Sunday, November 15, 2009
i have been meaning to write this post since mg was less than a year old... it's been fascinating to see/hear her communicate, to be a witness to the inner workings of her mind, to have conversations and tell JOKES with her. watching another human being evolve is truly mindblowing and inspiring... and this whole "learning how to talk" phase is probably my favorite so far... fewer bruised noggins than learning how to walk, no sticky messes to clean up like when she's learning how to feed herself, and definitely more fun than potty training, which is a hit-or-miss (usually a miss) for her. gross!
we started out when she was only a few months old, with baby sign language. there have been countless studies on this subject, none of which i have read or know much about. but i remember that when i used to work in a daycare back in boulder, we used baby sign language in the infant room and it had great success. so we thought, why not try it with gracie?
i can't remember when exactly she signed her first sign, but it was well before her 1st birthday. maybe as young as 10 months old i think??? and, of course, it was the sign for "all done." all done with her diaper change, all done with putting on her shoes, all done with her dinner, all done with riding on the train, all done all done all done! i think if we would have taught her the sign for "no" she probably would have signed that one first...
she quickly picked up on other signs: eat, drink, diaper, sleep, more/i want, hat... we even made up signs of our own: we made up one for pacifier, street sweeper, and even gracie designed her own sign for the word "butterfly." (waving her arms back and forth, but not up and down -- more like her hands would come in towards her heart, and then out again at shoulder level -- not like a bird's wings, but like doing the breast stroke sort of.) don't ask me how she came up with it, or even how we knew what she was saying, but for some reason we were still able to communicate. we totally understood her the very first time she signed it!
her very first spoken word was mama, of course. even when she was an infant, when she would cry, she would go, "aaaah, ma ma ma maaaa, mama, ma ma..." but we both kinda knew that she was just babbling. (though it broke my heart to hear her crying and saying "mama" at the same time!) but one day, sometime around 6 or 7 months old, she figured it out. suddenly "mama" took on new meaning. though she still said it mostly when she was crying, there was something about the insistence of her voice that made me really feel that she was calling out for her mama. she was forceful and intentional about it, like she was asking for me. don't ask me how i knew she was saying "mama" and not just babbling anymore, but i knew. the sound of her voice was different.
her next word was "book." but it came out like "ba." but again, there was something about the insistence of her voice, and the context she was in -- i handed her a book at 10 months old, and she said "ba". she quickly learned to say "ba" for a whole mess of things after that, but for a few good days, she would only say "ba" if she saw a book. so i know she was saying it, even if after that EVERYTHING became "ba."
(i think it's kind of like when a child learns what a doggie is, and will say "doggie", but then pretty soon afterwards ALL fuzzy animals become doggies. cats are doggies, cows are doggies, mice are doggies... i think that's what happened with mg -- "ba" was book, but then "ba" was pretty much any inanimate object she could hold.)
her language skills were still slow for a while, learning a new word every week or so. her list was pretty short until around 18 months -- her primary ones were "light" (la la la la...), "shoes" (sees!), "steps" (baps), and the dutch word for bike ("fiets" but she said it more like "seets"). she would say "pedals" (peh-nos), since the pedals of the bikes really interested her a lot, and soon after that she would also say "wheel" (wee-o). basically, if it was on a bike she was interested in it and wanted to know/say the word for it.
(she still says "fiets" a lot when she's talking about a bike. and if someone is riding on a bike, she will correctly call that person a "fietser". she doesn't have very many dutch words, but that one she has held onto pretty well.)
her comprehension was amazing, too. at 11 months, we could ask her to point to nearly any body part and she'd do it -- nose (that one was hard cuz it was somewhere in front of her face but she could never see it), ears, head, hair, belly, hands. ask her to do something, like clap her hands or wave to daddy, and she'd know exactly what was just requested of her and then she'd just do it! (soooo glad we taught her sign language so she could communicate back to us! she understood so much already but just didn't have the physiological make-up to be able to tell us what she wanted! hence, signing with the hands instead of crying to get what she wanted...)
