August 14, 2015

Venice with a Friend!

After I got sick and had to sit out a day trip to Venice, Ted and my friend Carla hatched a scheme to get me to be able to experience this lovely city before our move back to the States. The weekend after Easter was really our only option when it came down to the wire, so we grabbed some cheap plane tickets and left Naples EARLY Sunday morning for a girls' trip to remember!

We arrived at our hotel around 9am, and the congenial proprietor allowed us to stash our stuff there early and gave us tips for navigating the city and finding his personal favorite restaurants. We had a full day of exploring, starting right after breakfast! Aaaaahhhhh....caffe e cornetti, how I will miss you!!!


We toured the Grand Canal listening to Rick Steves' audio guide, getting off to explore various places.


Inside the doge's palace. I believe they said this was the largest meeting room in Europe? It could hold 2600 people! Can you see Carla standing waaaaaaaaay over there?!

The palace is in the background to the left; this view is from St. Mark's Cathedral.

After an incredibly yummy dinner, we got to attend a Vivaldi concert with the musicians dressed in period costumes! It was fantastic!

Monday morning we went to the islands of Murano and Burano. I loved the colorful houses on Burano!

See my lovely glass necklace? One of my favorite finds! It came from Murano, famous for their glass-blowing techniques and products.
All too soon we had to head back home, but since our return date happened to be Tobin's 13th birthday, there was still a huge draw to get back to my family! I cherish the time I got to spend with Carla, talking and praying together as well as exploring this amazing, historical city. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to experience it for myself, not just vicariously through Ted's pictures!

August 13, 2015

Last Missoula Performance in Naples

Our kids loved the opportunity to be involved in the Missoula Children's Theater productions during our time in Italy. We had never heard of this group before, but it was a BIG DEAL whenever they came to town! Auditions are held on a Monday morning, with rehearsals running every day until show time, which was Friday night for us. The older 4 kids got to participate in several different shows each, and while sometimes they were disappointed with the roles they got (and occasionally with NOT getting roles), each show was fun and unique and always a good learning experience. The last performance for our crew was "Beauty and the Country Beast." Afterward, as usual, we went out to eat with several families involved in the performance. It was a bittersweet experience at Da Baffone, one of our favorite Italian pizzerias, knowing that we wouldn't be around for the summer performance!

The whole cast and crew! You can see what the directors have to work with! It's really quite amazing that they can coordinate this many kids in such a short time to be prepared for a production that includes singing, choreography, and memorized lines!

Kenna was one of the animals this time, third from the left.

Arden as a cowboy! He always seemed to get roles that included painted-on facial hair, lol.

Charis (in the blue dress) was one of the not-so-nice sisters, a rather out-of-character role for her, but she got to enjoy the rehearsals with several of her friends, which always made for good fun.

Tobin--the only boy not in costume--was an assistant director this time and enjoyed having a different role in the production.

July 18, 2015

Easter 2015

In addition to our annual Easter cookie-making and Resurrection Eggs traditions, this year we enjoyed celebrating a Seder supper with our church family, led by our friends the K family, who celebrates annually because Carla is Jewish. It was the first experience for most of the folks within the Il Faro church community, and the first for our own kids as well, although Ted and I had participated in several Passover or Seder suppers earlier in our marriage. It was a meaningful, special evening shared with our church family the Thursday before Easter.

On Easter Sunday, we had a lovely service at church and then spent most of the afternoon at a wonderful Italian restaurant built over ancient ruins--the floor in the main dining area is glass so that you can look down on stones, walls, or pathways from centuries ago! The food, served in multiple courses, was amazing, and it was wonderful to fellowship with other families from church and not have to cook or clean up, lol.

Easter cookies

Ted played bass with the praise team that morning.

The boys' table!

