September 25, 2012

Where We Are in the House Process

A quick update is probably in order.  We are finished with "The Hunt," having picked out our home.  All documents are in; now we wait for the pre-contract meeting, which is scheduled for October 2.  We were hoping we could have been finished with that meeting by now, but that was the soonest they could get us in, apparently.

In the meantime, we are thrilled that Ted did not have to go TDY this week after all--after last week's long hours, it's nice to be able to eat dinner together as a family again!  We are hoping that some of the inspections of the house are taking place now, but we really don't know what's going on.  All we know is that inspections have be passed before we can finalize anything.

We are supposed to be out of TLA (temporary lodging) after 60 days; that point for us is approaching all too quickly, October 15.  With such a late PRE-contract meeting, that makes us a bit nervous concerning our odds for getting out of here on time.

Well, God knows our needs!  HE is in control of our timeline, not the housing office!

September 23, 2012

Zaden Gives Italian Food a Thumbs Up!

Italian bow-tie pasta.  YUM!  (Confession time:  Sauce = Ragu.  But we'll get back to making our own homemade sauce soon, I hope!)

OK, this picture has nothing to do with Italian food, but it makes me giggle. :-)  This is in our kitchen, one of many cabinets we don't use for kitchen items precisely because of THIS!  Since he can now reach back, even Tobin's stash of books is not safe!

September 21, 2012

Pizza Night

Last Saturday the Support Site was treated to an evening of local entertainment and Neapolitan-style pizza.  We switched our weekly pizza night from Friday to Saturday so we could enjoy the festivities and do something fun as a family.  While the event was a BIT different than we planned--we stood in line for 2 hours for non-free pizza!--we did meet some other folks and got to visit with them in line while the kids played at the playground, jumped in the bounce house, and watched a magic/comedy show.  Clouds rolled in, making the evening considerably colder than we were prepared for, but hot pizza finally arrived!  By the time we got it we were realizing we really SHOULD have ordered one pizza per person: we were starving!

Naples pizza has a very thin crust; the way you are supposed to eat it is to fold it in half and eat it like a sandwich.  We got the "Margarita" style, which is sauce, a basil leaf, and buffalo mozzarella.  The colors are reminiscent of the Italian flag. :-)

An amusing point in the evening program was when the local musicians began singing a traditional Italian song.  I have no idea what the words mean, but it is the tune of Larry's High Silk Hat, so Ted and I spent the entire number giggling to ourselves in line.

Here are some pics from the evening!

This guy spoke awhile, but we have NO IDEA what he said!

Beautiful rainbow that appeared toward the beginning of our line-standing experience.

Comic magician and volunteer

Our pizza maker!

Putting the pizzas in the oven--we will have an oven like this in our backyard!  So excited!

Kenna, sitting on a table, and Lucan (standing by me), enjoy watching the pizza-making process.

Hooray!  Pizza!  (And oh, my goodness, don't Arden and Lucan look exactly alike?!)

My girls!

Ima gonna eat it ALLLLLLL!!

And yes...each of the boys got his OWN pizza and ate it ALL!

Loooong Week

Obviously God knew we'd need Sunday's message to prepare us for a week of refining!  There's nothing quite like on-the-job, seat-of-your-pants training, and Ted has had oodles of that during a week of NATO exercise activity that has had him away from home 14-15 hours every day.  I'm not sure when the last time was that he actually saw Zaden; yesterday I had Lucan take a long nap so that he could stay up late and have Daddy tuck him in bed.

The exercise ends tomorrow (Saturday).  Thankfully Ted is getting Monday off to receive delivery of our express shipment, so we'll actually have a two-day weekend of sorts!  Charis and I were originally planning to go on a USO tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel on Saturday, but unfortunately the tour was cancelled because not enough people signed up.  We are extremely disappointed--as is Ted, who now has to work after all, LOL.  (His boss was going to give him the day off since we had signed up for the tour almost a month ago.)