something happened around the time she turned a year and a half, and all of a sudden her language just took off! i don't know if it's because something happens to ALL children at that age (does it? i don't know...), or if it was the fact that we were now living in the united states, and she wasn't hearing two languages all day long. even though we spoke primarily english at home (occasionally we'd speak dutch to gracie or to each other), whenever we left the house we'd be speaking in dutch. nearly everything in the home was in one language, and nearly everything outside the home was in another language. i wondered if this bilingual environment might have stalled her language skills? not stunted her skills -- since at 21 months she clearly has a commanding grasp of this whole communication thing. but stalled, perhaps? maybe she didn't know the correct word for "blue" or for "cup", since she's heard it from me and adam and everyone else in her world two different ways?
or maybe she just didn't have a million zillion words yet cuz she just didn't hit that developmental milestone yet... regardless of the reason, by the time she turned 18 months (and at which point we moved back to the usa), her words all caught up to her. at her year-and-a-half checkup with her pediatrician, he asked me if she was speaking and how many words she knew. off the top of my head, i guessed about 30 words, not including ALLLL of her animal sounds. (she learned her animal sounds right away! like, maybe at only 14 months, she knew them ALL -- doggie, cow, bird, horsie, cat, fishie -- that one was her first -- monkey, elephant, dinosaur...) once i got home, and started making a list, i realized she knew over SIXTY words (not including her animal sounds, which she would say instead of the name of the animal. for example, if she saw a dog, she wouldn't say "doggie" but she would instead start barking or panting or something, while pointing at the dog. does that count as a word? cuz she's totally getting her point across.)
anyway, after we moved, her language skills just totally exploded and expanded exponentially. she suddenly learned one, two, three different words a day! she can say it all! we can't even count how many words anymore... let's just say it numbers in the HUNDREDS. she's even able to combine words to make simple sentences. some of her favorites:
"gwacie do self" (this is her favorite. she says it ALLL the time)
"daddy some too"
"mama coming" (when she wants me to come too. not as in, mama is coming, but "mama, are you coming? come with, mama!")
"moh-ee appo-doocy puh-lees!" (more apple juice please)
"too munch wah-mee." (too warm.)
"ov-ooh? ov-ooh?" (can you move over there?)
"how bout ov-ooh he-uw" (how about over here?)
and one she just learned over the christmas break: "nice to meet you." said perfectly. she's amazing!
she seems to have a hard time saying her "r" sound -- so "bear" sounds like "bay-uw", and "gracie" comes out like "gwacie." the one that's hardest for other people to understand is the way she says "more" ("moh-ee"). she says "more" pretty much all the time, but it's the MOST hilarious when we give her a little treat like a cookie or something, and AS SOON AS IT'S POPPED IN HER MOUTH she starts asking for "mow-ee", with crumbs flying out of her mouth and cheeks stuffed full of sweet cookie goodness. a mouth full of cookie, not even swallowed yet, asking for "mow-ee". too cute!
so the biggest reason i wanted to write this post is because i wanted to document some of our favorite words (and some of gracie's too). on the left is the word she's trying to say, and the the one on the right is how it sounds coming out of her mouth (as if that wasn't already obvious to you reading this)...
so here we go:
alligator -- ah-goo-goo (also said as a farewell -- as in "see you later alligator." but she'll just say ah-goo-goo!)
steps -- baps (don't know why, it's always been this way. i know she can say the word "steps" but for some reason she chooses to say "baps" instead.)
her special blanket -- biss (i'll write a story about this on a future blog, cuz it's cute)
binky (pacifier) -- bee
snuggle -- suh-go (but snuggle can also apparently be a solo activity for her -- as in, "i want some down time by myself." it's so funny to hear her say "suh-go selfie" -- snuggle by myself. whatever, gracie! we know what you want, even if you aren't able to say it right quite yet!)
