Monthly Archives: February 2016

15 Confessions on the 15th | February 2016

Before moving to Italy, I had done all kinds of research and read a ton of blogs on living abroad. Our friend, Cherie, turned me on to one of my favorite blogs by Stephanie Howell. Stephanie is a crafty Mom to five little girls living it Northern Italy on military orders. I love everything she writes about… Italy, crafts, lots of kids… I can relate.

Anywho, I mention her because one of her first posts I came across was her “15 Confessions on the 15th.” I loved the idea so much and I’ve loved her confessions ever since. Not because they are juicy secrets, but because I feel like you get a more well rounded sneak peak into their lives… beyond the travel, crafts and cute kids.

In my mind I said I would play along when I got to Italy… and here we are on the first 15th of our Italian journey. In no particular order here is my first “15 Confessions on the 15th.”

1.This still doesn’t feel real. I’m not sure when it will, but it doesn’t. I still feel like we’re just on vaca or extended leave and any minute we’ll pack up and go home. The last time I felt this way was a month after our first baby was born. We were still in college and so used to doing homework, completing projects and finishing quarters that a month into our parenting journey we wanted to say, ‘Okay we did it! She’s still alive! Where do we turn her in? Did we pass?’ Only… she wasn’t another project we could turn in. No one would give us a grade and tell us we passed, or worse, we failed. She was just our responsibility now and a new reality of our everyday life. Still waiting for that reality to set in about our new life in Italy.

image [Since we didn’t turn Eliann in, here she is with us on our first Valentine’s date post baby. It was rescheduled a little after real Valentine’s Day and my college roommates watched Eliann for the night so we could go out. Hi Mollie, Caitlin and Jenny! Remember this night?!]

2. I like not having anything to do or anywhere to be. Well, for now. It’s kind of nice not being overly accountable or involved in things. Yes we are still in ‘survival mode’ so this time doesn’t really count, but it’s still nice to feel like we can just breathe and transition in slowly.

3. I’m not sure how I feel about being unemployed. I know I just said I like not having anything to do, but in the long haul that isn’t true of me. When I watched Brian fill in the ‘unemployed’ bubble for his spouse, it hurt. What will I have to show for my day? What will I do with my time? A constant internal struggle I face because clearly keeping a home and four kids thriving is not enough. Maybe if I hadn’t just left my dream job it’d be easier, but I loved my job. I’ve been praying the Lord would help me find joy and contentment in my roll as a wife and mother and homemaker. My worth isn’t tied to any job and I am blessed to be able to be home during this time of transition. It’s just hard… for me.

image

4. I watch TV with the littles until 10am. Why not? I get the biggies off to school and then snuggle with Piercey until Lorelei gets up and then the three of us get breakfast and watch shows until 10am. I am well versed in what is happening with Shimer and Shine, the Little Charmers and Bubble Guppies. It’s charm-azing and a freedom I haven’t been able to enjoy with my kids for a while now. Mr. Grouper from Bubble Guppies is my favorite… his ‘What time is it?’ and ‘Outside’ are my jams.

image

5. I forget how to cook like every other day. Anybody? I swear any time I take a couple of days off from cooking I feel like I have no idea what I’ve ever cooked in my entire life. I’ve been married for 9.5 years and we haven’t starved yet so… what on earth am I making for dinner tonight?!

6. I almost broke down and cried at IKEA. This is a whole story so if you’d rather skip it we can just say I almost cried because of how overwhelming it was. But if you want the whole story…

So I had the great idea of going to IKEA last Saturday. It would get us out, we could window shop for things we might need for our new house and best of all the big kids could play and be watched for free while we strolled around because it’s IKEA. It was going to be great!

WRONG.

I totally forgot we don’t speak the language, or have the right currency on hand and they have ‘riposo’ a little midday siesta. Not to mention every single person I’ve shared this story with stops me as soon as I mention when I went, “Oh! Never go to IKEA on a Saturday.” Well thanks.

It was packed which doesn’t necessarily bother me but it meant no one person could be assigned to help the dumb Americans who had no idea what they were doing. Just checking in the kids took over a half hour because we had to fill out an Italian form and for the life of us we couldn’t figure out which number, “your number,” we needed other then a cell phone number. Any English they knew was short and to the point and I couldn’t get much more than what they’d give.

