May 29, 2011

Jacksonville Beach, May 2011

A very quick hello and update. Our time in Florida turned out to be even shorter than anticipated. We had a wonderful weekend on the beach which included the exciting opportunity to see the space shuttle launch, a night out with my book club friends, and lots of pool and beach time. The best and biggest surprise of our time in Jacksonville was that Noah did not need surgery after all.

As soon as we heard that happy news, we jumped in the rental car and drove straight to Louisiana. Adam was only able to stay for a few days, but the kids and I will be here for several more weeks. We are loving the time with family and friends and the fried oysters and the snowballs and the Cajun music and the cashiers who call me "baby". Coming home is a very good thing.


May 14, 2011

We flew on Friday the 13th and in retrospect maybe we should have picked a different traveling day. We barely made it on two of our flights. They lost our car seat and I think I may have food poisoning from eating some sushi in the Munich airport. BUT, we made it and we woke up to waves crashing, surfers on the horizon, and pelicans cruising for breakfast. Noah announced his plan for the day: pool, beach, pool, beach, pool and I have to agree it sounds like a good way to recuperate from jet lag. We decided to squeeze in a couple of beach days before all of the medical stuff starts because if Noah has surgery he won't be going anywhere near water or sand for awhile. So beach, pool, beach, pool, beach, pool. That's where we'll be. Feels so good to be back in the States.

P.S. Something wonky is happening with blogger...several of my posts and all recent comments somehow disappeared. I attempted to re-post them but I don't really have time to fully investigate the situation...gotta get my swimsuit on!


May 12, 2011

An erupting volcano, a pending surgery, selling a house, packing for a trip back to the States. Mt. Etna is erupting again. It was beautiful last night when we got out of bed at 1am to see it. It really was amazing. But I don't feel quite so charmed by it tonight. The airport has been shut down and we don't know if we'll be able to fly out tomorrow as planned. Needless to say tensions are high and it feels like more than just a volcano is in the midst of erupting.

Keep your fingers crossed for us, say a prayer to Saint Lucia (Noah is having eye surgery), send us some good traveling vibes, and if you want to buy a great house in Florida, call us right away.

Plastic Heels and Prayers

May 11, 2011

About two months ago, I listened to Garrison Keillor read Mark Jarman's Prayer for Our Daughters. I enjoyed it so much that I scribbled the name of the poem on the corner of the calendar in the kitchen. A few weeks later while doing dishes, I tuned into Terry Gros interviewing Tina Fey and I had a strange moment of synchonricity. I put aside the dishes, stood in the middle of the kitchen and listened to Fey read her own version of a prayer for her daughter. Both prayers so appealing in their sincerity, their humor, and their hopes that their daughters will be happy.

With those two prayers bouncing around in my head during the past few weeks, I find myself watching my own daughter more closely. Stopping to not only notice what currently interests Camille, but also wondering what will interest her in the future. Hoping that she'll eventually shed her love for those horrible plastic heels that she insisted on buying with her Hanukkah money, while also hoping she will always love libraries and books as much as she does now. 
Library Time
Listening to her proudly announce to classmates that she has two mothers and two fathers, but knowing that it doesn't really make sense and that it may never completely make sense. Watching her play UNO with Noah and hoping they continue to grow closer as they grow older. Tucking her into bed each night as she clutches her bunnies and praying she will always feel safe, secure, and loved (also praying we don't misplace any of the bunnies during our upcoming travels since she is insistent on packing all of three of them).

Return to Noto Antica

May 9, 2011

 Another good Sunday in Sicily: we celebrated Mother's Day by returning to Noto Antica. A delicious lunch at Borgo Alevira followed by a quick climb around the ruins. Good friends. Laughter. Kids running through clover. Perfect.

***Borgo Alevira is truly a Sicilian gem of a place...fabulous mix between old and new, gorgeous surroundings, a very enticing pool, attentive staff, great food. We have plans to return for a full weekend escape later this summer.

Kimberly Willis Holt

May 7, 2011

It was an old story. They’d both heard the tale many times. But a good story traveled like water, constantly flowing, making rivers from one person to the next, returning and filling them up all over again (p. 305).

