Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Happy Happy Happy...Thanksgiving, Christmas, 10th Anniversary, New Year

Singing Jingle Bells around our Christmas tree in their Sunday outfits.
Wow, now that the time intensive holidays are over I thought I would feel glad, but I feel like Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went too quickly.  I was really enjoying all the parties and the sharing and now it's over:(.

First of all, I have to say that I did kill and prepare our 20 lbs Thanksgiving turkey this year and it was a pretty traumatic experience for me, even though I acted like I was ok with it while I was doing it.  For a few days afterward I couldn't think of anything else but slitting the turkey's neck and that I had killed a living creature.  I am going to have to buck up if I'm going to get some meat chickens this spring! After pulling out all the organs and feathers(which took hours and hours) I injected the bird with a delicious maranade of Meyer lemons, roasted garlic and tons of other spices and it turned out wonderful! I almost cried because of all the time it took to raise, feed, kill and prepare that bird.  I was so worried it wouldn't be good and it would all have been wasted energy.  Even though there was like an inch of breast meat on that skinny bird, it was cooked to perfection.  I guess that's what a free range turkey is like.  His gizzard was full of grass so he was eatin' lean and not the fattening food I had bought for him.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at Tracie's house and it was delicious!

I have to say that I have such a wonderful neighborhood and received so many delicious treats from people I just met at our neighborhood party.  I spent time crafting some really fun stuff, including candy trees, Christmas tree boxes filled with different kinds of fudge, cinnamon ornaments and my favorite, candy canes.  I threw a party with a bunch of new friends and family where I taught everyone how to make the candy canes and fudge.  It was so fun and I finally did the party right and set out a food table for everyone with snacks, drinks, and delicious breads, desserts AND food for all the 20 kids who were running around my house.  I didn't have one kid come up to me and ask me for anything all day long.  It was miraculously relaxing and enjoyable! Clementine was so darling and stuck with us the whole time, rolling out cinnamon dough and trying to stamp them out with cookie cutters.

I also hosted three other Christmas parties all in one week.  The Thursday night before Christmas I had my dad, step-mom and step sister over for a Christmas Eve type party where we all opened our presents to each other.  We had such a fun time eating and letting the kids play.  My dad randomly came up to visit because he had to have a revision on his deviated septum surgery he had a few months ago so it all worked out to get together that Thursday.

Then the next day on Friday I hosted Justin's siblings Christmas party where I roasted the entire giant Costco pork loin in the most delicious Meyer lemon/caper/roasted garlic maranade that it was soaking in for days.  It was so delicious.  I have also been making crusty bread in my dutch oven and made two perfectly crusty loaves for the evening's festivities.  We had so much delicious food to eat and the kids had so much fun.  After trading presents we were supposed to do the Nativity recreation, but the promised costumes hadn't actually been delivered yet because the company shipped them out a day late(even though on their website they guarantee everything) and I almost cried when I announced that the costumes didn't arrive. I went upstairs to get the standard towels and belts we always use for the Nativity and started wrapping all the kids like burritos when the doorbell rang and the UPS delivery truck delivered our costumes not a moment too soon!! It was truly a Christmas miracle! We had wings and a halo for Henry, a Mary and Joseph costume.  Three shepherds crooks for Joseph and the two shepherds, three crowns for the wise men and two fluffy lamb costumes.  It couldn't have been more adorable!  Aunt Courtney was the donkey and Bea got to ride on her back while Colton led her into the room by the fire.  Clementine and Eli were shepherds trying to herd Lincoln and Violette in the field while Henry came in as the angel and had his lines almost memorized.  He was so cute!  Then they came to see Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, played by our very own new baby boy cousin, Grant.  It was great to finally have a boy for the baby Jesus and not one of my girls.  haha.  The wise men were played by my Justin, Uncle Caleb and Uncle Kirk.  They had sheets and my furs on over their shoulders and looked more like gangsters than wise men.  I laughed so hard! They came and presented their gifts to the baby Jesus and we were done!  My camera was out of battery and I was the narrator so I have to collect some photos from my family.  It was really sweet.  Bea was such a sweet little mother Mary and sat there so quietly and pet the little baby's head so softly.  She had a sweet little smile on her face as she rode the donkey into where she lay the baby.  She just might be an actress some day.
You can see all my home made ornaments on my tree.  I really love my tree. 

Finally, I hosted the actual Christmas eve party with my mom, step dad, and my cousins, Ben, Kate and Margie and my aunt and uncle, Kris and Tim.  We had the most delicious 7 fish dinner.  I was in charge of the lobster so I got 5 lobster tails and cooked them a la French Laundry(5 star Michelin rated restaurant) and poached them, cracked them out of their shells and finished cooking them off in a vat of butter and then poured a Meyer lemon(can you tell I love Meyer lemons?) and shallot burre blanc sauce over the top.  It was spectacular! We had steamed crab legs, oysters Rockefeller, creamed and pickled herring, shrimp, anchovies, and clam chowder.  Could I love a meal more?  No, I could not.  I LOVE FISH! The fishier the better. We also did a recreation of the Nativity but didn't have a baby young enough to play the baby Jesus so we had Bea put a baby doll in her shirt and Henry ripped it out of her shirt, held it up in the air like a prize trophy and slammed it down into the cradle.  Everyone had a good laugh at that and Henry loved the attention.  I think we got that one on film so maybe I'll post some of that when I get that back.  Well, it was a lovely night.

Sunday was pretty crazy.  I had to sing a solo, play in a mandolin quartet and sing in the choir for Sacrament meeting and then tell a story and sing a song in Relief Society.  I ended up not singing in Relief Society because of time constraints but I was glad.  My voice was shot by that point.  I told the story of how I was mugged on the way to see the Messiah sing in they do every year in the Stake Center in Manhattan and how it was just so powerful to me to feel to low and then have such a spiritual high right after that.  It was such a testimony to me how the atonement of Christ really works and how real the power of faith and forgiveness is.  The spirit was so strong that day.  
Angelina Ballerinas!

