then up through Sarrià where the entire neighborhood has begun to celebrate its own annual fiesta. The day had flown by so quickly! We said goodbye with hugs and kisses while listening to a group of fun local musicians parade by.
We already look forward to the next time!
Now it is October. How can it possibly be October? Wasn't it just yesterday that our flight from Frankfurt first touched down in sunny Spain? How could two months have passed already?
Days slip subtly from summer into autumn and our Spanish life takes on a contented normalcy. Each 'first' time will soon be followed by a second; a third. We create new routines and sleep peacefully at night, finally knowing a little of what 'tomorrow' may hold.