banana -- bilah-bilee (what?? that was weird and cute. now she says it properly, but for months there they were bilah-bilees.)
spatula -- pah-too-lu-la
hamburger -- ham-oh-goo-gee (her word for helicopter sounds a lot like this too)
all done -- ah dah-ee (though now it sounds more like ah-dun. she's getting better!)
thank you -- dayt doo
excuse me -- kee me
shower -- shao-ee
if she wants you to move out of the way, she'll say "beep beep way!"
music -- mickies
star -- how i (as in "how i wonder what you are" -- the first words she could sing,)
santa claus -- sahn-tah baby (she heard that eartha kitt song a while back and now she's hooked. so santa claus has been replaced by santa baby. in fact, she knows most of the words to that song already, and she and i sing it together every day!)
juice -- doos (or doosie)
love you -- lufoo (my favorite of course)
noodles -- noo-nahs
water -- lah-low (sounded exactly the same as "yellow" for several weeks there. now she says wah-doo, but it wasn't always that way!)
oatmeal/malt-o-meal -- mah-poh-no-nee
yogurt -- loo-koo (strange since she can say the word "yoga" just fine. but yogurt seems to be more difficult for her.)
mine -- MAI-NT!!!
onion -- uh-nee
dishes -- dissies
nijntje -- nai-shee (nijntje is a dutch storybook character, and gracie has lots of nijntje books)
blanket -- bin-kins
napkin -- mah-kee! (or, when i try to correct her, and i say "nuh nuh nuh nuh NNNapkin", then mg will say "nuh nuh nuh nuh MAHKEE!" ha! rae thinks it's because she could say the word "map" when she was still quite little, and when she unfolds a napkin it unfolds similar to a map.)
pepperoni -- pah-poo-no-nee
chocolate milk -- tahk-ee mahk
goodnight -- ga-light
circle -- soo-koo
L M N O P -- umma numma numma numma PEEE!
she can, of course, say lots of words perfectly. and lots of words close enough. it's just a few words where we seem to have our own language with her -- baps, loo-koo, biss, etc. and naturally she still says lots of dutch words (fiets, dadel, klompen, slaapzak, etc.). she doesn't seem to understand dutch now as well as she did when we lived in hengelo, but that's our fault from not exposing her to enough of it. we do still speak dutch to her occasionally, and if we keep doing it then she'll learn it once again.
when she farts (or if one of us do, of course i NEVER do, but let's just say hypothetically...), she will not only tell us what she did, but how it sounded. so, she'll tell us it was a "thunder fart" (fun-noo faht!). this makes us laugh EVERY time she says it. maybe we shouldn't encourage such "vile" behavior, but we can't help it. hearing a little girl yell "fun-oo faht" as fast as she can. sure is a riot! adam is trying to teach her the phrase "monkey feces" (why in the world he wants to teach her that i have no idea) -- but she says "monkey faces" instead. good girl!
if another child is crying, she will start whining and pretend to cry too, to emulate compassion and sympathy for her upset friend. then she'll just stop what she's doing, look at a grown-up, and with a totally serious face will say "cwy-ning!" then go back to pretend-crying again. it was cute at first, but now it's starting to get not so fun because... well, let's face it, it's kind of a not-so-nice noise to hear. so we've started to ask her what laughing sounds like, since she knows what crying already sounds like. and she'll start laughing. what about surprise, gracie? what about excited, gracie? trying to redirect her. so far it seems to be working, let's hope it stays that way!
