Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nativity Scenes and Delicious food

We have decided that we are the worst at trying to go out and explore on our own so we have made the declaration that we will do at least one ITT (Information, Trips and Tours) trip every month until we have exhausted them.  The ease of letting someone else plan and drive us to see awesomeness is right up our alley.  We've scheduled two for this month.  We went on our first one for December this past Sunday, Dec 11th.

The Description in the "Preview" (that is the MWR magazine that lists the upcoming events) reads like this.
Mineo Nativity Scene & Borgo Antico
Sunday, December 11th
Start the holiday season with a nativity scene in Mineo.  Then savor a big lunch at Borgo Antico Agriturismo where the new olive oil is ready to taste.  
Depart: 8:15am 
Return: 3:30pm

Sounds like a winner to me!  It has a holiday theme and food!  We love the ones that include food!

We caught the bus just outside of housing.  It wasn't 8:15am but closer to 8:30am but one thing I am slowly getting accustomed to is that nothing around here actually starts on-time.  It's very laid back here in Sicily.  The town of Mineo is about a 45 minute drive from here.  There used to be a housing area for the base out there.  The area is still there, but not used by the base any longer.  It is now being used to house refugees from Libya.  It's strange to see houses that look just like ours with windows open and clothes lines hanging out of them with clothes dangling in the wind.

Waiting for the bus to arrive 

Mineo is a little town up on a hill.  The drive up is on a switchback road that is scary for a car (not too scary, but it was for me the first time I drove up there) and even more challenging with a huge bus.  We arrived at the town around 10:30ish.  Our tour guide was named Cynthia.  She is an ex-pat that has lived here in Sicily for 21 years.  She used to be an attendant on the contractor military flights.  (Patriot express; Cat B etc).  She speaks Italian fluently but being American we can understand her; she was awesome.  We had a local tour guide for Mineo named Maria.  She spoke fluent English, so our day was set as far as communication goes.

We disembarked the bus and walked through the archway into the town.  These small towns are not designed for cars.  They were laid out back in ancient times, so there is a lot of walking.  We are escorted to a building that has been opened up for us to use the toilets.  This made me extremely happy.  I don't know where Italian people use the restrooms.  There are rarely any public restrooms and often times when you do find one, you have to pay.  I have bladder issues and a 2 year old that is still potty training; so travel is difficult at best.
We begin our tour by walking through a maze of streets that are steep.  I'm thankful for the tour guide, or I would have surely been lost.  We stop at the first Nativity Scene.  They tell us that the scenes are created by various artists each year.  Each scene uses a different medium.  Some are made out of cork, paper and terracotta.  Now as Americans think Nativity Scene is just manger, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a couple of shepherds and wise-men.  Here in Italy it's an entire village with workers and houses, fires, animals, rivers.  They are entire scenes that are not Bethlehem.  They are called presepi which translates to crib or Nativity Scene.                                              They were truly amazing to see.  I took a ton of
photos, but they do not do justice to just how beautiful and detailed they really are.  They had moving pieces, such as a blacksmith hammering.  Gavin really loved them. 
 There were 10 scenes in all, but I believe we skipped two.  One we skipped because there was a long line of Italian tourists to see it and we were behind.  One reason we were behind is because Norah had to poop and Maria kindly found us a place to take her and they waited on her and Cody to come out of the restroom.  That was fun.  We were visiting the smallest church in Mineo, which by the way isn't THAT small, and she starts to say very loudly; "I need to poop".  I try to quiet

 her down and tell her that I'm sorry, but there is no potty here.  She then screams very loudly, "I NEED TO POOP!"  Maria asks one of the men at the church if I can take her to the restroom there and we are told no.  Norah starts to whine and cry a little.  She gets distracted as we move on to the next area and she does not have an accident.  She was in a pull-up because I expected something like that to happen.  She held it until Maria did find us a place at a museum for a local author.  Cody takes her in and of course there is no toilet paper or towels or anything.  I have got to remember to pack wipes and toilet paper in our day packs.
The church where Norah needed to poop.

After all Nativity scenes we walk back to the bus and head over to Borgo Antico Agriturismo for lunch.  We kind of knew what to expect from this place.  We had been told about it by several people.  One of our friends had called it a "marathon of food" and he wasn't off.  Agriturismo is a farm and restaurant where nearly all the food you are served is grown there on the property.  At Borgo Antico it is 80%.

Now if you've not had a traditional Italian meal, it is something.  There is so much food brought out you would think they were feeding three times the number of actual people.  It starts with antipasti which is appetizers   They served us cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, more cheese covered in jam and salami.  ( I think that is all of it, there was so much). 

Antipasto plate
 Then comes the pasta.  They served us tube pasta with tomato sauce and roast beef. I've never had roast beef with pasta like that and it was divine.  
Next was meat.  There were chicken thighs that were so tender and delicious.  Also sliced veal with gravy.

  Somewhere in there was broccoli and these fried mashed potato things.  Oh yeah and two kinds of egg type dishes.  I mean there was so much food coming out I could barely keep up with just taking the pictures.  There was a soup dish that was little pasta with beans.

Then a salad. 

And finally desert.  The desert were ricotta cheese pastries and oranges.  

Also our meal was accompanied by bottled water and table wine (which is one of Cody's favorite). 
  Man it was awesome.  If anyone comes to see us while we are living here, I'm definitely taking them there to eat.  So if you are thinking of coming over to visit, you have that place to look forward to!

Norah only made it through the antipasto.  She ate a lot of bread and some of the egg dishes and then she was ready to nap. We let her lay on the floor on a cushion they had brought out for her to sit on and covered her up with the blanket we brought.  She was content to nap in the corner.

