Friday, January 29, 2016

Wifi never looked so sweet...

So, I have to admit a dark secret about myself. I have an idol and its name is technology. Over the past week, I've tried to slay this dragon of mine. I'm not sure I'm there yet. I've been reading "Gospel Treason" by Brad Bigney, who just so happens to be the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, where we attended for 1 1/2 years, until we moved. I am seeing many things in my life that I hold as idols. It is eye-opening and scary. I really recommend the book, if you are ready to slay your dragons, too.

Back to WiFi...we are back online! I'm afraid I have already spent more time on the internet today than is humanly reasonable. In my own defense (because that is a totally unhealthy way to slay your defending them!), I have been out of contact with anyone but my kids and husband for almost a week. We have had no internet, my cell phone only made local calls and I don't have a vehicle. We are also in a location where we cannot easily walk anywhere. A vehicle is a necessity, unless you want to walk to get the world's best pizza. We haven't even had this pizza yet...we've just been told. I am basking in the glory of WiFi bars, and it isn't pretty.

Speaking of pizza, we've been consuming it in massive quantities. Is it full of gluten? Yes. Am I miserable from eating it? Yes. I've decided that I will use this opportunity to get truly tested for Celiac instead of getting tests run when I've been gluten free for 3 years. I'm hoping for more accurate results. Only issue, which is a big one, is we don't have national insurance yet. We need to look into this further. I'm hoping I can go to a doctor on our private insurance and bypass the whole other issue. Prayers sent for this to work out for us. I really can't continue to eat gluten for much longer. Every joint hurts, digestion is out of control, skin breakouts are worse than a teenagers, etc. I am almost in disbelief over how bad I've felt. Ugh! I was really hoping I'd be better on Italian wheat. Apparently not!

On to bigger and brighter things! We are in our house and loving it! It has so much room for the kids to play and explore. The yard (or gardens, if you're Italian) is spacious and fenced/gated. I can send the kids out and not worry about them escaping or someone kidnapping them. Yay! Our air shipment arrived last Monday, so we started back to book school on Tuesday. I'm pretty confident that learning how to maneuver an international move, exploring Torino, all our adventures on the way to Pozzuoli, exploring Pozzuoli, moving in the new house, etc. are all learning experiences. Still, it has been nice to get back into a routine and have some of our old stuff from home. I thought about posting some new photos to show you the house, but I guess I've been there, done that. I will post a pic of the kids. I think the grandparents will enjoy it. You're welcome! (Prego, in Italian.)

The kids in the homeschool room

I feel now would be a good time to send a shout out to our super-de-duper landlord, Ryan! He has been an incredible blessing for us. He took Joe to show him how to get me a cell phone, where the butcher shop, home improvement store, and electronics stores are, helped order a new washing machine, came to help us get our WiFi installed, etc. We have found out that this is not common. He speaks English, to boot! Once again, God provides. We would not have been able to do half of this stuff without his help. Or we would have been overcharged or waiting for months for these services. We have been able to get WiFi within a week of moving in the house! This is unheard of in Italy, especially for an ex-pat. Thanking God for a great landlord that is willing to help us with so much.

Another big shout out to my new friend, Marta, for helping navigate the homeschooling world in Italy. I still have some work to do, but she has helped tremendously! We are headed to their house tomorrow night for a dinner. I am so excited about this. Knowing my luck and past history, I will come down with the flu or something. Whenever something fun is planned, someone is sick. Praying for health and vitality tomorrow evening!

I guess it is time to start thinking about dinner. Tonight's gluten offering is tortellini with marinara and probably a side salad. Just a note...salad dressing here is literally a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. The first person to visit and bring me a bottle of ranch dressing will get huge rewards. :) Buon appetito!

Monday, January 18, 2016

What just happened?!?!

**Update - I have added pics to this post but did not change any of the wording to reflect that. I pray you forgive me as I am exhausted from walking up the mountain to our room. Grazie!

Yesterday, we had the misadventures of a lifetime. Joe's work wanted him to travel to Naples area for support on an assembly. We decided we'd all go along since they provide a room, as long as we stay in Italy. We had no idea the exciting day we would have driving from Torino to Naples!

The day started like a normal day. Get up, make breakfast, get ready and head out. We've switched houses/hotels so many times already, no big deal, right?!?! Our new Cincy friends graciously agreed to allow us to store some of our luggage and stuff at their house. We thought we were set! Good intentions. Bad execution.

I think I need to jump back a step. We picked up what we thought would be our Italy vehicle on Friday afternoon. It was my first time driving in Italy. I did pretty well. I didn't have to drive far and just followed Joe to drop off the rental van. If I had faster internet, I'd upload a pic. Wifi here is very spotty and has gone out a few times since I started typing this. Maybe later!

