August 30, 2012

Bullet Highlights of Our Week

  • Monday: Meet & Greet (part of orientation) with the whole family.  Brought the kiddos back to the TLF afterward while Ted endured sat through some fairly informative briefings.
  • Monday afternoon: Ted and the girls went to look at houses with Luisa, who had taken Ted and me out last Friday.  Ted's verdict differed from the girls'!
  • Tuesday:  A homeschool mom generously drove to base and picked up all 6 of our kids and took them to her house for the day so that Ted and I could attend the mandatory safety brief and driving test.  We are officially legal to drive in Italy now!
  • The driving test was a multiple-choice road sign test, 48 questions.  We could only miss 2 and still pass.  It was easy-peasy. :-)
  • While I sat through the anti-terrorism brief, Ted slipped out to meet up with the guy from whom he purchased his "Naples beater car."  They did what they needed to do with the insurance and paperwork stuff, and we now have a vehicle!  (See pic above!)
  • Owning a vehicle = easier to get groceries.  We stocked up before Michelle dropped the kids off after a lovely day of play!
  • We took the kids to a great park that evening after dinner after stopping by the library for a few new books.  
  • Wednesday: We took the older 4 kids to the Intercultural Relations brief, which lasted all day, thinking it would be beneficial for all of us.  It was; the instructor is a native Italian who was very wonderful!  I think he was delighted that we had brought our children. :-)  Arden was less than thrilled, but the other kids did a great job of sitting quietly and listening.  (There were parts we let them read their own thing, and Kenna mostly played with the quiet activities I brought for her.)
  • Highlights of the briefing: general history of Italy; Italian culture; Italian food and wine; various transportation modes around Naples; suggested places to visit/see in the Naples area; how to navigate; protocol for eating out in Italy; etc.  Very helpful!!
  • The younger 2 spent the day in the Child Development Center, since we had received word that there were openings.  First time my kids have ever been in day care...they did fine, though we did have to purchase Zaden some shoes, otherwise they would not have taken him!  This involved walking back and forth TWICE across base--once to pick him up and keep him with us for the hour until the NEX opened, and once to take him back to the CDC (brand new shoes in tow) and then return to the brief.  Grrrr.  His shoes are coming with the rest of our household goods...he isn't walking yet, and I don't really do infant shoes...
  • Thursday morning:  Ted went to the last few briefings while the kids and I did some "school."
  • Thursday afternoon:  We ALL got to go see houses with a different agent.  We LOVED the last house!  We're asking the owner about some specific things, so we'll see what happens!
  • Thursday late afternoon:  The older kids and I got to see Madagascar 3.  Afro circus, Afro circus!

August 26, 2012

Play Day

Saturday morning for me began with an hour-long run around base, a goal I had set when I got back into exercising/running a few weeks ago.  (Thanks, Mimi!)  I'm toying with the idea of running the marathon in Greece in November's way too early to begin training, but getting back into the habit of regular exercise is certainly a good start!  I was able to run 5 out of 6 days this past week, so I feel pretty good about that.

After our morning activities around the TLF, the girls and I walked to the thrift store, which was open for a "bag sale."  We were able to fill a bag for $7!  (The bags they provided were $5, but we brought our own bag which was bigger.)  We got a ton of great stuff.  I scored 4 sleeveless running shirts and a running bra--I had been looking at them in the NEX, and they were anywhere from $30-50 per item, so those alone were worth the effort to walk there and back!  We also got dress shoes for the girls plus an assortment of clothes for just about everyone.  Hooray!

We walked back to the TLF so we could get ready to leave base--WOOHOO!!  I have to say we've all been getting stir crazy around here!  I had been corresponding all week via email and Facebook with a new friend, Tanya, who had gotten my info from somewhere along the way (the Key Spouse here sent out some notes to homeschool families when I had let her know that I'd be looking for homeschool connections).  Tanya offered to come pick the kids and me up and take us to her house for a break from the monotony of being stuck in a 2-bedroom apartment, and I gladly took her up on that!

Before we actually met in person, I learned that Tanya and her husband Clay have 5 children, two of whom they have adopted from China.  She is passionate about her family, adoption, homeschooling, and Jesus.  I was so excited to get to spend time with her!  She had told me that the unit next to theirs had been empty, and she was hoping that we'd love her house (the empty unit is a mirror image of it) and move into it.  After seeing a few houses the day before, I was more than willing to see something else!

We left Zaden with Ted in the TLF, as Tanya only has a minivan, and her husband had to work anyway.  We immediately began talking as if we'd known each other forever--it was wonderful!  She was watching the son and daughter of a friend of hers as well, so Amanda (the mom) was home with the rest of the kids while Tanya chauffeured us from the support site.  We chatted with Amanda before she left to do a Silpada party (she gave me some info on doing home-based businesses here), and then Tanya called to order real Naples pizza for us for lunch!

We visited more while waiting for the pizza.  She gave me a tour of her house, and then we got to go and see the empty unit next door.  It was helpful to see both furnished and empty, as I was able to see what pieces are available from the housing warehouse (items like wardrobes and appliances are loaned out here for the duration of the assignment).  Let me just say...I was SOLD!  The floor plan was amazing--similar to house #2 as far as space, but nicer and newer like house #3 from the day before.  The views were incredible.  The beach is within walking distance.  The parco (that's what they call these duplexes or units or whatever) is double-gated, so the security issue was much better than house #3 (which only had a front gate and then had the problem with the empty lots around it).  Having a Christian homeschooling family as instant neighbors was the icing on the cake!  I took lots of pictures; here are a few.

This is Tanya's kitchen.  Her table is about as big as ours when we have the leaf in to seat 10!

Good-sized room in the basement of the empty house.  Behind the partitions is the laundry area.

Main floor bathroom

Roof balcony!

The street below--the first gate is at the end.  There are 6 units on this street.

The Mediterranean Sea in the distance!
You can probably see why we easily fell in love with the house!  Tanya contacted the agency that is listing it and told them we wanted it, so we set up a time for Ted to come and see it Monday evening.

Tanya and I enjoyed visiting for literally hours.  The kids played very well together.  Corinna is 12, and she and Charis got along fabulously--they are both artsy, creative girls!  Tobin and Arden played with Matthew (10) and Jaden, the boy Tanya was babysitting.  The boys mostly did Wii games, a first since we arrived in Italy!  Kenna happily played with Ada, Jaden's sister, and Carmen (9).  Wren (3) floated around playing with whoever was around, and Lucan happily wandered about watching and playing wherever.

The lunch was fantastic!  We've decided we LOVE Neapolitan pizza!  And there were these salty fried dough balls with seaweed in them called zeppolini--amazing!  She even treated us to the dessert pizza--which is covered with Nutella.  Oh, my!

