Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trip Home

"Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life." ~Albert Einstein

It seems like just last week I was sitting with Grandma Hill and chatting about paintings, the kids, her past, quilting, among other things. In fact, those visits were in February. Grandma Hill died peacefully recently and we headed home for her funeral. She was a wonderful lady who lives on in us still. She lives on in Addie's sewing and Stella's painting. Emory fondly remembers riding on her walker around the nursing home, and the candy she'd give him. Arleigh may not remember much, but we're happy to have this photo taken with her just weeks before her death. For me, a hard cookie will always be a "dunker" now and potato soup will be that of grandma's. Matt can talk at length (and I know that's hard to believe he can talk at length about anything, but true) about his summers at grandma's house, the tractor, pond, and memorable antiques. She was ever so talented. Kind. Fun. And luckily she lives on in us, as well as the rest of the family and those who knew her.

The trip home, though a total whirlwind, was also a nice chance to quickly catch up with family and friends. We spent Easter back home, an enjoyable bonus to spending long hours traveling and fighting jet lag.
And speaking of jets- bereavement airfare is nothing to write home about, so we opted to save the $6,000
and fly military space A. Long, cumbersome, and not comfortable, but worth it.

Aunt Julie happened to make a trip home as well, so we were able to spend a little quality time.
(I'm singing this Jul ; )
 From decorating eggs to a mad dash room makeover,
 we know how to pack a lot of laughs into a short visit. Addie kept saying "what's so funny? I don't find this funny?"
But Jul and I could find fun in the simplest things- that's sisterhood for you.
Betsy, we miss you like crazy, and look forward to laughing out loud with you too!
A quick trip to grandma Marshall's house too- really just for the sake of having a photo with the kids.
Enough time was clocked there in February.

With the holiday upon us, we set up a little egg hunt with the cousins.
Rainy, wet, dreary weather drew the hunt indoors, but the kids didn't seem to mind a bit. 

And Arleigh snuck a little help in from grandma. Shhhh ! Don't tell.

Addie was itching to get back home to visit cousins and grandparents, so she was happy to visit, despite unfortunate and sad circumstances.

Heck we were all glad to visit, though like Arleigh, we're all completely exhausted now too.

I'd forgotten to take a few pictures when I was back home in February. Although Arleigh and I visited a lot of people, I didn't always think to snap a photo. I tended to get caught up in the visit itself. So this was a great chance to get quick photos that we had missed out on, and add the other kids in there too.
 We miss everyone so much! The return 2013 countdown is on!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rome- the colossal adventure

The fact that Emory woke us up at 3am the day we were supposed to depart for Rome, stating his belly hurt and he thought he'd soon be sick, was cause for setting the bar low for this trip. That bar dropped even lower when we discovered between 3:00 am and 5:00 am he had, in fact, emptied the contents of his stomach in a bucket at his bedside. Standards dropped even further as he vomited into a plastic bag before we reached France or Luxembourg. Over the miles covered, hope rose as Emory's virus passed. The Tuscan green and gold fields set pause to the kids carrying on in the back seat of the car as they played hot potato with one of their shoes. Yet the all time low was yet to come- when Arleigh washed his hands in the Milan hotel bathroom bidet.
 Yet the peach and cream stucco Tuscan villas, meandering vineyards, and rustic country roads lined with stick fences winding among flocks of sheep and simple creeks hushed screams, cries, and chatter from our restless crew over the back seat. Perhaps it was not because the standard or expectations for our journey to Rome was lowered, but because Italy is so very easy to love. From the tiny red cars that we passed along the way,...
to the shiny red cars that passed us :) ...and everything in between. Rome was colossal entertainment.

For the kids, the trip is always more fun if they can visit and explore as many playgrounds as possible. So we had to make a stop near Livorono and let them play.

Here, they ate lunch at a rest stop earlier on, in France. Then picked dandelions and gave them to me as if I would whip a vase out of the trunk and adore their bouquet for the rest of the trip.

Once in Italy, they loved watching the chefs create their pizzas and handle them in the brick ovens.

 Our neighbors in Belgium, who have 3 grown children, have told us that they love the smell of playdough. They further admit, that truthfully, it's not the smell that they love so much, but the memories with their children that it evokes for them. I have no idea what will be our playdough- what will bring happy memories pouring back, but no doubt, it will have something to do with Europe and our travel there.

