Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Girl time on an island in Italy? Yes, please.

For reasons far too complicated to share, we all drove down to Naples, Italy to stay with friends while my girlfriend and I left the men with a mere ten kinder.  We took two buses and a ferry over to Ischia and stayed at the San Montano Resort and Spa for two glorious nights.  

Our View from our Room
The first day (Saturday) we got straight in our suits and hit the many pools where we were greeted by the lifeguard with towels and lounge pads.  He was super on top of it and even told us that the place we chose to sit would get shady in a few hours and directed us to a better location.  It was a beautiful, sunny day. 
Fresh of the ferry and at our hotel room

We each had a spritz (a really pricey one at 12 Euros each!) by the pools since the food was not served until 1pm.  We had missed breakfast in order to get out of the house and catch the early buses and ferry.  They brought out nuts and crackers with our drinks.  We ended up sitting outside the bar shortly after 1pm splitting a bruschetta and a sandwich.  Of course, we had another over priced drink.  They seriously had everything you could think of.  I had an Expresso Martini and my friend had a fancy blue drink.

Spritz by the pool

Next up was more pool and laying out in the sun reading Flannery O'Connor.  We had agreed to both read A Good Man is Hard to Find and her other short stories so that we could discuss them.  She was recommended on Carrots for Michaelmas and I totally thought I'd love it.  I didn't hate it, but nor did I love it or even get it, for that matter. The discussion was not nearly as intensive as I had thought since we both really had a difficult time understanding her point.  We read some commentary on her from Carrot's husband, but we still couldn't quite do much more than shake our heads at each other with our mouth open like we wanted to say something, but just couldn't figure out what it was.  
We didn't have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant until 8pm so we stayed at the pool or in the saunas and indoor thermal bath until it was time to clean up for dinner.  So relaxing.  We were both amazed at how slowly the time goes when we don't have to take care of anyone.

We didn't last too long in the crazy hot sauna.

View from the pools

Dinner was grand, with a appetizer buffet to die for.  My favorite part both nights!  An entire table of salad veggies, an entire table of weird meats from the sea(if that's what you're into,) and a long table with five kinds of zucchini, five kinds of eggplant, mushrooms at least two different ways, and several other veggies.  Then there was a table of breads and other random items.  The next course was risotto or spaghetti.  The next course was a hard choice for me.  It was all meats that I would not normally eat or steamed veggies.  I decided to be adventurous, and go for the specialty dish of the area and get rabbit.  It was pretty good, but will never be a favorite in my book.  It takes too much concentration for me to force myself not to think about what I am eating, especially when the tiny bunny bones are having to be picked out of your mouth.  The menu also came with a dessert which was a mixture of petite desserts.

My Rabbit Dinner

Day two (Sunday) we had a superb breakfast with eggs, bacon, wurst, salami, prosciutto, cheeses, breads with a table full of honeys and jams (my favorite was pumpkin lemon,) a table full of juices with a muesli bar, and my personal favorite a bar to make your own Caprese Salad.  I just thought that was perfect to be able to have with a savory breakfast.  I maybe ate Caprese Salad six times on this trip.  When in Italy...

Time to catch a shuttle down the fierce hill to Mass.  It was a elegant little church decked out fully in St. Restituta paintings, and even the lectern was the front of a boat.  St. Restituta was martyred under Diocletian and put in a boat set afire.  She was not harmed by the fire and an angel led her boat to the island of Ischia (used to be called Aenaria, FYI) where she landed at the present day site of San Montano.  She was later found dead on the beach by a christian who dreamed of the angel and the boat.
Inside the basilica 

Main Square

Ischia's famous mushroom jutting out of the water
Right across from the shopping strip

Since we were already down there, after church we walked around the shopping area and landed at a pizzeria right overlooking the water where famous people the likes of Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltro, and Queen Latifa had dined before.  They had a wall of celebrities photographed with the owners.  I had a perfect eggplant Parmesan pizza and Bellini.
Lunch at the pizzeria

Wall of famous people

We shuttled back of the hill to get our massages and enjoy the pools till dark.  At which time we repeated our previous night's dinner with a few different menu options.  I was still most pleased with the appetizer buffet which had most of the same choices with a few subtle differences.  We chose a red sparkling wine from the island when the manager encouraged us to ditch the Lambrusco idea for it instead.  It did not disappoint.  We hung out in the piano bar with drinks for a little bit, trying to squeeze every last ounce out of our getaway.

Next to the thermal pools

Night view from our room

The next morning we had the same breakfast exactly, and checked out, and shuttled to the ferry.  In Naples, we walked the Longamare to a restaurant where I could get the famous fried pizza.  It was so enormous.  If we had known how large it was, we'd have split it for sure.  My friend had a bad bout of sea sickness on the ferry this time.  It was pretty choppy and we sat up top.  So she didn't get close to finishing hers.  I finished mine, but shouldn't have.

Waiting on the shuttle and soaking up the last minutes of the view and the quiet

In downtown Naples (castle in the background)

Fried Napoli Pizza

We had a little trouble with the first bus that caused us to miss our second bus and had to be picked up from there.  I have rarely had an easy time with the bus system in Italy.  