It was amazing how quickly time passed.  Around 5:30 we loaded up the minivan to come back to our TLF, where Ted had dinner waiting for us.  (Hooray for frozen lasagna!  Ted was able to have a relaxing day, too!)  We learned that Ted's excursion to test drive a commuter car was successful as well, so it looks like we'll be getting a car on Tuesday.  Hooray!

All in all, it was a wonderful, wonderful day.  I feel very blessed to have met Tanya and look forward to getting to know her and her family better in the coming days.

Unfortunately, I awoke this morning to the very sad news that the house we had all fallen in love with and were already envisioning ourselves living in is already under contract.  I literally felt sick to my stomach.  But I know--KNOW--that God has something wonderful for us.  I just pray it will include a Christian family to be our neighbors!!

August 25, 2012

House Hunting

The base housing office gave Ted an appointment for viewing houses...for August 31.  Well, the housing office staff do not have to live in a 2-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor with 6 children!  So Ted called Luisa, who came highly recommended, and scheduled our own appointment.  (This is perfectly acceptable and happens all the time.)

We met Luisa just before 3 p.m. on Friday, a full week before our originally scheduled date with the housing folks.  She is a short, squatty, grandmotherly figure, almost exactly how I would have pictured an Italian grandmama.  When Ted was on the phone with her making the arrangements, I could hear her exclaiming over the fact that we have 6 (SIX!) children.  When he introduced her to me in person, she looked at me in disbelief...or, I should say, she looked at my waistline and asked, "WHERE are the BABIES?!"  She apparently thought I didn't look as though I had had 6 children, ha!  She kept shaking her was flattering, but a bit embarrassing, as she commented on it more than once!

Luisa speaks English fairly well, but with a very strong accent.  She drove us in her dusty little car with, as Ted's dad would have said, "2-80 air conditioning."  (Two windows down going 80 km/hr!)  The first villa we viewed belonged to a friend of hers (or acquaintance, or cousin, or some sort of connection...I totally missed that part), so we got out of her car and into his (which had a car seat in the back, so Luisa and I got really up close and personal).  My view from the back seat of the car was limited, but I could tell that we were zipping around the downtown area very close to the support center--not really an area we are at all interested in living.

So, the fun part about viewing this house was getting to see a typical Italian villa, "city" style!  That said, it definitely is not the place for us.  The kitchen is about as big as our closet was in Ohio, and only slightly less dark.  There are were--FOUR--levels.  Aside from the kitchen, it was a unique and pretty spacious place, really; and there was a nice courtyard where the kids could ride little bikes and play.  The street outside was extremely narrow, and there were houses jammed together all around.  We didn't take any pictures here because we were pretty sure this was NOT the place for us.

The next two places were in Lago Patria, which is very, very close to where the new JFC will be.  At the rate Luisa drove, it took well over half an hour between the support site and the houses.  (For comparison...we drove the same road today with a Navy wife who made it in about 20 minutes!)  It was murderously hot in the back seat, but at least on the highway I got some breeze from the front windows.  (The back ones didn't work.)  The drive took us through mostly agricultural fields, much different from the drive we had made from the Naples airport to the support site.

The second house we saw was enormous!  Really, it had such wonderful potential.  Some of the pros:
* Large kitchen
* Two pizza ovens (one in the kitchen, one in the basement)
* Huge--HUGE!!--bedrooms, at least five
* Lots of balcony space
* Lemon and orange trees in the garden
* Large lot
* HUGE basement

The cons:
* Gray tile and walls all throughout made it feel like a dungeon.
* The outside had peeling paint and just looked run down and sad.
* The courtyard was in horrible condition.  It could be SO beautiful, but we don't have the time, energy, or resources to make it what it could be.  (My friend Debi would be able to work some magic with it, I'm sure!)
* The sweet landlady didn't speak a lick of English!

Still, we were encouraged...there were big houses to be had!

Pressing on, we came to the third and last house we looked at.  What a difference--the outside was freshly painted and very beautiful, and the inside had shiny tile and new paint, so bright and cheery.  There was a beautiful winding staircase with a fun little nook underneath.  There was one large bedroom downstairs, but it is behind the garage (which could actually be another room--it's tiled and quite nice) and not attached to a bathroom.  If we were to be in that house, it would likely be an office/craft room and guest room.

The kitchen is in the process of being updated.  There was a drawing on the wall of how the new kitchen will look, and it looks amazing!  There were four good-sized bedrooms upstairs, but what would be the master bedroom had no attached bathroom.

Still, of the houses we saw, we were pretty pleased with this one.  The owners were there doing work on it, and they spoke some English and seemed very nice.  Aside from some space drawbacks, the biggest concern we had with it is the fact that there is an empty lot beside AND behind it and a long-time empty house across the street.  The location was just not a safe one; we've heard of too many houses being broken into that are next to fields, etc., where there is easy in, easy out access.  We do already know the neighbors--I had met Jamie, the wife/mother, at the homeschool meeting.  We had no idea she lived next door until we saw her and her sons returning from an outing!  So that was nice to know, but we weren't 100% certain that this would be THE house for us.

Here are a few pics of this last house just so you can get an idea of what it's like!

To be continued...

Orientation & Kid Care

Yesterday was the first day of the Area Orientation.  Hannah, a new friend from the homeschool group, arrived at 7:30 in the morning to spend the day with our younger kids.  Hannah isn't actually homeschooling yet; she and her husband of 2 years are in the adoption process, planning to adopt siblings from Ethiopia.  They plan to have biological children later, Lord willing, but are choosing to adopt first.  Anyway, when she was introducing herself at the meeting Wednesday evening, she mentioned that she had nanny experience.  I chatted with her afterward, and lo and behold, she was perfectly willing to help me out as she can during this whole orientation process!  She's a dear--we got to chat more in the evening when all was said and done, and I'm very impressed with her wisdom and maturity.

So anyway, we left Kenna, Lucan, and Zaden in Hannah's very capable hands (she was also watching another little boy Lucan's age, so they were thrilled to have each other for playmates) and took Charis, Tobin, and Arden to the youth center for the last event of the summer.  Because the orientation is mandatory, we didn't have to pay for their activities:  bus ride to Carney Park, the Navy recreation center (on top of an extinct volcano!); games; swimming; pizza.  The younger 3 could have had free care at the Child Development Center, but even though they were put on the waiting list long before we arrived in Italy, they were still numbers 4-6 on the list.

Ted and I bid our older kids goodbye and walked to the theater, all set for a full day of information overload.  About 20 minutes after we began, we were dismissed until after lunch!  That's because Ted is Air Force and did all of his in-processing separately; most of the folks there were Navy and had to do that.  So, we found ourselves with some free time on our hands!  Woohoo!  We made a date of it. :-)  First we went to the housing office to check into things there, looking at a few more rentals online and discussing whether or not we were truly interested in base housing.

