First Day

August 31, 2009

First day of first grade. Early morning: holding his bus pass, twisting his hair, waiting at the bus stop and fussing at me to stop taking pictures. Afternoon: bouncing off the bus,hugging me tight, and reporting it was a pretty good day.

More Prickly Surprises

August 29, 2009

We saw a hedgehog today. Sadly, it was roadkill. I had no idea there were hedgehogs here. Hope we get to see a live one next time. The kids and I have really been enjoying all of the new wildlife. Magpies everywhere. Migrating martins who built a dirt nest on the top of our house. Bats at sunset. Sheep. Lots of sheep. We hear their bells early in the morning and watch them cross the fields (and sometimes hold up traffic on the small roads). Lots of butterflies and bees right now. Lots of stray cats and dogs. And horses. Earlier this week we were taken to a beautiful horse farm down the road. We have been back twice in the past couple of days. More about that later.

As I was writing this post, poor Noah came screaming into the house with his first bee sting. A very unwelcome prickly surprise.


August 25, 2009

One of the most surprising aspects of Sicily is the overabundance of cacti and it seems that we are arriving at the peak time for prickly pears. Last week we had our first visit to the Catania market and it turned into an adventurous lesson in learning how to peel and eat these prickly, sweet treats...very carefully. After peeling back the scary parts, the reward is similar to biting into a juicy melon with large seeds (just swallow them). Very refreshing on hot, dusty Sicilian days. In Etna's Shadow is turning out to be great guide as we start to explore all of the different Sicilian offerings. Can't recommend it enough. Seriously a wonderful book and makes me wish we had had something similiar when living and traveling in Asia. Grocery stores and markets are always my favorite spots when exploring a new place. Lots of markets to explore here. Loving all of the fresh fruit and veggies and don't get me started on the European chocolate aisle (how the heck does Hershey's stay in business?).

Connected Again

August 24, 2009

Happy to report we now have internet access and are slowly working our way through e-mails and blogs. Also still working on settling in to life here. Trying to establish a daily routine (all of us going to bed way too late). Trying to learn our way around the local area and adjusting to the Italian style of driving. Happy to have finally found a store where we could buy trash cans and a mirror. Starting to work in the yard and make it feel like our own. Meeting neighbors. Eating gelato whenever possible. Days filled with small tasks that aren't quite as simple or easy in unfamiliar surroundings.

Busy days followed by nights full of vivid dreams. Ever since our arrival I have been dreaming about my dad. Sometimes waking up convinced that he is still alive. Heart pounding and excited to call him quickly followed by the sad awareness that it was just another dream. Despite the strange cycle of excitement and sadness I welcome these dreams. I feel closer to my dad here. I think that part of it is our rural setting. I am once again living in a place where I see the horizon. Living in a place surrounded by fields, farmers, and small country roads. Things that remind me of home. And mixed into those familiar components are many new and foreign ones...olive trees, cactus, and an active volcano. It feels like a new stage of grief. Instead of being filled with anger, it's a mix of yearning and connecting. Never thought I would move to Sicily and feel my dad's presence in such an intense way. In the months following my dad's death, I had to consciously push aside the invasive images of those final weeks of pain and suffering. I dreaded those images of him. And then it all seemed to go blank. I didn't have anything. I stayed up late looking for photos. And now a new and unexpected stage of seeing him each night. Seeing him in ways I want to remember him. It's jolting, comforting, and sometimes feels like teasing. I have a feeling that our time in Sicily will be filled with other unanticipated connections and re-connections. It's one of the things I welcome about living in a new place. It seems to shake things up on many different levels.

Jumping In

August 17, 2009

A lot has happened in our first week and a half: moved into housing, got our van, spent lots of time in orientation classes, filled out lots of paperwork, met lots of new people, eaten some great food, and collapsed into bed each night overcome with jet lag and the overload of new information. But the highlight so far was our day spent with new friends in their beautiful town of Aci Castello.

I started following Karen's blog many months ago when it looked like we might be headed to Sicily. I bookmarked her posts about places I thought we might want to explore. I savored the details she shared about life in Sicily. I e-mailed her with a few questions regarding our move and when we arrived we started making plans to meet. On Sunday, Karen and her family overwhelmed us with their amazing hospitality. We swam and snorkeled in their breathtaking "front yard"(see below). We ate sea urchins (see above) that her husband gathered while we were all swimming. We had a long leisurely lunch. We laughed and talked and talked some more. We relished the fact that we were having one of our first true Sicilian experiences. Away from the base and all of the exhausting transition duties. Making new friends. New tastes, new adventures, and yet feeling so relaxed. I can already tell Sicily is going to be a very good spot for us.
We still don't have an internet connection in our house so our access to e-mail and blogging is limited. Hoping to become more connected in the coming week. Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the end of summer. Thank you for all of the kind comments welcoming us to our new home. We feel lucky to be here.

