It’s that day again, the 15th, and we’ve been in Italy 55 days, which is almost two months. We’ve moved again and well… here are fifteen new confessions about living abroad in Italy.
1. We’ve moved again and it feels like we hit the reset button on the whole move. When we first arrived in Italy we were in temporary housing on the Suport Site (SS) until we could find a permanent home. Some people aren’t given the choice of whether they can live on the SS site or off. We didn’t end up having the choice to stay on the SS because there were no 4 bedroom places available at the time. So off the SS we went but not far just an exit over. Although we are close it feels like we are starting from scratch again. Another pack up and another move in. Another routine to settle into which now has to include commute times and bus rides. Another bunch of spaces to fill and attempt to make feel like home. Another neighborhood to break into- only this time they don’t speak your language. And now add to the fact that all your stuff has arrived, but it’s all stuff you’ve done without for months so I feel like “who needs any of this ‘stuff’ just throw it all away.” I jest with Brian except a part of me is serious. Maybe not throw it away completely, but who wants to open box after box of stuff that reminds you of a place you can’t go back to and try to make stuff “fit” in spaces they were never intended or purchased for.
2. Our new house is intimidatingly huge. Even though I may want to throw out our stuff in boxes I haven’t seen in forever, the truth is I can’t afford to because I have a humongous house to fill. I’d play guess how many square feet our house is but you’ll never guess off the bat… it’s taken four or five guesses for those we’ve told… so I’ll save us all time and tell you our house is allegedly 5,694 sq feet. Ridiculous!!! That is more than twice the size of our home in San Diego.
I shared on Facebook that our home has two floors and each floor is like its own complete unit- they each have a full kitchen, living room, laundry room and three beds/ two baths, although the upstairs is smaller than the downstairs. They could rent it as two separate units, but we rented both places within the same house all to ourselves so we wouldn’t have to worry about other tenants in our house. Don’t ask me how we were able to pull that off but it’s within our allowance.
To tell you the truth Brian loved the house and I wasn’t sold on it because of the size. It’s just too big and I feel intimidated to try to turn it into a home without it just feeling stale and like a museum (yes it still echoes in some of the more empty spaces). But with all the other pros combined- close to SS, on a bus route, awesome yard with bike path, fenced pool, in a gated parko, etc. it made itself to the top of our list. Here is a layout sketch I made of our home. I pray the Lord would help us to fill these spaces, not just with stuff, but with people to love and care for.
3. I keep meaning to post more pictures of our home and I promise I’ll get to it. In fact I have like four blog posts I’ve started and can’t seem to finish. I will, but everything in its time. Really what I need to do is get my desk top set up so it doesn’t take me hours to post a blog because of how long it takes me to deal with formatting issues on a smartphone. Keep me accountable.
4. Inspite of having six bedrooms, Elianns room is still the upstairs kitchen. The house is split funky and I don’t want to split the family on two floors for sleeping. Because of that Eliann was given the choice to either share with Lorelei, or we’d make the kitchen upstairs work as her bedroom. She chose not to share so we’ll be converting the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong… Eliann loves her little sister, she just loves uninterrupted sleep too… I don’t blame her. So Lolo gets her own room too.
5. Bigger isn’t always better. I promise it isn’t. Before you think I am woe-ing about a large house consider this… we are freezing cold in my home. Like teeth chattering cold. All. The. Time. Why? Because it is so large that to try and heat it is a joke. Italian homes are essentially made of concrete and marble and lack insulation. We’re getting better at trying to figure out how to get warm but overall it’s just cold. I know it’s technically winter and I’ll probably be so hot come summer, but right now this Southern California girl is struggling with the cold. Other things that fall under the ‘bigger isn’t better’ category is our minivan. Have you tried squeezing a minivan down some of these narrow Italian roads?! It never fails that when I get lost I end up down some sketchy tiny road and I find myself praying fervently that an Italian won’t come zipping by in the opposite direction. Speaking of driving…
6. I speed and blow through stops signs to stay alive. True story. I’m not sure why speed limits and stop signs exist in Italy. I mean seriously no one… NO. ONE. obeys them and if you do you’d be the hazard because no one is expecting you to stop. This is at least true around the freeways which is what I hop on and off of easily from where I live. The speed limit itself is a joke! They mostly read 80 and 100 around me, which would be more realistic if it was in miles per hour, but it’s not. Those signs are in kilometers per hour which equate to only driving 50-60 miles per hours. That’s just dumb and no one drives that slow and if you do you are being honked at and passed all over the place. The fastest posted speed limit I’ve seen was 110 kilometers per hour and that was in Rome.
