The Preparation – Part One

I wanted to jot down a few notes about all the preparation we’ve done so far for this move to Spain. We’ve accomplished a few of the biggest milestones, so it’s time to celebrate those achievements. It’s also a good way to help us remember what else is left to be done before we leave.

The biggest part of preparing for our year in Granada was putting together all the paperwork for our visas.  We must have done it correctly because our non-lucrative residential visas were approved last month and we flew down to San Francisco to pick them up in person.  Aside from the five-hour delay of our flight home, it went smoothly.  Once we get to Granada we will take them to our “town hall” and apply for our residence cards.  Visas – Check!

In order to pick up our visas we had to show proof of our flights to Spain, so we made our reservations.  We leave Seattle July 4th, stop in Iowa to see Jason’s family, and leave for Spain on July 11th.  We will spend three days in Madrid getting our bearings and recovering from jet lag before heading to our home in Granada on July 15th.  Fights to Spain – Check!

The most stressful aspect of this move was finding someone to rent our home for a year.  What could have been a difficult and time-consuming project was made so much easier with the help of our friend and realtor extraordinaire, Maura.  The second family to look at our home decided to rent it.  Bonus, they want it furnished, don’t need the garage so we can use that to store our personal items (no paying for a storage space) and, wait for it…they want to lease Jason’s truck while we are gone so we don’t have to worry about storing that either.  AND our new renters were kind enough to send us some wine as a thank you.  House rented to awesome people – Check!

With a little internet research and a lot of help from Google Translate, we have schools picked out for the kids. We have decided to go “all in” and put them in the local neighborhood schools.  Matthew and Gabi will be in grades 6 and 4 respectively, and will be attending CEIP Gomez Moreno, a public primary school in our neighborhood of the Albayzin.  We’ve registered them and have spoken with a couple expat families whose children have also attended there.  The school is used to hosting expats and has a specialist to help kids for whom Spanish is not their first language.  Robbie will be attending secondary school at IES Albayzin, also a public neighborhood school, but one that has a multi-lingual program.  He will be allowed to take some of his classes in English (or German or French if he prefers!).  Secondary school in Spain is a little different from the U.S.  Children are required to attend school until they are 16, what would be the end of 10th grade in the U.S.  After that they have the choice of getting a job, doing two years of a baccalaureate program and then attending university or attending a two-year vocational program.  Each of the secondary schools in Granada has different vocational programs.  IES Albayzin’s program is the academy of image and sound, and while Robbie won’t be able to take film classes during the school day, they offer after-school film classes for students in the compulsory grades and also host a film festival every year.  So, while he will be missing a year of Ballard High School’s digital film program, he still will be able to participate in movie-making to some degree in Spain.  Find schools for the kids – Check!

Our wonderful friends, the Bulsons have agreed to take our black lab, Rigby, while we are away.  He is going to have a great home with lots of attention and may even get some rides on a tugboat every once in a while.  And most importantly, they will let us have him back when we return. Home for dog – Check!

Today happens to be Jason’s last day of employment.  Hoping he’ll do a blog post soon about that.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Quit job – Check!

Lots of things still on our to-do list, but two of the big ones are selling my truck (2008 Yukon Denali XL in case anyone is interested!) and finding a home for this guy…


Meet Raider, our nine-year-old tabby.

The Preparation – Part Two, coming soon.


The Uneasiness

alhambra ceiling

Our extended family is probably not going to enjoy reading this post, but I feel like I should address it.  Every once in a while, something happens that makes Jason and I stop and think differently about our decision to move overseas.  The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th are one example.  The on-going refugee crisis.  Today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.  Europe in general feels much less safe at the moment.  Is it really a good time to be moving with our children to Spain for a year?

We are not big news addicts in this family.  Most of the information I get about the world comes from listening to NPR when I’m driving my kids to and from school.  I’d much rather watch House of Cards on Netflix, or read a novel than watch CNN or read a newspaper.  It’s probably a little irresponsible of me, but that’s the way I am.  My point is, we are not bombarded on an hourly basis with all the terror, sadness and pain that is going on in the world.  We are also not taking this move to Spain lightly.

The areas that are now known as Spain and Portugal were under Muslim rule for more than 700 years.  Granada, the city we are moving to was the last stronghold of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula until  1492.  The beautiful Alhambra is a prime example of Moorish art and architecture.  The  Albayzin neighborhood where we will be living is described as the “Old Muslim Quarter.”  We will be surrounded by Muslim history, art and people.  But that’s OK.  We don’t equate Muslims with terrorists.  They are not the same.  And that’s what we hope to teach our children.

What does give me pause however, is how close we will be to Morocco and the ISIS terror cells located there.  The rumors that ISIS wants to control Spain by 2020.  Traveling to major cities in Europe while we are living there.  But then I get angry.  I will not give the terrorists a chance to win.  I will not stay locked in my house in Seattle, or allow my children to be afraid of the world.  We will be careful, we will be alert, but we will not let fear rule our lives.  This year will be a gift to our family, and we will take advantage of it.

*On a lighter note (I think), Matthew asked recently, “If Donald Trump becomes President, will he let us back in the country after we live in Spain?”