Christmas was probably the best we've had in years.  Henry woke us up at 7:15 telling him that Santa brought him a giant table with "bumps" all over it for putting Legos on.  I groggily said, "Henry, don't you remember I told you I was building something for you all these weeks? I made you that table, silly!".  He stood back for a second and said breathily, "Oooohhh, yeaaaa..." Then he leaned over and gave me a sweet hug saying, "Thank you mom".  What a way to start Christmas.  My mom and step father stayed overnight so they could see the morning festivities.  My mom sewed the girls the most adorable Angelina Ballerina skirts for ballet play complete with home made ears and three different tutus.  She also made the cutest robes for all the girls with giant bows kind of like the old fashioned kinds.  I can't believe she went to all that trouble!  The girls loved their present and spent the entire morning dancing around in their costumes.  Most everything else was just little toys that I need because all the toys we have, have lost parts and they don't work properly, so now they have some fun ball toys and my little pony stuff.  Henry got mostly books and one Lego set to go with his table.  The kids loved their stocking stuff.  I love buying things for stockings:)  I love being Santa.  The kids were so good and happy the whole morning.  We didn't have any bratty complaining or selfish behavior.  To top it all off, we had a huge snowfall on Christmas eve and we all went skiing all afternoon!  After the most delicious pancake, bacon, sausage, egg, juice and fruit breakfast made by my step father, the breakfast master, we took the three older kids up and were amazed that Bea could go down the green circle run all by herself and Clemmie could ski down the bunny hill unassisted!  She laughed the whole way down and hardly fell.  We met our friends, the Stensons up there and went on a few runs together.  I have to say that I am actually having more fun watching the girls ski on the bunny hill than I thought I would.  I don't even mind staying there and running up and down.  We came home to my favorite home made rolls made by my mom, (who can't even eat them anymore.  Darn gluten) and ham and finished off the day with a relaxing evening amidst all the giant mess of my house.  I didn't even care though.  lol.  What a perfect ending to a busy Christmas season.  At the end of the day, I finally sat down and just relaxed for the first time since Thanksgiving. That felt so wonderful.

On the 26th I recorded a secret recording for Justin's family that's soon to be revealed.  It took all day in Provo and I can't wait to hear how it turned out.  

This is one of the first Christmas' that I haven't been pregnant or have had a newborn since Henry was born and I can't even believe how much I loved being so capable to do so many things.  I really enjoyed myself and loved participating in everyone's parties, actually giving something to neighbors for once, singing in church, going skiing with my darling family, and being hormone fluctuation free!
On the Lover's Walk in Cinque Terre this summer. 

The most important thing about today is probably that it's my 10th anniversary! I have been married for 10 years.  Those years seemed long at times, but I can't believe I'm this old.  I still feel like I'm 21 and that those years went by really fast.  It's strange that when you want to grow up, time goes by so slowly, but when you want to stay young, time flies by!  I think time has flown by mostly because I have been having such a fulfilling life and that's all thanks to my hard working, darling husband who I love very much.  He is finally back from living at the hospital and I and the kids have someone else to lean on!  I am so much happier being married to him now.  haha!  I admit it was a struggle for these past 9 years, but it was all worth it baby!  I love you. Here's to 10 years and four darling children.

Happy 2013 everyone! Next year is going to be a grand adventure for sure!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Photography lessons meets slot canyons

Had to get down low for this shot

So, I took a photography class about a week ago and then went down to Southern Utah with the family to camp and explore slot canyons.  I tried to use my newly learned skills and try to not use the auto function, which took a long time to adjust every time in those dark slot canyons.  I felt like I missed some really cool shots, but it's fun to know how to finally use my camera.  I don't really have an eye for what's a great shot or not, but I feel like I got some cool ones, but I'm not even sure what I took would have been better than the camera being on auto.  Here are some of the ones I thought were the most interesting...not necessarily good photos...because I'm really not sure.  Tell me what you think...

Trying to get some light and shade on Henry's face.  I think it was too bright.  How do you change that?

I like getting his character on film.  He's so cute!

This one is overexposed, but I like her eyes her expression is because she bobbled a little bit and she got scared of tipping over. 

I got this one of the fire crackle.  I tried a million times to get another one somehow, but this was the best shot of the fire.  The kids wouldn't hold still enough to get them un-blurry. 

For some reason I like this photo a lot.  I like the sky and trees in the background with Clementine standing there, the glow of the fire and the movement of Henry's face.  It tells a story. 

Ok, here are the canyon shots.  The entrance to the slot canyon was really amazing.  Tons of arches. 

I could see the light streaming in through these rocks and finally got it captured on film a little bit. 

I loved this bright stripe of light coming through.  It was really tough to get the light just right in this shot. 

I didn't have time to get this shot better, but I thought the bumpy rock flow was interesting.  Had to document it. 

I really like Vivi in this shot.  She was the only one who easily fit through the canyon....very slowly.

Family Halloween Pic

Here is the whole crew this Halloween.  I didn't spend a penny on the girls' costumes since they were all just some version of ballerina, but I actually sewed Henry's costume this year, which I have never done.  The kids at school were laughing at him, which I think was just because his costume was funny, but he thought they were being mean.  Personally, I like it that he wanted to be the Lorax and not a zombie or super hero.  He's such an innocent little boy still and we're going to try to keep it that way. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 26 Home Again

We woke up super early to take a cab to the airport and said goodbye to our beautiful Italia.  I don't remember much of the plane ride home.  Everyone just slept and cried and watched movies.  Lucy and I got on an earlier flight home from Atlanta so she could make it back early to be ready for her first semester back from her mission at BYU.  Justin and Henry and Bea took the later flight and ended up pulling up to our house around 2am.  As we ran around the yard looking at the chickens, gathering eggs and checking out our garden, our neighbor said he was surprised to hear little kids voices over here so late at night.  Yes, that would be rather strange. Henry and Bea stayed up all night long until Bea fell asleep at 6am and I made Henry take a one hour nap before I took him to his first day of Chinese school! The babies and I were over the jet lag in about two days, while it took Justin, Henry and Bea over a week to adjust.  Now we are settled back to normal farm life and lovin' it.  I do miss speaking Italian or French every day and I really miss the kids trying to speak in Italian.  We're trying to speak Italian in the house for a couple hours a day.  I hope they continue to pick it up.  If any of you are considering a similar it!