After a lot of pantomime and investigating  it turns out she meant a form of identification and a number off of it so they could match it up when we pick up the kids. So we gave them our drivers license number. Okay? “Okay.”

Great! We help the kids take off their shoes. “No. They need socks.” To which I laugh at this not so funny joke because I see she sees the kids have socks on. Oh… Oh… they need “special” IKEA socks with grippers on the bottom that she is showing me on her feet. You’re kidding. Nope not kidding and they were a euro a pair. Thank God Brian had euro bills on hand. “No. You don’t pay. Go to the machine.”

Well it’s literally a gum ball dispenser of socks but lo and behold it only takes euro coins which we didn’t have. With all the people around how easy would it have been to say, ‘Anyone have change for a five?‘ Ha! Silly me they are all Italians. And I’d look at people and I’d swear they’d speak English and then they couldn’t. So I ditch Brian and the kids and thought surely at a register they’d give me change. No. No change because I haven’t bought anything.

I catch the eye of a guard on duty and thought I’ll try to ask him. He immediately gives me the I-don’t-speak-English smirk, but I try anyway. Amidst the waving of the euro bill and my guesstures worthy performance of breaking the bill into change he says, “Ahh… cambiamento!” Yes! Cambiamento! Like ‘cambio’ in Spanish. Duh! I should try speaking Spanish more often and assume they’ll get it. Well he says, “Sorry. You buy first.” Ugh!! I just need three coins. He sees I’m desperate and walks me to a vending machine. “You buy and cambiamento.” Ohhh! Good thinking  gaurd. I’ll buy something from the vending machine and get change. It worked! I have change.

All of this to say that our IKEA trip was a lot of work, the hour we had without the kids flew by and we didn’t even buy anything! I lost Brian and the kids towards the end in the labyrinth that is the IKEA maze and I almost broke down. Brian took on a machine that allowed you to order food in English and I sat upset not really eating.

At the tale end of our visit a woman eating near us smiles at me and says, “Hi Marghee… look at you out at IKEA already.” At least that’s what I think I remember her saying since it’s all a blur now. I say hi and turn to Brian to say I couldn’t remember where I knew her from. It didn’t matter really because she was an IKEA angel speaking in a language I understood. Thankfully she and her husband came over and she explained that I knew her from PWOC. Ohhh right… she was one of the greeters. Well this brief interaction with them, their assurance that it is hard but it gets easier and their explanation of how we should never come to IKEA on Saturday stopped me from full on crying in that food court that evening. Thanks Angela.

7. I started attending PWOC (pronounced P-WoK). It stands for Protestant Women of the Church which just sounds awfully stuffy and long so I’ll stick to calling it PWOC. It’s a women’s group with bible study type opportunities and childcare whoop-whoop!  It reminds me of Women of Joy at SMCC only its Tuesday’s 9-11:30am. There is large group time at the front end with worship and a message then we split into smaller groups and individual studies. I am in a smaller group with about 15 ladies going through the book Lies Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss. I’ve heard great things about the book so I’m excited.

I had the opportunity to help the group compete in a table decorating contest for a special Valrntines program last week and it felt great to be crafty and win!

imageimage

8. My feet are so cold. These Italian floors are terribly cold. I miss carpet around my bed and my couches. Socks and shoes suffocate my feet.

9. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that on the Support Site everyone has been so friendly and helpful. Either we’ve just had great luck or everyone here bands together because we’re all in the same boat. Every person we strike up conversation with has a story to tell and friendly advice to give. It’s been really nice and I love meeting people who are from or have been stationed in San Diego because we all miss it.

10. Conversions are driving me crazy. Like I need more work to do, but everyday all day something has to be converted. Whether it’s dollars to euros, the temperature on my oven from Fahrenheit to Celsius, the speed limit from miles to kilometers, even the time… I mean I know I’m with the military but 4 o’clock is so much easier on my brain then pausing entirely too long to figure out what 16:00 hours means.