So, we piled in the van, stuffed our bags in there, and headed out. The day was sunny and we were pretty positive about our journey. We went through a gazillion tunnels. Well, it felt like a gazillion. There were at least a hundred or more. The kids stopped counting at 14 and we went through several after that. We got to see beautiful views of the Mediterranean.  God's beautiful is gorgeous.

We stopped to get a cappuccino, use the toilette and eat a little bit of cotta. Joe decided we should get some gas, since we were stopped. We aren't sure if that is the beginning of our problems or if they started way before that. Anyway, we left the gas station refreshed. Heading east, we were feeling pretty good and enjoying the view. Mediterranean on one side, mountains on the other. We were just outside of Florence when it happened. Joe looked at me and told me to look up a warning sign on the dash. He said the engine had shut off and he had no power. Luckily, he threw it into neutral and we were heading down an incline. We made it to the next pull-off (luckily, these are extremely common in Italy...a concept the US might want to consider) and Joe shut it down. Smoke was pouring out of everywhere, it seemed. Joe thinks a fuel line broke. We smelled diesel and are very lucky the car didn't catch fire. It was a tense situation! We contacted the emergency service for the car and they sent out a tow truck. Well, let me say, this was the first time I've ever ridden in a tow truck. Let me also say, the way we "rode" in the tow truck would be illegal in the US. We were in the van atop the truck bed. I don't think the tow truck driver liked it either...because he dumped us like some old trash at the first hotel he saw! He didn't speak a lick of English and just motioned for us to get out and take our stuff with us. I have some funny pics from the front of the van and sitting in the parking lot at the hotel. Alas, not gonna happen right now. I'll try again later.

View from inside a van on a tow truck bed
Another view from a tow truck bed.
Dropoff point - eviction point - point of no return

At this point, we were all a little frazzled. Sitting atop a tow truck bed while the van leaked diesel everywhere was stressful, to say the least. We made the best of it. We told Little J that he was having these adventures at 6 and I was having them at 39, for the first time. Hopefully, the only time. Ha! The emergency contact told Joe he'd call a taxi for us...or Joe thought that was what he'd do. Nope. We went into the hotel and asked them to call one for us. The taxi showed up in about 10 minutes and was huge! I think it was a 12-passenger and had plenty of room for us and all our stuff. It felt good to spread out a little, because we were going to be cramped the remainder of the day.

Our next stop was the Florence (Firenze) train station. Wow! So many people, so little time. I was convinced our taxi driver would hit at least 10 people on the way there. It was pure insanity. Anyway, back to the train station. We were able to get family passes for the train. We sat "sort of" close to each other. Luckily, Joe has experience on the trains and had been warned by his coworkers of petty theft. There were a couple of guys we were leery of when we boarded. Turns out, we were right. They tried to take stuff out of one of our bags while we were riding toward Rome! Joe saw them and looked right at them. Luckily, it deterred him. Unfortunately, we were on hyper-aware at that point. It is sad the levels people will stoop. We think they just wanted to steal to steal. They had all the latest gadgets and gizmos. They had paid to ride the train. It is almost like a hobby for some people, I guess.

We arrived in Naples (Napoli) and were completely overwhelmed. People, graffiti, opportunities to be ripped off abounded. Between lugging 2 huge suitcases, my purse, Joe's briefcase, kids' backpacks, bags of food and bags of dirty clothes, we were already exhausted. Poor Joe had to do all the lifting of our suitcases since I couldn't physically do it any longer. God sent a few guardian angels for us, luckily. The first was in the train station that pointed the way for us to get on the train. The second one was aboard the first train we got on and directed us to switch trains to make it to Pizzouli. This is the last stop and the closest and safest to our hotel. We were extremely leery of this woman. She appeared to, umm, well, umm, be a lady of the night. She kept trying to carry the kids' bags. Everything you see and read says don't let anyone "help" you. They will run off with your stuff. Turns out, she was just a Good Samaritan helping the crazy Americanos with all their stuff. We prayed for that woman last night. May God pour blessings on her like nothing she has ever known before, for her kindness. The thirds guardian angel was on the platform for the train to Pizzouli and just confirmed we were on the right platform. Being frazzled, not knowing the language and trying to keep 6 people safe is beyond stressful. I still feel like I have PTSD from yesterday. I am not taking it lightly. My head feels "shaken" and my stomach feels icky. It is not a fun feeling to have. I almost had a few meltdowns throughout the day. God kept me strong, prayer kept me sane and staying calm for the kids kept me straight. I will say, had it just been Joe and I, I wouldn't have been as stressed. We are big people...we can handle the situations. Dealing with all of that and having the kids along...well, it made me appreciate Torino and Kentucky. I, seriously, cannot wait to return to Torino! Getting in our house in San Pietro val Lemina will be even better. Pinerolo is such a nice area.