See, on Thursday we had gone as a family to look at one of the 4-bedroom units.  I had met a couple of moms at the homeschool meeting who have 5 and 6 kids and live on base.  They described some creative uses of space that made us wonder if maybe we shouldn't give base housing a chance--if we WANTED to, we COULD get it.  The question was...did we want it?!  The kitchens are certainly quite large and spacious, considering; and the bedrooms were a pretty good size.  Since we downsized quite a bit before leaving the States (putting a lot of items in storage as well as selling off bigger things), we decided after seeing Aileen's unit that yes, we could indeed make base housing work.  There are obviously some advantages to that--no bills to worry about, no driving to and from the commissary, walking distance to the chapel and AWANA and Scouting activities (the boys are considering Cub Scouts this year), security. would definitely be tight.  Visitors would make things even tighter.  We decided to keep our options open and continue with our plans to see some rentals later that afternoon, plus keep the appointment we had with a base agent for the week after orientation.

After our visit to the housing office and browsing the computer listings, we wandered through the NEX and the Commissary before hitting the food court for lunch.  After lunch we endured several moderately informative briefings (school, legal, housing) and then slipped out to meet Luisa, a real estate agent recommended to us by one of Ted's co-workers.

Our adventure with Luisa merits its own post, so I'll merely say here that we visited 3 houses, all vastly different, and arrived back on base close to 6 p.m.  Hannah had texted a couple of times letting me know how things were going (she picked the older ones up from the youth center when they returned in the afternoon) and assuring me we should take our time.  I feel so blessed that Ted and I were able to be out for so long and not have to worry about the children!

The back-to-school block party was going on when we got back, so we grabbed some cheeseburgers and chips (given away on a for-donation basis) to take up to the apartment for our family and Hannah.  Her husband plays tuba in the Navy band and has been in Ireland all month!  He returns Sunday.  So, we invited her to stay and have dinner (such as it was) with us, and I enjoyed getting to know her better.  She is so sweet, and I look forward to praying with her as she and "Tuba" (her hubby's nickname, go figure!) go through the adoption process.

We made stove top popcorn after Hannah left (a rather interesting experience with a gas stove, a small pan, and washcloths for hot pads) and watched a movie, then crashed in bed!

Homeschoolers in Naples!

Wednesday evening was the kickoff meeting for the Naples Christian Homeschoolers group.  I was so thankful that we arrived in time for me to attend!  There were maybe 20 or so women there, all in various stages of motherhood and homeschooling efforts.  Some have homeschooled for the duration of their children's schooling, and some have done a mix of public, private, international, and home schooling.  The women in charge of the group are wonderful!  So real and transparent.  I know I can learn a lot from all of the women there, and I look forward to the friendships that not only I will make over the next few years, but also our children and my husband!  I have been praying for Christian fellowship, for godly, like-minded families with whom we can share life and be a blessing to even as we are blessed.  God is so faithful!

We don't know yet what our housing situation will be (more on that in a different post), so we haven't committed to a whole lot yet; the DoD school (Dept. of Defense--the school on base) is very welcoming to homeschool families and allows us to access their library resources as well as participate in any classes we want.  Of course, if it were up to Charis, she would join the "group time" classes (music, art, PE, and host nation)...which would mean going to the school building every. single. day, since the electives are on a two-day schedule.  Same time each day:  2 days of music, 2 days of art, 2 days of PE, 2 days of host nation (Italian language, culture, etc.).  It sounds great...IF we lived on base, and IF I wouldn't have to sign them in and out myself!  But I can't imagine walking to and from the school every day with all 6 children!

I think we'll be content with using the library resources and participating in some of the special events!

The NCH meeting was wonderful for helping me get started with connections.  A new friend, Hannah, was able to come babysit the children yesterday so Ted and I could attend the first day of Area Orientation.  (More on that in a later post.)  And another friend...whom I haven't actually met in person coming to pick the kids and me up in about a half hour to take to her house so we can visit and play and basically escape the monotony of this 2-bedroom apartment!!

All my friends who have been overseas who have raved about the close community feeling...are right!  We already feel so welcome and are more eager than anxious to continue our connections and build relationships.  The children are doing quite well, all things considered, and are excited about meeting new friends.  The family we'll visit today has 5 children--2 boys ages 10 and 6 and 3 girls, ages 12, 9, and 3.

August 22, 2012

Housing & Transportation

Trying to answer some questions we're getting...

So, the good news is that there seems to be a good selection of houses available to rent that are more than decent sized for our bigger family!  Here are a few descriptions...not sure if any of these are still available (the list from the housing office was current as of...19 days ago, sigh):

7 bedroom, 4 bath, garden, pool, 5382 sq. ft.
5 bedroom, 3 bath, pool, 2476 sq. ft.
7 bedroom, 4 bath, garage, 3767 sq. ft.
5 bedroom, 3 bath, duplex, garage, 4844 sq. ft.
6 bedroom, 3 bath, garage, 2900 sq. ft.

So...the dilemma of "will we find a house big enough" seems to be not such a dilemma after all!  All of the above listings are right around the housing allowance.  We will also get a utilities allowance, which is good, because apparently everyone around here knows what kind of money you get FOR housing, and they'll make sure your monthly rent is JUST that amount!  That's fine with me.  I just want a house!  I have no idea yet what our monthly budget will be...we're trying to be conservative until we know for sure what our numbers are.  That's always the tricky thing about moving, because so many little parts of the compensations depend on what area one lives in.  Throw in the "euro factor," and I'm sure it will take me months to figure out what's going on with our finances, LOL.

The housing office wasn't able to set us up with any realtors for house viewing until NEXT Friday, the 31st.  However, Ted did get the business card of a local realtor who has been highly recommended, and he is trying to get a hold of her to see if she is available today or tomorrow.  (Well, by the time I'm writing this, Wednesday is nearly shot.)  He left a message for her's quite possible she's on vacation, since people here apparently take most of August as a holiday.  (Not a bad idea--the heat is overwhelming!  All I want to do is sleep!  And maybe eat more pastries.)

We're anxious to see some houses as soon as possible...but trying to be patient.  We knew coming into this that it would likely be awhile before we would get into our "own" place!

***Update!  Ted just got off the phone with the recommended agent.  Unfortunately, she doesn't have a vehicle that will fit all of us (no surprise, ha), so this time he alone will be going to view some houses.  But the good news is, he'll meet her in 47 hours!!  Woohoo!  He'll take the camera and jot down notes!  Wish I could go, but such is life in a new place!

Next week during Area Orientation Ted and I will be taking our international driver's tests.  Woohoo!  After we have licenses, we'll be able to drive...once we get vehicles, LOL.  Our Suburban is en route and will likely not be here for another month and a half at least.  We can get reimbursed for a rental...BUT...we're not sure what the limit is on that before we'd have to pay the "over and above" amount.  And the amount for a  vehicle large enough for all of us is a hefty $80 per day!

