Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

I frequently think about how we are all forever changed by the opportunity we've been given to live and travel overseas.  I am so thankful.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another First Day of School Post

In case you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, or have finally made it off of a deserted island, let me enlighten you with the fact that school has started in many areas of America! (And in our little corner of Italy as well!) Yea! Go teachers! Bless you for taking them off of our hands after this long, hot summer.  I'm sure after the first month of school, we parents will be cursing your names again over the reading logs that we always forget to sign, and the complex at-home projects like the DNA project in Biology and the map of South American from the southern perspective. But for now, we are uber-thankful for you! (I'm kidding here...we are always thankful for the fabulous teachers that our kids have!)
Here are the required pictures of my beautiful children holding their yearly grade signs.  If you are a follower of many blogs, I'm sure you are quite sick of these.  Sorry...

We can't help it :)

The thought that she will only be together with us for 2 more years before she heads off to college is hard to believe. It honestly seems like Kindergarten was just yesterday sometimes

Love this guy...he is NOT a morning picture and I swear, all of his first day of school pictures look like mug shots. 
So proud of how far this little guy has come!

Ok, honestly it's not her first day of preschool.  She started in the 3 year old 2 day program at the beginning of the school year last year and has now moved up to 3 days a week this year.  I am simply not ready to give her up 5 days a week yet.  So glad she'll be with me at home for another 2 years! Thank-you October birthday!!

The Brock Brats!

Our fabulous 1st grade teacher! i could not have hand-picked a better one! (And yes, I color coordinated their outfits)

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home & Family

I grew up in a tiny little town in Virginia that probably wouldn't be considered tiny anymore, yet is still small enough that my oldest daughter had my 1st grade teacher as her 1st grade teacher, and that I taught 8th grade English there with my 8th grade English teacher.  In my opinion, this makes it small enough.  I loved growing up in small town, surrounded by history and people I had know my entire life.  And then I married a military man and moved far, far away and I thought all of that would change--that my own kids would never have that sense of "home" that I have now come to cherish.  It's so true.  Ask any military kid where they are from and they'll do one of three things:

*They'll tell you where they were born (Trey does this.  He says he is from Texas--a state that he was born in and actually lived in for exactly 3 1/2 months before we moved to Virginia, and he spent almost the entire time in the NICU.  And I cannot tell you how many kids I've taught over the years who say they are from Germany)

*They'll tell you where their parents are from, even if they've never lived there themselves (Tory does this.  She frequently tells people she is from Virginia, or sometimes Alabama)

*They'll tell you where they moved from last (Jackson does this. He's from Ft. Campbell, by the way--a place that is super confusing since it actually straddles the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.  We lived on the Tennessee side, by the way)

I frequently wonder if Delilah will say she's from Italy, since it's where she's lived for the greatest amount of time.  Even now, when we ask her if she's an American or if she's Italian, she always says she's Italian. I blame that on the gelato.  And the pizza. 

But here's what I've come to realize over 20 years as a military spouse:  Home really is where you make it.  It doesn't mater in what city, state, or even country that happens to be in.  And you build your own history with your military family that you're lucky to know and call your friends.  They become your family and in a sense, your history.  I'm so thankful to have this opportunity. 

Steve and the brats.  Yes, the Roman soldier came with the house...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Yesterday was one of those "I love Italy" days

I'm back in first place! Please continue to vote for my blog by clicking on the picture of the happy mommy below! Thanks :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Italian Bikini Car Wash

I'm about to tell you something that I'm sure I'll burn in parental hell for, but here it goes:

Sometimes I let the brats watch TV while we eat dinner.

I know, I know, it's terrible...but don't judge, people!

We don't have a television in our dinning room (that actually used to be the garage before our landlord converted it into a dinning room--"Italian Style"), it's actually where our computer is, and the kids watch shows on it from our iTunes.  The "watch TV while we're eating thing" first started when Steve was TDY somewhere and it took all I had to keep the brats at the table to eat.  Their dinner viewing pleasure began as the Scooby Doo's "Menace in Venice" (totally educational for those of us living in Italy) episode and has since moved on to Olivia, Season 2.  Even I know the words to her "Goodnight, Olivia" song.

 I just can't help it.  That pig is just so darn cute and spunky. Reminds me of a little puddle duck I know...

so anyhow...

Tonight at dinner, we were watching the episode where Olivia and Francine decide to have a fundraiser to raise money for new books for the school.  We were eating our ice cream (which we really do on Sundays but we had left over sundays tonight) and listening to Olivia decide which type of fund raiser to have.  Tory (the oldest brat) shouted out "Bikini Car Wash" and we all laughed at the thought of Olivia in a bikini.

On the show, Olivia decided that she and Francine should have a dog washing event, to which Tory replied, "Wait, they are going to wash dogs while in their bikinis?" (She gets confused sometimes)

And is classic humor that it seems only Trey (the 2nd brat) can truly accomplish in our family, Trey replied to her, "No Tory, the dogs are wearing the bikinis".

I love these brats.