Back to my story...we exited the train station and there were 2 taxis waiting for us. We were a little skeptical since the hotel said it would be 10 minutes and it was 0 minutes. By this point, I just had to pray that these were the taxis we were supposed to get and trust God would keep us safe. We also knew that taxis are a way people steal from unknowing tourists. Luckily, these guys were legit. Thank you Jesus! We checked in, checked out our little suite and headed to the restaurant. We hadn't had "real food" since our small pre-lunch of cotta and nuts. It was good enough. Not the best Italian food ever, but it tasted good to us. Boo and I even had gluten-full food because we were desperate and beggars can't be choosers. I'm not doing so great with it. We will see tomorrow how she does. We also had gluten at breakfast today. Oh boy, my tummy is screaming at me. It usually takes a little longer for her effects to be seen.

Today, we woke up to the sun shining and a view that is spectacular! I really wish the internet would work better so I could show you guys. It is like a postcard here. Luckily, we are in a nice hotel and a very safe part of this area. We are going to venture down to the sea today, just to walk around and get out of this little room. The walk back will be interesting! It is straight up a steep incline. Hopefully my head and gut feel better by then.

Outdoor swimming pool - not open 
View from our front patio
Front patio with some sweet urchins
Instead of Hotel Gli Dei, this place should be named Hotel Palm Trees. Not complaining! I love palm trees.

Well, a little misadventures for our family. So many "firsts" for all of us. The kids had their first tow truck ride, taxi ride, high speed train ride, regular train ride, car blowing up, abandonment by a tow truck driver, etc. All in all, we still love each other and are praising God for his faithfulness, love and mercy. Ciao ciao!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Torino Adventures

What a week! I can't believe we've been here a whole week already. So many emotions, so many adventures, so many pictures.

This Monday, I made the first, of many, mistake. I decided it would be a good idea to stay in the suite and just let the kids have a mellow day. HAHAHAHAHA...that is me laughing at myself. Mellow days lead to meltdowns, sibling fights, wrestling on beds, lots of noise, etc. It turns out we shouldn't do home days at the suite. We were all frazzled by the end of the day. Lesson learned!

Tuesday, I knew we had to get out of this place. So, we headed to the metro to buy a week pass for the subway. Well, we did not know how to pay with a credit card at the first metro station. So we started walking toward the next one closest to Porta Nuova. Finally! I saw the card button on the screen! We were able to get week passes for the five of us on the metro. Yay! We even got on the subway successfully and went in the right direction. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Do you know what they say about pride? That whole "pride cometh before a fall" was my motto for the day. We made it to Porta Nuova and headed to Palazzo Madama, again. Turns out, it was closed. So, we headed to Palazzo Reale. Either the lady didn't understand a lick of English or she didn't like the looks of us, but she just answered "no" when I asked about a year pass for the museums. Okey dokey. It was lunchtime, by this point, so we started walking. And walking. And walking. We ended up on a major street in downtown Torino. We ducked into a restaurant because of the plates in the front window. I am not sure if they were just not serving lunch yet or what, but the menu only had beverages on it. We left and headed toward the subway station. Luckily, we found a salad and pasta joint. Boo and I shared a small salad, KK and Little J had Baby Pastas and J Jr. had a big pasta. We all liked it. The kids want to go back. I was very fortunate that God still gave us a good day, despite my pride in my own abilities.

 Statue in Piazza Carlo Felice

Fountain at Piazzo Carlo Felice 
Twin churches at Piazza San Carlo

A photobomber 

Via Carlo Alberto - the view of the Alps was amazing, but not captured on film 

The next day, Joe had to do some stuff for our immigration process. We hung out at the suite until he returned and had lunch with us. Right after lunch, we headed to Parco Valentino to expend some energy. This park is perfect for the kids. It had a nice playground and an area to do some exercises. It was good to get rid of some energy, for the kids and myself.

Fountain of the months in Parco Valentino 

 I think July-December in the months


Waterfall feature in Parco Valentino 

Some sort of person statue thingie 

More cascading water 

Medieval Village

Today, we headed to Lingotto Mall after lunch. We checked out the toy store, had some gelato, and played in the playpark twice. Yes, that's right, the mall has an indoor playpark. No, not like the Florence, KY play area. They have full-sized equipment in there. The kids loved it! I loved the energy being used. I must also say, we might all be addicted to gelato. It was fairly inexpensive at 10 EU for five of us. Oh man, it is yummy. 