11. My body feels stiff. I’m itching to move more. I wish I had the opportunity to dance. Even simple stretches are starting to hurt… and come on I’m only 27 (you shush!). I was excited to check out a teen/adult jazz class on the Support Site but when I showed up there was no class. Turned out it was an old flyer. I was pretty bummed.

image

12. I am obsessed with the Adelle “Hello” parody. You know the one. I hum it all day and break into “Krispy Kreme gives me liiiiiiife,” all the time. You guys I can picture an awesome modern dance routine to that song so if I get the opportunity I’m going to choreograph that dance for sure (to the parody version of course).

image

13. Meeting new people and thinking through making new friends is exhausting… and I’m an extrovert! It takes work and effort and vulnerability to build relationships and I’d forgotten how much work that can be. We’ve been so blessed to be comfortably surrounded by community for so long. It wasn’t always the case, we helped build that community and we value it so much that we’ll have to kick it into gear to build that around ourselves again, but man starting from scratch is a lot.

14. I call the Italian hours of 9am to 2:30pm the dead zone. It’s the time when most everyone I know in the world is typically asleep. By about 2:30pm my east coasters and early risers are up but before then it’s dead time here.

15. David is thriving and Eliann is struggling with school. It’s the craziest thing. David loves his teacher and enjoys that his homework doesn’t include book reports. I’m happy to see an emphasis on basics like penmanship, sight words and sentence structure for him. I think he’s transitioning well with the English instruction.

Eliann on the other hand went from being top of her class and having a teacher who loved her to a “strict and mean” teacher according to her classmates and what seems like hours worth of school work every night. She’s broken down in tears a couple of nights over the amount of work and she feels behind. Her new teacher had her take some tests with the rest of the class who were wrapping up their semester and she got a D, C and F. Of course she wasn’t there for any of the units and I feel like the teacher just shouldn’t have graded her work, at least not for her to see because she’s really internalized those grades no matter how much we assure they don’t mean anything. I’m frustrated for her and I’ve already emailed her teacher asking to meet with her about a couple of issues like these. Praying this turns around for her soon because she is such a hard worker who cares about doing well in school.

image

When you don’t stay home and eat corn dogs…

My husband is so funny. 🙄

Now this has nothing to do with the rest of my post but let’s enjoy this funny picture of him trying to take a selfie. 😂 You see he recently got his hands on a smartphone, his first smartphone, and he’s been having fun learning to use it.

imageimage

Now for the record he wasn’t just taking a selfie for no reason. He needed to upload a photo of himself for his Airbnb account to book a stay in Rome and he didn’t have any photos on his phone to use.

He’s been doing okay with the phone so far,  just asking some questions here and there. He even surprised me with a post while he was on his way to work the other day.  Way to go honey!

But then today, I realized that #instabrian could be a problem when he posted this photo on Facebook with the caption:

I don’t want to go out! I just want to stay here, stay in my pajamas and eat a corn dog!

image

Did I actually say those words? The short answer is, yes. But let’s paint the whole picture.

It’s 6:20pm. It’s already dark out and it’s been raining on and off all day.  I ask Brian, “What’s for dinner?” I asked in a I-didn’t-cook-dinner-but-don’t-feel-like-cooking kind of way. He says he doesn’t know?!

Now I’ve cooked dinner every other night this week, so I just wanted something easy. I mention to him there is a frozen pizza or corn dogs in the freezer in a you-should-get-up-and-pop-one-of-those-in-the-oven kind of way. [Am I the only one who tries to communicate in tones to my husband in hopes he gets what I’m hinting at?] To which he says, “We have all kinds of money to spend on food right now and you want to pop something frozen in the oven?”

This is kind of true because we get reimbursed for food while we are living in temporary housing… but it’s late, dark, wet and I am already [still] in my pajamas so that means I would have to get myself and the kids ready to go to out. 😐 See not as fun as it sounds right?!

And he’s not asking me to go out and eat… not really. He’s asking me to juggle a circus while attempting to order food from waiters who don’t really understand what I’m saying and eat food I can’t really even pronounce in hopes my lions, tigers and bears will find something they bring edible. 

The. Struggle. Is. Real.

Enter my quote, “I don’t want to go out! I just want to stay here, stay in my pajamas and eat a corn dog!”

Sometimes corn dogs are just easier. Dare I say we need some corn dogs in our life every now and again.

BUT…

… tonight wouldn’t be a corn dog eating kind of night after all.

