Re-entry, Reyes, and Resolutions, or: You ‘ll Go to the Prado and Like it, D@mn It!

Glad tidings, readers, for 2010!

Although mostly over the jet lag from our foray into the Land of Not So Much Plenty Anymore, I am still wrestling with situational chaos (my house), three Things still home from school, and new resolutions rolling around in my brain. Re-entry is always a bitch. Let me spell that again: b-i-t-c-h. Yes, we went through Newark – twelve hours before it was shut down. The TSA snipped off the zippers on 2 suitcases and between them and the child who looked like Dougie Howser flying the plane on very little sleep, both they and Continental Airlines will be soon enjoying a post-holiday reaming from moi. The grocery stores and malls were clogged with shoppers panicking before their big day of celebration, Three Kings Day or Los Reyes Magos, or Epiphany to you. My big epiphany: come back to Spain after the 6th or sufficiently in advance to miss the cluster-yahoo created by traffic circles, bread shaped like a crown with a plastic toy king inside, and procrastinating parents vying to get inside the local Toys-R-Us.

Knowing, as I do, how much I loathe re-entry, I immediately drummed up a lunch date and tour of the Prado with Skinny Swede and our mutual Things. As an expat, it is imperative that one has something to look forward to after a trip to the homeland because, as the previous paragraph attests, almost everything makes one a supergrump. (I will save my story of the morning after clash with the grocery store cashier for another time – let me just say that, although Jesus would not have been proud of me, I was victorious in the end and there is nothing I enjoy more than proving a point and being right about it). So, yesterday, off to the Prado we marched since none of the Things had ever been there and I needed immediate re-inforcement of one good reason for living here in Madrid.

Mrs. Nato, down the street, had suggested to get the hour tour of the museum’s 15 masterpieces. Perfect for a group of teenagers with the attention span of toddlers and as great an aversion, right? “Gerry” (a.k.a. Gerardo) paraded us about, starting with the Flemish painters Brueghel the Elder and Hieronymous Bosch before moving on to Raphael, Fra Angelico, Sorolla (my personal fave), Goya, and Velazquez. The museum was crowded but not horrifically so. An hour with “Gerry” was just perfect. Strangely, my two teen Things liked the Flemish painters the best, not put off by Brueghel’s interpretation of death (an army of skulls skirmishing with the living) or the description of the imagery of a knife between two ears as a p!nis emerging from t!sticles* in the third part of the tryptich documenting hell. Sixty euros may seem like a lot for a tour but really, you can’t buy that kind of education.

During a post-tour beverage in the museum cafe, Skinny Swede told us about her family’s resolutions for the new year. One of the things I like about Skinny Swede is that she makes me look like a pussy cat of a mother, an absolute slouch. For example, this year, she is giving each of her two Things a certain amount of money (relatively substantial) which they have to use to plan a family activity, soup to nuts. They have to decide on an activity, figure out transportation, schedules, everything – an education in planning and execution. In November she gave her teen Thing the task of finding the local village square, armed only with a map, the entire family in tow. Five minutes away from their home, the trip took them over two hours. Map reading, what a novel idea! I am thinking of filching an idea or two of hers to improve my own parenting skills, so profound is my admiration.

And speaking of self-improvement, I have finally formulated my resolutions**:

1) finish Thing 3’s needlepoint stocking. I have had this on my list for the last four years but moved several times in that period so that was always my excuse. No more.

2) write something (?) and send it out for publication. At age 45, I think I am finally tough enough for a little rejection. The question is, what to write? Current ideas: finish/rewrite my project (still don’t know what to call it) based on the murder of a girl brutally murdered in Brazil. This one would take a lot of work. The suspects have, I think, been recently acquitted, in OJ Simpson fashion. Other ideas: travel articles or my actual memoirs (which means I can’t use all the good stuff here). I am open to suggestions, readers. Bottom line for you: I am only going to blog once a week.

3) expense tracking and asking a family member for permission before I buy something for myself in an effort to distinguish between need vs. want. My children are actually very good at this and have talked me out of a lot of cool stuff. Before leaving the US and the start of 2010, however, I stocked up on numerous needed items, displayed in the photo above. Sweet Virginia gets credit for the idea of photographing suitcase contents. I challenge you to tell me what I don’t need. (There are a few gifts in there too).