People, family, friends, and strangers alike, so often remark to us
"it's such a shame the kids are so young and they won't remember any of your travels".
We're certain our expat friends can relate. And just as other expat families, we travel with great effort, financial, physical, and mental sacrifice.To us though, it's not important that they remember the Trevi Fountain or the Eiffel Tower. What is most important is that they gain experience in culture and among people; that they realize the world is bigger than their own backyard. Gradually, the kids have come to learn first hand, that people may talk differently, dress differently, or eat other foods but their own backyard isn't really that different from others around the world. The kids have been granted endless opportunities that cannot be read in a book or seen on TV, and a global perspective, learning that heart and soul has no borders. These opportunities simply must be experienced.
We could stay at home. It certainly would be easier and we'd save a lot more money. No doubt it would be more comfortable. But what we want for our kids isn't necessarily comfort. In fact, we'd like them to learn to find their way out of discomfort on their own, or at least cope with it as necessary.
We'd prefer their travels teach them to be respectful and resourceful.
We travel not to ensure they remember the places we visited, landmarks or locations, for that would be as fruitful as a dog chasing its tail. We hope they will become people who ask "why not?" instead of "why?"as a result of their opportunities and travel. We hope they will carry their worldwide experiences with them. Perhaps, what we hope they remember most isn't a landmark at all, but instead, the family and fun that surrounded those landmarks.
When several strangers approached us in Rome on this trip and said "bella famiglia" or "complimenti", we smiled, offered a "grazie" in return. Deep down though, we knew it. They are a great family and we're grateful for our opportunities and experiences, no matter how old they are.

Rome was our first big family camping trip. We don't particularly love schlepping kids into hotels, yet we do love camping. It has taken awhile to save up the money for a tent and gear, but we knew that once we got started, it's be well worth the savings and hassle of hotels.
Europe has tons of camping and we were lucky to find a great campground in Rome, right on the Tiber River.The campground provided shuttle service to the metro station, which was a huge plus.
 Lots of room in the new tent- quite comfortable, even when the night temps dipped into the 30*F.
Daisy chains...Once we arrived, the kids popped out of the car to play as we unloaded our things and set up the tent. Addie and Stella worked on daisy chains...

 while the boys played, uh, something boys play...
running with sticks, making funny noises, and chasing each other around the tent site.

We knew then, this trip would be a colossal adventure.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rome was not built in a day,

nor could you see all there is to see here in a day,..or a week, or a month.
First stop, Roman Forum, the building blocks of emperors.
Luckily it was "cultural week" in Rome, so lots of entrance tickets were free. Leaving a little extra money for gelati breaks here and there.

Wandering to the Colosseum, we told the kids about the Roman legend. "So long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world." The gigantic sports arena looming over the ancient empire's monuments proved to be a spectacular stop. History here is glory and gore. An emperor's  'Thumbs down' in this arena had serious consequences. Leading to a whole new meaning when mom gives thekids a 'thumbs down'! 

No matter. Travel can make you tired.

Ahhh- for lunch a little pizza! A welcome, tasty break to exploration.

Touring in April seemed a good idea in Rome, as summer temps reach well into 100*F. 
Still, our days here were very sunny and warm. The streets were already crowding with lots of people while the touring moved from low season to high season. The increasing crowds became even more evident at the Pantheon. So stopping at refreshing fountains and breaking for gelati became priority during our visit.

When in Rome we proposed to do what Romans do...
'a gelati a day'.

Then on to the famous Trevi Fountain for more myth and legend.
(If you throw a coin into the Trevi fountain, tossing the coin with our right hand over your left shoulder, with your back to the fountain, you'll ensure a return trip to Rome.)
There were apparently a lot of other folks hoping to return to Rome...

 The Trevi Fountain was a highlight for the kids. They loved the sculpture, the cool sound of the water rushing, people watching, and the fun of trying to make their wish of a return to Rome come true....
Stella's toss was smooth and quick.
 Addie seemed to have to concentrate to coordinate right hand over left shoulder.
Emory had a hard time keeping his back to the fountain- as if he wanted to follow that coin right into the water.

And for Arleigh, well if details on this myth are important, and right hand over left shoulder is necessary, we can count on this being Arleigh's last trip to Rome. He did more of a jiggle jig and toss to get his coin over his back (and around his side) into the fountain.

Once we dropped our coins, we headed for the Spanish steps.
Atop the steps, we admired the local artists painting and selling their works.

Then headed back to the tent to fill bellies and rest weary feet for another day.