Some adventures, and misadventures, from our second week in Torino! And now I must bid you buona notte.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Renewed Resolve

Today marks a week since our departure from Kentucky. There have been many ups and downs in the span of a week. We've had our stress levels reach epic proportions, we've done some amazing sight seeing, we found an amazing church that will be our church home while in Torino, and we've met friends from the Cincy area.

GE sends many people to Torino to work for Avio Aero. Joe currently knows a few people from Cincinnati here. One such family attends the church we attended yesterday. We went to lunch with them and then back to their house to fellowship some more. It was a great time of sharing information, telling fun anecdotes, and just having someone to share experiences.

While visiting with our new friends, I felt a peace come over me about our homeschooling decision. The mom of the family expressed much concern over the issues with the American school in Torino. I will be praying about the situation for her, but I have become much more resolved to homeschool my own children based on this. There have been some definite stressors for us regarding homeschooling. It appears our relocation specialist, online homeschool parents and the local schools all have different opinions of what is required and not required. I'm believing that the online homeschool parents actually have a better idea of what is required since they have been there/done that and have the scars to show for it. I feel like I've gone back about 20 years as far as homeschool liberties go. Honestly, it has made me extremely grateful for the laws of Kentucky governing homeschooling and HSLDA, the law organization we belonged to that provides legal support for homeschoolers. It is amazing how grateful one becomes when faced with adversity in another location about the same subject.

Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures from our last few days here. KK was our photographer and we can't find the cord to upload her pictures! It has just been that sort of day. I will give you a brief synapsis of each day, just for kicks.

Friday, we ventured out for lunch, like always. This day led us to MuUrgheria, a burger joint. We had bacon cheeseburgers and fries. KK has some good pics of our lunch. If we ever find her cord, I will share them. We then visited a local market. Not an open air market, but a small grocery. All these new experiences are fun and educational for all of us. I am convinced my children will be able to visit Europe when they are older and fit in quite easily. We didn't realize we would find a market, so we didn't bring our bags. So, we had to pay 0,05EU for each bag. Lesson learned! Our next excursion to the market would be better. We then headed back to the suite to drop off groceries. After getting everything put away, we headed back to Parco Valentino. This is the park that has Valentino Castle and lots of dogs. We were determined to find the Medieval Village. Guess what?!?! It is almost directly behind our suite! Joe and I must have been extremely tired when we drove to the suite from Milan. We thought it was over 1km away. Anyway, we walked through the village, colored some coloring pages about Pinocchio and had a drink in the cafeteria. We have not gone through the castle at the Medieval Village yet. It is a pay tour, so we were waiting to see if Joe wanted to go along with us.

Saturday, we had Joe back and no plans. So we drove to Superga, the church overlooking all of Torino and the Alps. I do have a few pictures from Superga, but the day was hazy and they did not turn out great. Here they are, regardless.
Superga - isn't it lovely?
Front entry

Nativity scene in Superga
Extremely hazy pic of Torino - you can kind of make out the Fiume Po
Can you make out the Alps? We could see them better with the naked eye.

After Superga, we headed back to the suite and the adults fell asleep. Seriously, when am I ever going to recover from this jetlag? I think the stress, food, different bed, everything is making it extremely difficult to sleep. That evening, we headed to Porta Nuova on the subway, again. This is a major hub of activity, shopping and eating. We did a little shopping since everything is on sale in early January. I almost bought a camouflage winter coat. I worried it wouldn't keep me much warmer than my current coat/jacket. After our shopping excursion, we headed to a gluten free restaurant. Turns out, gluten free is very popular in Torino. The first available seating for 6 was after 10pm! So we walked to a restaurant Joe and I enjoyed when we did our housing trip. The kids loved it! Boo loved getting gluten free pasta, they even had gluten free breads and we all enjoyed dessert. Overall, a good substitute for the other restaurant. 