The boys weren't as adventurous with their food choices.  We were at a huge, long table and they were close enough to us to be able to force them to try more.  Next time we'll enforce a bite of everything.

We rolled ourselves out of that place and made our way to the bus for the quick trip back home. We arrived back about an hour and half past the originally planned time, but that was okay with us.  We didn't have anything else planned for the day.  It was a very fun trip and  I really enjoyed myself.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Playing catch-up

So much for being on top of this thing.  I didn't write here everyday in November like I had planned, but I did manage to write a thankful status update every single day of November on  That's one small victory for me. I'll try again next year.

We had a great Thanksgiving day.  We roasted our turkey upside-down (breast down).  It was succulent and juicy.  We all sat around the table and talked about what we were thankful for.  We spent the time off chilling out around the house and watching a lot of tv and movies.  It was a joy to be with each other and just relax.

This month is busy as most Decembers usually are. Friday the 1st we went to Midtown on NAS 1 to see the Christmas tree lighting.  They sang songs and then lit the tree.  I discovered just how much Gavin does not enjoy crowds.  He reminds me a lot of Cody.  Sometimes I forget that they all aren't just like me, they have their daddy in them too. Hahaha.  He wasn't happy in the middle of everything, but once we moved to the side where it wasn't crowded, he was much happier.

Ethan and Norah at the tree lighting

This past Saturday morning Ethan spent about an hour and a half distributing bags and fliers for a  Troop 53 Scout project.  One of his fellow Scouts is working on his Eagle project. The young man is collecting canned food to donate to a local food bank in Catania.  After he was finished with that we headed over to NAS 1 again.  The NMCRS (Navy Marine Corp Relief Society) that runs the thrift shop on base had a shopping event for children.  They had volunteers to escort the children into the shop and help them purchase items for their family and friends.  The boys loved it.  It didn't occur to us to send Norah in there, but we could have.  There were little ones younger than her that went in.  Next year we will definitely do that.  All of the items were priced at $1, $2 or $3.

We managed to wash the car (boy was it ever dirty), trim the tree in the front yard and put up the Christmas lights outside.  I was surprised at how productive our Saturday actually was.

Gavin attended at birthday party at the bowling alley Sunday.  It was all I could do to convince him to go.  He likes playing with other kids and enjoys it once he's there, but he would much rather stay home.  We are working on getting him more involved with outside activities.  I'm not forcing, just encouraging.  He ended up having a great time.  We didn't know what to buy the little boy so we opted to give him $10 cash.  He seemed to like that.

While I stayed with Gavin at the party, Ethan, Cody and Norah went to see "Happy Feet 2".  Ethan was the only one that actually got to watch the whole thing.  Norah wasn't happy in there so she and Cody ended up back at the bowling alley with me.

Cody and Gavin were super happy to see the Falcons on tv last night but sorely disappointed in the performance of the team.  They both were yelling at the tv.

This next week is pretty busy too.  Ethan has his musical performance this week.  Then next weekend we are going on a trip with ITT.  I love the Holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Turkey Time.

I put the turkey down in the refrigerator this morning to get it started thawing.  Cody, Norah and I went to the commissary this evening to pick up the last few items we will need (hopefully).  There were a lot of people in the store picking up Thanksgiving supplies.  I am looking forward to all the yummy food.  I hope the kids will eat more than just the pies.

Thanksgiving is pretty easy for us being overseas.  We haven't really been with family for Thanksgiving in a very long time so it's not that difficult a time for us.  I guess you could say that we have made our own traditions in our own little family.  We tend to eat out for Thanksgiving every other year or so.  This year we are eating at home, next year we may eat out; who knows?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Whoops, missed a day.

Man, I really did intend on writing here yesterday, but I didn't remember until I was lying in bed with all three kids and falling asleep.  I was past the point of no return and just didn't have it in me to get up and go write.  Oh well.  Missed one day, not bad.

Cody had duty yesterday, which means he was at work for 24 hours.  I dropped him off so I could have the car.  The kids and I went to see "Puss in Boots" and they enjoyed it.  It was fun to be at the movies with them.  They all had fun and got along and there was no screaming or crying or fussing.

I talked to my daddy.  I talked to Nana and Papaw.

We hung around the house all day.  Then I had to run up to take Cody his alarm clock and phone charger.  Then I was tired and went to bed.  Not an exciting day, but a very nice day with the kids.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another movie day.

Cody got up early this morning and ran a 5K through an orange grove!  Pretty cool.  I on the other hand slept in.  After he got home and changed from his run he, Norah and I went to the Exchange, Commissary and BK.  The boys didn't want to go, so we didn't make them.  

We came home for a few hours and the boys played in the neighborhood, then Cody and I went out again to the movies.  We went to see "Tower Heist".  It was a pretty fun movie.  It had some pretty funny lines in it and was just fun.  

Ethan loves babysitting and earning the extra money and we love being able to go out for a couple of hours at a time. 

As you can see, nothing exciting this weekend.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Little Thanksgiving Feast and a train

This morning Gavin's Kindergarten class along with the other two classes had a feast to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It was a nice spread.  I tried fried turkey for the first time...OMG!  That stuff is so good!  Someday I will fry me a turkey.  Yum, yum, yum.  We carried corn and it was gobbled up.  It was a lot of fun eating lunch with Gavin.  Cody was able to take an hour or so off of work.  I took some pictures, but quite honestly I'm too tired to bother with uploading them. 