(and I'm sure this is exactly what anyone who googled "Italian Bikini Carwash"was looking for!)

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Monday, August 19, 2013

My Missing Neighbor--An Italian Mystery

We've had an interesting occurrence over here at Via Fontanelle this weekend--our missing neighbor has suddenly reappeared! (at least I think it's him)

Let me start at the beginning.  

Our house sits amongst a weird little collection of Italian homes that are typical for Italian families but quite unusual for Americans.  We are quietly tucked away in the middle of the Veneto farm and wine country, on the banks of the Bacchiglione river.  While most of our windows look out at the beautiful vineyards and farm land that this region of Italy is so famous for, our front door opens up to a fairly small front yard and a larger Italian farm house that houses 3 families.  The "unit", for lack of a better word, to the far left is the largest and this is were my neighbors Anna-Maria and Luigi live with their single son (who is easily in his late forties).  They are also the grandparents of Clarissa, the little girl who is only a week older that Delilah. The girls sometimes play and have this strange bond that I can't even begin to understand or explain since neither of them speak the same language, but somehow they play just fine together...although now that I think of it, Delilah *does* spend a tremendous amount of time patting Clarissa on the top of her head and talking to her in a high squeaky voice...


The unit on the far right is a weekend get away home for an Italian couple living in Milan.  They are probably in their late 50's and are very friendly with us. He speaks a tiny bit of English--probably as much English as we speak Italian--and we enjoy talking to them when they come into town every now and again.  She is amazed at the thought that we have 4 bambini and ends most of our conversations with "Mama Mia!".
The farm house was built in 1782--this plaque is about the opening for the garage. I'm curious what the letters stand for--If you know, send me an email...I'm so curious!

The person living in the middle unit is who this mystery is all about.  He's a single man, in his 50's also and although I have no idea what he does for a living, he seems to be home a lot...AND he is OBSESSED with his car.  It's nothing fancy--just a four door 1990's Volvo sedan, that dark teal color that was so popular during that time period. You would have thought it was a Ferrari though with as much attention as he paid it.  He literally washed it several times a week and we would always see him outside cleaning it.  He had this one friend who would come over sometimes and they would work on these racing cars that were covered in sponsor logos.  I'm not sure who was the car racer--I always assumed it was the friend--and that our neighbor was the mechanic.  
Garden shed

He had lived across "the way" from us from the time that we moved into our house in early 2012 and we would see him pretty much everyday, sometimes more, sometimes less, and we had a friendly, neighborly relationship with him--meaning we would yell out "Ciao" to him and he would answer us, or vice versa. One time when we went on vacation early last summer, we asked (in our totally broken Italian) if he would mind dragging our garbage can back up to the house and he was nice enough to help us out.  It was that sort of relationship.  He seemed like a nice enough guy...

And then last August, he totally vanished.  One day, we woke up to him putting a few things into the back of his friend's car, and then they waved to us and just drove away.  The odd thing was that he had driven his beloved car into the "garage" part of the house and just left it.  It seemed ordinary enough at the time.  August is vacation month for Europeans.  It seriously seems that everyone goes on a vacation during that time. Houses are shut up and businesses close down for extended periods--sometimes for weeks--in August. Last week, Steve and I went out to dinner on a Tuesday night and we had to go to six restaurants before we found one that was open! They take their vacation time seriously around here, so it wasn't surprising not to see him for a couple of weeks. Then those weeks turned into months, summer slipped into fall, and still no neighbor. 
From our driveway

It was our first summer and fall in Italy, so we didn't really know what to expect.  I suppose it's common in farming communities, but the FLIES were (and are this summer as well) overwhelming!  I had never seen anything like it.  There were quite literally THOUSANDS of them on the back side of our house.  It was gross! And obviously, a few of them ended up in our house as well. The kids would come home from school and I would show them my "kills" for the day...

Steve and I really didn't think anything of it until the weather started to turn cooler.  The pretty little garden our neighbor had maintained by the side of our house had turned into a jumble of weeds by this time and his Volvo was covered in dust.  Otherwise, everything was just as he had left it.  
 Clothesline and pretty little garden now covered in weeds

Garage with the Volvo

Then, on one weeknight in the late fall, we had a knock at our door late one evening.  It was around 9 or 10 at night, and both Steve and I were in our pj's watching TV in the living room.  Normally, I would have ignored it, but the time of day made us curious, so we answered the door to find an Italian man and woman, middle-aged and wearing suits, standing on our doorstep. He was holding a clipboard with some paperwork attached. They both immediately apologized--I assume for the time--and started to point at the paperwork, and at our neighbor's house.  Neither spoke any English, and we unfortunately didn't speak enough Italian to decipher what was being said, but it was obvious that they were "official" and were talking about our neighbor.  When they realized that we were Americani, they waved and left.  Nothing EVER came of this...

Skip to this summer...still no sign of our neighbor....The mail is piling up in his box, the garden looks like a tropical rainforest, and the car is covered in dust and dirt.  Even I started to worry.  And then I remembered the flies...  And all my true crime-lovin' mind could imagine was bad, bad things.  
The Volvo today--see all the dust and dirt!!

