Thursday, June 25, 2009

The goal today

We will try to have the blog updated with photos (yeah) by today....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some down time...

The weekend (June 19th - 21st)
We spent the rest of the weekend recovering from the beach. Nathan caught a cold (too much beach air). He lost his voice and sounds so pathetic, but the quiet is rather nice!

The owners (Nick and Judy) live right next door and are so kind. Judy is originally from Kenya, so she is fluent in English (as is Nick). She has been so helpful and there are no language barriers which makes it very enjoyable. They have 2 sons – Filippo(23) and Mikele(20). Filippo and a friend, Maurizio came over to play on Saturday. We spent most of the day in the pool. We had a big game of sharks and minnows, where Jess was ALWAYS the first person tagged. Maurizio is an actual magician and was showing the kids some tricks in the evening. They are both really sweet with the kids and the kids spend every moment they can with them. I think the boys are quite suprised at how much fun it was to hang out with us!

On Sunday we went to the park in town with Filippo and Maurizio (I told you they enjoyed it!) for some basketball, kickball and outdoor fun. The boys won the basketball game (22-20), but there will be a rematch soon....

Maurizio is a lot of fun but he speaks minimal English. What he does say comes out very well, so the kids always forget he doesn't understand them. Poor guy! I tried to tell him that most of our family and friends don't understand them either....Luckily we have Filippo who translates for us!

Jellyfish, crabs and 6 kids...a daily adventure!

Thursday, June 18th
We have been pent up “relaxing” long enough and decided to go to the beach! We thought we would be there early, but getting six kids and three adults ready to go the beach isn't any easier over here. The traffic and construction didn't help either (or not seeing signs or being able to read them!) We finally made it around 11:30 and decided to grab some pizza before we actually went to the beach. The kids all love the pizza (especially Liam). However many we get, they eat in seconds! The only thing they consume more rapidly is the gelato (no surprise there).

The beach was gorgeous and nothing I write can remotely compare to the scenery. None of us (Jess, Jason, or I) have ever been to a beach where you could see the snow-capped mountains in the background. I did snag a picture, but it doesn’t do it justice. It was beautiful. The sand was VERY, VERY hot. We did all kinds of beach things…built a sandcastle, buried children (and one adult), jumped the waves, etc. We did see several jelly fish. Some of the kids weren’t too sure about swimming in the waves with them, but eventually got over it. One jellyfish washed up on the shore, so we were able to show them what they look like. We also found a crab, and later on in the day, a gentleman gave us six of them that he had found. It was great. They were much smaller than the ones we usually find, so it didn’t hurt when they pinch you. They couldn’t even pinch you because they were so little.

We ended the day with a visit to Pisa to eat ice cream and visit the leaning tower. We’ve all seen pictures, and the pictures make the tower look straight compared to real life. It was crazy! We snapped a couple of cute pictures and then went for some ice cream (do you notice the trend?)! The day was wonderful and our first adventure out was a success.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This is life in the slow lane?

Somehow we have managed to not keep daily, almost weekly blogs! In our defense, we are pretty active over here. We have been thoroughly enjoying our "home" for the next month.

A cute side note about Rebecca: She has been soooo excited to go to Italy. Before we left, she was always asking when we were going to go to Italy. Upon arrival to our house, we discovered that, to Rebecca, "Italy" is our house. We can be in the quaint town nearby or even down at the pool (at our house) and she will say "When can me go back to Italy?!?!" We chuckle every time!

Monday, June 15th
The past week was as laid back as it is having six kids in a new country where everyone speaks a different language! On Monday, Liam, Rebecca, Noah, Jason and I (the early risers) went to the market in San Casciano (the nearby town which is so much fun - old castle walls and even a castle playground!) where we could have bought anything imaginable. We were only there for some fresh local produce and some fresh fish....both delicious! Many older Italian women came up and touched the kids and would ask "Are they all yours?" (we can understand that question in any language - as well as the 'whoa!' that comes with it) Our kids love the attention so it's been really sweet to watch. We happened upon a little fish vendor at the market who doted on the kids. She had an actual (albeit dead) octopus, which she proceeded to hold up and shake and make loud noises at the kids with. Liam thought it was hysterical and loved the "crazy fish lady." She ended up giving each of the kids dead shrimp/prawns on a skewer. It was a strange, somehow endearing gift, and definitely a hit with the kids. They had fun with them all afternoon.

We spent the rest of the week just hanging out by the pool and playing outside with the dogs that live on the property (they have several labs and one fluffy dog named Baffo – which means mustache).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can I under-size that please??

We spent all day yesterday at home getting adjusted. Maggie and Noah were both feeling a little under the weather from all the travel, but feel much better today. The villa is fantastic!! Here is a link to the advertisement for the villa, but we'll be posting more pictures as we go.
Words can't describe the surrounding scenery. It looks like a postcard for Tuscany on every side and the sunsets are amazing!!

The kids are really enjoying the pool in the back yard and chasing after the local lizards. This morning, Bridget and I went to the local market in San Casciano that takes place on Monday mornings. It's more like a flea market than a produce market - selling everything from underwear to dress shirts, toiletries to leather purses. We were able to pick up some fresh fish and veggies, but most importantly - enjoy the local culture.