along with that, she basically loves narrating what's going on. thunder fart, for example. crying, for example. if she hears a loud noise, she'll be sure to stop what she's doing to tell us it's noisy. if she hears a lawnmower or leaf blower (which is often here in texas), she'll tell us someone's working by saying "lawn!". if there is an airplane, she'll yell "ah-pain!" and then make airplane sounds, and tell us "clouds" and "bye-bye". she loves to tell us stories about her day: the fire ants that bite you when you step on them, the truck that aiden stole from her at school, her cousin who slept in her room over thanksgiving, her mema who lives in minnesota and made ghosties with her... i could go on and on and on and on and... she pretty much is always telling us what's going on, what she sees, or what she wants to be doing. it's constant. (and, isn't it nice that my daughter wants us to know what's going on in her head? wait about 10 years or so and i'll be desperate to know what she's thinking...)
even with her made-up words, and mispronunciation of other words, we completely understand her, and most people get what she's trying to say. we are always so proud of her, naturally, of her accomplishments and her curiosity, and are pleased to see how clever and bright she is. but mostly, we love how HAPPY she is, and how everything she does/experiences/sees brings her so much JOY. this is evident not only in her sunny personality, but her eagerness to learn and understand everything around her. everything EVERYTHING fascinates her, and she wants desperately to tell us what she's seeing, and how she's feeling, and what's going on in her world.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
now, to make matters even MORE complicated... see that car parked in the driveway? yeah. that's a RENTAL.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
it's been AGES since i posted anything on this blog! i hope you haven't forgotten about us!
we've been busy... buying a house and all. moving, unpacking, cleaning things out, cutting down trees (more on that later), making friends, fixing the roof, trying to not float away with all the damn rain we've had in the last 2 months... but finally, things are almost normal around here. so i have a couple of moments to get you caught up. there are so many stories to tell, though, that i'll just have to go one at a time.
let's see... i guess i should start at the beginning: what it was like to buy our first house!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
as i type this, i am sitting on my couch in my NEW HOME, drinking coffee and listening to the rain pitter patter on the back patio. we just spent our first night here in our new house, and i am energized and excited!
a lot of you have been asking for pictures of our house, so i wanted to give you a "virtual tour" of the place. rather than clutter up your inbox with a bunch of pictures, i thought i'd make a blog entry instead.
i will, however, describe to you the house: it's this adorable little ranch-style, brick, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom brick home, on a very quiet and wooded street. it is hard to find mature trees like this in the suburbs of dallas, because so much of this area has been built up only in the last 20 or 30 years. our house was built in the 1960's, and everyone out here seems to think that it's rather old for a house. lol! i suppose comparatively speaking, that is true!
our street is very quiet, and the only people who seem to know where our street is are the people who actually live here. there isn't much of anything back in our neighborhood, which is nice because it means there is less traffic. however, less than a kilometer/4-5 blocks away there is a nice park for gracie to play in, and about 1 kilometer/.5 miles away there is a huge supermarket. there is TONS of shopping, restaurants, cafes, and even a movie theater within a short walking distance. so we are very close to a lot of important things, but our neighborhood is BEHIND all of this stuff, so no one drives down our street!
we are also only about 3 kilometers/1.5 miles away from both adam's work and gracie's preschool! as soon as we get our bikes we will be biking everywhere, just like back in hengelo!
if you were to look at the front of our house, you would see a bunch of beautiful windows. the ones on the far left, shaped like diamonds, actually go into the garage. the next couple of big, beautiful windows look into the formal dining room. the dining room, however, will be used for adam's office and for a sort of formal sitting room/parlour (oh, my house is so nice i can have a parlour in it!). that's what you see in this picture. (ps, all of these pictures were taken before adam and i got to move in. so there is still quite a bit of furniture, etc. in the pictures, which does not belong to us.) as you can see in this photo, it has carpet, so i don't imagine we will be eating in there at all, but it makes for a perfect area for adam to do his work and to have people over for meetings. there is a cute little chandelier in this room, and lots of big closets for storage. there is also a little bar area that is built in to the wall! and, GET THIS!... there is an INDOOR flower bed in this room! that's right! i can plant flowers INSIDE my house! there is a drain that goes all the way down to the ground, so i can put some potting soil in there and plant whatever i want! maybe an indoor herb garden? fun!