We were a bit late for the luncheon because we literally waited at a train crossing for 15-20 minutes before five train cars pulled by an ancient engine came rolling by.  It is frustrating waiting and nothing comes by for so long.  It was weird to have motorcycles pass us up and go to the front of the line of traffic to wait.  We also got passed up by guys on bikes.  They ended up walking their bikes across the tracks.  They clearly don't have the same rules here that we do in the states. 

Ethan babysat for us again tonight.  Cody brought home a pizza and a movie for them and he and I went out to a movie.  We saw "Moneyball" which was pretty good, though kind of long and slow.  It was interesting though.  We had hoped to watch a second movie but "Moneyball" was longer than I had anticipated so we missed the second movie.  We ate a bite at Piazza Pizza (on base).  We love having the affordable movie theater here on base.  We may get movies a little later, but it only cost us $3.00 to get in and we can get a large popcorn for $3!  Nice, huh?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Need some shocks?

The roads between the bases here are rough!  There are potholes and the road itself is bumpy and kind of wavy.  It is well worn.  I do believe that these roads are part of the reason why our rear shocks are wore out.  Cody had the car looked at the other day and they said that they need to be replaced.  Now we have to get those replaced.  We have to wait for the Autoport to "research" the price to order them for us.  We'll also do our own "research" and figure out if the price they quote us is any better than what we can buy on our own online. 

Lots of fun. 

Tomorrow we get to have a special lunch with Gavin's class at school.  It's a Thanksgiving celebration and I'm excited to spend some time with our special Kindergartener. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Loving some Zombies...

It was a rainy and chilly day here in Sicily today.  I woke up with a headache, which now that I think about it may be from the weather.  I started watching "The Walking Dead" a couple of days ago and have caught all the way up with the show.  Wow!  It's really good.  I had read a poor review of it last year when it came out and decided not to watch it; boy was I wrong doing that.  I really like it.  I like the characters and I actually was watching between my hands a few times.  What a great show!

I'm loving that I can watch tv shows for free online now.  I stopped watching a lot of shows and did not start any new ones because I didn't think I could keep up with them over here, but that just isn't the case.  This fact makes me super happy.

I need to set up a real routine here.  I was doing good for a while, but when Gavin got sick and then I got sick; I got lax and haven't recovered.  I want to do more fun stuff with Norah instead of watching tv all day and hanging around the house.  We only have the one car and it's a challenge to make myself get Norah up and dressed to drive Cody to work so I can keep the car.  All challenges that can be met, just require me to be motivated to do them.  I'm working on that.

Some people have grandeur lives when they live overseas.  They are always going somewhere, doing something;  so far I am not one of them.  I like being with my family.  I like my cocoon of a house.  I like holing up in here with my kiddos and watching movies, reading books and shutting out the world.  I don't want to squander my time here though, so an adjustment needs to happen.  I must open myself up more. Lots and lots of things for me to work on.

And just for the record, I really, really miss my friends in Virginia Beach.  I miss Debra.  I miss Stephanie.  I miss Tracie.  I miss my house too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I learned today that a very kind and nice guy I went to school with named Jonathan Brazell was gunned down this past weekend.  It is shocking.  I don't have words today to express how I feel.  It's awful to happen to anyone.  No one deserves to be killed like that.  I'm praying for his family.  They don't know why.  We may never know why senseless acts such as these happen.

It has made me give pause and think about just how fragile life is.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We really need to think about that...everyday...and appreciate each day we are given.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Report Card and McDonald's

I slept in again.  I actually had no intention of doing so, but when I did awake I was alone in the bed and feeling refreshed.  It was quite nice.

We all dressed and headed out the door to pick up Ethan's report card and to meet with his teachers.  He's doing very well.  All A's and B's with one very high C in math.  The C was one point from being a B.  He had made a few careless mistakes on a test and it brought down his grade.  I'm very proud of him.  He actually had a teacher say "the world is a better place by having Ethan here!"  I love that kid.

We got gas and it was somewhere around 48 Euros to get the car to just over 3/4 of a tank.  That my friend is approximately $65.58.  Thankfully we don't have to pay that amount.  We have to purchase gas coupons from the exchange for a set price and then we pay for the gas by the liters.  So we got 35 liters.

We drove over to McDonald's and had lunch.  It was 11am and completely empty.  Ethan had a burger called a Crispy Bacon (a double bacon burger).  Cody got a Big Mac and Norah got a kids cheeseburger.  Gavin of course had chicken nuggets and I got something called an Adagio.  It was peaceful in there.  However it cost us  28.50 Euro.  That is equal to $38.85.  Yeah.  The burger I had was interesting.  It had salted ricotta cheese and eggplant on it.  I liked it.  No one else did.  I liked to try it, but it's not something I'd keep getting.

This is the Adagio Burger.  It has salted ricotta cheese and eggplant on it.  

We decided to ride around Catania.  We still had not been to the Catania Market or to Elephant Square.  We still haven't been there.  We didn't have any directions with us and even when we did have directions we still didn't find it.  Someday we will.  We did have a good time driving around and looking at where people live.
A street in Catania
One of the many apartment buildings we saw in Catania.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flaking out and the ER...again.

We got up early this morning, got everyone dressed and I cooked some corn, anticipating meeting up with some folks and going to pick olives or something like that. ( I wasn't completely clear on what we were going to do, but we were going to go.)  I went out side and it was raining...a lot.  I called my neighbor and she was't sure what was going on.  I wasn't keen on going out in the rain with the kids after us all just getting over colds and strep.  So we didn't go.  I was bummed, but my kids would have been miserable out in the rain.  I would have been miserable.  Cody would have been miserable.  I feel bad about not going.  I really wanted to.