So, if you are wondering what the men did with all the kids, They couldn't just stay home and chill.  Instead they took them to downtown Naples on Saturday for a fest and to Pompeii for Mass and lunch on Sunday.  Two full days of being lauded for having so many kids without their wives!  We were told there was lots of cheek pinching and attention on the kiddos.  Here are the pictures from their adventures.  Everyone was a bit overly tired, but all survived.  Impressive!

Ignore Drew's uncooperative, creepy face.
As always we had a wonderful time with dear friends.  The kids had a blast, pretty much 24/7.  When we returned, Bobby and Judah immediately started having meltdowns.  I, of course, was told repeatedly that it was all my fault, and there was nary a whimper when we were gone.  What is it about mom that makes little ones cry about everything?  And even more importantly, what is it about dads that make them never cry?  I am going to stand by my theory that they hold it all in and don't ask for anything from dad (maybe dads don't actually listen when they are asked and it is a learned behavior) and then they are so hungry and thirsty and tired by the time mom comes back that they break down and let it all out for their loving, consoling mom.  What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2016

First Day of German Kindergarten: Judah


I know I've mentioned it before that German Kindergarten is really like preschool, or at least how preschool used to be.  They do some learning, but mostly they play, do crafts, story time, and singing.  In addition to that they have gym time and also an optional Musikschule (music school.)  The age range is 2-5 years old.  At 6 years old they begin 1st grade.

They had room for Judah to start this fall.  The first week they asked me to stay with him the whole time and increase the length of time each day.  Everyday when it was time to leave, he would ask to stay longer.  He was dying to go on the playground outside, but the weather didn't cooperate.  The only day they went outside, it was after we had left and the sun came out.  In fact, he still hasn't had one chance at going outside to the playground yet.  :(

Drew's not much of a hugger.  Judah is!  Drew  and Judah are getting along better since Judah started school as I had hoped.
Judah has adjusted swimmingly to going everyday.  I no longer have to stay, but he still is on a short schedule.  This means I take the boys at 8 or 9am, pick up Judah at 11:45am (just before lunchtime) and then return for a third and final time to pick up Drew at 2pm.  The point of this whole thing is to a) teach them German and b) give me more uninterrupted time to teach the older children.  As you can imagine that isn't happening yet since I am picking up Judah in the middle of it.  I am hoping it opens up more time as he begins to stay the full day.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Hair: Fried Green Tomatoes Edition

The day before the pumpkin patch tour, I got a little crazy.  I had my hair dyed ombre blue.  This was not a wild hair, spur of the moment decision, I have actually been planning this for over a year.  Basically, when we found out we were moving to Germany, I started planning it.  It is very common here.  I knew I wouldn't stand out too much (dare I say, I might even blend in a little more...at least when not behind the wheel of my 12 passenger van,) but I'd still get to do something bold.

I waited so long because I was nursing Bobby and this takes a long time to do this at the salon.  It actually took six hours because of my hair being so long and thick.  It was estimated at 3-4 hours, so Wow!  I am glad I made sure Bobby was weaned before taking the plunge.

I love it, but I guess I didn't show Brian what "ombre blue hair" actually looked like because he was initially not a huge fan.  He said it has grown on him now, but at first he was not pleased that I had spent so much money on something he didn't love.  I was bummed he didn't like it, but the kids all thought it was super cool.  

It takes a lot more care than I realized.  I have to wash it in cold water to keep it from fading too quickly.  Although it is a permanent color, fashion colors apparently are more semi permanent depending on how well you take care of it.  FYI, I am really not a fan of cold water in the fall when my husband won't turn on the heat yet!  Then if it rains, I have to cover it so it doesn't run and stain my clothes.  I now travel with a blue towel and pillowcase since when it is wet, it stains everything it touches.  I even stained my toilet seat cover when I rogue wet hair escaped unnoticed.  It took a Magic Eraser and a lot of hard scrubbing to get it off.  Nothing too major, but I thought it was funny that I found out all this while getting blue dye painted on my hair and not before.

The day after the pumpkin patch tour, Genevieve and Drew had hair cut appointments at a much cheaper salon.  Drew got his first good hair cut at a salon ever.  We are going back to Paulina for sure.  First time ever Brian has come home and not told me that he will never let me take him to get his hair cut again.

Genevieve wanted a big change.  She wanted a slanted short Bob cut.  And, boy, did she get it!  When the lady showed her her hair with the mirror, Genevieve was practically bouncing out of the seat with the biggest smile ever and said, "I love it!  It's gorgeous!"  One of the cutest moments ever!  So genuine and so sweet!  I truly love that girl.

I love it because she doesn't have to do a thing to it and it looks precious.  The natural waves really work in her favor with this cut.  Somedays it's curlier than this and it looks even cuter.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin Patch Farm Tour

This trip was with the Catholic homeschooling group and was to a local pumpkin patch.  I'll admit upfront that it was a bit of a photographic flop.  I got too carried away in watching my kids enjoy their time and didn't take many pictures.  We tried for a last minute group photo, but too many moms were wrangling their broods and it was just too hard.  This was organized by a new mom to the group, and it was the first field trip we've been on with the group since not many of us moms are brave enough to attempt to plan one of these.  I am so glad we have a new motivated mommy in the group!

