After a couple days in Barcelona we decided to travel to the city of Valencia. The City of Arts and Sciences caught our interest. Plus, there have been protests in Barcelona and we thought it best to stay clear.
Valencia is beautiful. Less tourist-y than Barcelona, less traffic, and a bit slower-paced. (Not that Barcelona was a swarming beehive.)
We took a walking tour of the city…
…and then went to the BioParc, essentially Valencia’s zoo. Even the animals were laid back! But that was more likely because of the hot weather.
At dinner we had beers with unicorns on them, and I had calamari, which was delicious but did not look at all like I had expected!
The next day we went to the local aquarium.
Last but not least, every city has its oddities. Here are three Valencian oddities we spotted:
1. The first hotel we stayed in was movie-themed. We got the Pinocchio room. (I had a compulsive urge to colour him in.)
2. An elaborate street performer.
3. A man playing a trombone under a bridge.
In the science museum is an ultra-cool sculpture of DNA:
Right now I am whipping through the Spanish countryside on a train that’s going 200km/h. We’re on our way to Valencia after spending a couple of days in Barcelona.
To me, Barcelona is a lovely mix of beauty and oddity. Four of its beauties, in no particular order:
1. The Sagrada Família. We walked there, turned a corner, and BAM! There it was. I literally gasped.
Pictures don’t do it proper justice. The mish-mash of serious churchiness and cartoony whimsy is my kind of art. I never thought I would be so mesmerized by a church. Unfortunately we were only able to see the outside as tickets were sold out. No surprise there.
2. Park Güell. Fantastic walking trails with a Gaudi masterpiece nestled here and there. The stuff of fairy tales. I’m really digging Gaudi!
4. Sandcastles on the beach—with FIRE!
Then there are the occasional oddities. Here are five and again, in no particular order:
1. A yaht complete with shrink-wrapped helicopter.
2. A man walking downtown carrying an ocillating fan.
3. A young woman walking downtown carrying a toaster.
4. A beepy-boopy electronic tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” coming from seemingly nowhere. Is it someone’s ringtone? No. Is it a car alarm? No. We finally see a tipped-over Christmas ornament on the sidewalk: A foot-long, cheap plastic Santa with a creepy smile on his face. Nothing and no one around it. (I was laughing too hard to take a picture.)
5. Rotisserie chickens spinning humorously and amazingly fast on a spit in a shop window. Maybe it’s a special cooking trick.
The train has arrived in Valencia! What beauties and oddities await us here?
Last weekend at the cottage I found my little half-tail friend! And like no time had passed, s/he took peanuts straight from my hand again.
It had been over a year since I’d seen Half Tail, since this summer was rather cold, buggy, and rainy. But on the very last day before we went home we found each other. Amazing that s/he remembered after so long.
The meeting was bittersweet. For me it marked the end of another summer. The next day would be a flurry of back-to-school. Well, back-to-school for my 7-year-old son, and the very first day of school for my 4-year-old daughter. Nervous prickles started to line my skull and my stomach.
My own very first day of kindergarten is my earliest vivid memory. I remember thinking that my mom was going to stay with me, so when she turned to leave I flew into a panic. I chased her down the school’s hallway, howling with tears streaming down my face. Bless Ms. Loveland, my kindergarten teacher, for having patience and for calming me down.
I like to think that I couldn’t have been too traumatized since I ended up staying in school long enough to get my PhD…
So on my own kids’ first day of school when I saw the tears well up in their eyes, I understood. And it all came rushing back to me. I tried to think: what eventually calmed me down? I honestly can’t remember. My husband and I tried to soothe our kids but to no avail. I told them how I used to cry, too, but I learned that everything is okay. We eventually had to leave them, tear-streaked and stressed.
Oh, what a long day at work that was…
I picked them up as early as possible. My son was just fine, chattering away about who is in his class, how his teacher changed the seating arrangment because my son was talking too much (!!!)… Is this the same kid I dropped off this morning?
My daughter, on the other hand, looked haggered. She apparently cried for an hour after drop-off and cried again during the transition to the after-school program. Oh, my heart broke to see her looking so sad! Cortisol rushing through her body all day….she must have been exhausted. I gathered her in my arms and gave her the biggest hug possible. “You made it through your very first day of school,” I whispered proudly. She just buried her face deeper into my neck.
I was a full week of tears. And the beginning of this week, too.
I know my daughter is in good hands. Her teacher is a tiny willow of a woman who always wears bright, happy-coloured head scarves, and who is not afraid of giving a hug when one is needed.
I know my daughter will survive. But I want more than just survival for her. I want her to enjoy school. To love school. To look forward to it every day.
Maybe one day she will. And maybe she won’t.
For now my husband and I will do our best. To reassure her. To comfort her. To love her.
School is a big transition. It will get better. It will get better, it will get better…
The bedroom door is flung open with a burst of hallway light blasting my eyes.
“Momma, can you get up now?”
I squint at the clock. 6:09 a.m. On a Saturday.
My sleepy brain groans. My body feels like a bag of bricks. “Wait until the clock says seven-zero-zero,” I mumble.
“Okay!” And she slams the door.
What feels like thirty seconds pass when the door is flung open again. “Momma,” she calls in a loud-ish, raspy whisper, “It’s time to get up!”
Before I launch into a restrained adult-tantrum about the necessity of older people sleeping in on weekends, I open my eyes and see her standing there, with three lop-sided pigtails in her hair and dressed in her ballet outfit. I can’t help but smirk. In her own way she knows how to celebrate a Saturday.
It is now 8:27 and we’ve ploughed through a plate of pancakes, a page in a colouring book, two episodes of Paw Patrol, a mini-dance party, and a funny-face competition.