His stupid post made me realize how outrageous it would be to stay home instead of go out, especially if it’s free. Besides, that is a slippery slope to becoming an ‘inny’ (introvert). So we got dressed and headed out at 7pm, still early by Italian standards, to have dinner.

We played it safe and headed to a place nearby called the “Country House” that is known to cater more to Americans being so close to the Support Site.

Even though Siri said it was a five minute drive it still took us two u-turns and Brian getting out of the car to ask for directions to find the place. Why can’t we just know where places are and why can’t Italian roads be wider for our giant minivan?

Because we don’t and they can’t.

So this is what happens when you don’t stay home in your pajamas eating corn dogs.

image image image image image image image image image image image image image

You find out your oldest kids are sea food mongers who devour whole plates of mussels and clams… just like Daddy.

You are thankful they all order yucky smelly more adult looking food so you can get away with eating the pizza you “ordered for the littles.”

You learn to bring a sippy cup with you because glass stem wear and soda cans is all they have at these restaurants.

You are thankful to be proven wrong about your crazy circus’ ability to enjoy a sit down meal together even though you yourself still have trouble relaxing.

You are glad your husband is a fat head who forced you to get dressed and get out of the house to start enjoying little doses of Italy.

Baby steps.

[Someone go eat a corn dog for me.]

The Royal Palace at Caserta

We all like freebies, right? Well how about free tickets to over 300 Italian state museums, gardens, monuments and archeological sites? Yes, please!!!

The government initiative called Domenica al museo, or Sunday at the Museum, has been running since July 2014 to encourage people to take more of an interest in the arts. Well you better believe our family will be taking advantage of this awesome initiative!!!

image

Initially we thought we’d be headed to Pompeii first, but after some research we learned Pompeii is not very stroller friendly because of the huge cobblestone walkways. We’ll wait to explore Pompeii when we get access to a baby carrier for Lorelei.

Brian mentioned a palace near by that a co-worker told him about. The reviews online made The Royal Palace at Caserta a must on our Naples Bucket List. It was close (only 17 miles from the Support Site), kid friendly with amazing gardens for them to run around in and it all looked gorgeous!

But I was nervous… although it would be visually gorgeous, how would a palace keep my kids interest? My kids are still little and I only have one confident reader. Hmm… a photo scavenger hunt it is!!!

I looked online at pictures of the palace and came up with a short list for a photo scavenger hunt the kids could complete. If we got a picture of all the items on the list we would get a treat after the palace visit!

The list also helped them get excited about the palace because they couldn’t believe we would see waterfalls, a sea creature spitting water and some of the other items on the list.

imageimage

After packing snacks, our list and our stroller (we knew we’d be walking a lot) we were off!

image image image

When we arrived there was already a line out the door to enter. We were warned online and by friends that on the first Sunday’s free you have to get anywhere  early. I wasn’t keen on Brian’s idea to leave the house at 8am, so we aimed to leave at 10am (which of course meant 10:20am) and we arrived at the palace a little before 11am after parking on the street and walking about half a mile to the front of the palace.

The wait was 10-15 minutes max. My kids can’t get over how many people smoke. Even the vendors will puff smoke all around you.

image

For the record, when we got to the front of the line the Italians asked in their best English, “Apartments only or apartment and parks?” I took that to mean palace only or palace and gardens… which was correct! Well, we wanted to do both. They then explain in half Italian half English that essentially only the palace is free and it still costs money to do the gardens.

Thankfully the gardens were only €5 per adult and kids were free, although you could tell they didn’t anticipate needing to give us four free kids tickets to enter. Ha!

Upon entering the palace we are immediately met with statues and architecture we could not believe.

image image image image image

What are Brian and Lorelei breaking their necks to see?! Oh you know… just this… on the ceiling…

image

Then right next to this is the staircase and atrium of the palace that were used in filming the scenes in the Theed Royal Palace for Star Wars: Episode I and II.

image image image image

Next we wait in another short line to enter the rooms of the palace. The place is so big that even though my kids were running around and making noise while we waited, you honestly couldn’t hear it.

image image image image image

Whats Pierce looking at? Again… a magnificent work of art on the ceiling…

imageimage

Eliann chose this bed for her room… which of your little ladies wants in on that sleepover?!

image

I’m going to pretend this is me and some of my girlfriends (whom I miss) hanging out at the palace!!!

image image

They had rooms dedicated to each season. This crazy chandelier was in the ‘Spring Room’ and the kids thought you would want to see this Grandma Ann.

image

Then amidst all these rooms, there was a Barbie Dream House. We have no idea why it was there because it’s description was in Italian and I didn’t have my Google Translate app handy yet (I do now).  But Eliann got a kick out of it especially since we had this exact house thanks to a hand me down from her friend Gaby.

image

“Maybe the Barbie Dream House was modeled after this palace?” Mmm… don’t think that’s what it said Eliann, but sure!