Until this weekend.  On Saturday night, a little red honda hatchback pulled onto our driveway and stopped in front of his house. I honestly figured it was just someone who was lost and had come to the end of our street and was using our driveway to turn around.  But on Sunday morning, we woke to find the little red Honda hatchback parked in the driveway in front of his house.  The curtain that covers his doorway was pulled back, but all the shutters were still closed and the windows were still closed. And when we came home from the movies on Sunday evening, there were clothes on his clothes line.  The little red Honda was gone, but there were clothes!  You better BELIEVE I stalked that house for the next few hours!  No luck.  We went to bed last night with no little red Honda, and clothes still on the line (and I thought I was the only one who left clothes on the line all night)

Until this morning.  Red Honda is back, clothes are off the line.  But Teal Volvo is STILL covered in dust and STILL in the garage and the mail is STILL overflowing out of the mailbox and, you guessed it, the windows and shutters are STILL shut....(expect for one at the top of the  house, which is now suddenly open) 
The curtain to the door pulled to the side now but the mailbox is still full!

It's a mystery....and I love a good one.  I'll keep y'all posted!!

I'd love your vote!  One click on the picture of the happy momma below is all it takes! Ciao and Grazie!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Visit to The Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

I know it might sound odd, but the biggest surprise on our favorite places of Paris list was the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.  Tucked away on the edge of the 20th arrondissement, the cemetery holds the reputation of being the world's most visited--though I'm wondering how anyone could prove that.  Called "la cite des morts"--the city of the dead--by Parisians, the cemetery websites boasts that its grounds hold over a million graves.  The thing that blew me away was that cemetery plots are most commonly bought for only 30 years--after that, the cemetery can dig up the remains and sell (rent, I'd call it) the plot to someone else (but this apparently only happens if the family chooses not to renew...) The cemetery was strangely an eerie sort of way. We followed the map in the Rick Steves book to visit  most of the famous "resting places", including Jim Morrison, Colette, Oscar Wilde, and Chopin to name a few.  What impressed me the most was the amount of graves in the cemetery and also the splendor of so many of the mausoleums! Many of them were huge! It was an easy, yet a little long, Metro trip out to the cemetery, but well worth it in my opinion.

Center of the cemetery.  The place was HUGE!! We were there for hours and didn't even come close to covering it all.

Siblings who were still children when they died...

Jim Morrison's grave...

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas--they are buried together

Oscar Wilde

Memorials to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust...I thought it was fitting that all of the statues were so emaciated. It was a very moving section of the cemetery. 

I loved this little series of photos that I took of the brats!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Orsay

Ready for a shocker: The number one rated attraction (by Trip Advisor) in Paris isn't the Eiffel.  It isn't the Arc de Triomphe.  And it isn't the Louvre.  It's the Musée d' Orsay.  I know, right?  I was shocked, too.  And then I went to the place, and I have to say, I was pree-tee impressed with it.

The Orsay was totally one of the places that ended up on our "Ok, if we get to it, but we won't break our necks trying to get to it" list.  We actually hit it on our last day in Paris, just mere hours before we caught the train back to CDG.  Everything we had read about it RAVED, so we made a little time for it--and when I say "a little time", I mean an hour.  We literally covered the good parts at a brisk walk, with whining children in tow, unfortunately.  

It's probably one of those places you'd recognize without realizing you'd recognize it.  It's the museum with the big clock that used to be a train station--which totally appealed to the kids (and me, honestly), but was repurposed into a museum when the train tracks became too short for the longer trains.  It's also the building that's featured prominently in the movie "Hugo", if you've seen that. 

Although I still loved the Louvre and would pick that over the Orsay if I could only pick one museum to see in France, the Orsay gave you a more condensed "bang for your buck" (it's covered on the Museum Pass) and it would be a very close second.  It was smaller than the Louvre and even Jackson recognized many of the paintings--thank you Mrs. Tramm.

I was talking to my friend Jen about writing this post and about my feelings for the Orsay.  It was an awesome museum, with a spectacular collection of famous art.  And I understand *why* just so many people love it.  It really comes down to what's on your art bucket list, so to speak.  More than anything, I wanted to see the statues of the Venus de Milo and Winged Vicory and both of those were at the Louvre.  I'm sure that plays heavily into my feelings. Honestly, the architecture of the Orsay was beautiful--and to think that there was serious discussion of tearing it down when the local officials of Paris realized it couldn't be used as a train station anymore!

Sadly, they had a strictly enforced "NO PHOTO!!!" policy.  (But apparently I don't follow directions well)

 This picture says a lot...

Most of my pictures taken at the Orsay look like this...

Seeing Whistlers Mother was the highlight of my trip to the Orsay.  It was huge and discretely tucked into a corner! I actually walked by it the first time and didn't notice it (This is truly hard to imagine now because it actually is SO big).  

I absolutely *love* this picture.  It was one that I snapped quickly without really realizing what the entire frame looked like.  I wonder if these two guys know each other.  Or are they perfect strangers sharing a moment...

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