Suddenly it is eerily quiet. I peek into the living room.
Greetings, to whoever is reading this record of my discovery of this planet called…Earth.
I am the almighty Darth Vader, and I have been seeking to destroy the Jedi across the universe. I have been in search of Jedi on this planet Earth and I believe I have finally found them.
They are very small, these Jedi. And covered in fur, like Ewoks or Wookies. (I hate Ewoks and Wookies…)
They fly, these small Jedi. And make a BZZZzzzZZZzzz sound. Quite annoying, actually. (But then again, all Jedi are annoying…)
The Force is strong with them. Their navigational skills are impressive. And they wield a weapon that strikes like a compact Lightsaber, searing and burning the skin upon impact.
Like any cowardly Jedi they only strike on the defensive, never on the offensive. Although they are quite stealthy: one of these small Jedi flew up inside one of my Stormtrooper’s uniforms. He died a painful, arm-flailing death.
My scientists tell me these small Jedi have a weakness for colours and fragrances. Rather odd. But then again I have a weakness for JiffyPop, so who am I to judge?
In the meantime, while on Earth, I guess I will stay out of my Hawaiian shirts and lay off the Chanel No. 5.
This morning I came downstairs in a rush, dressed for work, and ready to go. My four-year-old daughter suddenly appeared in front of me, held up a chunky kids’ necklace, and asked, “Momma, can you wear this today?”
Screech! went the tires of my whizzing mind.
I looked at the huge purple flowers. The sparkles. I did a quick comparison with my white blouse and cranberry skirt. Not my first choice of accessories.
Then I looked at my daughter’s big doe-eyes. “I made dis myself,” she added.
How could I refuse?
So I slipped it on. Looked in the mirror. You know what? I thought, It works.
My daughter’s eyes grew even bigger as she smiled.
I was sitting on our new patio yesterday afternoon when I heard a BzzzzZZZzz…
My heart did a little skip. I looked over at my flower bed and saw…a bumblebee!
My first fuzzy-buzzy visitor to my little garden! And she chose some purple flowers that I had thought would catch the eyes/antennae of a bumblebee or two.
I’m not sure what those flowers are called, but the bee did indeed spend quite a bit of time on them. Then she moved on to my spray of catmint.
I was thrilled to finally see a bumblebee on my flowers! Not only just for the sake of having bees in my garden, but mainly because I’ve seen so few bumblebees in general this year. It’s rather alarming.
One thing we do know about bumblebees is if they find a good patch of flowers, they tend to return to it over and over again. Will I see this little cutie on another day?
Sure enough, this morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a speck hovering amongst the catmint. A bumblebee! The same one as yesterday? I went out to have a look and she looked similar, but I’m not certain.
It still amazes me that as big as the world is compared to the size of a bumblebee, she was able to spot my flowers amongt everything else in the backyard. Are the purple blossoms like a bright, blinking beacon? Or was she reeled in by the scent, almost undetectable to the human nose? Or both?
Please come back, busy-buzzy bee! And bring your sisters and friends.
Yesterday our kids went to a birthday party at a horse farm, where they got to groom and ride horses and ponies.
The kids did such a good job brushing the horses that most of them almost fell asleep.
They rode the horses in circles in an arena for quite a while. On occasion the horses were instructed to go a bit faster, and it was a hoot to watch the semi-terrified-but-thrilled looks on the kids faces as their backsides bounced significantly up and down on the saddle as they sped up.
As I watched the kids ride around and around (and around and around…), I noticed each one had a huge smile and were enjoying themselves immensely.
(I also noticed I had a slight twinge of envy, having never rode a horse myself.)
I couldn’t resist giving some of the horses a rub on the nose or a pet on the side. And to just stare at them for a while.
What the heck is it about horses?!
The attraction is different than that to dogs, cats, or other domesticated critters. It’s deeper down in the gut, more fundamental. More primitive. Or maybe more mystical, like there’s a part of my brain that’s still 5 years old and expects the horse to sprout a horn and/or wings and transform into My Little Pony.
Or maybe there’s a cultural archetype burned into the female psyche of a princess and her loyal steed (I admit I’m rusty with my Jungian psychology…). That as soon as she mounts the horse she is no longer [insert name here] but is now Princess [insert a much more flowery name here]: Ruler of Lands and Fairest of them All. Forever and Ever.
Who knows. I’ll try to ride a horse one day and let you know if I channel my inner princess.
It’s 6 a.m. Ouch. I promised myself yesterday that I would haul my butt out of bed early and go for a run. Before I could let my gloriously comfortable pillow convince me otherwise, I sat up, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and told myself this was a good thing.
There’s always a space of time when my feet first hit the pavement and I’m huffing and puffing before reaching a rhythm when I wonder why I do this to myself. But then I get into a groove and I reach the trails and I know it’s worth it.
Especially today. I rounded a corner and suddenly this came into view:
I’ve never seen a deer on those trails before. And I’ve never been so close to a deer before, either: it was about 10 feet away.
I thought it would bound away as I scrambled as calmly as I could for my camera, but it stayed and continued to munch.
And then it came closer.
It was seriously about six feet away from me. It was surreal. I could see the velvety fuzz on its antlers. I could almost reach out and touch them.
We gazed at each other for quite a while. What was going through that deer-brain? Why wasn’t I scared of me? Regardless, it was certainly a Moment.
I eventually turned and continued on my way. Later on my route when I circled back, it was gone.
So I’m glad I went for a run today. Had I decided to snooze for a few minutes longer, I might have missed the whole thing.
Will I get up early again tomorrow to see what I can see? Depends: I pulled a calf muscle on my way home (grrrr…). Plus, I have a feeling that deer doesn’t make many repeat appearances.