Monday, January 31, 2011

Happiness found on a Monday

This is me sitting in my comfy chair with my trusty laptop and Kitty on her favorite snuggle up spot.  Meanwhile, the Nutcracker M&M dispenser guards me as I blog...  Fun, right?  Michael took this picture of me as I  was sitting there not realizing he had his camera.

Today, I found a wonderful book "The Thousand Gifts" and blog "aholyexperience" by Ann Voskamp.  She's a breath of fresh air and a bit of Spring in this everlasting Winter.  I know... it's only January 31.  But, her voice and message was so well timed for me.  I encourage everyone to check her blog and book.  Dayspring is going to have a book club/discussion vlog starting on Feb. 6.  I'll be there!

I also enjoyed reading Ree Drummond's blog about her trip to New York for a TV interview about her new book that is about to be released.  She is funny and smart and just like every one of us.  But when she writes about life's every day happenings, she makes us laugh instead of grumble.  This is one of my favorite people for sure!

Homeschool today was brief but Michael covered 4 tests he needed to complete so that is definitely a positive point on a Monday afternoon.  I so appreciate all of my friends who are teachers!

Maybe tomorrow I can have a visit with my pictures upstairs in the room yet to be unnamed!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Progress in my Rumpus Room

I'm trying to come up with a good name for my crafts room upstairs.  The "Sanity Sanctuary", "Happy Place", the "Inner Sanctum", "Go Away" (no, that would be a mean name :p).  Maybe my friends can help me with this fun task?  I came up with Rumpus Room since it gave the post a fun title.  Didn't they used to call the kids' play rooms Rumpus Rooms???  A long, long, time ago?

Yesterday, after Michael and I were finished with school, Mike needed my help with tackling the job of sorting the boxes and unpacking some of my craft supplies (as they surfaced from the columns of nicely, but incorrectly, labelled boxes from our move.  We both had fun and got a bit misty (or more) eyed (ok, tears were running down my cheeks at one point!) at the pictures of the kids in the albums that happily came forth from some of the boxes.  Michael standing in the bathroom in just his undies when he was 3 with his electric toothbrush with a big grin on his face, Kristen playing her tap a tune piano in her castle bed with not stitch of clothing on!  Hopefully, she wears clothes now when she's playing her roll up piano we got her for Christmas!

Some boxes are definitely ones we need to take and put aside until after we move to our new house this Fall at the cemetery...  Others, well as best can be described, are eclectic collections of whatever the packers found at the time and shoved into a box with just the location of where it was written on the side...  I HATE THIS KIND OF BOX!  Of course, none so far have rivaled the box of knives I came upon when unpacking in the Netherlands -- a box of sharp knives, no wrapping, no protection to unwitting hands who are unpacking in the kitchen... yes, I left this box to the last I remember when unpacking 5 years ago!

It will take one more day of work in the room to clear the boxes out and setting up of the computer, moving a printer upstairs (yes, I have two on our desk downstairs!) and then maybe, just maybe, I can get down to working on those pictures or making new fun projects with the new sewing machine I have my eye on at Euronics!  I'm going to "splurge" and buy a machine for around 100 euros that is just 220 volts so all I have to do is plug the thing in and sew.  The one I have now  is a simple Singer we bought around 1996 in Germany at the BX because it was dual voltage.  It needs a bit of TLC (or a professional tuneup) and it'll cost more to do that than buy a new one!  I so hate the fact that these days it's cheaper to buy a new something than get the old one repaired!

Now it's time to wake up Michael (he's turned into a night owl now that he's a teenager!) so our schedule for school won't be totally trashed...  Tune in next time for the progress report and maybe pictures and don't forget to send me ideas for the name of my room!  You may win a prize!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kitty's first trip to the Vet a/k/a Disney for animals in Italy!