Travel Photo Friday: Sicily

August 7, 2009

Our first view of Sicily. We arrived yesterday. We are busy, we are jet-lagged, but most of all we are happy to be here.

Moving: Week 9

August 4, 2009

Flying out tomorrow. Everything is packed and ready to go. Ants have been removed from car seats (fun, lots of fun). Library fines have been paid. Good-byes have been said. Passports are in hand. Butterflies in my stomach. Excited, anxious, and ready to finally get there.

Growing Boy

August 2, 2009

Bananas and peanut butter. Simple, quick, healthy, and made by Noah nearly every day this week. He's going through a serious growth spurt. Eating twice as much and twice as often. Earlier this week he was in search of something to eat. I sent him into the kitchen and a few minutes later I discovered him eating this snack. It was a moment of pride and surprise. Pride because he came up this little snack combo all by himself. Surprise because he made something so healthy and because I never thought of making this before (such an easy snack...why haven't I ever done this before?).

Funny how a plate of bananas and peanut butter made me realize just how much my monkey boy is growing up right before my eyes. Six is turning out to be a complicated age. One second he is so snuggly and hungry for Mama time. The next second he is fiercely independent. Alternating between sassiness and sweetness. He is thinking all the time. Coming up with new ideas, questions, and jokes that involve lots of potty humor. He weathered his first real brush with bullies (at camp) and it was painful for both of us. Pokemon, Star Wars, tree climbing, reading, and scooter riding are a big part of his daily life. He's getting taller and his face is changing becoming more narrow, more mature. He's going to be starting first grade in a few weeks. It's a whole new stage for both of us.

August List

August 1, 2009

How can it possibly be August? Seriously, how did that happen? But here it is. Hot, humid, sweaty, and peppered with summer thunderstorms. The good-bye process is still in full swing. Last night was a good-bye dinner with my favorite book club girls. I am going to miss them so much. I vividly remember how nervous and lonely I felt when I sent out that first e-mail to see if anyone was interested in a book club. Had no idea that it would turn into such a big part of my life here. My monthly night for gut busting laughter, way too much wine, some book chatter, and most importantly: friendship. There will never be a book club quite like this one. Never. Which brings me to the start of my list: a very random list of things that have been on my mind:

Friendship: It's one of the hardest parts of moving every three years. In the midst of feeling sad about all of these good-byes, I am trying to prepare myself for what I now think of as the "dating" stage of our move. Those first six months when I put myself out there desperately hoping to make those connections that will turn into friendships. That exhausting process of trying to make things click. The ups and downs of feeling like a loser who will never find friends again while giving myself frequent pep talks that this happens with every move and eventually the friendships do emerge and they are good. Makes me wish I could just pack up all of my friends and put them in the express shipment to Italy. Really wish I could do that. But I can't, so bear with me if there are a few whiny lonely posts in the coming months.

Laurie Notaro: After dinner last night, the book club girls and I headed over to Barnes and Noble. I wanted to pick up a book for the plane. Ended up leaving with Laurie Notaro's most recent book and I am seriously fighting an internal battle of wills to prevent myself from starting it before I actually get on the plane. I love her writing. It never fails to make me laugh out loud. If you have not read anything by her, you should. Actually she should be required summer reading for all women.

Star Wars: I have come to the conclusion that Star Wars Lego Wii should be officially marketed as a medication for PMS. Much more effective than Midol. Stay up late, swing a light saber around, curse at little Lego men, and impress your six year old son when he gets up in the morning to discover you have figured out how to get to the next level. Midol can't do any of that. And to add fuel to my new Star Wars addiction, check out this Weird Al Yankovich music video (thanks, Sarah).

More Summer Reads: The Story Sisters is so good I skipped my nightly Star Wars Wii to work my way through this fast read. Travels with Alice is turning out to be very good preparation for Europe including an entertaining chapter on Sicily. The BFG is higly rated by Noah. And Camille just can't get enough of Mercy Watson. And I am still in denial that our library days are limited. I have a huge stack of books to return. That will be a sad day. We will miss our fabulous public library system.

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