Day 25: Tour of Rome

Today we actually made it to church for the first time on our trip! Luckily both Justin and I lived in Rome so we were confident we could make it to church.  We still had to leave an hour early to catch the bus and every person that got on the bus was put through my rigorous test of whether or not they were LDS or not.  There ended up being only one lady who was a member of the church on the bus and I suspected that she was because she was dressed way modestly for August in Italy and she was Peruvian! She was kind enough to show us the way there from the bus stop and learned that she was seduced by an Italian man who wanted to marry her and bring her back to Italy.  She ended up convincing him that he should just help her get to Italy and didn't end up having to marry him.  Phew!  Well, when we got to church Justin and I saw a guy who Justin and I knew as a young kid from another city we served our missions in at the church with his wife and a baby.  We couldn't believe it.  I didn't serve in that branch(now a ward) so I didn't see anyone I knew except for him.  Church was really wonderful and it was so nice to hear the gospel in Italian again.  The talks were great, the lessons were really insightful and the spirit was strong.  It's so nice to see that the church isn't in it's infantile state in Italy.  The people are really understanding the doctrine.  We said our goodbyes and walked back to our bus stop.  We were like 5 minutes late to get to the grocery store to get some fruit and bread, so we had to stop with our starving children at this place called Pizza Planet.  It was run by a man and his wife from Morocco and had probably the worst pizza we have ever tasted.  The kids wouldn't even touch it.  Only Violette ate some.  After tasting the pizza we asked them owner what the best thing there was and he brought us out these delicious gyro wraps that we devoured and had to get another for Henry and Bea because they even loved them.  This man was so generous.  He brought out some special tea for us to drink, washed our grapes for us and even gave the kids some macaroons for free just to be nice.  He was so excited that we came all the way from the US and were in his little shop in the middle of suburban Rome.  After eating, we waited for the bus in the blazing hot heat back to our apartment.

Once at the apartment, Justin decided to stay behind and pack while Lucy and I took Henry and Bea to see the Colosseum.  Since the kids didn't get much sleep the night before they were cranky the whole time.  We got a video tour of the Colosseum and Lucy and the kids learned about all the fights and deaths that happened there.  It was pretty incredible to think about what went on in that place.  One thing I learned is that the women were probably not allowed in the main area, but were separated from the men up in the highest section inside the walls and could barely peak out at what was going on.  Reminds me of how the Pittsburgh Steelers won't let women with newborns in to see their games because they're trying to protect the enjoyment of their fat, drunken male fans.  Looks like things haven't changed much since then.  Henry and Bea took a million photos with Lucy's camera and threw an hour long fit because we wouldn't him keep taking photos of every single artifact even though we were a half hour late to meet Justin.

We got home and geared up for our last night in Italy.  We started our magical night at the Piazza Venezia(the wedding cake) which houses the tomb of the unknown soldier.  I ate the hardest sandwich in my life and we went on a stroll to all the closest interesting Piazzas.  After that we hit the Pantheon and the largest gelateria with over 150 flavors to choose from.  It, of course, took forever for everyone to choose what they wanted, especially since it was the last gelato we were going to eat in Italy.  Then we wandered back to the piazza and let the kids run around.  We played tag, and hide and seek in the columns of the Pantheon.  Of course, everyone in the piazza thought it was really entertaining.  The cutest was when I was running around holding Violette out, chasing Clementine and Bea and they were all laughing their heads off.  They found a fountain and got all wet trying to get drinks from it and I ended up falling down while I was holding the baby and hit my knee really bad that ended up as a giant bruise.  Ouch! The stairs were so slippery!  The worst part is that tons of other people slipped while I was recovering on the steps and it seemed like it was just entertainment for the people sitting around there.  They were just waiting for the next person to slip and fall and keep the night lively. 

After that we debated about going home because it was like 11pm already, but we were really close to the Trevi fountain and we just could leave without seeing that.  We were so close! We walked there and spent a few beautiful moments looking at the newly cleaned fountain with super clear water.  I remember it being really dirty, so it was awesome to see it so sparkling clean.  We debated about going to the Spanish Steps, but we were not close at all so we abandoned that idea and waited for a bus to take us home.  I think we got home around 1am and crashed hard.  We and the kids were exhausted!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 24: Adieu Positano,

As we were leaving our beloved Positano I thought up a poem...

Adieu Positano, ci vediamo il prossimo anno. This means, Farewell Positano, we'll see you next year.  I said it with a glimmer and a wink to Justin.  I doubt we'll be there next year, but I won't give up hope. 

We left our dear Praiano and Positano and took a cab ride(thank you Justin) instead of the bus and the train to Napoli to take the train up to Rome.  As we were situating our stuff at the Napoli train station I saw an old Italian man look down at Bea and shake his head and hands at her and then I looked down to behold one of the most horrible sights I have ever seen…Bea in the gutter with her hand inside a giant, purple, Italian sized used condom.  We immediately ripped it off of her and wiped her hands off.  Lucy and I were so disgusted that we couldn’t contain our laughter and finally Justin chimed in and finally had a good laugh. I've never been so disgusted in my life.  

We loaded all our stuff on the wrong train, which I was suspicious of because it left at the wrong time and said Milano on it.  I ended up having to sit in the hot vestibule in between cars and we had to pay 8 Euro per person extra because we were on the wrong train.  The guy had no mercy on us.  Justin bought some pizza and food that ended up getting all over the floor and Justin's pants and our kids were all disgusting.  We basically looked like gypsies and were acting like them too.  I wasn't very happy.  I don't like travel days and after four weeks of carrying the baby on my shoulders and in my arms, I was exhausted.  I just wanted to sit in a regular seat.  Anyway, it was really embarrassing.  We tried to save money on expensive hotels by finding a one star hotel.  We had two rooms, one without air conditioning.  For the two nights we spent in Rome, it was cheaper than one room for one night in most other hotels.  Plus,we got free breakfast delivered to our door every morning.  They even went out and bought another pack-n-play because they told us they had two, but one ended up being broken.  I don't think they made any money from our stay. haha. 