Wrapping it all up, I am looking forward to the start of the new year. By October, I will not be so thrilled as we face college applications for Thing 1, high school for Thing 2, and more mean girls for Thing 3. Right now I am going downstairs to put away my Christmas decorations since the Kings have come and gone, start some laundry, and look at the snow falling outside our cottage in Madrid. My next post will be a Christmas retrospective, complete with a photo of an American turkey. It was the best.

Questions for you (answer all to gain bonus points): what are your resolutions (and don’t be snarky and say you resolve not to resolve)? what should I write about in 2010? what in the photo above do I not need (hint: it is not the pink tutu for the housekeeper’s daughter – that was essential)?

Per “Gerry”. ! = e to avoid spammers.
** The Radish turned me onto this site for resolution making:



Filed under Family, Holidays, Life, Luggage, Misunderstandings, People, Religion, Shopping, Sightseeing, Traditions, Travel

24 responses to “Re-entry, Reyes, and Resolutions, or: You ‘ll Go to the Prado and Like it, D@mn It!

  1. Sarah P

    Happy New Year to you and your clan. Still thinking about my resolutions….being a better parent (of course) and trying to be less of a potty mouth might be it. The problem with the 2nd is the frustation level here is sooo high that I just sometimes have to let it fly. My guess for the non-necessary items would be the Flarp(sp?), yankee candles, nail polish (don’t go get mani/pedi’s anymore) and the Four Weddings and a Funeral DVD.

  2. Sarah P: Flarp – good eye, but essential for present closet. Will blog about this item soon. Do your boys have it? Christmas without Yankee Candles? Sorry, no. Those buggers cost about $5 a piece in Spain. Yes to the nail polish and DVD (although, again, the nail polish is hypoallergenic and DVDs cost a mighty sum here). Vis a vis potty mouth – I HEAR YOU! xoxoxo

  3. Virginia

    Love the photo! Sorry, but I agree about not transporting the candles. However, I think we all have things that make us feel at home. The DD coffee is a must. Even Marco, from Brazil, used to talk about the fabulous DD coffee.
    Not to make my comments so long, but I was at a presentation on Monday. The speaker offered some questions to think about..Have you grown more generous, or somehow more tightfisted?Are you more aware of your world and alive to it, or less? He had about 10 questions along these lines that I am thinking about as part of my NY Resolutions.

  4. Virginia: first, I am aghast that you don’t agree that the candles were necessary. Is this because they have the word “Yankee” on them? Second, normally I bring home big bags of Starbucks from Costco. But I did not make it there or to Sam’s so DD it was (it is actually my favorite but I have never seen it in a grocery store on the West Coast), straight from a Super Target. Lastly, thanks so much for chiming in on your experience and resolutions! Would love to see the 10 questions but to answer yours, I would say I am a) more generous and b) pretty alive to the world! How about you? Thanks also for your inspiring photo of many years ago and the only hand-made Christmas card I received.

  5. Mood Ring Mama

    Pink cookbook holder? Roasted almonds? Sparkly green candle? I’m just playing devil’s advocate here – to me they are all justifiable!

    My resolution is get (and stay!) healthy. I’ll probably hold on until March, and then the wheels will fall off. . .

    • Mood Ring Mama: Actually a pink picture frame from TJ Maxx for my office, soon to hold a photo of you and me? Almonds = 50% off day after Christmas sale at Target. Necessary for good health. Sparkly green candle = purchased December 26, 2008, just coming home to join other candles in collection. Okay, you got me.

  6. Mood Ring Mama

    Well then, the pink picture frame IS a necessity if it is for a picture of us! Almonds – No. Per Bob Greene, those are heavily salted and therefore no longer healthy – must be without salt to get the “healthy” endorsement. Good try though. Glad you copped to the sparkly candle though. 🙂

  7. warrop

    6 CANS OF FLARP?????????????????? Have you no shame?????
    You already know my resolution. I have done well thus far. Have played the violin daily and now have a full r’epertoire of “twinkle twinkle” “jingle bells” and “shortn’ bread”. Not fit for human ears, but the animals no longer run away.
    They always say…write about something you know, so……what do you know best?

    • Warrop: I think it’s only 5. One can is Thing 3’s. It is an essential addition to the present cupboard. Don’t you think every mother would be ecstatic to have a can in her house? Great job on the resolutions! Can’t wait for next year’s concert! And thanks for the writing advice.