The View


Trading this view of Mt. Rainer…

One of the things we love about our life in Seattle is the scenery.  It doesn’t hurt that we wake up most mornings to this view.  After moving from Arizona, to Washington, to California to Connecticut, Jason and I decided that it was time to pick a “forever” spot and let our kids finish growing up in one place.  Jason is originally from Iowa and I am originally from Southern California.  We discussed the places we grew up and all the places we had lived previously and decided that Seattle felt most like “home” for us and our family.  We moved here in 2011, eventually found a house we loved, and set about making our life here.

Fast forward to 2016 and our decision to move to Granada.  One of the biggest questions was where will we live?  (And how do we give up our view?)  Serendipitously, an expat family we have been in contact with during the past few months is moving out of their house in Granada just before we plan to arrive.  They put us in touch with their landlord, and everything fell into place.  Below is a picture from our home for our year in Granada.


…for this view of The Alhambra Palace.

We will post more pictures of our home and neighborhood when we arrive.  Can’t wait to experience this view in person!

The Process


All our paperwork ready to turn in to the Consulate General of Spain in San Francisco.

I’m not going to go into all the details on how to apply for a non-lucrative visa to Spain, basically because the process is quite boring if you are not actually applying. And if you are, Jed from Bucking the Trend has a wonderfully detailed post about applying for Spanish visas here. He and others who commented on his blog made this process so much clearer for us!

What I will tell you is that our family of five had to fly from Seattle to San Francisco to turn in our paperwork in person.  Yet at the appointment our case worker barely glanced at our three children as they walked in the room, and I highly recommend to anyone who needs to fork over a bunch of money to fly to their consulate, to just borrow a couple kids off the street for your appointment and save yourself some cash.

Now we wait.  We were told it will be about six to twelve weeks before our visas are ready, and then we will all make the trip back down to SF to pick them up.  I’m a little nervous about hiring kids this time, because they may actually check to make sure the visa pictures match the kids, since those are the documents that will be letting us into the country, so we will probably suck it up and spend the money on another airline flight.  Fingers crossed we’ve filled out everything correctly and won’t have any issues getting our visas.


Outside the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco.  Notice how thrilled our oldest is.


The Kids


The kids on our 2014 trip to Costa Rica.

Pretty much the second question we are asked is, “What do the kids think about it?”  I wish I could say that they are all extremely excited about moving to Spain, are trying hard to learn Spanish already, and are anticipating all they will experience.  Oh, and how thrilled they are to be leaving their friends and going to a new school for a year.

I wish I could say that.

The reality looks more like this:  every day, one or more of the kids complains about moving to Spain, about having to take extra Spanish lessons right now, about how they will miss their friends or their friends will forget them, how they won’t be able to do well in school because they don’t speak the language, having to share a room with a sibling once we are in Granada, not being able to see movies in English (that’s from our 14-year-old movie buff and future filmmaker) or any other number of things.

The reality is also slowly turning into questions about Spain, what Granada is like, what the food will be like, what kinds of things we will do there, what their schools will be like, where else in Europe we will travel.  I would not say they are coming around exactly, but they are definitely showing a little more interest and a little less frustration with this (what appears to them) life-changing decision.

Jason and I expect that the first few months will be really tough, especially when it comes to school.  We are going to try to prepare the kids (and ourselves) as best we can for that, but what we can really only hope for is that this experience shows our kids that they can handle tough situations.  Robbie, Matthew and Gabi have been so blessed to not have to struggle with much in their lives.  We are hoping that this move will be a struggle that will prove to each of them that they are capable and competent individuals.  We are also hoping that it will inspire a love of travel, an eagerness to try new things, and a realization that things can be so different in other countries, yet there are human traits or characteristics that everyone around the world shares.

The Decision

Our family of five is moving to Granada, Spain in July 2016.  As soon as we tell people we hear, “What made you decide to do this?” so I thought the best way to start off this journal is to answer that question.

Because Jason has worked for a global company for the last 16 years, we have had the opportunity to travel around the world (Jason much more than me, but I’ve been lucky to tag along on quite a few occasions).  Because of that, living overseas has always been on the back of our minds. However, the older our children get, the harder it is to imagine requesting a work assignment (usually a minimum of three years) overseas.  Over the summer of 2015 we started talking about living overseas again, but with our oldest, Robbie, starting at our amazing local high school, we just didn’t see asking him to spend his entire high school career in another country, especially because he had been accepted into his school’s  Digital Film Program, which he had been looking forward to since we moved to Seattle in 2011.  We also wanted our other two children to finish out their elementary and middle school years at their current school.

What to do?  Since Jason likes to say he’s been steadily employed since the age of 12, he decided he shouldn’t feel too guilty for taking one year off to spend it with his family. After (briefly) considering a trip around the world and talking to a few other families who had taken a year or two overseas in one spot, we decided that would be the smartest way to go.  Having our children learn a new language was a must, and since the kids and I had all been exposed to some Spanish, a Spanish-speaking country seemed the logical choice.  Spain became our destination because we knew we would be able to travel inexpensively to other countries in Europe that the kids had already expressed an interest in visiting, plus Jason and I had been there twice before, and it always struck us as a place we might want to live someday.  In fact, if you’ve seen our house in Seattle, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that we chose it partly because it reminded us a little of the homes we’ve seen in Southern Spain.

photo 2

We narrowed down our choice to Granada because of weather, language (Castilian vs. Catalan), location, and the fact that we’d been there before (granted, only for a day!).  Visiting the blogs of Jed from Bucking the Trend and Bianca from Our Year in Spain confirmed for us that Granada was the right place for our family.



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