When we got to Rome it was still pretty early so we decided to head right out to St. Peter's Cathedral to show Lucy the amazing building.  After checking out the inside, which is enormous and filled with so much art, as well as my favorite sculpture, Michelangelo's "the Pieta'" We bought tickets to go up to the top of the dome and hoped that the kids would be up for climbing up 500 steps up to the top.  They loved it and even Clementine climbed the entire way up.  At one point we were in the walls of the dome and they were so slanted that it was hard not to bonk your head.  Every time Clemmie hit her head against the wall, she said softly, "ow, ow" without another word of complaint.  haha.  We stopped at the bottom of the dome to see the paintings and mosaics around the inside of the dome where we decided we wanted to do mosaics of our kids instead of photo portraits.  Clementine's hair bow also got stolen by a very obese little Mexican girl who Bea saw take it.  I told the mother and when she asked her daughter about it, she had been sucking on it and then gave it back to me.  Yuk.  We climbed up to the top and looked out at the highest point of Rome at all the gardens and buildings.  It was windy and cool up there compared to inside the passageway.  We took some photos and then headed back down.  We stopped at a half way point to let the kids run around since it was way safer than any place down on the ground.  I spoke to a family from Iran who were truck drivers in Canada.  They were so nice.  The kids started to freak out so we tried to find a place to eat.  All the good places were closed for the holiday so we ended up eating at a place where giant tour buses of tourists eat and it was surprisingly pretty good.  They even had french fries which the kids were excited about.  We got gelato next door and then took the bus back to our one star hotel. 

Day 23: Epic boat ride

Today we decided to rent a boat and ride up the Emerald Coast searching for fun places to play.  First, however we packed up our stuff for the next day, then we took the bus down to  “La Grotta dello Smeraldo”, the Emerald Cave.  It was an easy access trip because instead of going down a million steps down to the water level like we usually have to do each time we go anywhere.  They actually had an elevator!.  Our guide looked like a lumberjack and was actually pretty animated in his description of the cave.  It was pretty large and the bottom of the cave was very blue.  The blue is caused by natural light that comes into the cave from a hole in the rock below sea level.  He took us around and told us the facts of the cave with a mysterious voice.  The coolest part was when he used his oar to splash the water on next to the blue spot and the whole cave turned into a million sparkling blue droplets.  Then came the cheesy part of the boat ride.  In Italy everyone tries to find Mary, “ the Madonna” or Jesus in everything from a piece of toast(actually seen), a chip(actually seen) to a rock or even a stain.  I’m not sure why, but someone put some statues that were the same color as stalagmites at the bottom of the cave of the manger scene and tried to make us think they were just created like that.  It was obviously fake, but it was just funny that they tried to do that.  As we left, we passed by a giant group of Japanese tourists that Lucy impressed with her Japanese and after we bought a bunch of fruit from an awesome fruit vendor that gave us a bunch of free stuff, we headed to the beach for an hour before we rented our boat.  At the beach we encountered the same crowd that was telling me that my baby had rocks in her mouth as usual.  There was also an obese Italian man who told us we couldn’t put our stuff in front of them, even though there was plenty of room.  We had a small argument with him and the people around us were embarrassed so everyone was being extra nice saying we could be close to them.  Then the rest of his large family came over and they all started doting on my kids saying, “look how blonde and beautiful these kids are!” to their fat father, and then I made friends with their family.  Aaah haah.  He was pretty embarrassed.  I ended up talking for about a half hour to Laura, our neighbor, about the restoration of the church and she seemed really interested.  It’s so interesting to do missionary work now that I’m not called as a missionary.  As a mother of four, people have a lot of respect for me here and it seems like they listen to me.  It feels easier to share the gospel with women.  I feel like I really connect with them, unlike when I was younger and single.  I kind of wish I could go on a mission as a young mother here in Italy somehow.  I just love sharing the gospel in Italian.  I think I will love going on a mission when I’m older.  After Justin yelled at me 5 times that I needed to come right in the middle of my testimony, ugh, we went and waited for the boat for 15 minutes.  Double ugh.  We got on the boat and headed off on our epic adventure.  We hunted down awesome places to jump off, found a giant cave with a beach inside it, swam out in the middle of the ocean, jumped off the boat, and caught tiny crabs.  Henry and I climbed up into an arch and jumped off into the ocean.  It was probably about 15 feet up, which is a lot for Henry.  He’s a brave boy.  We took a million photos of the beautiful hillside and even let the kids drive the boat a little bit.  The water was a perfect temperature, the sun was shining, the kids were happy and we had a wonderful time.  At 6pm we returned the boat and ate gelato on the beach.  I met some really beautiful people at a restaurant that turned out to be the restaurant owner’s son, his actress girlfriend and their friend who was a high fashion designer.  They were pretty much the most beautiful Italians I have ever met.  I invited them to our house in Utah to go skiing.  The actress girl said she was a snowboarder, so maybe I can convince her to come out to ski.  We waited for the bus for a half hour and finally got home around 8pm and tried to go to our neighborhood party, which we missed most of and put the kids to bed.  I found Laura and gave her a pass along card with the Italian information for the church on it.  There really isn’t a ward around where she lives, but maybe she would be able to go to Sorrento, which is about an hour away.  Just as we were finishing our dinner of Buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes, we heard the disco party music start.  We even saw an Italian family arriving at 11:30 with their three small children.  My jaw was pretty much on the floor.  Incredible.

Day 22: Aug 23: Happy Birthday Bea!!

Today is Bea’s 4th Birthday.  We have a few presents for her that we bought in a darling little toy store in France and a few little things we got from Napoli.  One is a small ceramic tea set and the others are tiny wooden little tea sets and utensils.  She’s going to love them!  This morning Lucy and I went on an epic run up the Pathway of the Gods or “Il sentiero degli dei” and ate a bunch of figs and found a lifesaving water spigot half way up.  Most people who were going on the trail had giant backpacks and those ridiculous walking sticks and there we were, running up a zillion steps without any water.  Haha.  We met this cute Austrian family as Lucy was climbing up a giant fig tree to reach the ripest ones and we handed them some delicious ripe ones.  Then, instead of running back down all the sketchy rock stairs, they offered to drive us if we just went on and ran up and around this little canyon.  They assured us that it was just 3 miles from their car back to our town so we decided to take them up on it.  Turns out, it was more like a 30 minute drive down because we had to go in the opposite direction for 20 minutes and then go back to our little town. When we got to our house, their son threw up in our pasta bowl and Bea drew them some pictures.  Justin went to make reservations for the train while we cleaned up and made Birthday lunch.  Justin came home, we ate delicious pasta and let Bea open her presents.  Bea was so adorable when we were giving her all the attention.  She was so happy to get her tea sets and happily played with them for about a half hour while we cleaned up.  Henry even bought her a box of Popsicles that we all shared in lieu of a Birthday cake.  It was really sweet.  Then, we spent the rest of the day at one of our favorite beaches the beach, lazily playing at the beach with the kids.  It was a lovely day. 