now back to the living room. here is another picture to show you the full view. there is a cute desk that is built in to the wall. and there is a little window in the kitchen which opens up into the living room -- so even when i am making dinner or cleaning up, i can still spend time with my family! yay!
the next picture is of the kitchen: it is taken from the center of the house -- so the last picture i just showed you, of the living room, was taken from this very same spot (but obviously looking in a different direction.) the kitchen doesn't have a lot of counter space to work/cook on, but there is a TON of storage space in the cabinets. i even have a little pantry built in! (normally i have to put my things on a bookshelf near the kitchen! this is wonderful!) what i love most about my kitchen is the fun old-west style saloon-type doors! those open up into the parlour room.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
so last night we went to a protest. yours truly ended up on the front page of the denton record chronicle newspaper. and miss mary grace briggle also got her picture taken by another newspaper.
it wasn't hard to teach her how to say "no no no" to these proposed wells. she's pretty good at saying "no" already (and she's not even two years old yet!). what WAS hard was teaching her how to hold the sign properly since it was about twice as big as she was. oh, well. practice makes perfect. i hear that we're holding another rally in two weeks, so she can try it again then...
NO TO RAYZOR RANCH GAS WELLS! PEOPLE OVER PROFIT!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
so, before any more time passes, i feel like i should at least mention that we went to barcelona in june. it was our last family vacation abroad before moving here to texas. it's crazy to think that it was only two months ago when we were there -- by now it almost feels like someone else's life, something that we might have read about in a magazine but something that we surely didn't experience for ourselves! time sure has a funny way of playing tricks on your memory!
anyway, here's what happened: as is typical of the briggle family, when adam gets invited to a fun european city, gracie and i inevitably tag along. (think salzburg, hamburg, athens, brussels, milan, etc... you get the point!) this time, it was in sunny and sexy barcelona. sign me up!!!
the timing for this trip was really strange: it was right after our friend shelby came out to visit, and right before our move -- basically, shelby came, a few days later we left for barcelona, and then by the time we got back we had just a little over a week to wrap it up and say goodbye. so in a way the timing was AWFUL, but in another way it was perfect -- with all of the stress of packing, bureaucratic paperwork, and going away parties, we NEEDED a holiday! and better yet, the apartment we rented for the week didn't have internet access so we were offline for eight solid days! nice!
we rented a flat, only 30 meters from the beach. and, a useful travel tip to you all: whenever going to a new city, especially if you're going to be there for more than just a couple of days, SERIOUSLY consider getting an apartment! we were looking at hotels along the beaches in barcelona, and everything was at least 180 euros a night and very small looking. but we got ourselves an apartment, very close to the beach, for 100 euros a night -- nice! we had our own kitchen to make breakfast in, a fridge for gracie's milk bottles, a washer/dryer combo, and no noisy drunk tourists running up and down the hallways. it was perfect! it was TINY, but perfect.
our apartment was on a tiny little street, not as nice as this one, but comparable. it was in one of those typical tenement buildings that you think of when you think of big european cities. we loved it! tons of grocery stores all just minutes away by foot, and as i said, REALLY close to the beach.
so this would be a typical day in barcelona: adam would wake up early, get ready for his conference, and leave before gracie and i would roll out of bed. we'd eventually wake up around 8:30 or so, sometimes as late as 9:00 (!!! -- I LOVE HAVING A GOOD SLEEPER! what a good girl!!!), and make some breakfast: usually some yummy roll or chocolatey pastry that we picked up at a bakery the day before, some fruit, and maybe some cheese or chorizo. then while she was watching dora the explorer in spanish (ever wonder what dora teaches if the show is in spanish? she teaches english -- naturally!), i would get us packed up for the beach.
i'd pack up a bag of the necessities: sunscreen, lots of water (had to buy it in giant bottles at the grocery stores in the area as the local water was NOT good), snackies, books, sand toys, towels, a blanket, camera, and a beach umbrella that was left for us by a previous renter. then we'd hit the streets!
