Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes...

“Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes…”  sang  Davie Bowie, and that’s how it seems to us in the last couple of months.  Things have been changing all over the place, and you either hunker down in fear or face it straight on! 

We are not afraid of change!
First, Suzi and Ethan took my adored nephews Griffin and Ado and had the gall to LEAVE US!  How dare they!  The house suddenly became ten times bigger and eerily silent as the four of us rattled around our palace.   But due to some unpleasant events and even more unsavory people (the details of which we won’t bore you with), they ended up leaving three weeks earlier than they meant to, and will return in December.   The four of us—Todd, Tia, Sasha, and I—sat looking at each other around the now enormous dining room table.  “Now you’ll have to cook, Mommy,” announced Tia.   “Sigh…no more taco night, no more delicious stir fry, no seared tuna…”  groaned Sasha…WAIT A MINUTE!  I actually CAN cook, I just DIDN’T when Ethan was around. 

Mi familia

Suzi and Ethan are now happily ensconced in a little three-bedroom house in LA, their own house rented until the end of October.  The boys are back at Franklin Elementary in the Spanish immersion program, and are realizing the benefits of their Spanish year.  “It’s so EEEEEEEASY!”  proclaimed Griffin.  Yeah, without Aunt Steph breathing down his neck and making him do endless pages of calligraphy, I guess it would be.  “I am the only one in second grade who can write cursive!” crowed Ado, whose cursive was better than Griffin’s back in April.  “And they are doing 4+7!!  That’s so EEEEEEASY!”  This from the kid who could multiply already back in March. 


Then came the startling news from our friends Cheti and Pat that they were being PSC’ed (that’s Navy lingo for being moved) back to Washington, D.C., and that the palace—I should say, The Palace!—that I originally begged Pat to give to me back when we arrived here in 2011 would actually be available in early September.  “Why should we move??  No WAY!”  said Todd.  “I like our place.  I like the pool.  I like my cave.  That’s a lot of work to move.” 

Tia dining!

Glorious princesses

Into the kitchen

Out of the kitchen

Living large

Zebra-themed to the ceilings

Out to the patio and pool

Master bedroom

But I begged and cajoled and took him to tour The Palace, and after the first ten minutes he agreed—as long as I would do all the work of moving, give up some of my extracurricular classes, and take the trash out at least half the time.  I quickly agreed, and we signed the lease last week.  It is a residence with a history, and a setting that is straight out of the 17th century, complete with a coat of arms over the copper-studded wooden entrance, a statue of Jesus, massive oil paintings of the Madonna and other religious figures, interior columns flanking an enormous covered patio, and an Olympic-sized pool set into an English garden.  

Front door complete with coat of arms

Cristalera interior courtyard

Staircase with San Jose

Todd is facing an ENORMOUS change: Yep, he is actually getting out of the Navy.  He vacillates between exhilaration and terror; leaving the nest of the Nav after 26 years is both hotly desired (no more deployments to Iraq, yay!) and fear-provoking (why am I walking away from a perfectly good job in this economy????).  I tell him about how good the life is here in Spain—flamenco, padel, horsebackriding, fiestas, cooking, traveling—so we have all our visa materials together, have reviewed it with the Extranjeria in Cádiz, and fly to New York mid-October to make it official.  We’ll stay here in Spain at least another year so that Todd can finally learn to play the bulerias, become a competent padel partner, and surf his heart out this winter.  Not to mention travel a lot!

Todd is going completely native
And speaking of change, Tia has some changes going on, too: getting rid of her braces, having her own room for the first time (yes, The Palace is big enough for that!), and starting a new school.  Tia graduated from her primaria (elementary school) to the secundaria, the Spanish high school.  We tease her about having to go back to first grade, because that’s what they call it: first grade of secundaria.  Sasha is relishing having a room of her own, too, and is already making lavish plans for decorating it.  The girls decided to change in their hamster for a bunny, and while initially skeptical about The Palace, they are already planning a big pool party.

Look Mom, no braces!  AND a mini-horse!

Growing up

A very sad set of changes occurred in the pet department, aside from the hamster/bunny exchange.  Our cat, Circles, jumped off the balcony back at the end of July.  We searched diligently for her, making the rounds with posters and flyers, calling all of the veterinarians and animal protection agencies, posting on Facebook, and doing everything we could think of to find her.  I finally located her microchip number and sent it out to everyone.  A week later, we got a call from a private animal kennel saying they had her!  We joyously went to pick her up, only to learn that they couldn’t locate her.  Two days and many phone calls later, we learned that she had been moved to the quarantine area due to a respiratory infection, and had died the next day.  The girls were heartbroken.  Todd and I felt terrible: she was so close to being home, and it was such a bitter lesson. 

A young Circles in IB

Pretty kitty

We love you, Circles

While trying to assimilate this loss around the dinner table that night, we heard a loud “thump” outside.  Flipper, our ancient 17-year-old cat, had just fallen off the upstairs balcony onto the hard patio concrete.  His kidneys failing, blind in his left eye, and skeleton-thin, he still purred as we held him and bawled.  Our wonderful veterinarian, Nathalie, took him home with her over the weekend, but then called us with the results of the blood analysis.  In short, it was time to put him to sleep.  He was the most amazing cat I’ve ever had, strong and calm, loyal and affectionate, and we will miss him dearly.

Flipper in his prime--our big cat!

Getting old in Spain

We love you, Flipper

Now the only other furry reminder of Suzi and Ethan’s whirlwind year with us is their cat, Smokey.  The airline didn’t allow animals to travel during the summer, so Smokey stayed with us as a furry hostage, one way to ensure that the Rico-Dubrows must return sooner or later.  And so they will!  If you didn’t have a reason to visit before, The Palace has an old-world guest room, too.  Come visit!

Smokey hanging in the fountain

 (pics of new casa, link to photo album)

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