Kitty & Michael - Christmas 2010

Kitty is our sweet cat that adopted us in Belgium back in 2003 at Henri-Chapelle.  She's a well travelled Cat.  In fact, she's been to more foreign countries than many people.  She's moved with us to France and then to the Netherlands and now is happily settled in with us here in Italy.  She hasn't been feeling well lately as evidenced by her finding places other than her litter box to relieve herself.  Needless to say, this isn't fun for her or us.  So I let my fingers do the walking on Google Chrome and found what I suspected to be the case - a possible urinary tract infection.  Michael called Mike today at the office (it was a Sunday you know...) and told him what the recent news was.  At 5, Mike called me and said get Kitty ready to take her to the vet as soon as he got home.  I was a little surprised at this as the only vets I know of that are open on weekends or Sunday evenings are usually emergency vets.  Apparently, this is one more thing that is different here in Italy from all of the other places we've lived.  Our friend lives close to the vet which is really only 5-10 minutes from here (minus any train crossing delays...) and he met us and led us straight to the clinic.  I expected a small office in a strip center.  Nope!  We drove up to a large white building all lit up with a large parking lot (almost unheard of here) and we walked in the double doors to find a row of offices on the left for about 4 vets and at the end was the emergency clinic (which we were not visiting), in the middle of the large hall were two rows of chairs and on the right was a large pet supply store.  Also included in this Disneyland for pets was a groomer and also a self-serve pet bathing room.  I'm surprised that the vending machines didn't serve snacks and drinks for the animals vs. those for the humans...  But, they did, of course, have their coffee machine because there are few places in Italy very far from the possibility of getting a cup of coffee!

We signed our name on the clipboard on the door of the vet and sat down.  More people came in with their cats and dogs while we were waiting.  Most of the animals in the carriers had blankets wrapped around them just as their owners had their heavy winter coats on (which they've been wearing no matter the temperature since September).  Our friend told us that they definitely think that pet care is a priority here and treat their animals like royalty. 

Finally, it was our turn.  We went into the office and the Dr. asked about the problem and then said he would need to get a urine sample and stepped out to another room.  Mike and I were wondering how he would go about doing this with a cat.  In minutes we found out just how one accomplishes this.  He asked me to hold her by the scruff of the neck and then he started examining her underside.  He obviously squeezed some important spots and out shot his sample onto the table.  He collected what he needed and then did an analysis.  Back he came to give her a shot that included antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory and advised that she needed to eat a special food now.  All of this for 10 euros!  The new cat food cost more than that!  We get to go back tomorrow for another checkup and shot but we now know where our pets will be pampered for sure!  Just one more step on the way to feeling like we live here!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday musings

A rainy Saturday morning greeted me today.  Normally, I would be sad that it wasn't going to be sunny and beautiful outside but today is a perfect day for rain!  Mike is working this weekend so Michael and I have two days of mostly doing what we want to do and not "have" to do.  Mike has a softball game scheduled this afternoon - yes in January...  It's actually a special game because it is in honor of the landings here in WWII.  The Americans introduced baseball to the Italians here in Nettuno during WWII so it's fitting that they play a game to commemorate this event.  But... the rain may keep it from happening... maybe.

Meanwhile, I just mixed up a Slimfast shake for breakfast (sounds great, right?), took my medicine and settled into my chair to both write this post and catch up on what happened overnight in the world.  My laptop and I are great friends these days now that I don't find myself running this way and that.  My friends in the Netherlands know that I didn't let much dust settle before I'd be off and running to another meeting, subbing at the school, attending events for the kids, or running our favorite errands at Schinnen...  I so miss all of those trips!  The Slimfast is my easy way to try to shed some weight that I've been collecting these past years during all of my transitions from legal secretary and mom to SAHM and homeschooler in Belgium to professional chauffeur of the kids in France (to the Mougins School) and finally to uber volunteer/SAHM/PTA guru/PWOC(fun and service)/substitute teacher in the Netherlands.  I guess I never realized until I really slowed down here in Italy that it was past time to take care of myself!  So the journey to reclaim my thinner self has begun.  No need to take before pictures because the pictures at Christmas serve nicely.  I'm looking forward to success and health and energy and all of the good things that go along with this process.

Enough on that!  I've happily realized that I didn't have two copies of the book "Italian Neighbors" as I thought I did last night.  But instead, I have the book "The Italians" which is by a different author and will be very enjoyable and shed a little light or maybe a lot of light into how the Italians live.  It's described as a "witty and iconoclastic look into the Italian people."  Hmmmm, we'll see...  I just reread the back of the book and it talks about "the two Italies" -- the one that brought us all of the beauty, religion and Leonard da Vinci or the one that is prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought.  Once I finish reading this book, I'll share a review of it here!