before gracie and i got to the beach, we'd usually stop at another bakery, produce stand, or supermarket for snacks, waters, and stuff for lunch. one time we found a covered market where we got some lekker stuff for that evening's dinner. then we'd make our way to the beachfront. (and as soon as we turned the corner so she could see the beach, she would instantly scream and squeal and go "ooooh!" and point, in case i missed it and maybe forgot that she would want to go get a better look.)
we'd hang out for several hours -- i'd get us all set up in the sand, while gracie dug nicely in the shade provided by our beach umbrella. and she'd just dig! and dig, and dig, and dig. what a good girl! i'd lay next to her, reading a book (i plowed through "the kite runner" in about 4 days flat!), and then we'd get up and jump in the water. i tried to be aware of our stuff, since barcelona's beaches are notorious for pickpockets, but since gracie and i usually went to the beach in the morning, it wasn't as crowded. besides, i left my purse and most of my money back at the flat, and the only thing they could possibly steal would be the camera -- it would suck to lose our pictures, but it wouldn't ruin our vacation. so i was willing to risk it.
after several hours at the beach, usually around 1:00 or 1:30, we'd head back to our flat for a late lunch. i can't remember what i fed gracie -- it was probably something we normally would eat at home (like a hotdog and some veggies). since we had a kitchen of our own it wasn't hard to find something decent and inexpensive to feed her. while she was eating, i would be cleaning up and sweeping up all the sand, pouring it out of her beach shoes and out of our bags, and getting her crib ready for naptime. this usually took at least half an hour or more, and by the time she was ready to nap i was ready for one myself!
she was usually exhausted at this point in the day, with all the sun and sand and fresh air, so she'd fall asleep right away. then i'd get out my book, pour myself a cerveza frio and eat some chorizo and bread until she woke up.
funny story: one day gracie and i explored a different area of barceloneta beach. i kept noticing that there was this area way down along the spit that seemed much less crowded than the rest of the beach -- i didn't know why this was, i thought maybe it was just less crowded because there weren't any cafes or bars down there. so one morning she and i checked it out. and i walked almost all the way to the end, and down the sand dunes, with gracie and all of our stuff in the hot catalan sunshine... got us alllll set up, and i look around... and everyone's NAKED. like, not just topless (which is common on any public beach in barcelona), but full monty naked. they were kind of giving me looks like "what are you doing here?" and i didn't know if it was because i was a tourist, or because i had a child with me, or if it was because i was still wearing my swimsuit. but omg, i was so exhausted from the long walk that there was no way i getting us packed up again to head down to the other end of the beach. so i thought, when in rome (or in this case, barcelona), do as the romans (or the catalans) do. so i stripped down and gracie and i went skinny dipping all morning with the cute gay couples (this was also the gay beach apparently) and old hairy men. it was strange at first, but i got over my american modesty pretty quick.
the afternoons were always different: sometimes gracie and i would go find an old church to explore, or sometimes we'd find a street band to dance to. one time we took a bike ride to the gothic quarter and found our way to some famous cathedral, the name of which i forget now. the first time i wanted to go there, i was way underdressed (a common complaint by the catalans of the tourists), and the "bouncer" wouldn't let me in. this time i brought a shawl with me to drape around my shoulders, and they allowed me access.
this particular church had a pretty courtyard area with ducks and swans walking around, and a beautiful well which was said to have healing properties -- you were invited to drink from it and pour the water on the areas of your body which needed healing.
i lit a few candles before we left.
one afternoon we found a street band ("el tumbao de juana" -- they are awesome! check out their myspace page here!) which gracie LOVED LOVED LOVED. my favorite part was the handsome gentleman dressed in white, whose sole job it was was to get the beautiful ladies up and dancing to the tunes. oh, and he sold a couple of cd's as well. (we bought one!)