Day 21: Pompeii and risking life for pizza

Today was insane.  It was probably about 100 degree outside and we decided to go to Pompeii to see the ruins and then go back to Napoli to get the best pizza in the world.  We took a bus to Sorrento and then took a train out to Pompeii.  It took almost two hours to get there, which we didn't expect, plus a long wait in line to get in to the site.  When we finally got in, we were surprised to see how giant Pompeii is.  It's really a decent sized city with thousands of residences, stores, and other things a city has like piazzas, government and religious buildings as well as two giant amphitheaters.  About 2/5 of the city isn't even excavated yet and we didn't even get to see 1/10 of the place, especially trying to navigate it with kids.  It was so interesting that it was so open to the public.  Any art left over is pretty well preserved, but you're allowed to go inside almost all of the ruins and climb over and step on stuff...well at least Henry did.  There were no signs saying "no touching" so I hope it was ok.  There were even some new convenience stores they put in the middle of the town for people to get food and drink, plus some of the ruins were also converted into offices for the archaeologists working there.  We heard the government is worried that Vesuvius was ripe for another eruption again and are paying any residents 30,000 Euro to move, which doesn't seem to be tempting anyone.  You can't buy anything with that if you don't get money from selling your house.  

We saw the remnants of a few dead people, but didn't get to see the room with 13 people along with a child since it was under construction:(  We spent some time in the smaller amphitheater and Henry even performed Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with the stick and dance for everyone sitting up in the rafters.  If I ran that place, I would schedule performances and fun reenactments for the people coming to visit.  

 After we left, we took the train back to Napoli(Naples) to get the best and cheapest pizza on planet earth.  Napoli is no place for blonde kids because there is a pretty large mafia presence there and if the kids get snatched they could never be seen again…but we were willing to risk the lives of our children for pizza. Since it was most people's yearly vacation, most of the delicious pizzarias were not open but we found one that was open, but didn't even open until 7pm! For those of you who don't know, Italians usually eat dinner around 9pm. Eating at 10 to 11pm isn't even unheard of.  Since we had starved the kids to be hungry for pizza, they were getting really cranky.  So, we decided to find some traditional pastries from the street.  As we walked down one of the main street, our eyes were turned to the many bullet holes in every single glass window we passed.  I wish I had taken a photo of the baby store with bullet holes in all the windows.  haha.  My favorite pastry in Italy is the sfogliatelli, which was fresh and hot at a little bakery we found.  The kids ate it and also got some delicious gelato.  We spent the next hour or so on Spacanapoli street where people were selling all sorts of strange things.  This street seriously looked like Halloween, or more even like something out of Harry Potter.  It seems like the local craft in Napoli is tiny dioramas with scary moss, freaky waterfalls and dead trees.  You can buy a scene and then fill it with all sorts of moving people parts that are doing various things.  You can also get tiny food, tiny furniture, and basically anything tiny you can think of.  I found a tiny wooden tea set for Bea's Birthday with some tiny spoons.  Lucy got her some tiny little pots to cook with.  I wish instead of a freaky Halloween scene, they had cute little dollhouses or something.  We bought a few things and then it was time for pizza.  Unfortunately I think the kids weren't all that hungry, but we went and ordered like 8 pizzas anyway.  The buffalo mozzarella pizza margherita cost only 4 Euro, which is insane because most pizza costs at least 10 Euro anywhere else around the country and buffalo mozzarella usually tacks on another couple Euro.  Since it was so cheap, we ordered one for every child.  The servers were like, "um, that's a lot of pizza.  Are you sure you want that much?"  Yes!!   We ate ourselves to oblivion with the most delicious pizza with the softest crust.  We had three left over to bring home.  Yum.  The server had our exact same family with four kids just about the same age.  I don't know how he feeds them all with a job like that. 

Thankfully we got a cab back to the train station and barely made it back to Sorrento in time to catch the last bus.  We were so tired and hot from that long day and when we were riding in the bus back to our place, we noticed that all the lights were out in our town, which meant no air conditioning at our place.  Nooooo!  We got to the bottom of the huge hill and had no other choice than to walk with the kids up three long switchbacks up the hill.  It was 11:30pm and all the kids were asleep.  We had to wake them all up and carried them all up the hill.  Henry had to walk and by the time we got up to the top, they were all wide awake at midnight.  We had a rough time getting them back to sleep.  Since we had no air conditioning, we had to keep the windows open and many mosquitoes came in to our apartment.  Justin had 20 bites on each ankle.  I was constantly covering myself with the sheet until I got to hot and then uncovered myself until I felt the mosquitoes biting me and back and forth all night long.  That was a rough night!  The babies' rooms didn't have air conditioning so their rooms were like stinky saunas.  Poor little things couldn't even sleep.  Next day, back to the beach!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 20: Amalfi and Ravello

Today we spent about an hour on the bus driving at a snail's pace to get to Amalfi, which was only 10K away.  I think I might have been able to walk there faster.  When we got there, we hopped directly on another bus that took us to a town called Ravello that sits up a lot higher on the hill.  Ravello is famous for music and pottery and has a spectacular view down to the coast and of the terraced hillsides.  The terraced hillsides, for me, were one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.  Those hills, or even I dare say mountains are enormous and many of them are completely terraced from top to bottom.  Someone told me that it took hundreds and hundreds of years for people to terrace them by hand, one at a time.  For some reason, that was one of the aspects of our trip that amazed me, even more than all the art and cathedrals.  I really want a terraced hillside with grapes growing on it someday!

