September 13, 2015

Leather Factory Tour

Another place I wanted to visit in person before leaving Italy: the Sims Leather Factory! This factory is very close to the Naval Support Site and has been owned by the same family for several generations. Their leather is famous in that the dye goes all the way through the leather--it isn't simply sprayed on like most other places. It was fascinating to learn about the process, a great field trip for the kids who were able to go. (Some had to attend Missoula Children's Theater rehearsal during our scheduled visit, but my girls and younger boys came with me on the tour.) And at the at a discount! Leather gloves for me, Charis, my mom, and my mother-in-law.'s an action shot! Zaden is helping place the wet pieces of leather onto the...thingie...!

Hands-on learning! We see how they measure and cut the needed shapes.

Montecasseino Abbey

About halfway from our house to Rome sits the abbey at Montecasseino, where St. Benedict established a monastery in the 6th century. Much of the building was destroyed in 1944 by Allied bombs and rebuilt after the war.

I don't know how many times we drove past the exit and said, "We MUST go there!" And because it was relatively close to home, we kept putting it off, thinking surely we'd get there easily enough...but time kept ticking away and we had yet to make the trip. So when we saw that our church was planning a May outing to the Abbey as well as the town of Roccasecca, birthplace of St. Thomas Aquinas, we immediately signed up so we could be sure to squeeze in this opportunity. The abbey was mentioned at least twice in Charis's history studies, and we always love bringing history to life!

It was an all-day affair, so we decided to leave Zaden and Seanin with their favorite babysitters, Hannah and Tuba. They even got to spend the night, since we weren't due to arrive home until late. We were so very thankful not to have to drag around the little guys, as there was a lot of walking and we were able to actually listen to the guides and enjoy the details of the day. The best part was sharing the day with dear friends from Il Faro! We miss our bilingual church family!!

13 on the 13th

On April 13, 2015, we added another teenager to the family! Tobin Michael has joined his sister as one of the ever-hungry teens of our household! Since the countdown was on to get us out of the country, I had to keep expectations LOW for any kind of party, but really all Tobin wanted was the chance to hang out with his friends anyway. So we brought cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches to the homeschool park day and let them have at it along with football and whatever else the boys ended up deciding to do. I had a ministry meeting that I really needed to attend while this was going on, so unfortunately, while this was a great event for Tobin, I have no pictures to prove that we actually did invite people to join us in celebrating our son's birthday! So here are a couple of photos by the fabulous Mackenzie Neer of Neer and Far Photography, which we had taken just before we left Italy.

Tobin is growing into a handsome, witty, intelligent young man. It is amazing how much he has matured in the three years we were away from the U.S. We are proud of him and the growth he is experiencing in his faith and look forward to seeing how and where God will lead him!

September 08, 2015

Spring Cleaning

I don't have any pictures for this post, but something major that happened in the spring...the week of March 9, 2015, to be exact...was something that we had both looked forward to and stressed out about for a number of months. It was time to ship the household goods to the States!

This involved a major, major overhaul of our house! I don't know how many boxes and bags we donated to the thrift store or to people who for some reason wanted what we didn't. We sold a few bigger items but mostly just kept shoving things out the door. It was so freeing! The actual pack out went much faster than we anticipated; the folks had told us it would take 4 days, but it really only took about a day and a half to pack everything, and then they went ahead and loaded the truck on that second day, too.

I kept out many of my kitchen items, not really thinking through the timing of when I might see things again on the other side of the ocean. (Oh, well, we needed more silverware anyway...) And since it was early March in Naples, we kept all of our clothes since it was freezing inside our house but going to be wicked hot before we actually made the move in May. I kept out the school items we would continue using and shipped the rest; kept enough toys to keep the littles occupied and shipped the rest; kept out enough books to keep us from going mad and shipped the rest.

And then came the loaner furniture: a bed and dresser for each person, a table that seated 6, a table that seated 4, 9 chairs, 2 love seats, 2 chairs, and a coffee table.

That was it.

In a three-story, open floor-plan of a house with all tile floors, our nearly naked house was loud. I mean LOUD. Lego Duplos bouncing down the stairs had nothing whatsoever to cushion those sound waves. The furniture was cheap and light enough that even Zaden could move it handily all over the main floor. Love seats were pushed together to make a ship, and I'd be lying if I told you the kids never flung themselves from one cushioned seat to another, despite dire warnings.

You'd think with so much less stuff in the house it would be easy to keep it clean, to continue on with our school routine having way fewer distractions. Not so. We quickly learned that the lack of horizontal surfaces meant a severe work space shortage, both for school tasks as well as cooking. The few toys that we did have always, ALWAYS ended up strewn all over the floor like plastic land mines. And the lack of Toy Variety meant the number of meltdowns increased exponentially throughout the day.

In desperation we borrowed a small TV and blu-ray player from a kindhearted friend who obviously did not want to see me check myself into mental health. Between that and trying to squeeze in as many day trips and friend meet-ups as possible, we survived the subsequent 8 weeks or so before we then moved into the temporary lodging in preparation for our final out. WHEW! Strange, though, how the bare house quickly became a new normal for us. It was truly freeing to not be weighted down with so much STUFF!