Michael has great plans (he's still asleep... he is a teenager you know!) of playing on Star Trek Online to see what new things will be introduced this week.  He's a trekkie thanks to Mike's (and my) enjoyment of all things dealing with Star Trek.  I have to admit that I didn't add this to my TV viewing until after I got married. We have agreed though that tomorrow will be the day to tackle his essay that needs to be submitted to his teacher at Calvert School in Baltimore (thanks to the Virtual Classroom!).

I'll add a post later about our homeschooling days... meanwhile Facebook, email and my book are beckoning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Messing around with free Picasa photo editing tools and created this collage of pictures from our walk the other day. Amazing!
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Essays, Life and more in Italy

The statue at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery (our "new" since August home) .  It perfectly shows the brotherhood of soldiers serving and fighting side by side.

This is the rose garden to the right of the memorial where the previous picture was taken.  When the roses are blooming this is a beautiful and peaceful place to reflect on those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Softball in Italy!  The cemetery crew have a team called the Minas Vagantes and Mike happily joined when we arrived.  These are also the baseball fields where Michael practices and plays with the Nettuno Lions.

Kristen borrowed Mike's Nettuno hat to wear to his game over her Christmas break from college.

13th Birthday Celebration Part I so Kristen could be part of it before she went back to the States...  Michael is now officially a teenager!

On the subject of essays, Michael was assigned an essay of Advantages/ Disadvantages.  The most obvious subject we came up with was the discussion of homeschooling vs. attending the American School in Rome.  It's one of those topics we've been discussing since the new assistant who is set to arrive at the beginning of March has a 9 yr old child who they'd like to attend that school.  We've also considered this possibility but the commute from Nettuno/Lavinio to AOSR which involve getting up at 5:30am, taking the 6:20am train to Rome/Termini, taking a school bus and then arriving in time for class followed by the same reverse course arriving back home after 5pm (and then dinner, homework and bed).   I've described life as a Calvert homeschooler (which is very do-able by the way) and they still prefer a school with other students to provide friends for their child.  I so understand that desire!  Michael has a great time playing on his XBox and StarTrek Online but having a real friend right there to play with would be so much better!  However, school time, as they get older, leaves very little extra time for "playing" or socializing since classes are structured and talking to friends isn't meant to happen there... Plus lunch breaks and "recess" are being shortened to take advantage of as much time as possible for teaching (to the standardized tests...) so school is really not the place to think you will have much time for friends.  We are lucky that an American who lives close by has a 13 yr old son.  We plan to get them together very soon.  Plus, we're hoping to have a get together with all of the Americans who live close by to enjoy each other's company.  I bet pizza or pasta will definitely play a large role in this get together!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Year and Back to School!

I set my alarm and woke up at 7am today.  So far, I've been enjoying the quiet time before Michael and I get down to business with school.  Unfortunately, that "quiet" has been stolen away as chainsaws are being used in the lot across the street from us which is being cleared for a multi-family home.  Mike warned me of this but there's really nothing that can be done other than monitor their progress.

Meanwhile, I woke Michael up before I came downstairs but I'm afraid he fell back to sleep.  I'm hoping to combine lessons and accelerate our pace so that we can finish our year close to the time that Kristen comes home for Summer break.  Let's see how successful I am in this plan as the days go by!

Many thoughts have been going through my head of how long will we live here in Italy and what to do for Michael for high school curriculum or do we want to start the long days of up early, catching the train, travelling into Rome, etc. for him to attend the American School of Rome.  I don't have to make this decision yet but it will be something lurking in the background.

On a positive note, we had a lovely dinner in Anzio at a great pizzeria with an American family, the Orsinis, on Saturday.  Patricia is wonderful and I look forward to getting to know her better and being able to go out and wander around here with the help of someone who has lived here for a long time.  She's promised to take me to the best bakery and other places she's discovered.  Fun will be had for sure!

Now I'm off to wake Michael up for the second time or my plan will be foiled for sure!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Early Birthday celebration for Michael with Kristen 1/5/10

Last night, Kristen's last night at home with us here in Italy, we celebrated Michael's 13th birthday a little early so she could have a part in his special day.  So this is just before we sang Happy Birthday and in the kitchen where it was total chaos but fun chaos nevertheless!  Kristen was using the new snap video camera we gave her for Christmas.  It's hilarious and a good look inside the life of our home.  Enjoy!  Welcome to Michael's Birthday Part I... If you're turning into a teenager, there's nothing wrong with celebrating it more than once!