We're also checking out some "beater cars" for Ted to use for commuting to work.  There's a "lemon lot" where there are a number of little cars for just that purpose that people must sell ASAP.  Ted has left a couple of messages, but so far we haven't really connected with anyone.  But thankfully, we have enough in our "new car" fund to be able to pay cash for something--a quick scan of the lot shows that most of them are in our price range.  Hooray!

In the meantime, we're hoofing it all around base!  Thankfully it's not all THAT far to the community center, library, chapel, or even the retail center, where they have a food court, the all-important ice cream/gilato shoppe, the NEX (Navy Exchange--I'm sure we'll be calling it the BX because that's what we're used to!), the commissary, and various little vendor shops.  I've been impressed with how well Lucan especially has taken to walking everywhere.  I'm quite sure some of the other kids would not have done this well at age 3 with all of this walking!

Taking Care of Business

Monday morning I got up bright and early to go running.  I discovered Navy folks preparing for some PT time on the track, so I left there and ended up running the perimeter of the base.  I have no idea how far that is, but I was running for probably 35-45 minutes?  I'm not sure.  I need a Garmin (cough, cough, hint, hint).  It gave me a chance to explore the base a little in the coolness of the morning.

Monday was a "work" day for Ted--he was able to get just about everything done from the in-processing checklist, which was amazing.  Our sponsor has commented multiple times that doing everything in one day is pretty much unheard of.  I credit God's grace!

Meanwhile, the children and I tried to have as "normal" of a day as possible.  School here starts next Monday; our homeschool materials are in our express shipment, due to arrive sometime before our household goods, but who really knows when.  I determined that we would try to have some semblance of a routine day, though, so here's what we did:

  • Woke the kids up and had breakfast at 8.  Might as well force our bodies to be on Italy time!
  • Walked to the playground on the school property for some exercise.
  • Warded off wasps on the attack.  (Fortunately I was the only one stung, and thanks to some tips from a friend, I was able to detox quickly and haven't had any reactions.)
  • Came back to our TLF room; kids journaled about things that are different in Italy and did typing lessons while Zaden napped.  (If you haven't already checked out Charis's blog, I encourage you to stop by!  She'll be posting some of her school journaling/writing assignments as well as sharing her thoughts about life here.)
  • Lunch on our balcony.
  • Down time--reading, games, computer time.
  • Lucan and Zaden napped.
Ted came home shortly before dinner (roast chicken with quinoa pasta and green beans with bacon and onions...not bad, if I do say so myself!).  After we cleaned up, we took a walk to the library (the kids had already read their books from Sunday's checkout!), restocked the library bags, played at a very cool playground just behind the library, then walked to the retail center for some gilato.  Oh, my...the kids and Ted had enjoyed some on Saturday when they went swimming, but this was my first time.  I have to's a good thing I've been running lately!!  This stuff can be addicting!  Way better than ice cream!

Tuesday was our day to go to the NATO headquarters to apply for our sojourners' permits.  These are needed for the kids and me to live in Italy, since we are not on military orders.  Ted's sponsor, Maj. M, and "Swiss," another co-worker (both of whom had seen us here from the airport), drove our family downtown.  I loved riding with Maj. M, who is originally from Puerto Rico and is a huge history buff.  Listening to him was like being with a tour guide!  Ironically, he told me about how the Italians love to talk...when it was quite clear that he is the same way, LOL.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the area, the country, and this continent from his perspective.  He and his wife have traveled extensively, and I know he'll be a great resource.  He is excited that we are a homeschooling family (he was very impressed that Charis knew Mt. Vesuvius!) and enjoy history like he does.  I think he and Ted will hit it off very well.  It's a shame that he's due to PCS in only 6 months!

I WISH I had taken the camera to get pics of the NATO headquarters, but I'll have to have Ted do that sometime for us.  He'll only be working there a few months; the building has quite a history but is currently being rented for 1 million euros per month!  The headquarters will move to a new location supposedly in January.  (This has been a work in progress for a decade or more.)  

The Italian who helped us with the whole permit process was very kind.  I tried having him teach me a few words in Italian, though I'm not sure I remember them all.  (Mano is hand!  Learned that when I was fingerprinted!)  The kids did very well in the small waiting room.  Zaden made things more exciting by pooping just before I was to be fingerprinted.  Of course there are no baby changing tables in the bathrooms, so we made do with some paper towels on the floor, sigh.  

We got to go up and see Ted's office--the first time I've seen his work place since...maybe Mountain Home?!  Everyone we met was so friendly.  I think this is going to be an amazing experience for Ted.  We headed back to the TLF after that.  The drive isn't terribly far, but the traffic makes or breaks it as far as time spent traveling.  August is a holiday month, so we breezed along quickly.  I could have just spent all day staring out the window--so fascinating!  So many people apologize for Naples being...Naples, what with the trash and the terrible drivers and all.  But I'm just so thrilled to be here that it honestly doesn't matter!  I love taking everything in, and I hope the kids do, too.  I really, really hope they gain an appreciation for the fact that very few Americans will have opportunities like this.

Maj. M was kind enough to drive me to the commissary upon our return so I could pick up some more milk and a few other groceries.  (We are consuming bottled water at an alarming rate!  The water here is not fit to drink at all--in fact, it smells like a swimming pool any time you turn the tap on.)  We had a makeshift taco dinner (no taco seasoning, sigh) and got everyone to bed a bit earlier since we were hot, tired, and rather grumpy!  Some game time and family devotions helped, and then lights were out for all of us by 9 p.m.!

Here are some pictures of the older kids trying to get Zaden to enjoy slides--he was not particularly thrilled!

August 21, 2012

First Weekend

After a rough time getting to sleep Friday night, we awoke feeling pretty refreshed Saturday morning.  But surely Ted's watch had COULDN'T be 10:40 a.m.?!  Oh, but it was.  Silly room-darkening shades!  Why didn't we set an alarm?!  We could have overcome jet lag much more quickly if we had arisen a couple of hours earlier.  Ah, well.

I took my first run after brunch.  Not the wisest thing I've ever done--the heat and humidity were killer!  I managed to make it 2 miles on the high school track before coming back to the much cooler TLF unit.  It made the otherwise inadequate air conditioning feel wondrous, though!  After we fed the crew, I put Zaden down for an afternoon nap, and Ted took the rest of the kiddos to the pool.  I wrote on my blog and enjoyed the peace and quiet. :-)

We got everyone to bed at a much more decent hour...but Ted and I had a horrible time getting to sleep.  Kind of hard to feel sleepy when you sleep until nearly 11 in the morning!  We ended up watching two episodes of Downton Abbey--it was almost like having a real date night, LOL.  (Aside from the giggling kids who obviously were as un-sleepy as we were!)