We took Norah back to the ER to remove the stitches from her eyebrow.  She did really well, but then the third stitch was much tighter and they had a difficult time getting it out. She screamed and cried and it was awful.  Cody was with me this time and he held her head still and I was holding her hands.  Poor baby made it through and looks pretty good now.  She's such a trooper.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out watching tv online and just being together.  We made some "Welcome Home" cards to send to soldiers returning from Afghanistan.  Norah colored a lot.  Ethan worked on his project with his friend and Gavin wondered the neighborhood with his friends.  While we missed out on olive picking, we spent good quality time together and it was a good day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lazy, Lazy day and a Conspiracy

Today was quite lazy for me and the kids.  Cody had to go to work for a couple of hours, but the rest of us slept in again.  I wasn't feeling well.  Not sick, just not good.  I watched some tv and read some and didn't do much of anything.

Ethan worked on a school project with a friend for several hours and Gavin roamed the neighborhood with friends.  Norah watched "Shrek".

We got Ethan to babysit again and Cody and I went to see "Apollo 18".  It's a pretty good movie.  It was interesting to think of the conspiracy that it showed.  Did we really find alien life and loose three astronauts?    Hmm...makes you think.

We're supposed to get cultural tomorrow and go olive picking.  I've got my fingers crossed that it goes well.  We shall see.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I love when we have long weekends!  Today was the first day of the long weekend and it did not go as I had expected.  I had hoped to wake up as well-rested bunch of people, mosey out of the house to do some shopping and site-seeing off-base and then returning for a fun evening relaxing and watching tv.  Funny how those visions of a perfect day turn into reality, real fast.

We woke up late and for the most part well-rested, but certain people's moods were less than stellar.  We ended up not leaving the house until 12:30 pm so much later than I had hoped for and in crabby moods.  We drove up to Motta and picked up a couple of paninis and some "freaky fries" chips for lunch.  Then we headed out to try to find Elephant Square in Catania.  Of course we got lost and ended up in Misterbianco with Norah sleeping and Gavin whining about not feeling well and wanting to go home.  So we gave up and headed to NAS1 to the Exchange and Commissary.

At the Exchange we picked up new shoes for all the kids and some miscellaneous things.  Then onto the Commissary to pick up some junk food.  We all were feeling blah.  I went ahead and got our turkey for Thanksgiving.  It's a good sized one that cost $14.95 or so.

We made it home and put away all the stuff, but of course on the way home I made a turn and Gavin dropped the little cakes that he was holding and they made a mess all over the back of the car.  That incident did not improve anyone's mood.

Cody did some super cleaning for me in the living room.  We moved the couches and swept and steam mopped while the kids played outside.  I think cleaning actually helps Cody.

I threw some frozen seafood into the oven and we had a nice dinner at the table.  I think we will spend the rest of the evening watching tv and relaxing and hopefully improving our crabbiness with some "Community" and "Bones".

Tomorrow is another day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teacher Conference and Please Pass the Hand Sanitizer

We met with Gavin's teacher this morning and her exact words were, "I don't have the words to express how great Gavin is!"  He's doing very well in Kindergarten.  He has adjusted well and is right where he should be with his learning.  I'm so proud!

For lunch we had Burger King at the NEX Food Court.  It actually tasted pretty good this time.  The last few times we ate there it just tasted off.  Today, though it was tasty.

Ethan babysat for us tonight and we went to see "Contagion".  Wow!  I want to wash my hands every second of every day and never touch ANYTHING or ANYONE.  It was an interesting movie.

Now onto the long weekend!  Yippee!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Got your flu shot?!

All three kiddos and I got our flu vaccines this evening.  The school is pretty much requiring everyone to get them or provide documentation as to why not.  We just go ahead and get them.  I chose the shot over the mist.  Norah got the shot and the boys got the mist.  Check that off the to-do list!

I made some yummy enchiladas for dinner.  I cooked the chicken in the crockpot earlier and then filled the tortillas.  It was delicious.

Tomorrow, Gavin is out of school for teacher conferences.  We'll meet with his teacher in the morning to see how he is doing.  I guess I  can complain about Kindergarten here.  I can't believe that they have homework in K.  They get packets to do.  They do not have to turn them in, but they encourage them to do their homework to supplement the classwork.  I don't know how I feel about that.  Do they really need to have so much homework?  I understand practicing, but it would seem that classwork would be enough.  I guess I'm out of touch with what is required to teach our kids?  I think Ethan has to much homework too.

We're all looking forward to the long weekend.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Going Cross-eyed

I spent most of the day looking at airline tickets, hotels, car rentals and varying travel blogs.  I had a wild hair thinking we should go to Rome or Venice or Pisa for Thanksgiving. What? After going nearly cross-eyed and feeling extremely anxious, we have decided to wait.  What a huge relief.

I kept hearing people talk about where they were going for Thanksgiving and Christmas and started thinking, "Ooo, we should go SOMEWHERE!"  Lord help me!  Finally we concluded we should wait until we are more comfortable and have had time to really prepare.

We will take the Holidays to do some sightseeing here on the island of Sicily.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Norah and the Green Magic Maker and ER AGAIN!

Norah has an infinity for magic markers and the wall.  She got a red one to the wall a week or so ago.  Today I went upstairs to take a shower.  I made sure she was watching a movie (she chose Tom and Jerry) and I thought all the markers were put away.  I went up to shower.  As I was stepping out of the shower I heard her making a noise in the hallway.  I came around the corner and there she was with a green marker on the wall.  I scared her and she dropped the marker.  I look down the hall and there is a line of marker on the wall.  I quickly get dressed and as I come down stairs I can see a line all the way up the wall and on the banister.  She even colored on light switches.  I was only in the shower for 15 minutes, but it only took her 30 seconds to make a huge mess!