The combined effects of an exhausting, almost-single-parenting week plus not having the tour to look forward to have admittedly affected my attitude.  I'm climbing the walls in this little apartment, tripping over toys and piles of library books and desperate for counter space for the never-ending job of feeding bellies that never seem to get full.  I struggle to remind myself that God's purposes in bringing us to Italy are not solely for our traveling pleasure or cultural enrichment--they are for shaping and molding us into Christ's image.  I'm sure there will be plenty of fun and entertainment along the way...I have pictures of some of those experiences already!  But ultimately we need the reminder that life is not all about us.  If it were, this week would be a severe disappointment!

September 16, 2012


This morning our new chaplain spoke at the contemporary Protestant worship service we attend on base.  After hearing two of his sermons, I can tell we will be challenged to grow deeper in our faith and understanding of God's Word under his leadership.

His current series is on Ephesians.  Today the part that stood out to me involved the analogy of a silversmith refining silver.  I've heard many times before that God uses trials to refine us, to get rid of impurities and shape us, the way silver and gold is refined in the fire.  But I loved how today's story ended.  The question for the silversmith was, "How do you know you are finished removing the impurities?"  In other words, "When is the refining process over?"

The answer?  "When I can see my likeness as I look into the reflection."

God is refining His children, and He won't stop until He looks inside and sees His reflection--the image of Christ.  What a beautiful reminder that in the middle of the "heat" of life, when all of our imperfections are being driven to the surface because of the fires we are facing, our heavenly Refiner is carefully stirring our hearts, making us more like our Savior.

The practical application I took away from this is that our family is no longer in a season of "dramatic" fire; a year ago we were in the fiery furnace with Ted being on the other side of the world and me struggling to nurse Baby Zaden and keep my family together.  Now, we are physically together--and experiencing a bit more togetherness than we might like, LOL!

Living in a small apartment is definitely causing our impurities to come to the surface.  We bicker and argue.  We complain and moan.  We sigh and accuse.  We misunderstand one another.  We annoy each other (sometimes even on purpose!).  We daily come face to face with our sinful, selfish human nature.  We yearn for the day when we will move into a larger house, surrounded by all of the possessions that make us comfortable and happy.

And yet...will we really be comfortable and happy simply because we have more elbow room?  Life might be "easier," but will we be forced to do the hard work of living peaceably together if we can simply walk away to another room?

That's a bit uncomfortable, isn't it?  The fact is, living "squished" is a much better means of refining those impurities.  I have many more occasions to choose to speak with a loving and gentle tone.  The children have more opportunities to choose to share their few toys.  We all have more chances to humble ourselves and show honor and preference to others.

When I think about it, there is more room to show love, mercy, and grace in a small house than in a large one!

September 15, 2012

And Another Birthday Celebration!

Turning one was so much fun that we just keep on celebrating!  Actually, we received a birthday package from Grandma J this past week.  Here are some pictures of Zaden enjoying his fun frog card with the googly eyes and unwrapping his dump truck (which Lucan thinks belongs to him, sigh).

Adventures in the TLF: Earth, Air, Fire, Water

I've talked about it but it hasn't happened yet--we simply MUST start keeping our shoes outside the entrance to our temporary apartment.  The dirt is ridiculous!  Charis sweeps nightly, and I bought a cheap mop to help cut down on the grime.  The cleaning crew comes every 4 days, and if we can get out of the way, they'll do a full clean (except for the kitchen), so that helps.  But our feet are pretty much constantly dirty.  And our little also constantly dirty!  The kids enjoy running laps around on the balcony, through the kitchen, and then through the sitting room and back out to the balcony (there are 4 doors leading out onto the small area).  The floor of the balcony is filthy from all the dirt that the rain and wind bring in, and whether the kids are barefoot or shod, you can imagine the trails...

Baths happen frequently around here!
One of the first things you notice about the air here, particularly if you aren't used to it, is the extreme humidity.  We thought Ohio was humid!  I've been to Florida, and that is definitely closer to what we have here in Naples.

Living in Naples has its... odoriferous times, even here on the Support Site.  If you haven't studied up on our current location, I'll fill you in on something everyone around here knows: there is a ginormous trash problem.  (Thank you, Italian labor unions.)  The trash along the sides of the roads is unbelievable!  Thankfully we've seen efforts to keep the dumpsters emptied here on base--from what I read, that is a major improvement from a year ago.  But there are still a LOT of dumpsters with a LOT of trash, which we smell during our walks out and about. At times the air is filled with the scent of burning trash--so then you know that they're "taking care" of some of the trash issues in the city.  Fun times!