Sunday morning we managed to peel our eyes open in plenty of time to get ready for church--more than enough time, as we realized later in the morning when the computers told us the REAL time was different from the alarm clock time!  At least we had extra minutes on our side rather than trying to rush everyone out the door!  We walked to the base chapel...we were nearly the first ones there, aside from the praise team.  (That tells you how early we woke up, ha!)  We met the chaplain and a few other folks before the service began.  We were able to take Lucan and Zaden to their own rooms; Kenna was dismissed after the singing and fellowship time to go with other 4 and 5-year-olds.  The older three remained with us.  I have to confess I really like the idea of having them with us during the service!  Since they don't attend school, they have few opportunities to learn how to sit still and absorb information...our homeschool style is much more laid back than what I grew up with in a school setting, so I do believe this is an important skill, especially in our media-saturated society.

The message was a good one--joy, peace, and financial wisdom from Philippians 4.  Ted and I were pleased with the non-generic approach!  He has been in military services that are pretty vanilla and said that this one was more along the lines of the good teaching he heard at the Kandahar chapel.  There were maybe 150 people there altogether.  So, quite a bit different for us, but we really enjoyed it and look forward to returning.  They have an AWANA program and ladies' Bible studies and a lot of opportunities.  We are thanking the Lord for a strong Christian community here in Naples.

We had a leisurely afternoon that included Ted taking the kids to the library (more peace and quiet for me!), which made them very happy, as they were already starting to get a bit bored with life in the TLF.  (We returned the books a mere 24 hours later...the limit is 15 items PER FAMILY!!)

In the evening we had a time of family prayer, going through each room in our unit and taking turns praying for each other and for our "home" and our time in Italy.  That night was the best night of sleep we've all had in a very, very long time. :-)

All in all, a pleasant weekend together as a family!

August 20, 2012

Upon Our Arrival

As I mentioned in my previous post, it took three vehicles to get our family and all our luggage from the airport to the Support Center, where we are currently living in temporary quarters at the Navy Lodge.  My first impression of Naples?  Hot!  And humid!  It wasn't surprising to see palm trees and green (oh, beautiful green!) landscape.  With climate like this, and a location along the coast, it's easy to see the appeal for tourists.  The drive to the Support Center didn't take long but was enough for LtCol L (Ted's new boss) to give me some tips on driving in Italy:
  1. Don't drive like an American.
  2. Behind the side mirrors doesn't exist for Italian drivers--if someone merges or cuts in front of you, YIELD!  (That's the law, too, by the way!)
  3. Some drivers prefer to stay over the dotted line, rather than picking a lane.
  4. Flashing lights behind someone who is going slower than you want to go is the best way to communicate your intentions.
  5. If that doesn't work, honk.
  6. If flashed or honked at, move over!
  7. Speed limits are more like suggestions...keep up with traffic and you should be all right.  Speeding tickets seem to be pretty rare--and Italian drivers prove they aren't too concerned about that!
The base where we are at is at once familiar and strange.  I'm not sure how much of that is because it's a Navy base and how much is because we're overseas.  We're in the minority here in more ways than one!  And that's fine with me.  What a great learning opportunity for us all!

The clear, sunny weather allows a good view of Mt. Vesuvius as well as other rambling mountains.  We're anxious to start exploring our surroundings, but we must be patient!

Other observations from the drive to base:  they weren't kidding when they said Naples has a trash problem!  "The Crying Indian" from the "Don't Litter" campaign years ago would be sobbing if he saw this place!  The dumpsters have yet to be emptied since we arrived on Thursday, and they are already overflowing.  I'm sure we haven't even seen the worst of it yet!

Pets/animals seem to roam at will...we've seen unattended cats here on base and dogs running amok outside the perimeter of the base.  It makes me a tad bit nervous about going running once we get our own house outside the safety of the base fence, but I guess we'll see where we end up and what it's like.

When we finally stumbled up the stairs to our 3rd story apartment ("home" for the next ___? weeks), we had the opportunity to meet Dawn (Col. L's wife) and their boys Josh and Jacob.  Dawn had thoughtfully stocked our fridge and pantry with a number of helpful items, to include milk, cereal, lunch meat, cheese, bread, peanut butter, jelly, snacks, French toast sticks, orange juice, fruit cups, water bottles, and...

...this amazing concoction of sugary goodness!  Since Ted's sponsor, Maj. M, ordered 5 ginormous pizzas for us to eat as soon as we arrived (and again for dinner later that evening), we saved this tray to surprise the kids with at breakfast, since it was packaged neatly and left in the refrigerator.

Oops...I confused the kids...Arden and Lucan thought we were going to pray first!  Lord, bless this sugary bliss...somehow...some the nourishment of our bodies!  Let the feeding frenzy begin!
If I remember correctly, we slept until nearly 8 a.m. (Italian time) Friday morning. Ted was gone for a little while to do some in-processing stuff, and then we had the rest of the day together.  While he was out, I walked with the kids to the play area behind the elementary school, which is just across the street from where we are staying.  I figured it would be good for us all to get some sun and exercise to help with jet lag.  I took a nap for about an hour and a half after lunch (more leftover pizza--those suckers were HUGE!) because I just could not keep myself awake any longer.  Then, we left Charis in charge to babysit the little ones (Zaden was napping and Kenna and Lucan watched a movie--easy job for her!) while the older boys and Ted and I went with Dawn to the retail center.  Dawn had graciously offered to drive us to and from the commissary so we could do our stock-up shopping trip.  I had attempted to make a shopping list before my nap, but my befuddled brain couldn't really get past "eggs, cheese, milk, and bread."  Plus, I had no idea what to expect would be available!

So, the first unique thing about shopping here is that you have to put a euro in the cart to unlock it from the chain of other grocery carts.  It stays in the slot until you return the cart, and then you get the euro back.  Dawn loaned me a coin to use, as we only have American money still, plus a plethora of commissary reusable shopping bags.  She left to do other errands, and Ted took the boys to get haircuts while I began taking in the new location!  

We'll definitely want to get most of our produce at Italian markets--much cheaper.  We've heard great things about local markets, so hooray for that.  I got a few things to get us going.  Note to self:  Check grapes before purchasing!  Small does not necessarily mean seedless!  Sigh!  The produce selection was definitely limited, so I'm already looking forward to exploring local shopping options.

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the overall selection.  Obviously it's a lot smaller than the Wright-Patt commissary, for example.  And I did have sticker shock on a number of items.  (Ted reminded me that's why we will be getting COLA [cost of living allowance ] while we're here!)  I was told that we definitely want to purchase our meat on base, but I wasn't thrilled to have to get Tyson I gladly took a whole chicken that had a sticker on it indicating it was from an Italian farm. :-)  Since there is no Dorothy Lane Market or Trader Joe's here, this looks to be the best I can do for now!