I was making dinner this evening and the next thing I knew Norah slipped in the dining room.  She hit her head, just above her left eye on one of the chairs.  She was bleeding pretty good and it was a gaping wound.  Great! I knew it was pretty big so I got her up and took her to the ER.  Cody stayed home with Gavin and waited for Ethan to get home from Scouts.  She ended up with 3 stitches!  You'd think with the two older boys we would have had stitches before, but we haven't.  Norah is the first.  

We've been to the hospital way too often for my taste.
What a day!  I'm ready for bed!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shopping at Auchan

Cody and I went to the mall today to do a little shopping for Christmas gifts for our family back home.  We picked up a few things.  We went to Aushan, it's kind of like WalMart since it has both groceries and household goods.  

I had intended on going with all the kiddos, but the boys didn't want to go, so we were going to just take Norah but on the way out of the neighborhood she threw up because she was so mad that I didn't buckle her in the car seat, Cody did.  We took her back home and she stayed with the boys.  She has quite a temper!  Guess that reddish hair is for real. 

Cody actually drove this time and did great!  We parked in the garage and walked into the store and looked all around.  I personally could stay in there for hours just looking at all the different things.  I'm fascinated by all the things that they have.  Someday I'm going to go by myself and just spend the whole afternoon there looking at everything and then buying what ever I want.  

We checked out successfully.  I hate that I just do not understand what they are saying to me.  I have no idea what the cashier asked me, but I did my best to let her know that I appreciated her.  I said gratzie and counted the amount in Italian as best as I could.  Someday I may get it right.  May be. 

I'm trying to get all the gifts for family back home together and packed up and out the door very soon.  I don't want them to arrive too late!

On another note, we bought a bed for Norah from a neighbor.  It's a twin size bed with a trundle under.  She slept in there last night (after she had feel asleep on the couch and Cody placed her in the bed) and she took her nap there this afternoon. She's pleased with it.  It is of course called "princess bed".  Anything that is hers is "princess".  I suppose someday in the future Cody and I may actually have our bed to ourselves again. And while that is a good thing, I will miss the time when my babies were little.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Have you went anywhere yet?

We are trying to plan our first big trip here in Europe.  We don't know exactly when we want go, or exactly where we want to go so I'm looking in books and online.  I picked up some guide books from the library today to get me started.

There is so much perceived pressure to go out and travel that we feel like we are letting someone down if we don't jump right into touring all of Europe.  Who exactly are we letting down?  I don't know.  We just want to take advantage of being in such a wonderful area.  It's overwhelming.  All the public service things on tv and radio tell us we should "go out and see Europe".  We were warned to not live in "the triangle".  The triangle is going from your house, to work and to the base with the stores.  It's easy to just do what is comfortable.

I have to keep telling myself that we really don't have to live up to anyone's ideals but our own.  We are not letting anyone down by not running all over Europe with three kids in tow.  Traveling with a two year old is not easy anywhere, much less a foreign country.  It costs money to do all that traveling.  We will travel eventually.  We will see Europe, but on our own terms and no one else's.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teacher Workday

Today was a blessed day called Teacher Workday.  It is a wonderful thing built into the school year where I get to sleep in and not worry about rising and shining until I feel like it.  We all slept late.  It was quite lovely.  When I did wake up, I woke Ethan up.  Norah was already up just waiting for me and Gavin was downstairs.  When I came down he was fully dressed and lying on the couch with a book.  What? Yes, a book.  The TV wasn't on.  The laptop wasn't on.  He had one of  "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.  He was looking at the pictures and spotting his sight words in it.  I tell you his some kid.

We all lounged around for a bit.  I checked email and finished watching an episode of "Who do you think you are?" featuring JK Rowling.  After breakfast we all went upstairs and cleaned up the boys room.  It was a mess!

Gavin watched "Madagascar" while Ethan and I watched an episode of "Finding Bigfoot".  After lunch we headed back upstairs to rearrange the playroom and straighten up Norah's room.  Then I kicked the boys outside while I worked on my room.  Things get out of hand quick around here.  I'm notorious for just piling junk on my dresser.  I managed to get it mostly cleaned off.  I don't know if I'll ever get caught back up with laundry.  Five people create a lot of dirty clothes!

The boys took Norah out for a while and she played with them.  I put away the last box of books that weren't unpacked.  I do think we are completely unpacked now.

Today has been a very laid back, but productive day.  I wanted to start watching "Doctor Who" but I couldn't convince the kids.  I will win them over.  I will just start watching them myself and then I'm sure they will join me.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

We like to share...

As a family, we like to share.  We share food, we share blankets, we share strep throat!  What?  Yeah, I've got the dreaded sore throat.  I went to the doctor today and she gave me some antibiotics and two steroid pills.  The steroids are to help with the pain and they are awesome!  I took them and an hour later my throat hurt less and my lymph node is feeling less tender.  I like my new doctor by the way.  She is nice and she listened to me go on and on about all my problems since the back surgery in May.

I haven't been seen by military doctors in a while, so I'm having to get used to the way military healthcare is run.  Speaking of how military healthcare is run, it's bizarre to go to a social function for hubby's work and then go to your doctor appointment and there asking you how your bowel movements are is the lady you saw at the gathering.  She likely saw you going to funky town on all those little cookies.  Not to mention that the guy that lives around the corner knows all about how you had to get treatment for your kids' pin-worms.  This small town base living is hard to get accustomed to.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day...