Me with my dear friend and ministry partner, Joyce

Ted and I have a thing with kissing-under-arches pictures. :-)

July 17, 2015

End of March 2015 Highlights

So I've already posted a couple of March highlights...the ones with lots of pictures, lol. We finished the month with Lucan's 6th birthday and a PWOC ladies' retreat in Formia, Italy. I know I have more pictures of both of these events, but I think they are still on my phone, which is upstairs...and since I am writing this 2 days after giving birth, I am not inclined to run upstairs and get the phone at this point! But I am motivated to catch up on blogging so I can be sure to chronicle our recent highlights!! And if you are on Facebook, you will have already seen what we've been up to, anyway, but meanwhile...I have to keep plugging away here, because I prefer to organize things chronologically!

We had a simple party for Lucan at one of the playgrounds at the Support Site, inviting friends to join us for play time and a picnic lunch. We brought cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches to share. Since Lucan's actual birthday was the day that Charis and I left with the PWOC ladies for our weekend retreat, we had our family celebration the evening before. Ted met us at the playground and we swapped vehicles and kids, and Charis and I enjoyed two nights away with both old and new friends in a gorgeous hotel in Formia.

Happy 6th Birthday, Lucan!

That's Charis running along the rocks!

Carla and I roomed together, and our three daughters had a room together as well. What a fun time! Our speaker was so very good...each session was just wonderful. She spoke on various women in the Bible and was just so passionate about God's Word, it was infectious. We enjoyed small group times as well as wonderful meals and time to visit. The weather was beautiful, and the whole experience was a blessing. It was hard to believe that it was a year ago at our last ladies' retreat when we heard the awful news that Chaplain Keith had suddenly passed away...

Boys' Trip to France

Another highlight for March 2015 was the long weekend trip Ted took with Tobin and Arden to France! While we had hoped/planned to do a huge family road trip encompassing Normandy and Paris among other places, that dream burst when the transmission on our Suburban died last summer. We waited 100 days for the repairs to be complete, but the added expense of the part having to be shipped overseas, plus the lost time, made us realize that we were going to have to revamp our plans. So instead of all of us going, we decided to let Ted take the older boys to share some quality time and make some great memories. What an opportunity for homeschooling history buffs!

The boys flew to Paris the Thursday before Ted's birthday and drove a rental car to Bayeux. They got to see the Bayeux Tapestry--amazing!! Then Friday they spent touring various places around Normandy. While I'm definitely bummed that I didn't get to go, I know this trip meant so much more to Ted, being such a history lover, and I'm thankful he had the chance to share the experience with our older boys. Friday evening they drove back to Paris so they could be ready for a full schedule on Saturday: the palace at Versailles, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. (Don't you think they could have squeezed in a few more stops, lol?!) And then Sunday was travel-home day. I think they got their money's worth out of those plane tickets!!




Arden by the palace of Versailles
The Louvre
Mona Lisa!
Hard Rock Cafe--a dinner worth waiting for!

Tobin and Ted in front of Notre Dame





July 14, 2015

The Caves at Pertosa

One of our spring outings was to a natural wonder within 100 miles of our home in Italy: Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta. Some friends of ours had recommended it as a good family trip, so we reserved a time with an English-speaking tour guide, packed a picnic lunch, and headed out for the day.

It was fairly cool underground, but not overly so; still, it was good we had jackets! Not only did we get to see some fantastic stalactites and stalagmites, but we also got to ride in a boat through a good-sized portion of the caves! Tobin especially liked that part and took a turn pulling us through on the ropes just like our tour guide was doing.

After our tour, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the grounds and then headed home. A fun adventure for the whole family!






July 13, 2015

Kenna Turns 8!

Another highlight from February was Kenna's 8th birthday! She wanted a Frozen birthday party (not surprising), so we obliged with a gorgeous cake by our friend Titti and games like "Pin the carrot nose on Olaf" and "Make your own Olaf" (racing to unroll a roll of toilet paper around a volunteer "snowman"). Kenna enjoyed having a number of her friends attend the party at our house, and later that evening we had our family gift-giving time, with her present from Mom and Dad being a dirndl from Germany that we had purchased when we were there earlier in the month. We got it a little big, so hopefully she can wear it for a few years, at least!