Thankfully we have lots of children to help carry our many groceries up all those stairs!  We'll have to plan carefully, as the refrigerator is WAY smaller than an American fridge, and while the kitchen is a reasonable size, there definitely is not the storage space that we've been used to.

For dinner that evening we had a chicken and potato casserole that Dawn had left in the fridge as well--isn't she a gem?!  During our drive to and from the commissary that afternoon I found out that she is involved in the Protestant Women of the Chapel group and that her family attends the contemporary Protestant worship service at the base chapel Sunday mornings.  What a blessing to meet another believer so soon!  I pray we can show such gracious hospitality to newcomers in the future...once we get past our own newcomer status!

We herded everyone into bed at a reasonable time, hoping to get our bodies on track.  Zaden and Lucan seemed to be doing pretty well, but the rest of us were definitely getting grumpy and snappy!  After several false starts (i.e. interruptions by children), Ted and I finally fell asleep around 1:30 a.m.  Ugh!

August 19, 2012

Goodbye, USA!

August 15, 2012

Our long day o' travel began bright and early after a rough night of sleep.  Zaden even woke up earlier than usual, at 5:30 a.m.  The other kids were still sound asleep, so Ted took Zaden to get breakfast, then came back to finish packing and let Zaden get a nap while I took the other 5 kiddos to fill our bellies.  The hotel shuttle was ready for us before 9:30, and we loaded all our stuff up and made the quick trip to the St. Louis airport.

Here we are with all our bags!  Not bad for 8 people!
We managed to get all of our bags inside to check in without too much drama.  Total items checked:  10--four suitcases, 2 duffle bags, 3 booster seats, and 1 car seat.  Praise the Lord, we were able to check our items all the way to Naples!  We had plenty of time to get through security and find our gate, where we made some last phone calls and had a pizza lunch before boarding.

The first flight went quite smoothly.  Zaden was starting to get a little overstimulated, as he was awakened at 9:30 a.m. from a sound sleep and this flight didn't begin until 1 p.m.  But he managed to stay pretty happy during the 1.5 hour flight, thankfully.

Zaden, Kenna, and Lucan's first flight!  (Oh, and "Doof Dog's" first flight, too, LOL!)
We took our time getting off in Atlanta, since we were at the very back of the aircraft and had plenty of time to get to our gate for the international flight.  We even rode a little train to get to the next concourse, which made Lucan exclaim quite a bit!  It wasn't terribly long before we boarded; we passed the time in the airport by letting Lucan walk to the windows to watch planes taking off.  Our seats were in the middle of the aircraft, so we had two rows of 4 seats, one in front of the other.  It worked out very well.  I sat in the back of our two rows, with Zaden beside me, then Charis, then Lucan.  Ted sat in front of Lucan, knowing that he would be prone to kick the seat in front of him and figuring it would be better if he kicked someone he knew rather than someone he didn't!  Kenna sat next to Ted, and then Tobin and Arden.

Charis was such a help with the little boys!
Unfortunately, we experienced a lot of turbulence at the beginning of the flight, which meant that our dinner serving time was delayed.  We didn't get food until close to 8:30 p.m., and by that time we had mowed our way through the limited snack supply I had available.  But hey...the airline was Air France, and they DO know how to do food!  It was worth the wait!

Zaden was quite a little trooper.  I thought that, being close to bedtime with no nap since early morning, he would be ready for dinner, nursing, and SLEEPING.  Nothing could have been further from the truth!  Two sisters sat across the aisle from me, and they were utterly charmed by our little guy and his big, bright eyes!  They were obviously from Atlanta, with their sweet southern accents, and they had a ball watching and exclaiming over everything Zaden did.  It was obvious that he was so, so tired, but he just couldn't give in and get to sleep until at least halfway through our 8-hour flight.  Thankfully, he wasn't terribly loud when he was fussing.  Meanwhile, the older kids enjoyed watching movies on demand (I was thankful they had decent ones to choose from!), and I managed to get through the 2-hour movie Hugo in about 3.5 hours with all the interruptions.  FINALLY most of us fell asleep for at least a couple of hours...

...and at least one of us fell asleep for the rest of the flight!

As we approached Paris, we received breakfast (not nearly as good as dinner, but it would have to suffice) and prepared for our next stop, which was going to be a bit of a squeeze for time.  My Atlanta friends held Zaden for a little while and just swooned over the opportunity to cuddle him.  I think he liked having his own little fan club!  I changed him out of his pajamas and into a clean onesie, which was good--the airport in Paris was HOT, and we had to hoof it!

We had a system for maneuvering around the airport:  either Ted or I would lead the pack, and the other would bring up the rear, with all the walking children in between.  I pushed Zaden in an umbrella stroller and carried my backpack (a.k.a. the diaper bag) and large purse.  Ted carried his ginormous backpack and my laptop case.  The older 3 kids had various carry on bags, and Kenna and Lucan each had a rolling backpack that they could pull along behind them.  Lucan took his job very seriously--he gripped Doof Dog in one hand and his rolling bag in the other, and he would NOT let anyone help him with his bag!  The little trooper marched all over the airport, happily catching up to Mom or Dad, whoever was in front at the time, and looking everywhere but right in front of him...sigh!  Thankfully we had lots of older kids to help herd him in the right direction!

We had to go through customs and security all over again, and then we finally made it to our gate with just enough time to zip into the bathrooms and freshen up a bit.  Once more we herded everyone onto the plane, a much smaller aircraft this time, but not super full.  Up to this point everything had gone about as smoothly as possible.  But...and yes, there is a but!...the captain came out several times to make announcements in French and then in English, the gist of which was that there were some mechanical issues that were causing delays.  Thankfully, we did not have to switch to another aircraft (which was mentioned as a possibility at one point), and the issues were resolved, so finally, after two hours of sitting on the ground, we departed.

Once we were in the air and had our snacks, 7 of us promptly fell asleep.  Charis alone was awake to see the wonder of the tops of the Alps peeking through the clouds!  I awoke as we were beginning our descent into Naples and was delighted to find the area rather mountainous.  (Not mountainous as in Rocky Mountain National Park, but definitely more than rolling hills!)  We could see Mt. Vesuvius as we made the final descent--so exciting!

We managed to convince Lucan to allow a flight attendant to help him with his bag down the stairs--this was his first time exiting an airplane directly down to the flight line.  He was groggy and grumpy (as were a number of the rest of us, to be honest!), but we finally got him and everyone else going in the right direction.  Our baggage was ready for us to pluck off the conveyor belt almost immediately--thank the Lord that went so smoothly!  As we had no Euros for the push carts, Ted belted all 4 of our suitcases together, piled the duffle bags and a few miscellaneous items on top, and rolled the whole kit and caboodle out the door to where we immediately found our sponsor, Ted's boss, and another co-worker.  Three vehicles were ready and waiting to whisk us to the Naval Support Center, where our temporary living facilities are located.

