Sunday, January 27, 2013

I cannot wait for Spring Break 2013!!

If you think that sounds slightly like something I have said before, well you are right. Last year I was super excited and could not wait for Spring Break 2012. Last year we went to Tuscany with/at the same time as the Brocks. (I say ''with'' but with 6 people in each family we have to take separate cars, stay in separates places, etc).

We had a blast!

So shortly after last years Spring Break we started talking about where we wanted to go for this year. B and I knew we wanted to take the kids to Disneyland Paris but over the summer would be too crowded, Nanaw and Papa were coming to visit and we didn't yet have our tourist passports. We got to talking to the Brocks once again and they were also planning a Disneyland trip in the near thing led to another and Spring Break 2.0 was born!

That's right ya'll for Spring Break we are headed to PARIS!! How freaking exciting is that? For this small town Kansas girl, I feel like I need pinched! We will be spending the first 4 days/3 nights at Disneyland. We have a family-room in a partner hotel nearby (Disney resorts didn't have a room big enough for all 6 of us, they wanted us to book two rooms..ugh!) and we have park passes to both parks for all four days. We can take our time and really have fun! The Brocks also booked Disney for those same dates! We will be there together but will probably split up quite a bit once in the parks because they have been to Disney parks before and we haven't yet navigated the park with kids. {Random factoid, B and I eloped in Las Vegas, then spent the day after our wedding at Disneyland California}. Our boys!

They are saving their money, they are planning on meeting Buzz Lightyear, they look forward to riding the the flying Dumbos and hopefully they are big enough to ride in Crush's Coaster because they are really excited about that. We also reserved a 'Breakfast with the Characters' meal so hopefully they will love it! Truth be told I am nervous since Logan was freaked out by the Sesame Street gang at Sea World.

So on the fourth day, we will leave Disneyland and head for the apartment that we will be renting, in the 6th Arrondissement. We found the apartment on which is rental website. Most people when traveling in Europe do not book a hotel; they are small and very expensive. Many people rent a property from a website such as,, or even vacation rentals from tripadvisior. It gets you a better deal, a bigger place at the cheaper price, usually right where you want to be and has the amenities of home: washer, dryer, bathtub, kitchen, etc. The hotel still had some appeal for me (indoor swimming pool if it rains, extra pillows/towels/etc a call away) but this will save time and money and immerse us into a neighborhood usually reserved for the locals.  Now the Brocks also found a place but I believe there apartment is in the 16th arrondissement. While we will be split up for this part of the trip, we hope to meet up for dinner at some point!

So, the apartment...I love it and we haven't even seen it. This is the one we rented. I have a friend who recently moved from Paris who helped us when narrowing down a 'district' to stay in and I am so glad for her help. We are in the district she thought would be perfect for us! A five minute walk from Notre Dame! A 15 minute walk from the Louvre, and a quick Subway ride to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe. It's 5 mins to the nearest metro station, which has a line right to the airport so when it's time to say goodbye, it should be fairly simple. Oh and literally right across the street is a Starbucks. Like 10 feet from the entrance to the apartment. Oh how I've missed thee! (I'm sure its a sin to drink Starbucks in Paris but I plan on doing it over and over...I gotta make up for a years worth of missed time!)

While we don't have a daily itinerary, we do have a list of ''Really, Really Want to See/Do". While traveling with young kids I realize a ''Must See" list is a bit of a pipe dream. Ideally we want to...
  • Visit the Eiffel Tower, go up to the top!
  • Ride in a double decker bus for a ''hop on, hop off'' tour of Paris. 
  • Visit the Louvre, admire the art, see Mona Lisa's smile and take a forced perspective photo similar to this..

taken from google images...links to here:

  • Climb the tours of Notre Dame (all 422 steps...)
  • Eat a french baguette, buy and eat macarons (ideally from the famed LadurĂ©e is a 10 minute walk from the apartment we rented) and the boys want to eat French Fries and French Toast while in France. 
  • See the Arc De Triomphe (the boys recognize it from the movie Cars 2)
  • Visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, also less than 10 mins from our Apartment, and ride the carousel and perhaps rent a toy sailboat. 
  • Visit the Orsay Museum and/or Musee de l'Orangerie (several of Monet's pieces are here, love love love Waterlilies) 
And just relax, if there is any time left! We will be there for one full week and it's ''moderate'' tourist season. We're planning on getting the Paris Pass so hopefully that will cut down on the long lines and expense of travel. Overall I'm just excited to go!

Friday, January 25, 2013

My little artist(s)

Before winter break, Pooks came home from school with a paper explaining the PTA Reflections Art Program. (If you google it, it'll come right up...I yam blogging on my phone). Basically Mrs. T thinks that Pooks is a great artist who obviously loves to draw and color and she suggested that over the break, he draw something to submit to the program. The theme this year is •The Magic of the Moment• and I explained to Pooks that if he wanted to submit a picture, he should think of something or someplace that is magical to him. He said okay and days past, nothing else was said.