Sunday dawned and we knew we wanted to try out the International Church of Torino at our first opportunity. Everyone was so welcoming and made a true effort to ensure we were aware of everything happening. It was so nice. We have been in very large churches for so long, I sort of forgot what it felt like to attend a small, quaint church. I still miss GFC, but this will be a great alternative for us while in Italy. Bonus, most people that attend are from nations all over the world. We met people from Northern Ireland, Italy, Ghana, Asia, Great Britain, Cincinnati (our friends I mentioned earlier) and beyond. The kids even enoyed their Sunday School class, tho it was primarily in Italian. I think between church and the language classes we enroll them in, they will know more Italian than Joe and I ever will. I just have to ensure they keep with it until high school age. It would be great to get a high school credit by refreshing their Italian language skills! After church, our new friends showed us the playground at the park and invited us to join them for lunch. We willingly obliged! Afterward, they invited us to come back to their house and let the kids play. It was great for all of us! We loved chatting with the adults and commiserating about similar issues we're having, the kids loved having English speaking friends. I don't think our kids wanted to leave. I don't think their kids wanted us to leave. It was a great day, all around. We returned to the hotel to find the restaurant closed on Sundays. So we headed back to the pizzeria/ristorante we ate at the first day in Torino. Boo and I got some gluten free pizza. It was good. Not gluten-full pizza good, but neither of us can handle the gluten. Is it funny that one of my first phrases in Italian has been "senza glutine" meaning gluten-free? No, I didn't think so, either.

Have a great Monday! Since I know many of my readers are in the Tri-State area, enjoy your snow day!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Our first day alone, without Joe

It happened. Joe had to return to work. He has been off work since December 17. I'm dealing with it. You get accustomed to people being around all the time. Luckily, we had plans to explore today so it wasn't as huge as I thought it would be.

We woke up late. By late, I mean late. I did not wake up until 10:30, which is half an hour past breakfast buffet time. I finally woke the kids up at 11:00 so we could get ready to leave for our walk to lunch. They took it in stride. I guess when you get 12+ hours of sleep, you feel pretty happy. I wouldn't know. I got about 7ish hours. It was plenty, tho. I felt pretty good all day.

Around 12:15, we headed out. We walked through the park adjacent to the suite and it had many cool things. Here are a few pics.

Cool Statue #1

Kids at base of Cool Statue #1

Valentino Castle - looks like they are fixing the gate

We then headed to Poormanger, a baked potato spot that had many toppings of which to choose. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.
They are even cute waiting patiently
The sign so I'd remember the name ;)

Did you know that many places in Torino do not accept credit cards? Yeah, me neither. I only had 12,90 EU on me and they wouldn't take my credit I had to barter, slightly. My bill came to 13EU and I told him I only had 12,90 EU. He was gracious and allowed me to pay the reduced rate. Unfortunately, we were all starving. We missed breakfast, we had a light lunch, what to do with growing children? Lol. No worries! We had a snack when we returned to the suite.

From the restaurant, we decided to walk to a local piazza we could see from Poormanger. I think it was Piazza San Carlo, or not. Oh my goodness, we saw at least 4 piazzas today. Anyway, this piazza was under construction so I wasn't able to get good pics. Honestly, I can't even find the pic I took. I will say, Little J asked if there were going to be naked people on the statue yet again. This led to an interesting discussion about nakedness by the clan. If I weren't trying to educate my children on different cultures, I might have been in stitches. They come up with some hilarious things.

We headed south to see the next piazza. I'll name it Piazza San Giocomo val J-names. Yep, I like it. Honestly, this was likely Piazza Cavour. Yes, that's it! And I looked on the map. The earlier mentioned Piazza was Piazza Carlo Emanuele II. Here are some pics from Piazza Carlo Emanuele II.

First Statue Pic

Second Statue Pic

Oh look, another statue!

The Gandhi statue brings up a good point. Everywhere you look, there is graffiti. Buildings that have been around for centuries, graffiti-ed. Statues commemorating famous people (primarily Italians), graffiti-ed. Bus stops, graffiti-ed. It is so strange to us, as foreigners. We see these buildings/statues/etc as part of history. I think they might be viewed differently here. They've been around forever, so they are not seen as the treasures that we see them as. Just my two cents. On that topic, here is a really cool building that is graffiti-ed. It looks sort of Baroque style, right?!?! I'm not exactly an expert on architecture.

Look at the bottom of the building. Yes, that is spray paint. Lots of it.

Across the way was a cool park or piazza or something. It had fountains spraying around a statue. Of course, I missed taking pics of the fountain. Here are a few pics of more statues.

You can't see the fountains because this dude was in the way.

A cool church we could see from fountain park/piazza

We then headed toward the Fiume Po so we could try to find the Medieval Village we set out to find. Unfortunately, we never found it. Joe thinks it is farther north than we went. But here are a few pics of our time on the Po and in the park.

These trees look like candelabras. I like them.

Hey, look, a statue! Do we have this many statues in the States? Probably don't have enough history for it.

I like this arch. Arches are cool!

A wall of rocks is cool, too.

Some art with plastic water bottles.

A waterfall near some cool, old building. Forgive me, I don't know the names of all the interesting spots yet.

Overall, our first day without Joe was a success. The kids were so good, we found lots of cool statues and we didn't get lost. I'd call it a success!