The whole traveling experience couldn't have gone more smoothly!  Even the two-hour delay in Paris could have been so much more it was, the kids were tired enough that they were just kind of dazed through it all, and Lucan and Zaden stayed more or less content with little activities here and there.

Traveling overseas with children is much different than without!  I think I made it through 2 or 3 magazine articles, plus watched one movie.  Other than that, I was feeding a child, cleaning up after a child, or trying to entertain a child most of my waking hours!  But I am not complaining...I am SO thankful for God's graciousness in allowing the children to be so good-spirited.  We tried preparing them for the experience as much as possible, and for the most part, I think they adapted very well to everything that happened.  They listened and responded very well in the airport as well as in the airplanes, and we give glory to God for His mercy and the numerous compliments we received on how well behaved they were.  (One flight attendant told us that our six children were better behaved than many single children on flights with both parents!)  We can't take credit for this...other than the fact that we covered this whole trip with much prayer, and we're thankful for the many folks who prayed us along our journey as well.

Next report:  First impressions of Naples!

August 17, 2012

Wrapping Up Our Time in the States

I can't say it enough--it was SUCH a blessing to be able to spend time with Mimi and her family before officially moving!  My last post detailed some of our fun times; we finished off our little Kansas vacation with a couple more adventures, to include fishing in the pond near the H's house (Craig took the kids on Monday so we could concentrate on packing!) and eating a yummy Mexican dinner at Mi Ranchito.

The dinner was an...interesting experience!  While I was sitting at the end with the younger kids, trying to help them decide what they were going to order, a waiter set a very full glass of ice water right next to my elbow, unbeknownst to me.  When I turned to ask a question or something or other...wham!  The contents of the cup ended up on my lap and Krystiana's chair!  (But mostly on my lap!)  YOWZA, it was COLD!  Well, it couldn't be helped, so we continued with dinner...queso dip helped take my mind off my soggy lap, and the amazing entree that Ted and I shared was definitely worth the trip.  To top it off, Craig informed our waiter that Zaden was turning one soon, and so we were treated to an enthusiastic seranade complete with ginormous sombrero for Zaden to wear, plus a ginormous dessert that all 8 of our family members sampled!

By the time we had dinner that evening, we were pretty much packed and ready to go.  We had even mailed the "gorilla box" to our Italy address, the giant black container that Ted had mailed from Kandahar with a bunch of his uniforms and items that wouldn't fit in his deployment bags.  Because we did this, we only had 4 suitcases and 2 duffle bags to check for our flight to Naples.  Not bad!

Mimi and I did one last workout together (a 5K run) the morning we left, which was perfect timing, since it was starting to rain as we pulled out of the driveway!  I'm so grateful for the time we had to laugh, cry, talk, and pray together.  Thankfully she is FINALLY on Facebook (tee hee!), so it will be a bit easier to keep up.  It seems weird to think that we can actually keep in touch better with some people now that Facebook exists...but it's true.  As much as I hate that I can get "sucked in" and waste a lot of time online, I also cherish the opportunity to be more of a part of my friends' and families' lives through seeing photos and random fun little updates.

We drove to St. Louis on August 14, arriving in just enough time to check into our hotel and unload the Suburban so that Ted could get it over to the vehicle processing center for shipping overseas.  He took a taxicab back to the hotel, and then we ate dinner (provided for us, since it was a Residence Inn) and got ourselves to bed as quickly as possible.

After a not-so-great night of rest, we got up early and prepared for the next step of our adventure!

...To be continued. :-)

August 11, 2012

Aaaaaaand...Goodbye, Ohio!

The rest of our stay at Great Wolf Lodge was a lot of fun!  We would totally do this again, with more than a one-night stay, if given the opportunity!  Zaden even had a bit of water fun on Wednesday, but he wasn't nearly as thrilled to be wet as the rest of the crew.  Lucan thought he was big stuff, going around and around in his climbing adventure to the smaller of the big waterslides--he needed a bit of help getting out of the end of the chute in a timely fashion, but otherwise he did great on his own!  Ted and I again took turns going back and forth between the littles and the big kids.  Final verdict:  This family gives the Great Wolf Lodge 16 thumbs up!  Here are a few pics from our stay.

We left close to 3 p.m. and headed to St. Louis, where we stayed the night in a Marriott Residence Inn.  Just in time, too, as we experienced a HUGE thunder/lightning storm about an hour after we got everyone to bed.  Thankfully, everyone (but me!) was sound asleep by the time it rolled in, thoroughly exhausted from all the playtime at the water park!

After mowing through an extensive selection at the continental breakfast, we hit the road again, this time to our friends Craig and Mimi's house, where we stayed overnight at the beginning of our Forever Long Road Trip.  Since we only had one short night together then, it has been fun to just hang out together!

We've only been here a couple of days (since Thursday afternoon), but we've packed a lot in already!
  • P90X workouts and morning runs with Mimi!  (Ouch, I'm sore, but I'm motivated to get back into the exercise routine again!)
  • A trip to the Legoland Discovery Center (pics here).
  • Yummy meals, so far to include lasagna and salad, Craig's super bacon cheeseburgers, and some amazing biscuits and gravy!
  • A campfire with s'mores (pics here).
  • An early first birthday celebration for Zaden, since he turns one on August 24 and we'll be in flux!  (Pics here.)
Zaden's little party was so fun.  We kept it simple and picked up an individual little red velvet cake with sprinkles at the grocery store for Zaden to have for his very own get-messy feeding frenzy, then got an ice cream cake from Culver's for the rest of us to eat.  Mimi pulled out some birthday decorations, and in a snap the dining room was ready for a PAR-TAY!!  We had a blast watching Zaden experience his first real sugar rush!  It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since our sweet little guy made an appearance with his daddy halfway around the world!

August 08, 2012

Goodbye, Dayton!

Well, we haven't quite left Ohio, but we are out of Dayton!  Ted officially finished his out processing on Monday, and yesterday morning we packed up our remaining possessions and s-l-o-w-l-y made our way out of Dayton!  We had hoped to leave around 11 a.m.  HA!  Well, after doing the following:

  • Go to post office to mail packages.
  • Get gas.
  • Stop at BX to get Ted swim trunks.
  • Eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A (seeing at least 5-6 families we knew!).
  • Go to library to turn in one last overdue book and pay off our fines.
  • Run the milk bottles to Dorothy Lane Market so we could get our $4.50 back.
  • Stop at Dayton Mall to let Ted zip inside to return the router so we could avoid being charged big bucks for taking it with us.
  • Unload 3 children to go into the Dayton Mall to use the restroom.
...after all that, we finished the drive to the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio, arriving about 2 1/2 hours later than planned.  By 4 p.m. the kids and Ted were suited up and heading to enjoy the water park area (Kenna wearing a gym suit, since her swimsuit is apparently AWOL) while I stayed in the suite with an overly tired Zaden, hoping he would nap.  Thirty minutes of fussing and screaming later (maybe he would have fallen asleep if I hadn't gotten a text on my phone that was left in the room with him!), he and I joined the others, where he sat in awe watching everything from his stroller view.  I played in the wave pool with Lucan for awhile, and then Ted took over while I rode a couple of slides with Kenna.  I traded with Ted so he could ride some bigger rides, and then after a major shuffle trying to get everyone in one place at one time, we left around 6:15 in search of dinner.