While in Ravello we walked around the town, saw the view and ate a delicious lunch of bread, tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella that Justin bought before we left.  I will never get sick of that meal.  The girls found a friend, who was a little girl just Bea's age to run around with.  I can't remember her name, but she was really darling.  I talked to her mother and she told me that her daughter is so rough and tumble that she sometimes worries about her.  She gets criticized for letting her go outside in shorts and no socks in the winter because that's what she wants to wear.  And, she doesn't fret about germs like most Italians do and when I told her that's how I parent my kids, she was so excited.  I even told her of articles I have found that tell parents not to wash their kids' hands after they play outside in the dirt so their bodies can get used to the germs in their surroundings and she was thrilled to know that I was on her side.  The girls ran and ran and ran around the piazza, laughing and playing together even though the little girl didn't speak Italian and vice versa.  She did say "bye bye" in the end, which I could tell the parents were proud of because she figured out how to say it all by herself.  The family wanted to get together with us but they were staying there in Ravello and we were all the way in Praiano and it just wouldn't have worked out. 

We hopped back on the bus down to Amalfi and spent the rest of the day on the beach there and ate pizza for the umteenth time before returning to our cute little Praiano.  Oh, and we met an American family in the water that had twin boys, one who was going to sign on with the hockey team here in Salt Lake City.  His mother was probably in her 40s and was probably one of the fittest women I have ever seen.  Seriously hard body and her sons were muscularly gigantic.  They had their girlfriends there and the mother's sister was also there with her 5 kids, a couple of which were adopted. Henry played with their younger sons and was grateful for someone who could speak English!

Then once again.  Bus and home.

Day 19: Rocky beaches and crazy buses

The next morning we woke up to find ourselves back in paradise on the Emerald Coast of Italy.  The towns along this coast are all built right next to the water where a mountain just goes straight up from the ocean.  That's where people decided to start building towns.  The more touristy towns had a flat spot at the bottom that maybe had a canyon that made it easier to build on, but ours was basically on a sheer hillside.  Justin rode his bike up to a gorgeous town of Ravello in the early morning hours after which we decided to head down to the beach. Our place was pretty high up so we decided to see how long it would take to walk down to the beach from there.  Hundreds upon hundreds of rock steps and pathways separated us from the beach of this little town.  There were plenty of interesting things to see along the way including a poster someone made illustrating how someone had bludgeoned their dog to death and left him to die.  He showed how cute the dog was when he was alive and then put the bloodied dog head on a photo.  The kids were really interested in that.  Then we stopped at a fruit cart where a crazy old woman came out to admire the children and told me that she was one of 13 children.  She told me her father used to say, "If a woman stops being able to have children, she's worthless and you should chop her head off!" What I can't believe is that her mother had 13 kids with a man like that!

We finally made it down to the beach and it was rocky and as crowded as a beach could be.  The stones were nice and rounded but really hurt our feet.  Everyone else but me had some sort of shoe they could wear in the water, but I only had flip flops so it was tough on my feet this entire week.  As soon as we plopped the kids down, all eyes were on us and our blond kids.  Violette, of course, immediately picked up rocks and started putting them in her mouth.  Just about every Italian mother came up to me to inform me that my baby had rocks in her mouth.  I know.  I know.  I ended up making a pile of large rocks that were too big to swallow for her to play with, but they still came up to me telling me she was eating rocks.  When I didn't take them away from her and thanked them for their concern, they probably thought I was nuts.  There is about one child for every 10 adults in Italy so they're overprotective of their children and each child has about 5 adults hovering over them at all times.  We spent some time in the water and I sat there pretty annoyed and frustrated by the people on the beach, so we decided to take the bus over to the nicer town 10K up the road and hang out on the beach there. 

First of all, I have to say something about these bus rides.  The streets that connect these towns are NOT made for buses.  These giant tour buses have to take up both sides of the street to round corners and all they do is honk before every corner to warn drivers coming the other way that there's a huge bus coming around the bend.  A few times the bus got stuck next to another bus trying to pass in the other direction and it took 10 minutes to back the bus and everyone behind it to a point where the buses could pass each other, and with only centimeters to spare.  It's like riding the Wild Mouse at Lagoon.  If anyone has been on that ride, you know that because the wheels are on the rear section of that car, you feel as though you're going to fall over the edge every time you turn and that your life is at risk.  Well, as I looked down the steep, rocky cliffs below us and saw huge buses coming in the other direction with only a one foot wall preventing our bus from being pushed off the mountain, I was reminded of that ride and constantly prayed for the safety of my family.  The views of the towns, however, were all postcard worthy.

Positano is probably my new favorite city in Italy.  It used to be Florence, but now I think I like Positano the best.  We heard from Ivan that Americans discovered it in the 50s or something and built it up the the grandeur that it is today with five star hotels, mansions, and a lot nicer look than some of the old, tired and spray painted cities that are all over this country.  This place was sparkling and fancy and well maintained.  The bus dropped us off at the top of the hill so we had to walk all the way down these fun winding pathways lined with stores, much of which was covered by beautiful flowering vines that shielded people from the sun overhead.  There were jewelry stores, modern art galleries, cute kitchen stores, children's clothing boutiques and nice restaurants to feast our eyes upon.  We winded down to the main square and headed towards the beach.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach and then ate pizza at an overpriced restaurant.  The linguine with clams was excellent, but the pizza debatably had buffalo mozzarella on it like we ordered.  Then we ate some delicious gelato and dragged our kids up the hill as fast as we could go so we could catch the bus.  We were constantly having to drag the kids to the bus, running with pounds of gear, then usually waited for a half hour before it actually arrived.   Piled onto the hot, crowded bus, got home and went to bed. 