It's Wednesday and that generally means that the market is open in Motta and I can get some fresh fruits and veggies.  I haven't been in a couple of weeks since Gavin had been sick.  I'm not feeling so hot today myself, but thought I should make myself go on up there.

Cody pulled Norah out of bed and dressed her, all the while she is yelling, "No, I want to sleep!" I drove Cody to work and headed up to Motta.  We've started taking an alternate road between here and NAS1 since the regular road is rough and has tons of potholes.  Our car has started making a noise coming from the underside on the right like something is loose.  We haven't figured out what it is yet, but think it may have something to do with driving that rough road.  Anyway, I took the alternate road and then proceeded up the back Motta road.  There was apparently an accident because there was a firetruck, an ambulance and a military guy directing traffic.  I couldn't tell what had happened, but hopefully no one was injured.  That is one of the things that I'm afraid of happening, an accident.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that Sicilians drive like crazy people.  Most everyone thinks that the people drive crazy wherever they live, but here it is absolutely true.  If any of my family or friends were to see how they drive, you would fall over.  They fly past you and pass even when there is traffic in the oncoming lane.  It's crazy.

Norah of course fell asleep on the way to the market.  I finally get there and it's empty.  Ugh.  I had forgotten that it is All Souls Day.  There was one single vendor there selling flowers.  The is market area is directly across from the cemetery so that makes sense.  Today is the day that families head to the cemetery and place flowers on the graves of their deceased loved ones and remember them.

In honor of this day I'd like to remember my Mama.

Donna Jane Thomason Curran
15 May 1957~18 May 2006
This is my Mama.  I miss her each and every day.  She was 27 in that photo.  She loved Science fiction movies and Romance novels.  She taught me to use my imagination.  She loved to watch cooking shows.  She enjoyed painting ceramic and plaster figurines.  I wish she could have got to know Gavin and Norah.  She would have loved having a granddaughter.  I gave Norah the middle name of Jane in honor of Mama.

Many people that I have cared about have passed away.  Dealing with death is just a part of life.  It often seems that Americans don't want to deal with death.  We don't want to take our children to funerals and we often make it a scary thing.  It is scary, but it doesn't have to scare you.  It's interesting how other cultures, such as Italians, embrace their deceased love ones and make the idea of them coming back to visit, not scary.  They make bone cookies to celebrate! And their past relatives leave gifts the night before for the children to find, something like our tooth-fairy 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Rash, A Pumkin and Autumn Fest

Last week was a doozy.  Wednesday morning Gavin woke up and had a few dots on his chest.  I checked his temperature and it was normal.  He was running around like normal and said he felt fine, so I sent him to school.  I gave him Cody's cell phone number, just in-case since Cody was going with me to a doctor's appointment.  First Cody had an appointment for something and as soon as he was done with that he got the call from the nurse to come get Gavin.  I went in and picked him up and the few dots he had on his chest had spread all over him and was on his face.

We went straight to the hospital since I already had an appointment and Cody was with me he could see if they could fit Gavin in sometime that day.  I just had to do a urine test (UTI ugh).  They were able to get Gavin in right away.  It appears he had a reaction to the amoxicillin that he was taking for the strep he had the week before.  They are theorizing that he had mono on top of the strep because the rash was characteristic of the ones that happen with mono and amox.  He looked awful.  He stayed home from school the rest of Wednesday and on Thursday.  By Thursday afternoon the rash was beginning to fade.  Poor guy.  The red around his mouth is a juice stain.

By Friday he was feeling better and didn't look like the plague was eating him alive so he went to school for the Storybook Parade.  Each child dressed up as a storybook character.  Gavin first wanted to be Scooby-doo, but I managed to give away all the books and we couldn't find one at the base library.  Actually I didn't try to hard to find one.  We had a pumpkin costume and several books to choose from. He chose "The Magic Pumpkin"  Here he is that morning before school along with Cody and Norah.

He was happy.  Of course on Saturday I found a couple of Scooby-doo books in a box we hadn't unpacked yet.  

When I was in 3rd grade we had the same thing and I dressed up as Princess Sapphire from some book I had read.  I'm the one in the blue dress.  

Friday night was the first Middle School dance and Cody and I convinced Ethan he should go.  He said he had a good time.  I didn't take a picture of him, but he wore his blonde wig and a pirate hat!  He was adorable and so many people didn't recognize him!  

Friday and Saturday the base held "Autumn Fest".  Ethan's Boy Scout troop had a booth where they put up a rope bridge and charged .50 to cross it.  The Sicilian kids loved it as well as Americans.  Ethan worked there for three hours each day.  The troop camped out there on Saturday night, but Ethan just didn't feel like it so he came home with us.  

Autumn Fest had rides, food booths and games.  It was fun.  I got cranky there....not sure what that was about.  I calmed down once we ate.  I suppose it was dropping blood sugar or may be I was just grumpy. Probably the latter.  

It's blurry, but Gavin and Ethan riding the swings.

Norah on the kiddie swings.

Gavin and Norah riding the train.

All in all, we had a great time.  It was a good end to a week full of ups and downs.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ER for ear and failure as a mother

The fun never stops around here.

Last night Gavin decided his ear itched and we didn't have any Q-tips so he stuck a lollypop stick into his ear.  He screeched and came running to me.  His ear was bleeding.  Great.  So Cody took him to the ER.  Thankfully it was just a scratch to his ear canal.  Good grief.  While at the ER, the doctor was concerned about Gavin's runny nose and prescribed him some Zyrtec (which we will pick-up today or tomorrow).