7. Sightseeing with kids is “interesting.” As you may know we went to Rome last weekend. It was visually amazing and surreal to be in places you’ve only ever seen in pictures. But for the sake of knowledge and culture, sightseeing with kids around Europe will be “interesting.” They technically did fine, but I felt like I learned very little while on the streets of Rome. We couldn’t keep up with tours or stop to read interesting facts. We essentially just took in the sights and then googled everything we saw when we got back to our Airbnb. My plan will be to do the opposite next time. Google first and then visit so that at least I know what I am seeing and can help point out why these places are of historical interest to the kids. Probably my favorite thing we did learn was the street smarts of using public transportation in a metropolitan area. It was crazy, but fun and we felt like we mastered getting around without a car by the end of our trip. The metro, the bus and our own two feet were our best friends… even if it felt like our feet were dying from all the walking on the way back.
8. The water here is sketch. I don’t know what the deal is but I’ve been told not to drink the tap or cook with it. Our landlords (all landlords renting to Americans in town through the base) are required to provide us with bottled water as part of our lease agreement. A certain number of bottles per day per family member. So they deliver you water monthly. I boiled some tap water the other day (just to stay warm in my kitchen…I told you I’m cold) and this is what it looked like after most of the water had been boiled away.
9. I don’t think we drink enough water. Because of all the water bottles! I’m serious they deter me from drinking because my environment saving heart doesn’t want to open more bottles of water to drink. We are polluting the environment one bottle at a time.
10. We’ll be getting a housekeeper. We have about 75€ left in our budget and so tomorrow we’ll be trying a housekeeper for the first time. We hope that she’ll stop by once every other week. Really I just want help with the floors and bathrooms, but this is what I’ve been told about her work from the woman who recommended her (she also has four kids and six bedrooms she uses her help with):
She cleans EVRYTHING!! Dust, mop, vacuume, windows, tidys-up, bathrooms, will do dishes, if you like, also can do ironing, change beds. She’s even offered to wash and vacuum cars before.
We trust her, which is huge!! She has keys to our house, and will be staying to house-sit/ watch dogs and clean over Spring Break.
My furniture and wood doors, cupboards and trim get regularly oiled. My windows hardly have a chance to get dirty! I have her every Friday. I feel a little spoiled!! …I love having time to do other things and not worry about a clean house! Treat yourself, and help someone else!! It’s so worth every penny!!
11. It’s quite an ordeal to go to bed. We have like 30 openings to our house between windows and doors and each one has a separate key to lock up… and we have to lock up to set the alarm. Why is there no master key?! Nope. Instead there are all these little ‘secret garden’ looking keys for all of them. I can hardly wait for Pierce or Lorelei to try and collect them all one day.
12. I LOVED our PWOC Women’s Retreat. I didn’t attend for any other reason than to get out there and meet some new friends. But I was blessed by the speaker, whose name was Margie, and by her husband Robert, whom, no joke called himself the ‘captain of fun’ which is a title I was coined with back in San Diego. Together they have 10 children and the wisdom that flowed from them was refreshing. The setting was lovely and I do recognize so many more women around the SS from that trip. It was also nice that my roommate was my IKEA partner in crime Katie. I’ve been told to consider organizing the retreat for next year, for which I’d totally try to get Pam Farrell out to speak, but I’d have to prayerfully consider the load.
13. My priority right now is my home. As much as I enjoyed retreat and meeting amazing women, I feel like the time for deeper relationships will come, but right now I’m needed at home. So, if you see my post mostly revolving around my family and our home, that is rightfully where I am situated right now. I feel the Lord having pulled me from the busy of community and he’s asked me to refocus my priorities around my home. I moved four kids across the world and right now, only 7 weeks in having just moved again, my job is to help us settle and transition well as a family. Soon enough I’ll be able to focus on furthering friendships I’ve started… but right now it suffices that I attend women’s group once a week, that I went away on a ladies retreat for a weekend and that Brian and I checked out a small group together. Our home is still slowly being pieced together and I need my home front to be strong before I can start investing in others. I am itching to host an event, though, and I think it will be a swap because I keep piling things that I’d like to just donate but I’ve thought that a ‘Ladies Swap Night’ would be a more fun way to get rid of things.
14. I really am going to ‘capsule wardrobe’ my family. I did a trial run with Elianns clothes this weekend and the numbers speak for themselves… we own too many clothes!!! I don’t have the time or energy to be doing what I did in the states with inefficient Italian technology. No thanks! Time to pair down.
This is all 130+ items of Elianns wardrobe that came with us from San Diego (not including underwear and socks). I paired it down to 36 for her early spring wardrobe. I’ll have to share with you how in another post.
15. I am sad to send Pierce to preschool. I know he’s ready and he’s been to preschool before, but here he has to go five days a week to be able to complete an early reader program I know he is ready for. They don’t cover it with the kids who go three days a week like he used to do. Ugh. We’re in a trial period and he is so happy when he gets home. I guess it’s only 9-2:30pm but on the other hand I miss my little and I feel like it’s a lot to send him away for five days a week. He’ll basically being doing that for the rest of his life. So hard to think of letting go.