Thanks to many dear friends at church, we were presented with a gift card worth over $500 for this adventure!  It more than paid for our suite and water park passes, so we got some pizza for the kids for dinner and ate in our room.  (We still have $$ left for some treats later on!)  Ted went out to get Chipotle for himself and me (just because it sounded so good and there is one just down the street) and also got a flat of water bottles.

We let the older 3 kids go back to the water play area while we bedded the little ones, and then I joined them for some riding fun.  I had about 45 minutes with them and then came back to the room so Ted could finish out the night enjoying some "big kid" fun, too.  He had fallen asleep, ha!  If I had known that, maybe I would have kept playing!  But it was good to get a shower before crashing to sleep.  I think we were all out by 10:30!

We had leftover pizza for breakfast and cleared out the room.  I'm here with Zaden, who is getting a FABULOUS nap, and then we'll join the others for a few more hours of water fun before we hit the road to St. Louis.  We'll be staying in a hotel there tonight and then driving the rest of the way to Kansas tomorrow to spend a few days with our friends Craig and Mimi.  

We are grateful for this opportunity--honestly, with 6 children, it is not something we would have pursued if it hadn't been for the gift card.  It would have been a lot of money to spend, and it would have been hard to justify that when it's hard to get one's "money's worth" with little ones and taking turns watching them and so on.  But it has been delightful to have the chance to make some family memories as we close the chapter on our time in Ohio and prepare for our next adventure!

August 04, 2012

The Housing Question

Next to "when are you leaving?" the most commonly asked question these days for our family seems to be "where will you live in Italy?"

The only answer we can give at this time is...we don't know!  We will be in temporary lodging facilities (TLF, or whatever the Navy equivalent is for that) for awhile, similar to what we're in now, only smaller. :-/  (Two bedrooms instead of three.)  Lord willing, we will find something to rent on the economy very soon after our arrival.  We are expecting to have to rent elsewhere, as there are limited government housing units, all of which are too small for our family of 8.  However, it is not unheard of for them to knock out a door between two adjacent units for larger families, IF they have excess units available.  If this is an option, we would certainly take it!

Otherwise, we expect to begin the search for a suitable house to rent as soon as we can upon our arrival.  Our preference would be something in a more rural community as opposed to in the city of Naples itself.

All of our appliances will be from the long-term loan warehouse, so we don't have to worry about that.  In fact, we sold our refrigerator, washer, and both of our dryers rather than put them in storage.  If we live in government housing, it is already wired for both kinds of power; if we are in an Italian house, we can get two free converters from the base (though we'd want to buy more).  There are smaller items we can borrow while we wait for our own shipments to arrive, so if we move away from TLF before our express shipment comes in, we'll be all right.  The household goods are supposed to arrive 60-90 days from the time they leave our house...or maybe the time they leave the States, I'm not sure.

In some ways, I feel as if we are flying by the seat of our pants!  We haven't gotten a WHOLE lot of information/advice about overseas moves...I feel as if I should have picked people's brains a little more on this, but the last few months have been such a blur!  This is the first time I haven't felt all that satisfied with the way I left the house for the packers--I feel VERY disorganized.  For one thing, items that I had set aside, intending to take with us to have on the journey (some crayons, activity books, and read alouds, for example), apparently got packed with our household goods.  Other items that I intended to throw out or donate have also been packed.  We'll have a lot more organizing to do on the other side than we might have if we had been able to get through our checklist the way I had intended to, but at this point...what can we do about it?  Might as well sit back and enjoy the ride!

August 03, 2012

Wisconsin Week

Sunday, July 8 - Thursday, July 12

The final stage of our epic vacation was spending time with my family in Wisconsin.  We arrived in time for a family barbecue at John and Beth's house (my brother and sis-in-law) with their family, my parents, and my uncle Al and aunt Iola, who had driven in from New Glarus.  The little ones splashed and played in the pool and with the yard toys while Ted and I enjoyed resting (I think Ted was actually dozing!) and visiting.

Since it's been so long since I was doing our day-by-day journal of our vacation adventures, I have to confess that some things have now become blurred in my memory!  A few of the highlights were as follows:

  • A family photography session with my high school friend Ryan Bensheimer, who does AMAZING work!  If you'd like to see the shots he got, check them out here!
  • Ted's and my date night to the Prime Quarter Steak House, a place we had gone out to during our engagement.  YUM!  We also went to Best Buy and purchased a new camera!  Woohoo!  We had purchased our previous family camera at the time Kenna was born...AND it had gotten wet while we were in it was high time for a new one!  We are now taking a lot more pictures, heh!
  • While I enjoyed some time visiting with Mom, Beth, and Aunt Iola, Ted took all the kids (except Zaden) swimming in a little pond area.  They had a ball and even caught some fish in their ziplock bags from lunch!
  • We took our 4 older kids and went to see the new Pixar movie, Brave, with John and Beth.  GREAT movie, but Kenna was scared out of her wits!!  We should have remembered that she's a bit more sensitive to things that can seem scary to little ones, and the extremely LOUD speakers in the theater didn't help.  Nevertheless...the story line was a great one, as usual.  One of the themes I took away was how pointless (even dangerous) it can be to wish someone ELSE would change; instead, we need to be humble enough to look at what WE need to change in our own lives.  Relationships are worth the time and energy it takes to communicate honestly and lovingly.  Bravo, Pixar!
  • We did some puttering around downtown Delavan, particularly in one of our favorite stores, Bibliomaniacs.  Found some great books to add to our if we need more, LOL.
  • My dad, John, and Ted took Tobin and Arden out to do some shooting.  The boys had never done any kind of target practice that didn't involve a video game console, so as you can imagine, it was quite an experience for them, and they both proved to be pretty good little sharpshooters!  I think the "big boys" had as much fun as the younger ones!
  • Dad and John also took the older 4 kids out fishing.  Kenna was delighted to be the first one to catch a fish--this was her first experience fishing!  The older 3 had been out with Dad and John when we were in Wisconsin two years ago.  Everyone caught multiple fish, and they even got some big enough to bring home and fry up for breakfast the next morning!
All in all, we had a wonderful time with family!  Some pictures are below; you can see a LOT more in the Facebook album, thanks to our fun new camera, ha!