This morning Gavin was exhausted from being up late and had a melt-down over the clothes I had out for him to wear.  They were shorts.  I did not finish laundry yesterday and the few pair of jeans he has were not clean.  He freaked out.  I felt awful.  I mean seriously bad.  He has several pairs of shorts but only a few jeans.  I'm going to the store today and buying him 4 more pair so he won't freak out again.  I cannot explain how terrible I felt, feel about the whole thing.  It has been a frustrating day with the feeling of being a failure and it's only noon.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Antibiotics and Fingerprints...

Since I last wrote Gavin went to the doctor and indeed did have strep throat and I got fingerprinted by the Italian government!

Cody had to take Gavin to the doctor because I was at the appointment to get my sojourner permit.  This permit allows me to stay in the country of Italy over 90 days.  I had anticipated an hour or so for the appointment, but of course I wasn't taking into account Sicilian time.  The Polizia didn't arrive until 9:40am, they were supposed to be there at 9.  So I was stuck being fingerprinted by two Italian police ladies while Cody took Gavin to the doctor.  

I better mind my p's and q's since the Italians know who I am now!  LOL

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sick Day

Gavin wasn't feeling well all weekend.  He complained of having a sever sore throat and he slept off an on all day Saturday and Sunday.  I decided to keep him home from school and try to get him an appointment at the doctor.  I called this morning and there wasn't any appointments available but they told me a nurse would call me.

I got a phone call around 9am.  She asked about Gavin and I told her how he was doing.  She again said that there wasn't any appointments because the one doctor was out on leave.  I wasn't stressing it.  She then said she would try to get me an appointment before lunch or we could come in tomorrow at 9:40am.  I told her it didn't matter to me, she told me she'd call back.

After I talked to her the maintenance guy from housing showed up. Our hot water heater pilot light was out and I couldn't get it re-lit.  They ended up having to replace the whole burner mechanism.  I'm kind of glad that there was something wrong and I'm not just a complete moron that can't relight a water heater.

The nurse called back at 10:45am.  She said, "I got you an appointment at 11."  What?!  I can't make it.  "The doctor is running a little behind."  There is no way I can get there.  The maintenance guy was here, Cody had the car and I don't like the idea of last minute appointments.  I told here I couldn't make it and she said to me, "Ugh and I have an injury and I've been hobbling all over trying to set this up for you!".  Like it was my fault and I put her out.  I just felt bad and was aggravated as well.  So we have an appointment tomorrow.

Of course around 7pm tonight, Gavin suddenly feels awesome and is acting like nothing is up.  I'll still take him to the doctor tomorrow, but I hate this kind of stuff.  I always feel so inept as a mother in these situations.  I know I should just make a decision and be strong in it.  I feel like I am making the wrong choice; keep the kids home, send them to the school, take them to the doctor or not.  I wish I felt like a grown-up.


I went to play Bunko with a bunch of ladies and one guy that is part of the Community Spouses Club.  It was a riot.  I went with a neighbor (Shannon) and it was nice getting to chat with her.  We watched a bunch of ladies get sloshed on wine and be hilariously loud while playing this crazy dice game.  It was pretty fun. I guess it's going to be a once a month activity.

Cody and I finally got gas at a different gas station and it was easy.  Little steps I tell ya, little steps.

I put a new hard drive in our desktop and it works now.  We had to buy Windows again, but it works and that is what matters.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vaccines and Italian Girlfriends

I had to take Ethan to get a vaccine yesterday.  He needed to get the menegecocal vaccine per the schools policy.  I drove him over to the hospital first thing in the morning.  Of course the immunizations clinic doesn't open until 8AM so we waited for 15 minutes.  I thought it would be a very quick thing, but it wasn't.  The guy at the clinic needed to verify with the pediatrics doc  that was okay to give Ethan the vaccine since it's a live vaccine.  Well the doctor was in with a patient so we had to wait for her to finish he could ask her.  We finally got the shot and got out of there with Ethan only missing the first hour of school.  He only missed music class so it wasn't a big deal.

Norah and I came home and hung out for a few hours then we went back over to Nas 1 and bought some popcicles for Gavin's class.  He chose ;popciles instead of cookies or cakes to be his school treat for his birthday.  Gavin is a popular little guy in his class.  All the kids seemed to like him and he's so funny.  He had three little girls and one little boy giving him hugs.  His teacher told me that he's a great kid and a joy to have in class.  I'm glad he saves his wildness and crazy time for here at home.

After school Gavin, Norah and I came home for a few minutes before we picked up Cody to go buy Gavin's birthday gift.  Last week Gavin jumped on the little girl next doors bike and she told him how to ride it and he took off!  No training wheels.  No running along side with him, he just took off; so he wanted a bike for his birthday.  We headed over to the NEX Depot.  They had a couple bikes to choose from and Gavin chose the green one.  Thankfully it wasn't expensive ($49.99).

The Italian guys that work there are really nice.  They had Gavin sit on the bike and they adjusted his seat for him.  I told them it was his birthday.  The one guy was surprised that Gavin was only 6.  He seems tall, apparently.  Then the guy proceeded to say the following, "My daughter turned 6 on Monday, the 10th.  Hmm. You want an Italian girl friend?  She's got blonde hair, blue eyes and she's beautiful!".  Gavin got so embarrassed.  It was great.  I told Gavin that he must be a special boy if that guy wants him to be his daughters boyfriend.

Gavin rode his bike all over when we got home.  Then he decided that he wanted Burger King for dinner.  We have a Burger King at the Food Court next to the Commissary.  It's actually pretty expensive and not that great, but we haven't ate there in a while.  We picked the food up to go since Ethan was still at school (he had rehearsal for the Christmas musical).  Gavin had chicken nuggets and we all got burgers.  BK is the only place on base that you can get a fountain soda and even then they taste a little off to me.  Everywhere else you can only get canned sodas.