  8. Stephanie Lynch

    I am going to cook more. I also plan to train for a 1/2 marathon. I intend to read more. Happy New Year.

    • MCV

      Me too. Which one? It would be fun if it was the same one.

    • SL: are you changing your blog handle? Do you want me to change it back for you? I like your resolutions. A 1/2 marathon sounds like a superb challenge, even though it makes my joint creak just thinking about it. Cooking more is also a great resolution (it will be a by-product of my own expense tracking endeavor).

  9. Mrs. Nato

    Well, since this is my inaugural appearance in your blog I feel compelled to post a comment with my thoughts (and since you asked).

    First, I begin with your photo of *essentials*: Comparatively speaking, as an ‘expat youngling’ (since 2006), I can honestly say that my concerns do not lie with the aquisition of DVDs, coffee (I will come over more often now that I know you serve my favorite blends!) or candles (these are tough times for the EU vs USD)…but with the gluttonous amount (SIX containers!) of Flarp.

    I sheepishly admit as a mother of 2 small boys (ages: 6 & 4) and another due in March – that I had absolutely NO idea what Flarp was and now since I have learned this from your blog – I KNOW that I would not (ever again) waste the valuable acquistion time, funds or critical luggage sq. inches on such an item. These tough times demand MORE earthly delights (powdered sugar, chocolate and yes, COFFEE!) I suppose you could call me a party-pooper (but doesn’t every party needs at least one?).

    Must continue to compliment the costume closet/box: the pink tutu stays!

    *Getting organized/declutter (DEFINITELY!)
    *Incorporating (consistent) daily exercise
    *Continue to develop ‘self’ (book group, museum outings, ALL not related to spouse/mother roles and activities, etc.)

    Gracias! – loved the suggested habit changes link.

    • Mrs. Nato:
      So glad to hear from my neighbor! You are an astute Googler. The cost of Flarp (which can be found at Michael’s) was minimal and the perfect gift for ages 4?- 44?. Moreover, the space it consumes is negligible as well. The Michael’s store, additionally, was conveniently located next to the Hair Cuttery so no additional fossil fuels were expended in its acquisition. More on this in my next post. The powdered and brown sugars were there, just buried under the oatmeal and candles. The pink tutu is a story for another day …. Your resolutions are admirable and I look forward to your joining my various and sundry self-development activities.

  10. Winnie

    NOBODY, repeat NOBODY, NEEDS Flarp. Period. Exclamation point.

  11. Stephanie Lynch

    What is FLARP?

  12. flaky friend

    I changed it back – don’t know what happened. Also, MCV – I am thinking about the Run for the Roses here in April or the July 4 Flat Half. Need to get cracking.

  13. Mr. Understanding

    We brought WHAT in our luggage?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Sarah P

    Love Mr. Understanding’s reaction.

  15. MCV was here

    Expat, you are a great salesperson. Are you sure you shouldn’t be selling something like oh say . . . FLARP?

  16. Princess Ai Lin

    Love the prado, such a great museum. You are lucky to have it at your fingertips. Want to be inspired to cook more? Get JC’s “My Life in France”, but be forewarned — you’ll want to high-tail it over the border. I agree with SIL – write what you know. We all love it. If stuff white people like can be a book, so can memoirs of an expat princess. Also read JC for an inspiration. She was about your age when she parlayed (sp? word usage? not sure, but you get my drift) her passion. into her career. NY resolutions? Don’t mean to be sassy, I just don’t have one. I find they don’t stick. And finally, to FLARP – perfect for the present closet, in my humble opinion. The price is right, and points for originality are off the charts! Love and miss you here in the Jewel Box, expat. XOXO

    • Muchas gracias, PAL! I need to get myself back to the Prado asap, instead of waiting around for delinquent repairment. I am looking forward to reading that book – you are the second person to tell me they loved it. I am quite the opposite = if I make 3 resolutions, one of them usually sticks and that is good enough for me. If I’d picked just one, well, it wouldn’t happen! Please let me be the first to introduce the Flarp to your household. I know a certain Thing who will be tickled to death with the acquisition. Love to the Jewel Box – I miss it too, which means that perhaps I really could retire in Florida.

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