In terms of volume, the Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest royal residence in the world. At this point we’ve walked one wing of the second floor and have been through at least forty rooms all of which lead into the next and get more extravagant as you go. But there are five floors and 1200 rooms. We would never make it because the kids were already getting squirrelly. Thankfully the whole palace isn’t even open for exploring.

We decide to head out to the gardens for a snack and to find the rest of our photo scavenger hunt items. Have you been keeping track? We’ve already crossed off…

  • A lion.
  • A staircase with more than 20 steps.
  • An angel.
  • A painting in the ceiling.
  • Something made entirely of gold.
  • A chandelier.
  • Two beds.
  • A horse in a painting.
  • A woman holding a baby.
  • Someone wearing a hat.
  • A sword.

… and on the way out one more…

  • A giant seashell.

image

Heading out to the gardens isn’t like ‘oh look, we’re outside and in the garden.’ No, the layout of this place is crazy! You have the palace and then over two miles worth of garden areas with successions of pools, fountains and cascades adorned by large Italian sculptures along the way.

image

But we were determined to get to the back of the garden where the waterfalls start… not before pausing for snacks of course.

image

There are a couple of ways to do this trek. You can walk… you can ride a horse drawn carriage… you can cram into a small bus… or you can rent a bike. We all wanted to ride a bike (of course not possible with the littles) but you can probably guess that we chose the cheapest route and that was to walk… after all running around in the gardens was one of the main reasons I thought the kids would like this.

image

Hey look a couple walking along with us and they are both wearing red shoes!!! Actually we saw quite a few red shoes so this scavenger hunt item didn’t end up being as hard as we thought it would be.

imageimageimage

A purple flower for Lita.

imageimageimage

Once we reached the first pool a new form of entertainment came about. Not only did we find the sea creature spitting water, but it turns out there are numerous waterfalls, fountains and fish you can find in every single pool! The carps varied in size from a few centimetres to a couple of feet and my kids were determined to feed every single one… like a whole box of wheat thins was out the door and in the pools. The water is brought to the gardens via an aqueduct, and it’s pouring down a hill located at the very end of the park which was our end goal.

image image image image image image image image image image

We couldn’t pass up photos with the statues either. #ohbrian

image image image

Oh my goodness… are we still walking?! YES. Were there breakdowns and tears?! Yes… almost exclusively from David whose “legs were dying.” And Lorelei who didn’t want to be in the stroller anymore but was taking forever and at times would walk in the opposite direction so we’d have to retrieve the little #crazylolo!

image image

But we had all the time in the world and the weather was perfect and overcast (perhaps in the heat this would have been the worst idea ever with four kids).

And eventually we made it! What do you get to see when you make it to the end? Now I didn’t take these next two pictures but they capture the essence of ‘WOW’ I want you to take in like we did. There were just too many visitors to get as clean a shot of the whole view.

imageimage

Now here are some of our photos from the back of the gardens.

image image imageimage image image image

The way back was so much quicker than the way up just like we promised the kids. They ran almost the whole way and tossed every single last crumb of the wheat thins to the fish. Lorelei took to the stroller again and napped a little on the way back.

image

Goodbye Royal Palace at Ceserta! Yes we look crazy and Italians stare at us all the time, but at least it’s in amusement and not in horror that we are carting around four little kids on our adventures.

image

PS. We did cross all the items off our list and our treat, to everyone’s surprise, was finding a Burger King to eat at! Yes we literally pulled off the road to see if it would taste like Burger King from back home. We’d give it a 7 out of 10… but we’ll take a burger after all that walking for sure. Don’t judge… we like our American fast food and pulling over for Italian with all the kids is a lot harder and longer than you’d think… but we’ll get there too.

imageimage image image image image image