Gavin wanted an icecream cake too.  I went to the commissary to get a Carvel cake.  I bought it and thought it looked okay, but when we got it home realized that it had been partially melted.  The whole bottom had spread way out and was refrozen.  It tasted okay though.  It's tough being here.  Our meat, frozen foods and refrigerated stuff are all shipped from Germany.  Sometimes you go over there and they are out of something like milk or lunch meat.  All the meat has been previously frozen so you can't refreeze it.  It's one of the not fun parts of living over here.  I suppose I should really go back out to Auchan (grocery store) and see what they have and how much it is.

Overall it was a pretty good day.  Ethan was pleased to have a double cheeseburger when he got home from school yesterday.  Gavin loves his new bike and is excited to be 6 years old.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting Settled...

We have, for the most part, settled in.  All the boxes have been opened and most of the stuff have been given homes. We went to Ikea and bought a new bookshelf to put our DVD's in.  I managed to get it put together.  We also bought a new Entertainment Center, but I've not put it together yet.  None of our things really match, but I've decided that it doesn't matter.  I'm waiting for someone to say something (not that we really have anyone in our house).  If they do, I may just go off on them.  It's hard to find anything that looks halfway decent that doesn't cost an arm and a let and as much as I hate to admit it, our kids are monsters.  They love to destroy and I don't want to waste money on things they will destroy or will get destroyed in a move.

Ikea was an adventure.  The first time we went was on a Sunday and half of Sicily was in there.  It was a mad house and it was our first time in an Ikea.  We were extremely overwhelmed and left promptly.  The second time we went on a Friday.  It was me, Cody, Gavin and Norah.  (Ethan had school).  It was much more calm and we felt better about the situation.  Thanks to the advise of my best friend, we were more prepared too.  Lesson learned=do not go on a weekend.

We've ate out in a restaurant twice now.  The first time was at Alphio's Garden, across the street from housing. It was decent food and the menu was in English and Italian.  We enjoyed our food.  Ethan missed out on that trip because he was camping on Mt. Etna with his Boy Scout Troop.  What a great adventure for him!  Mt. Etna is an active volcano.  He also got to climb in some lava tubes (caves and tunnels created by lava that has cooled into rocks).

The second restaurant we went to was Pizzaria Donna Fortunata in Motta.  The guy that Cody replaced had his going away dinner there.  The food there was good as well.  The menu again was in English and Italian and made it easy for us.  They tolerate our loud kids!  They even let Gavin make a mini little pizza in the kitchen!  It was relaxing and nice.  I'd like to go back again in the future, just our family and see if it's just as relaxing.  I felt a little bad, we didn't leave a tip.  I'm so confused by the tipping here.  I've had some people say that you don't have to because you pay an extra fee for the use of the table etc.  Then I've had other people say you should still leave a tip.  We did leave a tip at Alphio's, but did not at Donna Fortunata.  I don't know which is right!  I don't want to be a cheap American.  I guess I better get that figured out.

I've been going to the market in Motta every Wednesday morning, (that's the day it's open).  I've become addicted to tomatoes.  I make my own little version of capese salad.  I adore it and want to eat it every day. Norah has made a friend at the market.  The last two times we have been there has been this little old man that tries to talk to us.  I have got to learn some Italian so we can talk to him.  He gave her some candy today.  I also need to learn the names of the fruits and veggies so I can ask for them easier than just pointing.  The vendors there are pretty nice  and don't have any problems understanding what I want, I just want to make it easier for all of us by using the proper name.

I think that we are slowly coming out of our shell here.  We are always anxious when it comes to doing something off base.  We don't want to do it wrong.  I'm a little better than Cody.  I tried to get him to go into the bread store for us by himself,  but of course he said no.  I've done it, but he won't.  We're also silly and only go to the one gas station across from Nas 1 because it was the first one we went to and we kind of feel like we know that guy (we don't, but it feels comfortable).  There is a guy selling stuff on the side of the road that has some really neat pumpkins but I'm too chicken to stop and ask how much they are and buy one, even though I really want one.  Ugh.  I hope I can get braver.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sicily at last

After many months of not being sure if we are actually going to get orders, we have finally arrived in Sicily.  We actually landed here at Sigonella Wednesday, August 17th.  The flight was easy enough even with three kiddos.  We had a quick layover in Rota, Spain.  The kids really all did well with flying.  They are troopers.  It was the first time on a plane for both G and N.  G was a bit scared when we first took off, but after that he was a pro.  E had been on many planes since he was little and took it all in stride. He's not really phased by all the traveling and actually really love it.  N, she's two and as long as we're together, she's all good. 

My first sights of Sicily were of the fields and of sheep as we were driven from Nas II to our TLA in old housing called 205.  It was surreal to see the country side.  I was exhausted since I didn't get much sleep on the plane.  We crashed pretty good that night.  And thankfully our sponsor was awesome and actually had us some food in the fridge. 

The first two weeks we had INDOC.  It was good information, but of course G and N did not like going to the CDC so I ended up not going to a good bit of it.  Both kids were crying and inconsolable.  I just couldn't make them stay if they were so unhappy and it wasn't a requirement for me to be there. 

We moved into housing Sept. 2nd.  We only had our first express shipment but the base has a nice loaner furniture program so we were able to have beds, a table and chairs, dressers and endtables with lamps.  It was really nice.  We are supposed to get our HHG shipment tomorrow.  I'll be so happy to finally have my own things and to really get settled.