Those are the closing words in Kimberly Willis Holt's The Water Seeker. I love that image of a story as water, making rivers between us, filling us up and "constantly flowing". It is such a good description, isn't it?  Those very same words could also be used to describe Kimberly Willis Holt and her recent visit to our little base school here in Sicily. Her words both spoken and written moved through our community with the force of a pulsating river overflowing with energy, wisdom, wit, and kindness. 
We initially contacted Kimberly because of her connection to the military. She was a military child herself, who then grew up to become an award winning author, who then went on to right a fabulous series of chapters books about a spunky Navy kid named Piper Reed. Our family first became acquainted with Piper during Adam's deployment. Noah was five years old at the time and I was actively seeking out books related to deployment. I hate say it but most of those deployment books were pretty disappointing...weak writing, poor illustrations, too mushy, or too specific or too mature or too babyish or just plain boring...until we stumbled upon an audio version of Piper Reed, Navy Brat and I quickly realized that every military family should have the entire Piper Reed series on their bookshelf. Seriously, there aren't any other books out there that are as funny and or as real a portrayal of military family life as these. 
As part of our preparations for Kimberly's visit, the school librarian and I organized a Piper Reed Club for students in grades 2-5. We were shocked and thrilled when over 55 kids signed up. 55 kids voluntarily and enthusiastically gave up their lunch periods and recesses once a week to read and discuss the Piper Reed books. They laughed at the funny parts. There are lots of funny parts. And they spoke candidly and poignantly about how their experiences with deployments, PCSing (military term for moving every three years), and living overseas mirrored Piper's experiences. They kept a group journal with questions they wanted to ask Kimberly during her visit. And they even co-authored a book about Piper Reed moving to Sicily based upon their collective experiences. Seeing this special group of students finally get to meet Kimberly in person was one of the highlights of the whole experience for me.
But Kimberly's work goes beyond the Piper Reed series both in terms of her writing and her impact on our students. During her three days at the school, she led the older students in intense two hour writing workshops and she spoke with all of the students (K-6th) about her journey to becoming a writer. She revealed that she still writes all of her first drafts by hand, that her first book was rejected 17 times before finally being accepted for publication, that she makes lists of words that appeal to her each day, and that her grandmother's clothesline has played a role in several of her books. She shared photos of her favorite writing spots, made us giggle with family stories, and emphasized the importance of careful observation and re-writing. Those nitty gritty details not only drew us all in and made us feel a personal connection to Kimberly, they also served as powerful reminders that success comes from hard work, passion, and determination. And that fostering success in others can be as simple as making the time to read a child's writing with true interest just as her science teacher did for Kimberly years ago. 

When I wrote the initial grant application to get funding for this author visit, I emphasized the enduring value of having the opportunity to hear a successful writer read their work aloud and speak about their experiences. This past Thursday was our final meeting for the Piper Reed Club. As part of our wrap up, we discussed Kimberly's visit. All of the kids were very enthusiastic about it, but one child's simple words went straight to my heart: "She told me I was a good writer". I am confident that fourth grade girl will never forget those words or the time she spent with Kimberly Willis Holt. I hope that those powerful words are now permanently lodged in a special place deep within her psyche and that they continue to give her hope and encouragement when she faces challenges, rejections, and hours of re-writes. Meeting authors in person is a pretty exciting experience, but meeting authors like Kimberly whose dedication and passion are so sincere, can truly a be a life shaping experience. 
If you haven't read anything by Kimberly Willis Holt, I highly recommend that you do. She has books that appeal to all ages from picture books to easy chapter books to novels. In addition to the Piper Reed books, I especially loved The Water Seeker (see another one of my favorite quotes here) and My Louisiana Sky. If you ever have the opportunity to hear one of Kimberly's presentations or readings, do not miss it. If you have a favorite author experience, please share it.

Sicilian Spring

May 3, 2011

Shovel. Bucket. Scissors. Gloves. Jug of Water. I almost always have these important items in the back of my van, especially this time of year in Sicily when the ditches are full of color. Glorious, billowy wildflowers just begging to be picked. Our dining room table, kitchen counter, hall table, bathroom ledge and even the jug near the front door are constantly being filled with different blooms thanks to our bountiful Sicilian ditches. 
I am sorry my blog posts haven't been as bountiful lately. Life suddenly got very busy around here. First there was Passover which started off with a lovely, quiet Seder with another Jewish family here on base. Then there was Easter which involved a fabulous Pirate/Egg Hunt birthday party for a little friend of ours. Then there was a Sicilian Easter experience which was quite memorable and I'll try to post about that soon. But the biggest event of the past couple weeks was something that has been in the works for about a year. 
Last Spring, I got a little thought in my head. It was an idea that just wouldn't go away. It nagged at me, until it finally took root and I started sharing it with others: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get an American children's author to make a visit to our small school here in Sicily?". That tiny seed of a thought eventually (with lots of work:fund raising, grant writing, and organizing) grew into an amazing reality last week.  I promise to write more about that soon, too. 
So much to catch up on and so much looming on the horizon. Spring always catches me off guard with the moody weather, the raucous displays of color, and a calendar that suddenly erupts with obligations big and small. Hoping you also have fields, ditches,or gardens full of Spring right's the best way to calm the frenzy that can sometimes come with this season.

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