We made another trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things we missed the other day. I am amazed at how small everything is in Italy. It doesn't exactly make it easy for a family of our stuture to go shopping. I wasn't expecting to go down the road to Costco (my favorite store) and buy things in bulk, but come on - can I just buy a quart of milk? I'm not even asking for a gallon.....just a quart!! If we 'super-size' everything in America, then they 'under-size' everything over here!

"He'll never find him"

June 13th

After the kids slept in until 10:00 (that's really, really late for our gang), we headed out for a walking tour around the Duomo. It is truly an amazing sight!!! I can't wait to take the tour in a couple weeks and attend one of the Saturday Masses in English. We grabbed another gelato (do you see a trend here?) and jumped in the car to drive towards our villa.

After making a few wrong turns (including driving right up to someone's house on their private drive), we finally found our driveway. Since we couldn't check in until 4:00pm, we headed into the local town of San Casciano to do some exploring. We played in a local park for a while and then headed to the grocery store to pick up some supplies.

I was told and read that many Italians know English and jump at the opportunity to practice using it. Well, maybe I'm just in the wrong part of Italy because no one is practicing with me. I have yet to have any meaningful conversations with said Italians. My escapades with the locals at the grocery store encapsulate these experiences. I can't even get the guy to give me bags for my groceries!!!

Did you ever see the third Indian Jones movie.....I think it's called the Last Crusade? There's a great scene where Dr. Jones is captured, but his enemies realize that his assistant, Marcus, is still on the loose searching for the Holy Grail. Jones proceeds to tell his captors that "Marcus is fluent in over 30 languages, knowledgeable in local cultures, able blend into any'll never find him, he blends!!" The camera fades over to Marcus - standing in a bright white suit in the middle of an Arab market yelling "Does anyone here speak English?". That's how well I 'blend' in Italy :-)

Welcome to ITALY!!!


With the time change, we checked into our hotel around 10:30pm. After a short night's sleep, we decided to grab a dip in the pool before heading back to the airport. All was going well in the pool until I picked Nathan up over my head and he projectile vomited on my face. To top it off, I lowered him back into the water to discover that he had simultaneously exploded out of his swim diaper and had poop all over his back. The gentleman sitting beside the pool gave me a dirty look, shook his head and rolled his eyes. I can't imagine why, but he decided not to swim that day.

Thank goodness that we had two short flights on Friday because the kids were wiped out. We finally arrived in Florence about 7:00pm and proceed to get our rental car......a 9-passenger van (the make of which I've never even heard of). It's not bad and gets us from place to place. The best part about it is the cargo space - which actually holds all of our stuff!! It is fun driving a standard again, though if we had any more passengers I would be required to get my European Commercial Driver's License (no joke).

Driving in Italy is an adventure - narrow streets, lots of one way roads, confusing signs, and terrible drivers....especially those on scooters! After getting lost a couple times, we made our way to our hotel in the heart of Florence for our one-night stay. We were right down the street from the Duomo in a pretty cool old hotel (but then again, everything in Italy is old).

After checking in, we enjoyed some late night festivities on the Square - including street performers, our first pizza, our first gelatos, and a ride on the carousel under the stars. It was the perfect first night in Italy!!!

Across the pond....we're almost there....

June 11th

Despite the adults being a little grumpy, the kids were great on plane. It would be a lie to say that seven hours went by in a flash, but the time did pass quickly. We arrived in London without any major meltdowns from the kids (though the adults had a few).

We walked towards Customs and found ourselves last in a very long line of probably 100 people. Fortunately, there was a large open area behind the weaving ropes and we decided it best to let the kids burn off some pent-up energy. Despite library-like silence as examiners carefully looked for hardened criminals trying to enter the UK, we decided to play some games.

Coincidentally, it was just after Liam said "I know, let's play tackle it-tag" that a guard kindly escorted us to the front of the line. If you thought we were getting some looks playing tag, you should have seen the burning stares as we bypassed the wait. Needless to say, we didn't make any new friends in the UK and won't be going back :-)

And they're off!!!

June 11th

We're a little behind on our posts, but we've kinda been busy!!! :-) Good thing that I've been taking notes so that I wouldn't forget anything. We have a lot of ground to cover here.

After finishing the packing and straightening up the house, Bridget and I finally made it to bed around 2:30am on Wednesday night. I woke up in the same position I fell asleep in at 5:30am.....questioning whether I felt better or worse.

We finalized the bags, dressed the kids, and got everyone out to the car. Our neighbor, Jonathan Hodge, was kind enough to drive us to the airport in Da Goetz Bus at 6:30.

You get a lot of strange looks walking through the airport with 3 adults, 6 kids, 5 boxes, 4 suitcases, and 9 carry-on items, and a look on your face that screams "I need coffee!!". The upside is that Security figures you wouldn't possibly come up with this elaborate of a plan to take out a they just wave you on through. The one gate agent even tied Rebecca's shoes :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Are we there yet?

So what exactly don't you need to pack for a family of 9 going to Europe for 5 weeks? I ask because the task at hand is quite daunting right now. Medicines, diapers, legos, life jackets....not to mention, clothes! We are less than 24 hours away from lift-off and all I can say is "What were we thinking?!?!?!" I know tomorrow it will be worth it and the next 5 weeks will be absolutely amazing, but here and now I have so much on my list I don't know where to begin. As Maria Von Trapp sang in the Sound of Music "We'll start at the very beginning" (appropriate quote as we are going to her old stomping grounds), so Maggie, Rebecca and Noah are at a friend's house (thanks so much, Kris!) and I am going to go item by item through our list.