(trying to embed a youtube video of gracie dancing to the tunes -- if it doesn't load on your computer then follow this link to see gracie's video)
sometimes we'd just go sit at a sidewalk cafe and watch people walk by. i'd order a mojito or something fabulous like that, and gracie would sit in her chair drinking her juice, and we'd watch all the doggies and bikes and little kids run around. people watching sure is fun, isn't it gracie?!
eventually it'd be time to eat. usually we'd eat out at a restaurant, or order something to bring back to the flat. our favorite was to order the little pizzas at a cafe located on barceloneta beach. it was cheap, filling, and gracie liked to pick the sausages off her pieces, so apparently it was entertaining too.
we didn't spend all our time alone, though. there were a few days in there when adam was able to duck out early from the conference, and we did stay for a couple of extra days just so that we'd have time to explore barcelona as a family. one day we went to the picasso museum, which was really fascinating, but not necessarily the best activity to do with a toddler. :-)
here's another story: the day that we went to the picasso museum, we decided to try to get lost along the way to explore more of the city. we came across a church called iglesia santa maria del mare or something like that -- st. mary of the sea. and anything dedicated to mary is something i want to see! so we ducked in to explore this gothic beauty... anyway, we're walking around and we realize that gracie is insisting on some word -- "may mi. mi mi! mi mi! may may!" and pointing. sure enough, she was pointing to the beautiful statue of MARY up at the altar! she was saying mary! without any prompting or guidance from us! isn't that amazing?! it must be because when we lived in hengelo, we would always go to the big catholic church to light candles at the mary altar, so i guess she recognized mary, even though she looked different here in this particular church.
(and now, as i type this, i have an asterisk to add to this story: gracie will say "mary" for just about anything remotely religious: a cross, a church -- or a building that looks like a church -- any statue or big porcelain doll, any oval-shaped pendant on a necklace -- i wear a mary necklace frequently and she knows her from there as well! but i'll take it! i think it's awesome that she knows this word and knows mary!)
adam also got some beach time with us. (he kept asking me, "aren't you beached out? you guys go EVERY day." my reply? "NO! let's go hit the beach!") we were able to go in the morning once or twice with him during the week, but we made the mistake of going in the evenings a couple of times, and the beaches are CRAZY crowded after about 3:00 pm. but if you're prepared for it, it's okay. the beaches, i have to say, are not the cleanest ones around, but they're actually not bad. of course, we're not beach snobs or anything, and there was something festive and fun about having thousands of people, from all around the world, half naked there in the sunshine with us. there were vendors walking around selling "cold" beer (their words -- not mine -- i'd say "lukewarm" or maybe even "not quite chilled" if i was being generous), and lots of women selling massages... i almost signed up for one, cuz they're cheap and lord knows my feet were killing me after all the walking we'd been doing that week, but i wisely realized that these women NEVER wash their hands. no way did i want a part of that. imagine all the bodies they touched throughout the day, all the germs they picked up, all the sweat and alcohol and grime that they'd been collecting -- then PAY them to touch me with the same hands? no thank you! grody! but i digress -- my point is that even though the beaches were crowded, it was FUN! there were other little kids for gracie to play with, there were different languages all around us, there were beautiful people from every corner of the globe, and there was the mediterranean, blue and expansive and gentle. it didn't matter that we couldn't find a quiet patch of sand to spread out in -- it was one giant beach party and we were just happy to be invited!
(youtube still not synching up with my blogger account -- so follow this link to watch another video of gracie, this time she's on the beach with daddy!)
eventually it was time to go. back to our lives in hengelo, and back to the chaos of moving. it was a real treat to be on vacation in barcelona, without internet (yes, i somehow survived, and i REALLY loved it!), in the sun and waves, all sandy and sunkissed with gracie, seeing the sights with adam, painting my daughter's toes, eating chocolate covered churros... it was just what we needed, one final time.