Cooking over a dinky little gas stove is an adventure in and of itself, but add an exploring one-year-old into the mix and it's downright terrifying at times.  I may break down and buy a baby gate so I can ensure some peace while I'm trying to cook!

As you can see from the picture below, the range is made of metal.  Nice.  Even the dials for the burner controls get HOT, so you need protection simply to adjust the flame, let alone open the oven door.  I should probably break down and buy hot pads (I have some in our express shipment), but currently I use a dishtowel.  Thankfully we had some of those packed in with our dirty laundry before leaving the States, LOL!

Oh, and for a height comparison, those handles on the cupboards above the sink come about to my neck!  When I work at the sink, I literally bang my head against the wall!

And finally, water.  What would an "adventures in TLF" post be without talking about our water?!  First, the smell: imagine washing dishes, taking a shower, running water in the mop bucket, rinsing off produce...with chlorinated pool water.  Mmmm!  Then, there's the temperature: in Charis's words, "The shower water goes from perfect to freezing to boiling hot."  This makes shaving an adventure, not to mention rinsing out conditioner.

And finally, water pressure.  When we first moved in, the kitchen sink had almost zero pressure; washing dishes was extraordinarily frustrating.  (As an aside, there isn't a garbage disposal.)  Ted tried messing with the faucet and discovered that the end needed to be twisted on.  Hooray!  Water pressure!  OH NO--water is now spraying EVERYWHERE!  Grrrr!  I wasn't sure which was worse--having so little pressure that we could hardly coax suds to form or having so much that the entire surrounding counter and floor space ended up soaked.  The good news with the change in pressure was that we were more easily able to get hot water, which helped tremendously with the dish job!  The bad news...well, you can use your imagination with that one when I tell you that the children are in charge of washing dishes, LOL!

Two days ago, we received a visit from the friendly neighborhood maintenance man.  I was delighted, even though he spoke little English--everything worked out just fine.  He did a couple of little jobs and then took care of our kitchen faucet!  So now we have wonderful water pressure, good temperature changes, and no spattering.  The only problem is it goes from 0 to 60, so if you just need a little stream of water, you're out of luck.  But considering the alternatives, I'll just count my blessings!

September 14, 2012

Update...of Sorts...

So, here's where we stand in the house-hunting process:

  1. We have picked a house.  (The one I described in the previous post.)
  2. The landlord wants us to rent the house.
  3. The landlord had a list of documents he had to provide by today to the housing office.
  4. He brought all except one.
  5. We can't do anything until he provides the one.
  6. He is supposed to bring it Tuesday.
  7. Assuming all is in order on Tuesday, we will schedule the pre-contract meeting, prayerfully for next Friday (Sept. 21).
  8. We will need to go back to the house and look around, taking detailed notes, before the pre-contract meeting.
  9. Once the pre-contract meeting takes place, there will be a number of inspections that must happen before we can do anything else.  
That's all I can tell you for now!  If you feel led, please pray with us the following:
  1. That we can schedule the pre-contract meeting before Ted leaves for a week-long training course.
  2. That we can be in the house before our temporary lodging allowance ends (October 15).
  3. That we will be in the house to receive delivery of our household goods before Ted leaves for a two-week exercise.
Thank you for your prayers!  Here are a few pictures from around base.  I haven't taken the camera out much, but this is better than nothing!

The Village Forum--among other things, this place has the base library, chapel, community center, hotel, restaurant, shoppette, insurance offices...

View of Mt. Vesuvius--doesn't it look cool with the clouds over it?!

"Inside" the Forum area--actually looking at the courtyard.  The chapel is directly across the way; the library is to the left where you see the person through the archway.

Walkway behind the Forum

"Library park" which the kids love going to!  It's only open after 6 pm because it's used during the day for CDC and after-school care programs.

Zaden attempts to climb the wall in the library park!  He didn't get far, but he sure does crawl around fast!