Beautiful, silly, fun friends!

Happy birthday to our girl!!

Crocheted mermaid doll from Charis

Loom knitting book from the brothers

She loved the dirndl that Charis and our friend Shauna picked out in Garmisch!

July 12, 2015

February 2015 Road Trip: Venice & Germany

Road trip! First we drove to Aviano AB in northern Italy, first stopping by the port where our cruise from which our cruise had departed so we could collect my toiletries/jewelry chest that we had inadvertently left behind. Praise God it was intact! That was the good news...the bad news was that I was getting hit with a horrible stomach bug that wiped me out for 5 out of the 7 days of our vacation. I missed getting to see Venice with Ted and the kids. Tobin actually wasn't feeling great either, so he and Arden opted to stay with me in the TLF to help keep an eye on Seanin, since I was in no condition to really care for a baby, but it would have been difficult for Ted to navigate the train and all the walking with ALL of the little boys. The Venice travelers had a great day, and it was fun to see their pictures when they returned! It was the first day of Carnivale, so there were some interesting costumes!

Carnivale costumes in San Marco Piazza

It was a beautiful, sunny day, but very chilly! Charis and Lucan pose on a bridge overlooking the Grand Canal.

Zaden and Lucan and a lion...close to St. Mark's.

It was a "stretch," but Ted made it to the top!

This was a street...with a name...and addresses...and even Kenna could touch both sides!
The next day we drove to Garmisch, Germany, to stay at the Edelweiss Lodge. Somehow I had mixed up my dates (I had made the reservation nearly a year previously!), and our room wasn't actually reserved until starting the next night. Thankfully, they were able to find us a comparable suite, but it did involve me having to move everything out of one location and into the next the following day, with my stomach still giving me issues while I was watching little boys while Ted and the older kids went skiing/snowboarding. Ah, well...being sick in a resort in Germany is better than being sick at home...I guess?!

Since we had planned this part of our vacation to meet up with a couple of families from Naples, it actually WAS better than being at home! I was thankful to be able to rest and just hang out with Shauna and Carla at various times, and our kids enjoyed spending time together playing games, watching movies, or swimming.

Tick one off Ted's bucket list: snowboarding the Alps!

Kenna's first time on skis...she loved it!

Charis, Jasmine, and Faith in the hotel pool

Tobin and Zaden
I spent parts of my sick days working on a digital scrapbook album of our marathon adventure/Greece trip, so that was something that was satisfying for me to be able to do, and I did enjoy being in the lodge looking out over the beautiful snowy scenery outside! The last couple of days I felt well enough to leave the room for a couple of outings. One was a dinner date with Ted at the restaurant we had enjoyed during our previous visit. It was during this meal that I learned German meat loaf is, in fact, a large hunk of what looks like fried Spam. *shudder* Thankfully the soup, potatoes, sauerkraut, and apple strudel for dessert was more than enough to fill me up!

For one of the days, the B family and we drove to Dachau to tour the concentration camp, a difficult but (I think) important experience. The younger kids were young enough that things pretty much went over their heads...they weren't too happy about walking around the outside portion, as it was bitterly cold despite the sun. But the museum part was at least warm, although definitely sobering and sad. It's hard to imagine such unspeakable cruelty...and yet so many forms of injustice and oppression still exist all over the world. A good reminder for us to "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute" (Proverbs 31:8).

Walking through the entrance/guard house

A reconstructed bunker...hard to imagine how many bodies would have had to share this space for sleeping.



On a happier note, Ted decided to spend our last full day in Germany taking the kids sledding so that the non-skiers could enjoy some snow time! I stayed in the lodge with Seanin and was perfectly happy with that arrangement, but I'm so glad the kids got to enjoy the day on the mountain with Dad!

Tobin!

Lucan!

Charis & Zaden!

Time for hot drinks!!