One evening I was prepping dinner when Pooks came in, handed me a picture and said "here is a picture for that contest. It's the leaning tower. It leans and leans but never's magic!" So I wrote down what he said and put it in his backpack to return to school. Mrs T. submitted it for us and we sorta forgot about it.

But today, we received an email. His artwork placed first in his grade level and its now going on to the next level, the European PTA Reflections, where it will be judged yet again...this time against all the other Primary level entries. He was SO excited and immediately ran off to tell his brothers. We had to go to the school to fill out the submission form for the European program, so I took that moment to snap a picture of him with his artwork. Doesn't he just look so proud of himself??
I just love his perspective on the subjects he draws. He's a lefty and I don't know if that makes a difference but I just love his art. Here is a picture he drew before Christmas, it's Rudolph pulling Santa in his sleigh. You have to look at it as Rudolph being head on and you'll see Santa, drawn smaller, behind him.

Here is a picture he drew at the beginning of the year, It's a rockstar singer with blue spikey hair...

And dinosaurs are pretty common:

Here is a picture he drew for me, it's a pizza and a glass of wine.

Not to leave his brothers out, here are some drawings from the notepad Bubba keeps in his backpack. He draws on the school bus to and from school each day. His are also very good and very unique, if I say so myself.

Here is a rockstar dinosaur:

This is us in Venice. I'm walking with the boys, B and Sissy are riding in a Gondola:

Here is an assignment from school:
Peanut gets in on the action too:
(I helped draw the pigeon with him) That's the Bus from the Pigeon book series by Mo Willems. 

Heck, Sissy *just* turned two and when she colors, she is doing a great job of staying inside of the lines and using correct colors:

They might not be the fastest or the most athletic, but they sure are creative and I couldn't be more proud :D

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nanaw and Papa visit(ed) Italy: Nove

Okay so we returned home from Germany/Austria really late Saturday night. Sunday we rested! We did laundry, relaxed. I think we went and got groceries and generally just recooperated from our whirlwind week of Pisa/Germany/Austria.

On Monday, we left the kids at home with B and I took my parent's back to Nove. Nove is a tiny town known for their ceramics. VBC is the ''big'' place to go, with the factory and shop where their produce many of their own ceramics but also ceramics for the labels of Tiffany and Co, William Sonoma, and Lenox. It's a great way to stock up and get really nice name brand pieces at a fraction of the cost. We had attempted to stop in Nove earlier in their trip but mistakenly arrived on a Saturday and everything was already closed.

This was not the case Monday. While I only took a few photos, just know that Nanaw was like a kid in a candy store!
Above, Nanaw is looking at a collection of Mosaic pieces. They are truly gorgeous. Everything from sunflowers, lemons, or olives, to scenes of Venice, Tuscan hills and the Italian Riviera. The small mosaic salt and pepper sets are €10, the bigger pieces go up from there but nothing I inquired about was more than €65.

Every single American who I've seen in VBC automatically says "Oh my gosh, it's like Italian Fiestaware" when rounding the corner to this aisle. Aren't the colors just beautiful? I did not in any way edit this photo...that is simply how bright they are.

And below, are some of the 'upscale department store' pieces I was talking about. The ceramic basket pieces are Tiffany and Co. Most of the dishes are Lenox. The platter on the right top shelf, that's Tiffany and Co and it retails for $115 on their website. I believe it was around €24. The woven basket in front of the platter, the one with the handles, I bought for €20.
If you are stationed here, I highly recommend driving up to Nove. It's 18 minutes from our house, but not far from post either.

The shop is open:
Monday to Friday from 08.30 - 12.30 and from 14.00 to 18.00
Saturday from 08.30 - 13.30.
Via Molini 45 - 36055
Nove (Vicenza) Italy
Sissy at 2 years and 3 months you are...

  • talking more and more. Saying things like ''Connor is mean'' or ''Stop it!" to your brothers, telling me ''Night Night Mommy, Love you" at bedtime or screaming ''NANNY" when you hear me on the computer talking to Nanaw.
  • becoming more independent. We hear a lot of ''Me do!" or "I yelp{help}". You can put your undies, pants, and boots on all by yourself, as well as take them off. You can zip and unzip your jacket and when getting buckled into your carseat, you buckle the top all by yourself as well.
  • eating better. You've recently decided that you like ranch dip so carrot sticks and celery are sure eats for you. You love milk, cheese, yogurt. You can dispense water into your own cup using our Culligan water tank and you love to eat noodles using training chopsticks. Favorite foods right now are: Lucky Charms, pretzels, baby carrots, clementines, chocolate milk and breakfast food.
  • you are now jumping, with both feet actually leaving the ground. This amuses you immensely and you often jump wherever you are going in the house. 
  • haven't grown much in the last three months, you still weigh in at 22.5lbs. Your 2T clothes fit better though, so I'm guessing you have grown in height!
  • are slowly phasing out of your afternoon nap. Only about every other day do you actually sleep but you'll lay in bed for about an hour each afternoon either looking at books or playing your Leapster. 