September 04, 2012

Quick Update

After seeing 3 more houses with different real estate agents yesterday, we decided most definitely that we still LOVE the house we saw on Saturday (and the one that Ted and the girls had seen a week ago without the rest of us).  We received word that the landlord is willing to do whatever he needs to in order to pass the housing inspection so that we can be clear to rent it.  This is greatly to his benefit, as he can earn nearly 4 times as much by renting to us as Americans than he would renting to an Italian family!

So, this morning Ted cancelled our hold request on the other house and put in a pre-contract hold for this house.  With all the paperwork, etc., it will probably be at least a month before we can move in, but the exciting thing is we have a house!  And we only looked at 14 properties total--not bad!

The three we saw yesterday were all as different as could be from one another.  The first one was actually the one Ted had seen first with Luisa and then taken to a second time with the housing office agent.  The second was out in the country--very beautiful environment.  The house was gorgeous, too; brand new, in fact.  But for as much space as it had, the floor plan really did not allow for good use of the space.  It simply was not the house for us.  The third house is a city dwelling, as in a downtown area--definitely NOT.  It was a very cool house, though--positively ginormous, with odd angles and such a crazy floor plan!  Very unique, to say the least!  The kids loved it because it was like never knew what you'd find around the next corner or through the door down the hallway!

And our outing yesterday gave Ted his first REAL experience with driving Italian style, LOL!  As he told me, "Well, at least I now know that my little car will go over 100 miles per hour!"

Cute Kenna quote from the adventure...she was listening to the couple chat in the car.  The husband is Italian and the wife is British but moved here when she was 21.  Ernesto doesn't speak any English, so of course they were conversing between themselves in Italian.  Kenna wondered, "Mommy, have they already learned Italian?"  She also wondered why they didn't buckle up.  (I wondered the same thing after seeing the way Ernesto drives, LOL.)

So now the waiting game begins!

September 02, 2012

The House Possibilities

On Thursday we found a house we liked well enough to put a hold on...and began daydreaming about where to put the furniture.  We went back on Saturday to take a closer look, make notes, etc., and talked with the agent about when to set up the meeting with the landlord.  Here are some of the pros and cons of this one:

  • Very spacious home with large rooms
  • A completely separate basement (can only enter through the outside, not through the house) that includes 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a little kitchen, and a sitting area--perfect for a guest suite!  (And scrapbooking retreats!)
  • The largest kitchen we've seen yet with lots of cabinets and quite a bit of counter space.
  • Two gorgeous sun rooms on the 3rd level, one of which had another kitchenette!
  • Magnificent views--the Mediterranean to one side and fruit trees/farm land to the other.
  • A lemon tree (this was quite popular with the children!)
  • Some furniture pieces that we could keep for our own use or else have removed--this included all the furniture in the guest suite plus a perfect table in the kitchen that would fit our family!
  • The yard was enclosed with a fence that had NO privacy at all--it almost felt like being in a fishbowl.  (Admittedly, I may have only felt that way because we would have been the only Americans on the street...)
  • Security was iffy, though the landlord did agree to install a perimeter alarm.  Still...
  • There was actually very little "yard" area; mostly it was concrete.  It IS a good-sized lot, though; plenty of room for the kids to play basketball or ride scooters, etc.  But there is that fishbowl thing...
  • Outside the sun rooms on the top floor is a nice big balcony...with a rather low wall.  EEEEEK to having little climbers getting anywhere near that!  The wall is below the minimum required height for American standards; we would have had to sign a waiver to be allowed to stay there without any modifications.  
  • While the house was functional, it wasn't necessarily "pretty" on the inside.  Not that it was ugly, but the floors and walls were plain, and the stairways connecting the levels seemed less than homey--more like walking between the floors of an apartment building.
After viewing this house with the agent who had showed it to us, we met up with the other agent we've worked with (Luisa).  Ted wanted me to see one of the houses he had seen with the girls last Monday evening.  He had been impressed with it, but the pics he had taken on his (broken) camera from Afghanistan were less than stellar.  So he thought it would be good for me to see it in person.

Honestly, I left the house we had on hold thinking that it was the one; but Luisa had another home to show us in addition to the "doctor's house," as she called the one Ted had already seen.  (A French doctor rented it last.)  So off we went.