Day 18: Casino in Chiesa (chaos at church)

Today we tried our hardest to finally go to church.  We woke up at 7am to get the kids ready and finish packing up the apartment to leave.  We walked to the train station to take a bus at 8:35 and while on the bus we found out that the bus doesn’t even stop at the normal stops because it was Sunday.  So, we had to get off the bus early and walk for 15 minutes to get to church and ended up arriving 5 minutes late.  When we got there, there were almost no cars in the parking lot and we thought we got there at the wrong time.  Turns out that the chapel had just been built and dedicated the week before and they had changed meetings TODAY and now Relief Society is first and sacrament meeting last.  I don’t know if I would have dragged the kids all the way to church if I had known we would only be going to Relief Society.  It was a nice lesson about keeping the Sabbath day holy, which I don’t have a problem with, so I guess we might have just needed to be there to give the missionaries some referrals or something.  Two people told me that I looked familiar and they did too, but it’s been too long and I don’t remember anything.  We left in a hurry and then walked a mile back to the bus stop, took the bus to the station, walked back to our apartment.  As we walked back to the station Bea had 10 cents and there was a man without legs in a wheelchair begging for money.  I told Bea to give him her coin and she did, but then both Henry and Bea stopped and laid down on the ground to look at the man’s legs that looked like they were blown off.  They were asking me what happened, but he said he didn’t speak Italian, so I didn’t find out.  He looked uncomfortable that my children were trying to look at his leg stubs.  I felt bad, but kids are curious.  Henry asked me what I thought happened and I said I thought his legs got blown off by a bomb, so the whole rest of the way home Bea was making up scenarios about what would happen if everyone in our family got “blowed” up by a bomb and who would be sad.  It must have been like 100 degrees and 90 percent humidity.  I don’t think I’ve been that hot yet.  Then, we got all our stuff and dragged it back to the train station in the blazing heat.  I was carrying the baby and dragging a giant luggage, bag and car seat that was ripping my arms out of their sockets.  Clementine was screaming in her stroller, Henry wouldn’t push her, Bea hurt herself, Lucy looked like a Sherpa and people all around us were stopping and asking if they could take photos of our children.  Ugh. 

From the train station we got on our train that would take us down to Naples and from there had an amazingly seamless time catching buses going to where we needed to go.  

I have to give a shout out to the man sitting next to me on the train.  He stood up the entire time so I could put Vivi in his seat to nap and because he had a horrible hacking cough and didn't want to give it to my children.  I talked to him a lot about his life as he stood next to me and told me how he had a good job and traveled a lot but now he was old and he said.  "You know, I thought I would love the life of a bachelor and so I didn't get married or have any kids, and now I'm all alone.  I have nobody. I have nobody".  I think about that a lot and I'm so glad I'm taking the traditional route with having kids.  I figure that I only have to sacrifice a few years comparable to my life without kids that it's totally worth it.  When I'm 55 and have no kids at home I will have until I die, hopefully around 90, to have all my time back to myself.  And if I keep in good shape, I'll be able to still have strength to do a lot of awesome things.  That's a long time!

Right when we arrived in Naples we walked outside and our bus pulled up 15 minutes later, which was a relief since it was like 100 degrees and humid outside.  Then after we arrived in Amalfi, which is located on the Emerald Coast, we hopped on another bus that took us to our little town of Praiano.  Ivan, the owner of our cute little apartment drove down the very steep hill to pick us up.  If not, we would have had to take yet another bus up to our house.  Sheesh! Our apartment was right above a little market which was heaven for Henry and also right next to to piazzas(squares) where kids were constantly playing.  It was at the end of a dead end so people drove slowly past our house.  The town we stayed in was in-between two larger and more touristy towns so ours was more of a local scene.  By the time we got there it was dark and the kids were exhausted, so we plopped them into bed and dreamed of what awaited us in the morning...

Day 17: Lovely Lunch

Today we were supposed to go on a super long road trip over to some places that I wanted to show Lucy in Umbria but after the previous day's adventures we groaned within ourselves at the prospect of having to drive probably more than 8 hours total to see all these places.  The kids are pretty miserable in the car, especially in the car that me and Lucy were in because we didn't have the DVD player to distract them from their woes.  Plus, the only thing Clementine wants to do in the car is suck on a bottle and after about a half hour she fills up her diaper and it starts to leak all over her carseat, which started to smell a lot like urine.  Somehow I was not as disgusted at that as Lucy, but it ended up being totally uncomfortable for her and so she and Violette were usually crying the whole way in the car.  So, the nice photographers we met our first day in Venice were kind enough to invite us to their home for lunch on Sunday, which we couldn't make, but we called them early that morning and said that we would be able to make it for lunch today, if it wouldn't be too hard to put together.  They said it would work out, so we headed out to where they lived which was just a half hour away(thank heaven) and spent time with the families.  The photographer's names were Danielle and Marco and we went to Marco's family's house and met his two daughters, wife and both sets of parents as well as an aunt and an uncle.  They all live in the same apartment complex.  Danielle's daughters are named Stella(Star) and Perla(Pearl).  Perla was about 8 years old and she was the most darling little thing I have ever seen! She was about as big as a beanpole and had a super fashionable hairdo that was short on one side and slanted all the way down to a bob on the other side of her head.  They picked us up on their motor scooters(called motorini in Italy) and led us to where the center of town is for a little tour before Lunch.  It was maybe the hottest day of our entire trip and we were about to die of heat exhaustion, though we fought through the kids crying and almost melting and enjoyed their little town on Pistoia.  We met a bunch of people and talked to many mothers about kid stuff and they all marveled at our little crew.  I told one lady about how she needs to let her baby just cry himself to sleep or she'll be forever sleeping in his bed until he's 8, so she's going to try. 