The downside of living in Italy when you have 4 kids

We have lived in Italy for over a year and overall it's been a fantastic year. We have gotten to do so many things that I never imagined ever being able to do/see. Spring break in Tuscany? Check. Spending the day after Christmas is Venice? Done. Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa...twice? That happened. Visiting the highest point in Germany which means being in the Alps? Did that too. Spending an afternoon in Austria? Yep! I've drank amazing wine, ate fantastic food, met wonderful people. 

But Italy has been very hard on us medically. One of the things that we were not warned about before coming here was that asthma sufferers usually have it worse here. Which when 2 out of 4 kids have asthma, would have been nice to know. Sissy has even been prescribed at inhaler since being here, though she doesn't carry the diagnosis yet. Mold is also a HUGE problem here in Northern Italy and Bubba's number one allergy is mold. Needless to say we are constantly dealing with albuterol & Flo-vent inhalers and oral prednisone. While all of these medicines make the kids better, I worry about the long term effects of being on them so often. These are steroids and these are small kids. (Bubba is almost 7 and weighs 42lbs) Bubba rarely needed his inhaler in Texas...maybe twice a month after playing outside or walking home from school. Now he takes them daily. Often I wake up in the middle of the night to his wheezing cough. It's really hard.

This is the first week of the new year and Peanut got hit hard with it. He had a light cough on Sunday and by Monday morning he is wheezing and I can see his chest doing that slight cave when he breathes. So we are back to breathing treatments (which for some reason are more effective than the inhaler with chamber for him).

So what started as a cold has now lead to prednisone twice a day, pulmicort via nebulizer twice a day and albuterol every 3 hours via nebulizer. He also has a slight fever and is complaining of his ears. So Motrin/Tylenol as needed too.

Now I know kids get sick, but as they get older they should start to outgrow this, so to speak. And Bubba was...but Italy makes it so hard.

Another part of the problem is hard water. Kids who have asthma, often have eczema...which is true for us. Both Bubba and Sissy will get to the point where they scratch so much in their sleep that they bleed. Despite limiting their time in the tub, using Cetaphil for their bath soap...its just so dry. So in addition to the asthma meds, both use a hydro cortisone cream on their skin and take Zyrtec daily. That is a lot of medicine for kids. Daily. Everyday, not just when having an asthma flare up.

Adding to all this is the amount of times that I've had a sinus infection since being here. I am also on Zyrtec daily, as well as Flo-nase. I use nasal rinses daily and still average one sinus infection every 6 weeks or so. So much so that I have to go for a follow up this month and if my sinuses are still swollen, I'm being referred to an ENT for sinus surgery. Since being here I've also had a few other issues resulting in neurologist consults, MRIs and seeing doctors on the economy. Nothing due to Italy but I'm not getting treatment like I should, being here. And paying €400 for an MRI isn't easy when you're a family of six and stateside insurance would cover 100%.

So as awesome as Italy is, and as much as we haven't gotten to do/see since being here...we're starting to think about life after Italy. Being here as civilians, we are here for 3 years. However, after one year if you get a job back in the states that will cover a PCS move you are able to leave. Due to the medical issues we're having here and the fact that at the end of 3 years we have return rights to San Antonio (none of us wants to move back to SA, even the kids) B has begun looking and at some jobs stateside now.

It's bittersweet. Of course in this economy it may end up that we will be here for a full three years and we realize that. We made it through a year of this, we could do two more. Just if we get the chance to return home, we are at the point where we will take it. It's leave earlier for a place and job that we would love to have and finally be able to settle down, or stay for 2 years and return to SA where we do not want to settle and end up moving yet again.

All of that being said, we're still planning on making the most of it while we are here! We are planning out our Spring Break trip now....Paris! We want to take the kids to Disneyland Paris as well as see the sights. I want to spend a 4 day weekend in Spain and I would love to visit Belgium. We're well within driving distance to Slovenia, Austria, and Croatia. As well as the French Riviera. We have big plans while we're here (and now that Sissy is potty trained everything is that much easier!) but we are okay if they don't happen either. I see it as yes, there is certainly a lot that I haven't done but I am so, so grateful for what I *have* done and I will not leave with regrets. I've already experienced so much more that I ever thought possible.