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.
[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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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).
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.