Category Archives: 15 Confessions on the 15th

15 Confessions on the 15th | March 2016

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

Yes please!!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.