It was a cold day with some big winds out at the farm.  We toured the dairy cows and saw their milking machines.  We had the chance to view and/or pet the calves, horses, chickens, pigs, etc.  My children, you know the sons and daughters of the veterinarian, were mostly not amused.  Much to her animal-loving mother's shock and dismay, Hannah pretty much is grossed out by most animals, especially baby chicks, because they poop.  I tried to tell her everybody poops, but it was no no use.  Judah was a clingy little man because he is in that phase that since Murray died they have all gone through where he's afraid of all animals.  Isaac and Drew didn't complain, and Genevieve is our true animal lover.  Bobby was particularly interested by the chickens as usual.

Then is was off to the pumpkin patch via a hayride with no hay.  It was in a trailer type thing with narrow benches on the edges, high walls, and, as I said, no t a piece of hay to be seen.  The children were given the instructions that they could pick any pumpkin they could carry themselves.  I knew that was trouble when I heard it.  My three oldest picked the biggest pumpkins ever and carry it they did.  Drew and Judah picked nice small ones.  I had my doubts that I'd get away without paying extra for the big pumpkins, but I did.  Somehow the three Euros per kid got me some big pumpkins.  And that was after I prepared the big kids that they needed to expect the pumpkin to be a small one that came with the entry fee.  Hannah pouted and said she wanted to go back to Maryland on the drive there, but she recanted in the afterglow of finding, carrying, and taking home a giant pumpkin.

You can probably tell by the pictures of just Drew and Judah that I was wearing Bobby and that the three oldest were off with their friends during the whole tour with only brief check ins with mom.
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, ending with hot apple cider for us all and a bottle of pumpkin wine to take home.  I had to squeeze this trip into a very busy week of multiple trips to the doctor, hair salons, piano lessons, soccer practices, and Judah starting kindergarten (I had to stay the first week with him), and packing for a big trip to Italy, all while Brian was out of town for work.  However, in the end I was glad we did, because we needed some good time with friends just for fun.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Aachen Trip

In front of cathedral
We were able to squeeze in our little mini trip to Aachen the last weekend my parents were here.  We went to Aachen to see Charlemagne's cathedral and treasury.  There was a nice tour in English with a good amount of detail about the architecture and explanations for why things were built the way they were.  We saw Charlemagne's throne that you can only see with a guide, but it is uncertain whether or not he ever actually sat on it.  Bobby had a killer diaper right before that, and since he'd already been changed on the floor of the cathedral bathroom due to a lack of changing tables or even a counter near the sinks I opted for a memorable sneaky diaper change during the tour right near the throne.  Another monumental event for Bobby in Europe = diaper change right by throne of Charlemagne.

Looking at the model of the cathedral while waiting on the tour to begin

One section of the exterior
Before the tour we had lunch across the street from the cathedral in the pedestrian square.  While eating we had the pleasure of enjoying a huge (and LOUD) street band perform right next to us.  It was a great show.  The men were funny performers and excellent musicians.

After the tour, my dad and Brian took all the kids except Bobby to the treasury, and I got to spend a little time with my mommy alone (plus Bobby) to shop.  Then we picked up dinner for the kids and headed to the rental/apartment.  The plan was to go out with just my parents to dinner after getting the little ones to sleep, but we ran into a series of unfortunate events.  The first place we went was a brewery that Brian was dying to go to, but it was closed to the public for a wedding reception.  The next place looked fine and a hopping joint, but after ordering our drinks, we tried to ask for a food menu and the manager came over to explain in German plus a few English and French words thrown in that they only serve food if you make a reservation before 6pm.  It was now 9pm.  She sat down and apologized profusely and told us all about her club she runs and the restaurant.  Then after 30 minutes of chatting us up (My brain was really starting to hurt at this point having this long of a conversation in German.) she recommended the restaurant across the street.  We went there only to find they were just shutting down the kitchen and not taking more food orders.  The only place left to go in a reasonable distance was a Friterie which is exactly what the kids ate for dinner.  It is a buffet of fried foods.  You pick it, they fry it up.  Not what we were hoping for, but with growling tummies and no more options it is what we ate,

The place we stayed was actually in Belgium.  It was a really amazing place.  It had a bedroom and bathroom downstairs for my parents and three bedrooms and a loft in the upstairs.  We think it was an old barn refinished, but it was done really nicely with much attention to detail.  the showers were a favorite feature of mine.  They had no curtains or glass, just a three-walled, tiled area with a drain and shower heads.  The kids favorite features were the playground and animals in the backyard.  The loft seemed fun at first, but only Genevieve ended up enjoying it.  I didn't let the boys up there because it was an extremely steep climb up. I didn't even go all the way up.

The weather was superb, so the kids had dinner outside that night when we picked up food on the way home.

Bobby liked the chickens almost as much as he loves ducks.

Bobby really enjoys a good swing!

Genevieve really enjoys a good climb.