The driveway into the parco where "the doctor's house" is located got me excited!  Flowers everywhere--it was so beautiful!  The house is behind a total of 3 gates, much more secure than the other house we were interested in.  Also, the courtyard is surrounded by big walls, allowing for much more privacy.  A crew was hard at work clearing out the garden...apparently the French doctor was not interested in maintaining the landscaping, which is really a shame, as it is GORGEOUS!  What a place for the kids' imaginations to run wild!  Little paths running in various directions, all kinds of trees, a sand box, a decorative wishing well, an outdoor covered patio area with brick pizza oven and grill...

The inside of the house is simply beautiful.  They had put fresh, white paint on since Ted had last seen it; he had originally described the coloring to me as reminiscent of the 70s. :-)  The tile patterns on the main floor are really beautiful, and there is some unique, decorative brickwork around the kitchen/main level/ground floor.  The kitchen is pretty decent, although we definitely need to arrange to be able to put the range from the housing warehouse somewhere.  They think they can do that by splitting the gas line and running one to the utility room just to the side of the kitchen.  (There is a stove top already in place, plus a little tiny oven to the side of the counter space, but neither is big enough for our cooking needs!)

There are three levels.  The ground floor has the kitchen, which is large enough for our dining room table, plus a large, L-shaped room with a fireplace in one corner.  The stairway is beautiful--actually part of the house instead of outside doors (which, admittedly, are helpful for climate control and energy efficiency).  The second level has the master suite (very large, with a pretty bathroom and good-sized closet area) plus two other bedrooms and another bathroom.  There is also a little nook between the staircases that has room for a cozy reading corner. :-)  The top level has a ginormous bedroom plus a smaller bedroom and closet nook, with the hook-ups for washer and dryer.  There is also a huge loft area that would be a perfect play place.

  • Much, much better security.
  • Lovely and large courtyard--plenty of play area for the kids.
  • In a parco, which means there is a built-in community.
  • Very spacious, beautiful home with large rooms.
  • Master bedroom has attached bath--the other house it was separate.
  • LARGE laundry area.  (Woohoo!  Is it sad that I can get excited about that?)
  • Large play area upstairs--there wasn't really a good place for a common play area in the other house.
  • No specific, separate area for a "guest suite," though the house is certainly large enough to accommodate visitors!  We'd just be shuffling our own kiddos around. :-)
  • Kitchen has less cabinet and counter space than the other one; however, we can get hutches from the housing warehouse which will help with that.
This is now our current home of choice!  We are just waiting to hear from the landlord about a few things he needs to go in order for the housing office to approve the property.  (Since regulations are so different here, there is a checklist that landlords must complete before being able to rent to Americans--they are motivated to rent to us because our housing allowance is a lot more than they can get otherwise.)

We have an appointment to view one more house in the morning, which we plan to go ahead and see.  But we will cancel the hold we have on the other house and place a hold on this one...assuming the house we see tomorrow isn't better than this one.  It's hard not to get too excited...anything can happen!  But the place we saw yesterday just "felt" much better.  I prayed specifically for peace, and when I was standing in the courtyard of the house we had a hold on, I did not feel at peace.  But I felt peaceful and at home in the one Luisa showed us.  

Time will tell!

September 01, 2012

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Italy

So yes, we are now stationed in an exotic location, but as we learned yesterday, life does go on with all its lumps and bumps.

Our frustrating day started when our little commuter car--the car we purchased just 3 days prior--died in the parking lot of the Navy Lodge, where Ted had gone to put a massive amount of laundry into the coin-slotted machines.  The good news is they have massive-sized washers and dryers over there, instead of the itty bitty machines that take about 9 hours per load here in the apartment.  Since we had been without laundry detergent for a few days (waiting in vain for a huge crate that we mailed to ourselves from the States TWO AND A HALF WEEKS AGO), we had fallen behind on our regular one-load-a-day approach.  (And by load, I mean one pair of jeans and a few t-shirts.  We've learned not to put the jeans in the dryer; otherwise that 9 hours stretches to about a week.)

So.  Doing a massive amount of laundry in a short time = good.
"New" car dying in the parking lot = bad.