Finally we walked a mile back to our car and drove to their house.  This area is where we passed by on our way to Lucca the other day and saw all the topiary trees all lined up perfectly outside the train windows.  This was the town that produces all those trees.  They told us that they use so many chemicals and pesticides that a lot of people have cancer in their area.  Sad.  Anyway, as we drove to their house we saw some really amazing topiaries that looked like tree trunks with wire frames/cages of animals like horses and even dinosaurs stuck to the top and then some sort of vining plant growing out of the top, covering the cages so they looked like manicured trees.  I was so impressed by those.  I want some in my garden someday! Well, we ended up at their apartment building and were greeted by their entire extended family plus Danielle and were treated to a traditional Italian meal of spaghetti and red sauce, meat, vegetables, fruit, and gelato for dessert.  My kids ate so much food, especially Bea who ate 3 bowls of pasta with red sauce.  They were overjoyed that our kids loved their food.  Then the kids left to play while the adults had some wonderful conversation without having to worry about the kids.  Aaaahhh.  That was a rare moment.  I truly enjoyed sitting around the table conversing with these lovely people.  They were such good hearted and down to earth people and they had so many interesting things to say.  It's so fun to be around people who have so much to say because I feel like in our family no one has much to say, which would inhibit these long family discussions post mealtime.  Then, we told them we had to be back and they were disappointed that we couldn't stay for dinner.  haha.  We headed back to the town center to take our family photo and spent about an hour trying to get everyone to look at the camera.  We got a few shots, but once again, Clementine isn't smiling which is crazy since she's just about always smiling otherwise.  The shots came out pretty good and we're going to use it for our Christmas card this year.  I'm so glad we got the photo taken care of AND while we were in Italy.  I was sure we would have to use some snap shot with shaded faces.  Here are the three best ones.  After that we drove home, bought 10 pounds of the best gelato I think I have ever had at a place called Carabe in Florence and ate it at home with Lucy until we sprouted tails and turned into pigs.  Oink oink.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 16: Road Trip

This morning Justin and I went on a run to pick up two very tiny rental cars we secured for the next few days.  We had enough of the train when we went to Lucca.  After we picked up the car and some groceries we went to Sienna, Volterra and San Giminiano, which are all about an hour away from Florence, so not so far away.  Sienna had just had it's famous horse race in it's main piazza and when we arrived there we saw a parade going on for the winning horse racer.  People were wearing binkies and bottles, wearing clothes that looked like Jesters, playing drums, waving flags and I didn't envy their long sleeves and tight pants in the ultra hot weather.  All the kids, even Clementine, climbed up 400 stairs to the top of the tower in a very skinny stairwell and saw an amazing view of the Tuscan countryside.  We got two helpings of gelato because they had this really great flavor called Rustica that was basically yogurt with those dark cherries in syrup all mixed up together with pistacchios on top.  We all had two helpings because it was cheap and delicious.  As we were leaving we saw a place advertising porchetta, one of our favorite foods, and walked into this totally amazing shop with meat hanging everywhere.  It was totally picturesque.  Lucy started to take a photo, but the man took out his flashlight and shined it at Lucy’s camera and told her she couldn’t take a photo.  So werid.  Then this really horrible lady who looked like she hadn’t smiled in years told us that Clementine was a horrible baby because she touched something.  Italians have no patience for babies when they’re not perfect.  Then we ate lunch at Volterra and were called “Disperati”(desperate people) by an old Italian woman as if we were homeless people or something.  She had a point because all our kids were covered in gelato and were dirty from head to foot.  When we went into town, Henry and Bea kept getting in trouble because they would touch stuff that was outside on the sidewalks.  What do people think will happen if they leave their goods out on the street?  We spent the evening in San Giminiano eating the “world champion” winner of gelato.  It was very good for sure.  Then we sat in the piazza and the kids played with their whirly light up toys.  We let the baby crawl around because she hadn’t had one moment out of her car seat or baby carrier all day.  While she was crawling around, Bea and Clementine started to chase her, which made the baby laugh and drew the attention of everyone sitting in the piazza.  All was well until Clementine fell and smashed the baby’s head on the ground and, no kidding, the entire piazza gasped in horror.  The baby was totally fine and barely cried, but we couldn’t believe that my kids were entertaining the entire population of that city.  Leave it to my kids to make a scene.

Day 15: Henry is the star of the show

Day 15: Today we decided to walk around the giant street and fruit market.  We hit the fruit first.  There were skinned, dead rabbits and $1000 bottles of 100 year old balsamic vinegar.  We bought some fruit and fresh pasta and headed out to the street.  I got a couple of aprons for the girls with their names embroidered on them and Justin had the genius idea to let Henry buy a wallet so he could keep money in there, work for his money so he could buy some things he keeps asking us for but we never buy for him.  I have to say that Henry cried A LOT on this trip, but the whole idea of working for money so he could buy whatever he wanted was the best thing that happened to all of us.  Then, we found an adorable man painting on the street.  He was from Iran and had the most delicate and lovely paintings.  He was so nice to the kids and even made them a couple of free paintings.  We bought some Pinocchio paintings from him.  He saved the cherries the kids gave to him because he was fasting for some Muslim holiday.  He was such a good person and so happy.  Then we went home and forced all the kids to go down for naps since we had decided to let the kids stay up late to see how fun it was at night in Florence and take them to see the Charlie Chaplin show.  I told them how fun it was and that we would buy them a really cool glowing flying apparatus if they took a nap.  They easily fell asleep.  After dinner we took them outside and let them run around the piazza.  I met some people from Pescara who were really lovely and they were loving the kids and the blond hair.  We almost lost Clementine again who was pushing Vivi around the place, but found them after 15 seconds of searching. As soon as the sky turned to dusk, the vendors on the street began to shoot off the glowing, flying thingies.  You basically push a button to light up a small but very bright LED light, shoot it up in the air with a rubber band and it floats down to the ground in a delicate spin. They are really fun, but get bent out of shape very easily.  The kids had a blast shooting them up and trying to catch them.  Then we wandered down the street to another piazza where we listened to an incredible violin, base and accordion trio(the base player was the same guy we met before), got heckled by an Asian lady selling scarves, let the kids ride the merry-go-round and then finally sat down to watch the entire Charlie Chaplin show.  He had Bea come help him out at the beginning with his balloon trick and then had Henry come out for almost the entire duration of the show.  He had Henry, another Brittish guy that had his shirt off and a Korean girl and he was making them do hilarious things without saying a word, but trying to show them what to do with whistles and strange movements.  It was so great.  At one point he asked Henry to pop the balloon and he didn't want to, but he did it anyway and was so sad that he started crying and ran back to us on the side.  They guy ended up giving him the 10 Euro that we already put in his hat which made him really happy and so he had no problem staying until the end.  He was such a good little performer and did everything the guys told him to do.  What a fun experience.  The only bad part is that our camera took such horrible shots even though I put it on night mode.  I couldn't get it to flash correctly and then it ran out of batteries for the very last photo op that was to die for.  I am still mad about that!  Anyway, it was a truly magical night and Henry was the star of the show!