So much has happened since my last blog entry that I have been at a loss for where to begin. We returned to Chicago for three weeks in December to celebrate Christmas with my family, and things did not exactly go as planned. A few days after arriving there, my mom was hospitalized with several very serious infections and her situation became precarious. She spent the remainder of our trip time in the hospital and was not released until after we returned to Valencia. One of the hardest things for Mom was being away from her children on Christmas Day. Ordinarily, the Maroney Christmas - in all of it's overwhelming glory - is celebrated in Naperville at Kathy and Gary's. However, this year's circumstances called for a break from tradition and a change of plans. Just about everyone (except for Eddie & April, Mary's husband, Jim, & their 2 girls, Matt & Jackie and Meghan) made it to the hospital to surprise Mom with a casual Christmas gathering in the Loyola cafeteria. She was delighted (and the cafeteria employees didn't even seem to mind)!
Coming back to Spain was especially difficult this time. Leaving Chicago without the knowledge of what would happen with my mom was hard enough in August, but now it felt much scarier. However, Bill and I had already decided that Henry and Caroline should be enrolled in public school here and we needed to return to Valencia to ensure a smooth transition for them. They are in school now and are doing very well - we are just so proud of them. In only a month, they are speaking Spanish and are functioning pretty independently. Caroline is pleased to be learning cursive handwriting, and Henry was especially proud of the fact that he, "Actually had a verbal argument with another kid - and didn't need an adult's help!" Daily homework assignments are pushing us all to learn the language faster.
Since we've been back, my mom has been in and out of the hospital - as has my brother, Eddie - so trying to stay focused on what needs to be done here has become a challenge. However, on a much happier note, Matt and Jackie arrived on Friday for a 16 day visit. Tomorrow, we all head to Barcelona for a couple of much anticipated days. Matt and Jackie will head to Venice from Barcelona and will be back here on Wednesday for a few more days before they go home. Perhaps they feel differently, but I think their visit could not have come at a better time!