Ted's other purpose for heading in that direction with the car was to pick up some items from the loan locker.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the Navy accommodations here (ahem).  They graciously stocked this place with the following:

  • 4 mugs
  • 3 small glasses
  • 2 shot glasses
  • 5 plates
  • 5 bowls
  • 5 knives
  • 3 forks
  • 3 soup spoons
  • 2 regular spoons
  • 1 can opener that doesn't work
  • 2 spatulas
  • 1 serving spoon
  • 2 extremely dull knives and a minuscule cutting board
  • 1 itty bitty pot (good for one small can of refried beans)
  • 1 bitty pot (good for 2 small cans of refried beans)
  • 1 small skillet
  • 1 2-qt pot, the most useful pot of the bunch
  • 1 non-functional toaster
  • 1 broken but still functional itty bitty coffeepot
  • 1 non-functional dishwasher (hence the slave labor Charis referred to in her blog)
As you can imagine, cooking for a family of 8 with these "supplies" has been challenging.  We used to live on leftovers for our lunches.  I haven't had space to cook enough food for a full meal, let alone having leftovers!

So anyway, at the loan locker, Ted filled a big Rubbermaid container with some very helpful items, such as, oh, silverware (!), plates (including an Elmo plate!), mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons, a sharp(er) knife, bigger pots, a working can opener, etc.  He then hauled all this stuff back to the apartment while on foot.

Meanwhile, I was at the apartment preparing lunch and planning for us all to leave right afterward so we could all go on a house showing trip with an agent from the base housing office.  The plan was for Ted to drive his car with our little guys in their car seats while the rest of us rode with the agent in one of their vehicles.  Since the car broke down, we no longer had the option of all of us going to see the houses, so we sent Ted with the two fastest-walking children (Charis and Tobin) to go look while the rest of us stayed in the apartment.  Sigh.

So the house viewing was a total bust.  The agent had grabbed only the second page of Ted's list of houses he had requested to see, two of which were already rented and one of which was not, in fact, the house that was advertised.  Had the picture been accurate, we would have already rejected it as a possibility.  Additionally, Ted had already seen that particular house anyway!  So there was a waste of a trip.

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, potty training with Lucan was taking a toll on my patience.  You might even say the training was going down the toilet.  (Bwahahaha!)  I cleaned pee off the floor three different times, all within the span of a couple of hours.  The child has absolutely no problems whatsoever with being wet...or dirty, for that matter.  (I could insert an incredibly disgusting story here of what happened a few nights ago when he let himself out onto the balcony, had a bowel movement, and proceeded to tromp through it and smear it all over himself AND the floor AND the walls AND two chairs.  Oh, never mind--I guess you just got the story anyway!)

Ted returned from the "showing" feeling rather disgruntled with the whole situation, but he was looking forward to one more showing in the evening for a nice-sounding house with a pool.  While waiting for that, we got the idea to try jumping Ted's car, so we called a couple we recently met to see if they could help.  They were more than willing to try, but alas, it didn't work.  However, the guys managed to get the car pushed over to the auto shop, where it stayed overnight.  

Ted then left the apartment to walk to the place where he was to meet the landlord of the house he was planning to see...only to have the guy call and cancel the appointment.  (That turned out to be a good thing; we found out today that the landlord is asking 350 euro more per month than our housing allowance totals, and he isn't willing to come down at all.)

So all in all, it was a hot, humid, frustrating day.  Ted spent most of the day running hither and yon but having little to show for it, and I spent all of the day (aside from an early morning jog) stuck in the apartment with bored children, two of whom are not potty trained, LOL.

Thankfully, our God is a merciful God, and we received new mercies and grace this morning!  Today was a much, much better day.  I am happy to report that A) the car now works (and cost less than $150 to fix, praise the Lord!), and B) we think we've found our new home!  

I'll write more about our house viewings--we thought we had found our home on Thursday and actually went back to look at it today...and then we went back to view a house Ted had seen Monday evening without me, and it turns out THAT is the house we will probably get!  More details later when I'm not so tired.

In the meantime, my heart is singing "How GREAT is our GOD!"  It doesn't matter if we have a good day or a bad day.  He's always there; He's always faithful.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.